Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Markets of Zagreb

Today we went to visit the Market. Near the main square, every day vendors set up and breakdown stalls to display the vegetables and flowers they have for sale. Having lived on an island where vegetables are highly prized – especially a variety of them – this was a dream come true. I love walking through vegetable markets and today was an even better treat as there was a huge area set aside for nothing but flowers. Holy Moly – lilacs and lily of the valley, tulips, pansies, iris, roses, and many more I could not name.

The fruits and vegetables were in abundance, fresh and of many varieties. I could not help but drool over everything offered. This is the season of asparagus, especially wild asparagus which I had tried at the restaurant the day before. I found it had a wonderfully light flavor, unlike the asparagus we normally buy which I feel is a little strong. The wild asparagus is much smaller and thinner and more delicate. Several varieties of mushrooms were available along with different varieties of lettuce. They had large bunches of what appeared to be a vegetable similar to collard greens but I am sure it was a green of a different name.

Continuing on we came across the sea food market. Squid, octopus, scallops, and fish of all shapes and sizes were displayed on beds of ice. Joan informed me that octopus is much better if it is frozen first and there were several frozen octopus on display. The fresh ones, she said, should be taken home and frozen before attempting to prepare them. I was able to sample octopus the final night with my hosts when we went out for dinner. David ordered an appetizer of octopus; thinly sliced and marinated. It was wonderful. I had also sampled his squid the first night we had dinner out and it, too, was delicious. I especially liked the tentacles! I noted that the scallops at the seafood market were displayed in their shells and still had some of the “guts” attached. They were far bigger than the Gulf scallops my husband and I use to snorkel for at Crystal River in Florida.
We then proceeded to the undergound market which was, literally,underground. Here fruit, vegetables, meat and cheese are sold. This is a permanent market and is not broken down each day. Joan says she prefers to buy her items here as in the "breaking down" process in the open air market, fruits and vegetables tend to get bruised much easier. Isle after isle of delicious products were displayed and at several stalls, “Grannies” (as Joan called them – older women from the countryside) sold their homemade cheeses. Both market areas were clean and none of the over-ripe meat odor one experiences in the meat section of the market in LaCeiba!

We had to run some errands and stopped by one of the banks to process paperwork needed by David. On the ceiling of the bank was in a huge stained glass in the ceiling. What a treat to find a work of art in a bank!

We then walked over to the International School where David, as Executive Director of CEESA (Central Eastern European School Association), has an office. The school is housed in a imposing building that is spread out over what appeared to be several acres. This is a private school were they teach pre-Kindergarten to 12th grade to the children of Diplomats, foreigners and some Croatians.

We returned home to enjoy an appetizer of fresh cheese and crackers before consuming the delicious pasta meal Joan assembled, accompanied by large fresh radishes (my passion), a fresh salad and a lovely white wine.

Havala Joan (thank you Joan in Croatian)!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thoughts on Zagreb

Zagreb is a compact, beautiful city of which there are two parts; the old and the new. The new is as one would think; new high-rise business buildings much like we have in the U.S. The old is divided into two parts (high and low - according to the terrain) of which one is controlled by the Church with all their buildings and monuments and the other which was the "political" side of town. The old town was once divided by a stream of water which has since been filled in and a lovely old cobblestone street with shops, restaurants and sidewalk cafe after sidewalk cafe is present.

As I said, they have a lot of sidewalk cafes which people are addicted to. My hostess, Joan, said many are the "in places" where people go to see and be seen! They have a local magazine dedicated solely to the activities of those in the "in" crowd and she says the paparazzi hangs around various cafes to snap photos of those people. The magazine is called Glory or Gloria according to Joan. Haven't seen it yet, but Honduras has an equivalent on the mainland. Many of these sidewalk cafes have big, comfortable looking chairs which are protected from the sun and rain by umbrellas, a few have your standard metal chairs.

Joan, doesn't speak much Croatian but can can get by with a collection of rudimentary words. I learned the word for "thank you" (Hvala - H is silent), but to me the Croatian language sounds like a collection of Italian and Slavic, however I heard a Spanish word the other day!

Weather has been cool but tolerable....London was just too cold, about 45 degrees when I landed. It is warmer here, at least it was when I arrived. Yesterday a cold front came through bringing overcast skies, light rain and on the chilly side. I would guess about 55 degrees as I did not see a thermometer anywhere telling the temperature. But, I'm enjoying the experience and am looking forward to the rest of my trip and meeting up with my son in Germany. Just wish I would have brought another pair of long pants with me!

