Monday, April 16, 2007


There are two natural disasters that are cause for major alarm on an island: Hurricanes and fires. Guanaja suffered through a devastating hurricane in 1998; Hurricane Mitch which was a Category 5 hurricane and which did something very rare - it stayed in one spot over the island for 3 days!
We have suffered several forest fires since our arrival on the island in 1997. A couple of years ago, during a dry period, a fire started at the North end of the island. These fires, as of late, have always had there beginnings from the hand of man. Unfortunately, on the island we have people who seem quite oblivious to what they are doing when burning trash and pile up huge piles of debris, set fire to it and then walk away. Never are preparations made for an emergency like having water on hand to put out anything that gets out of control. Once the fire starts to spread, the people who started it, in general, walk away and do nothing and allow the fire to spread. We have had several such fires on the island. They burn for days until they either burn themselves out or rain arrives. For the most part, these fires happen during dry periods and there ultimately is no rain to control them so people watch from a distance and wait for the fire to burn itself out. We do have a fire department on the island (which was only organized about 3 years ago) but, for the most part, they have limited equipment and worse, very few men on the staff.

Generally, when a fire breaks out people in the area will gather up all volunteers and, armed with shovels and rakes, they set forth to battle the blaze. Everyone knows they cannot put the fire out but they do their best to contain it.

The fire I have photos of (compliments of my friend, Cathy Springer) started one day and in a couple days quickly spread to Sandy Bay where homes of shop owners, government employees or people who own fishing boats are located.

Probably because of its location, this time people called on the local government in Tegucigalpa to give aid and assistance. It is rare that the government of Honduras lends a hand in these situations, especially on Guanaja, but this time lives and homes were threatened and they sent in aid in the form of helicopters.

What a sight to see these huge choppers come in with their huge water bags, fly out over the ocean, fill the bags with water and turn and head toward land where they deposited their load.

From our boat on the water, we had a wonderful opportunity to catch this operation and take photos. Several trips were made but, alas, eventually problems developed with the bags they were filling and the operation had to cease because of some defect in the system. I am happy to report, however, that the deliveries of what water they could retrieve helped considerably in containing the fire.

It was amazing how the helicopter could find the best spot to unload the payload especially with all the smoke they had to fly through.

The fire continued on for another day but was finally under control. The fire burned approximately a total of 4 days and thankfully no lives were lost or homes.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The things you find on an island

Moving to an island was an eye-opening adventure. Not only for the change in lifestyle but the new variety of insects and wildlife on the island.

While building our house we noted a lack of birds singing. I thought it strange as I associated birds with islands. Little did I realize that because the area we were building in was quite remote and overgrown, birds did not flock to our area as the grazing was more productive in other parts where the land had already been cleared.

One day, will working on the house, we heard a noise like a jet plane. It came upon us suddenly and just as suddenly the noise ceased. This happened twice during construction and we finally figured out that it was a hawk making its dive for prey. The second time my husband got a glimpse of the bird. It is absolutely amazing the type of noise these birds make in a dive.

Recently a juvenile Black Hawk started hanging around the home of our friends and we were privy to a photo of this lovely bird.

We also discovered that there were no real poisonous snakes on the island. There were, however, Boa Constrictors. The only one we saw during construction was one that some children living in the valley in back of us killed because it was caught killing their chickens. Last year, we discovered a Boa next door who was in the process of swallowing a Ching Ching (the name for the large blackbirds on the island). We got a series of photos of it during the 45 minutes it took to swallow its prey. Once it got started, it was harmless and my husband managed to pick it up and pose it for a photo. It was a little over 5 feet long and, I am sure, not at all happy with us interfering with its mealtime.

Of course we have Green Iguanas (an endangered species here on the island), black Iguanas, and small porch lizards of every size.

Some of the lizard prove to be very photogenic and we caught a pair in an amorous mood.

Once the house was built we became a feeding haven for hummingbirds. We have them all year round now but at the beginning they left in late November to return in February. However, we now have a few of the two varieties indigenous to the island that stay all year. They are lovely to watch and a source of great entertainment. As a girl from the northern United States, seeing a hummingbird was a special treat as they were not really hanging around the snowy plains of Minnesota! This particular photo was taken by my husband who, ultimately, had it published on a hummingbird website.
Of course, hermit crabs abound here. These ingenious little fellows will make a home out of anything. While constructing the house we found on the beach one day a little fellow who had taken refuge in the top of an abandoned lipstick case. He was all flashy in his gold case and seemed quite proud of his new home. Since then we have found them in a variety of homes from shells to hairspray caps. They come in all sizes, from small guys to hermit crabs that have taken up resident in large shells and display their claw as a warning!

Of course there are all kinds of snails on the beach and we found this little fellow one day peering out of his shell. Clicking on the photo will give you a super large picture and you can better see his features.

Along with hummingbirds, we have fruit bats which feed from the same containers as the hummingbirds but at night of course.
Don't worry. This bat was found laying dead in the backyard. I wouldn't have held it otherwise!

We have a few migratory birds and there was a pair recently that flew through stopping one day for a break. I’m afraid I don’t have the proper identifying name for them so I call them yellow birds. I hope you can click on this photo to enlarge it as they are difficult to see unless you do.

