My First Time

Rosarito Mini Chicken Bus

Rosarito Mini Chicken Bus

My first-time traveling to Belize (or anywhere) I took what used to be the cheaper route through Mexico. Direct bus tickets were sold out from Mexico to Belize, so I chose to take the detour through Corozal (not recommended). This detour took me far from my destination in Belize City and put me on a 3 hour Chicken (school) Bus ride the next morning. The Chicken Bus is somewhat like DC Metrobus; crowded with standing room only, except it takes an average of 3 hours to get from one place to another. Another difference between the busses is that the Chicken Bus allows vendors to board and sell home cooked meals, snacks, and fresh juices at different bus stops. The home cooked service is amazing! Bathrooms at the terminal are available for $.50Bz. Everything is cash only. A debit card means nothing to the Chicken Bus. I was lucky to have a little Belizean cash, which afforded me a package of 3 superior (hot) tamales, fresh orange juice, and bottled water.  Orange Walk Terminal was the last stop before Belize City.  They have a great smelling barbecue at that terminal.  I mean, wow! Fresh and juicy! Unfortunately, I was interrupted during my attempt to make a barbecue purchase through the bus window by military officers who boarded the bus with semi-automatic weapons.  Everyone froze like mannequins for two full seconds. It was not a good look.  Not at all.

Being the only American traveling abroad for the first time, I didn’t budge and listened intently to our instructions, “Everyone off of the bus, now! We are searching this bus! Everyone off!” I was ready to get off but, just like the DC X2 bus, it was so crowded that I couldn't move until others in front moved first. The military kept shouting at us in English and Spanish. No one wanted to leave the bus because we didn't want the Orange Walk passengers to get on and take our seats. We still had a good hour left to reach our destination. How would we save our seats? Passengers were pissed, not moving and repeatedly sucked their teeth. They treated the military officers like they were toy cops. Everyone moved very slowly to deboard the bus and complained. I kept an eye on the military weapons. Passengers finally started to put items down in their seats to save them. I had a big decision to make, how would I save my seat? I didn't want to leave my bag with my passport and money in it. The only other thing I had to save my seat where my newly purchased ass kickin’ tamales.  It was a nasty corporate decision to make, but I took my bag… and left the tamales… 

A Chicken Bus View. Orange Walk, Belize.   

A Chicken Bus View. Orange Walk, Belize. 

 


We herded together at the tiny front door of the bus only to get caught in a 5 minute flooding torrential downpour. When officials allowed us back on the bus, a fight broke out between a mother with a child in tow and an old lady pushing to get back on the bus first.  Unlike the DC X2, we waited for the fight to finish in the rain and then resumed pushing through the tiny bus doors. I found my seat and my tamales safe and sound. My seatmate kindly watched over my things for me. The military disappeared just as mysteriously as they had appeared. The conductor (bus driver) turned the radio back on to the Greatest Hits of the 80’s (as they all do here), the rain stopped, the sun shined brightly. We were off to Belize City and not a beat was missed. I happily munched on my tamales with my face out of the window like a dog and took breaks from snaking to snap some photos along the way. 

During our trip, I noticed that the conductor’s face never seemed to change emotion. When angry people yelled at him to stop the bus, “Righ' tear!” he would just stop the bus showing no emotion at all. When his buddies were up front cracking jokes, he would look over at them with a neutral stare. When a very voluptuous woman sat right next to him while driving, he looked her up and down like she was a broom handle leaning up against the wall. Then it happened, an Eminem song started playing on the old school car radio latched to the driver's sun visor.  Just as my stomach turned upon hearing that noise (because I don't like Eminem's music), I saw the conductor's face twist and cringe in the rearview mirror. He stopped the bus, picked up a jump drive filled with Latino dance music and popped it on the radio (the radio turned out to be not so old school). Once again, we were off - destination: Belize City.  