I have been very impressed with their transportation; that being a tram which runs on rails and by electricity, or the other mode: a fuel-powdered "stretch bus". They are frequent and many stops are located around the city. At some stops they actually have an electronic sign telling you how many minutes away the bus is. Out of all the people boarding, Joan seems to be the only one paying! She thinks students can ride free but this is only confirmed by the number of students that get on the bus and don't pay! She also thinks the elderly can ride free. However, this still leaves us with the "middle of the road" group and in two days of using the bus line, I have only seen one other couple pay. You enter the bus and about 2' behind the driver is a small machine that you insert a strip of paper into which has been purchased at kiosks near the bus stops. The machine stamps a date on the paper and, evidentially, the strip is useful for more than one trip. David (Joan's husband) says that if anyone is caught (I guess by the bus Nazi - and I should not use this word here as communism fell here in 1990 I believe) they are fined 100 Kuno (the current exchange is 5 Kunos for $1 U.S.). Plus, blessed relief! There are not a thousand taxis running around town, beeping their horns every chance they get as in LaCeiba or San Pedro which means the noise level is a lot more tolerable!

Finally saw a "Smart Car". This vehicle is a small, two-seater car which is meant for short distances and, evidentially, very economical. I have yet to see a gas station and suspect they must be on the outer limits of town as everyone in town uses the bus, tram or walks. Oh, there are cars driving around but I believe they are coming in from the outskirts, especially in the morning when they come into work. Of course the old City having been built a long time ago did not take into account cars and parking. Most people who park their vehicle on the side streets position it half on the sidewalk and half on the street which appears to be an accpted policy - at least by the citizens. Once in a while the police or someone from traffic control goes around, picks a car from random that is parked thusly and it is towed away. The individual incurs a heavy fine, towing charges and storage charges!

The city is very clean and in the process of renovating a lot of old buildings here. Since there are a lot of old, baroque buildings, many of them are in various stages of renovation. Those under renovation are usually covered with a large tarp or a special type of plastic hung from framework. On the majority of the coverings there may be printed the name of the manufacturer of the material. However, in the City Square one building that had just recently completed its renovation had a tarp on the front with a painting of how the building would ultimately look. Next to it were two more buildings under tarps but both of these display large ads for clothing - really tacky I think. (You can see the signage behind the photo of the statute pictured below.)

I have not seen an over abundance of the "military-type" statutes I believe I will see in Germany and Italy, but they have their share of huge monuments to war heroes or beloved leaders. They also have a lot of various sculptures around the city - old and modern. The one in the City Square is of some famous individual on a horse with his sword drawn. Most people refer to it as "The Horse" as in, "I'll meet you at the Horse."

Evidentailly, there was an anticipated election coming up the second day I was here and in one part of the square was a poster displayed which was strongly against Communisim. It depicted the face of Stalin, Lenin and another individual in the middle that who, unfortuntely with my lack of world affairs, I did not recognize. It was covered in swaths of "blood" and human skulls.

There are banks, phone stores, clothing stores, restaurants, ice cream stores, a modern department store, museums, an Opera house, government buildings; everything you would expect in a modern city with an old flair. One store still puzzles me.....

Here is its picture with the name on the front. Have no idea what was inside!

Monday, April 27, 2009

My Travel Journal

Well, it begins! I have always dreamed of exploring the world and seeing Europe in particular and finally my chance has come!

At 65 I was heading across the “Big Pond” (a/k/a Atlantic Ocean) in a jet at 38,000 feet going 608 MPH with a tailwind of 32 MPH and an outside temperature of -75 degrees! How do I know this? They have a TV screen in my fully-reclining chair on the plane which has a readout showing me where the plane is and all of the above information! Isn’t modern technology grand?! Here I was, heading off to an unknown part of the world, at least for me and doing it backwards! You see, my plane seat faced backwards! And, I can recline to sleep while flying above the Earth – Amazing! My trip will take me from Tampa to London to Croatia (Zagreb), Germany (Frankfurt, Berlin, Nuremberg, Munich, Stuttgart, Schwebisch Hall), and then Italy (Rome, Florence and Venice).
I begin at the Tampa Airport where I arrived a little uncertain as I had confirmed my flight reservation on-line and I was just not fully confident that it was completed as indicated! My beautiful daughter, Tami, who had surprised me by taking me to a coveted Jimmy Buffett Concert on the Saturday after I arrived in Tampa, took me to the airport. If anyone would be a good influence on how I approached my adventure, she was the catalyst! Whenever I visit her I feel refreshed, renewed and ready to face the world with a more positive attitude! She is my anchor of happiness!
I spent a couple of days in Plant City with my great son-in-law, Scott, my daughter and my two precious grandsons (Kyle and Ryan). This “stop over” was enough to put me in a wonderful frame of mind. All who read my previous blogs of my tales of woe may understand how much this visit with my family in Florida meant! Well, Tami dropped me off at the airport with a big hug and a “go get ‘em Mom” farewell.

