Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Sue Hendrickson is an American paleontologist. She was born in Chicago, Illinois and later moved to Munster, Indiana where she grew up. She now makes her home on the island of Guanaja and is best known for her constant, undying love of animals.

Hendrickson is best known for her discovery of the remains of a Tyrannosaurs rex in South Dakota on August 12, 1990. Her discovery was the largest specimen of a T. rex found and one of the most complete skeletons. This skeleton is now known as “Sue” in honor of her discovery. It is on display at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. Hendrickson discovered Sue in 1990 on the Cheyenne River Reservation near the town of Faith, South Dakota. While her team (led by the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research and its leader Peter Larson) went into town, Hendrickson decided to explore the last of seven mapped outcrops. While the previous six yielded nothing of importance, Hendrickson discovered a few small bones that had fallen from outcrop 7. These bones led to the discovery of Sue, and the long custody battle that followed. After the U.S. government raided the institute in 1992, and after a long court battle, the ownership of the fossil was awarded to ranch owner Maurice Williams, who decided to auction them off at Sotheby's auction house. In October of 1997 this auction took place, with the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois placing the winning bid, which with auction fees ended up totaling $8.36 million dollars. In 1998 the Field began to publicly prepare Sue's bones, and on May 29th 1999 they unveiled a new exhibit-"Sue-The Inside Story." On May 30th 1999 Susan Hendrickson herself appeared at the museum to greet fans and discuss her finds.

She has also found other important fossils and artifacts around the world. In 1992, she joined a team of marine archaeologists headed by Franck Goddio. With them, she took part in many diving expeditions, the most notable of which were the Royal Quarters of Cleopatra, and Napoleon Bonaparte’s lost fleet from the Battle of the Nile.

In 2000, Glamour Magazine honored her in their "Glamour Woman of the Year Awards."
In 2003 she published an autobiography entitled Hunt for the Past: My Life as an Explorer. In 2008, she was on the Dare to Explore chapter of National Geographic Kids.

Susan does not seek out attention and never does speaking tours as she is somewhat shy and prefers to stay in the background. Her introduction into paleontology was a result of her extensive amber collection. For 3-5 years she collected amber in the Dominican Republic. She consulted many leading entomologists during her study of the specimens. This introduced her to paleontology. Also, she always loved to read and was pretty much self-taught. Her parents taught her that she could do anything she wanted to so she did!

When Sue is back home on Guanaja with her dog “Skywalker” she can be seen rushing around in her boat to care for sick animals, or caring for them in her home with a veterinarian from LaCeiba. Skywalker was not named for the star of “Star Wars”. She got her as a puppy and traveled with her a lot. Since she really wanted a name with a traveling theme, she considered a few suggestions leaning towards Skywalker which seemed to fit perfectly. Sky, as she is affectionately known, just celebrated her 14th birthday (see photo above) and Sue had a birthday party for her dog and all its friends. A special cake was created for the dogs out of meat and cheese while their human guests had plain old cake!

Susan is well known on the island for her efforts in spaying and neutering dogs and cats. She has clinics several times a year wherein the animals are spayed or neutered for free. She dispenses medicines for sick animals and cares for injured animals that are brought to her. She is undaunted in her quest to help animals which is quite evident when one is welcomed into her home by no less than a dozen dogs. She has two grown deer and two recent fawns. She does not hesitate to make sure that illegal Iguana hunters are picked up by the local law enforcers. She has several horses and, at one time, even took care of a lost Macaw.

She is a warm individual who has made many worthwhile contributions to the community of Mangrove Bight and the island of Guanaja. She is dedicated in her love of animals and the animals of Guanaja are lucky to have her at their beck and call.

Kudos to you, Sue, and thanks for all you’ve done.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Competition - We want it!

In a published article recently, oil companies that import gas and diesel into Honduras threatened to halt all new investments in the country on Tuesday if the government does not change a price scheme they say is hurting their profits.

The companies say the government formula prices regular, lower-quality gas the same as the more expensive premium variety, eating into the companies' profits. The losses mean the companies have had trouble keeping up oil terminals, which has led to shortages in recent weeks, said Sr. Sierra. But the government says the oil and gas companies have priced their services too high and the formula is a necessary measure.

