Wednesday, March 30, 2011

my house, part 1

So would you like a tour of my house? Or, as my Dad refers to it, the shack we’re living in? :)

Here is some back story:  Daniel and I own a few acres of land, and we have a nice foundation for a house already built.  We were renting when we first got married, and had to decide if we would rent for a while (or years) while we built our house or try to find another option.  When we were researching more about building, we found out that in order to get electricity to our house, we would have to buy a transformer for $35,000 Belize dollars, which we then would give to the electric company.  Our foundation is close to the road, and all our neighbors have electricity which they received for free during the last election cycle… but we missed out on that, not living there at the time.  We then looked into Solar power, but it is ridiculously expensive to start up and maintain here.  Since I wasn’t willing to live without electricity we decided to build a small, inexpensive, temporary house on my father-in-law’s land.  Our goal is to live here for a few years while we save and research about building a house on our land. 

The house is tiny- 11 ft by 20 ft, 2 stories.  We salvaged and searched for everything we could to make the house as inexpensive as possible.  The upper story was originally a wooden storage room Daniel had built years ago.  We had it moved to a different part of the farm, put on 7 foot posts, and then we created a first floor by laying a concrete floor and building walls up to meet the structure.  Some of our more ‘interesting’ salvages are our windows, which are all bus windows (and you would never know!) and our doors, all of which were being given away by the parish.  Our front door was given to us by the SOLT sisters, who didn’t want to use it at the convent because they thought it looked too “conventy” :)
First Story.  the purple slugs are supposed to be doors.

We’ve been living here almost two years now.  We had some problems at first, mostly caused by our inexperience as builders, but the house is fairly cozy now.  And it did make it through the hurricane.   Best of all, we were able to build the entire house using savings and Daniel’s salary at the time- so we owe nothing.  Our only bill is for electricity (we get our water from the farm well).  Daniel figured out that by not renting, we have already saved more then half of what it cost us to build this house.  I still find it pretty amazing that we own our own home, debt free, two and a half years into our marriage.  Not many couples can say that. (ahem, Dad, remember that when you are laughing at these pictures :)

Some things about building a home in Belize:  furniture is super expensive.  Nice, tasteful furniture is really hard to find and even more astronomically expensive.  Sadly, there isn’t any source for second hand furniture (my theory for this is that furniture doesn’t often last long enough to be second hand, between dampness and wood-eating insects). So our furniture is minimal, and most was made by us or locally.

And also, there is NO Ikea in Belize.  Enough said.

Anyways, on to pictures!  This is our Kitchen

And because this post is not long enough, some notes!
1.  We had this cabinet built by Mr Ben, the school's woodwork teacher, from some wood from a tree that was knocked down on the farm.  The top was made by the Mennonites, and those are tea towels.  I am too lazy to iron things like these.
2. We found this cast iron and enamel sink at a junk shop/ hardware store here for $50.  The only good find I've ever had here.
3.  Bus window!!!
4.  Another tea towel, skinnylaminx from Etsy.
5.  That's a curtain rod holding everything up... I was pretty proud of that idea :)

next up: I turn around with my camera and take pictures of the other half of the house!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


March is a busy time here because people have spring break in the States, which is prime mission time.  We’ve had three groups come since the beginning of March.  I’ve been working at the parish, and one of my jobs is to help with mission groups-- help the trip organizers plan the trip, and then when they get here show them around and be available if they need anything.  I realized that without really noticing, I have become quite accustomed to living here, and I’ve forgotten a lot of things that to first time visitors are new and strange.  One night I stopped by to give a newly arrived group my standard ‘safety’ talk (If a kid gives you sticky candy or peeled fruit, don’t eat it unless you want worms! Mangy stray dogs are not cute, don’t pet them! No wearing tank tops and shorts, you will scandalize the old ladies and draw the unwanted attention of all males for miles around! ).  I noticed that everyone’s fascinated gaze had drifted to the window behind me.  I was kinda nervous that a tarantula had wandered in, but when I turned around, all I saw was some chickens scratching in the dirt. ‘Look,’ said someone in a rapturous voice, ‘chickens!’

the group from Benedictine, on the bridge on the way to Cala Creek to celebrate Mass

One day I was privileged to have the Franciscan group’s priest visit me at the farm.  He is a very holy, gentle person, and I was surprised when he mentioned that he had always wanted to be a long term missionary in a foreign country, but didn’t think he could do without the conveniences of the States.  But, I said, you took a vow of poverty.  He replied that in the States, he can run to Wal-Mart anytime he needs something.  That made me think, because although there are many things I miss, I have never missed running to Wal-mart. I hadn’t realized this until his question got me thinking. I don’t miss the endless running around doing errands that seemed to take a lot of my time in the States. There are times I have to do without—right now I would pay an obnoxious amount for a good mop, but there are none to be found, and I can make due with what I have for now.  A lot of the time here, availablilty has nothing to do with if you can afford it—things just aren’t available.  This can be a good thing and a bad thing; on one hand I’m not running to Wal-mart to get some small direly needed gadget for my newest big expensive gadget, but on the other hand it takes me hours to make dinner and clean up because I don’t have a microwave or a dishwasher and most everything is made from scratch.  But when I was in the States I rarely had time to make whole meals from scratch.  I think my answer to the Priest ran something along the lines that living here teaches me the difference between wants and needs, and surprisingly (to me) I have found a lot of what I thought was need was just want.  Life here certainly is not convenient…. but your mentality shifts away from the rampant consumerism that is the States after a while and most of the time the lack of convenience really isn’t such a big deal.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

seen from my kitchen

This was the scene by my kitchen door the other morning:

So it would appear that not everyone is happy about our newest baby goat...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

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