I approached the counter and was greeted by a smiling young man who was more than happy to help me with my boarding arrangements. He then told me I could upgrade my seat to a “little better class” for $300 and get a seat that fully reclined to a bed! I thought about it, the cost and the fact that this may very well be my one and only trip to Europe, so I said YES! I also told him if he didn’t tell my husband that the purchase could be our “secret”. He agreed!

The agent processed my luggage all the way to Zagreb (hooray) and then informed me that I was now entitled to enter the hallowed grounds of the British Airways Executive Lounge! WOW and Boy Howdy!

I proceeded to security, put on my paper sandals when I had to remove my shoes, smiled brightly and hoped they would not take my crochet hook which was in my carry-on away from me. I passed with flying colors and proceeded on to a little piece of heaven set aside for those “special customers” of BA.

WOW! This was going to be good. I went into the lounge where there was soft music playing, big comfortable chairs and, best of all, free food and WINE! The wine was heavenly so I had two glasses. The room was quiet and serene and people there to wait on you! Heck, it was so nice; I was looking forward to going to the bathroom. And, guess what? The bathroom was in keeping with the ambience the room projected. Scented liquid soap, hand lotion, artificial gardenias in a glass container and soap in the shape of fruit in a basket.

Boarding time came and off to the plane. What a plane! I went into Business Class and found my seat facing – yes, backwards! My “seat mate” was an English gentleman by the name of Tony who was with his Irish wife of 47 years, Pat. He helped me get settled as there were so many buttons and levers to get use to!

We took off; I was served a Mimosa (orange juice and champagne) and then given a hot wet wash cloth to clean my hands, followed by a lovely meal and another champagne drink! Thought to myself, I can handle this!

The trip went well. I think I may have slept one hour and suddenly we were being served a breakfast of fresh fruit, croissant, ham and juice, coffee or tea! We landed in Gatwick Airport and were greeted with overcast skies, rain and cold! Boy was I cold. Made a dash for the airport (we were bussed to the terminal and, therefore, out in the cold for a little while). Found my way from the North Terminal to the South Terminal and awaited my flight for Croatia. The Gatwick Airport is quite old and one of the smaller ones I have been informed. It was bustling with people speaking with lovely English accents and had all the typical tourists shops and even a display for a gin I had never heard of - Hendricks! They were offering free samples of gin and tonic but I had had enough alcohol so far so declined.

My flight finally boarded and off we went, hopefully to a sunnier sky and warmer weather! Had another meal on the plane. By now I’m full and have no more use for food and all I wanted to do was catch a quick nap. Well, that didn’t happen because I could not get comfortable even though I had 3 seats to myself!
Landed in Zagreb, took a small bus to the terminal, went through immigration and collected my luggage to find Joan and David Cobb, people who own a lovely home on Guanaja (Black Rock), watching me through the glass divider! After hugs and warm greetings we drove to their apartment.

What a lovely city! We arrived at their lovely apartment and Joan presented me with Lilies of the Valley and Lilacs! What a treat! I haven’t seen or smelled these flowers since I was 24 and, as everyone who has read my previous blogs, I love Lilies of the Valley! Joan then took me on a short walk around town (which I will blog about next time) and we met David (who had left to go back to work) at a sidewalk café where we had drinks. We then went on to a lovely restaurant called Paninos! I had wine, a fantastic dinner and lovely conversation with the Cobbs.

We returned to their apartment, ate some delicious cookies Joan had bought at the market and visited a while longer. I suddenly started nodding off and had to excuse myself to retire to bed.

So, my first day of my trip and all is well. Great experience flying, a new city to visit, wonderful hosts, good food and I have had the best wines in my life!

Are you jealous yet?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Things have to look up - don't they?

Well, I'm reporting from sunny Florida and just keeping my fingers crossed that my vacation will go better than the last few days.

After our beautiful dog passed away we had to make plans to go to LaCeiba to renew our residency cards. We decided to go on a Monday thus giving us part of the day Tuesday to take care of any other unfinished business.

We arrived in LaCeiba and rushed over to the Immigration office in order to "get the ball rolling." Fate was to decide otherwise. It seems that the government of Honduras, in their infinite wisdom, decided that the holiday that was to have been celebrated on April 14th would be changed to April 20th. I don't know who was notified but a lot of "gringo's" were at the Immigration office on Monday hoping to renew their cards or extend their visas. All of us were met with a locked office. Prior to leaving for LaCeiba, I checked with the Honduras Living Yahoo Group to find out the new address and operation times. I received the address and was informed that they were open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (closing for lunch of course).

