Saturday, December 27, 2008

Even Santa made it!

Yes, Santa made it to Guanaja. He showed up on the front porch of Manati just in time for the big Christmas party.

This year was even more special. A long time resident to the sland, Captain Al, turned 80 on Dec. 25th and we turned out to wish him the best. The place was fully decorated and a special corner was dedicated to Capt. Al. Thanks to Geri for being the creative genius behind the decorations; she made a gingerbread house, German sweets for desert, a replica of Capt. Al's first boat and spent many, many hours putting everything together. Her trusty helper, Cathy, helped put up the Christmas tree and hang the crepe paper, streamers and balloons. Santa was donated (for the day) by George and Ginger along with other Christmas decorations.

There was, as always, food in abundance. Most everyone brought a dish and we had a veritable vegetarian paradise at one end of the table. Two turkeys, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, salads and vegetable dishes, complete with collared greens, rounded off the great meal. Our friends, Annette and Claus, who run the bar kept everyone's glass full! There was a whole table of deserts and Geri brought a special treat - Malaysian Pear Apples. Her 5-year old tree finally bore fruit this year and she brought a whole crate to share. Wonderful to look at and delicious. Thanks Geri and Al!

People were dressed in their Christmas finest, from hats, ties, earrings, Christmas shirts, etc. The people were a mixture of islanders, residents, sailors and, of course, lots of children. Gifts were handed out and new stories were shared among friends.

To round out the evening we had our regular band members present: Claus (bass), Ian (keyboard and drums and accordion) and Mike (harmonica and hand instruments), plus we were graced with a former resident of Guanaja, Leach (guitar), along with Doyle (guitar), Barry (keyboard) and David (Ian's father) on banjo. What a wonderful sound they made!

Towards the end of the evening, the children were allowed to "demolish" the gingerbread house so that it would not go to waste!

So, now we look forward to New Year's Eve, calm seas, good weather, more food and music and mingling with friends.

Happy New Year to all and my best wishes for a prosperous and wonderful New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ruins on the Island

We have on the island what my husband refers to as "ruins," uncompleted construction projects left untended and unworked for years creating an eye sore.  Unfortunately, if seems Honduras does not require a bond as they do in the States wherein if the builder does not complete the job there is money left on hold to do it for him.  Therefore, we have boisterous plans at bigger and better resorts, regular old resorts and housing projects, all of which are abandoned and left as a blemish on the landscaping.

Along with the ruins, we have just acquired another one, but this is not due to the builder's apathy nor intention to leave the project unfinished.  This one was created by fire.

Fire on this island is one of the most dangerous and disheartening things to see.  There is very little the people can do to control it, especially if it is on the main part of the island in a densely forested area.  In populated areas it is still difficult to control as we don't have fire hydrants and very few people have pumps to pump water at an instant's notice on the Cay where buildings are built inches apart.

The island experienced a fire on the Cay of Bonacca many years ago wiping out a good portion of the town and causing untold damage.  Most people, at that time, had no insurance and rebuilding was an arduous project.  We had a fire station on the Cay for a while a couple of years ago and a water pump was donated to be used to control a fire if one started.  It sat in an unopened crate for a long time and, at this writing, I don't know who has the pump as there is no one manning the fire station and, therefore, no one to take charge of the pump.  Heck, I'm not even sure they ever took the pump out of the crate!

During our almost 12 years here, we have seen several forest fires ravage the island and one fire on the Cay which destroyed the Spanish Seven-Day Adventist Church.  So, Friday morning (Dec. 15th) at 7:30 a.m. we were surprised and apprehensive to see a huge column of smoke forming in the sky in the direction of the Cay.  When we arrived on the Cay there was no signs of a fire and the majority of the citizens were unaware that something had been burning.  Later, my husband, in speaking with various people, was informed that an uncompleted dive resort on the island proper, Castaways, had been burned to the ground.

