Tuesday, March 9, 2010


The past few weeks have culminated in a bunch of firsts for us!

Island living, like living in most places, can become routine and mundane, although I must admit there is far more variety living in a remote spot on the planet than in a big city.

First, my husband's passion: photographing and watching humming birds, both of which he does a lot! We recently received a phone call of a young lady, Ashlyn, who was staying at a friend's house on the other side of the island from us. Ashlyn, we were informed, was writing a song about humming birds and she and her two friend, Emily and Andrew, wanted to come to our house to photograph the birds to be included in a video they were making to accompany her song. Due to the foul weather last week, which consisted of overcast skies and rough seas, the expected arrival was delayed several days.

At last they arrived with camera and lighting equipment in hand. My husband has a small red Coke bottle cap mounted on a plastic strip which he fills with sugar water . He puts the strip into his mouth, between his teeth, and the birds come to it and feed. The birds are so use to the tranquility of our home that they have no real fear of us or our dogs and flit around, even sitting on our fingers when we hold a red cup of sugar water.

The girls decided to put the cap into their mouth sans the plastic holder. They achieved several short but interesting videos of this and if I could figure how to download a video to my Blog I would put it in here. So, in lieu of that, I'm posting a couple of photos to show what was accomplished.

The girls and Andrew left our house about 5:45 p.m. They invited us to a performance they were putting on at a "Members Only Club" in Mangrove Bight. Unfortunately the performance was to take place at 9 p.m. and we told them that since we do not travel that side of the island at night and were not familiar with the area, we would be unable to attend. More later about the performance and what people reported back to us.

Next, about two years ago I spotted a lovely flowering plant at Bo's Island House. The flower bore a resemblance to an orchid and had lovely variegated leaves. With Bo's permission, I took a cutting and planted it up the hill from my house. This year, as I looked out my window I noticed a red blossom. I went to investigate and was surprised by the flower blooming. It looked nothing like the pale yellow flower that had blossomed at Bo's and was totally different from what I remembered.

The flower was bright red and had tubular projections from which the flower emerged. It was still quite beautiful but not what I expected at all.

The next "first" will surprise people and they will wonder why I'm all excited about it, but here goes!

We went grocery shopping on the Cay last Thursday I thought I had won the grand jackpot! There in the vegetable market were red, yellow and orange sweet bell peppers! I often purchase them on the Mainland but have never found them on the island! I love these peppers and since I don't really care all that much for the taste of green peppers, was I ecstatic. Evidently others were too as the peppers were snatched up rather quickly. I also came across strawberries, which were late in the season but wonderful and some radishes! I have lived here 13 years and radishes have now appeared 6 times! This was a real windfall as I was having company for lunch the next day. I went home and made a cheesecake with strawberries and star fruit on top and, if I must say so, it was delicious and the hit of the luncheon.

Several people have arrived on the island this past month and so this was a first in that we had with several different people to visit with, plus I gave two luncheons in a month with a third coming up this week!

Ronnie and his lovely wife, Marie, arrived on the island to finish their house. Ronnie has been able to come to Guanaja more often than Marie as she is still working at a "real" job while Ronnie enjoys retirement.

Ronnie arrived about Feb. 9th and Marie followed later in the month. We had a great time while they were here visiting, enjoying the food at Manati and Bo's Island House and then having them to our house for lunch. Along with Ronnie and Marie, Bonnie and Bob, a new couple to the island, attended. Bonnie and Bob are in the process of drawing up plans for a house and were full of questions regarding our combined experiences building. Bonnie and Bob have been coming to the island for years and finally decided to buy some land here and retire. We hope that the information shared at our luncheon helped them in some way and wish them all the success in the world with their new endeavor.

I could not find the photo I had of Bonnie and Bob but did come up with this one of her lovely feet on her blog.

You can read something about my previous lunch on Valentine's Day here on Bonnie's Blog: http://bonnbob.blogspot.com/2010/02/guanaja-update.html.

The Saturday before Valentine's Day I crocheted up some flowers for all the "regulars" at Manati and handed them out. They sure brought a smile to those that received them!
I decided to have some people over for Valentine's Day as the ladies of the island rarely get anything special done for them on that date. I invited 3 couples, among whom were Laurent Elaine who came here a few years ago in their sailboat and finally bought some land. They are in the process of building a home and I wanted them to meet Bonnie and Bob. Unfortunately I could not find a photo of Laurent and Elaine and will have to post it at a later date.

