Monday, August 20, 2007

Leaving Paradise

I am now in the land of plenty also known to us "gringos" on the island as the great PX. I've been in the U.S. of A. (specifically Florida) for 11 days and still have culture shock when I go into the stores and see all that is available - especially FOOD!

Generally a trip to the States to visit family means re-stocking on things I cannot get in Honduras and ABSOLUTELY need! I mean, every "Spanish/Mexican" recipe I have calls for chopped green chilies and there are none to be had in Honduras. I have seen recipes printed in the Honduran Voice Magazine (out of Roatan) and they include chopped green chilies and I wonder where they get them! So, towards the end of my trip there will be at least one visit to the grocery store to get as many food items as I can without going over the weight limit in my suitcase!

While here I manage to visit with my children and Grandchildren. Lucky for me they are all within driving distance (Orlando/Brooksville/Plant City) and, therefore, in spite of a little effort to drive from one point to another, I can readily visit the kids. This is a photo of my Orlando Grandchildren; Alyssa and David (16 and 13 respectively).

Two of my grandsons live in Plant City (Kyle -6; and Ryan - 3) and are energetic boys who are on the move constantly. To go with the activity, the keep up a constant line of chatter so we won't get bored. Kyle had his final basketball tournament this past Saturday - yes, basketball at 6 years old. We piled into the car and off we went to the local YMCA at 8:30 a.m. for the game. It was fun watching these little tykes run around the floor, dribbling a basketball and actually making shots! I was amazed that there were at least 3-4 "naturals" for the sport and even at age 6 some have a good grasp of the game and the how to handle the ball. The final score waas 10-18 but the coaches were generous and, at the last minute, the scoreboard reflected a 17-18 score! All the kids got medals and treats. I was happy to see that children are still participating in physical activities instead of sitting in front of a computer screen/T.V. on their free time. Oh, yes, my Grandson made a basket to help his team on, even though they lost.
Here's the final scoreboard (doctored just a little).

Jump shot here - notice the alertness of the team members!

The medal winner and his younger brother.

The majority of my trip has been spent moving my son into his new apartment. I had forgotten all the energy that is spent, not to mention the drive time, in setting up electric power, gas, cable, telephone, internet, etc. Then there was the purchase of several items of furniture along with a lot of groceries! There are rewards for this activity as my son works at a gourmet bakery as head baker where they produce sinfully rich cheesecakes, cakes and various deserts. Needless to say, I was allowed to sample a few of the products and can categorically state they are fabulous! This is my son and his silent partner - can you guess who is who?

The one downside of my visit to Florida is the fact that it has suddendly gotten hotter in this state. While I lived here I can hardly remember temperatures in the upper 90's much less 100's. I've always said I wanted to be away from Guanaja during Aug/Sept. which are generally the hottest months of the year. Well, I've now found out that escaping to Florida is not the coolest thing to do in every sense of the word! It is so hot up here - no breeze, high temperatures, heat reflecting off the streets/parking lots/sidewalks. At least on the island, even without a breeze, there usually is a puff of wind and it generally stays at 86-88 degrees during those months. The average temperature on the island is a balmy 82 so coming to Orlando/Tampa and getting off a plane to 102 degree weather is not what I had in mind.

I thought about going to Disney World or one of the theme parks, but now that I've been exposed to the heat I've had a change of mind. And, there are no views to compare with what we have on the island out our front door!
So, I will make contact with friends, go out to a few nice places for dinner, buy necessary "stuff" and return to the island with a deeper appreciation for it and the surroundings. Of course I will miss the big PX and the endless aisles of products one can buy, the varied restaurants, the movie theaters with their huge screens. I won't miss the air conditioning - everyone in Florida keeps it absolutely too cold and besides frost forming on my nose when I go out, my sinuses begin to shut down and breathing is difficult; at least easy, regular breathing.
Yes, it is the land of plenty and I will miss family and friends, but ohhhh the life of serenity, quiet, fresh air, great views and fewer people!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Over the River and Through the Woods.....

Traveling! There are plus and minus aspects of traveling as each of us knows. The excitement of going somewhere new or revisiting familiar places once again is always alluring. Of course, the downside is the planning and execution!