I thought that was odd that a government office would be open so early so on Tuesday morning at 8:00 a.m. I tried calling their office. Of course no one answered and the phone went to the FAX machine. My husband I decided to go to Dunkin' Donuts and have breakfast and then head on over after a stop at Sosa's office to check on the time of my departing flight that day to San Pedro Sula.

We were informed that the flight was to depart at 2:30 p.m. and I was to be at the airport at 1:30 p.m. This would work out well as my husband had to have minor surgery at 11:30 a.m. and if we could get the residency card application out of the way, he could make it to the doctor and then go on to the airport.

Of course, nothing ever seems to work smoothly here and, naturally, when we arrived at the Immigration office (8:45 a.m.), the doors were still locked. I took the time to call the DIP shipping office to inform them that the package they were holding for us to pick up on Monday should be sent by boat to the island as their office, too, was closed on Monday! With that taken care of, we waited for the staff to show up at Immigration.

9:10 a.m. and they opened the doors. 9:15 a.m. the residency clerk showed up, promptly left and returned at 9:25 a.m. We waited our turn and finally at 10:15 a.m. filled out her forms. I then left my husband in the office and ran to the bank to pay the fees required. Got back to Immigration at 11:15 a.m. and asked the girl if we could possibly return in June for the photos as my husband was scheduled for surgery and we had to leave. Evidently she had already taken his photo but it was too dark and said she wanted to retake it so could we please wait a few minutes more? We waited and at 11:30 a.m. my husband had his picture taken and ran out to catch a cab. I remained behind to finish with my procedure. At 11:55 a.m. I took a cab to the hotel, checked out and went to Medi Centro to see how my husband was progressing.

When I arrived, the doctor was just getting ready to remove a lump on his shoulder. Having done this and arranging to contact him the next week for the results, we got a cab at 1:15 p.m. and went along to the airport.

Unfortunately when we arrived at 1:40 p.m. I went to check in at the Sosa counter and was informed that my flight had left at 1:30 p.m. Unbelievable! How could the girl in the downtown Sosa office have made such a mistake? The girl at the counter at the airport said that they have two flights to San Pedro; 7:00 am. and 1:30 p.m. and it had been that way for a while! They suggested I go to the Taca counter as they had a flight leaving. I was lucky and there was seating available so I bought a ticket. Now I am stuck with a LaCeiba - San Pedro Sula ticket to use. I have been down this road before and when you eventually go to use the ticket, you run into all kinds of problems. But, nothing can be done until that time.

Anyway, we went to pay our departure tax and, as always, I presented our residency cards with the boarding pass for a discount on the departure tax. The woman didn't seem to know how to run the scanner and the process took an inordinate amount of time. She finally handed back my husband's pass and card and then proceeded to process mine. Finally she finished and gave me my card and boarding pass.

We waited in the lounge and my flight was the first to depart; my husband was to leave for Guanaja at 3:30 p.m. The flight to San Pedro went well and I took a taxi to my hotel. Upon signing in they request that you put your passport number on the sign-in form. I usually put my Residency number there so I pulled out my card and there he was - my husband - his face smiling back at me from the card. The woman had mixed up the cards and given me his and him mine! I rolled my eyes, sighed and simply asked the girl to make note of a 4:00 a.m. wake up call and to have a taxi at the hotel to take me to the airport at 4:30 a.m. Now, when he goes to buy a ticket to meet me in San Pedro on June 1st, he will be unable to get a discount because he won't have his card!

The next morning I awoke at 4:05 a.m. and wondered why I had not received my call. I called the front desk and he advised me that he had not been informed of a wake up call for my room! I asked him to please call me a taxi to leave at 4:30 a.m.

The taxi took me to the airport, I checked in and waited for my flight. We departed on time and arrived in Miami on time but I now faced a 3 hour wait for my flight to Tampa.

The plane finally boarded and everyone was settled and we waited. And, we waited, and we waited. Thirty minutes later we were advised that there might be trouble with the cowling on one of the engines and they had sent for a mechanic. Thirty minutes after that, a man in the back stood up and announced he was a Christian and we should all believe and should not take God's name in vain and then he ran out of steam and sat down. Fifteen minutes after that the crew decided that we all needed some water and brought it around to the passengers. Five minutes went by, they announced all was well and we would leave when the "Christian" stood up again saying we should recognize Jesus as our Saviour and muttered something else.

About this time I had almost decided that with the way everything had been going, maybe this was a sign that I should get off the plane! But, I knew the crew would not meet my exit cheerfully so I stuck it out! We took off, the "Christian" remained silent and we arrived in Tampa 1 hour 15 minutes late.

