Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction

~~ Part 2 of 2 ~~

This post is part 2 of a two part series talking about construction in Belize and other Countries. If you haven’t yet, read part 1 of 2.

HARDWOOD HOUSE COATING AND MAINTENANCE ~ Coating the wood will help preserve its colors and beauty. Outside walls in the sun, if not coated with a UV protectant stain, will quickly turn grey. Before coating, clean off dust and debris and make sure that all pencil marks are removed. This may sound stupid, but a friend of ours was not there when they coated his house and now he has permanent measurement on his balcony walls, right at eye level too! Since the inside of our house has 16’ ceilings and is quite large, we opted for coating using a spray gun. We were lucky with the guy we hired as he did an excellent job. The first coat was applied in the morning and the second coat a couple of hours later in the afternoon. If we had done this by hand, it would have taken several days. Being in the jungle and having a wood house, fighting bugs is part of the routine. So before coating I also recommend spraying all wood surfaces (inside and out) with an anti bug (termites, worms etc.) chemical such as Dursban, which is easily available and comes in many types for different applications. Once your house is completed, regular spraying is recommended (monthly or less depending on the season) to prevent any bugs from moving in. These chemicals also help keep out other bugs such as scorpions and spiders.

GUTTERS & DRAIN PIPES ~ As stated in part 1 of 2 ~ Plumbing topic, inclination/grade is a concept many guys do not grasp. So check the grade throughout with a level. Also the joints/connections must be sealed with silicone, which if you don’t tell them, there are good chances will not bother do. Due to the high volume of water when you get a good tropical downpour, ensure that the gutters’ drains are large enough to handle that volume.

TOOLS & EQUIPMENT ~ Carelessness is big and can get costly. Check the oil in your generator yourself as it is not unusual that they let that go dry. Also, using the wrong fuel (regular or diesel) in engines, or the correct mix of fuel/oil as for the weed trimmer is another thing to keep your eyes on. A bad habit most have is to leave things lying around, and often in the rain. And last but not least, breaking things. Be ready to fix a lot of stuff or ensure you have a good repair man in your area to help with those!

DAILY INSPECTION ~ Inspect daily, or as often as possible so that problems can be rectified in time, without having to undo too much to fix the mistake. You must also ‘see for yourself’ and not take their word as lying is second nature for many!

PAYING THE WORKERS & CONTRACTORS ~ If you are planning on building, I am sure you have done research and have heard a few stories, some not too good. When it comes down to money transactions with financially struggling people, it is always risky. But when dealing with a reputable company, it is quite safe. When hiring and paying workers by yourself it is another story. As you probably read somewhere, it is advised not to pay your workers until the job is completed and that makes sense. Here‘s one that happen to me. I had a guy on a contract that would take about 8 days and we agreed on $70 per day. I gave him one day pay in advance and paid for the supplies. At the end of his fourth day he asked to be paid for the days he worked so far. So I replied that we agreed that he would get paid at the end of the job. Then he started whining about how the rich gringos don’t care, that he has a wife and kids and needs to buy food and so on. So I gave in and paid him for 3 days. Once the money was in his hand, he then announced to me that for him to complete the job his daily rate would now be $100! So I just told him to get the %*^&# out of here and to never set foot on my property again! You will run into these types of situations and they are not fun to deal with. Unfortunately, many of them do not understand the concept of long term employment, possible references to other people who plan on building, being true to their word, and respecting their employers. Also, when hiring workers directly, not through a contractor or company, make sure Social Security gets paid. It’s the law, as it should be, and it is very important for the future of the country. For more information on Social Security in Belize, visit the Social Security Board website. It is a very well built website that includes all information you need, procedures, forms, and more.

In closing, a big struggle with workers is communication. Even though Belize is an English speaking country, many workers (from Guatemala and Honduras for example) do not speak English (or some do when convenient!), and Spanish is almost as widespread. But even without a language barrier, establishing a rapport with your worker is still hard to achieve sometimes. Mix a bunch of masculine gender Gringos and Latinos, egos are high! Those I have seen succeeding in developing a good relationship are the ones who can listen as well as talk. It has to be 2 way communications in order to exchange ideas and knowledge. The Gringo has the technological knowledge, and many ideas. The Latino has knowledge of the country and its custom and probably has many ideas that you ought to listen to! Listen to your workers’ suggestions as it might just be the answer you were looking for. Then it’s easy for you to build upon his idea, while inquiring for more suggestions. And when you are of different countries and cultures, you learn even more. It’s a great combination, but not necessarily an easy one! With mutual respect, you can learn so much from each other.

