Millan Lives Large

10 Jul

MillanWe have never spoken of our competition. Yet, when I am on island it is always a race to see who reaches the kitchen first. Making the morning coffee is an honor that goes to the earliest of early birds. I know my friend Millan takes great pride in beating me there.

Sometimes I let him win.

Like this morning. It is 5:30am and I am sitting on the steps of the palapa watching the beginnings of the day in the east. Millan hands me a cup of black coffee, strong and hot. Back in his village, he grew this coffee. Planted and tended the bushes. Picked and dried the berries. Milled them, roasted the beans, brought them here on the bus, ground them, and made this cup just for me. This cup of coffee represents his way of life.

It is a part of him.

Millan lives large. He came to me with the island in a package deal and turned out to be more valuable than the real estate. He built the island and all the structures on it. Millan works hard. Like most Mayans, he believes that life is work and that work is life. He is a man of many talents. He can build things, fix things, farm, fish, cook, and deliver babies.

He has nine of them.

His home is a small, dirt-floor thatch structure with a comal in one corner. It is where the family hangs their hammocks each night and where they go when it rains. He keeps improving it, but it is fundamentally no different than what his ancestors lived in 900 years ago – only his has a solar panel to power a lightbulb and charge a cell phone.

That is my fault.

Millan’s smile radiates joy. Looking deeper you find strength and peace next to the happiness. He seems to have it all figured out. He is my Belizean Dalai Lama. I am pretty sure he doesn’t care how many friends he has on Facebook or how many likes his latest post received. Millan would be mystified to learn that that is a thing.

He is a man of substance.

He makes me want to be a better person; to hone character, to find joy in simplicity, to endure in the face of adversity, to value work for its own sake, and to always smile. Our competition will continue. Tomorrow, I will make the coffee and serve it to him.

He deserves it.

Poston Family 2016

1 Jan

Family Photo2016 – A Year of the Good, the Bad and the “Worthy”

January 2017 – Happy New Year Family and Friends. I know it is very late to be saying that but 2016 was a banner year for the Poston’s. It has been a whirlwind holiday season for us, so for this very “worthy” year, the kids and I worked together to give you the highlights we deemed important and relevant for 2016.

First off, Charisse applied to seven different graduate programs to achieve her “dream” of teaching. Lo and behold, she got all seven acceptance letters. “Worthy” and proud moment for me. In the end, it came down to scholarship and Stanford won. I would have been happy with any program she chose, but she made it easy for me to visit her and Cheyenne at the same time. She began the Stanford Teacher Education Program in June 2016 and will receive her Masters of Education in 2017. Charisse’s big “worthy” moments were her completion of two 5K runs. Huge accomplishment for a lifetime asthmatic. She would have completed three but she got the date wrong on the NYC Turkey Trot, so Mom took her place and completed one this year too! Charisse also reached her 2016 resolution goal of reading at least 24 different books. Huge “worthy” feat.

Cheyenne is in her junior year studying both education & chemistry at Stanford. She spent a “quarter abroad” in Florence, Italy, where she learned Italian “Buon giorno!” and how to eat lots of gelato! She spent six weeks in Belize (by herself) to complete part of her dive master certification and worked as a helper to the dive crew, Belize Underwater. She can guide you in diving the Belize barrier reef and keep you safe. All “worthy” moments. She still had the underwater training to complete, but more on that later. She experienced a hurricane in Belize while there. Scary moment, but she went on some very amazing, life changing dives too! She’s pretty amazing herself.

That leaves Jacob – he graduated with honors from Champion HS in 2016. A “worthy” moment indeed. Exciting moment – his 400 Freestyle Relay team captured first place (by the touch) at the 2016 Texas UIL State Swim Meet. Not only an honor, but a great feat to finish his swim career. During this same weekend, he also received his acceptance to the Cockrell School of Engineering at UT Austin. All good things happen at once. (We like to think so.) We took his friends to Royal Belize for his graduation party. I tell people, we survived and they had fun.

Jensen, Sarah, Walker and Marshall came back to H-Town in October. After almost a year and a half of working in Belize in the hospitality industry, they decided the boys needed socialization with other kids. They had many adventures, made lifelong friends, and learned a lot. Now the boys must learn to wear pants and shoes again. It’s nice to have them back home in Texas.

