Visa extension day…sheer wonder!

We rode on one of two identical boat across the lagoon to Mango Creek on the Hokey Pokey Water Taxi.

Initially perceived as a necessary responsibility laden experience, getting one of our two required visa extensions proved to be a fun filled day.  Having decided many months ago that creating an adventure out of what may appear to be mundane would greatly improve the possibility of a positive outcome.  Indeed., that’s true!

The hut where we waited to board the Hokey Pokey boat.

Only two and a half months ago while living in Scottsdale Arizona, preparing for our upcoming travels, Tom had to have his final dreaded colonoscopy and endoscopy.

As it turned out we ended up having a wonderful time, meeting the gastroenterologist in his office for not only great news on Tom’s results but a bird’s eye view of his wide array of photos he’d taken while on safari in Africa.  While admiring the quality of his photos, a lively conversation ensued that we’ll both remember for a long time to come….an otherwise unpleasant experience resulting in a memorable day.

While driving through the channel to the lagoon, we saw several of these houses on stilts, a common style in Belize with potential hurricanes and high tides.

His work inspired us to learn to take good photos along the way, a gift to ourselves and others who share in our passion of the treasures Mother Nature has bestowed upon us all, not only in exotic locales but in our everyday lives.

Today, was a venture out into our new everyday life…taking care of business.
Little camera in hand, our cab driver Estevan appeared at our door, promptly at 9:30 as planned to drive us the five miles to Placencia Village to the dock on the lagoon to the Hokey Pokey Water Taxi.

Estevan, what a guy!  Concerned that we might not get a knowledgeable cab driver, he started making phone calls, first to his wife to get the phone number for a cabbie he knows. “Vic” who works the Mango Creek pier was more than willing to  take us on the 10 minutes drive to Big Creek where the Immigration Department is located. 

Minutes later, he was talking to Vic, not only negotiating an equitable fare for us in advance, a mere $10 (US) round trip, but also asking that Vic would wait for us while we were in the Immigration office obtaining our 30 day extensions.  Wow!  Need I say that we were appreciative and impressed? 

Dropping us off at the tiny waiting area for the Hokey Pokey Water Taxi, Estevan suggested we met up in front of the local grocery store, The Ming at 1:30 so we could shop and perhaps find more available items.  A perfect plan.

The dock in Mango Creek where Vic picked up the five of us for the drive to the Immigration Department in Big Creek,

With Estevan’s phone number neatly tucked into my shorts pocket, we bought two one way tickets  US $6 for the boat ride to Mango Creek.  Scheduled to depart at 10:00 am, we waited patiently sitting on the wood benches in the shaded hut while more passengers purchased tickets. 

It was hot and humid.  We’d frozen two water bottles for the journey, later grateful for having done so.  As required we had our passports, ID, money and potentially required documents that we listed in yesterday’s post directly from the Belize Immigration office.  Based on comments from both locals and travelers, the likelihood of being asked for additional documentation was low. 

In our usual “be prepared just in case” way, brought along everything they asked for in their forms.  It’d be a shame to go all that way and expense to be asked for a document we didn’t have in our possession.  (When in line at Immigration, we observed that some others also had the myriad documents on hand). 

No, we weren’t asked for the additional documents.  In a month, when we return for the second extension, we’ll bring along the same package we prepared for today, just in case that we’re the one out of a hundred that is asked, we’ll be prepared.

Seventeen passengers were seated in the small boat with us which zoomed across the water with ease with its huge newer looking outboard motor humming along.  With such a load, the boat was low in the water.  We weren’t concerned as we enjoyed the cool breeze thumping across the massive lagoon to Mango Creek.

Sitting next to us, both in the hut and on the boat, was a delightful couple , Margaret and Fred from Switzerland with smooth as silk accents, whose daughter and grandchild lived in Placencia, visiting them every year.  They were not only familiar with the country of Belize but were experienced world travelers who’d spent considerable time living in Africa.  

Claus, Margaret, Jess and Fred, our newly met Visa Day companions.

The conversation with Margaret and Fred was enhanced by the four of us meeting yet another passenger, Claus from Germany, who recently moved to Placencia with his wife and young child.  They all asked if they could ride in our prearranged cab, Vic’s large van, for the ensuing trip through Mango Creek and onward to Big Creek, the location of the Immigration Department.

Arriving at the dock in Mango Creek around 10:15 am, Vic was looking for us.  Estevan, thank you!!!  Quickly agreeing to take the five of us, we were on the road for the 10 minute drive to Big Creek.  The conversation among the five of us made the time fly by not only along the ride to and fro but the 25 minutes total it took for the five of us to get our passports stamped.

We made it back to the pier in Mango Creek at 11:05 and thank goodness, the return boat had yet to depart.  Waving goodbye to our newly found “friends”, Tom and I took off on foot from the pier to walk along the busy main road of the village to for a stop at a local vegetable stand, to a bank to exchange US $100  money to Belizian money (Belize $1.98 for US $1.00) to eventually end up at The Ming grocery to hook up with Estevan for the ride back to Laru Beya, our temporary home.

The stop at the vegetable stand was more fulfilling than I could imagine.  With no marked prices on any of the fresh organic produce we loaded up all we could carry and use over the next 9 days until Estevan returns to take us grocery shopping again.  Imagine, we purchased all of these items for a total of $12!  Fresh, organic, Roundup free, vegetables in the natural colors intended by nature, not chemically induced to be darker and brighter.

  • 2 pounds of carrots
  • 2 large heads of cabbage
  • 3 pounds of green beans
  • 3 large onions
  • 2 medium size eggplants
  • 2 pounds of pea pods
  • 1 large zucchini
Tom in the vegetable stand bagging up our produce.  We couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about our loot, all for only $12

Fresh produce!!  We couldn’t have been more thrilled.  As we’ve discovered, with only occasional carrots, cabbage, onions and peppers in most grocery stores, our selection has been limited.  Without wheels and the cost of a cab into Placencia at $20 plus tip, we’d decided it greatly added to our otherwise ample grocery store budget of $800 a month (dining out adds another $700 a month). 

Thus, we’ve limited ourselves to canned vegetables and homemade home chopped coleslaw which we now have made as a staple in our diet.  With lettuce at the vegetable stand, we looked at each other wondering if we wanted lettuce salad, shaking our heads “no”. We decided to stick with our standby coleslaw using our homemade dressing.  I make it early in the day, to ensure its ice cold by dinner.

In the future, we’ll go shopping in the village which has a much wider selection than the few stores we’ve frequented in the past.  On the return trip, Estevan offered to take us to the village going forward for $15 round trip enabling us to select from a wider range of foods. We purchased enough food today at a cost of $190 to get us through until a week from Wednesday when Estevan returns.  Of course, we gave him an ample tip, appreciative for all that he did for us.

Back in our villa, we put the food away, content with our purchases and locked up our documents in our built-in safe.  I began preparing dinner for tonight, a fresh batch of coleslaw, a giant bowl of chicken salad using the leftover chicken from last night along with big plate of buttery steamed green beans.

We’ll go back on the Hokey Pokey by March 20th to extend our visa for the remaining 20 days until we sail away on April 9th.  Now, for our much anticipated vegetable laden dinner, a sense of satisfaction for another great day and an evening with a full moon. 

Humm…maybe we’ll get a few good shots tonight! Check back tomorrow to see!