Wednesday, December 30, 2009

At the Year’s End

Well, 2009 is coming to a close and it has certainly been an experience this year!

The highlight, of course, was the political crisis here in Honduras with the President of the country being legally removed (and I stress “legally”), a new President elected and a standoff as to what to do about the exiled ex-President who is sitting in the Brazilian Embassy still trying to keep his country in chaos.

Meanwhile, at home we have lost pets (not literally - but our lovely dog died this past May), I traveled to Europe for the first time in my life. I found a very close friend (JoAnn) in the States after losing touch for more than 20 years and flew back to Florida for a visit with for 10 days. I had a wonderful time and managed to spend time with other friends and family. I thank them all for the wonderful time I had this year both in Europe and in Florida. Now, however, we continue to meet new challenges at home on the island!

I have been busy with a new found interest in my crocheting skills - filet crochet. I have produced many items (not dollies however) to hang and have begun quilting projects. In the meantime, I continue making baskets, cards and creating books/calendars through an internet connection to give to friends and family. One such effort was a recreation of my family tree to share with my family.

We have had a few dinner parties this past year and one large party this week as a prelude to New Year’s Eve. We have made side trips to the coast for medical checkups and found a great clinic and doctors to go to in La Ceiba. My husband had his cataracts removed and his eyesight sharpened; his gout has drifted into the background, thank goodness, and my cholesterol level is at a good number! We both celebrated getting older by another year recently and look forward to continued good health.

We trimmed the hedge in our front yard (heck cut it down by ½) and it just recently returned to its former glory. We cleaned up the back of our lot to create, eventually, a lovely place to walk through. I’ve put in plants to boarder the sidewalk coming up from the beach - and they all lived! Hooray.

We lost about 8 palm trees (there’s that word again) on the beach which we were most unhappy about. This was due to lethal yellowing which we have been trying to avoid by injecting the palms 3 times a year! We have more sun on the beach now and can see part of the dock from the house, so I guess it was a good thing - sort of! We have replanted the palms and will continue doing so until we are past this however!

Our dock lasted 12+ years but is now in danger of falling down. We will have to replace it next year, repaint the house, start more planting up the hill and I must have a “discussion” with my husband about a new method of placing screens on the house - a few of which must be replaced. So, 2010 looks like it will be busy.

We had gotten a new computer this year and, unfortunately, this morning I found out that our old spare computer may have died! I turned it on and nothing! A computer, I feel, is an absolute necessity if one wants easy contact with the outside world and I will now be looking for a spare!

On the island we have lost two airlines (we sure lose a lot here don’t we?) and were down to one for a while. A a second airline, Rollins, made a return to the island, but it only flies when it has enough people! The internet server to the island, Globalnet, decided to abandon Guanaja and now the only thing available at the moment is TIGO - a small card internet connection which comes through a cell phone service, but is very SLOW….and I mean slow. We are just glad that we have our satellite service!

The island has lost more and more of its tourism, mostly due this year to the political crises. We have a new resort (Clearwater Paradise) fully operational on the “other side” and wish them the best of luck with their business. Of course it is always hard to start up a new business and usually takes several years to gain a foothold. It will be more difficult for them with all the problems the island has encountered but we are keeping our fingers crossed for them!

We had a few deaths this year; Marianne, Capt. Al’s ex-wife and companion passed away, and a former resident of the island, Ivey, died. We celebrated many birthdays and the addition of a new couple; Laurent and Elaine who are from Switzerland. They bought a house here and are ready to leave their sailing days for a more permanent home!

Overall, the majority of your friends remain healthy and happy, enjoying the peace and serenity the island has to offer. I hope to do a few more Blogs before the year runs out, but with everything coming up in the next few days I may have to save them for 2010. At least it will give me one more goal to look forward to!

In the meantime, to my friends on the island and in the States, to my loving family, especially my daughter, Tami, and my son, Randy, I send all my love, and special attention to the Grandkids with wishes for a wonderful year and many more to come in the future!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Visitor

On the day before Christmas, we awoke at about 8 a.m. to the sound of one of our parrots squawking over and over and over and one of the dogs barking in a different tone than usual. I got up and looked out the back door trying to figure out what in the world was in the back yard!

There just near my clothes line was a large, fully grown Pelican starring down our dog, Desi, who must have caught the bird briefly before I went to check on the commotion as he was missing some tail feathers.

The bird seemed not much the worse for wear but we feared something was wrong with him. We have never seen a Pelican up this far on our property and this bird had walked all the way from the beach!

We finally got the dogs into the house and went outside to check on the bird. He was slowly walking up the hill and as we approached he would turn and snap his huge beak at my husband. Our presence did not seem to bother him to any extent except that when we got too close he would make a short flight to another area. He did not seem capable of long flights and appeared exhausted. We did not see any blood or apparent injuries or fish line tangled in his wings but it was evident that his behavior was highly unusual.

My husband decided that we should get behind him and try to get him to go down the hill and back to the beach. We were successful for a short distance and then Mr. Pelican decided that he wanted to go in his own direction. Because my husband felt the bird would be better off closer to the water, he approached speaking softly so as not to frighten him. Then, with the aid of a long pole, he managed to place it in such a position that the head and neck were to one side while he approached. He finally grabbed the bird's beak and picked him up. I had thought that there would be a struggle and the bird might flay about injuring itself; but it was relatively calm once in my husband's arms.

We took the bird down the hill to our dock and set him down to see what he would do. He stood in one position for a while and then settled down to rest. We later left to go to town for some last minute shopping to arrive home about 1 1/2 hours later only to find the pelican still resting on the dock.

