Sunday, March 29, 2009

The German Invasion

While we have foreigners on the island consisting of  people from Germany, England, Holland, Canada, the U.S. and Texas and, at one time, from France, Italy and South Africa, the biggest community is the Germans.  There is also a large population of Germans on the mainland.

Some of the Germans on Guanaja have been here over 20 years.  They own business, provide construction consultations, run farms or, in one case, ran the Hofbräuhaus, a famous German restaurant in Munich.  I have found the Germans to be friendly, clean, hard working, intelligent and persistent.  

Saturday is a special day here when many people meet at the German bar and restaurant, Manati.  The owner, Hansito (Biber), is a tall, well-bred, multi-lingual man with a great humor. The restaurant is run by Claus and Annette who provid typical German fare for all.  One is greeted with a big smile and friendly people at Manati and they have a reputation for good parties, good food, good music and fun.

Saturday was Hansito’s 50th birthday and he had made plans to throw a huge party.  It was an open invitation for all with free food, beer and rum from Noon to 6 p.m. You have to have a cut-off  for the free stuff at some point as Germans tend to go all night and into the next da
y with a party!  Hansito had a special bar-b-que grill built (in the photos seen here, the ladder in the one photo was removed before cooking commenced).

Among his German friends from the mainland, Bertie, an accordion player, was on hand to entertain.  Also for entertainment, Ian (and English man living in LaCeiba) came to play the keyboard, Claus played the bass, Mike the harmonica and a couple, Grant and Candy from one of the anchored sailboats, joined in with Grant playing electric guitar and Candy singing.

Hansito installed new lights along the dock and was creative enough to turn big plastic flower pots into shades for the lights!  He put a temporary bar outside to handle the crowds and arranged to have a lot of ice brought to Manati to chill the beers and provide ice for cold drinks. The temporary bar was a lovely old, carved bar owned by a former U.S. citizen of Guanaja, Bill Miller.  

Geri, a U.S. Citizen living here with her husband Al, decorated the bar with streamers and miniature motorcycles, a vehicle of passion of Hansito‘s during his younger years.  I made a board with various birthday greetings referring to his entrance into “old age” and gave him a framed picture of the restaurant.  Many friends brought presents and wishes for many happy years.

One lovely lady was probably the best-dressed at the party, and I could not pass up the chance of taking her picture. Isabell, Andy Veverica's wife, really shined!  Then we had Mr. Bill who dressed up his hat for the occasion!

For the main fare, they cooked two pigs, baked homemade bread (stored in a large ice cooler) and local women provided side dishes of salads and beans.  For the brave of heart who dared traverse the rough seas, some arrived drenched but thirsty.  Others, who walked or came a short distance, arrived thirsty.  Those already there were thirsty.  Yeah, you got it, a lot of thirsty and hungry folks! So, two of Hansito’s friends cut up the hog for serving about 1 p.m.  It had been cooking since 1 a.m. and was delicious. Another hog was cooked next door at another cooking pit and both were cleaned to the bone by the time the beer ran out!

People started trickling in and by about 3 p.m. the place was jumping.  Some of Hansito’s friends came from Germany to celebrate, some from the mainland and one woman we all knew and loved was Angela Cooper who came from Canada for Hansito's birthday.  Angela left Guanaja almost two years ago with her husband, Michael, and, unfortunately, after a difficult bout with throat cancer, he passed away about a year ago much to our sadness.  Angela came back to see all of her friends once more and to wish Hansito a Happy Birthday.  Seeing her smiling, lovely face one more time I am sure filled many people with great joy!

About 5 p.m. the free beer ran out and everyone left the outside area and came into the bar to buy drinks.  A special boot shaped glass which held 1 liter of beer was presented to Hansito and he drank in gusto.  There is an old German game associated with this glass; it is passed around and everyone takes a drink from it.  As the liquid gets closer to the bottom the last person to finish the beer then has forced the person before him to buy another round since he didn’t drain the boot!  

The band started about 5 p.m. and the music was wonderful.  They played for about 3 hours, took a short break and then played until about 9:30 p.m.  At that time we were down to about 24-30 people and Bertie, Claus and Ian (who by then had gotten his accordion out) serenaded Hansito and his friends around a corner table with German folk music.

