24 July, 2007

Busy, Busy, Busy

Yesterday was one of the busiest we've had since moving to Belize. The day started off with us jumping into the Isuzu and heading off down the highway to Orange Walk. Our plan was to find somewhere along the way to have breakfast, then get to San Sing's motorcycle shop and see if he had the part I needed to get the scooter running again. After that, we thought we might try to find the People's Store in Orange Walk. That was about the extent of our thinking.

Canadian Bob had pointed out a restaurant on the outskirts of Orange Walk as being a nice place to eat. I thought we might have breakfast there, but as we pulled into their parking lot it became immediately obvious they weren't open. We decided to cruise on through Orange Walk to San Sings - take care of the primary task, then we could worry about everything else after that.

Naturally, I overshot San Sing's. As we turned around, it looked as though they might not be open. The only clue from that side of the building was that there were a couple of vehicles parked there that I had not seen when I was there on Saturday. As we swung around to the far side, the garage doors were open, and I could see a couple of folks crouching over a dismantled scooter inside.

We pulled up. I grabbed the broken part and went into the shop. After exchanging morning greetings, I asked if they might have this part. Both men looked at it, mumbled a bit, and one asked if it was for a Honda? I answered in the affirmative. About that time, the other mechanic got up and ambled over to some storage shelves. I wasn't sure if he was looking for my part or something for the scooter they were working on.

At last he came back with the part I needed. Price: $47BZ. I paid them for it and we left. A somewhat abrupt end to the conversation, but that was all the conversation that was needed.

We were still looking for a place for breakfast. As we turn back onto the main road from San Sings, we were just passing Landy's Hardware as I remembered I needed to get a new filter for our Rotoplas cistern, so we pulled in there. I found a sales girl who pointed me to the filter locations. Of course, there were several different sizes and shapes... I hadn't dismantled the old filter, so I had to rely on a picture on the box to find what I hoped was the right filter.

But there were two different boxes. Both looked to me like the same filter but, since everything was in Spanish, I couldn't be sure. She took the two boxes and went off to find the answer. After a couple of minutes, she was back - they were the same product, just one newer than the other.

I had already lost Dianna in the store. After paying for the filter ($23BZ), I went out to the vehicle - no Dianna. So, I went back in. I should have known... there she was, immersed in looking at housewares. She reminded me she needed to find a wedding gift. I had completely forgotten.

Breakfast was still a gnawing necessity, so it really wasn't too hard to pull her away from Landy's. But, as we were leaving Landy's we decided to stop across the road at a business named Santiago Castillo to see what they did or had to offer. On a previous visit, a sales person at Landy's told us we could shop there.

Entering the Santiago Castillo compound, we weren't sure if they were a business or a government agency - a nice new and modern-looking building surrounded by a eight-foot security fence, complete with a guard house at the gate. After parking in their clean, paved parking lot, we approached the front door where we were met with a sign: "Press buzzer for admittance". What was this place?
After we got in the front door, we were still in the dark. We were in a lobby sort of area, with three or four uniformed staff behind computers at a low counter, a glassed-in Cashier's area, and no other sign at all of what this place was about.

We were about ready to turn around and get out before we got in trouble, when a very friendly young man came into the room and asked if he could help us. I answered that he could and asked what they did there? He smiled hugely and said this was a popular shopping place for Americans and that we were welcome.

Still having no idea what we would shop for at this place, he offered to let us look through a catalog, which we started to do. At about the same time he introduced us to Patricia, one of the staff at the computer terminals. She offered to show us around the warehouse. Ok, we said, as she escorted us behind the counter and through a doorway into the warehouse.

As we began walking through the warehouse, it finally dawned on us what this place was. It was sort of like a mini-Costco, selling case-lots of toilet paper, cleaning stuff, foods, and some hardware items. Ah-ha! Now we had it. As we walked around looking at everything, we asked Patricia about the business, and yes, it was similar to Costco, but on a slightly smaller scale and without the membership fees. They did sell mostly wholesale to businesses, but did sell also to individuals, still mostly in case lots. We found a huge box of clumping kitty litter that we asked if we could buy that. We could. Patricia put it on the floor and asked one of the warehouse men to bring it up front for us.

About this time, she mentioned that their store downtown sold everything in the warehouse but at retail and in single quantities. That was the People's Store. More of the puzzle was falling into place. We asked where it was located as Nigel and Jenni had told us of People's but we still hadn't found it.

