Monthly Archives: August 2012

As far as David’s place


David getting us some of his bananas

David has been a guide for twenty years and lives deep in the jungle with his wife and youngest daughter. His land sits on an unexcavated Mayan ruin and was passed down to him from his great grandfather to his is grandfather who was a Mayan Shaman down the line to David who is a grandfather himself. He looks like the original medicine man. We hired him (truly, how could we not) for our paddle trip down the Mopan River. The plan was – he would drive us to his home about an hour away from our hotel in San Ignacio where we would launch the canoe and double kayak into the river, then Jim, Sheila, Max and I would proceed to paddle downstream back to San Ignacio on our own and meet him there. What we didn’t know was that it would be quite the adventure that it was.

At 8:30 we climbed into his SUV, slammed the door shut and a small part fell off. I don’t know what the part was but he picked it up, muttered that he would have to fix that, and we were on our way. En route he pointed out the estate of “the toilet paper king”. Clearly a flourishing business! When we finally arrived, we avoided the head sized poison ivy leaves that he pointed out, dragged the canoe down to the river (the kayak was already there), paddled across, then walked up the almost vertical steps to his place.

Shaded by giant palms, his thatched outdoor kitchen had a row of Mayan tools and artifacts on a sideboard beside a large eating table. A large clump of fresh apple bananas hung from a string and he passed us some to eat. They were sweet and delicious. A bench overlooked the Mayan mountains. They built everything themselves. It was a small secluded paradise.

We walked back down to the river with David. He wished us a good day, waded across the river and disappeared. Our first order of business was to deal with the spider in our Kayak that crossed paths with Max’s baby toe. It looked exactly like the brown recluse. (We have since looked it up and can’t for the life of us decide. It may be too big). In any case – THERE WERE TWO. Jim’s fear of spider’s isn’t a phobia, but close, so trying to kill what we assumed were potentially lethal fast moving arachnids in our kayak was nail-biting to say the least. But he did it.

Oops, time to go, more later.

A note on technical difficulties


Hello loyal and illustrious blog-followers,

First, I would like to commend you for picking such a wonderful blog to follow. You must be really smart. And pretty.

Second, you should know that this is Arlene’s daughter Sabrina writing. I serve as manager, middle(wo)man and menial pencil-pusher for mom’s blog’s IT division. As such, I feel it is my duty to inform you that we are experiencing some technical difficulties with the sidebar and pictures. So if things start changing around a lot or disappearing, you may send your complaints to the company email:

We hope to have this all sorted soon and we thank you for your continued readership during these times. As a token of our appreciation, please enjoy the comic below.



TheFlipSideOfFifty tech support

some pics of the ruins


Jim and Sheila

Road trip to Mayan Ruins


After a relaxing couple of days enjoying Sheila’s visit we decided to visit San Ignacio and see some jungle. It has to be a quick trip though as we registered Max for the first term in San Pedro High School and he starts this Thursday. Kids here don’t take school for granted with tuition costing over a thousand dollars a year, plus books (about 300.00) and the all-white uniform (200.00), with black dress shoes and belt. We have all given it a lot of thought and hope it will be a good experience for Max. Anyway, more on school another day.

This morning the boat for Belize City was overloaded so about 30 of us were herded onto another boat, only to find that the motor on that boat wasn’t working properly, so back we went to the original boat where we crammed in again and groaned our way out to sea. 1 ½ hours later we docked and high-tailed it on foot the five or so blocks through the dirty, loud, rough streets of Belize City to the bus terminal where we boarded a bus, San Ignacio bound. Sheila has never been outside Canada and the U.S. and justifiably looked especially grateful to view the city through the window from the seat of said bus rather than the open fray of the street. Belize City is an intimidating place.

Saturday is market day in San Ignacio. There are rows and rows of stands with an array of colorful fruits and vegetables and all manner of exotic foods. We’ve entered a world where pineapple and avocados are dirt cheap and potatoes, onions and carrots cost a fortune. For 2 dollars I bought a very large chunk of what I understood to be some dirivitive of sugar cane; turns out it is delectable molasses fudge.

We climbed a very steep hill and visited a 3000 year old Mayan ruin site this afternoon named Cahal Pech. It was magnificent. Like Max said as he spread his arms wide standing on the highest ledge overlooking a courtyard, “A Mayan king could have stood here doing this”. What a feeling! I lay flat on my back on a different ledge that looked suspiciously like a sacrificial alter and thought the same thing. Only it wouldn’t be a king laying there; more like a scared virgin or a slave. Not going to lie – my heart started to pound. Tomorrow we canoe down the Mopan river and walk a “medicine trail” full of herbs and plants used by the ancients. Till tomorrow, adios.