Once a year I usually head back to the states to see how my children are doing and find out how many more inches the grandchildren have grown! Of course, living on an island such as ours also provides another reason: provisioning!

My annual trip was coming up and this year I decided I would do what I've always wanted to do, tour parts of Europe rather than make the trip to the U.S. Got as far as making some flight arrangements and writing folks I wanted to see when a family crisis arose. Scratch the European trip and continue on to the states to tend to my family.

Of course, flying from Honduras, especially Guanaja, is a major plan in the making. I mean, besides figuring out what airline to take to the mainland one must determine if you will have to overnight before going on to the States which means hotel and taxi arrangements. And, if you get past that and can make it in one day, there follows relatively short time spent in flight in comparison to all the waiting in airport terminals.

This year I was fortunate to be allowed to return to Florida via our friends' private plane. We left the island at about 7 a.m. and landed in Roatan. Normally this should be a short visit and off again to the states. But, hey, where do you think we are? We waited at the airport about 45 minutes waiting for immigration to show up. When he finally did we found out he had to go to the market first and do some shopping! Of course, this is the land of manana so why should we not be surprised? While waiting I managed to purchase some cigars for a friend of mine who wanted them for his friend. Normally I do not like purchasing tobacco items because I don't believe in smoking - anything! But he was going to drive me to Tampa from Orlando and I felt it would be a good way to repay him.

After a 3 hours + flight, we landed in Florida. We again waited for customs, but not as long as in Roatan. When the customs man showed up he noticed the bag from the gift shop where another woman had bought the same cigars I had purchased (mine were in my carry-on). He looked at her and said there is an embargo on and you are not to bring the cigars into the country. She told him she was not aware of it and the clerk never mentioned the fact to her. He replied that this time he would let her go, but, in the future, he would have to confiscate them. I asked her what the conversation was all about and she said the cigars. I said "they are Honduran cigars" and she said, "no, they are Cuban cigars"! I was surprised and so glad we were not penalized for something we were totally unaware of!

I had lunch with Pilot Bob (former helicopter pilot on the island) and we exchanged pleasantries. He looked well and is getting his life back in order after close to a year on Guanaja. He had done me a big favor and purchased a weed wacker for us. Ours died a slow death and our worker uses it to cut our huge lawn. He said he would make arrangements for it to be sent back to the island on the plane when possible so that we could once again get our tall grass cut down to a manageable size. He also did another favor for us and I am so grateful that he went to all the trouble he went to in order to accommodate my requests. He is truly a really good friend. Heck, even if he hadn't done the favor, he is still a good friend.

I then left the Panhandle of Florida for Atlanta so that I could get to Orlando, Florida! Round about way of doing it but that's what AirTran does with that particular route. So in one day I was in three time zones; Guanaja, Honduras, the Panhandle of Florida and Orlando, Florida. I'm still not sure what time I am in right now.

The flight to Atlanta was fairly uneventful as was the trip to Orlando except when the pilot on the last leg of the trip announced it was 102 degrees in Orlando! The plane was full but all went well. Of course, when we arrived in Orlando, it took a longer to get our luggage than the time spent in the airport in Atlanta waiting for the plane to depart! Everything came through ok and in tact - even the two bottles of Flor de Cana I bought for our friend!

Of course, I had put my smaller suitcase inside a larger one to save space and allow me a suitcase to return to the island filled with "necessary" things. Well, I was overweight by 4 lbs. and had to take the smaller one out of the larger one and put some of the things into the bigger one as I was allowed 2 suitcases and this would re-distribute the weight. One would think it would be easier to handle one suitcase (even overweight by 4 lbs.) than handling two which ended up being the same total weight, but no!

So, here I am, finally at my destination contemplating all of the things I will have to purchase for my return trip that "I can't live without".

To make matters worse, I had a head cold and, for the most part, the trip to a higher elevation and back down played havoc with my right ear. Had trouble hearing out of it for several hours and had some slight pain.

Now I just have to plan the return trip and hope that all goes smoothly, or with as few problems as possible......but then, what kind of trip would that be?