After we got back out to the sales area in front, Patricia rang up our litter purchase. Well, that's too easy a description. She entered a lot of keystrokes into the computer, asked my name and what town we lived in, and printed out three sheets of paper. After shuffling them into order, she proceeded to stamp each sheet with it's own stamp in large capital letters: "CUSTOMER COPY", in red - "OFFICE COPY", and "WAREHOUSE COPY". Then, she stamped each sheet with another stamp that had the company name and "PAID" on it. She initialled each of these stamps. Then, each sheet was stamped with a red stamp that said: "S C Ltd. CASH SALE". She then stapled the three sheets together, handed them to me and directed me to go over the the glassed-in Cashier's booth to pay for our purchase.

At the Cashier's booth, I handed the young uniformed lady my three copies. She made several ledger entries, a couple of computer entries and took my money. After filling out a receipt form, which said they had received $26.99BZ from me, and stapling this form to the original three, she gave me my change... and, the four forms, all neatly stapled together.

We picked up our big box of litter, and saying goodbye to everyone who had helped us, we went back out to our Isuzu. I couldn't help but wonder later, just how bad we had screwed things up at Santiago Castillo since we had the warehouse, office, and customer copies of the invoice, and the receipt. It was amazing how much bureaucracy there is just in a simple kitty litter purchase.

We cruised on to the southern edge of Orange Walk still looking for breakfast. At last we found a restaurant, the Sit and Dine Restaurant, where we had a nice two-egg breakfast.

After breakfast, we headed back into town, circling around the square, where we finally found the People's Store. After parking, we went in and did some shopping for laundry detergent, a wedding gift, etc., in short, the usual. As we finished loading our purchases into the Isuzu, my cell phone rang.

It was Roy Pascascio, of Roy and Son Trucking, saying he had most of our boxes and was planning to deliver them to us later in the afternoon. Hoo Haw! Our stuff was going to arrive from the states! Yippie!!!

After that, we headed back toward Corozal Town with a bit more focus than we would have normally.

Arriving at the house, we unloaded the vehicle, and I decided since it was around 12:30 PM, that I probably should get some 2x4's to put down on the floor of Tony's meat shop, so we could store our stuff and not have to worry about getting water in it from seepage under the door.

I called the lumberyard, appropriately named "the Lumba Yaad" asked if they closed for lunch - they did till 1 PM, and if I could get some 6' 2x4's - I could, so I headed into Corozal to do that.

I wasn't exactly sure where the Lumba Yaad actually was located, and figured I'd use the time before 1PM to find them. I did, at about 5 till.

Of course, this being Belize, I waited till about 1:15 PM, and still no one showed to reopen the Lumba Yaad, I decided to head to the Post Office, to mail a refund check from Comcast to our bank in Olympia (It cost $0.60BZ), to check the mail at our and Tony's mailbox, get some cash to pay for the lumba, and stop at the Doctor's to have him look at my finger, which had decided to look like I had whacked it with a hammer (I hadn't, but that didn't seem to bother the finger - it was doing its thing), and get back to pick up the wood.

I did the post office thing, cruised by the Doctor's office (at Evergreen Pharmacy) - they were closed till 3 PM, so that was a bust, got cash and made it back to the Lumba Yaad by about 1:40 PM. They had reopened and I got my lumba. 12 - 6' dimensional 2"x4" pieces of mahogany. Can you believe it? These things weigh a ton and are full 2" x 4" cut. The twelve pieces cost me $84BZ. I had envisioned just leaving the wood for Tony to use in his smoker after we moved our stored items to our own house. But with that quality wood and the cost - no way! I'm keeping it.

I got back to the house about 2:15 PM. I had to drive with the tail down and the spare tire carrier opened, so I drove all the way back with the emergency flashers flashing, for all the good that would have done. I put the wood on the floor in Tony's meat house and went to wait for Roy to show up.

A little later, Paul came over. Plying him with beer (we had to twist his arm) he told us he had actually gotten his boat into the water and it ran - all good signs. He was planning a trip over to the far side of the Cerros Peninsula to visit Donna and Enrique's resort and we were invited. Not sure what day that was going to happen yet, but soon.

Paul stayed till about 6:20 PM, still no Roy. I called Roy on his cell phone a couple of times to check his progress. He had been delayed by very heavy rain down in Belize City and was heading our way.

Roy and his crew arrived about 7:45 PM. I met them out on the highway. He was concerned that his truck (about a 24' single axle job) would get bogged down. I assured him the soil was solid enough to support whatever he had and he came in.

Backing up to the meat house, Roy and his crew off-loaded all 88 pieces. Some boxes looked a little dented, but overall, everything looked to be in good condition. Keep your fingers crossed. After thanking Roy profusely, they left to head into Corozal, and we went in the house, showered and

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