Tuesday, August 14, 2007

neighborly relations

We were taken by surprise last week when we got an email from a friend in Belize alerting us to the fact that we have a new neighbor. We'd dreamed inactively about purchasing the acre next to ours in Belize for about a year bur never pursued it because we didn't have the money and didn't think it would sell for a number of years.

But apparently we were wrong. I got an email asking for an introduction from a woman who just purchased the land in what must have been a considerably easier transaction. And that alone makes me feel a sense of ownership over something I have no rights to at all. When we first met the "owner" of our land several years ago he was in actuality the leaser. Citizens can lease land from the government but cannot own it without ponying up the additional cash - something not very many folks are able to do.

We met Jose accidentally as he was driving a collectivo that we had jumped in to ride into town. He heard us talking about land and casually mentioned that he indeed had some he wanted to sell. That is an all too common experience and one with varied outcomes for success. Jose was leasing 20 acres outside a small village near the Guatemalean border and three of those acres were on the river with the rest inland which was where Jose and his family had made their home for many years. The issue with buying leased land is that the owner needs to own it first and in order to own it first he needed our money to buy it. Not a lot of money, but enough money to give us pause. We consulted some folks and they were of varying opinions but the general theme was that this was a risky proposition. Some even advocated for attorneys and whatnot to protect our interests and ensure a higher degree of success. J and I sat in a cafe and pondered our options and decided to take a leap of faith without bringing the western (agressive) style of business into the equation because indeed, we were the visitors here.

In the end we decided to trust Jose. We agreed in broken spanish and bits of english about next steps and worked with a local broker who agreed to transfer the title once the land was in his name. The realtor made no promises, if Jose decided to take our money and buy the land and then sell the land to someone else we'd have little recourse. We went with Jose to his tiny particle board house with his thirteen children and assorted chickens and goats (all of which were in the kitchen) and listened as best we could to him telling his wife that he was going to sell us a part of their land. She turned to us and gave me a long warm hug and invited us to sit down and share a meal. It was lovely and awkward and after we left we looked at each other and decided that even if he screwed us over we'd be okay with it because we would be hard pressed to survive his level of poverty and if a bad outcome for us still meant something good for them we knew we could live with it.

Many, many months later the deal went through exactly as we'd planned and we finalized the deal on a return trip. Jose picked us up to take us to the broker and shook our hands and called us his neighbor. Our purchase not only allowed him to own all 20 acres for the first time in 50 years but also made it possible for him to send most of his kids to college, something we were unaware of at the time because Jose simply offered a price and we agreed to it without bartering or negotiation. As far as we were concerned it was his land and his deal and if we could figure out a way to meet his price we would do it and in the end we got a very good deal. But learning later what that sum meant to his family gave us another another reason to be happy to be a part of it.
So it's a long way of saying that I covet that piece of land and a little part of me cracked when we realized we'd missed our chance but a larger part of me is excited about having someone to share the fence with once we finally are able to come home to roost.

40 comments:

Amy York said...

Belize? How fascinating... Hope you get to meet your new neighbors soon. Loved hearing the story about Jose!

Tabba said...

wow. wow.

what a story.

thailandchani said...

Loved it! Just goes to show.. the energy we create is what we draw to us. Western (aggressive) brokering would have just brought out the aggression in someone else.. and there you go!

Glad it worked out.. and Jose sounds great!


Peace,

~Chani
http://thailandgal.blogspot.com

Orangeblossoms said...

amazing what a 'little bit' can do in a 2/3rds world country... My heart rejoices with you and Jose's familia...

flutter said...

Ponga una cerveza en el hielo para mí, y excepto un pequeño cuadrado de la tierra así que puedo plantarle algunos tomates en Belize, ok?

Blog Antagonist said...

I absolutely love your spirit of adventure. I think a lot of people dream of doing what you are about to do, but few actually make the leap.

How wonderful that getting something you wanted so much resulted in such a windfall for Jose and his family!

Kyla said...

Awesome story about Jose and his family. What an honor to be able to have helped him do so much for his family.

KC said...

New neighbors! It's so exciting. And sending his kids to college. A win-win.

Lawyer Mama said...

