Monday, November 17, 2008

Back where we started (for a few weeks, anyway)

It's funny being back in Holland. Some things have changed (a lot of new buildings and shops) & many things are still the same as when I was a little girl here. The people out on their pushbikes, going ice-skating with the family (no natural ice though nowadays), watching Saint Nicolas come to town, drinking lots of hots drinks throughout the day, watching silly gameshows on TV, playing boardgames with my family...it's all so familiar and cozy.

What I did forget- having been in the tropics for so long- is how cold your ears get outside, how horrible it is to sit on a cold toilet seat and how long you delay getting out of the shower or bath as you just can't stand the idea of drying yourself off in the cold.

Still, I like the seasons and all that comes with it. Of course, no one would choose rainy days or cold winds over a blue skies. But I enjoy the changing scenery throughout the year in Europe and it is something that I have always missed in Belize and Aruba. So I am enjoying myself.

Today we'll be meeting some family that we haven't seen since we were kids. Should be interesting.

I just wish that Aruba and Europe were less far apart, so we could hop backwards and forwards a bit more often.

Another family slideshow

Sunday, November 09, 2008

halloween, football, etc.

So much personal stuff has happened lately. Lucas turned 6, my mum had a successful hernia operation, it was Halloween, we've found another house to move into in December & we planned a trip to Europe (leaving Aruba tomorrow)

I won't go into all the details. But instead I will just share a few pictures (more to come). Lucas dressed up as Harry Potter, Aidan dressed up as Batman and Andy playing in the Plaza football tournament.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

When it rains it pours


Here in the tropics we are usually blessed with gorgeous blue skies, a warm breeze and swimming pools that don’t make you scream out when you jump into them. But when the whether gets bad here, it gets real bad.

For the last day and a half now, it’s been raining on Aruba & there have been quite strong winds. Nothing too extreme, as Aruba is one of the islands located below the point where the hurricanes usually form in the Caribbean. In Dutch these islands are called ‘De onderwindse eilanden’.

But still, this island can’t deal with the amount of rainfall we’ve been getting off the tail end off the Tropical Storm Omar.

Straight away the roads turn into rivers, roofs and windows leak, trees and cacti fall down, the power is out, the schools close, the shops close, everything simply stops.

So- whilst I’m typing this- we are out of power (relying on my computer’s rather weak battery), the boys are home from school and climbing up the walls, our house is leaking like crazy and the toilets won’t flush.

Last night- when we still had power- I used the washing machine and heard a loud ‘Whoosh!’ It almost sounded like water was shooting out of something. I looked around and found nothing. Only that somehow the washing machine has leaked a bit. But later on, when I walked into the guest bathroom, I saw what the loud ‘Whoosh’ had really been. The septic tank had somehow backfired and the shower cubicle was filled with nasty blown slush. It was disgusting! Andy cleaned it as well as he could. But I will have to bleach it like crazy today (if I can manage to get to the local supermarket somehow and if it is open). And we will have to hope that the septic can be emptied today.

It really is a muddy, wet, windy mess on the island at the moment. And the sad part is that my little sister Iris is here from Holland with a friend. Yesterday we had wanted to celebrate Iris’ birthday on the beach, but of course that was impossible. Even the cinema (our plan B) was closed. And now they are stuck in this mess just like the rest of us.

Let’s hope that in a few days things clear up again (not much chance of that today). And let’s hope the power comes back on before our hyperactive kids drive my husband and myself insane!

P.S. Aha…help is near. My sister Miriam is coming to evacuate us to my mum’s house, where they still have power. Miriam’s car is high enough off the ground to get us through the flooded roads. Now we just have to hope that our house doesn’t flood completely whilst we’re out.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Our funny family cooking session

Yesterday was one of those days when you realize how wonderful it is to have family around.

We had a joined pizza baking session at my mum's house. Hans (my mum's partner) had heard a while ago that I knew how to make pizzas from scratch and decided that I had to teach the family how to do it. I only made pizza dough ones though and really wasn't sure I could do it again. But hey...it was a fun idea anyhow. So Hans, my brother-in-law Laurence and I did the cooking whilst everyone else sat in and around the pool.

We laughed so much! It was the messiest cooking session ever! The three of us were covered in flour, we couldn't get the dough of our hands, we were in a right state.

