Thursday, August 21, 2008

You Gotta Have Patience

Living here on an island, one must learn patience! Well, if you lived first in the Good Ole U.S. of A. before coming here, it is something that requires some doing.

Back in the U.S., when I worked as a legal secretary, everything had to be done on a schedule and there was no room for errors or excuses for being late - with anything. Filing papers with the court meant extreme deadlines and if you were late, why you could lose a case! When computers were introduced into the office, we were expected to now produce twice what we could before. When pleadings were mailed out we used expedited mail systems along with hand deliveries of the papers to opposing counsel as well as the mail. When FedEx came on the scene we had to send the pleadings out U.S. Mail, FedEx and still hand deliver them. Then they discovered the FAX and now it was mail, FedEx, FAX and hand delivery. Overkill, well maybe but you could never convince a lawyer of that!

When one had a doctor's appointment one never, never was late - as a matter of fact, you usually arrived early.

When an invitation was received for an event, you arrived on-time.

We planned our vacations a year in advance to take advantage of any special prices.

You always had plenty of any one item on hand so you didn't run out and have to make unnecessary trips to the store or were not caught unable to entertain at a moments notice.

Then I moved to an island in a third-world country. Out the window went any semblance of meeting deadlines, being on time or expecting to get things when you want. The people here live day-to-day, and I mean with everything.

They buy enough food that morning to get them through the day. They buy 1 aspirin at a time, 1 cigarette at a time, 1 rib of celery.

When one is invited to a party which is indicated to start at a particular hour, you'd better not be on time. If you arrive 30 minutes to an hour after the stated time then you will catch the host/hostess in the shower. Usually here they expect you to show up 3 hours after the posted time. This is even true of weddings - they don't even start on time.

If you have a doctor's appointment, don't worry. If you get there at your appointed time, someone will have gotten there before you without an appointment and be seen before you. Many times in some businesses, they don't make appointments. And, they never, never, never call you back if they say they will.

If you make a reservation on a flight don't be surprised if you arrive at the airport and they do not have you on their passenger manifest. Even though you have the ticket in hand and they know they sold it to you, if they forgot to put your name down you are out of luck.

If you order something and state you need it the next day and when can they deliver said item, they of course state "you can have it tomorrow." But if you forget to ask which date, month or year, it may come anytime they feel like sending it.

The same holds true if you hire someone to do work for you. Don't expect them to show up on the day they say they will.....they will probably show up 1-2 days later, if at all.

As for being prepared, I went into our local airline office the other day to buy two round-trip tickets and they could not sell them to me because they were out of the form! Now, why in the world did they not see they were running low? I mean, there is only one airline servicing this island now and you'd think they would hire enough people to have the office run smoothly. If you don't get to the office before the plane is scheduled to come in don't expect the office to be open. Even if they tell you their office is manned at all hours, don't believe's not true.

So, you'd better have patience and forget the stress of doing things on a schedule, on-time or in a timely manner because it ain't going to happen here. Heck, that's why they invented the siesta and close all businesses from noon to 1:30 p.m. or 2:00 p.m.

Forced relaxation!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Important Signals

Over the last two days we have been experiencing signal problems. Connection with the Internet was sparodic and poor. My husband went outside to assess the situation.
Well, when you have a satellite connection for your Internet a signal is THE most important item....which goes without saying. Over the years of our satellite Internet connection we have experienced outages caused by the satellite company, modem failure, rain storms interrupting service, vines creeping up the LMB and blocking the signal and the worst, trees and limbs growing in the path of the dish.
We went outside to assess the problem since we found that the signal strength was very, very weak. This is what we saw:
This is a view of the dish from the side

and then, from the back. As you can see, the signal comes down and hits in about the center of the dish. The branch above was blocking it and had to be removed.
We tied off the branch to some trees so that when the final cuts were made, my husband and our worker, Gregorio, could pull the limb towards them so it would fall clear of the dish.

I had gone to the Cay that morning to find someone that I could hire to climb the tree and cut the limb. Gregorio is 60 and my husband a bit older and I didn't want either one of them up in the tree about 40 feet off the ground. I finally found a younger, able-bodied man, Daniel, and brought him to our house. After the tree was tied off with two ropes, Daniel climbed the ladder as far as it would reach and then proceeded to climb the tree.
He started cutting with his machete first on one side then on the other.

The tree was oak and fairly hard to cut. After about 15 minutes he was through and the two men (my husband and Gregorio) who were stationed below supporting the ropes, tugged for all they were worth.

The end result, the tree broke clear (you can just see the break in the photo) and landed on the ground damaging our barbed wire fence but missing the satellite dish.

So, the end result is that I now am back on-line and blogging! What more could one ask for, except ...............