In May, leftist President Manuel Zelaya threatened to take state control of the country's gas depots after diesel shortages hurt the transport system in the country, including public buses and garbage collection trucks.

So, for now, there seems to be a fight on between the Honduran government trying to keep prices in line and the oil company distributors who, I would think were taking their share of the huge profits that the oil companies have reported, are crying that their profits have been hurt.

I wonder just how much “hurting” is actually done? Are they losing 1% of their profits, 10%, 25%? I don’t necessarily agree that government has any right to tell companies what to charge for their product, however, since Honduras is not really a place where competition is welcomed and there is no mind set that if someone sells it cheaper the other guy will lower their prices. I don’t know what the answer to this dilema is but I’m all for the system that allows competition.

Take life on the island for example. We have one deposito which sells beers and frescas. A few years back someone here decided to go into competition with the “one and only deposito” and brought beer and frescas to the island on their boat. They began selling the product at a lower cost and gave better service. Well, the big honcho here didn’t like competition and opened up another deposito which made it easier for people driving boats (which is everyone) to drive up and purchase their product. They also lowered their price below what was being charged by the competition. Well, it didn’t take long before the new boys in town were put out of business. You got it - right after that, the big honcho closed the “convenient” store, raised his prices and is once again the only game in town. Also, when one of the beer companies decided to change the labeling on their beer bottles, this individual would not take back the empty bottles to return to the distributor nor give the deposit back that was put down on the bottles! Deposit in Honduras means you’ve just bought it so don’t ask for the money back! So, in this case the competition caused a lowering of prices, but only to serve a means to an end - the one and only distributor was back in business charging whatever he wants. Airlines that have served the island have done the same thing, lowered their prices and waited until they drove the competition out of business here. Competition is simply frowned upon in Honduras in my opinion. Now with the gas problem rising its head we wonder what will happen here on the island.

Last month electrical service was interrupted for several hours each evening because the electric company did not have enough fuel available and was having trouble obtaining more fuel. On the Mainland they have a little more leverage because more “important” people live there, more services are offered, and more people depend upon the fuel than on a little island with no roads.
The lack of fuel would harm all the islanders - if only because the only way we have available to us to get from one place to another is by boat! Oh, there are trails for walking but would you walk several miles to buy needed items and carry them back along the same trail? We are talking a “trail” here, not a wide, paved sidewalk. A trail through the high grass, up mountains and down valleys. Wide enough for maybe one person, unlit and dangerous.

So, I just hope they can all iron out their difficulties soon and reach a settlement so life can go back to normal.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Our ever-changing shoreline

Tides are the rising and falling of Earth’s ocean surface caused by the gravitational forces of the Moon and the Sun acting on the oceans. When the sun, moon, and Earth are in alignment (at the time of the new or full moon), the solar tide has an additive effect on the lunar tide, creating extra-high high tides, and very low, low tides—both commonly called spring tides.

Right now we are experiencing what appears to be the “spring tides” which are extremely low which means my beach front has increased by several feet, albeit it temporary. While Hurricane Mitch took about 10 feet of beach front from us when it hit we see remnants of it when the low tide occurs. While our low tide and high tide fluctuate at a level of about 3 feet or less, there are some extreme cases in the world: The Bay of Fundy, on the east coast of Canada, features the largest well-documented tidal ranges in the world, 16 meters (53 ft), because of the shape of the bay. Thankfully we don’t experience extremes such as that.

We have a partially sandy beach which is usually covered by washed-up dead sea grass. These unusual marine flowering plants are called seagrasses because the leaves are long and narrow and are very often green, and because the plants often grow in large "meadows" which look like grassland: in other words many of the species of seagrasses superficially resemble terrestrial grasses of the family Posceae. Because these plants must photosynthesize, they are limited to growing submerged in the photic zone, and most occur in shallow and sheltered coastal waters anchored in sand or mud bottoms. They undergo pollination while submerged and complete their entire life cycle underwater. Seagrasses are sometimes labeled ecosystem engineers because they partly create their own habitat: the leaves slow down water-currents increasing sedimentation and the seagrass roots and rhizomes stabilize the seabed.

