Fishing for a Future

There are so many things I love about Belize. The wide-ranging shades and depths of blue; the sunrise on an open horizon of the sea; the ingredients and food; but what secures Belize firmly in my heart are the people. They are – as many people in the world are who are left to make good with the resources at hand – so ingeniously industrious and creative in finding solutions.

Every day we spend on Ambergris Caye, we learn something new from our neighbors. And in doing so we learn more about them and how they came to be where they are in life. My partner Danny is constantly impressed by the construction our neighbor and friend Marvin completes with his crew –  the tools they create, their way of working without so many of the things we take for granted.

I am always meeting someone on the island with a great story to tell, an obstacle overcome, or a seemingly impossible journey to their present circumstance. And this particular day was no exception, as I scoured the island to find where to get fresh fish and lobster (there are no fresh fish markets since most people fish for themselves), I met a family of fishermen coming in from an afternoon of lobster fishing. 

 

 

The small white fishing boat was packed with five men, sandwiched between coolers and buckets. As they headed toward the docks, the crew was breaking off the tails and tossing the bodies in another bucket. Everything is sold separately, unless you special order the whole lobsters. I followed the crew down a road into a little alley where they began weighing out lobsters to run to the area restaurants and to hand out to the few lucky patrons like me who figure out where to find them. 

I began chatting up Lucia Nunez on the dock as I waited for the captain to step off the boat. What began as a social hello, became a discussion of family, history, and growth as most of my conversations on the island turn. 

The Nunez family has fished for generations, Lucia explained. His brother David is the captain now, Lucia was home for a break from medical school in Cuba. 

 

 

“My father and grandfather were fishermen. We are a family of fishermen. But I decided to go to medical school through a special program with the government.  I am the first in my family,” Lucia began. “I am on my last year and then I will return home and work in the public system for 7 years before I can go into private practice.”

Belize has a shortage of doctors, their agreement with Cuba, medical students and practitioners provide for Cuban doctors to come to Belize and provide services. In exchange, Belizean students go to Cuba and work in their medical facilities.

While the practice has been argued against in the political arena in the U.S. and Brazil, the agreement for the tiny country of Belize with its approximately 380,000 residents nationwide is essential in both the short and long-term.

“From the first day, you get hands-on training,” Lucia said. “Other schools I would not get the practicals right from the start. It can be hard in Cuba, but we are like a small family at school.”

I asked him what made him decide to become a doctor and break from his family’s tradition.

“Everyone is getting older and they need someone to take care of them,” he said simply.

Those matter-of-fact answers are what I love about the Belizean soul. Solutions are simply what they are, the next right step. No quick fixes, no excuses, simply solutions with a positive and grateful heart.

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The Central American country of Belize is nestled between Honduras, Mexico, and Guatemala with Caribbean Sea shorelines to the east and dense jungle to the west. Offshore, the massive Belize Barrier Reef, dotted with hundreds of low-lying islands called cayes, hosts rich marine life. Belize’s jungle areas are home to Mayan ruins like Caracol, renowned for its towering pyramid; lagoon-side Lamanai; and Altun Ha, just outside Belize City.

Join us this December to discover your Belize experience. Lit’l Pond Adventures is hosting a culinary-adventure package to Ambergris Caye the first week of December. The all-inclusive package is $2,880 per couple including in-country transport to Ambergris, meals, activities, and cooking demonstrations. For more information, email michelle@litlpond.com .

 

Belize & Blue Ridge: Miles Apart, A Heartbeat Away

There are few places in this world that stole my heart on the first visit – Lisbon, Tel Aviv, Blue Ridge and San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. And when I mean “stole my heart” – I mean the moment I first wandered the streets of these places, I knew I would return.

And return often. 

When it came to Blue Ridge, my partner Danny agreed with me right off the bat. On our first visit to this beautiful Appalachian town we put in an offer on a house. We’ve been blessed to turn that second home into our first home, moving permanently there 11 years ago from Florida. 

As the years rolled by, we talked about a new second home somewhere in the world. I was hooked on Portugal; Danny on Italy. And so I dove into looking at homes in tiny towns in both countries. 

And then my pal Shannen Oyster made us come to Belize. Yep, she literally made us. Booked the trip. Paid for it. And wouldn’t let me cancel. It was in July 2015. I kept telling Shannen there was NO WAY we could leave our restaurants in July.

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And here I sit, in July 2019, in our second home in Belize. Giggling. It is the opposite of what we thought we wanted. Tropics. Oceans. Salt and Sand. Heat. Sun. Storms. 

And it’s everything we wanted. Small town, great local people, daily shopping, real ingredients to cook, tiny stores, roadside street food, and new friends. 

Belize won our hearts on the first trip here – the genuine souls of the people here, hard-working and humble. Gracious and grateful to provide hospitality. A new language to learn, while still speaking mainly English so I could get my Spanish lessons underway. And most importantly for the Chef – incredible seafood and a two-hour plane ride.

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As we do with everything, we immediately began talking about how we could build a small business here. Well, I say small, Danny’s desires are always much bigger. But one thing we agreed on was to start sharing our love of this country – and in particular this island – with our friends and clients.

It’s been a dream of mine to get back to planning, organizing and leading travel adventures. I used to create tours such as these when I was Editor-in-Chief of food industry publications. I led groups of our readers to Germany, Spain, France, and Italy.

I also led food tours and seminars in cities across the U.S. Our goal in these trips was to immerse ourselves in the food history and culture of the locations. It’s is something Danny and I have always been passionate about and one of the reasons we are so focused on the foods of the Appalachia where our restaurants are today.

We decided to do something similar in Belize to celebrate the 10-year Anniversary of our restaurants opening in Blue Ridge. I know, crazy idea, but we wanted to share our love of the food and adventures of Belize with our friends and then head home for a bang-up party in Blue Ridge at Harvest.

When I began to plan our first Belize tour, scheduled for this December, fate stepped in. A long-time friend Sara Baer-Sinnott reached out to me from the non-profit Oldways, asking if Danny and I would step back into teaching and travel in the cultural food traditions world. 

So, it appears our food adventure travels are definitely off and running. We will be working in two locations – Italy and Belize. Each year we will create different tours in varying regions. I hope to expand our travel to Portugal, Israel and Spain in the coming years as well.

After the Belize adventure in December 2019 and February 2020, we will be headed to our first Italian region of study – Emilia-Romagno. We were just there three years ago and can’t wait to return and see some of the great people we learned from then. But that story is for another day.

Today, the story is about how we accidentally discovered a new home in Central America. We are so grateful to be here, just as we are grateful for our home in Appalachia. It is the best of both worlds and we’re looking forward to sharing it with you all.

Here is our preliminary itinerary, you can book on Eventbrite or with us directly. A 3% credit card fee will be passed on to the traveler, if you want to pay by cash or check you will save that 3% charge. Single and double occupancy rates are available.

We have vetted all tours, all guides, the resort (which we will take over the entire property) – and we have known the majority of the people we are working with for three years. Some of them are our neighbors, all of them are our friends. We look forward to introducing you to them all.

 

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/an-unbelizable-food-fun-adventure-tickets-63500512743

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