Sunday, March 23, 2008

Nine Lives, Luck and Stupidity

We all meet with crises during our lifetime and I'm no exception.

At 8 years of age I was in a head-on car collision that left me with a broken leg. After going to the hospital, having it set and placed in a really heavy cast, I returned home. After a couple of days I experienced excruciating abdominal pains. I was rushed to the hospital where they performed emergency surgery removing my appendix before it burst. It was removed in time and all I was left with was a rather ugly scar.

At about 10, I came down with pneumonia and was a very sick girl in the hospital for a week.

At about 21 years of age I was in the middle of a 9 car pile up on the interstate in Minnesota. There were 4 passengers in my car and thankfully no one was injured.

At 22 I was pregnant and due to a fast delivery, I had my baby at home. This was not a real crises as there were no complications although I would not recommend this type of delivery to any expectant mother. Mother and daughter were fine and were taken to the hospital.

I coasted along for many years after that without any major incidents.

However, in 1998 (after moving to Guanaja the previous year) I, and the people of the island, went through one of the greatest hurricanes of all time - Mitch. It was a category 5 hurricane which sat over the island for 3 days unleashing its fury. Fortunately, again, my husband and I were unharmed and manage only loss of property.

I once ran out of gas in my boat while coming home from a friends home and while not wanting to drift off to Belize, I jumped in the water and pushed the boat along its side towards land. I managed to reach a dock, tie the boat and walk over the mountain to my friend's house to use her phone!

While on the island, these past 11 years, I have fallen off our boat twice (both times while attempting to step onto the dock when we were docking).

Boats, as any vehicle powered by an engine are dangerous and, I HATE BOATS. Not so much for the danger they present, but the fact that they are uncomfortable to ride in, one always arrives at their destination slightly wet, they are cold when one is out in the elements, they take a lot of preparation just to leave the dock, and there are no brakes! Well, there is reverse which substitutes for brakes.

Saturday, March 22nd I lost another one of my nine lives! I went to town early in the morning to buy groceries. This being Easter Week, the stores were closed on Friday, our normal shopping day, and were only open for 1/2 day on Saturday. I needed some basic items so off I went. It was cloudy out and had been raining, so I had my raincoat on. Before I left the house I emptied my purse of most of its items because I just did not want to carry that much weight. I would have put my billfold in my jacket pocket, but it was too bulky.

I arrived in town, made my various purchases and, like a pack mule, carried all the items back to the boat. I headed for home. It was windy and just as I reached the point of the backside of Alcatraz (the small Cay where we buy gas and propane), I noted my jacket starting to fly off the right side of my body. Now what happened next is a little blurry, but I will try to state it as accurately as possible.

I was going at a good speed (not wide open) and I, foolishly, took my hand off the tiller to pull my jacket back on, not thinking of the consequences. Once the tiller was released, the thrust of the boat going forward forced, I believe, the engine to make a sharp left turn. All I can remember is the boat suddenly lurching violently to one side. In an instant I experienced the feeling of not being in control of my body along with a lot of fear. I was pitched into the water by the sharp turn and the minute I hit all I could think about was "where is the propeller?" I came back up to see the boat going away from me and making for open sea. For some reason, the crate we have in the boat as an extra seat and my purse were in the water. I spied my purse and grabbed it immediately as even though there was not a lot in there, I had important papers along with credit cards!

I immediately started swimming to the Cay of Alcatraz, all the while watching my boat starting to make a big circle and heading back my way. It went around and then made for the Cay of Bonacca. I was terrified that the boat would hit someone, another boat, the main dock, or a piling of one of the houses on the edge of the Cay. There was absolutely nothing I could do but watch this crazy unmanned boat, head off to potential destruction.

As the boat reached the Cay, it veered off and started another crazy circle. It made another pass at the Cay and then, in a third circle, headed towards town but now was in a small channel heading towards Pond Cay. It hit a shallow spot and you could hear the engine kick up slightly and then resume its forward thrust. The only saving grace in this moment was the fact that now the engine had been pushed into making a tight circle and it circled madly around and around. The upside was that it was doing so in an area where no one or anything could have been harmed.

By this time there were 3 boats in the water. One headed towards me to pick me up; the other two were attempting to stop my boat. The boat heading for me reached me and I struggled to get on board. They asked if I was alright and I said, basically, yes. I pointed over to my boat and said "that's my boat." The man in the boat said he had seen me thrown out of my boat and took off immediately to help.

We watched the other two boats carefully circle my wildly circling boat in an attempt to either trap it between the two rescue boats or board it. Finally, with the right timing, one boat got to the front of my boat and the man on the front stepped over into my boat and turned the engine off.