That's a great story, Jen! I loved hearing how you bought your land. I must admit the lawyer in me would have a friggin heart attack, but you're right that it would be hard to regret it even if he had screwed you. But it's so nice to hear how nice he & his wife were & to know that you gave them an opportunity they might not have otherwise had. And now neighbors!

kristen said...

that's a great story and i know you must be anxious to get to belize to meet your new neighbors.

Her Grace said...

I love that his outcome was just as important as your own to you. You'll make great neighbors.

slouching mom said...

Such a nice story. I don't read nice stories much anymore -- does anyone? But this -- Jose sending his kids to college -- it warms my heart.

I'm sure your neighbor is lovely. How could it be any other way?

NotSoSage said...

I love you guys. So will your neighbours.

Mrs. Chicky said...

Have you ever posted pictures of this place? Because I'd love to see it.

I know how you feel about your privacy on the ol' internet and all, so I completely understand if you feel uncomfortable. I'm just dying to see this place that you'll soon (hopefully) be calling "home".

crazymumma said...

your faith is what astounds me Jen.

good things come to those with that type of faith in...letting it happen.

...just letting the universe decide.

but I truly madly deeply wish I was that neighbour. madly.

Julie Pippert said...

That's such an amazing story in so many ways! I love it---such a good outcome. But I understand you missing that land. Still...she contacted you. Hopefully that is a great start to an even better middle!

nomotherearth said...

This story just makes me so happy that there are people out there that you can trust - who aren't always "on the make".

Jennifer said...

This is such a wonderful, wonderful story and so inspiring -- on so many levels. And I loved the pictures and peek into your future!

painted maypole said...

i just love, love, love this story. And that you decided that if you got screwed, it was OK, because they needed the money. What greater gift, not only to them but to yourselves, could you have possibly bestowed?

meno said...

You got something more than a wonderful piece of land out of this deal.

Beck said...

Jose and his kids off to college made me so choked up - what a happy story.

thordora said...

Now I'll be singing 'Won't you be my neighbour" all day long. :)

Binky said...

When you tell stories like these, you make me think that you could be to Belize what Peter Mayle is to Provence--someone who brings a distinctive culture to people all over the world with sensitivity and wit.

carrie said...

I think that following your dreams involves a certain amount of risk. That said, I think you took the best kind of risk there is. And you can sleep well at night, dreaing of "home" and the beautiful outcome that is to be.

Carrie

carrie said...

dreaming.

sometimes the fingers go faster than the brain.

Carrie

Ruth Dynamite said...

God I love happy endings. Or beginnings?

We reap what we sow, Jen. Trust, compassion, kindness...

Momish said...

Oh, I just love this story, Jen. It is wonderful that your intuition and needs fell right in step with such an amazing fate, for both you and your wonderful neighbor.

I am in shock at what Jose was able to do with that money. A real eye opener to me.

Meanwhile, I hope your new neighbors are everything you could hope for and more!

Janet said...

We live in such a litigious society, it's hard to imagine a deal being sealed over a handshake and a promise.

Great, great story.

Rock the Cradle said...

Trust like that seems so rare nowadays.

This restored my faith in humanity, it did.

QT said...

I had a mini-heart attack as well at the beginning of this, but I am glad it went well, and I have no doubt that it was somehow meant to be that way, considering the goodwill that you put out into the universe.

FENICLE said...

GEEZ! That is an impressive story!

Oh, The Joys said...

That is an amazing leap of faith. Not one that most would make.

urban-urchin said...

What a wonderful story. You guys are awesome and Jose sounds like a gem too. How amazing that his kids can now go to college and he can own his whole parcel of land...Wow.

Aliki2006 said...

OTJ said it--what a leap of faith!

Laurie said...

Great story, Jen. Thanks for sharing.

mitzh said...

That is truly something....

Geneviève said...

I think that Peter Mayle (famously unfamous in France) gained more from Provence than he gave something to it. Always the same illusion.

theflyingmum said...

Oh, I hope the new neighbor turns out to be as warm and open minded as you guys are!
Great story, Jen - thanks for letting us all enjoy it too.
(And I would love to see ANY pictures of Belize!)

Susanne said...

Great story. Especially since all went well with the land transaction. I hope that your new neighbors will be nice.

Joker The Lurcher said...

i know i'm a cut-throat lawyer type but i deal with people just the same way. my builder and i never have anything written down on paper- we just trust each other and deal in cash...