And, even though after two hours the dough still hadn't 'doubled in size' like the recipe had promised us, we just whacked it into the oven and...surprise, surprise....it all came out brilliantly (apart from the one pizza that I dropped face-down on to the floor)

We had such a great time that we decided that 'family cooking sessions' should become a monthly occurrence. Next month we will attempt to make the perfect curry.

Enjoy your own family and friends too. Do something fun with them! It's worth the effort.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A crazy version of 'Twinkle, twinkle, little star'

This was filmed in our garden in Belize with Lucas, Aidan and some of their friends. Oh, and the sticks are their 'horses'.


Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing - Photo Books

Our 'mainly Aidan' slideshow

My lack of regular blogging...

I'm sorry that I haven't spent much time on this blog in the last few weeks/months, it's just that my daily attention has been going to my music blog: http://simonesmusicblog.blogspot.com

I will upload some new pictures on this family travel blog later today though.

And for those of you who want to see specific Aruba pictures, Aruba real estate & Aruba Hotels, then you're better off checking out my sister's blog: http://arubaconnections.blogspot.com/

Thanks & happy family travels everyone...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Do you want to spend more time with your family? Move abroad!

Tired of the rat race? Starting to forget the names of your own family members? Then it is time to take action! Go on an adventure together. And I don't just mean an adventure vacation (though that can be a nice start), but a real life-changing adventure. Move to a new country! And why not? If you're not happy in the new place, you can move back. Where ever you've come from will not just disappear.

Having done it ourselves, I can definitely recommend it. And starting a lodge or B&B with your family is something else that I can recommend. My two boys were born in Belize as we were building up our jungle lodge, The Belize Jungle Dome. And it was a wonderful lifestyle for us as new parents. We were always together as a family as the lodge was also our home (we later build a house at the edge of the land to have some more privacy). And, as a new mom, I didn't get the feeling that I was just 'sitting at home with the kids'. We really had the best of both worlds. Building a successful business and being full-time parents.

Starting this project as a couple also brought my husband and myself closer, as we don't have many of the same interests in life, and having something like this to share has been great for us.

So why have we moved away from Belize and our lodge after all these years? Because we felt like our job was done there. We did what we said we were going to do and created a great business. We didn't want to expand anymore and our staff had become so good at running the lodge that there wasn't much left for us to do.

Also, I wanted to do something in the creative field again and didn't see any opportunities for that in Belize. So now we are living in Aruba and I have joined a local radio station, Cool FM. And I sing in a band here on the island, called RetroMatic.

The lodge still runs wonderfully well without us and provides us with a nice income so-again-we have the best of both worlds.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Back at the Belize Jungle Dome for the summer

Whilst Karen (our resort's manager) is on her well-deserved break to Canada we are back in Belize running the Belize Jungle Dome. Coming back to Belize-after all these months in Aruba-was a bit of a shock to the system, but we are now back into the swing of things and are enjoying ourselves.

We had to get used again to the fact that in Belize you create your own fun. Nothing gets handed on a plate to you. Especially with the kids...I missed the many playgrounds, the tennis club, the summer camps, all the things that Aruba has in abundance. Lucky enough, the Brazilian Ambassador's wife has set up arts & crafts mornings at their residence. The boys go there most mornings and it breaks up the day perfectly.

Back at the house, they play with the local kids, catch bugs, swim, etc. And at 7 o'clock they are ready for sleep.

We also went for a short break to the golf island, Caye Chappel, which is always fantastic. So, all in all, we are doing great. Here's a few pics of the boys in action with several of their friends.

















Monday, June 23, 2008

Andy's birthday....out on a quadbike!


This is quiet beach we found on the North of the island, where thousands of people over the years have been piling up rocks for good luck. I built a little rockpile myself whilst there and made a wish. It's a shame that in this picture you only see a small part of the beach, because these piles of rocks go on forever and even are built high up on giant bolders. Very cool place indeed.

After having been on our little tour of the island in the morning, Andy picked Lucas up from school with the quadbike in the afternoon. Of course, Lucas was delighted!