We had great weather, wonderful food, good entertainment and friends to visit and time to sing Happy Birthday to our host and wish him many more years of happiness.  The only friend of Hansito's who was not impressed by all the going on was his dog, Messy!

Again - Happy Birthday Hansito (Biber) and Many More!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hunger satisfied

In one of my blogs on April 13, 2007, I wrote about the discovery of a boa constrictor next door who had caught a ching-ching, the local black bird.

Well almost two years later, about in the same spot, our worker heard a commotion set up by the ching-chings in the huge mango tree and went to investigate.  He found a boa who had captured and killed a small ching-ching and was in the process of swallowing his meal.  He came to the house and got my husband who grabbed his camera and went to take photos.

Once a boa begins to devour his meal it takes, depending upon the size of the prey, 45 minutes or more to turn it into the right position for swallowing and then slowly expand their jaws to take in the whole bird.  The snake can be moved around, picked up and repositioned for the camera during the feeding period.  One bird will feed a boa for a considerable length of time and he is not about to give up his hard fought for meal, therefore they put up with the disturbance.  This particular snake was about 5-5 1/2 feet long.

I am not particularly afraid of snakes and I will "touch" the small whip snakes we have around here.  However, my husband wanted me to hold the snake for a photo but I declined his offers knowing that these creatures have strong muscles and one move through his body while in my hand would probably send me running!  

The photos here do not show the beautiful colors of the boa as did the ones he took back in April 2007.  It was amazing to discover the beautiful iridescent colors of their scales.

This photo is of one of the local whip snakes that my husband was "messing about" with in order to take his photo.  He (the snake) is not happy!

We try not to disturb the local creatures that live around our home, the exception being ants and roaches!  When we discover a huge scorpion in our bodega, my husband will collect it in a jar and release it in a wooded area.  They eat tarantulas and many other creepy crawly creatures, so we never kill them.  We have had little pocket possum-like creatures actually get into our house and take up residence.  We had to trap them and each and every time they were caught, my husband would release them back into the wild.  While I would tell him that he needed to take them further away as I'm sure they thought it was all a game and would head back to house the minute he turned his back, he disagreed.  However, the population of pocket possums took quite a while to eradicate.

We did settle our "domesticated animal" problem at last.  We finally got tired of cows and horses coming on to our property, destroying landscaping, throwing the dogs into a frenzy and, generally, making a mess.  We strung barbed wire across the front of the beach using the palm trees for posts.  Problem solved!  That is, until the barbed wire rusts!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What we miss while asleep!

Unable to sleep, I slip out of bed and silently traverse the stairs to my “retreat” to pass the hours of darkness before dawn by crocheting.  I am aware that dawn is approaching by the sound of small twittering which alerts all that the sun is about to break the horizon.  

Ching Chings are aroused and fill the morning with their whistles and cackles.  With a loud rustle of their wings, they take flight.  Next, the morning doves with their throaty cooing sounds call to one another over long distances.  Smaller migratory birds whose sounds we have not heard for months chime in with a variety of songs, peeps and chatter.  Hummingbirds arrive for their morning drink making small warning clicking noises at one another along with the ever-present hum of their wings.  These lyrical sounds receive a new beat!  The rat-a-tat-tat of a woodpecker seeking a meal in the bark of a tree.  Bees begin  to hum bringing their own soft drone into the melody of the dawn. 


Finally, wild parrots are heard calling back and forth to one another with a screeching sound as they fly through the morning sky. 

The sun is up and it begins to warm the earth.  A small dory glides by with the putt putt of its motor a constant and the two men on board chatting to one another.  Sometimes, before dawn and before the birds are awake, a paddle dory may glide by.  One can tell its presence in the darkness that is not quite dawn by the sound of a sole fisherman singing softly, his song carrying across the open water.  Is he singing because he is lonely or afraid of the large mass of water his frail boat is gliding across?  Or, is he singing in anticipation of the dawn, his songto simply celebrate the mere joy of being alive?

The sea on this day is flat and calm with faint ripples occasionally appearing across its surface.  The sun that tinted the sky with shades of pink and orange across the horizon is higher in the sky washing out the deep blue black of the night to a white-washed blue.

A new day has begun once again!  Living on an island at the edge of the sea does have its advantages. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Art of Fooling Everyone!