We kept our dogs in the house for much of the afternoon so as not to disturb him, but later in the day some stray dogs came through the beach area and the pelican panicked and flew out into the water, paddling around leisurely. After that we did not see him again.

At the end of the day, we still did not know why he had appeared as he did. Maybe he was old and getting ready to die, or exhausted from some long flight or just sick. We just hoped that it was nothing serious and that he would rest, renew his energy and continue on with his life.

Another Birthday Has Come and Gone

This year my husband informed me that he absolutely did not want to celebrate his birthday since he was turning to a year with a Zero at the end and was not enthusiastic about it!

Usually that falls on deaf ears because I love to prepare for and give parties! However, he had such a strong tone in his voice I decided that maybe I would just tone it down. Rather than have a lot of people at our house and announcing the festivities to others, I simply decided that he and I would go to our favorite restaurant, Manati, and have dinner with Claus and Annette there (they run the place) and if anyone happened to show up, they could join us.

His birthday falls on December 13th which was a Sunday this year. Generally there are not a lot of clientele at Manati on Sunday so my hopes of celebrating with a lot of our friends was cut dramatically! I was not dissuaded, however, and planned on bringing appetizers, a light pasta salad, bread and birthday cake. I made enough so that if 10-12 people showed up, we would have plenty of food.

On his birthday, Mike had consented to going to Manati and simply hoped there would not be a big crowd. Fortunately for us, several friends showed up and we enjoyed a lovely time with great weather and good conversation.
Part of the birthday group.

Lucky for us, Selayna and her friend, Markus, joined us. They are visiting from Germany and we were happy to see them as Selayna grew up on the island and we have known her since she was a child.

I presented Mike with his presents, which after opening he decided were pretty "nifty".

I bought him a special hat to wear at night. When he goes out to take evening photos, he often has a small flashlight in his mouth in order to see the settings on the camera. Also, when we return home at night and forget a flashlight (which, fortunately, does not happen often), this hat with its 3 LED lights under the visor would allow him to see the camera settings with one or two or three of the lights lit and see his way up the sidewalk to our house at night with his hands free to carry all the cushions, boxes, etc. that we have to remove from the boat! The shirt was just something I found in Florida during my visit this past November, and I could not pass it up!

We then enjoyed our meal and without the fanfare of singing "Happy Birthday". I made a special pasta dish I use to have in Minnesota as a child in which the main ingredient is teeny tiny macaroni rings I've only found in Minnesota. While in Florida in November, my cousin (bless his heart) sent me 5 boxes of small macaroni rings and for which I will be forever grateful. On the island, the types of pasta we can get is limited and these are really special. Combine them with any kind of raw or partially cooked vegetable, some cut up chicken or tuna, mayonnaise dressing, etc. and you have a wonderful feast. I topped them with sliced avocados and home made French Bread. Yummm.

All in all, my husband has eased into his new age and has found it is not half bad. We have a beautiful, simple home, a lovely place to live with beautiful scenery, activities to keep us busy and out of trouble and friends to visit and share our passing years with.

So, maybe next year he won't be so hesitant to celebrate!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Holidays Are Upon Us!

I have been amiss on keeping up with my blog and decided to bite the bullet and sit down and write.

Once again a year has passed and we are into the season of reacquainting with old friends, attending parties/dinners/get-togethers and wishing each other health and happiness for the New Year.

This year the season has brought more than that. It has been an unusual winter season with temperatures still hanging in the upper 80's without a breeze. Normally it is a lot cooler this time of year with the wind picking up and the seas rolling in in waves of 3-5 feet! We have had rain but not the normal amount, which in a way is good as sometimes it rains a little too much.

My plants are happy and growing well, especially those I put into the ground beside the walkway up to the house. My tomatoes have expired and are not doing as well as they did in the past; our two lime trees are not producing as many limes as they did last year and we have yet to figure out why. We put in citrus tree spikes to fertilize but the trees, evidently the trees have other plans and are not willing to give up their fruit.

Regarding plants, I have one of the few Rosemary plants on the island (at last count). The poor thing is struggling to keep alive and I don't know what to do for it. Maybe I should pay more attention to it, but when I do try and "take care and baby them," things usually croak. I was recently in Florida celebrating my birthday with family and friends and, while visiting a wonderful dear friend of mine, I happened to walk out into her back yard. What did I see there but the biggest Rosemary plant I've ever run across. My friend raises a variety of herbs (although her herb garden did not get planted this year due to unplanned events) and this particular bush she has had for a few years. I was amazed! As you can see from the photo - it is quite healthy. My daughter, who is about 5' 10 1/2" is standing next to it, so you get an idea of how tall it is!

As I said, I was in Florida to make purchases for my home on Guanaja, visit family with special thoughts of reacquainting with a friend of mine that I had lost contact with for over 20 years. Living on a remote island, it is difficult to stay in touch with loved ones in the States. Since the Internet finally became available here, it has made it much easier. I have ready access to a lot of people, but there are still some who don't utilize the Internet as I do and, so, sending them a note is not a sure sign that they will read it anytime soon! My Grandsons are a good example. The oldest is in the Marines and the youngest just graduated from High School. They, evidently, do not have a lot of time on their hands and because they live in the States and contacting people is so quick, painless and easy I don't believe they have time for the Internet. Others are generally too busy and by the time they get home from work, the last thing they want to see is a computer. So, communication with these people is a once-in-a-while thing. Still, I do not give up and keep hoping that they will suddenly find the time some day to write.

However, as I was saying, I had been out of touch with my friend, JoAnn, for years and this past year, on my return from Europe and while I had a few days in Florida, I picked up the phone book and through a little searching finally found her. Unfortunately when I did get in touch with her I was leaving the next day but we promised to write one another via e-mail.