I was taken over to my boat with everyone asking if I was OK. I thanked them all and assured them that for some reason, I had not been injured. I climbed back in my boat and headed home.

I was very, very lucky that day. I could have been hit in the head by the boat and drowned, or the prop could have hit my body and cut me badly; the boat could have hit another boat causing great injury or it could have hit a dock or a piling of a house and, again, caused damage.

So, it looks like, due to stupidity, I have lost another of my nine lives. I got home, emptied my purse and laid out its contents to dry, took a shower, rinsed out my clothing and various other items and unloaded my groceries.

P.S. I told my husband I didn't want to drive the boat anymore!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Semana Santa - Heaven or Hell?

Next week is the most holiest week in Christian religion….Easter, or, in Honduras (and Spanish speaking countries) Semaña Santa.

While the rest of the world carries on with daily activity, activity in Honduras comes to a screeching halt. Government offices, for the most part, are closed all week. Yes, you heard me, all week. Hotels are full and if you want a room for a day or two that week, forget it. You must book the whole week. Airlines have sold out all their seats and even the ferry running from the Mainland to the islands are at full capacity. People get a couple of extra days off that week and use them to go to the beaches in droves and, in general, take a week off for sun, fun, getting together with the family and, yes, some even realize what this week is all about.

But that is not the reason for my Blog! Oh, no. On Guanaja, Semaña Santa is considered the time for all of the people to pile in their boats and make a pilgrimage to the beaches.

It is amazing. We have some beautiful beaches here with crystal water and wonderful underwater reefs. But, for the most part, the people of this island rarely go to the beach to picnic and swim! This is the one time of the year the beaches are, well, simply packed! People set up booths on the beach for food and drink. Whole families pile into their boat (usually way overloaded) and take their towels, blankets, food, drink, bug spray, suntan lotion and head to “the other side” which, in this case, is the northwest side of the island.

The stores do a big business this time of year selling beach products and everyone is out to have a good time. It is truly a holiday for families.

But wait! What is the hell side you say?

Well, we generally get our food supplies brought to the island on a boat from the Mainland on Friday. The week of Semaña Santa a special effort is made to bring a boat at the beginning of the week because there will be no boats on Thursday or Good Friday of that week. So, this past Friday we all went to town expecting to replenish our food supplies only to find out that the boat coming to the island ran aground leaving the LaCeiba channel, tipped on its side and lost most of the product. Not only were store owners and people that had items on the boat upset, they were upset because the same Captain piloting this boat was the Captain of the Captain Andrew that sunk off the coast of Guanaja the end of last year! Twice in about 6 months our supply boat has either gone down or lost all of the cargo with this Captain. People are not happy. Now, there is rumor that a boat will be here Tuesday with fresh food and other supplies but, for the most part, the store owners cannot begin to scramble and replace those items lost for the Semaña Santa sales. So, we are hoping the boat comes Tuesday at least to get some fresh produce.

Next, if you want to get off this island during the week of Semaña Santa and have not made Airlines reservations well in advance - forget it! I have known this fact for years and have told people that if they plan on visiting the island for a vacation, DO NOT DO IT THE WEEK OF Semaña Santa. Even if you could get an airline reservation, the few hotels we have here are absolutely full here along with those on the Mainland. This simply means that if you fly into the country and are stuck because you cannot get a flight to the island, you have no where to stay because the hotels are all booked on the Mainland too!

So, why didn’t I think of this fact and heed my own advice when I made flight reservations from San Pedro Sula to Orlando, Florida on the 25th of March? Because I DIDN’T THINK! You got it, my mind went blank, stupidity took over and I thought if I went to the airline office the week of March 10th I could make a reservation to get off the island on March 22nd! Foolish girl! Everyone was booked. The ferry is putting on an extra trip or two that week to get people to and from here to the Mainland but if I took the ferry, which I am not really inclined to do for many, many reasons, I would have to take a bus from Trujillo to LaCeiba, find a hotel (HA) to stay in and/or get a flight from LaCeiba to San Pedro (HA). I thought I might get on with some friends leaving the island on their private plane to Roatan, but they were full. Either way, I would have had to take the ferry and/or get a plane from Roatan to LaCeiba and/or San Pedro.

It was looking pretty gloomy for me. So, I finally did want any normal thinking person would do….I contacted the airline for my U.S. portion and changed the flight date! Simple huh? Well, I didn’t do it to begin with because I was afraid that because the price of the ticket I would not be allowed to make changes and, if so, it would cost a whole lot more! As it was, I could change the date for a small fee and all is well. Heck I even managed to call the local airline office on the island and book a flight to San Pedro from the island on Tuesday, the 25th! Hooray.