Travel was the main focus (again) of 2016.We visited Napa – a couple of times, San Diego, went to Jazz fest in New Orleans (and got rained out). There were multiple trips to Belize. The most meaningful (to me) was in mid-December when all three kids visited together at the same time. This was a huge feat to accomplish but we finally did it. We had a great time. During this visit, Cheyenne completed the underwater portion of her dive master certification & is an “official” dive master. Charisse got some much needed “relaxation” and Jacob “spearfished” his way through lion fish in the barrier reef. We did our NYC Thanksgiving, where Charisse prepared us a full meal of turkey and all the sides. It was a spectacular meal; we wish y’all were there to taste it. For Christmas break, Charisse “surprised” us by bringing Harley home. Who is Harley you say? Well that’s what I said. Harley is Charisse’s boyfriend. He is also a teacher in her Stanford program. It was a nice little surprise. In June, the “Poston three” (Charisse, Cheyenne, & Jacob) took a road trip to drive Charisse’s Jetta to Stanford. They stopped and visited the Grand Canyon. Bill, Cheyenne and Katy Goles (who took my place) made it to Oahu & Kauai for our summer trip, since I was not able to travel after my “accident” (More about this later). I recuperated and stayed at home.

This leads to the bad part of 2016. During Jacob’s Belize graduation trip, I had a “small” accident. I slipped on the dive boat and landed on the right side of my body. It winded me, but who’da thought it was that bad? Not me! I went to a hospital in Dangriga for an x-ray (I don’t suggest that) and stayed two more days in Belize, then flew home as planned. I went to my doctor to get pain meds and a new x-ray, only to find out a week later, it was worse than suspected. I had a chest tube put in for a pneumothorax and stayed in the hospital for 10 days (I didn’t know what pneumothorax was then – but I do now). The doctor wouldn’t let me fly, so no Hawaii trip for me (You’re welcome Katy!). The other bad part was Bill slipped and fell while hiking in Kauai, luckily at the end of the trip. He broke his ankle, so we were a “mess” recuperating when he returned. Those were the stressful parts of 2016. Grateful, it was only two things for the bad.

On to the “worthy” portion. (noteworthy, brag worthy, life changing worthy, etc.) I marked many through this letter with “worthy” moment. Bill’s worthy moment was turning the big 5-0 in November. It was a big day and we partied in style. He is still working 24/7 at Kalypso & in Belize. My biggest “worthy” moment came on December 28th when we traveled to Botswana to go on safari. That was my “life changing” event and I can’t wait to go back again. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was all worth it. I wish I could have shared it with my family, but alas school got in the way. There’s always next time! Those who are considering a trip, ask me about it! I’m happy to tell you – GO!

We are blessed with good health and wish you the very best that 2017 will bring! Cheers!! The Poston Family

Poston Family 2015

10 Jan

2015 Holiday Photo

“Let’s Thai One On”

New Year’s Day is a good time to reflect on the past year. The house is very quiet because the “family” is more spread around the world than ever. For this crowd, the definition of “home” shifts week by week. Home is often in the mountains, New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, Belize, Hong Kong, or Thailand. Intermittent togetherness means every family occasion is that much more meaningful while we prepare for the reality of a truly empty (and, if Billy gets his way, a smaller, lower maintenance) nest.

Jensen and Sarah decided that potty training would be more fun in paradise, so they adjusted their latitude to 16° and took over the management of Thatch Caye in Belize. Walker (2.75) and Marshall (1.50) are island boys with two dogs and hundreds of hermit crabs for pets – and about 30 full-time parents. This arrangement gives Gigi and Bully an excuse to visit (not that we really needed one.) It is not apparent to us that either boy has worn a stitch of clothing in six months. Shoes and pants are foreign concepts to them. Gigi keeps feeding little Marshall healthy doses of Marie Sharps Habanero Hot Sauce. “It’s good for him,” she says.