Sea grass is a big help in cutting down on the wave action of the sea. We are naturally buffered on our beach by the presence in front of our area by two separate reefs and a long Cay directly in front of our house about 1/2 mile away. Along with the sea grasses we receive less destructive waves than some other areas. However, in a large storm this seems negligible.

The sand making up our beach is a beige colored sand unlike some of the white sands of Hawaii or Florida which are made up from limestone. The most common constituent of sand, in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal settings, is silica (silicon dioxide, or SiO2), usually in
the form of quartz, which, because of its chemical inertness and considerable hardness, is resistant to weathering. Sand particles range in diameter from 0.0625 (or 1/16 mm) to 2 millimeters an individual particle in this range size is termed a sand grain. The next smaller size class in geology is silt: particles smaller than 0.0625 mm down to 0.004 mm in diameter. The next larger size class above sand is gravel, with particles ranging from 2 mm up to 64 mm. Sand feels gritty when rubbed between the fingers (silt, by comparison, feels like flour).

We occasionally have gravel wash up on the beach which is collected for various uses. There are pockets of gravel all around the island which the people collect for the making of concrete along with sand, another vital component of concrete. This gathering of sand/gravel is against the law as environmentally it can be destructive to the beach areas. However, the Municipal often grants permits to people to remove the sand. Most the time however, the authorities cannot be everywhere and the sand is removed with no one the wiser - well, the locals see it happening but it is such a common occurrence that they don’t worry themselves about it. As I said, this can be very destructive for an area and the long term projection of this destruction does not make itself immediately apparent.

The sand on our beach is not the “soft” sand but gritty and in some places there is so much silica that it sticks to the skin with more adherent qualities than regular sand and is bothersome. Fortunately, on our beach, don’t have a high concentration of silica.

When the tides are low a lot of things are exposed that otherwise would not be. Also, during the rising an falling of the tide, a lot of things wash up on the beach. We have had one large milled log deposited on our beach about a year ago. It is about 3’ in diameter and we wanted to drag it up on the land and use it for a table or seat on the beach. However, it was extremely heavy and water logged and, so, we dismissed that idea. Over the past year it has slowly, due to the storms, moved its way down the beach and is now about 500’ from where it started a year ago. Maybe some day it will make it to the end of the island and go off to another island.

Driftwood, bottles, diapers, shells, 1 flip flop, garbage of all types appear on the beach. We have had a decline in the amount of "garbage" that appears on our beach due to the recycling of plastic products and a clean-up campaign run by our Municipal wherein they are teaching people not to litter - once a huge problem. Either way, the beach of our property is continually changing.

You can’t fight the sea nor its progress as it definitely has a mind of its own.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bang! You're Dead!

On the Mainland, and to a limited extent on the island, there are armed guards at banks and businesses. On the island they only appear at the bank. On the Mainland one finds them at the doorway to every business; McDonalds, banks, department stores, electronic stores, restaurants, etc. They do not seem to be in force at small pharmacies, some stores that sell material for sewing, some agriculture stores and suprisingly enough, one store in LaCeiba who sells liquor and bulk dry good items does not have a guard at their door.

The first time we came to Honduras we observed soldiers everywhere carrying automatic weapons and we wondered what we were doing in a country that had armed soldiers walking around public areas. Since that time the soldiers have mostly been replaced by “private” security guards. These, supposedly, are meant to thwart a robbery. Right! Banks continue to be robbed as well as stores in spite of these efforts.

The downside of this practice is that, for the most part, these men have very little training in handling their weapons. I have seen bank guards standing with their rifle pointed down with the muzzle on their toe and their finger on the trigger. They move the guns/rifles about with little caution and seem to be oblivious as to the damage that could be caused if it went off.

