08 October, 2015

One of the Occasional Joys of Living in Belize


Dianna, Carl, and I headed off to Chetumal. We were headed to Home Depot to look at floor tile, grout, bathroom fixtures, ceiling fans, pocket door hardware, and whatever else caught our eye.

We found just the floor tile we were looking for, as well as the grout. Since they didn't have enough here in Chetumal, we made arrangements for Home Depot to bring the balance of the boxes down from Cozumel, and we would pick up the whole load of 45 boxes of tile and 12 bags of chocolate colored, unsanded grout at Home Depot in two weeks. They drew up an invoice to that effect. Good so far.

Finding the bathroom fixtures went just as well. We found a hand-held shower head we liked, and found an extra-long hose extension for it. We picked out a couple of ring-type towel holders, three towel bars, toilet paper holder, wall hooks, shower control assembly, and shower knobs, and a few other pieces, all of which went into our cart.

When we were done, we headed up to the checkout. We were going to run the invoice separately from the cart purchases, because we would be bringing the items in the cart across the border first, and the invoice items of the tile and grout two weeks later. We thought it would be cleaner and easier from Belize Custom's perspective to have separate receipts. So far, so good.
It's All the Same Difference
The clerk rang up the invoice, and I handed her my MasterCard. That's where things hit a roadblock. Declined. WTF? I had just gone through something similar about a month or two before this with my dental visits over here in Chetumal. I had called Citibank and found that their 'Early Fraud Detection Unit' or something like that, had put a hold on the payment of my dental work, as it was coming from Mexico and not from the home town of my listed mailing address.

It took a bit of talking, but I got that all squared away, and confirmed with them that there would be no further problems with us making purchases in Chetumal and surrounding area. I had to explain to them that, no we were not traveling, we lived near to Chetumal and that we would, from time to time, make purchases over here. Fine and dandy. the dental bill went through without a problem. I thought the issue was resolved successfully.

Till yesterday, when we hit that roadblick. Since I was too far away from a Belize cell Tower, I to use Home Depot's phone to call the 800 trouble number for Mastercard and got their 'Early Fraud' people again. Same reason as before. I told them I thought this had been settled a month ago. No. They wanted to text a message to my cell phone. I told them I couldn't retrieve it due to no service. Then they wanted me to check my email. or have someone check it for me. Well, that wasn't going to happen. So, the hold stayed in place.

Obviously, I was going to have to spend some time the following day (today) on the phone with them to try and get this sorted out once and for all.

After that, and to cool me down, we went and had some lunch. With cooler heads prevailing, we decided to head back to Home Depot and try to run the invoice, this time using my Visa debit card. Should be a piece of cake, since it was with a different bank and all, I thought. Wrong. Same roadblock all over again.

Alright, so there's two places I have to call to try and get this sorted out. We'll see.

Just thought I'd relay this bit to you as something else to look forward to if you decide to move to Belize. Keeps things fun and entertaining.

This Morning

Well, I just spent half-an-hour on Skype with Citicards. Besides the fact that the connection was marginal, they are very hard folks to convince that what you want to do is what you want to do. Anyway, with some luck, they will not hold transactions that take place in Mexico. I tried to get them to set it for anything within the state of Quintana Roo, but that apparently, is beyond their capability.

We're thinking we may be going back to Chet sometime today and give the card a go... again.

I have to wait another hour to call the people to hopefully reset our debit card. With luck, we may be back in business. To be honest, there never developed a real warm-fuzzy with those folks at Citi. However, I have high hopes.