We also have mice and rats which I do not care to photograph. But we do have a little pocket mouse that takes up residence in our house every now and then. These little pocket mice or possums (not sure just what category they fall into) are the size of a large mouse and have two black eyes which remind one of a raccoon. They seem to like fruit and the seeds my birds drop and we are constantly capturing them and releasing them outdoors.
We have large toads that can scare the daylights out of you if you happen to be walking up the path to our house at night. They are oblivious to our presence and will not move. I hear they are poisonous to dogs but have only heard of dogs getting sick after playing with them and coming in direct contact with their skin. Of course there are the tree frogs who visit our water barrels at night and deposit their eggs. We always have a fresh supply of tadpoles swimming in our watering barrels!

While working in the yard one day, I came across this large stick bug. I had seen them around before but generally they were quite small. This fellow was huge and I had to get a photo of him.

We have tarantulas and scorpions and we have found plenty of both. I have no photos of the tarantulas and we leave them alone as I have heard they kill scorpions. We have plenty of scorpions both in the yard and in our bodega; some very small and others quite large. My husband captured one once in the bodega who was covered with little babies clinging to her body! Needless to say we transferred her to an area a distance away from the house.

The most unusual thing we have found, however, was one night while we were reading in bed. We heard a thump-thump on the screen with a buzzing noise. I went outside and found an impossibly huge fly on the screen. I scrambled for my camera and to show his size had my husband put his hand next to it. Shortly thereafter we heard more thumping but this time it was our cat, Mr. Leonard, who had attacked and demolished the unusual creature. We have never seen another one of these specimens. I still have the wings and hope to preserve them someday in polyurethane and make earrings out of them.

Of course, no island would be complete without the crabs! They are in abundance everywhere. This one managed to climb my laundry pole and perch himself on top!

So, living in the remote area we do provides us with the opportunity to see nature up close and personal!

Monday, April 2, 2007

No Time to be Bored!

It seems that the main 2 questions on everyone’s mind when they learn I’m 1) retired and 2) living on an island is, “What do you do all day“ and “Don’t you get bored?” I’m here to tell you that unless you are a vegetable or completely without any skills whatsoever, life cannot possibly be boring.

For my part I love crafts; sewing, stamping, basket making, cooking, gardening, reading, crocheting, origami flowers out of cloth, photography. Well, the list could go on. When I finish with my daily chores of laundry, making the bed, cooking, washing dishes, sweeping the floors, tending to the garden and seeing that all the animals (see my prior blog) are fed, I can then devote time to e-mail, letter writing and my on-going projects at the time.

Since I have “so much time on my hands” I come up with new projects constantly. One month I may be “into” cooking and the next sewing aprons and making cloth baskets. For a while I had a streak going where I made handmade envelopes and cards to use for special occasions.

The middle photo is that of the envelope.

To the left the card; to the right the inside of the card. I write poetry (not very well) and as long as it is short and to the point it suffices for whatever project I apply it to, generally cards for birthdays, anniversaries, etc..

When this bored me I started a quilt wall hanging. I have completed this particular project but have not hung it yet or taken a photo of it. From there I went to making coasters with quilted patterns.

I go through times when I want to create driftwood articles and the latest thing is picking up stalks of bamboo washed up on the beach and cutting it up into tall cups, decorating it and inserting an air plant.

Over the years, for Christmas I have made recipe books, handmade bags with the initials of the person on the front done in counted cross stitch, lovely organza wine bottle bags and now for Xmas 2007, I’m making aprons, baskets and bamboo plant holders and/or napkin rings.

I am organizing all my old photos and plan on buying a scanner, scanning the photos and putting them into book form to give to my children. Hopefully I’ll find enough photos to give them a real “family” album with pictures and printed information on their family tree.

I cleaned out my “storage space” and found lots of old projects that I had packed away when we moved into the house. I found a crocheted placemat I started 10 years ago and forgot about during the move to the house so am finishing that up to give to a friend. A lot of yarn was discovered during my cleanup and since it is too hot to work with yarn (constant hot flashes are a hinderance), I gave the yarn, books of designs, and kits of small items to one of the local women here. Boy, did her eyes light up.

The problem with all of these activities is that supplies are hard to come by here in Honduras. Most of my material, glue, stamps, ink, paper, etc. come from orders I place on-line and then a friend who flies down here twice a month brings the items with her for which I am very, very thankful.

I read at night when we don’t watch a DVD movie (also ordered on-line as we don’t have Television) or crochet. I play Sudoku usually once a day and try to do one or two games. And, since moving to the island I do more baking/cooking then I ever did. I love making deserts and trying out new recipes which is difficult especially since we have a limited supply of food/canned items available. Sometimes, however, things don't come out exactly as planned!

One of the things in that category that I have my friend bring down are small cans of chopped green chilies. You cannot get them here! Most Mexican dishes and even some I have picked up from Roatan call for these rascals yet no one carries them. I make homemade pineapple rum and hot sauce in my spare time, also to give as gifts.
I love entertaining and making bocas and lovely dinners. So, most of the time I meet myself coming and cannot find enough hours in the day. Then I have to photograph the projects, wrap them (make wrapping), prepare a card and deliver it by boat and it boggles the mind.
Say, now that I think of it, preparing this blog is taking too much of my "spare time".