Saturday, July 18, 2009

Things just keep getting better!

As a young girl I was thrilled when I got my first camera. It was a Kodak Target Brownie Six-16. It took black and white photos and the subject was hard to see through the small curved window on top of the camera. It was not difficult to load, but it had to be done in the dark so as not to expose the film and ruin it. There was also a viewfinder on the side which would allow one to take a photo at a different angle. This camera allowed me to preserve the memories of my childhood which were cherished throughout my lifetime. I still have that camera, as can be seen in the photo above, and I'm sure that if I could obtain film for it, it would still work. I also have many, many clear photos that I took with it.

My next camera was a Brownie Hawkeye and was far more sophisticated with a view lens that was a little easier to see through. The camera was comfortable to hold but still had to be loaded in a dark room. Again, photos could only be taken in black and white but they were superior to those taken by my previous camera.

I had this camera for several years and I do not recall what type of camera I used next when color film came into being.

I do remember the excitement caused when the Polaroid Camera was developed. Both the camera and the film was expensive but, wow, you could see your picture in 60-seconds! My parents purchased one and we spent a lot of time snapping photos and watching them appear. Of course, the first photos were, again, in black and white and it would take several years before the color version of film was available. These pictures, for some reason, did not last as long and I don't believe I have any photos left that were taken with it.

Over the years I had many cameras which met my needs for preserving scenes in my life that were important at the time. I never took pictures for the "art" of it; it's use was strictly one of capturing moments in my history.

When we came to the island, I had a camera which, at the time, was functional and provided me with an excellent photo. The drawback: it still required film. I could take photos to share with my family back home who, at the time, were fearful and upset that I had moved to a third-world country where contact by phone was extremely difficult at the time. Since there was nowhere on the island to develop my photos, I had to either 1) send them back to the states with someone to mail to my family who would get them developed and return the photos to me. Or, 2) go to the coast and find a film store and have the film developed. This was costly as flying to and from the mainland was not something one could afford on a regular basis. Plus, the film developing was questionable and finding a store with personnel that knew what they were doing and could develop the film with accurate coloring was a challenge.

Still, I managed for several years to take photos, get them developed and share with friends and family.

Hallelujah! The onset of digital photographs! What an inventio! Now I could purchase a camera that would not require film, would have the best lens I ever experienced and I could snap photo after photo from which I could select the perfect one I wanted or - the best was yet to come - I could put them on my computer, digitally make corrections and wipe out backgrounds, make people look younger, even change the shape of something! I was now ready to take photos for "art" purposes. I did not need to incur the expense of flying to the coast, waiting for the film to be developed, checking the photos to see if I got the best shot. Best yet, I could share my photos on the Internet with friends and family.

I was in heaven. Of all the things that we have managed to acquire on the island to make our lives easier, this, along with a computer and Internet service, were the best things that ever happened to me.

My husband has a much better eye (and camera) than I and is constantly taking photos which he publishes on his own website. One can view his photos at: He prefers to take photos of sunrises/sunsets, birds, animals,flowers, inanimate objects, etc. and has captured some wonderful shots of life on the island.

I prefer to take photos of my friends and pets and, occasionally, I will branch out and try shots of still life, sunsets, flowers and food!

I continue to play with my camera and have used it and past photos to create a book of my family tree, a calendar with photos of my home which I gave to my friends and family last year, and as a tool of presenting my visual thoughts on my blog. I am planning another calendar this year and I hope to make myself and members of my family a cookbook containing my recipes accompanied by photos of some of the dishes.

So, a camera has been a fulfilling part of my life; it has recorded my memories and kept me in touch with my family and friends. People can see how I live and play and maybe enjoy, through me, the experience of living on an island.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Things that go through my mind!

Sitting here on the island, after returning from LaCeiba this week, I thought I'd share some observations.

My husband and I flew to LaCeiba on Monday afternoon to take care of some errands. While there we noticed:

1) The soldiers in the airport were still standing around looking bored.
2) The cab drivers were honking their horns with as much frequency as before.
3) Shops were closing at the same hours as always - the curfew had been lifted.
4) Hotel clerks and room service personnel seemed unchanged.
5) Pizza Hut was busy.
6) People in the park were sleeping on benches or strolling through the park uncaring.
7) The crowd in the Mall was light, but then it was a Monday evening.
8) The roads had the same number of vehicles and horses as always.

