Saturday, January 19, 2008

Meat Market - Third World Style

Occasionally when we go to town on Friday to shop for our groceries, we run into the "outdoor" butcher.

The first time I came upon a scene such as the one pictured, I was totally shocked! Surely they could not be butchering this cow for resale to humans! I was quite certain that the table upon which the hacking was taking place had not been thoroughly cleaned and/or inspected by any organization protecting the public from unsafe meat handling practices! Plus, this was all done in the out-of-doors, flies included.

But, this is something that goes on all over Honduras, not just on Guanaja. On the island, however, the machete is the knife of choice for butchering. I don't know what is used on the mainland, but there is no finesse in the cutting up of meat here. Because of the use of the machete, any choice cuts one would come to expect from a side of beef, are non-existant. Beef here, as on the mainland, is not aged nor butchered in refrigerated conditions. The cows are not grain-fed and graze on whatever is handy on the island. This tends to produce a tough, stringy, strong tasting meat which can only be cooked to tenderness by using a pressure cooker.
I never buy beef from these "outdoor" markets. The little beef I do buy is generally hamburger from a local market, wrapped in cellophane on a styrofoam tray. The hamburger here has very little fat, if any, and one must add oil to the mix tossing in a few bread crumbs to help keep the patty together.

Usually the meat butchered in the outdoor markets is bought up quickly by the locals who occasionally they bring their own plastic bags or just carry their purchase home in their hands, which lends a whole new meaning to the cash and carry process.
Many of the fishing boats are owned by islanders who also have land where they "raise" cattle. Before the boats go out for the season, one becomes accustomed to the sound of shooting as the slaughter of the cows begins to provide the fishermen with food while out at sea.
I have been to markets on the mainland where the stench is overpowering. Here, with the open air butchering, there is much less smell but it hardly encourages one to remain a carnivore!

Monday, January 14, 2008

A tree grows in Guanaja!

One of the most photographic sites above the water on Guanaja are two rusting boats that are in the mouth of the Canal. They were hauled into safe harbor in 1974 in anticipation of Hurricane Fifi and remained there after the storm; stuck in the mud and rusting away. On one of our dive trips to the island, in 1989, I took a photo of the two fishing boats and put it away.

Lately, I dragged it out, scanned it and decided to include it in my blog. Why? Because after all these years being a photo attraction, some people of the island found they could get money for the rusting steel. I don't have any idea who pays for rusty steel, but there must be a market for it because late last year people descended upon the boats and started stripping them.

Just before that, I had notice a tree growing on the deck of one of the boats! Yes, a tree. Out in the middle of the water, on a rusty deck. Before I could get a photo, however, the men attacked the boat stripping them of their top cabins and, in the process, broke the tree.

But it lives! It was somewhat bent but had begun the process again of putting forth shoots again. I wanted to share these photos as an honor to the perseverance of Mother Nature. It is sometimes just unbelievable where plants will start to grow. Trees out of rocks, trees in salt water, plants on trees, the list goes on and on.

From the photos you can see the boats are not nearly the photo opportunity they were before. Now they are just ugly, rusting hulks in the water but still of some use. For life has rooted there and in making this valiant effort it shows that anything is possible!

Mother Nature never gives up and tries to make something beautiful out of what is scarred and ugly.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Up One Day - Down the Next!

We have plenty of ups and downs on the island and it seems that they come in groups! Having said that I offer the following.

The day after Christmas, our wonderful pet, Winken of 8 years, died due to brown tick disease. We noticed a problem in August of 2007 - mainly that she was losing weight. We were unaware of what was happening and thought maybe she was just spending more calories running around than taking them in. However, she continued to lose weight so I took her to the vet in San Pedro. We found that she had brown tick disease but because the tests weren't positive we didn't know what stage she was in and simply started the treatment. Now, the treatment will work if you catch the disease in Stage 1 or 2; never in Stage 3.

Unfortunately she was in Stage 3 and lasted until December 26th. She was a shy, sweet dog with a gentle temperament and is missed by my husband and I and our 3 other dogs.

Then the up part.

A few weeks after losing Winken, a friend of ours on the island, who goes above and beyond her duty concerning animals, sent us an e-mail (she was off the island at the time) asking us if we would please take two of her "adoptable" dogs. They were a brother and sister that she had named Lucy and Desi. Lucy is a red-brown dog with golden eyes and a brown nose. Desi was all black. At first we said no we could not do it but then relented and decided to take Lucy.

It must be fate because when Lucy and Desi were puppies we had seen them at another friend's home (he had taken them on for a while but it did not work out as he ran a hotel and already had 3 other dogs). Here is a photo of Melanie (our favorite child to photograph and Lucy as a pup). I feel in love with Lucy at the time and would have taken her home then except for the fact that we already had 4 dogs! (See my Blog of March, 2007.)

After agreeing to take Lucy, our friend's worker brought her over last Saturday, January 5th, and she is now in the process of integrating with her new family .