Monday, August 4, 2008

The End of Carnival

As I stated in my last blog, Guanaja made its first attempt at a week-long Carnival here on the island. Dubbed “Carnival del Caracol” (Carnival of the Conch), it began July 26, 2008 with the crowning of the Carnival Queen (Ms. Shanelle Parchmon) and ended Aug. 3rd with a reenactment of the arrival of Admiral Christopher Columbus to the “Island of the Pines” by the Payan Indians.

My husband and I rode over to Soldado Beach (where Columbus landed July 30, 1502) to watch the festivities. I took photos of the event and wanted to share it with those who read my blog.
The stretch of beach dubbed “Soldado” is a lovely part of the island with a fresh-water cut flowing out from the land into the ocean. For a few years a building stood there as a tribute to this event but Hurricane Mitch wiped it out and nothing remains but a few pilings. The beach is a one of a few favorite spots where the islanders go to celebrate SemaƱa Santa (also known as Easter), which is one of the biggest holidays in the country.

In the afternoon, the flotilla of boats arrived at the beach led by a Galleon carrying Christopher Columbus followed by several other elaborately decorated boats and a barge carrying the Carnival Queen. I must say that I was quite surprised at the ingenuity of the islanders and the wonderful job they did on the decorations. Lucky for them the seas were calm so that nothing was blown away or so sprayed by saltwater and/or rain as to ruin the effect.

I was most impressed with the “ship” carrying Columbus and his crew but questioned the flags annointed with a skull and crossbones! Of course, they were offset by sails bearing the insignia of the Cross. This just gave a little more gaiety to the ship and their crew and certainly could be overlooked as not being an accurate representation of the Admiral’s true boat! The crew on the boat wore Pirate garb and was greeted by the sound of loud, booming cannons (sound effects provided off shore).
The barge bearing the Queen of the Carnival named “Isla de los Pinos” was decorated as a white, sandy beach with a large conch shell in the middle surrounded on the sides by various sea creatures. It was truly an impressive act of decorating and dedicated labor. The Queen was accompanied by her court who were all lovely young island women.

There was a boat representing the Island of Guanaja, one done up like a beautiful sunset, another donated and decorated by Island Tours, another by Hotel Miller. The one boat whose theme I did not understand had a huge barrel-like structure on the back and lots of lovely, young island girls standing on the deck. What it represented escapes me, but it was colorful and a lot of work had gone into its creation. Besides, the lovely young ladies on the front were dancing to the music piped off the beach and it was fun to watch.

A stretch of beach had been prepared for the re-enactment of Columbus’ landing with about 4 Palm Leaf huts and local children dressed as Payan Indians. They had painted their bodies and wore inspirationally-designed costumes of the era. I must say all the actors did a wonderful job and the play was very well-presented. Columbus’ ship was towed to the beach where our Mayor and all the volunteers were assisting the festivities. A woman in a lovely costume was the story-teller and conveyed a rendition of what the sight must have looked like when Columbus landed here.

Columbus was rowed ashore in a small boat, accompanied by a “priest” (an islander in costume) and a flag-bearer. Columbus approached the area set up as a village, greeted the Payan Indians and proceeded to claim the island for Spain by planting the flag on the beach.

There was a huge bonfire scheduled for later when the sun set and I understood that the floats were equipped with lights which would be turned on at that time. There was a generator brought in to run the huge speakers for the event and wonderful music of the islands and Central/South America was broadcast from them. There were a few problems getting the generator started but once it was running we had music! At one point, drummers and costumed individuals were rowed ashore and provided live entertainment.

There were refreshments available and the beach was packed with people relaxing, swimming, playing soccer and just plain having fun. Boats were run up on the beach and formed a water parking lot. We were lucky that the weather cooperated with beautiful blue skies and just enough breeze to keep people comfortable.

I might add that we were unable to make it to a lot of the events scheduled during the week as most occurred in the late afternoon going into the evening and we seldom drive our boat at night. There was, however, on Saturday evening, a fireworks display from Bonnaca town and it was delightful. I have not seen fireworks since the year 2000 when the island ushered in the Millennium and was able to view the lengthy spectacle from our front porch. What made this event even more beautiful was the fact that there was, coincidentally, a thunderstorm taking place on the mainland and with the combination of the fireworks and lightning displays on the coast, we had two shows for the price of one!

I want to congratulate all the people who took part in the organization of this Carnival. The Mayor and his fine staff and volunteers did an amazing job. As the Island’s first attempt it came off quite well and I am sure that with the knowledge learned from this event, next year’s Carnival will be even better.

The island has now returned to its calmer, more relaxed self but Carnival will be talked about for a long time to come and, I am sure, that even more fun will be planned for next year. So, if you don’t have any plans for next summer, think about coming to our lovely, tranquil island and enjoy the beauty that surrounds us!
See ya next year!