And here is picture of a us with our neighbours, who we'd invited over for dinner by the pool. We served them chicken, rice & beans, to show them what people eat in Belize (there's not much chicken, rice and beans being served in Aruba)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Some old fashion partying....but still in bed before one ; )

What I find so enjoyable about being in Aruba is that I have a chance to just be myself sometimes. To go out dancing with my sister, for instance. It allows me to, just for a few hours, forget that I am mom & that I have a family that needs me. For just a few hours I can simply get lost in the music, jump around & talk rubbish to people that I don't know (actually, isn't that also what I do when I blog and do my radio show? Hihi...)


These pictures were of a double birthday-party we had at someone's house recently. As you can see, it was a 'white' party. I've also been to a 'trashy, fake' party at another person's house/pool here on Aruba, which was also brilliant. These actually are the most fun places to go to (I think). Much more chilled than going into town to a club/bar. Most people seem to hire a DJ, catering and sometimes additional entertainment. At the 'trashy, fake' party they brought in a whole mariachi band which was a great surprise.
Anyway, guess this means that life on Aruba is still wonderful (apart from this terrible cold that we've all been suffering from).
Wishing you sunshine and happiness, where ever you are....

Friday, April 25, 2008

Cool FM

Starting the first of May I will be joining Aruba’s number 1 radio station, called Cool FM.

Of course, this is a small island, so if you compare it to Europe or America, than the radio over-all is pretty basic in Aruba. But still, Cool FM is the best station the island has. And they are very involved when it comes to live events. These guys are everywhere!

I’ve never done radio before, so it’s actually a nice challenge for me. I’ll be doing a show every Saturday morning from 10 to 12, called the Weekend Express. It will be a ‘standard’ radio show, with some tracks from the Dutch, English and American Charts, the Caribbean & Latin charts, some classic tracks, some dance tunes, some mash-ups…you get the drift.

The thing that’s rather worrying is that I am meant to do the show all by myself & I get very intimidated when I see lots of buttons, computer programs, etc. I just haven’t got a clue how to work these things. Also, I am starting so soon (May the 3rd) that I have no idents yet, no jingles, nothing. Still, I know how to introduce music and as long as the songs are good, the show should be okay. Right?

On the first of May the radio station is hosting a big event here on the island. I’ll be presenting part of the day and also my new cover band (RetroMatic) gets launched on that day. We have never been on a stage yet together & just two weeks ago we got a new drummer. And now our first performance will be in front of 10.000 to 20.000 people, plus be broadcast live on air. How crazy is that? We always envisioned playing our first gig in a smoky old bar somewhere, not in front of such a large audience! Still, we’re pretty confident that it will work out alright. And anyway, it’s just some covers we’re playing.
Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Belize real estate, Riverside Villa

Well, we have decided that we want to stay on Aruba for the coming year(s). This place is a perfect mix for us between the relaxed Caribbean lifstyle that we had gotten used to in Belize & the Dutch/European lifestyle we were sometimes missing when we were living in the jungle. I love the fact that Lucas and Aidan are now learning to speak perfect Dutch in their Dutch schools & of course we love living so close to family (my mum and sister)

So, because we will not to return to Belize and because we want to buy a property here, we have decided to sell our family home.

Our house in Belize is actually my dream home. If we could pick it up and move it to Aruba, we certainly would. It was designed by a UK/Swiss architecture company from Belize and I took a very active part in the designing of it. So many of the features were dreams of mine. Like the large sunken bath in our bathroom, with the floor to ceiling window and its private courtyard (complete with a lovers statue and tropical plants), the open-plan Mexican kitchen, the large walk-in cupboard, the hand-made mahogany furniture throughout, the decks overlooking the Belize River, etc. etc.

Anyway, we can't move our beautiful Riverside Villa. So its up for sale for $395,000. Which is roughly the same as 197,000 English Pounds. Not a bad deal for someone as it produces a good yearly income and could stay as part of the Belize Jungle Dome's rental pool. So if anyone is looking for a good investment in the international tourism industry, maybe with the thought of ultimately using the house as a place to retire to, than this house would be perfect. It is being managed and maintained to a high standard & it is making money.

Considering the large amounts of cash people spend on timeshare and condos, this 2000 square foot, 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom house, on 1/2 acre of property land, 15 minutes from Belize's fast developing capital, is an absolute steal. Of course I'm biased, but I can hardly believe that anyone who would look at the place and look at the investment potential would say otherwise.