For example, today, May 20th, in Tegucigalpa, police say that Honduras' top prosecutor had been shot by his bodyguard — apparently by accident. National police chief Ambrosio Ordonez says Leonidas Rosa's bodyguard was cleaning his weapon when it unexpectedly fired. The bullet ricocheted off the floor and grazed Rosa's leg as he got in his car to go to work Monday. Rosa was being treated at a local hospital. Now, why was this man cleaning his gun during his working hours? Is this not something that should have been done before he began his shift and in a safe area?

People on the island own hand guns and rifles and some own AK47’s! They shoot these with abandon not considering that if a bullet doesn’t strike the target they aim at, it may keep moving until it meets a solid mass. They shoot up into the air during holidays. Hey, guy, what goes up must come down! People have shot themselves pulling their gun out of the pants! They target practice in populated areas and assume that since they are pointing at a target (even if they don’t hit it), no one will be hurt!

There are no rules of armament here. There are no policing agencies to see that you receive proper instructions before obtaining a firearm. There are no classes in gun safety. If you can obtain a gun you, therefore, can use it! There was an effort, I must admit, on the island to register guns but, overall, I don't think it was very effective.

I do not like guns. I support gun control. Guns kill and uneducated people with guns are more than dangerous. Simple? Right! The mind set of the people in Honduras is entirely different. If you have a gun you are Macho. If you have a gun you are in control. If you shoot someone, well, sorry but that’s life. You are a man and your are entitled to a gun! This is the mind set and it is frightening. I hardly ever hear reports of women handling a gun, although I am sure that there are some women in Honduras who have found the necessity of using one. Overall, however, they are men's "toys".

Fortunately, most crimes on the island are not violent and the weapon of choice is a machete. Opps, that’s really dangerous too.

Monday, May 19, 2008

There is no honor among thieves

How often have we heard “there is no honor among thieves”? Of course, among thieves they say they have a code which binds them together, protecting each other wherein they stand fast in their defense of their “brothers”. However, this is simply a ploy to get them to join in a gang, as there is always strength in numbers. This so called “honor” goes no further than within their own group.

Recently, on Sunday morning, May 4th, at 8:30 am, on the Mainland of Honduras, as the children of the orphanage Hogar de Amor were all getting up, the building was assaulted by 3 masked and armed men. Children, volunteers and staff were threatened and robbed. The threats have continued. It has been an extremely traumatic time for the children and staff. Just before that date the Hogar had celebrated its One Year Anniversary of 19 new children coming to live at the facility.

I am horrified that thieves would enter an orphanage where there are innocent children who have lived through traumatic experiences and had hoped to find a haven of comfort, rest and security, only to be threatened and robbed. I support Hogar de Amor and believe they do a wonderful job in helping the lost children of Honduras. These robbers are without morals or feelings and are indeed without courage.

The island of Guanaja has it share of crime but, thankfully, we have no orphanages here. Children and even adults are taken care of, in general, by the community. We have very little criminal activity having to do with children, although there have been a few isolated incidences. All in all these were reported to having been done by people who came over from the Mainland. We have no kidnappings….I mean where would they go and hide on an island where everyone knows everyone else?

We have had two bank robberies but they only happened within the last 9 years and with the security now I doubt we will have any more. We do not have armed guards at the doorways to business establishments as they do on the Mainland and one can set down packages and not worry about someone taking off with them. Oh, occasionally it does happen. Generally when the fishing boats are back on the island the season is closed for a few months, these people run out of money and turn to crime. We have our share of stolen boats, motors, generators and breakins to uninhabited homes, but everyone knows who has done it and with a little sleuthing one can get their items back - if they move quickly enough. Yes, sometimes things that are stolen remain stolen - it is not a perfect society.

So, I am dismayed that these thieves would stoop to such a low level to endanger children of an orphanage and even rob it! I hope they are found and punished but knowing the way of the law as reported on the Mainland, there is little likelihood of that happening.

Heaven protect our youngsters from the honor of thieves!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Substitution - A Way of Life

When you live on an island substitution is a way of life. If you don’t have what you need and cannot get it, then you must use your ingenuity!

When I first came to the island I was anxious to get my house built and my kitchen going. I love to cook (especially deserts). However, I soon learned that some of the wonderful things I enjoyed making were not going to come out the same as it did in the States.