2015 was the year that Charisse transitioned from poor college student to poor working girl. Tulane sent her packing with honors and accolades, but New Orleans is home and tough to leave. She is serving in an AmeriCorps program in a high school helping kids with behavioral problems. Eligibility for food stamps is part of the compensation package. We keep up with her by following her on Twitter. Apparently, she is on a quest to save the world or at least create a viral Hotline Bling video. Her hair was its natural color for 357 days of the year. She figures that she needs to go back to school while she is still good at living on the poverty line.

Well into her sophomore year at Stanford, Cheyenne is loving life and living large. She claims that she studies all the time, but she seems to know an awful lot about Cardinal football, Spurs basketball, Star Wars, SCUBA diving, Palo Alto eateries, and the best routes to Half Moon Bay. Mom and dad are happy to visit, although it would be easier if she would meet us somewhere between SFO and Napa Valley. While she is ostensibly studying chemistry, she is a ardent feminist, budding philosopher and social commentator. Follow the hashtag #shitcheyennesays for a taste of her freely dispensed wisdom. The force is strong with this one.

Jacob is swimming through his senior year. No college selection has yet been made, but we are hoping he goes to an engineering school that will, once and for all, answer the question, “is a shit ton more than a butt load?” An independent traveler, he successfully talked his way into both Japan and Thailand this summer without incident. As the “good boy” among his group of friends, he is readily adopted by multiple families in town. We don’t mind sharing, but his mother wants him back for an occasional visit. There are just a few more weeks in swim season, then a slow walk to graduation and a certain future in a yet-to-be-named field of study.

The pending change in Richele’s parental status is pushing her to explore new ways to fill a day. There always seems to be a new fitness craze to try – multiple forms of yoga and pilates, ballroom dancing, body pump, and something called KokoFit. This is all just a way to support her new daily habit of drinking high-end cabernets. Like habanero hot sauce, she read an article that said wine “is good for you.” The fall turned her into an avid hunter of feral hogs. She wanted to kill the ones that tore up the yard, but then learned that you have to stay up past 8:30pm and quickly gave up that pursuit. Gigi has got it goin’ on, but the hogs are safe.

Billy lives life “off the leash,” splitting his time between Kalypso, Stelos, Housley, and Muy-Ono – the ever expanding dominion in southern Belize. We are up to three islands, one beautiful beach resort, a SCUBA business, a fly fishing operation, and Billy’s Beach Bar. There is talk of more to come using the “economies of scale” justification for otherwise irrational decisions. The name of his boat is “Weak Moment”. That seems apropos of the entire enterprise. There was one afternoon this fall that he admitted to being tired. We thought this might be a turning point from a flash of self-awareness, but after a quick nap he was up and at it again.

We enticed the kids into a couple of weeks of togetherness by taking everyone to Hong Kong and Thailand this summer. After daily $4 massages and $13 multi-course meals for five, we were ready to relocate permanently. On the other end of the spectrum, we all spent Thanksgiving in Manhattan so our average trip costs are probably normal. Other travels took us to Deer Valley (ask Billy about his ankle), New Orleans (ask Richele about her toe), Napa (where we ate at The French Laundry and McDonalds in the same night), Keystone, Palm Beach, Monterrey (the one in Mexico), and at least ten trips to Belize with various groups of friends.

In retrospect, the year was full of laughter, love, and lots and lots of air miles. We are all on a journey to an unknown destination. Sometimes we get a little tired, but the momentum is always forward. The ability to look back on these experiences with satisfaction is like living them twice. I guess that is what it is all about. Like Tramp, (from Lady and…) we are looking “beyond those distant hills.” We may be striving for something undefinable, but there is a purpose to this frenzied, frenetic approach. We continue to discover new places, people and things in this great and wonderful world. Come with us and let us show the parts we like the most.

On Owning an Island

27 Jan

1599244_765606880160596_3227542613482179672_oI blame Jimmy Buffett for many of the questionable things I have done in my life: running away to Mexico at seventeen, moving to Hawaii at twenty-one, buying several boats, surfing in hurricanes, and, most recently, buying an island in Belize. Finding Margaritaville has been a life-long obsession.

As an avid SCUBA diver, I had been to Belize many times. My kids learned to dive there. We explored caves, hiked to waterfalls, climbed Mayan ruins, sailed the atolls, and fished the reef. We made friends in the country and fell in love with the diversity of the culture…and, especially, with the ocean.

