Part 1…An unexpected cultural experience…Rich in content…Profound in its core…

This is a rendition of Hans‘ new construction project  (The pool is not illustrated in this rendition.)
As we entered the multi-unit building under construction, we were amazed by all of the handmade ladders, made from materials on the site. 
Still, on the main floor, we walked from room to room, envisioning the future appeal.
We couldn’t stop smiling over this creative means of supporting the ceilings.
This is why we’re in Kenya, its culture, its people, its wildlife, its vegetation, and its natural wonders all of which never cease to amaze us.
The expected completion of the first of 4 buildings on this particular site is by the end of 2013.
Seemingly fearless workers worked atop the highest levels of the building utilizing their handmade ladders.

There are a few historic buildings to sustain its tourism business.No ruins to attract visitors from afar. Buildings are made of locally handmade materials, indigenous to the parched soil; the coral, the stone, and the wood of myriad trees.

As we exited the car we were amazed by the piles of products to be used in the construction with little waste. Hans built this neighboring house.

Hans, originally from Germany, our landlord, neighbor, and now new friend, discovered Kenya in 1978, finding its richness and culture a lure he couldn’t resist. With a passion for construction and a desire to be a part of the development of his favored Diani Beach, Hans has provided much-needed jobs for the locals, making his roots firmly entrenched in the coral soil. 

This is the area where the pool is being constructed.  Rather than “pour” a pool as familiar to us, every inch of the interior and exterior are hand-engineered, one stone at a time.
These coral rocks for both the pool and the buildings are hand-dug on the premises.
The tall pile of pale blue stone is used to give the walls of the pool a blue color.
Coral and mortar, placed by hand, to build a swimming pool.
View of the future pool from the penthouse level.

Moving to Diana Beach permanently over two years ago, he and his lovely wife Jeri, from Nairobi, Kenya, have made Diani Beach their home as well as offering thoughtfully maintained vacation rentals along with the construction of future properties for sale.

These solid cement blocks are made on site in one of the future bedrooms!
This woman is working with the cement blocks.

Yesterday morning, Hans drove us to see one of his construction sites where no less than 50 local workers were deeply engrossed in completing this phase of the building project by the end of 2013. 

The water lines positioned within the walls of the units.
More branches, used as supports.

For us to see to the workers laboring in the hot morning sun, smiles on their faces, quick to offer an enthusiastic “jambo” greeting as we toured the huge project, our hearts skipped a beat. 

This is the stairway we took, albeit carefully, to the 3rd level to see the penthouse, also still under construction. We’ll be long gone by the time this project is completed, but Hans agreed to send us photos.
More coral and mortar used to build the walls on the interior and exterior of the building.
A future bathroom in one of the 2 bedroom units.
This method of securing the support for the ceilings was evident in almost every room, a sight neither of us had seen on a construction site.

This was life in Kenya surrounding us: the Maasai in their colorful robes; the young. athletic muscular men wearing long pants, no shirts, sweat glistening on their ebony skin;  the women, many mothers working to feed their families, wearing handcrafted tool belts while lifting heavy materials; and the older men, a lifetime of hard work etched into their deeply lined faces accentuated with a wide smile, the brightness of perfect white teeth a contrast against the rich dark skin.

Another view of the neighboring property from the penthouse level.

Walking over uneven ground through coral, stone, and rock, we followed Hans as we worked our way through the partially completed first of four large buildings to be built, each containing four large units, plus an elaborate penthouse. Once the four buildings are sold, Hans will begin building a comparable complex on an adjacent parcel of land, keeping these 50 workers and more in jobs for years to come.

“Jambo” yelled the workers as they smiled and waved to us.

Gingerly climbing up railing free cement stairways we worked our way throughout the entire structure, in awe of how different the construction was from that in the US. 

An archway being built on the penthouse level.  Here again, tree branches are used, in this case holding up the wooden mold in order to build the archway.

Literally, every major material used (except plumbing pipes and electrical lines), was made on-site by the hands of the workers: coral for the walls, hand-dug from the property’s grounds; the ladders, constructed with wood from fallen trees during the preparation of the land; the rebar made by hand as we watched up close; the solid cement blocks made in one of the future bedrooms, as we watched. 

Creative, economical use of land surrounding the building site to grow plants for future use.  How amazing is this!

A gardener tended a garden growing the future trees, plants, and shrubs, left our mouths agape in pure wonder over the sensible use of that which the environment so freely provides in abundance in Kenya. We couldn’t believe our eyes.

The beginnings of the garden that will supply the property’s landscaping.

The sun beating on us as we walked the massive uneven grounds, sweat pouring from us with nary a complaint, slightly overdressed in discrete clothing in respect for the Muslim way of life, prominent in Kenya, we didn’t want our exploration to end. 

The gardener was proud of his work.

Finally, we made our way back to the car to sip on our water-filled mugs to wait for Hans as he spoke to his foreman and workers. By noon, we were back on the road for the 12 minutes fast drive back to stop and pick up Jeri from her teaching job, heading back to our respective homes.