So...you wanna buy a house in the tropics? For info and pictures click here , plus check out an older blog posting of mine with pictures. And/or email Andy at andy@greendragonbelize.com

Friday, March 07, 2008

More happy days


My goodness there's a delay on my blogging since we've moved to Aruba. This picture for instance was taken at the 2008 Carnival (late January) and I haven't yet uploaded the clips of Aidan birthday (14th of February)
Guess I'm just too busy having fun ; )
Nearly ran over a wild goat yesterday, which a true 'Aruba' moment. There's loads of them on the island. They are stinky, but fun to see around.
Now what to do tomorrow???? Shall we go sit on one of the many beaches, climb some rocks, take the kids to the playground or go to the cinema? Oh what a tough life we have...hihi...
So, just in case you wondered...are things good here? Yes they are! Apart from the fact that the drummer of our band suddenly has decided to leave the island. So we're currently drummerless. Still, we're working on finding a replacement. It'll all work out, it always does.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Funny things kids say


All is well here on the sunny island. My little sister Iris and her partner Remon came over from Holland, Andy went to Belize to check on the Dome (it's running great, so we can continue to hang out in Aruba), Lucas and Aidan are enjoying their schools and I love singing in a band. So yes, we're a happy bunch.

We also celebrated carnaval here which-by the way-was great fun. I'll post some pics in the coming days.

Anyway, I believe it's time again to write down some classic 'Lucas comments'. Like the other day when we were bickering and he said:

'My brain thinks you're stupid...but I think you're beautiful'
Now how could I respond to that? It did make me laugh though.

And when he talked about how he misses Belize, he said:
'You know mum, I love Belize like a brother'

Talking about his brother...the other day he got very confused when he saw Aidan outside and a second later he noticed that Aidan was inside. He was convinced that we suddenly had 2 Aidans and looked for number two for ages.

And finally, we were talking about how Andy and I used to be on television. Lucas said that he wanted to be on TV too. When I asked him what he wanted to do on TV he answered:
'Oh nothing, I just want to go in there and have a look around'.
Oh, the innocence of childhood.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Religion 'gone crazy' in Belize

Living in Belize, we've come across some crazy situations with regards to superstitions. People in our local community believe in witchcraft, demon possessions, etc. It seems to be that many of the (rural) communities in Belize have blended the message of the evangelical missionaries with their old traditions/religions and/or superstitions. All that shouting about the devil (something the US missionaries seem to do a lot) is at least part to blame for crazy situations like the following story of today's Channel 7 newscast:


Stories of spirit possession in children are often things of village lore – and when the come across our news desk, we look very critically at the reports. But it became a story in Hattieville today when the strange behavior of 4 children forced the entire school to close down and sent 369 children home. What’s more the District Education Officer says it’s authentic! But is it really? Keith Swift went looking for answers.

Keith Swift Reporting,The classrooms were empty and the playground was deserted today at the Hattieville Government School. That is because since Monday 4 students have been possessed by what school officials are calling an “evil spirit.”

12-year-old Aquila - who we spoke to in the presence of her mother - is one of them.
Aquila, Claimed She Was Possessed“I was with my friends and afterwards I started to talk about demons and then I felt something in my belly, something was in my belly moving, and then it started to make me tremble up and then I started to scream out. I didn’t want to scream but I had to make a little noise. I was screaming, my friend took me to the office and they tried to calm me down but I couldn’t calm down. I was trembling and I couldn’t stop.”

Keith SwiftWhat did you think was happening?
Aquila,“Well I think it was some kind of spirit that was trying to take over me.”

And if you don’t believe Aquila, 11 year old Richard Wade and his cousin 12 year old Devon Wade, who we met on the street playing because of their unexpected holiday, say they saw it – and they weren’t the only ones who did.
Devon Wade, “I saw a little girl Aquila on the ground going on crazy and she was spinning around her head and it was just frightening.”
Keith Swift,What did your teacher tell you?
Devon Wade,“She told us to stay in our class.”
Richard Wade,“She locked up the class because she didn’t want any demon coming in we. And then after that they just told us to get our school bag and go home.”
Devon Wade,“Our teacher is like a really good Christian, Ms. Mejia, she is a really good teacher and a Christian so she give, sometimes she prays for us and like that so that nothing goes in us.”