Imagine how wonderful it is to be in touch with someone on a weekly (or in our case, daily) basis after many years of separation? She is retired and even though she is an active woman teaching students Raw Uncooked Foods as a certified Chef and keeping up her attractive lake front home, but she still manages to find time to correspond with me! Of course we had years of events to catch up on and, so, our e-mails have been filled with reminiscing of days when we lived in the same neighborhood. She and I are so much alike in dislikes, likes, hobbies, opinions of things that it is simply scary. The advantage she has over me is that she has a memory like a steel trap and can recall things that I still don't remember!

JoAnn, my daughter, Tami, and I met one day for a lovely lunch in a Tea Garden! I have never been to a Tea Garden for lunch and it was the epitome of femininity! Lace, flowers, old china, etc. graced the restaurant - even the bathroom was feminine! We had an amazing lunch with the most delectable food imaginable! We went shopping in quaint shops in Mt. Dora, Florida and had the nicest day I've had in years.

A good friend of my husband and mine, the best man at our wedding, Joe, took me in for a couple of nights at the beginning of my trip and was generous enough to help me with the planning and execution of a "family gathering" for my relatives and friends. He had recently moved into a lovely home, which he is fixing up and doing a wonderful job of it, and the area he lives in has a clubhouse, swimming pool and cookout area! The clubhouse was perfect for my plans and he and I shopped, cooked and set up for the affair. The weather was perfect and everyone that was able to come had a wonderful time.

I spent several days with JoAnn shopping, going to lunch, gossiping and staying up late to chat! She showered me with unexpected gifts "welcoming me to her home" and went out of her way to see that my trip was the best ever. And it was! I have her, my daughter and my friend, Joe, to thank for a wonderful vacation in Florida.

I then spent time with my daughter, Tami, in Plant City. She and her husband took me a Gator game in Gainesville, Florida (the Gators won, naturally) and I was given the honor of baking pumpkin bread (a family tradition during the Christmas season) for her. My daughter assisted by assembling the ingredients and waiting by with a finger and spoon to lick the bowl! I had fun with my two adorable Grandsons, Ryan and Kyle, who have anointed me with the the awesome title of "The Nana that can fix anything!"

When my birthday came around, some of us met for dinner at a really unique restaurant in Mt. Dora (they are filled with unique restaurants there). Joe, my stepdaughter, Sharon, JoAnn and her husband, Brad, enjoyed a delicious meal and wonderful conversation.

I managed to get quite a bit of shopping in (due to JoAnn's willingness to drive me around) and bought enough to pack into 4 large boxes to ship to myself via DIP. In checking, the boxes are due to arrive this week so we will have Christmas early.

All of the celebration and fun I had was due to the fact that I have Internet in my life. I can do so many things I could not do before. I can check on-line for medical problems, I can access information about various plants, I can keep in touch with friends and family and people I don't even know who stumble upon my Blog write me from time to time. I can even keep in better contact with people on the island who have Internet. We now have cell phones, but they don't always work well and the only sure thing seems to be Internet connection.

Anyway, we are looking forward to a wonderful holiday season here on Guanaja. Some of the people that live here part-time will be returning and some, like me who had to return to their home country for one reason or another, will be returning to the island. We all plan on meeting at Manati to celebrate the Christmas season and even, when it is time, to usher in the New Year.

I want to take this opportunity to wish the best of the Holiday Season to all who read my blog. My original thought was simply to keep track of things that happened to me while living on an island, never thinking so many people would read it! Thank you for hanging in there with me and providing me incentive to continue blogging!

Friday, October 23, 2009

October and time to plant

The best time of the year to set out plants, at least on our side of the island, is October. I say "our side" because on the West side the storms (known as "Northers") come in harder and everything comes to a standstill over there. On the East side we may get the same amount of rain but while the seas are rocking and rolling on the West side, they are generally more subdued on the East side.

With this in mind, and knowing that rains will start about mid-October, I prepared to do some much needed landscaping. We had recently returned from La Ceiba where I purchased 20 good-sized plants to plant on either side of our walkway. This area is shaded and being on a 30-35 degree angle, it is hard to get water to absorb into the clay base it runs down hill quickly in a downpour and little goes into the ground. Lighter rains are more effective but with the huge trees lining both sides of the walkway, light rains do not give sufficient moisture to the plants.

The garden center I chose in La Ceiba was Plantas Tropicales, located on Calle 19 in Barrio Alvarado and it was a neatly arranged, well-stocked center. The young man working there, Jose, was very helpful and showed me the variety of plants that do best in shaded areas. I informed him that they must be somewhat drought tolerant. With his suggestions, we managed to pick out plants that, hopefully, will stand the rigors of our environment at home.

Among the plants was a Split Leaf Philodendron, some lovely Anthurium Andraeanums which produce a heart-shaped pink flower, some Dracaena Deremensis, and a plant I have yet to discover a name for as I was unable to read the writing on my invoice!

This is a photo of the unnamed plant which, I was told, will get bushy and possibly about 1-2 feet tall.

Planting on the island can be very, very time consuming and difficult. You see, where I live I have no water source other than a creek at the back of the property which, after your reach the 65' crest of the hill behind the house, you must walk down hill about 600 feet to reach the creek, which is at sea level. We use a pump to pump water up to three 55 gallon barrels along with a large 500 gallon tank we have in back of the house. This we use during the dry season to water plants. However, water pressure is slight (being gravity fed) and the hose does not reach to most of the plants in the front yard. Therefore, I must fill water cans (4-5 gallon ones) and walk all the water I wish to use down to the planting area when preparing to plant.