I just saw a copy of the Bay Islands Voice with an article about what the Mayor of Guanaja had in mind to attract people to the island and draw in more tourists by making the island more attractive.

Since I don't have a copy of the magazine, I must write from memory.  In essence what it relayed was that through money coming to Guanaja from outside sources (already we have received $13M), the Mayor is planning on spending $3M to improve the area around Pelican Bay.  He claims to be actively pursuing the building of a Malecon, an oceanfront boardwalk running along the main street.  He claims they will build it from cobblestones.   It will sport restaurants, a protective barrier for the beach, have an "event center", create a new dock area, and a few more amenities that I am unable to recall.  

First of all, Pelican is a compact, very tightly built community with no room for a "boardwalk" without getting rid of some of the wooden structures used as homes along the main street.  Pelican has no real "beach" and most of the view looks out at shipyards and homes built out over the water.  He claims the streets/boardwalk will be built of cobblestones.  Just where he is going to get these, I don't know.  As to restaurants, we could use a few, good quality restaurants but if you are in the Pelican area this is not going to happen.  It has a very large crime rate and it is not what one would consider an "middle class" area. I am sure that if we went to the office of the Mayor, we would be hard pressed to find any working "plans" or "drawings" for this project.  

Now, while on the whole the concept is a good one and shows thinking for bettering the community, I would think the people of Guanaja would get so tired of hearing about all these grandiose plans for their island when we need help with basic things first. We have a new airport terminal, inaugurated late last year, which was promptly locked up and sits unused.  From what I understand part of the reason may be because the cost to run the terminal, especially the electrical costs, could not be covered by the City of those who own the terminal.  So, another white elephant sits rotting.  

If the Mayor would focus his attention on getting tourists to return to the island by making the building of townhouses, condos, hotels easier and with less unnecessary paperwork, this would be a step forward.  While the present administration is committed to building a road on the west side of the island, supposedly along the beach of all places, they should take a look at the problems a road has brought to Roatan.  I'm sorry, but road construction is not a strong area in the Honduran trades.  They can't even build and maintain roads on the mainland.  Every year they are washed out and why?  They need to relocate or build proper drainage or just build better roads!  So, they want to rush in to build a road on a pristine island that has lived for centuries without one.  It took them years to build a simple road from Savannah Bight to Mangrove Bight and then another year to finally concrete the road.  This was all a flat surface, for the most part, and did not present the problems one would encounter by building a road on the beach or through the mountains of the island.  Not to mention the huge cost, which the island can not afford.  And maintenance of a road - well, just don't get me started on that one.

Also, we have had so many projects start and fail.  We have no "bond" law here where a contractor must provide a bond up front which will guarantee that the project will be completed even if the builder pulls out!  We have been waiting more than 10 years for the supposed Iguana Beach Super Resort to be built; we have been waiting 2 years or more for the contractors to rebuild the Bayman Bay Resort; we have been observing for years the slow but ineffective building of the point above the Crazy Parrot only to see a couple of the condos torn down because of termites in the building - and they weren't even finished.  The Hotel Posa del Sol is still sitting years after Mitch with no one refurbishing and reopening.  The only tourist project that has been going ahead successfully is the ClearWater Paradise Resort on the west side near the town of Mangrove Bight.  However, this is being built by two individuals who are committed to a business for divers and giving jobs to the locals.  Michael's Rock is owned by several Hondurans and nothing has ever come of any development of that area.  We had an Italian Resort in Sandy Bay which was abandoned, purchased and supposedly being rebuilt.  That lasted about 9 months.  Then the contractor pulled out two years ago December and left, you guessed it, unfinished buildings and a mess.

What we need on the island is a government that will cooperate with new people coming in.  Stop gouging them with outlandish fees.  Establish a strong base fee that will deal with building permits fairly.  Establish an office that knows how to estimate the worth of a building.  Establish a center where people can go and find the names of contractors, supplies, people willing to work and names of people having special skills and have information available which will relate the good and bad of anyone dealing with construction on the island.  Namely, a Chamber of Commerce.  We need walking paths where people can traverse the island on foot and see the inner beauty of it.  We need building codes that will be enforced so that "just any old" shack cannot be constructed. We need better electrical and water service.  We need a police service that is run to serve the people and be provided with a boat so they can do their job of protecting the island people.  