With all that had gone on I just hoped my luggage had made it. Hooray! It was there as well as was my daughter, patiently waiting for me in the terminal. What a beautiful sight she was, plus once we got to her car she presented me with a bouquet of flowers!

Things just might get better!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Love Lost

It is with a heavy heart that I report that our beloved pet/friend/companion, Cocoa, passed away last night, March 16, 2009 in the charge of a wonderful person on this island, Susan Hendricks.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Cocoa encountered two dogs on the beach that attacked her.  While the attack appeared mild in nature, at least as far as the bites, evidentially she suffered some type of injury to her hip or back which caused her a great deal of pain along with discomfort in getting around.  

Over the first few days she had more and more difficulty standing up and laying down.  We tended to her lovingly and tried administering to her needs with the few medicines available. She seemed to be improving slightly but would not eat.  She continued to drink water and urinate so we were mainly concerned with the eating problem.

Finally, when the problem of her not eating became what we felt to be serious, we called Miss Susan, a friend on the other side of the island that is well known for her compasion with animals and her dedication to their well-being.  She advised us to give the dog prednisone and check signs for dehydration.  Since we had given her prednison with some good results, we increased the amount according to her instructions.  We checked Cocoa for signs of dehydration but she appeared to be fine.

Friday night and into Saturday morning Cocoa was restless and I stayed up with her the whole night.  She became confused, walking into things and having more and more trouble staying up on her feet.  She finally was unable to rise.  About 7 a.m. in the morning she had a seizure.  It was traumatizing.  When it was over, she was non-responsive.  My husband called Susan and she said that she would be over in a few hours as she had people coming and had to take care of them.

Cocoa had another seizure about 11:00 a.m. and again about 12:15 p.m. while Cocoa was suffering with a third seizure, Susan arrived.  She found the dog very dehydrated and they began hydrating her.  Apparently she was more dehydrated than we acually realized and they gave her about 3 1/2 liters of saline.  Her eyes were pinpoints and she showed no sign of being aware of her surroundings.  Several medications were administered to stop the seizures and after a long talk with Susan, it was decided that she would take Cocoa to her house to continue treatment.

Preparations were made and we carried her in a sling to the waiting boat.  She suffered a small seizure on the dock and they quickly administered medication.

I called Susan later in the day and she said Cocoa had a fifth seizure but was resting comfortably. The muscles had relaxed and her legs were no longer stiff.  She was still unresponsive but, otherwise, resting.

At 9:30 p.m. our lovely dog passed away and Susan reached us to let us know.  Before I continue we both thank Susan for her compassion, her love of animals and her help.  We know of no better person to take care of our pet in their final hours and we know that she showed our Cocoa the same love we would have.

Cocoa was our pet for 12 years having acquired her when we first came to the island.  She was a beautiful dog; loving, outgoing, friendly and the Alpha Female of the "pack."  She loved to ride in boats, take "walk abouts" with our other dogs and watch over our land from the front porch making sure she missed none of the "action."

We have lost several pets while on the island, more than we have ever lost while living in the states but, then, we share our home with many more of these lovely creatures.

Death never comes at a good time and it will be especially hard for me as I am to leave for a vacation next week.  We are hurting but will remember her with love and affection.  She was special, as I am sure all people feel about their pets, and there is now a big, empty hole in our lives that she once filled with love.

To Cocoa:

One last word of farewell, dear friend. Whenever we visit your grave, we  will say to ourselves with regret but also happiness in our hearts at the remembrance of our long happy life with you: "Here lies one who loved us and whom we loved." No matter how deep your sleep I shall hear you, and not all the power of death can keep the picture of  you and your wagging a grateful tail.

With love, Mommy and Daddy

Friday, April 17, 2009

Jack of all Trades Island Style

One must adapt to life on the islands in that you must have the ability to handle any problem that comes along.

We have had numerous mechanical problems and luckily we have the internet.  With that tool my husband can find a website to obtain information about a given object, find the part he needs, order it and wait (which is the hardest part) for it to arrive.

We have run into problems with water where we had to hook up an emergency water system while we waited for rain.  We have had our inverter take an indirect lightning hit and scramble to get the inverter to the States for repair while waiting for a smaller one to arrive to pick up the slack.

We have had solar panels go out and before replacing them my husband first tackled the job of trying to find out if they could be repaired.  There was a part that usually fixes the problem but, in our case, it did not work.

We have had problems in the kitchen and finally managed to get a new stove as the parts we ordered 3 times kept coming to us from the States broken!

The one thing, however, that is really stressful is with our beloved animals.  We have buried 4 pets in the 12 years we have been here and most of them within the last 6 years.  It has been heartbreaking for us.