Spices are not as varied and many things are not available or, if they are, they may be here one month and then not again for years! Take Chili Powder. For years I could not find it then, suddenly, on a trip to the coast there it was on the shelf. Dried mint, poultry seasoning, cream of tartar, dried mustard, dill weed, etc. were things I had to bring back from my yearly trips to the States.

Many things like, chopped green chilies, diced pimientos (which are sometimes found on the coast), water chestnuts, canned French fried onions, unflavored gelatin, cornmeal (occasionally found on the island), canned mandarin oranges, Dijon mustard (which has suddenly appeared in our stores but who knows for how long), Ricotta cheese (found here but rarely), yellow/red/orange sweet peppers, frozen peas, yogurt, artichokes, fresh spinach, ham, radishes (which have been sold here about 6 times in 11 years), angel hair pasta, Blu Cheese, wild rice, and chipped beef! The list can go on, but I think you get my drift.

There are things that we can work around like small green onions - substitute chives.
Bisquick, which does not keep very well here - I found a recipe to make my own.
Pearl onions - just cut white onions into small pieces.
Zucchini - well, there is a type here but unlike the zucchini I’m use to in Florida.
Pepperoni for pizza - just use hamburger or chorizos (which are a little hotter)
Canned tomatoes - use tomatoes and ketchup
Need Chili Sauce - it took a while but I found a recipe and make my own.
Dark break - make your own and with strange combinations (see my description of my Reuben below)
No canned biscuits here - took me a while but I found a great recipe.

Things you cannot substitute: Whipping cream (a luxury if found on the coast), Maple syrup (not the Aunt Jemima kind, but the real stuff), real Parmesan cheese. .. I’m sorry, the stuff they sell on the island in powdered form has no resemblance to the real stuff. Lemon juice - we have it rarely and the stuff they bring to the island is some cheap off brand and it is terrible. Good Seasons dry dressing mixes - these are great and like Lipton’s dried onion soup, are worth their weight in gold. The down side is that dry goods don't keep well in the humidity and heat.

I bring unflavored gelatin to make my Lime Chiffon pie. I bring in Grand Marnier and sometimes even Triple Sec for Margaritas. I have been forced to go to the coast for Turkey and canned pumpkin during the holidays because we did not have them here. Once I thought we would not have cranberry sauce! Horrors! What is Thanksgiving without these three things? There is a type of mozzarella cheese sold here but not as tasty as the real thing made in Europe or the U.S. and forget Monterey Jack Cheese, Swiss or Gruyere here. We have a Honduran cheddar cheese but it, too, is tasteless.

I once made a Reuben sandwich using canned corned beef, made my own sauerkraut and managed to find Thousand Island dressing on the Cay, and boy was I surprised at that discovery. I even had to make my own dark bread using a recipe that called for dark molasses, wheat flour (which is hard to come by here) and instant coffee granules (another impossible thing to find). I had brought Swiss Cheese from the coast and the final result: the bread was pretty good and the sandwich was, well, it was a substitute. Nothing can beat a real Reuben with real Corned Beef.

I have a great recipe for a layered salad but it calls for frozen peas and canned just don’t hack it. I did find artichokes in the can and in a jar on the coast and recently was able to make my Artichoke Dip!

So, making a trip to the mainland for groceries is a pleasure trip and one to the U.S. to bring back those really hard-to-find things is heaven - except for toting back everything in a suitcase. Fortunately, the market I shop at in San Pedro is getting more and more upscale and I am finding more there than ever before. Heck, they even carry fillo dough!

All in all, the lack of things make one really appreciate the item when you get it or miss it terribly when you don't have it. Imagine you are sitting watching a movie at night and there is no popcorn to pop! Oh, they carry popcorn in town but all of it is in microwave bags! Microwave and solar and not really energy friendly!

Guess, my weight will stay down and I’ll be more healthy??!!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Keeping Paradise Tidy

On April 27th, I wrote a blog on cleanliness. Not many people read it because I had trouble notifying my friends that it was available to read. When I sent a notice out on the following blog people read that one and the other was skipped over.

