There are 2 main types of construction in Belize, concrete homes and wooden shacks. I have not built either, but I would assume concrete is more expensive. I am living in a big old concrete home and I love it! If you're just starting out in Belize, and you can afford it, I would say most expats would prefer the concrete route. There are less bugs able to creep in. (The scorpions I have seen have been in or around wooden homes.) It stays a smidgen cooler in the concrete...but if you're looking for cool...try another country. Belize is just 11 clicks off the equator...HOT! The concrete is more like what we are used to as expats...we can sweep our floors and not have little tag a longs stuck to our feet. And...concrete bonus...you can use your roof as a patio!
The second, and more local way to build is with wooden planks. Some of these homes are just adorable! I have not made friends with anyone who has gone the Mennonite Prefab Home route just yet, so my experience with them is limited to touring one at Spanish Lookout and following one down the highway. (I blogged that day's adventure...read previous posts for it...scary stuff that home moving...) They seem to be sturdier by far than the homes I am talking about today. Today I am going to show you one of the plank homes built by the guy who stays inside it.
That is very common here. When a person has land, either by inheritance, land grant, or purchase, they will often build a place to live on it. The buildings sort of evolve as the person gets the money to build. (Even the fancy concrete homes will have rebar sticking out of the top...just in case the money grows, so will the house.) The home I am going to tell you about today belongs to a friend of mine from the fish market. About 10 years ago, he went to the town council and asked for a plot of land. He was told where to look and that he could pick whatever spot he liked in the area and build. Well...the area they allowed for him to build on was right off the canal...often flooded, and mostly swamp. So, (as my other friend did on his island), this guy carried in bag after bag of sand until he had built an area dry enough and large enough to put up his house. This is an ongoing project for him. Almost every day, part of his dry land washes away and he is constantly replacing the sand to keep his area dry. He also deals daily with CROCODILES! This guys is half a nut -he likes his crocs. He is proud of his crocs. He has named his crocs. And he carries fish guts from the market to his crocs. His mother lives nearby, and there are days he will attempt to go home and be blocked by his crocs. He turns tail if they refuse to let him pass. He sleeps at his mother's place.
When he started to build, he was the only shack in the area. Since then several neighbors have built nearby, and it is an actual road now. The next door neighbor family is Granny, her daughter, and the daughter's (very tiny) children. I asked about the crocs and the babies...I was told that they grow up knowing not to play in the canal. In the states, this would be akin to building your home at the mouth of a bear cave! Perfectly normal here...They even have a cat! I was told that it is a very clever kitty. Kitty knows when the crocs are about...YIKES! YIKES for the children! YIKES for the kitty! and YIKES for the fisherman when he can not pass!
I am going to post some pictures now...please don't judge these people. They have the same pride in ownership as any of us would for our homes. Possibly more...They dug the holes for the supports to hold the house off the water. They carried the planks to the site themselves. They built, maintain and thrive in these homes! In a moment that touched my heart, an offer so sincere and kind...Fisherman knows Sean and I are scoping place to build. He also knows we are not as well to do as some of our American counterparts here in Belize...In a touching offer of sincerity, he offered us a place on his land. He offered to help us dry it out, and he offered to let us build a place with him. It brought warmth to my soul. Never have I been treated so kindly by my own countrymen. These people might be "poor" or live in ways we don't understand, but the light of human kindness originates within them. So...again...please don't judge. Appreciate the beauty. Who was it that said, "In order for a woman to be truly beautiful, she must be truly ugly as well." THAT's these houses. Odd to our eyes, but beautiful.