Little information was available and the next day I spoke with an individual who had gone over to the burned out resort to look around.  He noticed that at least two large freezers were missing from the kitchen area and a generator had disappeared.  He surmised that people had stolen the items and then torched the place.  As yet, the reason for the fire is unknown.  Things are stolen around here all the time but seldom do the thieves then burn down the building.  Apparently the fire must have burned out on its own as there are no residents living close by.  So, lucky for the island and other areas around this building, there was little if any breeze that morning.

Now, you may ask "Where was the owner or watchman?"  Sadly enough the owner has experienced financial and personal difficulties and has been absent for several months.  Until recently he had a watchman but let him go a couple of months ago because of money problems.  So, with no one to watch the buildings, expensive machinery inside, you have a blueprint for thieves.  However, why they felt the urge to burn the place down is a mystery to which I will not speculate.  This destruction was a very sad thing as the island desperately needs tourism if it wants to survive.  We have few functioning hotels and, as a matter of fact, I think there are more hotel "ruins" than there are operating hotels!

I took the boat over to Castaways to take some photos on Saturday and am submitting them here as a sad omen to a once interesting "resort".

Monday, December 15, 2008

They're back!

Our little hummingbird friends start departing for parts unknown about the first of November. The first few years we didn't have any hummingbirds around here until February the next year. The last couple of years, a few of the smaller hummers, the Fork-Tailed Emerald, stuck around during the winter months; one year two birds, last year about 6.  

Well, this year they started leaving in November and by the end of November we had maybe a dozen birds.  We cut our feeders down from 5 to 2.  Just this week, however, a whole band of them showed up one rainy afternoon towards dusk and we had to put out another feeder. Most of our feeders have 4 holes but we have two that are 8-hole feeders.  

It use to be rare when you would see 4 birds actually sitting on the 4-hole feeder and never more than 4-5 on the 8-hole feeder.  Well, I looked out the other evening and there, on the 8-hole feeder were 7 birds SITTING and many more hovering around.

This photo I like as it looks like one little bird on the left is looking up at the other one say "Is it my turn yet?"  

The other photo shows them all patiently hovering and waiting their turn while at least 7 are sitting.  

The larger hummers, the Green-Breasted Mangos, are more territorial and aggressive.  They spend more time fighting with one another than feeding while the smaller ones are more inquisitive and friendly, flocking around you when you walk out the door and checking you out. The other day my husband went out with a feeder in hand and actually had a hummer fly up and check out his ear to the point of putting its little beak inside!  It then flew to the other ear and did the same thing!

So, even though we live in a rather remote area of the island with virtually no neighbors, we have these lovely little friends to entertain us.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tis the Season!

It is that time of year when mankind looks inward to examine his/her life, ponder the mysteries of our very being and reflect on their past.  I am not exempt from this reflection and welcome this time of year as one that brings great happiness in the form of memories  and thankfulness for my life and where I am heading. 

I was raised as a Lutheran and even though my parents did not attend church regularly or display any form of religious ritual in my life other than the celebrations at Easter and Christmas, I was pointed in the direction of learning about my God, my values and the teachings of the Church.  I was baptized, confirmed and married within the structure of my Lutheran teachings and, even though now in my adult life when I question some of the teachings and have doubts about them (I may be considered an agnostic now), I still do not deny the presence of a Supreme Being, even though that presence is only strengthened by faith and difficult to substantiate with facts. 

Be that as it may, I love the celebration of Christmas.  The mere fact that it is a time when families traditionally come together or, if that is not possible, communication with friends and loved ones is made and wishes for good health, goodness, love and happiness brings a sense of “oneness” with those we love. 

I decorate our home with items that I have had with me for years, each one reminding me of the individual that gave it to me or made it in love for me.  Things I have purchased over the years remind me of special times in my life and those I was spending my time with.  I have gifts from my children, sister-in-law, friends and, even business acquaintances, all of which, when I see them, remind me that at that moment in time I was being thought of and remembered.  