Also, the clay is very hard and holds the water for a long time. Most plants need loose soil to aerate the roots so I mix the clay with bit of sand. I then add fertilizer as the clay has almost nothing in it for feeding and producing a better plant.

Digging is another problem in that the clay is hard and their are many rocks embedded in the soil. This task I leave to my worker. I mean, after all, he must earn his pay! He generally likes to make a hole that a plant will just fit into and is never happy when I make him dig a much larger hole that I can fill it with looser soil to allow the roots to spread and pick up the nutrients easier. Also, it took years for me to train him that when you transplant plants they should 1) be well watered first, 2) fill the hole at least halfway with water before placing the plant in, 3) tap down the earth around the root ball thus eliminating any air pockets, and 4) water the plants to settle the dirt to again eliminate any air pockets. When he first started working for me, he would just pull up a plant not paying any attention to handling it carefully so that dirt remained on the roots, thrusting it into a small, dry hole, placing dirt around it and walking away. The theory was that eventually some plants might make it!

He has now seen that more plants live planting with my method, even though it requires work. I even get him to water plants when they are starting to droop as he always feels Nature should take care of that task without any help from him. Pulling weeds is something he puzzles at regarding the rationale behind this task. In his mind, they are just going to grow back!

When I plant, I also try to use driftwood, stone or some other type of natural product to produce an area pleasing to the eye. I am working on laying various pieces of driftwood on the gravel pathway from the dock to the base of the concrete walk leading to the house and, at the top of the walk, I have managed to mount a huge tree trunk and decorate it with plants and orchids.

All 20 plants were put in and I added some crotons that I had started from cuttings to the base of the sidewalk hoping for some color when coming off the gravel path. I want to plant some succulent plants in the sunny areas as fillers. I also have a lovely green ground cover which has small yellow flowers to fill in the "dirt" areas between the sidewalk and the new plants.

In my vast variety of plants I have purchased very few, only about 6 while building our home. Instead I was lucky to receive cuttings from friends. I have Aloe, Allamanda, Elephant Ear, Red and White Ginger, Pineapple, Bamboo, Bougainvillea, Rubber plant, Poinciana tree, Spanish flag, two types of wild Orchid, Australian Pine, Cactus, Lime tree, Autograph tree, Tamarond tree, various Hibiscus, Coconut palms, several varieties of Crotons,Ti plants, Dumbcane, Lobster claw, Heliconias, Spider Lily, Minature Ixora, Crepe Myrtle, Banana plants, Frangipani, Traveler's Palm, Moses-in-a-Cradle, Sugar cane, Mother-in-law's-tongue, Starfish flower, various un-named flowering plants used for boarders, Spider plants, Kalanchoe, Areca Palm, asparagus fern and other plants I have not identified here, all of which I planted while building our home. This is the first time I have made a major purchase of plants! So, all in all, I've been very lucky.

The next project will be in back of the house going up to the top of hill where we have cleared all the brush and excess trees and started planting last year. I had to wait until the rains returned and now is the time to get started. Busy months ahead!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Northers Are Back!

In the fall and early winter, the island is subjugated to "Northers." These are cold fronts that come down from the north bringing with them cooler temperatures, rain and rough seas. We get several at this time of year; sometimes mild, sometimes quite fierce.

The Northers affect the West side of the island more as the seas come rolling in, crashing upon the beach and reshaping the seashore. People on that side of the island are pretty much prisoners of the sea during a Norther as one does not want to risk launching their boat. People bring their boats up to land or secure them in coves or anchor them out off their dock hoping the anchors will hold.

When the seas start coming out of the south on our side of the island (the East side), we can expect trouble, especially when the waves start building. We have had several Northers over the years here - the worst ones, of course, after hurricanes have passed.

We have a place to haul out one of our boats out of the water to avoid its destruction or damage to the dock. The larger boat is strapped to poles and is in partial suspension between the dock and the poles. Normally, when we know a storm is coming, we prepare the smaller boat, the skiff, by tethering it off one of the large dock posts with the back end held fast to the shore by a series of ropes tied to a tree. This is for mild storms. In more severe cases we must pull the boat up on shore, rolling it out on a series of posts laid out on the beach. Both of these precautions are time consuming and laborious.

Unfortunately, this past week a Norther approached which was stronger than expected. It appeared to be a mild storm and this early in the season my husband did not think it necessary to secure the boat and left them both tied to the dock. The first day was not bad but by the end of the second day, late into the afternoon, it was quite apparent that we had to get the boat tethered to the land by ropes attached to a tree. We did not have the luxury of pulling it up out of the way as the seas were too rough by now.

In hauling the boat around to the north side of the dock we discovered that one of the posts was weak and during our efforts, it broke off and part of the dock collapsed but not into the water, as the photo will show.

Also, during this time, while I was attempting to get the boat off one of the bumpers located next to the skiff, the boat slid off so I was left with one foot on the dock and the other on the boat! I decided it was not a good idea to fall between the boat and the dock, so I fell into the boat landing on my shoulder. Luckily I was not hurt, bruised maybe, but okay for the most part. The real problem was standing up in the boat which was now bucking like a wild stallion! It took several minutes to regain my feet and then a few more to time my jump from the boat to the dock, something I really do not want to do again!

With great effort we managed to get the boat around the end of the dock and tied the bow to the dock and its stern secured to the shore. The storm roared through the night and died down the next day. We awoke to sunny skies and calm waters.

My husband, our worker and me then proceeded to make repairs the dock. It is serviceable now after my husband spent much time in the water jacking up portions, nailing boards in place and securing what he could. We will definitely have to put in a new dock next year. This one lasted 11 years so we cannot complain. The creatures of the sea have eaten away at our support posts and it will be a small miracle if the dock can stand many more Northers that most certainly will be heading our way.

