A few of my favorite things

As I’ve been getting a few “are you ok” questions after my recent blogs, I thought I’d share some of my routines and things I like best about living here. Firstly, I have been on a serious quest to find the best ceviche in San Pedro. It’s been tough, but I think after 3 1/2 months I have finally found my favorite. It’s now my Sunday evening ritual to head down to Lily’s on the beach and have a ceviche and a rum and coke around sunset. Sundays are when all of the locals are out socializing, and by dusk quite a few of them are in their cups at the bar next door, so it makes for great people watching. Lily’s ceviche is San Pedro style, with cucumber, carrots, and a side of chopped habenero so you can spice it up to your liking.  And since it’s lobster season, that’s what I go for. I’l have to see if they hold up when conch season comes back around.

I stir in the habenero, then remove it. Woe are you if you forget a piece in there.

Speaking of weekend rituals, on Fridays Cecilia and I usually go down to Caliente for half price margaritas.  As I’ve mentioned, tequila is quite expensive here so it’s really the only time they’re reasonably priced ($7 BZ or $3.50 US). I have to admit, I stick to this ritual even when Cecilia is out of town.

I am officially that person who takes awkward photos of their food. I usually try to be discreet, but it’s difficult when the flash goes off.

After dinner and a margarita, I generally head down to Lola’s pub to hang out with my favorite bartender. He loves sharks and digs our project, so he always makes sure to introduce me to everybody who comes in. And as he knows just about everyone on the island, I’ve got a fairly good chance of meeting them as they pass through the bar on a Friday night. I’m starting to make a few friends and am getting a good dose of local gossip.

Oh! I finally figured out the competing barbeque chicken vendor mystery! It turns out that they are related: the guy I usually buy from (who works at the Post Office for his day job) sets up on Saturday and his mom and auntie cook on Sunday. Usually. And the trick is to get there before noon, because otherwise you’re in for a wait.

Taking photos of people just doing their thing is even more awkward than taking pictures of food.

I mentioned before that I like the little things here that are different than expected. Yesterday I finally tried out a Lebanese restaurant, which is one of the only “ethnic” restaurants here (if you don’t count Mexican, Salvadoran, Mayan, or Chinese). Here is my falafel sandwich, served in a flour tortilla. And hot sauce, of course. When you order pizza they bring hot sauce to the table.

I’ve had better falafel, but the tortilla was excellent.

Ah, tortillas. I’ve always been a corn tortilla girl; however, living here is definitely converting me to the flour variety. I still love the thick, hand made corn tortillas from down the street, but they just don’t keep for more than a day. My local grocery store Richie’s sells hand made flour tortillas, which I suspect are making me fat.

Don’t ever google “flour tortilla recipe.” The word “lard” will be prevalent.

One day I went in to Richie’s around noon, and when I asked the cashier if they had any tortillas left she said, “Mami, would’t you know, a whole load of gringos came in here 10 minutes ago and bought every last one!” Another time while I was checking out, she whispered “oh, I love her shoes,” to me, indicating a lady who was getting cash out of the ATM. “I’m going to take them from her!” Then she giggled maniacally. She gets a big kick out of the giant canvass bag I bring in with me, and likes to hide things in the pockets. I once found a tomato tucked away two days after I bought it.

Finally, butter. Who would have thought this would be difficult? I bought a huge block of butter when I first got here- most stores only sell the stuff by the pound. Anyhow, for about a month I kept getting a distinctly “store” taste in my food, and it was really bumming me out. If you don’t know what mean by store taste, imagine the way an old convenience store smells, and then think of how that would taste. Kind of like a Chinese shop. I was convinced that the store smell was just in all of the packaged foods until I finally narrowed it down to the butter. I tried chopping off the outside, but alas it did not help, and I had to throw out almost an entire pound of butter. I didn’t know what to do, as I couldn’t imagine that the other wax paper wrapped stuff was any better, and I really didn’t want to waste money (and pounds of butter) trying to figure out which brand didn’t taste funky.

The answer, of course, was in the canned food aisle.

I stood there staring at it in the store, right next to the Spaghettios, for a full minute.

This stuff is the shit. You open it with a can opener, and it is the perfect spreadable consistency and so, so creamy. Once open, I have no idea what you’re supposed to do to keep the ants/dust/fingers out of it, but fortunately I have a tupperware lid that perfectly fits over the top. It won’t melt in 80 degree heat, but if you put it in the refrigerator it becomes like marble. Oh, and it’s made in New Zealand. When I’m feeling extra lardy, I spread it on a warm flour tortilla and eat it over the sink.

This isn’t one of my favorite things, but I giggle every time I see this at the store.

I would say it must mean something in Spanish, but the entire label is in English.

True facts about Belize

1. If you don’t pay your electricity bill on time, they will shut it off.  The day after the bill is due.  Even if you didn’t receive said bill.

2. They stagger everyone’s due dates on the island so that the guy who shuts off the power to your house doesn’t have to do them all on the same day.

3. Several months ago the guy who reads the meters retired or quit, and so for a month nobody knew how much electricity was being used.  Logically, BEL (Belize Electricity Limited) decided to charge everyone the same amount from the previous month, plus 50%. There was such an uproar that the main office conducted an investigation. I’m not sure what the outcome was.

4. There are two BEL offices in San Pedro.  At one office you can pay your bill, but only if you have a copy of it. If for whatever reason, you did not get your bill, this office cannot look up your account information or tell you how much you owe.  The second office is, of course, on the other end of town. At this office they can print out your current statement, but you cannot pay your bill there.

5.  Yes, I know the “other end of town” is only a half mile away, but have I mentioned that it’s hot here?

6.  If you don’t know the meter number or the person whose name your meter is under, you are screwed, so make sure you hang on to your old electric bills!

7.  You can also pay your electricity and water bills (but only if you have physical copies of course) at any Atlantic Bank branch. This seems odd to me.

All of this to say, I managed to pay my electricity bill yesterday just under the wire, despite the fact that I did not receive a bill, nor had I saved my statement from last month.  I’m really appreciating the AC today.