I have an ornament, a wooden soldier, painted by my son when he was a young boy which for anyone else would not be special but to me I wouldn't trade it for anything.  I have a crocheted Angel made for me by a wonderful friend I met on the island.  There is a stained-glass hibiscus set on a mahony stand whose purpose is to accept a lit candel behind it to make it glow from another dear friend of mine.  My sister-in-law crocheted me an afghan, made me an angel out of clothesline and sewed/quilted a Christmas tree skirt, all of which is a constant reminder of the hours she spent toiling over these items just to make my Christmas a little brighter.  I have a music box and a Christmas blanket which was given to me by a friend and fellow employee with whom I worked for many years which, when I look at them I am reminded of the deep friendship we have.  My oldest friend sent me an Angel which she purchased out of love to celebrate our 47+ years of friendship.  I had an USF ornament given to me by my daughter when she attended the University and can recall it every year in my mind as, unfortunately, it broke a few years ago.  Another good friend painted me a ribbon with cherubs on it which when I unwrap it every year, I remember her artistic talents and unfailing friendship.  No, I don't need "gifts" to remind me of my friends and family but they do serve to stir fond memories. 

I have a collection of dated tree ornaments which, when I take them out of their wrapping to decorate our tree, I am reminded of specific times in my life and what was occurring when I bought them.  I crocheted snowflakes one year for our tree and the tree is not complete without them.  I have a Nativity Scene by Precious Moments which took me several years to obtain and always has a special place in my home during Christmas. 

Yes, these are all “things”, but they bring a peace to me by reminding me of good times in the past and of the love of friends and family and they are also a reflection of my past.  They tie me to my family and friends even more so during this time of year when good will towards men is on the mind.  Could I celebrate Christmas without these items?  To be honest, no, I could not.  For they unlock memories which are in the back of my mind all year and only come forth when I bring them out and then they bring a smile to my face and flood my being with the feeling of happiness and goodness. 

So, while Christmas is the celebration of a Savior born, to me it is a special time to reflect on my life, my family and friends and extend to them my love and wishes for all that is good in life.  A time to hope for good will among men, peace for all and a hope that we can all respect each others beliefs, strengths and weaknesses. 

To my friends and family I say “Thank You” for the part you have played in my life, for the love you have shared with me and for the continuing support you continue to give me.  So, with humbleness and gratitude, I send wishes for a Very Merry Christmas and a Wonderful, Happy New Year.  May you be blessed with good health, the love of friends and family and a deep appreciation for what you have in your life.  There is nothing original in these thoughts, but they come from my heart and are the best way of letting you know that I love you all.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Quiet is Broken

Last Saturday on the island was a beautiful day.  We have had considerable rain in October and November along with what we refer to as “Northers” - storms which come down from Canada and the U.S. and dump a lot of rain on the island along with making sea conditions on the North and West side very dangerous.  Finally, in December, the sun started poking its head out again and the seas calmed down.  So it was with smiles that we met a beautiful day on Saturday.

However, just because you have good weather does not mean that things can’t go wrong.

Around 6:00 p.m., my friend and her husband were in their  house getting ready for supper when they suddenly heard what sounded like a bomb going off at the back of their house!  

Panic ensued and my girlfriend’s husband ran outside to see what was going on.  It was dark and difficult to get a  bead on the mystery of the noise but he finally discovered that a huge boulder had come tumbling down the mountain in back of their house and blasted a hole in their bathroom wall.

They have a wooden home built on a cliff overlooking the ocean and, for the most part, their property is made up of rocks and clay soil.  My friend has done a beautiful job landscaping around their home and I’ve always admired her for her hard work as everywhere you dig you are digging in a rock foundation.  Anyway, with all the rain we have had in the past two months, the ground further up the mountain must have given way and sent the boulder crashing down.  I checked the Earthquake Center to see if we happened to have had tremors that day but there were none reported. 

The rock took out a huge hole in the back wall of the bathroom rendering her drawers in the cabinet unusable.  It knocked the formica off the wall behind the sink and the molding at the base of the cabinet.  In its “rock and roll” adventure, it managed to smash and destroy her beautiful bougainvillea plant.

According to my friend, the next day their workers checked the site above and behind the house to find there are more boulders up there with the potential to come crashing down.  Plans are in the making to build  a type of retaining wall further up the mountain to, hopefully, halt the flow of any further stray rocks/boulders.  Whether this will work remains to be seen, but it is better to take some measures than none at all.