The Drunks and the Dead


I love cemeteries. Odd, I know. I wonder through the headstones looking at the dates and figuring out how old the person was when they died. I read the inscriptions and think about their loved ones, the lives, the losses. Sometimes I imagine a whole life history around a single monument. When Max saw the little cemetery he said it was the cheeriest little cemetery he had ever seen. Max often has the unique gift to see and verbalize things that others miss. And he is right; it is a cheery little cemetery.

the cemetaery

The various sized concrete rectangles above ground are all painted white, many with bright flowers and decorations adorning the monuments. Iguanas sun themselves on the warm blocks of concrete that separate the cemetery from the white sand of the beach and our apartment stairs. Palm trees sway in the breeze. Three harmless drunks hang out there every day with the dead, their bottles open, quietly passing the time and feeding the birds. We have wondered what initially drew them there. Were they already drunks who just like the quiet to live their life out of the bottle or did a tragedy bring them there, time passed, they stayed and the bottle followed. Who knows? Jim has nodded to them on his way to the water during his time here while I was in Ottawa and they have always been pleasant   but I can tend to engage in a lot of

conversation and it may not be prudent given that we live right here.

The cemeteries in Greece looked similar to this. Headstones are crowded with candles, pictures and mementoes from their loved ones life.  They were not the melancholy places that often pervade where we bury our dead. When I went down just now to take some pictures (I am going to try and start posting more pictures) there was an old weathered man standing beside a fairly recent stone, flowers by his feet. I almost stopped to talk with him but didn’t want to intrude. I wonder what his story is.

Today’s (Mis) adventure


Thank goodness for Max’s strong arms. Between me, Max and Sheila (Jim’s mom who will be visiting us for 10 days) we are lugging five 23-pound carry-ons and four 55-pound duffle bags on 2 planes, 2 buses, 4 taxis and a boat ride back to Belize. We are 2 planes and one taxi ride down and just had the scare of our life.  We had dragged our bags up the stairs, down the hall and into our postage stamp sized hotel room in Cancun when, with disbelief, it slowly dawned on us that two of our carry-on bags containing scuba gear (expensive) and many of Max’s most treasured  possessions (also expensive) were missing.

As the sick realization set in that they truly weren’t there I starting running back to the bus terminal.  I either left them in the terminal or in the taxi which was long gone, neither of which boded well for recovery. This is Mexico after all.  A couple of minutes later, our taxi passed me on the road, the driver waving me down. He was on his way back to our small hotel with our bags. The round jolly driver hops out of the taxi, opens his arms wide and says,  “Ah, Mexico,  eets a good, good country”,  gives me the bags and happily drives off.  I could have cried I was so relieved. Good people are everywhere.  It also reminded me that I am not fully functional these days and I need to be more cautious.

Last week I had a car accident; the first of my life (where I was driving). My fault! (the lady slammed on her brakes for a pedestrian that she didn’t see and I crashed right into her). 4,000 to 5,000$ worth of damage!  Twice I have missed exits that are second nature to me and not realized until over an hour later, not to mention other assorted bizarre memory related lapses. I’m not thinking it has anything to do with the accident, I think it’s the other way around. And I just walked into a curb and chunked out a couple of pieces of my big toe.  But Yay – I can’t believe that we got our bags back. I am so happy.

This past weekend Max and I completed our open water dives for our PADI scuba certification and not a moment too soon. We finished up yesterday and flew out early this morning.  I look like a fish out of water with the constant opening and closing of my mouth trying to equalize.  From down in the deep to high in the sky, I hope my ears pop back soon.

A Kick in the Chops


Three weeks ago I do the Rhode Island Half-Ironman and now running my local five kilometer loop I risk heart explosion when I don’t walk for a few and catch my breath. Ain’t that a kick in the chops. I admit that since the half  Jim and I have been busy relocating, finding a place to live in Belize, stuff like that, and our training has greatly suffered (as in next to nothing) but come on, really.  Where is the justice?

But I suppose I should stop whining and just be happy that I am healthy and able to run (I use the term loosely) at my ripening age. Whoever said “slow and steady wins the race” didn’t have a grip on reality. Slow and steady may finish the race if Gods in a good mood but fast and ferocious wins the race (I’m usually still on the course when awards are being presented).

Nevertheless, it’s time to buck up for the next step – as soon as I get “home”, I need to find a marathon in Central America. My first one ever! There’s nothing like signing on the dotted line to kick start training again.  Sigh.

Also, if you are interested in seeing the little video that Sabrina made of our half ironman expirience go to her blog at

It is a fun watch.