Ambergris Caye, Belize

Ambergris Caye, Belize

My Top 5 Coffee Shops of Magdalena, Colombia

Staying in the Latino Upper Westside section of Manhattan with my Uncle Charlie, I learned about the importance of properly made Latin American coffee. He practiced a meticulous coffee making process using a coffee sock. I carried one with me while traveling Central and South America. It’s feather light and does the job. Needless to say, traveling through Central and South America has been a coffee heaven for me!

Lovely Lisbon Unlimited

Lovely Lisbon Unlimited
Lisbon Metro charges €1.45 per trip, which is a bit closer to 1st world/U.S. metro prices. I tend to cover a lot of ground on a daily basis so getting around in a timely fashion is important to me. Lisbon’s monthly unlimited card pays for itself in around 10 days taking two trips per day. I use metro services up to 6 times per day. Lisbon Metro ticket machines only give out top up cards, day passes and weekly passes which can add up if you are navigating Lisbon for over 2 weeks.

Living Outside of the Box

Living Outside of the Box

Since leaving the United States January 2nd, 2014, I’m up to 14 countries of community research. I’ve learned so many ways to benefit (yes benefit) from living on the U.S. dollar. I was just talking to my son last night and telling him that I still live on under $800/per month in Lisbon ...

Vegan Shepherds Pie (for the vegan or the frugal)

Vegan Shepherds Pie (for the vegan or the frugal)

Certain countries tend to have minimal supplies available in which to live the lifestyles we're accustomed to. Other countries have more lifestyle options than we can imagine at an awfully inflated price. I've found myself experimenting in the kitchen with what was available to create meals that I love. This dish compensates between the two situations while igniting your tastebuds and satisfying your health and hunger. 

It's Just a Bunch of Chickens

Photo Credit: Lisa May, Hopkins Belize 2016

Photo Credit: Lisa May, Hopkins Belize 2016

You know that moment when you get preoccupied with your projects, then become startled by a noise in the room or someone rustling behind you? My mom use to be that person rustling behind me every so often. After I would jump around, startled, she would say, “It’s just us chickens,” with a playful smile. Then she would give me a hug.

Traveling 9 or so countries through Central and South America, I hear many rustling sounds that make me alert and looking around, for howler monkeys, big lizards and water bugs. In most cases, it’s just a shadow of a bird flying by or of a palm tree branch waving in the wind.

Palm trees rustling all day.

In Belize I sometimes hear news about mounting robberies that scare the expat residents. Most are just pick pocketing incidents. They call the robberies crime here, which puts fear into the air that is socially infectious. In NYC, where I’m from, crime equals severe violence and denigration. My awareness becomes heightened when people around me speak of “high crime.”

I like to work outside on the veranda. The first time I heard rustling in the neighbor’s yard I thought for sure, with the crime everyone keeps talking about, that there were vicious thieves in the bushes watching my every move and preparing to pounce. I couldn’t work like that, so I grabbed the metal pipe I keep by my bed and went out to face my fears.

I had the spirit of Maggie Jones in me.

I had the spirit of Maggie Jones in me.

I peered into the neighbor’s bushes from a safe distance only to find that the noises were just a bunch of chickens scratching the ground looking for snacks. The chickens were more afraid of me even after I put down the pipe. Relieved, and seeing the humor of this scene, I could almost see the face of my young mom in those bushes smiling and saying to me, “It’s just us chickens.”

We all carry the human need to connect with each other and feel a sense of belonging. Fear is one facilitator, which does that. If 2 people share the same fear, not only can they form a bond, but fear intensifies their connection with passion deepening the fear. The problem with fear, in my experience, is that it’s based mostly in fantasy. Fear is a life altering distraction and encourages disconnection from the world where we seek to experience more connections. I’d taken the concept of pick pocketing and turned it into violent crimes against women while trying to get some work done outside in the daylight.

Fears keep you boxed in and alone.

Fears keep you boxed in and alone.