I am sure there are hundreds of other things to look out for and that anyone who’s ever built in Belize (or in any similar country) have a few good stories of their own! Please share them in the ‘comments’ section.

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
3 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle, Fun But Challenging
4 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
5 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
6 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
7 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
8 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
9 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
10 ~ Living in Paradise! But, Where Is It?
11 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
12 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
13 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
14 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
15 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
16 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
17 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2


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Home Schooling When Living Abroad

There are thousands of people who live in remote areas and have to home school their children. There are also thousands who live in cities and suburbs and who actually chose to home school. And throughout my travels, I have discovered another large community which is sailors. It is quite surprising the number of families that live on sail boats (or other types of boats) and travel around the world. Here’s a blog from one such wanderer “Floating Classroom“! Here in Belize, my neighbors at the Barton Creek Outpost also home school their children.

I didn’t know anything about home schooling until I moved to Barton Creek. It got me curious and I did some investigating. I have found that there are just over 1 million children in the United States alone who are being home schooled. There are many good websites who provide incredible tools and resources, so anyone can entertain the thought of homeschooling. Personally, what I would fear the most (if I had children) is the discipline and will it must take… one of the parents becomes a teacher. Imagine going from “mom and daughter” to “teacher and student”.


Copyright: Cartoon by Mr. Fish

The first thing you have to do is get yourself organized. Study and reading material, reference books, and worksheets, supplies etc. are some things you gather before you move as during the move, and the adaptation period, things will get busy! Having an organized schedule will make your life much easier and will also help keep the kid(s) in a structured environment. Planning for 1 month or 6 months takes about the same time, so plan for at least 6 months. I found good resources for schedule templates, curriculum, worksheets and many other teaching aids. Below is a printable blank world map for Geography homework I found at Home Crusaders Website.


Map: credit of Home Crusaders

Books and all the material are heavy and bulky. A type of carrying case I recommend is a sturdy shipping case or plastic bin with seal. It is extremely practical as it seals against the element so you keep the moisture (and crawly critters) out to preserve things vulnerable to humidity. And it also can be used as a table wherever you are at. If you will have internet access at home, it makes things easier as you do not have to carry as much. In most places you can find internet cafes. Depending on the frequency you can visit the café is another important factor in your overall organization and material gathering.

Here are some very good resources to get you started:

http://homesheart.blogspot.com/
http://www.homeschool.com/
http://www.schoolexpress.com/index.php
http://members.aol.com/usteach/forms.html
http://www.abcteach.com/
http://school.discoveryeducation.com/schrockguide/
http://www.calvertschool.org/home-school/
http://www.design-your-homeschool.com/How-to-start-homeschooling.html

And of course there are thousands more. There are also a lot of blogs solely about homeschooling. Blogs can be very good sources as they are written by individuals who are living it. Their writing is true and real as they are not doing it on a business point of view, but for sharing with others. Also, joining an online group or forum is always a good idea for help and support between members.

And last but not least, is to schedule exercise time. Not only is it essential for the kids, but it is also very good for you! Here at Barton Creek, playing in the creek is the best gym. I do not have children, but exercise daily while playing and spending time with the dogs. With areas from ankle deep to a 15’ swimming hole it is the best way to end a hot day in the jungle!

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
3 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle, Fun But Challenging
4 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
5 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
6 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
7 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
8 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
9 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
10 ~ Living in Paradise! But, Where Is It?
11 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
12 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
13 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
14 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
15 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
16 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2

To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad

When you move to another country, there can be one of two ways of doing so. It is that you are moving with a company (employment relocation) or that you are doing it yourself, on your own, or with your family (such as retirement).

In the case of employment relocation, more often than not, your traveling and moving, expenses are covered by the company and your lodging is acquired by them as well. So it is not a concern for you. But when making the move on your own, to buy or to rent deserves your full attention.

It is a very good idea to visit the country you have chosen at least twice before moving. The first time, go for fun; explore and look at everything, talk to people, discover as much as you can. If you are not sure of the area you would like to settle in, then you rent. But if you know exactly what you want and where, research both rentals and real estate. Thanks to the internet, research is quite easy, although it is time consuming. There are many online resources such as:

~ Forums geared to specific countries, or ‘expat’ forums where all countries are discussed. There are many out there but not all are good. When entering a forum, look for the stats, which will tell you the number of members, visitors etc. Next find out if the forum is active (lots of posters and daily interactions) by reading through the threads menu and specific threads.

~ Real estate and rental websites (hundreds, if not thousands, to browse through!)

~ Government website to look up ownership, immigration and other laws

~ Blogs (like this one) from people living abroad, or who have lived abroad, and share their experiences. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to use the ‘comment’ field. Bloggers love corresponding with their readers!