Now, all I have to do is make sure that the person making my reservation on the local airline has done his job. In the past this same individual has messed my reservations up three times because he did not confirm my seat on the connecting flight! So, Monday morning I call the office again and get the other person who works there to check my reservation for me. I guess my mind is working again.

So, except for the “food” thing, my problems have been solved. Now, I wonder where I’m going to get my chocolate bunny?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

I Love My Country!

In November, 2006, Craig R. Smith, who writes for WorldNetDaily, submitted an article which were his thoughts on the U.S.

Having lived in a 3rd World Country for 11 years I have to agree with him fully. People in the U.S. are so spoiled. They have no idea what it is like to “live without”. Even the poorest people in the U.S. have aid, protection and services available to help them. All I ever hear from the news and people back “home” is their constant complaining about what they don’t have instead of being thankful for what hey do have. I wish everyone could come and live in a 3rd World Country for a while. View what poverty, corruption, the lack of education and lack of basic human rights will do to a country.

I am part of a Yahoo Group (Honduras Living) and the people who are members give advice and help to others who are thinking of moving to Honduras. We tell it like it is. We discuss the problems of Honduras, the friendly people there, the corruption, the beauty of the land, the poor, the rich, everything. While living in a 3rd World Country I have to listen to people slamming the U.S., Honduras, the world, and anything they feel they must come down on. Sometimes I wonder if people are happy only if they complain. Most people complaining don't do much to improve the situation or even give constructive ways to effect a change! Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I know the world is not a perfect place. However, I prefer to look at the wonder and the beauty in this world. I see the help that is being given to my fellow man and am proud that there are nations that can assist those in trouble. I believe in the dedication of our fellow citizens, our leaders, our country to do the right thing. If we don’t like what is going on, we have the right and ability to change it. That is what is great about the U.S.

Therefore, I submit Mr. Smith’s article.

“The Newsweek poll alleges that 67 percent of Americans are unhappy with the direction the country is headed and 69 percent of the country is unhappy with the performance of the president. In essence 2/3s of the citizenry just ain't happy and want a change.

So being the knuckle dragger I am, I starting thinking, ''What we are so unhappy about?''
Is it that we have electricity and running water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Is our unhappiness the result of having air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter? Could it be that 95.4 percent of these unhappy folks have a job? Maybe it is the ability to walk into a grocery store at any time and see more food in moments than Darfur has seen in the last year?

Maybe it is the ability to drive from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean without having to present identification papers as we move through each state? Or possibly the hundreds of clean and safe motels we would find along the way that can provide temporary shelter? I guess having thousands of restaurants with varying cuisine from around the world is just not good enough. Or could it be that when we wreck our car, emergency workers show up and provide services to help all involved. Whether you are rich or poor they treat your wounds and even, if necessary, send a helicopter to take you to the hospital.

Perhaps you are one of the 70 percent of Americans who own a home, you may be upset with knowing that in the unfortunate case of having a fire, a group of trained firefighters will appear in moments and use top notch equipment to extinguish the flames thus saving you, your family and your belongings. Or if, while at home watching one of your many flat screen TVs, a burglar or prowler intrudes; an officer equipped with a gun and a bullet-proof vest will come to defend you and your family against attack or loss. This all in the backdrop of a neighborhood free of bombs or militias raping and pillaging the residents. Neighborhoods where 90 percent of teenagers own cell phones and computers.

How about the complete religious, social and political freedoms we enjoy that are the envy of everyone in the world? Maybe that is what has 67 percent of you folks unhappy.

Fact is, we are the largest group of ungrateful, spoiled brats the world has ever seen. No wonder the world loves the U.S. yet has a great disdain for its citizens. They see us for what we are. The most blessed people in the world who do nothing but complain about what we don't have and what we hate about the country instead of thanking the good Lord we live here.
I close with one of my favorite quotes from B.C. Forbes in 1953:

''What have Americans to be thankful for? More than any other people on the earth, we enjoy complete religious freedom, political freedom, social freedom. Our liberties are sacredly safeguarded by the Constitution of the United States, 'the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.' Yes, we Americans of today have been bequeathed a noble heritage. Let us pray that we may hand it down unsullied to our children and theirs.''

I suggest this Thanksgiving we sit back and count our blessings for all we have. If we don't, what we have will be taken away. Then we will have to explain to future generations why we squandered such blessing and abundance. If we are not careful this generation will be known as the ''greediest and most ungrateful generation.'' A far cry from the proud Americans of the ''greatest generation'' who left us an untarnished legacy

So, God Bless America and the freedoms she allows to her people and the compassion she shows to other countries in need. I am proud to be a citizen of that country and proud of my country’s efforts to help others."

I can say no more than that. God Bless America!