‘Feliz Año Nuevo’ from Ambergris Caye, Belize

As we come to the end of 2012 and week 8, or 20%, of the project time for our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize there is still long a long way to go but it has been a great year for us.

In seven months ( it seems much, much shorter) we have left the UK and started the build of our new home here in Ambergris Caye, Belize. Something that we dreamt of doing for years. Just goes to show that if you really want to do something and set your heart on doing it, you can.

We went to our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize today at around 10.45 am not really expecting to see a lot going on. It is New Year’s eve after all. Pleased to say that our expectations were totally wrong. There was lots going on.

The fact that there were nine guys on site surprised us . We had thought that at best the number would be between three to four.

As we parked the golf cart we could see that the stack of concrete blocks had shrunk materially and when we looked at the build we could see why. They were being stacked in piles on the Ground Floor.

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Anhill was on wheelbarrow duty ( he just cannot get enough of it!) and Eduardo was stacking the blocks.

Once on the Ground Floor they were stacked in piles close to where the walls will be built.

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Alfredo moving the blocks.

The blocks were stacked close to where the floor had been marked to show the wall line and wooden posts erected for the beginning and end of each wall.

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Posts erected and blocks ready to be laid.

A red marker pen ( well looks like the work of one to me) or a chalk line had been used to signify where the walls are to be built.

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If you look closely you can just see the marker line.

They had put extension pipes on the PVC pipes that the electric cables will run through.

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Pipes extended prior to block laying.

We couldn’t believe that they had done so much in around half a day but there was more. They had also filled the area where the golf cart ramp will be with sand.

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Nearly ready for the concrete pour.

With the wall lines marked out Rose and I concluded that we hadn’t got the design of our home quite right. We saw that the space to the south of the kitchen/living room area of the self-contained apartment could more sensibly be used. As another en-suite bedroom ( all potential guests take note).

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The space in question is to the left of the piles of blocks.

Fortunately Daniel Camal, our building contractor, arrived and we were able to ask him if our idea was feasible and, if so, could it be accommodated without impacting seriously on the build time. We were really pleased when he told us that such a change is possible and would have little, to no, impact on timings. He is now going to work out a costing for us so that we can reach a decision. Providing that it is a reasonable price ( hope you are reading this Daniel) we will go for it.

Shortly after we spoke to Daniel the guys packed up for the day so that they could be prepared for their New Year celebrations . As far as we are concerned they deserved the ‘early away’.

When they had gone Rose and I took a walk around the Ground Floor imagining what it will look like when it is finished.

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Rose imagining that she is about to walk through the apartment door.

We are going out this evening to bring to an and end what for us has been a fantastic year. We are going to thoroughly enjoy ourselves. So, no camera carrying for me. I, therefore, took a shot earlier today of the stage being erected in Barrier Reef Drive ( the front street) to send you all a message.

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The headline includes the title of a song by ABBA which was a track on their 1980 album entitled Super Trouper.

‘See’ you all (I hope) next year.

‘One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor’ in Ambergris Caye, Belize.

There were one or two aspects of yesterday’s work on our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize that I didn’t cover because I thought I had written enough/included enough photos without making the edition overly long. So I decided that I would include them today.

I had been wondering what would happen to rainwater when the water tank is full. Rose and I studied the plans but could see no sign of an overflow pipe and became mildly perplexed. Our anxiousness was cured yesterday when we wandered around the south side of the build. There projecting from the wall were two overflow pipes.

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You can just see (if you look hard) the second overflow pipe at the eastern end of the wall.

I am used to seeing a float being used because my Dad was a plasterer. The float he used was only around 10/12 inches long. Nothing like the float used yesterday to create a smooth concrete finish.

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Now that’s what you call a float!

Trish ( who has experience of building a home on Ambergris Caye) and Alan both posted comments yesterday about the electric wiring for our home in Ambergris Caye, Belize . The cabling will need to be threaded/pulled with fish wire through the PVC pipe on the north side of the house.

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In place ready for the cables.

There was no real reason for going to our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize today other than I wanted to see how the concrete ceiling/floor was curing. The climate here is good for humans and concrete and I was confident that it would be set enough to walk on. It was.

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Standing in the north-west corner of the Ground Floor.

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Standing in the south-west corner of the Ground Floor.

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Standing on the eastern side where the stairs to the Ground Floor will be.

I doubt that tomorrow will be a particularly busy day on the site but by the time the guys return on Wednesday it should be ‘good to go’ to start laying the concrete blocks for the walls.