Meanwhile, after they had calmed down and got their heart rate and breathing back to normal, they were  just happy that the rock had not come crashing into their bedroom wall while they slept in their bed as the head of the bed is against the back wall.

Hopefully they can now go back to the tranquil quiet of the island!  I'm just happy that the worse I have to worry about at my house is water and soil washing down the hill when we get the torrential rains and my walk ways turn into raging streams of water flowing downhill to the sea.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I think the warranty just ran out!

Well, I’m at a crossroads of life, at least I think that is the wall I’ve run up to.  

This month I turned 65.  Yow!  When did that creep up on me?  The last thing I remember was standing over the crib just before the birth of my youngest daughter (who is now 36 years old) thinking, “The next time I turn around, she or he will be in college!”  Well, she was born, she did go to college, she graduated, she had children and I’m still wondering “What happened to yesterday?” 

Not that I mind being 65.  You see, I’ve never thought of myself as old and age never really bothered me all that much.  To some extent, living on the island has made me feel younger.  I get sufficient exercise, I eat less “junk” food, I expand my mind with tasks like reading, sewing, and cooking, yard work, blogging and creating “published” works.  Of course now the exercise includes mainly just a lot of walking and the yard work consists of telling my workman what I want done.  Oh, occasionally I pitch in with the planting and pulling of weeds, but those occasions are getting to be less and less.  And, I must admit, if I lived back in the States, I would be spending more time at a desk and/or, ultimately, in front of a T.V. and being a lot more stressed.  So, while we have frustrating moments here, they are moments that can be dealt with without going into orbit.

I have always looked forward to birthdays.  I mean, as they always say, it is better than the alternative.  I fully subscribe to the “You are as old as you feel, not as old as you look” theory.  I once read a quote by Emily Dickinson who said “We turn not older with years, but newer every day.”  And this is so true of my life these past 11 years on Guanaja.  Regardless of my age, I have had many adventures and will continue to do so.  These will bring unexpected joys along with unexpected sorrows, but that is life.  I have never thought in terms of “Boy, is he/she old.”  Rather, people were either on an equal keel with me in life, ahead of me or behind me.  

My Grandmother was never old – she was what a Grandmother, in my mind, was supposed to be.  A heavy-set woman with lots of folds to cuddle in, a handkerchief in her bosom, a stick of gum to give the little ones to keep them quiet in church and funny-looking supportive shoes.  She had gray hair, always wore a dress and always had a smile for me.  Of course, when I look at that definition, I don’t have any idea what my Grandchildren (all 6 of them) think of me! 

Age never meant much to me.  Now, health was a different matter.  Young or old, when a person is sick they are in their own category.  They all need to be taken care of, loved more and more tolerance shown.  I guess some people feel that same way about “old” people.  But, hey, when do you get old?  I have run up against people younger than me who don’t have half the stamina I have.  I have seen “old” people (in their 80's) who do more than my Mom did in her mid-60's.  Sometimes I wonder if happiness consists primarily of an attitude toward time.  If you dread the years slipping by and can find little happiness in where you are at any given time, then you are truly not a happy person.  Some people meet the day with a smile and positive attitude while others grumble and complain never wanting to see the good around them.  So, how old would you be if you didn’t how old you was? 

But back to the celebration!  My female friends on the island and I got together to toast my 65th birthday.  It was a wonderful day and, in spite of the rough seas, we all forged ahead, climbed in our respective boats and made the wet, rough trip out to a small Cay off the island which is owned by a lovely German couple.  We were joined by two women from Germany who had just arrived on the island and came along to have a good time.  We had appetizers and champagne punch.  We had champagne, ribs, coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans and fresh bread and wine and cake for desert!  

They sang the traditional Happy Birthday song and they even put up decorations in my honor.  

We laughed talked, enjoyed each other’s company and took pictures.  For posterity, I turned to the young German woman of 20 and told her “When you celebrate your 65th birthday, please think of the crazy American woman you met on Guanaja on her 65th birthday.  Even though I will be dead, remember I wished you a happy birthday!”