In light of that blog and to continue with my story, I offer this.

I like my house. My husband did a great job on designing and building it. It is just the right size for the two of us and we have room in case a guest or two shows up. As with any house, there are a couple things I would change but, for the most part, it’s perfect.

It is easy to clean and I can get the job done in just a couple of hours. If I want to do a more through job, like mopping the floors inside and the porch outside and doing the screens and louvers on the windows, then we are talking about 2 days. With two birds inside the house, there is always "bird fluff" (the downy feathers they shed daily) all over my floors so dust mopping every day is a must. We are in the dry season so there is more dust blowing around and cleaning must be done more often. Thank goodness I am not in Iraq where my son presently works. They recently had a sand storm which was akin to the sand storm in the movie "The Mummy". If you saw that you know what I mean. This thing travels at 60 mph and goes on for quite a while depositing sand everywhere. So, at least I don't have that problem.

The only cleaning job that I dread is cleaning the louvered windows and screens. The windows in our house are over 6 1/2 feet tall and the screens are attached on the outside and non-removal. This means I must scrub down the outside twice; once with soap water and then with clean water. I then must fit my hands between the slats in the inside and with the aid of a sponge, clean the screens from the inside. This is time consuming and cramps my hands. Then I have to wipe down the slats at least twice and clean the sides (which is a whole other job). I wish the screens were like the screens I had in Minnesota as a girl. They were on a wood frame which fit over the window and held in place by a type of wing nut device. But they are attached and will never be changed knowing my husband. And why should he? He doesn’t have to clean them!

The porch is always a problem. We have a fairly large porch and with 4 dogs and 2 cats the porch floor is always dusty or full of shed hair or muddy paw prints from dogs who have been wading in the sea. I can sweep it daily but every now and then it must be mopped. The floor originally started out to be a lovely wood floor but with Hurricane Mitch hitting us, the porch floor boards were torn up in some places and warped in others. My husband elected to put a concrete-type board down on the floor and we painted that. Down side of this floor, with 4 dogs and 2 cats they managed to chip off the paint about a month after we have painted. We have painted the porch 4 times in about 9 years and I’ve just about given up. Now, when one walks barefoot on it the bottom of your feet pick up the green paint and you have dusty-green soles! I want to put a new product down that is made from recycled plastic products and is suppose to be great. Problem is getting it here from the states. Well, maybe one day.

The other job I dislike is cleaning the stairway up to the second floor. Well, it really isn’t too bad but with lots of geckos in the house their droppings always appear on every stair. I dust mop the whole house every day but the stairs I neglect. These must be dusted and washed down and all my little candles sitting on each step, must be moved.

We have a good sized kitchen where I can store all my kitchen devices, a nice sized dining table that I can enlarge quickly for up to 10 people, a small laundry area, a one sink bathroom and a nice shower with a window facing out onto the backyard. Now I know so many people these days want two sinks in their bathroom but my husband and I manage quite well with one and it is one less sink to clean.

I have shelves every where because the walls are not insulated and the spaces between each supporting 1x5 has small shelves where I display my figurines, shells, candles, etc. Of course this means more cleaning, but it is not a weekly event. We have adequate storage room and my husband has a nice big bodega where he can keep his tools and machines.

What is even nicest of all, the house sits up about 35 feet above the sea and about 600+ feet from the beach. When a boat of friends approach who have not called in advance to warn us they are coming (which is perfectly fine as I love visitors), we can see them approach and I have time to whip off my dirty clothes and put something fresh on, straighten a few things and check the refrigerator to see what I have to serve them! The sad thing is, we live in a rather remote area and don’t have a lot of visitors!

So, in Paradise, I don’t have to spend all my time cleaning and can do fun things like cook, sew, make cards, garden, take walks, etc.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Progress Comes to Guanaja

In developed countries, almost all areas have in place a system for sewage disposal. In the early development of the United States, in most rural areas, homes and business started out with septic tanks. When the immigrants journeyed to the New World they tried to do things better by learning from the past. Progress was slow but it continued as the larger cities devised systems to carry their wastes to the nearest body of water. In the mid-1800s, Boston was the site of the first "interceptor" system in the country. Early pipes, some of which still exist today, were made of clay, brick and hollowed logs. Washington, D.C. became the first city to use concrete for its sanitary sewers.