The headline comes from the Paul Simon song which featured on his 1973 album ‘There Goes Rhymin’ Simon’.

On Wednesday I have to go to the Dentist in Belize City for the first of three consecutive weekly visits for root canal work and am pleased to let you know that the Mystery Blogger will be making a return appearance to produce Thursday’s edition.

I take this opportunity of wishing all readers of this Belize Blog a happy new year.

‘Let’s Get It On’ in Ambergris Caye, Belize.

I set off to see the concrete pour for the Ground Floor of our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize this morning at 6.45 am full of enthusiasm. We have been looking forward to the day when the floor was laid since we first appointed Daniel Camal to build our home for us.

I arrived at the site around 7 am but the guys started at 6 am and I saw evidence of their early start as soon as I got there. They had already poured the concrete for the Ground Floor bedroom veranda and had started the pour for the bedroom and living room/kitchen area working from north to south.

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Evidence of the early start.

Much the same routine as for previous pours .

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Anhill hitting the ramp with real determination.

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The vibrator in action.

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The float at work levelling off and smoothing the concrete.

All the while I could hear the concrete mixer in the distance ( well around 125 feet away).

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Filling the buckets with stones.

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Alfredo loading the cement.

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Nicholas applying the stones.

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Don’t even need to look!

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And then the pour.

With fourteen guys on the site plus Daniel Camal, our building contractor, the pour moved at a really good pace. Three of the guys plus Daniel supervised the pour/moved the boards/used the vibrator/floated the concrete after it had been poured. Four were on wheelbarrow duty and the remaining seven filled the buckets with sand, stones and water and ‘fed’ the mixer with cement.

With such a large area to cover progress wasn’t quick but with a 5 inch depth of concrete that wasn’t surprising. However, slowly but surely, the forms were filled with concrete.

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Nearly reached the southern wall.

At this point ( which was around 9 am ) I returned home to collect Rose and by the time I had picked her up and we got to the site even more progress had been made.

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Really taking shape.

We stayed there until around 10.45 am and then returned home to watch Arsenal’s trouncing of Newcastle but as soon as the game finished ( around 1.25 pm) we headed back to our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Not surprisingly even more of the Ground Floor had been laid.

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Nearly half way there.

We left again around 2.30 pm to do some errands but got back there to see the final wheelbarrow loads being poured. Amazingly Anhill and Eduardo were still on the wheelbarrows – amazing because they had started and finished the day on them . Whatever they are eating for breakfast I want!

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Eduardo with the last ‘barrow load.

It just remained to apply the final float.

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The time was 4.55 pm. Five minutes short of being 11 hours since the guys started the day. They all looked tired but none would admit to it. They are proud guys and so they should be.

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Floor laid as the sun sets.

Those guys really got it on.

‘Let’s Get It On’ is a 1973 single from the album of the same name by Marvin Gaye which was reached number one in the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.

‘What a Diff’rence a Day Makes’ in Ambergris Caye, Belize

In yesterday’s edition (‘Take it Easy’) I apologised for the lateness of publishing and explained that we suffered a sudden and protracted loss of the Internet. So this morning after having breakfast I went to the Coral Cable office to report the fault.

The Internet speed, as anyone living on or visiting Ambergris Caye will know, is slow. The same cannot be said, however, for the engineers. Why? Well I reported the fault at 10.10 am and at 11.05 am the engineers arrived and within 10 minutes of arrival they had identified the fault and corrected it. A first class service.

With access to Internet again Rose and I set off for our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize shortly after 1 pm so that we arrived after the guys had returned from their lunch break ( they normally break for lunch at noon for an hour) .

On arrival at the site we couldn’t believe our eyes. There were workers everywhere. A quick body count informed us that the workforce today comprised fourteen people. Yesterday there were four. What a difference a day makes!

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So many workers there is hardly room to swing a cat!

So much activity focusing on different tasks meant that a careful check of the plans was frequently required.

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So where does it go?

In all seriousness everyone appeared to know exactly what was required of them and they worked in pairs and trios in a very organised way. Rebar rods that had served their purpose were being bent to run parallel with the form base so that when the concrete is poured they will provide added strength.

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Martin and colleague working as a duo.

Vertical rebar rods had been fitted by the time we arrived which the concrete blocks for the walls will be placed over when they are laid.

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Rods in place where external wall will be built.

The plumber/electrician had been busy and there were pipes in place when we arrived.

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Pipes in place for electric cabling.

He was busy concentrating on completing the installation of the pipes for electric cabling in the north-west corner of the house and was ably assisted by Nicholas.