Hey, the best thing about growing old is that it takes such a long time!

Happy Birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday ----------------- heh, heh, heh.



Sunday, November 9, 2008

Final Report on Copán

As the title says, this is my final report on  my vacation to Copán with my son.

If one checks up on information concerning Copán,you will usually find this: "The Pre-Columbian city today known as Copán is a locale in western Honduras, in the Copán Department, near the border of Guatemala. It is the site of a major Maya kingdom of the Classic era."  Most information will proceed to tell you all about the ruins which, of course, is the main reason one goes to Copán
However,not much is said about the town and I love the town!  

The cobblestone streets, the quaint buildings, the open market, the enchanting look of the whole area brings me back again and again.
The area is built in a valley and the town is situated on rolling hills which wind through the town and expose untold views. You will find splashes of color everywhere with interesting touches in the architecture by the way of decoration.

I love the "adobe" look to the buildings, especially when some of the outer stucco chips away and you get a look at the original brick construction. The homes and businesses are painted in Caribbean colors and tropical plants abound.

In the center of town, as in most towns of Honduras, there is a park constructed in spoke-type fashion with various buildings and offices of the local Municipality, some shops and always, the Central Market.  How I love markets. We get such limited types and quantities of vegetables on the island that whenever I go to the mainland, the Market is one of the places I love the most. 
Such abundance and variety available in Copán. Foods are brought in from nearby Guatemala and I saw, as pictured in the collage, huge radishes which are one of my favorite vegetables.  In 11 years on Guanaja I've had radishes about 8 times! There are pots and pans, shoes and clothing being sold and a small open air eating place. The photo showing the display of shoes indicates the patience one must have shopping in a Honduran market! I think one would have a hard time finding the mate to the shoe they sought to purchase.

As I was walking the streets I found a shoemaker plying his trade beside a building.  One finds these masters all over Honduras and 
for a few Lempira you can get your shoes repaired as good as new. Evidently he felt more comfortable in his stocking feet at the time.

Another "Kodak" moment presented itself in the doorway of a shop displaying hats.

The inside and outside of buildings present unusual photo opportunities, especially in the hotels, of which there are many. Like all of the town of Copán, everything is kept very clean. Every hotel I looked into was tidy and pleasant looking. Only one hotel that I visited had a pool. The Marina. although we had the availability of a hot tub at Don Udo's where we stayed.  At the Marina Hotel I found some really interesting lamp covers made of shells.  

They had a beautiful, mahogany, curved staircase that presented a beautiful play on light and shadows so I just had to take the picture of it.

There were some unusual sights; a fence surrounding a home was made of woven palm leaves.  The interior of a building had been decorated at once time with hanging paper decorations which are finally falling into disrepair but attractive none-the-less.  There was one yard where I saw corn laid out to dry in the sun and, of course, there is always the local dog.

The other plus of Copán are the varied and excellent restaurants.  We had wonderful meals wherever we went with excellent, friendly service. One such place was the "Twisted Tanya", a local restaurant owned run by a Brit who was a former owner/partner at the restaurant "Twisted Toucan" in Roatan. She became disenchanted with Roatan and moved to Copán.  The food is outstanding; the salads unlike any other and the drinks - well, the drinks are amazing.  We spent a wonderful evening at the restaurant visiting with the owner, her daughter and staff enjoying the ambiance and food.  We left late in the evening but had no fear as the hotel was only blocks away and the streets relatively deserted. We were surprised to find our hotel door locked and after calling out to the night watchman, we were allowed entrance. 

We were very lucky as the weather was beautiful and cooperated fully. There was rain late one afternoon, but other than that the temperatures were mild to cool.  Of course during the rainy season I would not recommend visiting the area.  Roads are washed out, streets are flooded and viewing the ruins would be a disaster.  So, December through mid-February is not the best time.  The rest of the year is wonderful; the tourist "season" is April through July, so judge your vacation accordingly.

So, if you like variety; horseback riding, hiking, hot springs spa, bird parks, fine cusine or just taking photos, Copán is one place you will not want to miss!