Richard Wade,“He just started to hold his head and was screaming how he is tired of this thing in me and how he wanted it to come out and he started to slam up the desk.”
Devon Wade,“And you know when like demon gets into you, you get stronger, he was lifting some beavy beavy desks. So I don’t know what went on because he was just scary. I was really frightened. I didn’t know that would happen. I didn’t know demon could come to Hattieville.”

Shanine Holland,“Yesterday evening around 5 o’clock to 5:30 when I was going to Belize, I saw the young lady Aquila just started to go on crazy and everything. She just started to cuss her. She said nobody can stop her from doing what she wants. That is all I see. She was flinging herself on the ground and in the drain.”

Janelle Thompson,“I came out here this morning and then I saw the young lady run from out of her classroom towards her mother and she bit her at her neck and then the blood came out and then she started to throw about herself, know her mom, and all the kids started to run and cry.”
There was a mass exodus from the school. This afternoon when we visited only teachers were there. Jahmor Lopez is the district education officer and he told us the ministry of education says they are trying to contain the situation.

Jahmor Lopez, District Education Officer“We were in contact with members of staff, telling them to remain calm, to try to deal with the situation. I believe that the staff members on the ground did an excellent job in trying to maintain order but things got a little bit out of hand when a relative of one of the children who is affected apparently was trying to perform some kind of, trying to exorcise the demon right on the compound. I think at that point students got very very alarmed because I think the woman shouted that the demon is here in the compound and I think that is when students began running. It was pandemonium and there were some parents in the vicinity and so a lot of parents came for their kids and others just dismissed themselves.
I was informed that when they had attended church that the manifestation started there and so it seems to be something involving evil spirit so clearly we would have to get in touch with the clergy, we would have to get in touch with somebody who will be ready to do such a job, to exorcise the demon. We just can’t call on anybody. You have to fast, you have to meditate, you have to prepare for spiritual warfare.”

Keith Swift,Sir but demon possessions don’t happen.
Jahmor Lopez,“Keith is that your position, you are telling me? You believe in good? That is your position.”

But Pastor Mark Somerville from the village Baptist Church – where the possession allegedly originated - has a simpler explanation.

Pastor Mark Somerville, Hattieville Government School“They were affected by something and then when we tried to find out what was the situation that was causing them to divide then they came up and behaved like they had some kind of unclean spirit but that doesn’t say they are possessed by these spirits.”

Keith Swift,So these kids aren’t demon possessed?

Pastor Mark Somerville,“Well I would not say they are not influenced by some sort of evil spirit but to say that they are demonized – then I am saying that they are not. They are not demonized.”

Keith Swift,Is it safe for these children to return to school?
Jahmor Lopez,“Certainly. In my view I believe it is perfectly safe. The problems that the kids have been experiencing, these are students in standard six, I was told there is one student from standard five. But it is not the entire school, it is a number of students from one classroom. And so there is no need for all the students to stay away from school. If it was such that there is something on the compound then I would be affected, all the other members of staff would be affected. There is no need for us to be alarmed and take alarmist’s approach. We have four students and we need to address the issue with those four students. It is not a thing with the entire school so we need to get that clear. I am appealing to parents, send your kids to school and we will continue to monitor the situation.”

The Ministry of Education says it will be seeking treatment for the four children.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Aruban life

Aidan loves having his aunt and his nan so nearby. Strangely enough, he calls them both 'Opa', which is Dutch for grandad. Oh well, guess he's a tat confused.

Lucas has been struggling the most with our move, but he is just starting to get settled in now. He has started school (finally) and is loving it. It's a brilliant Dutch private school, called 'De Schakel'. So he should be talking Dutch in no time, seeing as he's already got the basis of it, with me talking Dutch on and off to him since he was born.

Our dear friends Roy and Cindy came down from Rochester, New York to stay with us. They brought their son Joshua along for a few days. We had never met Joshua before, but he turned out to be a wonderful guy. They are such a nice family : )


Chilling at 'Fisherman's hut' with Cindy. This is the place where we spend many weekends...



Our little pirate Aidan




Still in love after all these years. If only we could remember for sure how long we've been together. Has it been 11 years now?