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Pulling the pipe into position.

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Bending the pipe

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Fitting the pipes together.

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Good teamwork.

While all of this was going on Alfredo and a colleague were clearing debris from the area where the golf cart ramp will go.

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In the background you can just see the wood and other debris in the ramp area.

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A job well done.

We were really pleased to see so much work going on and even more pleased when Anhill told us that the roof of the water tank/Ground Floor will be poured tomorrow . Can’t wait!

The headline is influenced by the song of that name made famous by Dinah Washington which was released in 1959 and made number 8 in the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.

‘Take it Easy’ in Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Given Trish Peterson’s comment on Christmas Day( she recounted her experience when building on Ambergris Caye some years ago when work ground to a halt over Christmas) Rose and I travelled to our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize yesterday with a fair amount of apprehension. We wondered if any of the guys would turn in for work. And, if so, how many of them there would be.

As we drew near to the site no sound could be heard. No sound of hammering. No sound of an electric saw. No sound of music. None of the sounds that we have grown accustomed to hearing.

As I parked the golf cart we simultaneously looked across at the bodega (shed) to see that the door was boarded up. We feared the worst – the guys had decided to extend their Christmas break. We thought we had made a wasted journey and were about to turn around and head back home dejectedly when we looked towards the lagoon and saw Anhill and Martin in the distance.

We secured the padlock on the ‘cart and walked towards our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize and saw that Nicholas was on site too. We also saw another guy that we had never seen before.

Relieved we continued walking to the site and up the ramp to see that Anhill and Martin were busy removing two vertical rebar rods ( don’t worry there is not another rebar photo coming your way) from the pillar frames. Our architect’s plans ( Strukture Architects Limited) specifies eight vertical rods per frame for the water tank reducing to six vertical rods from the Ground Floor upwards.

Once the two excess rebar rods had been removed Anhill and Martin fixed in place three rebar ties to hold the vertical rods in position.

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Ties in place ( this is a photograph of ties in place on an earlier part of the build, the principle is, however, the same).

With Anhill and Martin putting the ties in place Nicholas concentrated his efforts on measuring and marking out where the north to south rebar rods will need to be placed when the plumber has finished.

Talking of the plumber, he was on-site and was the guy we had never see before mentioned earlier. He had made a start and removed sand so that he could bury the pipes. By the time we arrived he had the pipe in which the electric feed cable will run in place .

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Trench dug and electric cabling pipe in place.

He was waiting for further pipes to be delivered (Daniel Camal, our building contractor, had these loaded on his golf cart when we passed him on our way home) but had created the hole in the foundation wall for the soil pipe.

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Electric cabling pipe in place. The larger hole is for the soil pipe . The other pipe was a mistake! One needs to be created slightly lower for the waste pipe.

Hopefully when visit the site for our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize later today we will find that the plumber completed the required work.

When we were at the site on Christmas Eve Anhill mentioned that they never actually know what the exterior of a build is going to look like until all the walls and the roof have been completed. We thought it might be nice if they could see what we expect our home to look like at a far earlier stage so we took the drawings that our architect produced to show him (Nicholas and Martin got to see them too).

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Anhill impressed with how our house will look when finished.

Not as many guys – well down on the 8/9 that are normally on site – as we had hoped but progress is still being made . But all in all a somewhat easy day on the build.

Barring unforeseen circumstances the concrete pour for the roof of the water tank/Ground Floor will take place on either Saturday or Sunday.

The headline is based on the song released in 1972 by the Eagles which reached number 12 in the US Billboard Hot 100.

Apologies for the late publication of this edition but this was caused by the loss of or Internet . Had to go to Estel’s ( any excuse!) to make use of their Wi-fi.

‘Celebration” in Ambergris Caye,Belize

In the previous edition I advised that I would not be publishing again until Friday 28 December. Well, I changed my mind. I am the publisher after all!

I decided that I would let you know just a bit about what our first Christmas Day on Ambergris Caye was like. Which is nothing to do with the raison d’ētre for this blog i.e. our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize but …

Got up early – I always do – with the need to wrap up the presents I had bought for Rose on Christmas Eve.The Christmas shopping experience on Ambergris Caye is nothing at all like it was in England (no surprise there really).

When we lived in the UK I would normally head off to the West End hitting the shops in Regent Street and Oxford Street where the high end stores such as Selfridges, John Lewis, Debenhams, Liberty, Jaeger, Hermes,etc are located.