But, if one lives on the ocean one must put up with the small "inconveniences" to enjoy the beauty of it all!


Besides the beauty of the ocean at our front door, we have wonders beneath the sea which, on rare occasions, present themselves for viewing.

It is well known that Whale Sharks swim off the waters of the Island of Utila. The Whale Shark is the world’s largest fish. The most common size seen in the waters around Utila is between approximately 6m and 10m (10 ft. and 33ft.), weighing around 15-20 tons.

Although more frequent in the months March-April and August-September, the Whale Shark is regularly sighted around the Island of Utila. Unlike dolphins or other fish which tend to school or travel in pods, Whale Sharks are solitary. However, it is not uncommon for 5 or more singular Whale Sharks to be sighted in a single day along the northern shores of Utila. It is thought that Utila to be home to an annual rendezvous of these presumably migratory creatures who have been recorded traveling 8,000 miles.

One possible reason for the congregation of these sharks around Utila is oceanography. Being located on the extreme northern margin of the Honduran shelf and unlike the other Bay Islands which are separated from the shelf area by a deep-fault controlled trench, the tropical island has shallow banks to the south and a very large bank to the north. Whale Sharks, however, have been sighted off the coast of Guanaja, but not with any regularity.

Just last week an extraordinarily rare occurrence took place in the water surrounding Guanaja. A pod of about 8 Pilot Whales was sighted off the shallower waters of Soldado Beach. The islanders were treated to an exceptional sight as these whales are generally found in deep water.

Long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) are one of the largest members of the dolphin family. The pilot whale, like the Killer Whale, is a member of the dolphin family, and is second only to the Killer Whale in size. Males can reach lengths of about 25 ft (7.6 m) and weigh as much as 5,000 lbs (2,300 kg), while females are generally smaller, reaching lengths of up to 19 ft (5.8 m) and weighing as much as 2,900 lbs (1,300 kg). They have a bulbous melon head with no discernable beak. Their dorsal fin is located far forward on the body and has a relatively long base. Their body color tends to be black or dark brown with a large gray saddle behind the dorsal fin. They are polygynous (males have more than one mate) and are often found in groups with a ratio of one mature male to about every eight mature females. Males generally leave their birth school, while females may remain in theirs for their entire lifetime.

They prefer warmer tropical and temperate waters and can be found at varying distances from shore but typically in deeper waters. Areas with a high density of squid are their primary foraging habitats. The short-finned pilot whales are found primarily in deep waters throughout tropical and subtropical areas of the world. There are four recognized stocks in the U.S.: West Coast, Hawaii, Northern Gulf of Mexico, and Western North Atlantic.

Partly because of their social nature, pilot whales are often involved in mass strandings. In this century, mass strandings of as many as several hundred pilot whales at one time have been recorded. Although no one knows why these beachings occur, some may result from persistence to keep the group together. Other reasons may involve mis-navigation when following prey, when traveling (possibly due to irregularities in the magnetic field), or possible parasitic infections resulting in neurological disorders.

We do not know why these beautiful creatures were so close to shore and a group of boaters spread out along the length of the shoreline attempting to stop the whales from beaching, if that is what they actually intended. I must assume the effort was a success as eventually all the boaters left to go home after taking the photos you can see them at - just cut and paste into your search engine: .

Another creature seen off Guanaja is the Hammer Head Shark. Hammerheads are found worldwide in warmer waters along coastlines and continental shelves. There are nine known species of hammerhead ranging from 3 ft. to 30 feet in length. all the species have a projection on each side of the head that gives it a resemblance to a flattened hammer. The shark’s eyes and nostrils are at the tips of the extensions. I have had reports from friends who actually saw a Hammerhead from their boat but, to date, I have not glimpsed this creature.

I have experienced green moray eels up close and personal on several scuba dives off Southwest Cay and, thankfully, my husband was there with his camera to record the event.

The reefs of the Bay Islands are a treasure trove for photographers; lobster, cleaner shrimp, sea anemone, nurse shark, grouper, Angel fish, turtles, sting rays of several varieties, and the list goes on and on.

To look out on the water after a rain, on a calm day is to see the ever presence beauty that lies just below the surface and all the unexplored areas that are to be found is a delight. The colors of the water from deep blue to aquamarine to a greenish tint are a sight to behold and with the sun rising in the morning lighting the sky a dusty peach color, the spectacle is amazing.

Nature - ain’t she wonderful?

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Living in a third world country is an adjustment. One must forget most of what one took for granted in the United States or any developed country. Expecting what may seem normal to the average person in developed countries is considered an extra special treatment here.

For instance, if you employ legal help in this country, never expect your phone calls to be returned or the person stating they will call you back to follow through. If you find an item in the store that you haven’t seen before (I.e., a special mstard for example), buy up plenty because chances are you will never see it again, or, at least for a long time. If you pay your electric bill in cash, or even with a check, keep your receipts for at least 5 years. Many times the electric company will state you have not paid something 2,3 or 4 years previously and you are expected to produce documentation that you paid. One would assume that if you had not paid that specific bill being several years old, they would have shut your service off long ago.

If you have funds wired through Western Union from the States to Honduras and pay extra to make sure they get there at least by the next day, do not expect that to happen. Once I had to wait 5 days for the money. The excuse….the bank receives the money and they are holding it!