After stopping to pick up Jeri at the well guarded private home, she suggested lunch at a local Kenyan restaurant on the side on the road, where there was a row of tiny open-air thatched structures, where locals stopped to dine, day and night. 

The hut where locals dine on delicious food made without chemicals, with all ingredients locally grown.  Photos of foods follow below.

We giggled as we described it as Kenya’s “fast food” restaurants; low priced, fast, and delicious, the difference being healthfully made local foods, as opposed to the processed fast-food restaurants that we’re used to seeing in the US and around the world, none of which we’ve seen so far in Kenya.

When we returned from our outing, we walked over to Hans” and Jeri’s home to take photos of the local food they purchased for lunch at a total cost of Kenya Schillings $150, US $1.77. Yep, $1.77!  When was the last time any of us purchased a meal for 2 for under $1.00 each?
Ugali, a cornmeal staple is commonly enjoyed as a side dish is made entirely with flour and water, boiled to perfection.  Apparently, the flavor is fabulous.  None for either of us. In my old days, I sure would have gobbled this up, maybe adding butter and syrup.

Hans and Jeri suggested we try the food.  Most certainly, I would have had many of the items had they not been prepared with flour and starches. Tom, on the other hand, would hardly have enjoyed the seasoned, vegetable-laden items. Too bad. What a fine experience that would have been! However, we took photos of the food to share with our readers. Notice the total cost of the 2 meals under the photo.

Kenya stew may consist of beef, chicken or goat.

For more information about the foods of Kenya, click here. Tomorrow, in Part 2, we’ll share more details about the buildings, the hand made the making of rebar, the units for sale, drawings, plans, pricing of the units, and more photos. 

This is a chapatti, a flatbread comparable to a tortilla. This was especially hard to resist, soft, warm, and flexible, easy to fill with whatever one likes.

Over the upcoming weekend, we’ll be dining out twice, sharing those details and photos.  Our story of Kenya continues on…

Real estate for sale in Belize…Offered by our Minnesota neighbors, here in Belize…

The lagoon side of the house.

This morning we took a short hike to see the home being built across the road on the lagoon, by our new friends and neighbors from Minnesota here at Laru Beya.

Upon completion and landscaping this meticulously built and designed home will be a virtual paradise for the discriminating buyer.
Tomorrow night we’ll have our Minnesota Pot Luck dinner with our new friends, neighbors and the builders and owners of this unique property.  We’ll surely have plenty of stories to share about our lives back in The Land of 10,000 Lakes (now they say its over 15,000 lakes).
View from the rooftop to the lagoon.
As for tonight, today is our anniversary and we plan to celebrate it in style at a gourmet dinner next door, only feet from the ocean, the sound of the waves, slapping at the shore, music to our ears.  Happy Anniversary, my love.  Thanks for this pleasing, low key, low stress lifestyle of our own. 
  Closer view of the rooftop’s spiral staircase that, can you believe, we climbed up without handrails (as yet) with only ropes for a guide.  Not big on heights, I hung on to Tom for dear life, managing to go up and down without screaming.  Once handrails are installed not only on the stairway but fully around the rooftop, this will be one of the best viewing spots in Placencia.

The house is currently listed on MLS but what we saw today is much more complete than the photos depicted on the listing.  Thus, we’ve added some photos of our own.

The lagoon and marina.

Spending most of my career in real estate and now retired, I can’t quite get real estate out of my blood.  This is a fabulous well constructed and designed property, ideal for those seeking a primary home in a tropical climate or as a second home that could be fully furnished and stocked to be utilized as a vacation rental home, such as those that we are renting all over the world.

The beautiful kitchen is almost completed.

The property is reasonably priced at USD $575,000 with its expansive ocean and mountain views offering easy access to the Caribbean Sea via a deep lagoon suitable for larger boats.

 The future pool will be completely round.

Close to shopping, restaurants and adventure activities, this home presents the utmost of desirability for the those seeking not only an investment property in this rapidly expanding area but a virtual paradise for one’s personal use and pleasure.

With our new friends from Minnesota, their Minnesota area code and phone number are displayed on this sign.

Yet to be completed, there were no less than 11 local workers hustling about the property zeroed in on various projects with the hope of completion in the very near future. 

Tom was checking out the rooftop bar.  The railings had yet to be installed making it a little freaky to walk around so many stories above the ground level.

As is common in tropical areas, the pace is slower than that which we’re used to in more metropolitan areas of the world.  As we’ve so well experienced in our time here since January 29, 2013, the slower pace definitely is not as a result of laziness in the case of the workers. 

From what we’ve experienced the work ethic is strong in Belize from the quality of the individuals we’ve met.  It appears to be more a matter of balancing one’s life making time for family, personal activities, hobbies and strong community involvement.  Those of us from the fast paced, stress inducing lifestyles so common worldwide, have much to learn from the Belizean lifestyle.

Soon, this enchanting property will be sold and in the hands of the perfect buyer seeking a complete lifestyle change or a modern, unique upscale home providing them with a respite from the stresses of daily life elsewhere.