As the population began to link the spread of disease with their waste disposal methods, more and more innovative ideas were developed. Homes were located near creeks with privies linked by a foot bridge extending out over the water so that the wastes were dropped into the water and carried off. Due to the rising population and growth in building, it was found that a safer and more sanitary way of disposing of the sewage that came out of homes and business was needed, plus the mere policing of waste products so people could not dump anything they wanted into their system. Thus, sewer systems were needed and, in light of past World history, systems were developed for the purpose of an efficient way of handling waste.

Incredibly, the first signs of plumbing date back as far as 8000 B.C. in Scotland where evidence has been found of indoor plumbing pipes or troughs that carried water and wastes out to a nearby creek. Approximately 4000 years later in Iraq, man was using the percolation system of drainage of waste as evidenced by what appeared to be round, vertical cesspits under the homes, 30 to 40 feet deep, lined with perforated brick.

By 3000 to 2000 B.C., the inhabitants of Mohenjo-Daro (in modern-day Pakistan) began assigning a separate room in the house to be a latrine room. Here drains were connected to a sewer in the street; ultimately the wastes went to either the Indus River or to large cesspits. About the same time on the Isle of Crete, flush toilets, with overhead reservoirs filled and flushed by servants or slaves, were used. And if you think modern-day sewer projects take time, consider that in Rome work began on a sewer system-the "Cloaca Maxima"-in 735 B.C. and was not finished until 225 years later. But also consider, that same sewer is still being put to some beneficial use today.

So, the development of sewers has taken a long time during the Earth’s history and has evolved to what we see today in the more developed countries.

The method of sewage disposal on the island for years has been either 1) using an “outhouse” or hole for human waste; 2) sending the runoff of human waste through pipes into the sea; 3) or, most recently the use of septic tanks. For years on the Cay of Bonacca all the waste had been deposited into pipes which eventually dump into the sea. Considering the small population at one time on Bonacca, this method did not cause any problems and it seemed that the ocean took care of any bacteria, garbage, etc. by simply the wave action of the water dispensing the material into a large spread out area.

Recently, through some funding (and I am not privy to where, how or who the funding came from) the town of Bonacca has started digging up the streets to install pipes to carry waste products away from the homes and/or businesses. I have not heard yet if there is going to be some place where all this waste is properly treated before being disposed of and I’m afraid to ask. We assume that there will be one or several collecting/treatment stations for the waste but one never gets a clear answer to any inquiry, especially from the government here.

Either way, last year the push was on to dig up every street in town and install sewer lines. Of course, this is a long, tedious task because of the lack of equipment here. The Cay was originally one small Cay with small bridges crossing over various inlets of ocean water. Guanaja has always been known as the Venice of the Caribbean because of these small canals running through the town. The Cay expanded in size slowly over the years as people started dumping broken pieces of concrete, dead coral, trash, lumber (you name it) and filling in shallow areas of the sea surrounding the original Cay.

While the name of the island has changed several times over the years, from Caguamara in the 1600’s with various different names occurring during that time - Isla Pinos (when Columbus came) to Guanaca in 1601, Guanaia in 1657, Guanaja in 1749, Bonaccao in 1771, Bonacca in 1779 and finally back to Guanaja where it has remained. The name of Bonacca was given to the small Cay off the island where people set up a community and established their seat of government there.

Since the Cay is intersected with many small streets and some have limited access, digging up the streets can present many problems both for those trying to get from Point A to Point B to business being adversely affected by inaccessibility to them. I recently took some photos of the work at hand and the effects it has had on the general population.

Up until a few months ago, no signs were posted warning people to be careful around these areas of construction and navigating was perilous. I must assume that someone fell or an accident occurred as they finally painted two signs to post at either end of their work areas.

Alternate paths had to be created to by-pass this work and, in a developed country these paths would be made safe and accessible for all. Here, with limited space, limited money and a never before practice of looking out for your fellow man, the paths reflect that attitude.

