Saturday, October 10, 2009

Caution!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 comment:

  1. ltcollins_1@charater.netOctober 11, 2009 at 10:11:00 AM PDT

    Hey Sharon, the many times that I visited Guanaja have since my first visit in December 1995, I know exactly all the things you are talking about. The airports drive me crazy. I've been in the airport waiting for a 7:00 a.m. flight that doesn't take off until 9:00 a.m. because they were waiting for the plane to fill up. Like you say, just because you have reservations to fly from the mainland to Guanaja doesn't mean a thing! Once I bought a pound of butter in December that had an expiration date on it for the prior September. Bought and ate it anyway!

    The moral of my story is that you need to learn patience to live in Guanaja! I love to visit, but I know I couldn't live there because patience isn't one of my virtues. But the beauty is so wonderful!

    Linda

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