So, no one seemed too upset that Mr. Zelaya had been taken out of the country in his pajamas and sent to Costa Rica. No one seemed concerned that President Michelliti was in office and running the show. And no one seemed bothered that there were guards standing outside all the banks, restaurants, hotels, public places, etc. In other words, people were going along with their daily business much as before. Now, our taxi driver was rather opinionated and voiced his agreement that Mr. Zelaya should have been removed from office that it was for the good of the country.

What it boils down to is that your basic human just wants life to go on smoothly, with as few distractions as possible. He wants to keep earning a living, put food on his families table, have time to enjoy life and live in peace. It seems that when people get power they forget all the basics.

If you notice, anyone who has authority over you usually does not like to be told what to do, how to do it or take suggestions on getting the task done easier. They have reached this position of "power" and they want to take advantage of it. The more power, the harder it is to convince that individual that there are two sides to every story. Oh, I'm not saying that some people are not willing to look at both sides and try to work out an agreement; I'm saying that, for the most part, it is hard to get people to do this once they believe they have the power. So, the saying "Power to the People" I believe, is a dangerous thing. Once people believe they are better than others or superior in some way, it is hard pulling them down off that pedestal, even a notch or two.

Maybe this is why governments and their representatives have such a hard time agreeing on anything. They think they know what is best for the people, even if the people have a different view. It takes a large group of people, all agreeing on an action, to convince one person that the view that person holds may not be in the interest of all the people. It must be a hard position to be in as people on one side are telling you what they feel is right and people on the opposite side are also saying they are right. I guess that is why the majority rules. However, in some cases even the "majority" is hazy. You can have polls that put the percentages high on one side and another survey that says the opposite. Of course, that is why we have make sure that the grey area is a little clearer.

But, wait. When someone breaks the law they are, in a democracy, innocent until proven guilty. But in some countries - they are guilty until they prove their innocence....makes one's head spin. If they are in power, they feel they are sometimes above the law and ignore all the rules. Now, we all know that if the ordinary citizen breaks an iron-clad law, there is no argument. But if someone in power does the same thing, then they call for the world to set it straight - at least straight for them! No matter what they may have said before, no matter what actions they took before, if they feel they broke the law and should not be questioned, then they will try their best to rally anyone to their side in order to get what they want.

So, sometimes it is just a question that is resolved as it was when we were children - will the bully win or will the children stand together forcing everyone to see the reality of what is going on?

Right now, I'm going to "convince" my husband that we have a job to get done upstairs and that I feel it is important!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Birds of a Feather

As I have stated in past blogs, we brought 4 tropical birds with us to the island and while here adopted one more bird, a Yellow-Naped Amazon, Lupita, when her owner lost his home and returned to the U.S. after Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

Since that time we have acquired many bird friends; hummingbirds, of which there are two varieties on the island: a Fork-Tailed Emerald and Green-Breasted Mango. We started out with a couple feeders and gradually, over the years, built up to a total of 6-7 at any one time. going through about 12 lbs. of sugar a week. More and more hummingbirds have arrived and some even stay through the year ignoring their instinct to migrate. Of course this keeps my husband and I very busy keeping up with the feeding of the birds.

On the 17th of June, our worker found a baby bird that had evidently fallen out of its nest. My husband and I went back to check out the little guy and found that 1) the bird was about 2 weeks old due to the small amount of pin feathers it had, 2) the nest was too high in the tree to reach and put him back and 3) ants were starting to attack the poor little guy.

So, we did what was necessary - took him in. Since we feed our parrots a variety of foods, one of which is a processed, hard nugget which is vitamin enriched, we decided to grind up this nugget, add mango juice or water (depending upon what was available) and feed the little guy through a syringe. My husband and I had raised two of our parrots in the states this way, so we were familiar with what to do.

Luckily, we were successful and the baby took to the tube attached to the syringe like a duck to water! Since that time he has been growing, getting feathers and is now flying. He is a little bigger than a hummingbird and we are not sure what type of bird he is. At first my husband thought he was a Yellow Breasted Fly Catcher as the nest suspended from the tree looked like it may have belonged to that family. However, this bird is much smaller than the ones we have checked out on the Internet. Right now he is about 2" tall and it doesn't seem like he will get much bigger. My husband has seen what he feels are similar birds feeding on a wild hot pepper bush but has been unable to get a photograph of them.

Originally I named him Jumpin Jack Flash because he was hopping around so much. I renamed him Twitter because of all the peeping he makes when we walk up to the cage he is now housed in or when he is getting ready to be fed. Plus, we were spending a lot of time on the computer watching the political unrest and were constantly being referred to "Twitters". I thought that this was an appropriate name. He eats well is flying short distances and eventually will build up his muscles for longer flights.