Last week, on Saturday, we went out in our boat to check out the shoreline for our missing boat bumper.  It was securely tied to the cleat on the boat but disappeared sometime Friday.  My husband thought with the rough seas we had all week that it came loose - I thought otherwise. So, we got in the boat on Saturday and set off to check the beaches.  Cocoa, our oldest dog, decided to follow us along the shoreline.  As I watched her I noted that out of her sight were two small dogs with two men further down the beach.  The dogs caught her scent and set out on an attack.  When she finally saw them they were almost upon her.  They attacked her and forced her into the sea.  She finally got away and we watched her limp home.  We returned home to find her shaking in the backyard.  She had about 4 bites that we could see.  I bathed her, cleaned the wounds and took her in the house.  She was frightened and sore.  

Well, the next day she was so sore she could hardly get up from her prone position and then if she wanted to lay down again it was a real effort.  We had to help her most of the time to do both. By Monday she was worse and had developed a swelling under her “waist” which was tender to the touch.  Again, she slept in the house beside the bed.  She was still drinking water and urinating so that was good.  However, she would not eat.  

It has been 4 days and she still will not eat.  She got slightly better today and has less difficulty getting up and down but still has to be watched over.  We gave her some medicine to relieve the pain and, hopefully, the swelling.  Early this morning she threw up the medicine.  She drank water but still would not eat.  

We spoke with our friend, Susan, who one could call an “amateur vet”.  She had us check her tongue, eyes, inside of her mouth and gums.  Everything seemed ok so she told us to give her prednisone, a steroid, for a period of days diminishing the amount slowly.  This should make her feel better and give her an appetite.  In the meantime, I took food I had cooked for her yesterday, ran it through the blender with a small amount of soup and ½ of a crushed vitamin and spoon fed her.  We waited 30 minutes and gave her the medicine.  Now we wait.

Of all the things we have to learn to do for ourselves, taking care of a sick animal has been the hardest - mentally.  Cocoa is my dog and it would be devastating to loose her.  The bad part is that I leave for Europe next week and I have fears that she will not get better and my husband will have to put her down while I’m gone.  Our other dog, Pepper, due to old age, became very sick a few years ago and while I was in San Pedro Sula, Mike had to put him down.  That was very hard news to come home to.

So, I’m just hoping that within the next few days she will rally and be back to her old self before I leave.

Sometimes, it is distressing to live on an island!

Friday, April 10, 2009


Do you ever wonder what goes through someone else’s head?  I asked my husband the other morning, "What are you going to do today". He said "Nothing". I then said that's what you did yesterday. He said, "Well I didn't get through."  And that's life on an island!

I’ve often wondered what goes through people’s minds.  I know I’m constantly in thought.  Heck, even when I crochet and my mind should be a complete blank and concentrating at the task at hand, it’s not.  Lately, when I should be concentrating on what I’m doing, my mind starts planning other things and, whoops, an error and another row to rip out!  Back to concentrating.

I help out at a local bar/restaurant during the busy times and invariably the same people react the same every week.  We all know the owner is as honest as the day is long and would not dream of cheating you.  However, every week the same people challenge her bill.  She remains cool and calm and explains every purchase.  We even have people wanting to buy other people drinks and the recipient throws a fit when we bring a “free” drink saying, “I can pay for my own!”  Go figure!  What are they thinking?  

I can go into town and ask say, a bank employee, to do something for me and I will return in a couple of days to pick it up.  Ten times out of ten I return and they look at me with a blank expression and say “What did you want?”.  Then I must go into total detail explaining the particular chore I wanted accomplished,  the date I brought the matter to their attention, their promise to do it and they say, “Oh, yeah, I have it ready.”  Then they proceed to take 20 minutes to prepare the document, which they had never started and seemly erased from their mind.  What were they thinking when they said they would prepare the document in the first place?

I can tell my husband specific plans for a certain day and get his nodded approval.  On the appointed day he’ll look at me and say “When did you say we were going to do that?”  What was he thinking (or not thinking)?  That I was talking to fill empty space?  That I might forget and the whole thing would be forgotten?  Fat chance.

People will make comments without thinking all the time.  I overheard someone telling an individual how great a product was when I know for a fact that it has so many drawbacks that I would never put it on the top of a list of the 10 best items ever produced.  You see, I know they do not use the item to its total capacity and the individual just wants to appear that everything obtained in Honduras is wonderful!  Why?  I don’t know!

When I ask people how they are when I run into them on the island, they reply, “Right here!”  What are they thinking?  I guess it is suppose to be the same as saying “Fine”?

I think what it is, for the most part, is the lack of attention to whatever the other person is saying.  For some people, unless they instigate the question, problem, schedule …. then it is not important and they let it go in one ear and out the other.