If you purchase an airline ticket, confirm the reservation at the counter for the return flight and reconfirm when you arrive at your destination just to make sure it was taken care of (which many times it is not), do not expect to make your flight you want to leave as they may cancel it without reason. Such was our experience this past week when we flew to LaCeiba on a Wednesday to return on a Thursday. We booked our tickets from Guanaja, had the return confirmed and when we arrived in LaCeiba we re-confirmed our reservation going back.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at the airport on Thursday at the appointed hour, we were met with nothing more than “your flight has been cancelled.” Normally, the people behind the counter (who are poorly trained in serving the customer), expect people to accept this statement, turn around and return the next day in hopes of getting on another flight. Rather than stating the obvious: “I’m sorry but we had to cancel your flight due to ______________ but we want to assist you in getting another flight or a room at a hotel, etc.” No, there will never be a “I’m sorry”, you will not see a smile nor will there be an offer of help. You simply get vague excuses.

This time, however, between my husband, myself and one other passenger (a Honduran), we pressed the agent for information. She did not want to say why the flight was cancelled and, so, we kept asking. She finally said there was a problem. We asked what was the problem, which caused her further stress as it was apparent that she did not want to be forthcoming. She finally said, a problem with the plane. We asked what is the problem with the plane? She is now stumbling around for another excuse. She finally said, there is a problem with the airport in Guanaja. We said what is the problem with the airport in Guanaja as we know a plane just landed in LaCeiba from there 3 hours ago. She finally admitted what was actually was at the heart of the matter: there were not enough people to fly to the island and come back. Of course the 3 of us asked to speak to the manager because this was unexceptable. The one gentlemen had driven 2 hours to get to the airport and to turn around and go back was not an option, neither was staying overnight in a hotel. We did not want to leave the next day as it would incur more taxi fares, a hotel stay and meals, an expense we were not ready to deal with.

She said she would get the manager, although we never saw him. We stood for about 15 minutes and I finally asked if they were taking care of our problem. She said that their people were talking with Rollins Airlines to see if they would be willing to fly the 3 of us over to the island. After about 25 minutes we learned that Rollins would take us using Sosa’s tickets. We later learned, on arrival at the Guanaja Airport, that Sosa is planning to cancel all the afternoon flights to the island beginning next week due to low volume. They are supposedly going to keep the morning flights to and from but nothing more. Of course, all this can change in a day or two or a month…..schedules are not carved in stone and not necessarily adhered to.

If you order something from the Mainland and describe it complete with part number and then make the deposit into the businesses’ account before they will send the item, it does not mean you will get want you requested. They seem to send whatever they have on hand or what they “think” you will need. Once you have it, you are stuck. No money back, you have to pay shipping to return the item and them pay to have someone receive it and then HOPE they will send the right part without asking for more money. Then you have shipping costs to pay once again.

I have a few sources here that are dependable even via the internet and I treasure these. We have a grocer on the Cay who is willing to get products we request if they are available. I have two doctors who I can reach by phone or e-mail; the rest ignore their e-mails or never seem available for phone calls.

Schools can close at the whim of the teachers and their Union. Banks (at least the one on the island) follows different policy than that on the Mainland for new accounts. We have an Immigration office on the island but one has to go to the Coast to renew their residency card. If the machines are down and the cards have to be processed on a different day, they will not send your card to the Immigration office on Guanaja. You must return to pick up your card. In the past, all Immigration matters could be handled here. I can understand that one would have to have their card made up on the Mainland because we do not have dependable computer service here not trained personnel. Buy why they cannot send the cards to the office here and one pick them up from the Immigration officer is beyond me.

Telephone service is not always dependable. Many times I have to dial the same number 5 times or more to get through. It is not because the lines are down or the weather is bad or that I don’t have time. It simply disconnects. Internet service is also slow and spardic.

Even medicine is limited here on the island. You can buy aspirin by the individual tablet but not the bottle. Generally they have one bottle on hand to sell by individual capsules. Once I found someone who had a brand new bottle of aspirin and I bought the whole thing!

Workers who say they will work for a certain amount of money on a job generally try to collect before the job is done and then don’t complete it or don’t show up when they are suppose to. If they feel they are working to hard, they don’t return, even though everyone on the island is clamoring for jobs.

And, if you were not “born here,” why they think you have no rights to anything, even if done legally. They bash foreigners for not contributing to the community when we are the ones paying taxes, buying gasoline, groceries and other goods locally to give the community an income, sending Island children to school, clothing them, furnishing special assistance for children with special needs, employing the locals and even contributing to projects that will help the community like the machine to crush plastic bottles. We go to local restaurants to give them business when we could just as well stay home, like a lot of the Islander’s do because of the expense involved. If you take a stand against drugs, you are verbally threatened.

So, any service you take for granted is something special here. The people are friendly for the most part and we enjoy our lives here. Living on an island without roads and without conveniences is not for everyone. Some of us, however, feel it is worth it and so, join our Honduran brothers in their frustration. You see, at least everyone here is treated the same - whether or not you have money and whether or not you were “born here!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Some things never change .... ? !

People, by nature they say, are reluctant to change and, for the majority, fight it tooth and nail at every opportunity.

I have seen "similar" situations played out in various parts of the world and it just tells me that people are the same all over, no matter where they live.

For example, I have found here on the island, on the mainland of Honduras, in cities in the U.S. and Europe, wherever there is a doorway, people stop, block the way for others to chat, give greetings, say goodbye or whatever strikes their fancy. I try, especially when I'm departing from a plane, to I wait and perform my hugs and kisses of greeting away from the ramp where everyone is exiting. Also, when people are waiting to board the plane they all swarm to the attendants' desk waiting anxiously to board. Now, I ask you, we all have assigned seats and only one person at a time can walk down the isle and they board us so that we don't have to jump over other people to get to our seat. So, why the rush? Years ago, when we came to Honduras, seats weren't assigned and everyone rushed to get on first so that they could put their carry on luggage in the overhead bin. Of course, most of the people returning to Honduras carried about 4-5 extra shopping bags per person and overhead bins were filled up quickly. Now, however, with assigned seating and a limit as to what you can take on the plane, that should not make people over anxious. But they are still operating on former experience from pass flights! They just won't change.