~ Tourist/vacation related websites have lots of info about the country in general.

Before you buy, here are some things you need to know, or be able to answer:

► Real estate market. What kind of prices am I looking at.
► Laws (different countries mean different laws)
► Expat ownership laws (which in some countries may vary from laws that apply to locals)
► Purchasing procedures, requirements and time frame. What are the extra fees beyond and above the property price itself.
► Do I use a realtor, a real estate broker, an attorney… It is very important to find someone you can trust with your transaction and money. Ask for references.
► Political and economical state of the country. Semi to long term investment value.
► Will I have clear title of my property?
► Am I allowed to remain in the country for as long as I own? What are the immigration laws and different programs for expats?

Once you are familiar with those points, it is then time for your second visit to meet with the contacts you have made during your research and view the properties that have peeked your interest. You can then safely make your purchase and feel confident about it.

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
3 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle, Fun But Challenging
4 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
5 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
6 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
7 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
8 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
9 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
10 ~ Living in Paradise! But, Where Is It?
11 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
12 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
13 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
14 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
15 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2

Health Issues When Living Abroad

The number one question we get from prospect buyers is “why are you selling?”. This is a reasonable question that all of us always ask ourselves when looking at purchasing a property. It comes from wondering if there’s something wrong with the place, and also it is just plain curiosity! Our first reason for selling is regarding health.

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Picture copyright of Blue Buddies

Before making the “big move”, don’t forget to spend some time researching and exploring all that is health related.
1- How am I doing personally?
2-
Do I have insurance that will cover me abroad?
3-
What health care is available in the country I am moving to?

If you currently have insurance, you need to ensure that they provide ‘worldwide’ or ‘overseas’ coverage. Many insurance companies do not offer it, or have different range of restrictions and exclusions. They might tell you you’re covered, but for how long? Many policies will cover you abroad but they have a maximum length of time that you are allowed out of the country until the coverage stops.

If you don’t have insurance, it is easily available to purchase online. Take time to do some research and there are good resources over the internet. A site I like is Insurance To Go as they give you a comparison table of their different plans, coverage, premiums, limits and deductibles. Many other websites out there will also give you that information.

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Now be ready for the questionnaire people. This is 2008 and it shows! On one questionnaire, they asked; “Have you ever had a headache. If yes, explain below”. Now, can anyone answer ‘no’ to that? So here it is… if you answered ‘no’, you lied and that can be used for refusing to cover/pay a claim. Now if you answered ‘yes’, that can be used for refusing to cover/pay a claim on the grounds of ’pre-existing condition’! Here’s another one; “Do you have any tattoos? If yes, provide size and location”. Hmmm, pretty hard to lie there! So if you do, I imagine any type of blood related illnesses or diseases could be ‘rejected’! And on that questionnaire, they also asked about piercings! But that questionnaire seemed to be unusual. Health insurance applications are generally pretty standard.

When studying coverage, do not waste time with little things like a broken arm. Something like that can be fixed pretty much anywhere and paying for it won’t ruin you! Instead concentrate on more important issues such as ’Emergency Air Evacuation’ to the nearest facility in your country and/or their network. In case of such as a car wreck, a heart attack that leaves you immobilized, you might be in need of urgent and special (expensive) care that is not available in the country where you live. Coverage to look more into are those that can ruin you financially such as cancer, liver disease, anything that would require long term and specialized treatments. So don’t fret about a broken leg or a tooth cavity!

And very important, don’t forget to “always” carry your insurance card with you in case you are alone and unconscious. That can save your life as with this card the medical attendants can immediately call the right place.

As for us this being a reason for selling, we have found out we are uninsurable! Well, they will let us pay the premium, but due to some pre-existing conditions it seemed to us that there would be very few things that they would cover. Being in our mid-forties, we have decided that it is something to consider seriously and relocating back to Canada is our safest bet. The other important reason to relocate has to do with telecommunication problems when living in a 3rd world country.

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
3 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle, Fun But Challenging
4 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
5 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
6 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
7 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
8 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
9 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
10 ~ Living in Paradise! But, Where Is It?
11 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
12 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
13 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
14 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2

Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!

The first time you sat at a computer, it was somewhat confusing and a bit intimidating. Then you started and were amazed at how easy it really was. It shows you have a logical mind, which is all you need!

Solar energy stored in large deep cycling marine batteries is the way we chose to do it. Your system starts with solar panels, which will collect the energy from the sun. Through electrical wires, this energy is carried to the batteries and stored. By connecting an inverter to the batteries, the stored energy is converted from DC to AC power and then sent to the house standard breaker box.