Cocoa, in the picture above, is 10 1/2 years old and the Alpha female of the 4 dogs (3 females and one male). When we acquired Cocoa (on the 1st week of our arrival on the island), she was a 3 month old puppy full of fleas, ear mites and some ticks. We bathed her, medicated her and adopted her into our family. At the same time we had Pepper (who came with us from the states) who was about 10 or 11 at the time. Pepper did not take kindly to the new puppy and sulked for weeks over her appearance in our home. He never did get overly friendly with Cocoa, but finally accepted her. Now Cocoa is in the same position, she must accept the new dog and is not happy about it. Of course, it is quite apparent that she was in mourning for her friend, Winken, who was her "walk about" buddy. Nod, Winken's sister, is fat, gentle and lazy. After taking a walk-about with Winken and Cocoa, Nod decided that the porch is the only place to be if you don't want to miss meals - and she never does!

Cocoa loves to go on excursions around our end of the island but I want Lucy to become accustomed to our home before she ventures forth on 2-3 hour journeys. At first they were all wary of one another but slowly but surely they are becoming friends and in no time, buddies!

Then the down hit....again. Puppy, originally our worker's dog is missing. He was here Wed. (Jan. 9th) for breakfast and around the yard. I thought he went home with our worker (who has a small house back in the mountains). But Puppy did not show up Thursday morning as usual for breakfast, nor Friday morning, nor Saturday either. This is not like Puppy who has come to rely upon us for food. You see his worker leaves him 3 days out of 7 and one month a year when he takes vacation and does not see to it that he is provided with food or shelter. He just assumes the dog will be around when he returns!

So, we started feeding him and took him on as our dog. We had him fixed and give him heartworm pills and any medical attention he needs. Puppy is lovable and a good guard dog. We now think someone took him. I walked over to a farm nearby (a 35 minute walk one way) to check to see if they had seen him but no one recalled him being around. My worker is going to check in the small community he lives in 4 days out of 7 but I really doubt we will see him again.
It was a shame too, because Lucy seem to take to Puppy right away.
We have "lost" 5 pets in 10 1/2 years and it never is easy. Now, with Puppy missing that will make 6. I certainly hope we have an upward trend coming up because I am really not up to losing anymore pets. On the bright side, we are now one big family again and we treasure each pet.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Brrrr Squared

Paradise! Yeah! BUT sometimes a little something will come along to change Paradise.

Like a NORTHER!!!!

Cold fronts coming down from the North bring 4 things: wind, rain, a drop in temperature and Brrrr Squared in one's house.
Every year from November through the end of January (sometimes into February) we are hit with several Northers! The seas become rough and travel is at a standstill both on the water and in the air. Rain falls in unheard of amounts; one year in December, we had 36" in one day! Before that the largest rainfall here in our 10 years of occupation was 7" in a day.

What this means is that we are cold! Out come the socks, sweatshirts and long pants. Our house is fairly open so even with closing the louvered windows, we huddle in bed and spend our time reading. On those days, not much gets done except the supreme effort of keeping warm. I cook soup and hearty meals, but other than that, we simply retire to the bed where we have a quilt and can cover up and read.

Of course the animals suffer too. Just this last week a cold front hit here on Friday (Jan. 4, 2008) and with it came rain, wind, rough seas and cold air! I let two of the 3 dogs sleep inside. One sticks next to our bed, while the other hides in the closet. The outside dog takes refuge with one of the cats. Our one parrot who is in the house during the daytime and outside in her cage at night got a reprieve and was allowed to stay in the house. My little Sun Conure, Peek-a-Boo, has a small log in the top of her cage and she headed in there to keep warm!

Of course, there are the hummingbirds. For some reason, this year, they did not all migrate in November and we have a lot of the little Green Mango birds here feeding off of our feeders. Normally they fight one another for a spot and only recently would you see 4 feeding on one feeder at the same time! However, I caught them on the feeder in back of the house and believe it or not, 3 were huddled together, not feeding, but simply sitting out of the rain while another bird was trying to feed in the hole they had abandoned! The photo was through the screen and difficult to see, but if you look carefully you can see 3 birds huddled together to the left. I went outside and took another shot at a different angle and you can see all the birds that are frantically trying to feed!

Not to mention the 6 birds that took refuge under our porch roof on the clothesline. There were actually about 13 birds on the lines but some flew off when went out to take a photo.

Then there was the angry sea and the clouds in the sky to make the day even more dreary.
With my warm wool socks, my warm sweatshirt sporting the famous "Uff da" phrase of my Swedish ancestors, I was prepared.

Of course, this will not last and is only the subject of interest for everyone for a few days. As a matter of fact, the people on our Yahoo Group spent quite a bit of time commenting on the weather this past week! In a couple of days we should be back to our balmy 80-82 degrees and back will go the long pants, sweatshirts and socks for another day.

Oh, well, like taxes and death, there is nothing you can do about the weather except accept it!