One of my worst fears were brought to light in a bunch of chickens who ran away as soon as they saw me through the bushes. Facing my fears instead of giving into them by locking myself in the house showed me that life is what we make it up to be in our minds. It also brought to light a new connection with my mom who’s oblivious to my moment with the chickens because she lives in another part of the continent. I finished my work that day in comfort, rooted in a stronger sense of myself.

Pitching Oprah Winfrey

Pitching Oprah Winfrey

After completing the London Real Business Accelerator Program, I became hungry to initiate a major change in our current society. After reading the widespread reports of disparaging behavior by high-profile people, I decided to create a docu-style reality TV series centered on changing the learned culture of social offenders.

ASK LISA MAY: Home & Land Ownership vs Home with Land Rental in Panama

Good morning Lisa May,

I watched with great interest the video with the couple in Mexico and while the video was very well done. The people stated that they paid a small sum ($140k+/-) for their unit [3br, 2ba, 2 floor, 3600 sq. foot, cliff side beach home]. There are so many that find this sum impossible to reach. My condos are available to most everyone at $79k with monthly condo fees of only $125. What I am seeing now is a lesser interest in buying and more interest in renting.

With this in mind, I have now designed an even less costly mobile unit of 576 sq. ft in Panama for less than a $1500 sale. The land upon which the unit sits is rented from me with a minimum term of 3 years and is currently only $175 per month including land taxes, grounds maintenance, security and the use of the public areas and more. The contract will allow using the unit as a rental. Land rental was common before the 1900's allowing regular people to get a place at a more affordable cost. This changed starting in the mid 60's up till today. People have been, for lack of better words, brainwashed into believing they need "ownership". 

QUESTION: How do I offer this great deal at a great price all the while having the people feel comfortable? You have chatted with so many people and actually work in the area of the "retiree movement" that I am hoping you can shed some light.

Cheers,

Perfect Panama Condos


Dear Perfect Panama Condos,

Your information sounds good but I'm always leery about land rentals. Focusing on the logic, yes, it’s cheaper to lease land with home ownership. The laws change, however, when one moves from the area that they know. The culture changes. Your summarized history of lease rental is interesting, however this information comes from you, the land owner. History also shows poor people being taken advantage of since the world began and continues on now as an epidemic. That is no brainwash. 

For example, their have been instances in Belize where new comers are sold homes only to find out, after their renovations, that the land belongs to someone else and that someone else takes all leaving the home owners with no home and no savings. The U.S. is about to blow another financial bubble most likely right after these horrendous elections leaving people scared and desperate. Your potential clients need to trust that they have a sure thing. Don’t get me wrong, I think what you have here is a good idea worth fleshing out. What your potential clients need is peace of mind in knowledge that they can acquire themselves from accredited sources. 

I’ve gotten lots of feedback in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize that Panama has gotten too expensive for low income expat living. I agree. What I found surprising is that expats in Belize left to live in Panama for less and came back to Belize broke. That says a lot because Belize is a pretty pricey place to live as well. So with this growing sense among expats or those considering leaving the country, your arrangement is welcoming but seems a little too good to be true. It’s an idea that has not been tested.

Many of my expat friends in Mexico own homes and think nothing of land rental, feeling very secure. There are others, however, who own mobile homes with land rental but are terrified to renovate or AirBnb/rent out their homes for fear of land rental hikes or changes in rental policy feeling forced to leave, unable to afford moving the home. I even have a friend who refuses to buy in Washington, D.C. because it’s land rental only. 

A good way to address your marketing here is to document your proper due diligence and apply your concepts to the current global economic situation. People are legitimately scared to lose all of their money. Resolve their fears by backing up with your credentials (why they should trust you), Panamanian legislation and real estate law. Offering knowledge on good bi-lingual real estate lawyers used in the Panamanian expat communities might be a good start.

Food for thought.

Best.

 

Lisa May

Founder & Host of Expat Real

LisaMay@expatrealtv.com

www.expatrealtv.com