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.