The journey there – on an underground train – was normally unpleasant because the train was so full and the shopping experience was not much better. Shops full of pushing and shoving people who had obviously left their manners at home. The upside though was that as long as I had a credit or debit card, or both, with me getting presents for Rose was relatively easy.

Not so when living in Ambergris Caye, Belize. No packed underground . No underground in fact. No high end shops . No really packed shops. Not the same range of choice. But for me a much more pleasant shopping experience and one that, given the limited choice, I had to give far more thought to.

What could I buy for Rose that is easily available and – and this is the really important factor – are things that she would like and make use of ? I elected to buy things that she could hopefully make use of for her interest in handicraft.

So, what did I end up purchasing? Five packs of multi-coloured permanent marker pens,which included one set of fluorescent pens that Rose was particularly pleased with, a pack of fluorescent glue pens (she really goes for the fluorescent colours), three glitter glue sticks, two packs of paper ( regular readers will remember that she uses this as the core material for the jewellery that she makes) and (the one girly ( I know, it is slang) thing) a chocolate flavoured bar of soap.

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Cunningly I decided to wrap all of the presents individually. It took some time but it was worth it.

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I didn’t keep a record of how much the total cost of the presents was but doubt that it exceeded BZ$40. In the UK the price of just one of the Christmas presents I bought for Rose would not have been that low. What I do know though is that she really likes her presents.

As I ‘said ‘ earlier, the range of choice for presents on Ambergris Caye is nowhere near as extensive as it is in the UK. Just goes to show that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’!

With our respective Christmas presents unwrapped we set off for the Sad Bastards Christmas Party at Pedro’s Hotel. I am certain that very soon you will find full coverage of this event, including lots of photos of people wearing silly hats, on Tacogirl’s blog. So, I will just let you know that we had a fantastic lunch in great company and came away with a Sunbeam blender, some Ferrero Collection chocolates and a Nina Ricci eau de toilette collection as our Secret Santa presents.

The headline is based on the 1980 hit record by Kool & the Gang which reached number one in the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in February 1981.

Normal service i.e. our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize, will resume in Friday’s edition ( providing the guys turn in for work that is).

‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ from Ambergris Caye, Belize

Before I forget I just wanted to let you know that the Christmas Charity Concert held on Saturday 15 December raised BZ$7,000 for the five surviving children of Hector ‘Chapin’ Duran. A tremendous BZ$2,000, or 40%, more than the target the fund organisers set for themselves. A fantastic achievement that should make things that little bit better at Christmas for the children.

Whilst on the subject of remembering things I am now able to answer the question posed by a number of readers – “Are they going to remove the plywood after the concrete pour for the roof of the water tank?”

I put the question to Anhill this morning and was pleased, but not overly surprised, to be told that it will be removed via the hole left for the manhole cover. All of the plywood boards have been cut to go through this aperture . Simple really isn’t it.

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Plywood cut to the requisite size.

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Manhole aperture ( great word, must find other opportunities to use it).

When the time comes ( hopefully very soon) to remove the plywood, two or three of the guys will go under the roof ( via the aperture – told you I would find opportunities of using the word again) , remove the nails and hand the boards to their colleagues above the roof.

The other thing I asked was why there was no work on Sunday as they had said there would be . Turns out that Nicholas and Martin turned in for work but nobody else did. With not enough people to do what they had intended Nicholas and Martin returned to their respective homes and went back to bed. Anhill, who had been to Corozal the previous day to visit his young son before Christmas ( he lives with his Grandmother which enables Anhill and his wife to work full-time) arrived at our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize to find nobody there and he too went home.

There wasn’t too much action today either with only five of the guys in for work. They were waiting for the plumber to turn up to run the pipes before fitting forms and rebar over them. The plumber never did turn up so that section has been left until they return to work on Thursday.

This meant that they were only able to carry out ‘tidy up’ jobs like removing ( apologies to the readers that are not rebar fans) surplus rebar.

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Nicholas and Martin reducing the eight rods to the required six.

They also tamped the veranda (which had been packed with sand the previous day) with 6 mil polyethylene sheet.

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Tamping in place.

With not much going on as far as our build in Ambergris Caye, Belize was concerned we took the opportunity of seeing how our coconut trees are developing. Pleased to say that they all appear to be thriving.

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A mini plantation.

On the way home we popped into BC’s so that I could collect BZ$120 for winning the weekly NFL Pool prize. Not bad after only five attempts. And a Brit too! The first I understand to win the thing.

The headline comes from the 1973 Yuletide UK number one by Slade.

I wish all readers a very, merry Christmas.

The next edition will be published on Friday 28 December.