Now, I can’t say I’m not guilty of that, but for different reasons.  My kids tell me I’m the Energizer Bunny!  I’ve always got more than 3 things going on at the same time.  I can type, talk on the phone and tell my husband where the aspirin is.  I can make a bed  while collecting the scatter rugs for shaking and pick up discarded clothing while running the washing machine.  As a matter of fact, I just can’t seem to do one thing!  Right now I have three craft projects going on at once.  One is now finished, the other is in the final stages and the third is something I try to work on once a day for a Christmas deadline.

Christmas you say!  Yes, I plan way ahead!  When my husband mentions something he would like to have or has an interest in, I file it in my memory bank for future purchases for his birthday, our anniversary or Christmas.  He, on the other hand, is a last minute person and anything I mention never gets filed.  I don’t know what he does with the information but I sure know he doesn’t retain it.  What is he thinking when I say I would really like something that would make my life easier?  Maybe he is thinking - her life doesn’t need to be easier and challenge is inspiring?  I don’t know.

Most of the time I can give my worker instructions to do certain jobs and he accomplishes them in a timely fashion.  Well, timely for a Honduran as their aspect of time is totally different from mine.  Anyway, sometimes I tell him and he nods yes and doesn’t do it.  What is he thinking? Why nod in agreement and then dismiss it from your mind.  I mean, we are talking about his job and assignments.  Oh, well, for the most part he does a good job, is honest and friendly and does whatever we require.  I guess he can let his mind wander every now and then.

Have you ever talked to another person and you can tell by the blank look in their eyes that they are not listening to a thing you are saying?  What are they thinking?  It must be all consuming because it is like a haze comes over their eyes and they are on auto pilot.

I guess it is just human nature and everyone is guilty at one point or the other of “neglect” of their fellow man.  People get wrapped up in other matters and simply forget their surroundings. They concentrate so hard on what is at hand that they wipe out all other concerns.  I guess it something that keeps us sane. 

This week is Semaña Santa (Easter to those in the States).  Everyone goes to the beach the weekend of Easter.  There are food stands set up, hundreds of boats overflowing with people all to romp in the sand, swim in the water and eat picnic lunches.  The next weekend and for the remainder of the year, the beaches are empty.  What are they thinking?  Maybe it is their way of making the beach a “special” place by visiting it once a year.  We have lovely beaches on the Northwest side of the island and maybe it is good that people don’t flock to them every weekend. They would be turned into garbage receptacles.

Anyway, what was the subject……….?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spring is in the Air Once Again

Semaña Santa is upon us once again which signals the onslaught of Spring on the island.  On an island, the change of seasons is not as apparent as, say, in Florida.  

Having been raised in Minnesota, I was use to a very welcomed but short spring, a short 
and not-so-hot summer, a cool, quick fall and a long, long, long winter.  In my younger years, I  moved to Kentucky where the seasons seemed to last longer and my favorite, Fall, seemed to go on for weeks.  We use to take drives in the Kentucky hills just to see the gorgeous fall colors.  Then I moved to Florida.

Florida does have distinct seasons, but not as pronounced as Kentucky or Minnesota.  Spring would come to Florida with Azaleas in bloom. Spring was also signaled by Plant City’s
 Strawberry Festival and the luscious strawberries that were in season.  There was some “turning of the leaves” in fall if one drove to the northern reaches of the State.   Actually, Fall was really signaled by the corn festival in Zellwood where one could eat the most delicious sweet corn ever imagined.

Of course, on an island, spring is the time of Mangos.  The scent of the flowers is pleasant, but not very strong.  Our wild orchids bloom this time of year and are really a sight to see.  

However, I miss my favorite flowers of the north, the Lilacs, the Iris and especially the small Lily of the Valley flowers.  Lovely little bell-shaped flowers with a heavenly smell which brought us the scent of Spring.  In Kentucky, I had daffodils and tulips, but these did not have a scent to speak of.  No, the flowers of Minnesota blooming in profusion sent stimulating fragrances into the air.  The colors were varied and awesome.  

It has been years since I smell Lilacs or a real Lily of the Valley flower and had to be content with the essence of the odor of  Lily of the Valley in a soap I purchased in San Pedro Sula at a lovely bath shop.  However, that shop has since closed and I no longer have access to that wonderful soap.  The first time I bought it, I could not remove my nose from the bar!  I inhaled that smell and was taken back to a time of innocence!  My husband thought I had lost my mind when I stood in the bathroom with the soap to my face!

So, I went on-line and found a blog by Chris Gardner whose blog at  has wonderful garden photos and found this photo of a small bunch of Lily of the Valley flowers!  I wrote and told him I would love to use the photo in my blog because it brought me such pleasant memories.  