06 October, 2015

Pool House Expansion Project - Day Eight

We've already got the foundation and rebar cast. Now comes building the walls, three blocks high to match the existing floor of the Pool House. As I mentioned before, these are the best looking blocks I've seen here in Corozal. Nice crisp lines and sharp corners. As you can see at the bottom of the photo, half blocks are even available.
A Good Sized Stack of Blocks
Of course, now comes the time when those blocks need to be repositioned so they are near to where they're going to be used.
Moving Blocks from the Stack to Where They'll Be Needed
And once they're ready to begin laying the blocks, mortar needs to be mixed. Here the crew is doing it the old-fashioned way, by hand.
Mixing Mortar the Old-Fashioned Way
Finally, I was lucky to be able to catch the first two lines of mortar being cast onto the foundation.
The First Lines of Mortar In the New Addition
And, shortly after that, the first block is laid on top. Just a few hundred more to go.
The First Block Being laid in the New Lines
Work is well under way. The blocks will be laid in single rows, but three blocks high to match the existing floor level.
A Soldierly Course of Blocks Laid
Just a preview here, the first pile of rock which will be fill material inside the walls. I have always felt sorry for the crews that had to pick those rocks out of the fields. Carl told me they do that mechanically, and dump them alongside the road of the cane field. Then when the truck comes to load up for our delivery, a forklift simply scoops rocks up from beside the road and dumps them into the truck. The only real back-breaking labor is when Carl's guys have to move them to the foundation interior.
The First Pile of Rock for Fill
While work was progressing, Dianna found this wasp nest in the thatch of the parking palapa. Luckily, no one has made contact with it. I think Carlos was going to spray it with Bop bug spray.
A Large Wasp Nest In the Parking Palapa
Now the last course of blocks is being laid down. Such sharp mortar lines. almost looks like what you'd find up north.
Starting the Last Course - Floor Level
There's many more photos than appear in each posting. You can see all the photos of the construction project on Flickr at: https://www.flickr.com/gp/winjama/0wVc3s. There will be new photos added each day of the project.

Pool House Expansion Project - Day Seven

Day Seven

Ok. Here we go with pouring concrete for the foundation. This is the first of the two major pours. The second will come when the foundation walls are built up and the whole floor for the house is cast.

Bright and early. Everything is almost ready. The gravel and sand are in place. Water barrels need to be filled, and the wheel barrows are ready for a workout.
Almost Ready for the Pour
Here comes 'the machine' as they call it. The mixer and it's operator, or 'Maestro' as they call him. Not sure if he's the actual owner of the machine or not. In any case, he really orchestrates the mixing process.
The Maestro Positioning His Machine
Getting closer to being ready. Here they're positioning the cement bags for ease of use while the mixing is going on. This is what they call a one-bag machine. A whole bag of cement goes in, along with a little water, and buckets-full of gravel and sand (I think six of each - I really didn't count that close). A couple minutes later, and the mix is ready.
Getting the Bags Ready
Here, we're all set. The water barrels have been filled and the crew is getting ready. It's really quite a ballet that doesn't stop till the pour is complete.
Maestro About Ready to Roll
And, the action starts. The crew (provided by the Maestro) begins vigorously filling five-gallon buckets of sand and gravel - about six of each.
Feeding the Machine
As soon as they get their buckets full, they begin heaving them into the machine. Nobody gets in the other's way. It's quite something to watch.
Working Fast and Smooth
As soon as they empty all their buckets and the Maestro puts in a bag of cement, the whole process starts all over again.
Smooth Choreography
In short order, the mix is ready. The Maestro rotates the drum and it begins filling the barrows.
Filling a Barrow
Once the barrows are filled, they immediately head over and begin dumping their loads into the trenches. Hard work for sure. But they work at a feverish pace, maintaining it clear through to completion of the pour.
Manpower Moves it Along
As you can see, it moves right along. This pour was maybe two hours long, of some quite intense work. Don't forget the temperature is in the mid-ninties, in direct sunlight, and the humidity hovers right aroun 78- to 85-percent.
Fill Moves Right Along
As soon as a barrow-load is dumped, Carl's crew comes along with shovels and tamping sticks, and begin smoothing out the newly poured concrete.
Another Load in the Trench
Omar ensures that as the pour progresses, that the correct height of the pour is consistent throughout. He also does the final smoothing of the pour as it moves along.
Smoothing the Pour
No coffee or smoke breaks while the pour is going on. It's just continuous and sustained hard work from start to finish.
The Pour Continues
Here's Omar with his large float, doing a final smoothing of the poured concrete.
Omar Doing a Final Smoothing
And, finally the end of the pour approaches. Only one or two more barrows to be dumped.
Last Load of the Pour Is In
There. Finished. Now, there's still a lot of work to be done. All the tools and equipment has to be cleaned up. Trowels, floats, barrows, and the machine all must be cleaned. The the Maestro and his crew load the machine, their barrels, and their hose back onto their trailer and away they go. Our job was early enough and small enough, they may have gone on to another pour. Who knows?
All Done
There's many more photos than appear in each posting. You can see all the photos of the construction project on Flickr at: https://www.flickr.com/gp/winjama/0wVc3s. There will be new photos added each day of the project.