I laugh when I read false advertisements for business:  The Crazy Parrot Bar is described as a bar Located in Sandy Bay (The Bight), right on the bay, two beautiful designed gazebos accented by Local Artist Ian Fisher's authentic island paintings is home to a Bar/Restaurant open everyday except for Mondays. The Crazy Parrot offers a menu for Lunch and Dinner specializing in Fried Chicken and Fries, Fish soup, Jerked Chicken, Lobster fritters and BBQ pit specialties. A popular full service bar offers a wide selection of exotic cocktails, frozen drinks, local and international beer and a full selection of imported wine. The Crazy Parrot Bar is a sporting theme establishment featuring 5-A-Side Football pitch with floodlights. Weekly competitions with prizes make this activity an exciting place to see the local night life. There is also a swimming pool, pool table and table football. The sound system is the best in the Bay Islands providing great island entertainment for Dancing and Karaoke nightly.  

99% of this ad is totally false.  I will agree the two gazebos "were" painted by a local artist with a beautiful mural but has since been painted over with splashy colors and to what end I do not know.  As to the menu - they never offered Jerked Chicken, Lobster fritters nor had exotic cocktails or frozen drinks nor a full selection of imported wine.  As a bar sporting theme establishment featuring 5-A-Side Football pitch with floodlights - a joke.  There were never weekly competitions with prizes and the swimming pool was a large, above-the-ground affair mainly used by children along with a trampoline which was used unsupervised.  There was a pool table but I had never see a table football game.  As to the sound system being the best in the Bay Islands.....never.  And they never provided Karaoke nightly.  We need truth in advertisement and someone to make sure that the ads out there are updated - at least those appearing in local guide books.

Guanaja cannot pull itself up by the boot straps unless our Mayor and the people decide they need to tend to the basics - those things that are reasonable and can be supported!  You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Remote - well, it can be Remote!

I have found that living on an island, in spite of the presence of a population of approximately 15,000 people, it still gets lonely.  We live, as I have stated before, on the far southeast end of the island and outside one farm back in the mountains, we have the only habitable house here.  So there are benefits and drawbacks. 

First, the benefits:  we are away from populated areas thus avoiding barking dogs, crowing roosters, constant foot traffic or boat traffic, street lighting, thieves, complaining neighbors, noise pollution, electrical power outages, water main problems and, yes, salesmen/bible thumpers! 

The drawbacks: we are away from populated areas which can provide the assistance in a crisis, we have roaming cattle and horses periodically wandering into our yard eating the landscape, if there is an emergency it is up to us to get help via our boat in any kind of weather, sudden brush fires would be a catastrophe as it is only the two of us here and we have limited access to water, finally, we don’t get many visitors! As a matter of fact, as I type, I can see smoke from a fire just north of me quite a ways.  My friend called me on the phone to alert me to a fire but I don’t believe we will have to worry about this particular one.  However, we will keep on the alert.  So, living where we do definitely has drawbacks. 

Now the last drawback, the “we don’t get many visitors” can be a plus or a minus, depending upon how one feels on any given day.  Personally, I enjoy having people drop by and visit but being so far away from the mainstream, this seldom happens.  Thus, I give dinner parties, invite people for luncheon or drinks or just to come and have a chat.  If people happen to drop by unannounced which, believe me is very, very seldom, I have enough time to scramble around, change out of grubby clothes, straighten the house and greet the people with a beverage as I can spy their boat approaching from quite a distance.

Now, as any woman will tell you, no matter how much you love your husband, being with him 24/7 has its drawbacks.  Men don’t like to talk about the same thing women do!  I lend my ear to my husband when he goes on about construction, motors, mechanical workings of a particular tool, his photography, his opinions and enjoy learning things I may not have assimilated before.  However, it is another thing altogether for him to show any interest in my recipe discoveries, my crocheting, my card making, my sewing or my excitement regarding the re-organization of my upstairs craft room.  I mean, my husband is not big on every day conversation and we can go all day with hardly a dozen words passing between us.  I need and want to talk to a woman, especially a woman who has my interests.  