I cannot share the heavenly scent here in my blog with you, but I can give you a glimpse of the wonderful flowers of my past.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A fond farewell

People come and go to the island; some temporarily and some permanently. Over the years one builds up a friendship with those "permanent" people who remain on the island full-time, at least for half of the year.  We see them weekly and enjoy social gatherings with them.  Of course, now and again, people decide to pull up stakes and leave for various reasons.  

Such was the case with Angela and Michael Cooper.

Angela and Michael came to the island some 20 years ago on a little sailboat. They liked what they saw, bought some land, built a house and stayed.  Angela was a nurse and housewife skilled in many areas.  Her husband, Michel (lovingly known as Dr. Mike), was a physician and inventor. They were of English descent with ties in Canada.  They were busy people; Angela in the garden or in the house, cooking, sewing or knitting and Dr. Mike forever inventing or creating something to make life easier and painting pictures of people, landscapes, things, etc!  

They were a lovely couple, well-liked by everyone; Angela in her ever-present hat and lovely creations she made out of second-hand clothes (she loves second hand stores) and Dr. Mike with his pipe, fine white beard and head of white hair discussing all sorts of interesting topics with everyone. Both were very learned and pleasant to be with.  They were quite private people and basically friendly and non-judgmental.

In 2006, Mike and Angela left for Canada.  They had decided, due to Mike's various illnesses, to sell the house on Guanaja and look for a home in Canada in which to reside.  They had planned on returning to tie up loose ends but upon their arrival in Canada Dr. Mike, who had experienced problems with his throat (something that had been bothering him for quite a while on the island), consulted with the doctors and learned he had throat cancer.  He underwent surgery and treatments but succumbed to the disease in February of 2008.  We were all saddened to hear of his passing which was further acerbated by the fact that we had not been able to say a "proper" farewell to either of them.  Subsequently, the only contact most of us had with Angela was through e-mails.  She established herself in Ontario in a lovely apartment close to her family where she enjoys many of the same crafts she practiced on the island.  

This year, at long last, Angela decided to make a final trip to Guanaja.  She arrived on March 27th for one week just in time for Hansito's 50th birthday.  That is where I saw her again for the first time in a couple of years.  She looked just the same; a twinkle in her eye, a beautiful smile on her face and that lovely laughter I had missed so very much.  She stayed with Kate and Bill on the northeast end of the island as their guest and it was agreed between Kate and me that I would host a ladies luncheon celebrating Angela's return.  This would give the women who knew her when she lived on the island a chance to sit and chat and discuss old times.

As it always goes, 13 people were invited; 10 arrived.  The weather was beautiful, the sky crystal clear and a lovely breeze present to blow away the bugs.  We gathered on the porch and Cathy served us a lovely platter of vegetable hors d'oeuvres with a tasty dip.  We had rum punch drinks and spent about an hour laughing and reconnecting.

My husband, who had found a small boa in the front yard earlier in the morning, decided it would be a treat to introduce "Monte" Boa to the women.  Well, the meeting was met with mixed feelings.  Many stayed to observe the snake, some left the room but all in all it made for an "interesting" addition to the party.

When we finally proceeded to the table for lunch, I surprised the ladies with an envelope at each place setting with a small crocheted rosette on the front (had to make use of my newly found  patterns on the net!).  Inside was a friendship saying. Since we were gathered here to salute an old friend, I bade each one in turn to read the saying they found in the envelope.  I presented Angela with a crocheted doily for her birthday upcoming in April.  I chose a hummingbird design to remind her of her years on the island.

We then had a toast dedicated to Angela:

Some quiet time for dreaming,
an unexpected pleasure,
moments filled with beauty ....
may you have a day to treasure. 

Kate provided a delicious salad (a sweet dressing over fresh lettuce, mango pieces, dried cranberries and red onions) which was accompanied by a slice of chicken tortilla stack and mixed vegetables (courtesy of yours truly). We had white wine with lunch and Linda treated us to a moist, rich, fresh apple cake topped with real whipped cream.

After lunch some of the women took a walk around the property to look at the new area cleared up the hill in back, some to check out my newly painted craft room, or to check out the various flowers, hummingbirds and view of the ocean. We gathered again on the porch and had a couple more hours to visit before everyone took their leave.

As their boat left the dock tears came to my eyes.  Angela was leaving us once again probably never to return to Guanaja.  I will miss her presence and her friendship.  She is a lovely, talented lady who brings joy into a room and leaves all with a catch in their throat because she is leaving.

Goodbye dear friend.  All the best to you in your life in Canada.  We will miss you and treasure the memories you have left us.