We are now in the process of teaching him to eat on his own by putting ground up dried food in his cage along with some seeds. Eventually, our goal is to get him to eat on his own, know where his cage and food are and then open the door and let him fly out into the wild. If he can't forage on his own, the cage will be there for him to return to and get his food.

This may or may not work, but at least we gave him the opportunity at a life; better than being eaten by ants!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Update on Guanaja's Reaction

No, this is not a photo of demonstrations on the island of Guanaja! We have no curfew, our flights still come in, all businesses are open and operating, the military is wandering around like they always do, seemingly not know what they are doing, and the police are still sitting in their little office next to the jail passing the time of day.

Nothing has changed on the island. We are waiting for the vegetable boat to come in today or tomorrow so we can get our shopping done. Many of us are spending more time at our computers watching what is being reported in the news about the "mainland" 40 miles off our coast.

I guess we are the lucky people in Honduras who continue on with life regardless that Michael Jackson has died or that Mel has been removed.

The government pretty much neglects the islands, except for Roatan, and they bring in a lot of tax money. We don't get much aid here for emergencies, we take care of our own problems and we are just concerned with our day-to-day lives.

Is that sad? I don't know. I do know there is concern for what is going on with the government and we all hope everything can get back to some normalcy so that maybe, just maybe, the new government can take an interest in its people and start doing all the things that have been promised over the years. But, we don't hold our breath.

We do agree, on the island, that Chavez is not the way to go, that democracy needs to rule and that the President of this country is not above the law, even if he does wear a white hat!

Trouble in Paradise

Generally speaking, I try and stay away from political discussions as 1) it seems to be a dead end if one is trying to discuss their views with someone with opposing views 2) I am not as up on “politics” as many people who vicariously read and study the subject and 3) I am not a Honduran citizen and, as such, have no say in what the leaders of this country say or do.

However, ever since June 28, 2009, I have been sitting at my computer scanning the news, blogs and various reports on-line about the supposed “coup d’état” by the Honduran military against President Mel Zelaya and his subsequent arrest and removal from the country to Costa Rica.

This country elected President Zelaya 3 ½ years ago and, through his own admission both verbally and in print, he used corruption to gain the slim 49% vote he won to gain office by purchasing the people’s votes.

During the 3 ½ years, slowly but surely he has strayed from his commitment to the people by seeking rather to gain more and more power for himself and neglecting his promises to the poor and democracy.

During his term, President Zelaya’s government allowed the telephone company, Hondutel, who wanted competition out and total control of the country’s communication system, to raid the offices of the competition, seize their records and equipment thus destroying their business. The government made no move to have Hondutel return what was basically stolen, thus making these small companies fold.

Not too long ago, the minimum wage was raised from L. 3,500 ($185.00) per month to L. 5,500 ($291.00) a month. That is about a 60% increase. The minimum wage need to be raised, but this huge increase was 3 times more than the labor unions were requesting (20%) and 6 times more than the business organizations had offered (10%). These increases caused tremendous layoffs on the mainland. Many maquillas (garment factories) began to move to Nicaragua because the cost of business in Honduras had gotten too high. So, there was another huge drop in jobs. Remember, the average Honduran lives on less than $100 a month. I know, it is a shame and unbelievable, but these people, for the most part, are uneducated and untrained. Yes, they deserve more, but not at the risk of losing jobs because no one can pay the wages. If the new minimum wage was paid the businesses would have to raise prices of goods thus, in effect, putting the earning power right back where it was.

He saw that “transparency laws” were passed in January 2008 which was in violation of international conventions on freedom of expression and against corruption, and created loopholes for preventing the declassification of “reserved” or restricted information. Virtually any document can be classified as reserved. Any minister can do this if he or she considers that public access to that information may be prejudicial to humanitarian aid, national security, economic stability or governability, among other vague criteria. Under the new law, all information about humanitarian aid is secret. The amounts of aid received and the uses to which they are put cannot be divulged. This means that it won't be possible to investigate what happened years ago, and not even last year or this year. Congress had blocked a proposal for such a law since 2004. In effect, the presidents of the three branches of state, their ministers and advisers, and mayors, city councilors, and deputies are excluded from the scope of the law. This is an open violation of the constitution and the convention against corruption.

Under his regime, school teachers went unpaid for months and months at a time as did various other government workers.