Change is being forced upon people every day vis a vis the computer! It is a constant frustration to some people (understandably so) to have to re-learn computer commands that they have become accustomed to. Thankfully, I worked as a legal secretary in an office and short cuts with the computer were a real time saver. As an example, one of the easiest functions: copy and paste. I click on the portion of the text I want to copy, scroll down to cover all I want and then use "Control + C". I then go to my blank screen or wherever I want to insert and do a "Control + V" and there it is. I do not have to right click, go down the list, click on copy and then go to the second screen, right click and click on paste. Plus, before I go to the next screen to paste, I can hit delete to delete that portion I have just saved. I usually do the delete after I have pasted, just in case something goes wrong however! It saves a few seconds, but makes life easier. The same for when I type my sign-in name at a site. The minute I start typing the word(s) I use, the same word pops up below my typing. Just click on it and it is entered! More time saved. I could go on and on but then some people never worry about saving time nor using a short cut because it would mean change.

When we came to the island, we had to make a lot of changes, i.e., the way I cooked, the conservation of electrical power and water, even to the point of scheduling when we would bring things up to the house so we could do it all at once, with our helper present, and not have to run back and forth to town because we forgot something. List making was way up on my list now which meant changing my thinking from running to the store for every little thing or just jotting it down for my next shopping date. I had to change my plans for any craft item if I could not get something and had to use a substitute. Living here, we have all become great at substituting, which means changing our thought process. Of course it also means I have to remember to bring my list! Another change in my life!

Honduras is in a political conundrum which is going to take a lot of work by the people to retain the democracy 80-90% of the people want and to rid themselves of a thoughtless President and to establish a new President with their elections. No matter what the world may think, the Hondurans know what they want and, in spite of outside pressure, I applaud them for not straying from their course. The downside is that people, again as they do all over the world, have decided that even though the upcoming election is important, all the candidates are bad (although none of these people we have spoken to understands just what any of the candidates stand for) and, therefore, they are not voting. Change is at hand and Honduras has a chance to make a difference but it needs the voterse to get out, take an interest and vote. I explained to several people who stated they would not vote that if everyone had that idea and if the party wanting a communist rule convinced their people to go out and vote, that party would win and they would be stuck with a President leading them into communism! If they want a democracy, they must change their way of thinking, read up on their candidates and vote so as to let the government know what they want. With the ouster of ex-President Zelaya, Honduras has a chance to make some good changes and get their government back on track by improving the lot of the people. This requires change - are they up to the challenge? I hope so.

One more stage of change is attitude. I have noticed that people all over the world have the same problem. Thankfully it is the small, tiny minority who are like this. There are people out there that have no interest in their job and make life miserable for you when you have to deal with them. They just cannot see that changing jobs would make a difference in their life, even if they would have to go without a job for a while. They prefer to sit at their desk, run their cash register, fill out paperwork, etc. all the while making whatever they have to do for you a long and arduous task. What a wonderful place it would be if people would remember that their job is to serve the public, generally speaking. A smile always does more for business than a frown and improves every one's attitude. Maybe some people are just stuck with a frown on their face in the their heart.

I am sure that everyone has faced changes which, for the most part, has not been easy. But, eventually we have to change because change is part of our makeup - I mean, we aren't monkeys any more are we?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hog Plums

Yeah! It is that time of year! The hog plums, most commonly known as "hobos" (the "H" is silent) are ripe and dropping to the ground.

This little fruit has a unique taste which may be described as a cross between peach, orange and a red plum, but I'm not an expert when it comes to sorting out flavors. It is something I look forward to every year. Around August/September the fruit ripens and falls from the tree. The plums are about 1" to 2"in circumference and bright orange-yellow in color. The first time I drank the juice on the island, I was bowled over. So now, every year, I anxiously wait for our 7 hog plum trees to start dropping fruit. I was informed too that this fruit is exclusive to the island as no one on the mainland had seemed to hear of it. Yet, again, maybe they call it something else.

The trees are really tall, so picking the fruit is out of the question. As you can see, in the photo above, the hobo tree, the one in the middle, is quite tall. The branches are at least 30-40 feet from the ground. Of course, one or two of my trees are not full grown but picking this fruit is not my choice, as the ground will become covered with them in a short period of time. Below is a photo of the beginning of the dropping of the fruit, with a few plums on the ground.

Of course, as in all fruit on the island, it is mostly seed and it takes a lot of these little suckers to make enough for a half-gallon of liquid sunshine! My worker will bring me sacks of these fruit for me to wash and then squeeze.

The women of the island put them in a huge bucket or pan with water and then squeeze them with their hands, which becomes very time intensive and laborious. I have two ways of doing it. One, I can put them in a "V" shaped colander and then smash them with a wooden mallet that is specifically shaped for the colander. Or, two, I can place it in the top of my huge kettle that has a special insert for steaming the fruit and collecting the juice in the bottom. Depending upon how many hog plums I have in a day will determine which method I choose.

Of course, then my day is devoted to juicing the plums. Once I have obtained the juice, it is just a matter of placing it in Zip Loc bags for freezing. I once made jelly with the juice, but since we don't consume a lot of jelly at our house, I do not do that anymore. I still make a jar or two and like to make it up like a hot pepper jelly to use with cream cheese on crackers. Yummm!

One year I decided to sell the juice already prepared and packed in Zip Loc bags. Everyone was very enthusiastic about wanting some; not so enthusiastic about paying for it! The second year there were less buyers and I decided it was not worth my time and trouble to try selling it on the Cay, even though people still ask about it. They figure if it grows free here, why should they pay for it even though someone has done all the work for them!