Also, living in an undereducated country, talking to locals is not inspiring.  I mean when you have people that believe drinking ice water will make you fat, that the world is only 2,500 years old, heaven is almost full, who can hardly add 2 + 2 or grasp the meaning of a particular concept, and women should bear as many children as possible to keep a man, I mean, really!  I have nothing in common with them.  We have foreigners living here but we usually see each other once a week in town on shopping day.  Lately, with the boats not running a “regular” schedule, shopping day changes from week to week.  Some people go the day the boat comes in, while others wait until the day after.  Lately, also, my husband has been in hurry to get me through my shopping, banking and paying bills so that we can go home quickly.  Therefore, my usual Friday shopping day where I could sit and chat with various people and socialize, has ceased to exist.  So, I can only see these people (if they go to the same restaurant I do) on Saturday afternoon/evening.

Now, I can go and visit friends and I do, or did, quite often.  However, when I’m the one that has to get in the boat each and every time to instigate the visit, I then begin to wonder why people can’t take the same time and effort to visit me!  After all, we live the same distance apart.  I understand that getting in a boat and going a distance is difficult, but if I can find a way, surely they can!  I also understand that people have priorities in their lives and maybe they don’t feel the need to visit as I do because they have people living close to them and access is easy.  So, why get in a boat and go the distance to come to my house?  If I lived in Sandy Bay for instance, I could periodically walk to other people’s homes and sit down to pleasantly pass the time of day.  But, of course, I don’t, so I must live with one of the “downsides” of my remote home.

Just recently, however, we went to a restaurant on the other side of the island (Bo’s Island House) where we met up with some sailors who were in port.  We had a wonderful conversation during lunch and it was so exhilarating to talk about things other than problems of the island and to chat with people who were well-travelled, informed and could relay fresh ideas.  And then another wonderful surprise.  We were at Manati this past Saturday for dinner and I met one of the sailing couples that had returned to the island.  It just so happened that his wife and I had the same interests and even like job experiences!  We spent a wonderful few hours chatting about our hobbies, our jobs, our family.  She even said the same thing I have stated in this blog – it is nice being with your husband but occasionally it is refreshing, stimulating and pleasant to visit with a woman! 

So, these two visits, I guess, will have to tide me over for a while.  Thankfully I will be leaving soon to live a life-long dream; I am going to visit Europe.  My son and I are meeting in May in Germany and spending 21 days traveling.  At least, when I return, I will have something new to talk about – but will there be anyone around to listen?


Monday, March 9, 2009

The beauty of language

I was in the midst of re-organizing my boxes in which I store paper, decorations, etc. for my stamping projects (cards, books, envelopes) and I came across a bundle of greeting cards that I had kept over the years.  Most were from my children with a few from good friends and it gave me pause to think.

On the island we do have greeting cards.  However, my husband refuses to acknowledge they are here and just where they can be purchased, as it would mean he would have no excuse on my birthday, our anniversary, Christmas or Valentine’s Day for not getting me a card.  I love cards!  Always have.  I love making them and have made many over the years to give to friends and family or making a special card at the request of a friend.  

I love the challenge of thinking up an idea for a card, making up verses, finding special things to decorate them with and then making a special envelope to enclose them in.  Most of all, I love doing verses.  To me the art of speaking eloquently is being lost.  People have reduced themselves to brief descriptive words, and mostly 4-letter ones at that!  I am not a prude but I have never seen the reason for daily use of  4-letter words rather than taking time to express how you feel with a more descriptive and MEANINGFUL term.  I know that people get into the habit of using certain words and it becomes second nature to them.  However, when no one around them expresses their discomfort with what is being said or the fact that the language offends them, then these same people feel that using whatever foul word comes out of their mouth is accepted.  

I am always distressed to hear the children on the streets using language my parents avoided using around us as children.  Then I hear their mothers!  They use the same language and always seem to be shouting at their charges.  I raised three children and it was a difficult task keeping on them about manners, respect, morals, hygiene, but a completely necessary one. Thankfully I have no regrets about my children.  They were all special in their own way and each has made me proud as they reached adulthood.  My husband and I never swore in front of the children.  As a matter of fact, I very seldom if ever use profanity as I feel there are better ways of conveying an idea rather than using something that means nothing or has no connection to the idea being presented!  We never let the children see us in a light unbecoming us as parents (i.e., drinking or listening to off-color jokes) and did our best to teach them respect for others.

