Yes, you heard me right. John McAfee, the anti-virus pioneer who is being sought for questioning about a murder case, lives on the island of Ambergris Caye, where my family lived for one year.
Thanks to a mutual contact on the island, I became “friends” with him on Facebook.
It’s not like I ever wrote to him on FB, however, today with US News covering the scandal with John McAfee, it no longer surprises me to read about crime, gossip, guns, drugs and dog killings on the island where we lived. Even the Telegraph has an appropriate title: John McAfee: sex, drugs and anti-virus software.
John McAfee moved to Ambergris Caye, a popular island in Belize, after we left in 2005. We did not know him personally, however we did know the murder victim, Gregory Faull. He lived a few houses north of ours on Ambergris Caye. Greg was a contractor from Florida who was building his retirement home on the island. We invited him for a beer in our house, and nick-named Greg the “lobster guy.” I shall never forget when he told us he caught thirty lobster in about an hour or so, while my son Steve and his dad caught only one puny little lobster in two hours. We were all so envious of his lobster-catching skills.
Greg was a fun guy who spent half his time building houses in Florida, and then the rest building his own home on Ambergris Caye. He invited us inside his house to show off the huge rooms he built. (Read page 193 of Freeways to Flip-Flops, and you’ll find him. I changed his name to Mitch.)
Life on the island of Ambergris Caye was both scary and exciting. For such a small island, there was always something going on, and for those of you who have read my memoir: Freeways to Flip-Flops: A Family’s Year of Gutsy Living on a Tropical Island, you might recall certain chapters where I expressed fear once in a while about living on Ambergris Caye.
Here is one excerpt about a drug boat from Columbia:
I strolled along the beach to get away from the bustle of golf carts, taxis and bikes on Front Street. The next Island Ferry was scheduled for 11 a.m., so I collapsed on the wooden step in the shade, thinking about how much our lives had changed in just two months. Curiosity led me to the end of the boat dock, where some locals had gathered. They were pointing at something in the distance, and when I saw what they were looking at, my heart skipped a beat. A boat had capsized and six men holding long poles were attempting to flip it over. “Oh, my God, Duke must have lost control of the Island Rider,” I thought, straining my eyes to see if a Cubs baseball cap was floating in the water.
“Mario, what happened to the boat?” I asked. Mario was one of the Island Ferry’s boat captains.
“It’s a drug boat from Columbia,” he said.
“Does this happen often?” I asked.
“Yes, lots of drug smuggling from Colombia to Mexico.” After years of living in my safe Orange County neighborhood, I suddenly felt vulnerable. When I reached home, I hurried upstairs to tell Duke about the capsized boat.
Another excerpt about my fear of being alone with my two younger sons on Ambergris Caye when Duke left for California.
My ears were on high alert for any unusual sounds, so we watched a comedy I knew would make Josh laugh and me forget my fear for a while. “Can I sleep in Steve’s bed?” Josh asked, snuggling closer to me than usual on the couch.
“Of course,” I replied. At least that way, I wouldn’t be all alone downstairs. Alec would sleep upstairs with Cookie.
I hid a solid mahogany rolling pin underneath Duke’s pillow and tucked a machete behind some books on the shelf next to my bed. I regretted not following Lucy’s advice – she was a 70-year-old woman from Michigan who lived alone in town – “Keep a bullhorn next to your bed. It’ll scare the heck out of any thief or rapist.”
So this time Belize is making national news due to a scandal involving a famous American businessman: John McAfee.
What a small world.