One place of construction presently blocks off a highly popular vegetable market and a “back way” was devised to use it. However, no signs will tell you that there is an alternate path to this business and, therefore, the owner of the market has suffered a drop in business. There was one "diversion" sign, but it merely sent you down a street straight to the Ocean!

Men work in these holes, digging out dirt and then pumping out the sea water they come to through a series of pipes and the water is then pumped back into the sea via another canal.
The ground that has been dug up and received the sewer line is covered over with dirt and eventually a concrete sidewalk is put in place. On one hand this is good as in most Honduran cities, sidewalks are old and riddled with holes and assorted obstacles which make walking very hazardous. So, at least, for the most part, we will have a safer sidewalk to traverse. That is, until the land shifts, the concrete is worn down by rain and/or the lack of properly mixing the cement, sand and water simply causes it to wear away with everyday use and then we will be back to dangerous holes, cracks, etc. Until then, we will have a nice walkway.

I don’t know how much longer this project is going to take, but it will, most likely, go into next year as they have to hook up each house/building/business to this sewer line. And, since 99% of the work is done by hand with the only machinery to date being a jackhammer, it accounts for the lengthy process.

So, for now, it is something new to observe. In the meantime we are waiting for the loud jack hammer noise to abate and some peace to return to the Cay.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Music, fun, dance - It's a Parade!

I have seen a few parades on the island and they are always on Independence Day, September 15th. All of the school children get dressed up in their best clothes. Some of the boys don military uniforms, some are in marching band costumes. The girls are dressed either in elegant ball gowns or cheerleader costumes. The main instruments are drums, drums and more drums. A few carry cymbals but that is the extent of the source of music. It is fun to watch and rather lengthy because all of the schools on the island are represented. Occasionally they make an attempt at decorating according to the theme (whatever that is) but, for the most part, it is just all the school children marching in different clothes and letting their families and friends see the efforts of their days of practice! We all have fun and there are smiles and applause. It is a very gay event and I thoroughly enjoy it. At one time I had lots of photos from previous parades, but they were lost to Mitch!

While in LaCeiba a couple of weeks ago a friend of mine and his wife asked me to join them on the street near the beach for a Garifuna Parade. I walked down to the beach and arrived at the destination where I observed all the various parade marchers waiting for the show to get on the road. There were fascinating various groups of people from different sections of the represented areas all waiting for the signal to start marching.

The parade in LaCeiba was a demonstration of the music and dance of the Garifuna people. Handmade bright costumes were worn by the women. The instruments, again, were of one source: various handmade “bongo” drums. The music was provided by the drums and the chanting of the people.

It seemed like no one knew when the parade would start and once it did there was really no crowd control to speak of. A large firetruck was situated about 1/4th the way through the parade and what its purpose was I really don’t know. At one point, after the parade finally started moving, the truck stopped, the driver turned on the siren and got out and walked away. Needless to say this was very irritating to the ears. Eventually the driver returned, turned off the siren (thank goodness), and the parade continued on.

The women danced, the drums played and the people chanted and, by viewing the video, you can get an idea of the rhythm of the parade.

The dancer in this video had the most "risque" costume; all others were quite demure in nature. Colors were bright and it was a carnival mood. Of course, crowd control was out of the question and the parade was slightly disturbed by the appearance of people off the street marching in amongst the dancers! There seems to be very little organization as to what will happen or when but the paraders seem to easily accept the intrusion of non-parade members.

Decorations are usually crepe paper and some imaginative soul put a musical note on their porch pillar!

Children, too, were a part of the parade and always add a smile to everyones face.

Dancers were gyrating and even bid us welcome! I was surprised that the majority of the women dancing were older and had rather "ample" bodies. What was surprising was how well they could move and dance! A lesson here is that no matter your size, you can move as gracefully as anyone if you have the will and desire!

Finally, the end of the parade was in sight and as no parade is complete without a "Queen", this one was no exception.

A good time was had by all and I must thank my friend, Ian Fisher, for taking the photos and videos as I, foolishly, left my camera back at the hotel!