President Zelaya wanted Honduras to join ALBA, a collection of countries that was formed by Cuba and Venezuela to counteract NAFTA/CAFTA from the US. When this was announced, there was a lot of concern especially from the business community who were largely opposed to it. The Congress would not consider ratifying this treaty for 6 or 8 months as they wanted to study the plan. Again, less than a week later President Zelaya got the treaty ratified by the Congress, mostly, it is rumored, by buying their votes. In one instance a cash payment of Lps. 1,000,000 (US $53,000.00) was paid to congressman to approve the ALBA. The center of this sudden push was from Chavez of Venezuela who was backing Zelaya in this endeavor.

The Honduran Constitution says that each year the President presents the annual budget to congress for approval. If the approval is not obtained by a specific date, the budget from last year will be used until the new budget is approved by congress. The President never submitted a budget for 2009; hence the Congress was left with working with the 2008 budget. Mel would like to stay in power past 2009. The budget in 2008 did not include monies for an election, so in essence there is NO money available for the 2009 election because they were operating on a 2008 budget!

Suddenly, months before re-elections were to be held in this country, President Zelaya discovered that the Honduran Constitution was “out of date” (27 years to be exact) and needed to be rewritten. Of course he has never said what parts of the Constitution were not democratic nor has he ever given any information as to what he wants to insert into it to make the Constitution “more democratic”.

President Zelaya decided that it was in the country’s “best interest” to place a referendum on the November ballot (a fourth ballot box) to let the people decide if they wanted the Constitution to be rewritten. His proposal to have a fourth ballot box in the November elections for the purpose of allowing the citizens of Honduras to have a say regarding whether or not the constitution should be revised sounds like a democratic measure. However, the real motive behind this issue was to change the constitution to allow Mel Zelaya to continue in power as President, a la his amigo Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. The Constitution expressly prohibits this and declares any efforts to change those parts of the constitution as illegal and punishable by criminal action. There has been no indication that the people will be allowed to approve or disapprove of any recommended constitutional changes. They are merely being offered the opportunity to give a blank check to those in power.

In an effort to legitimatize the fourth ballot box, Zelaya's latest plan was to hold an official public poll on Sunday, June 28th, allowing the people to vote yes or no on whether to have the fourth ballot box. This effort was declared illegal by the Congress, the Supreme Court and his own party, but seemed to be going forward as Mel led a gang of protestors/supporters to a military base where the ballots were being secured and took them by force. By the way, these ballots were printed up in Venezuela!

The ultimate result of this action was the Supreme Court of the land ordering the military to arrest the President. He was removed from his home and flown to Costa Rica. Whether this method was the right one, is in the eyes of the beholder. Had Zelaya been put under arrest, this country would have seen violence break out through his supporters and bloodshed would have occurred. As we watch the reports from around the world of demonstrations in the Capital, they are only reporting the actions of those people supporting Zelaya (in the hundreds) protesting in a violent manner as opposed to showing the people who want him out (in the thousands) marching peacefully in the city streets!

This was not a coup d’état as defined in the dictionary:

“Politically, a coup d’état is (usually) violent political engineering, yet, is different from a revolution that effects radical change to the government (who rules), not to the form of the government (the political system). Tactically, a coup d’état involves control, by an active, minority of military usurpers, who block the remaining (non-participant) military’s possible defense of the attacked government, by either capturing or expelling the politico-military leaders, and seizing physical control of the country’s key government offices, communications media, and infrastructure.”

In this instance we had ALL leaders of the government and judicial system upholding the law of the Constitution removing the man from office who was blatantly disobeying the laws of the land he vowed to uphold.

The Attorney General says that the President has committed treason and asked for him to be removed from office. The congress created a commission to examine Zelaya’s actions and they determined he must be removed from office. From information gleaned by me, there is no clear means to impeach a sitting President. In a lot of constitutions, the impeachment of a president would be done by the legislative branch. In Honduras, there is no such structure. There could be criminal charges brought against the president and the trial would be handled by the judicial branch.

Once Zelaya had been removed, the President of the Congress (Roberto Micheletti) was sworn in as the new President of Honduras. This was exactly the person that is indicated by the Constitution. It was a proper and legal succession of the presidency. The first thing that Micheletti did was confirm that the regularly scheduled elections would be held in November. His post is temporary until the new President was duly elected.

It would be fairer to Honduras if the press would research their subject more rather than acting on a “knee-jerk” reaction and then only showing anything that might indicate violence as violence draws viewers! Most of the news filtered to the world does not take the picture as a whole and reports only on the incident, not the facts behind it! If you want to follow what people who actually live here are saying, join the Yahoo Group of Honduras_Living and you can read first hand the events of Honduras as seen by people living here.

I only hope that this problem will be resolved in a legal way and that a democratic form of government is allowed to remain.