There are over 400 cayes (pronounced “keys”) in Belize. A beautiful barrier reef runs the entire 190 mile length of the country and it is home to the only coral atolls in the western hemisphere. The turquoise colored seas, abundant ocean life, and white sand beaches make it a water sports paradise. We love it.

Just over a year ago I started surfing Belize real estate sites on the Internet looking for a little place that would serve as a home base for a thorough exploration of the country. We were looking for something simple, easy and inexpensive that would not be a burden and, most importantly, would not interfere or prevent us from enjoying travels to other destinations. That is when I first saw a listing for Portofino Caye. “Own an Island,” the ad said.

Book a flight, build a spreadsheet, talk to banker, negotiate with wife, listen to Marley, dream rum-fueled dreams, make an offer, and get handed the keys (actually there are no keys because there are no locks.) Margaritaville is mine. Seven and a half acres of sand and palms with luxury accommodations, a few well-placed hammocks, a fleet of boats, a competent local staff, and year-round warmth and sunshine. The backyard has a coral reef and lobster can be picked out of the water for dinner.

Now dubbed Royal Belize, it is the only luxury private island in the country rented exclusively to one guest party at a time. There are five bedrooms across three separate villas, a large open-air palapa for lounging and dining, plenty of lounge chairs, and acres of sand and water for all to enjoy. The island combines the benefits of an adventure destination with luxury accommodations in an exclusive setting. When we are not SCUBA diving the barrier reef, we are fishing or enjoying the jet skis, kayaks, standup paddle boards, beach games, kite board, and catamaran. Or maybe just laying around in the sun or shade with a cold beverage. We have found it is the perfect place for adventure travelers and lay-around loungers alike.

Most people come for the amenities of an all-inclusive, private island vacation, but wind up falling in love with the caring staff that anticipates their every desire. The team does whatever it takes to create “WOW” and seeks to make every visitor’s dreams come true. Their mission is to create unforgettable experiences while making new best friends for life.

The past year has involved a tremendous amount of work. In addition to revamping the marketing and management of the resort, the team has converted the island to solar and wind power, renovated the villas, upgraded the infrastructure and the boats, expanded the kitchen, and replaced most of the furniture and equipment. Herman Wouk’s novel Don’t Stop the Carnival has been our how-not-to guide. It is the story of a guy from the states that sells his business, moves to the Caribbean, buys a resort, and learns many lessons the hard way. It is an eerily prescient book that everyone with this dream should read. We are still alive and have quickly developed an ability to remain calm in the face of each new catastrophe.

The Royal Belize brand stands for luxury, privacy, adventure, sustainability, and philanthropy. In 2014, we helped seven non-profit organizations raise over $150,000 at charity auctions by consigning trips at large discounts and allowing the organization to keep the profits from the sale. We also support a number of youth libraries in different villages throughout Belize. As a member of the Getaway2Give Collection the resort generates additional charitable contributions when G2G members vacation on the island. The entire Royal Belize team is committed to fulfilling the philanthropic mission.

For our family, owning an island in a tropical paradise feels like living in a fantasy world. We have enjoyed taking friends, colleagues, and family members down several times over the past year. We love it so much and want all of our friends to share the experience. Please come for a visit. Let us know when you plan to arrive. We may be out fishing or diving. There are margaritas in the blender. Help yourself.

The Poston Family 2014 “You Gotta Belize Me”

31 Dec

DSCN2143

Once upon a time a long time ago there was a young man that escaped his boyhood home and made a place for himself in the idyllic islands of Hawaii. He fell in love with the green mountains, white sands, blue waters, and one particular local gal. The two of them got married, had a houseful of kids, and made a rich life in a colder environment. But the tropics remained in their hearts and occupied a good portion of their minds. As they began the transition from parenthood to grandparenthood, they knew it was time to reclaim their place in the sun. And so it came to pass that they bought a tropical island where they lived happily ever after.

