Sunday, June 27, 2010

The wrath of Alex

A little over a week ago, I bought a ticker for my mom to come visit me here in Belize for a week and a half.  I wanted her to come down and visit before she had to work this fall when school resumes (she is a substitute).  I bought an actual plane ticket with a guaranteed seat.  Since my sister is a flight attendant and we often fly standby, this is a big deal for us.  It was nice knowing that she would make it here at 220 without problem.

On Thursday, I realized my first problem.  The airport is about 20 minutes outside Belize City, about an hour from Belmopan (where I live).  The US-Ghana World Cup knockout match was scheduled to start at 1230.  I came up with the idea of watching the game in Belize City and then being able to make my way out to the airport to meet the plane.  Unfortunately, I didn't know my way around Belize City, so I had to enlist the help of some friends.  I invited my friends Aaron, Brianne, Samantha and Nancy to join me (and more importantly show me how to get around).

When we first got to Belize City, we stopped at Premium Wines to buy duty-free wine and liquor (one of the several advantages of being a diplomat).  Then we made our way to the Riverside Cafe, which is the closest equivalent to a sports bar in Belize.  The food was fabulous, the crowd was pro-American, the game was exciting.  Unfortunately, the game went into extra-time.  I was already cutting it close, banking on a few minutes in customs to not be late picking up my Mom.  There was no way to stay for extra time.  Brianne knew her way around Belize City and cared slightly less about the game than Aaron, so she agreed to go with me to the airport.

There was one other small issue.  A low pressure system known last week as Invest 93, then renamed Friday to Tropical Depression One, was renamed again to Tropical Storm Alex.  It was headed for the northern coast of Belize and the Yucatan.  Unfortunately, it turned west and started making its way directly for Belize City.  My mom's flight from Dallas was diverted to Cancun, where they sat on the ground for 5 hours and then decided to return to Dallas.  She spent about 9 hours on the plane and didn't even make it here.  (She got a hotel in Dallas and then was flying to Miami in the morning to take the Miami flight here today.  Hopefully, she makes it).

As for Alex himself, I saw lots of rain, but not much wind.  There was already some street flooding in Belize City when we were there in the afternoon.  They also got hit with the force of the winds, but I have no idea if there was any or much damage because I can't find any news sources.  The main worry is that the rain will all drain down towards the city.  They were predicting 4-8 inches throughout the country with pockets of up to 15 inches.  So flooding will be a concern.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Welcome to the Jungle

Today, I made my first trip into the Belizean jungle.  Just down the road from Belmopan is the the Gunancaste National Park.  The name comes from a species of large tree that can be found in the park.  I went with Aaron and Brianne, as well as Samantha our new intern.  My dog Bailey and Aaron and Brianne's dog Bella also came.

You could tell I was new to the country because we were only two minutes into the park when I saw a trail of leaf-cutter ants.  I got all super excited and even got down and took a picture (see left).  As I might have figured when I saw the lack of enthusiasm from Brianne and Aaron (who have been here for eighteen months), we saw tons of these ants on our hike.

While the hike was pretty cool, the highlight was the swimming hole.  The river slows to a nice calm current as it passes over some rocks.  The water is welcoming and cool.  There were several families of locals playing in the water.  There was even a child less than two wandering around in the diaper.  It made me a bit nervous, but the child was clearly comfortable in the water.
I tried to get Bailey to come out in the water with me, but he is petrified of the water.  A few years ago, I tried to get him to go into a lake and he was so scared.  Clearly has not gotten over his phobia.  

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lebanese Day

I got an invite earlier this week to attend a Lebanese Day* festival with the Ambassador and a few others from the Embassy.  The event was thrown by the Honorary Consul from Lebanon at his beautiful home.  Besides the Ambassador and his wife, the two political officers, one of their husbands, and the new intern (who has actually arrived more recently than me).

The event was held at the Honorary Consul's home, which was absolutely gorgeous.  The event was outside on his large tiled veranda, which was surrounded by a beautiful stone wall.  The interior of the house was even more amazing.  Tons of mahogany with a warm, inviting, Mediterranean feel.

The event began with a reception line, followed by a cocktail hour.  There were probably close to forty people there.  (I'm not entirely sure, but it seemed to be split evenly between Lebanese and members of the international community.)  While I tend to stick with beer, the honorary consul wanted me to try a traditional Lebanese drink. I had my doubts, as I don't really like hard liquor, but I made a pact with myself that I would try almost anything, so I gave it a shot.  It is called Arak and although the liquor is clear, when you mix it with water, it turns milky.  It smells and tastes like licorice.  I enjoyed half a glass, but it was too sweet to drink the whole thing.

I had no such problem with the food.  Once again, following my mantra to try everything, I did.  And it was fabulous.  There were three different types of kabobs - chicken, beef, and I'm not sure, which were all cooked perfectly.  Hummus, several different types of flat bread, olives, and tomatoes, garlic paste.  It was absolutely fabulous and there was so much.  The picture at the left is after the meal is over and everyone has been up two or three times.  This doesn't even take into account the desserts that were brought out later.

All in all, I had a fabulous time.  I got to meet a few interesting people in Belize.  I got to know a few of my co-workers a bit better.  I discovered that I could happily work in Beirut - at least as far as eating goes.

*I don't think today was any kind of Lebanese holiday or anything.  I'm not sure why they were calling it Lebanese day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I'm alive

I've finally gotten internet at home and I should be blogging more regularly soon.  So far so good.  I will go into more details later, but I have already been busy.  In fact, starting on Monday, I will now be Visas Chief.  Yep, that's right.  I've been in country for 2 weeks and I am already chief of all visas.