Here are the 7 things you need to be able to answer (and my answers);

1- 12v, 24v or 48v System (my system is 24v)

2- Load calculation, decide what electrical items you want or need. You will need to consider not only usage but surge and phantom loads as well. (we bought a “Kill-O-Watt” meter and tested everything)

3- Then, how much total Watt/Amp do I need to generate (in perfect conditions, we produce 2,400 watts per hour with twenty-four 100 Watts panels)

4- How many batteries, and which type, to store the energy I need (have twenty-four 12v/200ah deep cycle marine batteries)

5- Inverter type & size (Two Outback VFX3524)

6- Charge controller or not? (Started without, then had one for a short period, and now don’t)

7- Breaker boxes (for house, power shed, and garage if have one) (standard readily available boxes)

Depending on your location, many Alternative energy stores can do your installation for you.

Now, there’s a 7th thing you’ll need… an expert consultant! Make sure that wherever you purchase your components, they also offer tech support (unless you have someone personally). This support can be via email, but better yet through an online forum or group.

The Outback inverter works awesome. If you get this type of inverter, ‘make sure’ you also get the ‘Mate’. Without it you cannot change the settings of the inverter. The Mate also gives you cool and ‘must have’ info like battery reading, load currently in use, and other very useful info.

Once you have an answer to those 7 questions, then its homework time. Some resources to do your research are;

-Good old fashion magazine to read when lounging in bed!

-The internet, which goes without saying!

-Store catalogs, but those who also include informative sections. There are two excellent catalogs that have been a tremendous help; Backwoods Solar Electric Systems in Idaho and EA Energy Alternatives Ltd in Victoria, Canada.

-Online forums and groups. Read and follow several of them for a while before joining one. This way you get the feel of which one is more for you and your needs.

-Best of all, find someone who already has a system in place. Seeing a system set up and in operation will give you the clearest picture.

While gathering information online, don’t miss visiting an Alternative Energy Store. Nothing will ever replace in person consultation, and some stores might be able to match internet prices.

I am no expert, but from 1 ½ year ago, when I knew nothing, what I have learned is huge and incredibly rewarding. If you do your homework and ask the right questions, you can do it too!

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle Of Belize
3 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
4 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
5 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
6 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
7 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
8 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
9 ~ Living in Paradise! But, Where Is It?
10 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
11 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
12 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
13 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
14 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2

Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!

Life in the mountainous jungle can be very pleasant, but just like anything else, it’s not perfect. We succeeded in setting up a comfortable good size house with full solar electricity, satellite internet, hot water, A/C… yeah, comfort!

The climate certainly has great sides. Most people think that the down side comparing to the North American living is that you don’t have the four seasons. Although not as drastic as in North America, there are very distinct seasons throughout the year, which can be seen from changes in the surrounding wildlife, fruit trees which produce at different times, the considerable variation in vegetation, and of course the temperature. Also there is a “wet” and a “dry” season, the dry season lasting approximately from late November through May, and the “wet” pretty much parallels hurricane season, which is June through November.

While quite hot, low to mid 90ºs F (32º C) during summer afternoons, as soon as the sun sets behind the mountains it cools off beautifully. This sub-tropical climate is a dream for sleeping. Winter season, nights can get down to the mid 50ºs F (10º C) to mid 60ºs F (16º C). It can get cold enough that you will even close your windows! One thing I miss during that time is my big fleece bath robe which I never thought I would need!

Get awakened daily by birds and other creatures welcoming the sun! The temperature remaining cold (I personally use cats as heaters!) until the sun rises over the mountain tops, it is very easy to lounge in your comfy warm bed with a view of the jungle, the mountains and the creek. From the constant changes of the jungle sounds, you can also easily identify the changes in season.

The humidity can also be a factor. When transiting from 55º F (13º C) to 85º F (29º C) within a 4 hours range, things have a tendency to get damp! And the things prone to catch mold will! Some of those are leather, or wood not from the habitat. A picture frame made of soft Canadian pine doesn’t do well in this climate! But by afternoon everything is dry again.

The place I am talking about is Barton Creek in the Cayo District of Belize, Central America. Belize is tucked in between Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and the Caribbean Sea. With a total of 8,867 square miles (22,965 sq. km.), it is one of the smallest countries in Central America. With a population of approximately 300,000 there are a lot of open spaces. The population being spread out, there are not many highly populated areas. The main one being Belize City which is comprised of just over 1/4 of the population for this entire little country!

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
2 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle Of Belize
3 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
4 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
5 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
6 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
7 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
8 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
9 ~ Living In Paradise! But, Where Is It?
10 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
11 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
12 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
13 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
14 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2