If you ever get to Guanaja this time of year, remember to get some Hobo Juice, a/k/a Hog Plum Juice. Or, stop by my house and enjoy a ice cold glass of a taste you won't forget!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Random Thoughts

I've never reported on the goings on of the people on the island and started thinking that some people who read my blog are interested in what is happening here and now.

So, here goes!

First, Sept. 5th, we all celebrated the wedding of Roland Rumm and Rodie (a Guanaja citizen). They have been together about 3 years living and working on the island of Cayman and decided to make their union official. The wedding was attended by lots of locals and us "gringos". Claus and Annette cooked a whole hog for the affair and salads and accompaniments were provided by many of the women guests. As it always goes, the food was great and there was little left at the end of the day. The bride was gorgeous and, as you can tell from the photo, the groom was smiling and proud. A further photo of the whole family is shown below.

Congratulations are in order to Darien Conlee of Half Moon Cay. Darien studied for and took her test for Honduran citizenship and today, Sept. 8, 2009, is attending a swearing-in ceremony in the capital of Tegucigalpa. Yeah team! Now she doesn't have to be bothered with her residency renewal anymore!

Our fingers are crossed for Captain Al. Captain Al is one of the "original Gringos" who came to Guanaja many, many years ago and settled here, got married, had two children (one of which is a grown man now, married with children and runs the business) and ran a dredging business, the airport bar and was an all around source of information about living on the island. Capt. Al (as he is lovingly known) is now 81 and recently suffered a stroke while in the United States. He spent time recovering and returned about a month ago. He has had trouble for the past 5-7 years with failing eyesight and his hearing isn't all that it once one but you will always see a smile on this big giant's face! He is doing better now that he is back on blood thinners but a problem with his back has cropped up and he has been absent from the Saturday crowd at Manati. He did briefly attend the Rumm wedding and we all wish him the best.

Another note, we haven't heard a word from Linda Murski who had to leave the island August 15th to fly to Texas where her Step-Mother, Beryl, was ill. We all hope that she and her Step-Mom are doing well and that they got Beryl back on her feet.

Sad note, too, was the news of the passing of Anke's father, Helmut, in Germany. After a long bout with throat cancer, he passed away last week. We all extend our sympathy to this warm, witty, happy and intelligent man's family.

We didn't get our yearly summer visit by Joan and David Cobb this year. They were planning to arrive in July but David ran into a few health problems and ended up having surgery on his heart valve in Cleveland, Ohio. He came through with flying colors and, from all reports, is up and around doing what he does best - smiling! The doctor was not happy with the thought that he might be spending some time on an island without easy access to medical assistance so he and his wife returned to Zagreb, Croatia and, hopefully, got a much needed vacation touring parts of that beautiful country. From e-mails I've received, they are both back at work and looking forward to making their return trip in December. Good luck to the both of them. We certainly missed them this summer and will all look anxiously to their return.

And, this summer, only 1/2 of the Monroe team showed up on the island's shores. Dick Monroe
arrived sans Jennifer. Apparently, their youngest was getting ready to go off to college when he got stage fright and his Mom decided to spend the last "free summer" with her off spring. We hear they had a fantastic time while Dad returned to Guanaja to make sure their island home was still functioning. We enjoyed visits with Dick during his brief stay and look forward to both Dick and Jennifer's return soon.

Among some of the local news, Globalnet (the local inter-net service) was down for about two weeks. Evidentially lightning struck the roof of its offices on the mainland and they were scrambling to get back up and running. I know everyone was dismayed at the time it took, but everyone seem to take it in the spirit of manana!

Kate O'Driscoll returned from a trip to Canada where she saw many of her friends. She spent some time with Angela Cooper who once lived on the island with her husband. Angela has since relocated to Canada and after the death of her husband keeps busy with her immediate family and her lovely apartment. We all know that Kate's husband, Bill, is very happy to see her back, as are we all.

Another "islander" who was gone for quite a while this past winter was Renate. A German who lives on Hendrick's Cay with her husband, Hans. Renate had to return to Germany due to a problem with her rotor cuff in her shoulder. After several months she returned to our flock not any the worse for wear! We are all happy to have her smiling face back and wish her well with her physical therapy swimming!

Due to the economic crisis in the States, we haven't seen near as much of Bill and Martha Pullum who use to fly here at least up to twice a month. They have been busy building townhouses at Brick Point but had to slow down and wait for the economy to rally around. They were here for a few weeks last month and we were most happy to have them back. We look forward to their return possibly in October and wish them the best in their endeavor.

Also, a Minnesotan, Dale, who is building a home near Bo Bush's Island House returned for a few weeks to frolic in the sands of Guanaja. Dale has been constructing his "concrete castle" here for the past two years but is in no great hurry!

Another couple on the scene, who are also "revamping" their property near Bo's, is Eric and Tami who hail from Florida. Eric gets down here more often than Tami who must keep the business running so Eric can go off and play! My husband and I made a stop over to their house on the "other side" recently before the couple had to leave and we had a nice visit. We look forward to their return and hope that when they come back they'll have time to come over for lunch and meet some other islanders!

There were many more "summer" visitors here this past season, too numerous to mention, but we had a wonderful time with all of them and as always continue to await their return when we can once again renew friendships!

Of course the political scene regarding the ouster of President Zelaya has everyone captivated. It has not really affected the island but we are all looking forward to the upcoming elections and hoping that everything will return to "better than normal."

So, that is the latest. I'm sorry if I forgot anyone and hope you won't be upset if I did.

Well, that's life on the island!