This fairy tale is the overarching theme of this year’s update. As official “resident retirees,” Billy & Richele spent a good portion of each month at Royal Belize entertaining friends and family, overseeing renovations, catching rays (both kinds), and getting to know our wonderful new family members that live on island. It is a special place that we want to share with all of you. Come for a visit.

Real life happens back home where the world turns faster than ever. “Bully” gained another grandson and lost his Suburban in the transaction. Marshall Jack Kory was born in July and he and big brother Walker like riding in style. Both babies came for a five-day visit right before Christmas that required both their aunties and their uncle to pitch in. “Gigi” fell right back into parent mode, throwing a party for 60+ people with a twenty-one month old on her hip after four sleepless nights. Gigi’s got it going on. That doesn’t mean that everyone wasn’t ecstatic when Jensen and Sarah showed up late in the day on Christmas Eve to reclaim their little angels.

Charisse had a bucket list year at Tulane and is one semester away from graduation. As the short one with blue-green-purple hair, she was the ~*hot popular n cool*~ one on the Homecoming Court. (Her hair is now its natural color but, of course, her head is shaved.) She was named Senator of the Year in student government where she considers “agitator” to be an honorific. After teaching middle school in NOLA last summer she has decided that is her future. If her Fulbright Fellowship comes through she will spend a year in Turkey teaching English. If not, we’ll resume the conversation on the differences between a “job” and a “real job”.

Cheyenne was the surprise salutatorian of her high school class. The subtle message of her graduation speech was “I Am Never Coming Back.” After a celebratory trip to London and a brief flirtation with the idea of becoming a full-time SCUBA guide in Belize, she began her freshman year at Stanford. The Big Bang Theory is a lot more fun now that she explains the formulas on the whiteboard in Sheldon’s apartment. A committed Cardinal football fan, she has taken to assigning statistical probabilities of success to each play. She is thankful for the concept of the Gaussian distribution, her bicycle, and the phở in the Stanford dining halls.

Little brother Jacob is in his junior year and no longer requires much parenting. As long as there is food in the pantry and gas in the tank, he can handle the rest. He splits his time between school, swimming, League of Legends, and his friend-who-is-a-girl. He made it to the state swim meet as a sophomore, spent some time this summer training with Olympians at USC, and is on track to dominate this year. As the only remaining object of his mother’s parental attention, he is beginning to dream of college and may someday soon be able to articulate which one may be of interest to him. Good Wi-Fi seems to be his number one selection criteria.

Richele added “island hostess” to her job description this year. This role involves a lounge chair, a book, and a beverage. She still serves on the board of the local education foundation where she played a role in something called “Purse Mania.” As far as we can tell this involves drinking wine and buying purses all in the name of philanthropy. Billy thinks there is a profitable business model in there somewhere. The family’s slobbering lab experiment came to a sad end this summer as Tyson left us after a quick downhill slide. Richele is now the devoted caregiver to Cheyenne’s left-behind beta fish, Minerva, but it is really not the same.

Billy continues to plot and scheme. His consulting firm Kalypso is going strong and growing fast. He is developing the ability to be in more than one place at a time. He taught five courses of Housley at three universities this year while starting two new businesses, expanding Stelos, speaking, and writing daily. After spending 55+ days in Belize this year, he has the island bug and talks non-stop about building an empire in the Caribbean. After a failed attempt at delivering his new boat from Florida to Belize, he went to Cuba (before it was cool) to scout resort locations – and to drink lots of mojitos and daiquiris. He got a real good tan for Christmas.

In addition to Belize, Cuba and London, we got in family ski trips to Telluride and Snowmass, enjoyed a couple of weeks on Anguilla, and spent Thanksgiving in New York. Billy and Richele got away for a birthday week in Las Vegas and hosted the annual “Aloha Summer” luau for the tenth year in a row. Belize, however, was the destination of the year. We took a total of ten groups of family and friends down to enjoy the island on different trips. Diving, snorkeling, fishing and laying around are the favorite activities.

Home base continues to be the Texas Hill Country where we go to check the mail and pretend to be normal. Paradise is wherever we happen to be at the moment. The year ahead will bring new adventures and milestones. The calendar is already filling up with exploration and excitement. Stay tuned for news ahead and come join us for some craziness. It will be fun. You better belize it.

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