My husband and I have been watching a T.V. series (on DVD) which has been acclaimed as one of the best series of the year.  The concept was interesting - about people in the ghetto and the overpowering presence of drugs.  However, I cannot relate to this series having been raised in a middle-class environment, with high moral values, respect for others and the system and using the language I was taught in school to convey a thought in a correct and meaningful manner.  We actually had to put on subtitles during the series just to figure out what was being said.  Even then we had no idea during the majority of the hour-long show as to the meaning of the sentences.  One could guess because of the body language and the subsequent outcome, but other than that, they were speaking a foreign language.  Some people say, this is “their” language which is indicative to that class of people.  I am sorry, but that language is not going to get them anywhere and keep them just where they are - at the bottom of the ladder.  When slang takes over and the rules of grammar are thrown out the window, then we have to guess just what is being said and the person using poor grammar will never make the impression necessary to be better than what they are.

My point, I guess, is that I miss the beauty of the language that was used in say the 1800’s!  Not to say that it is something I could tackle today as many of the words used then, being very formal, might convey a feeling to others that they are inferior to me.  So, this is why I love to make up verses and express my thoughts on paper in a card.  

In going over the wonderful cards I have received over the years, I am reminded of the love and respect my children have for me, the comfort my friends find in my friendship and the simple joy of remembering that I count for something with others.  This all comes about with words - and slang and swear words just don’t give one that feeling!

P.S.  With this thought, I must correct the title of my last last blog: Wonder What Up!  To: Wonder What’s Up?  Sorry about that!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Wonder what up?

Well, it has been a busy week here on Guanaja.  

I have been painting my upstairs craft/guest room all week, reorganizing my 1,500+ stamps to fit into shelves on the wall and my supplies for various craft projects.  Then, with our worker on vacation, I decided that all the tall bushes behind the Crotons at the front porch needed to go as they were getting pretty leggy looking without sufficient sun to make them fill out.  I was then on a bread baking kick and came upon a new recipe for a baguette which was such a hit we almost finished the first loaf in record time!

On top of that, I have been planning a trip to Europe for my son and I.  We meet in Germany on May 1st and tour Germany and Italy.  I will go to Croatia first to visit friends and on my return to the U.S. will stay with my daughter for a while and try to make a side trip to Orlando to visit family and friends.

Added to that, our one “new dog”, Lucy, seems to have a fungus and the poor thing has been chewing herself to death.  Finally reached our friend Susan who will be coming back to the island soon and she supplied me (through her worker) with a medicated shampoo for fungus and some antibiotics.  Had to bathe the poor dog today, which she clearly did not enjoy but stood still for.  We have been in the midst of a cold front and temperatures have been below normal.  I toweled her off, brought her into the house, applied an antibacterial crème and will have to repeat the process every other day for about a week!

I have been re-varnishing some rattan furniture to use downstairs in the main room thus freeing up some space upstairs.  I have been in a crochet frenzy and just got into filet crochet.  You can make pictures of things out of crochet (some what like counted-cross stitch).  I’ve made a flamingo, a pelican, a picture of two palm trees and am now working on a hummingbird.  I’m obsessed!  I made two seahorses for my grandsons’ birthdays, which are the week of the 20th of March (along with their Mom’s birthday and their cousin’s birthday).  I’m also working on a project for my daughter for her birthday but can’t disclose it now because she reads these blogs!

I keep an eye on our friend’s house (which is under construction), am trying to pay his taxes for him and took care of his electric bill while he is back in the States.

Then, I caught a cold but managed to overcome in 3 days!  Of course I lost two nights sleep because I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep.  But I used the time to crochet some stuff for my stepdaughter, which I cannot disclose because she reads this blog too!

We also had a huge “condo” ship visit Guanaja (“The World”) and were amazed at its size.  The boat was lit up at night and my
 husband said it was like Belco (the local electric company) on steroids!  Man, it would have been nice to run an extension cord from that boat to furnish the Cay of Bonacca with electricity when Belco cuts back from 3:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.

Naturally, some of you will not be interested in any of this, but because so many ask what do we do all day?  Here's one answer!

Now, of course, I am blogging!  What a life I lead!