In order to make the day a little more special for my women guests, I made up small red baskets with 3 crocheted hearts on the front, filled them with chocolates and a red candel and stuck a heart on a stick in the middle of a roll of Life Savers that I had purchased from my recent trip to La Ceiba. The weather cooperated and everyone enjoyed the day.

The last couple I plan on entertaining for this week is Eric and Tammy. Tammy is a little pixie of a woman, all smiles and full of energy. She and Eric own a beauty salon in the Ft. Lauderdale area in Florida and Tammy was kind enough last year to cut my hair when both "beauty" shops were closed on the Cay! Eric and Tammy bought property on the other side of the island near Bo's Island House. They have been here previously and have always been too busy to be able to have much free time. We visited with Tammy and Eric at Bo's last Sunday and I invited them to see our home and check out our solar system. We certainly look forward to seeing them.

The other couple that have arrived back on the island were Martha and Bill Pullum. We ran into them at Bo's on Sunday and had a really nice chat. We hope to see more of them in the future and I have plans of visiting Martha soon to discuss the wedding quilt I am currently working on.

Now, back to firsts, the original subject of my Blog.

While at Bo's Island House on Sunday we heard from some locals who had attended the performance of Ashlyn, Emily and Andrew. The performance was met with mixed reviews. It was duly noted that these young people spent a lot of time getting ready for their show and exhibited a lot of energy and enthusiasm. The one thing that they introduced into their act I believe they should have given more thought to. During one routine they decided to remove their swimsuit tops and dance bare breasted! It must be noted that no where on the island nor on the Coast of Honduras does one find topless dancing or even strip clubs. In spite of the action of the Hondurans albeit provocative clothing, the men's proclivity to multiple sex partners and fathering babies but never supporting the children, the incest, the drugs, the suppression of women, etc., these people do not want to see their women naked in public! They have their limits and this is one of them. The young people who came to the island failed to be aware of the fact that what happens in New York City and is accepted there, may not be accepted here. This seems to be the downfall of tourists who come to third-world countries and do not bother to accustom themselves to what the people will or will not tolerate. Many of the people present at the performance in the club were shocked when these girls decided to bear their breasts and were not happy with the liberties these young ladies took. Also, since they were guests of another American who lives on the island, they failed to take into account the backlash their actions may have for the individual living here.

I am no prude but it is unfortunate that people visiting this country, and any other for that matter, seem unable to restrain themselves and need to conduct themselves with more decorum and dignity showing respect to the inhabitants of that country.

The final "first" was the landing two C-47s on the island on Sunday. When we originally came to Guanaja we flew in on a DC-3, a magnificent airplane that was fun to fly in. The C-47 is the military version of the civilian DC-3 airliner. The design was so successful that many C-47 aircraft remained in US service through the Korean and Vietnam wars. Many C-47 aircraft, were put into civilian service as airliners and cargo aircraft. C-47/DC-3 aircraft are still in regular service today not only as museum aircraft but also as cargo haulers and even as short haul airliners. Some C-47/DC-3 aircraft have been refitted with more modern turboprop engines, which is a testament to its superb design dating back to the early 1930’s. So it was with excitement that we saw two of these planes on the runway at the Guanaja Airport! It seems there is an air carrier out of Tegus that flies these planes and it just so happened that a large Baptist Church group used them to come to the island. When we passed by the airport on Sunday, we had to stop and get out and take this photo. We were also at the airport on Monday morning to see Ronnie and Marie off and these two planes went back and forth from Guanaja to La Ceiba taking the Church group back to the Mainland. They made at least two full round trips, so that was a lot of people on board!

So, from hummingbirds drinking out of the mouths of lovely young ladies, to bare breasts, to C-47 and sweet peppers, it has been quite a month!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New Experiences

Today I read a blog from my fellow blogger, La Gringa (go to http://lagringasblogicito.blogspot.com/) and read her blog about "Would You Buy a Dress Without Trying It On?" At first I thought it was going to be about the experience I had about 2 years ago in La Ceiba but, no, it was a well-thought out blog about people wanting to make the move to Honduras. Her blog is something people should seriously consider when making any move to a foreign country.

My blog today will be about some of the interesting "new" experiences I've had in this country.

About two years ago, a friend and I went to La Ceiba to shop, visit doctors and just get away from the island. Yes, once in a while one needs to leave what everyone refers to as "Paradise" and get into the "real" world, even if that "real" world is the Coast of Honduras!

During our shopping trip, my friend wanted to purchase a bra. Now, if you are a woman you know that you cannot buy a bra without trying it on! It is just one of those items which must be tried to see that it fits properly and that it is comfortable. We went into one of the larger department stores in La Ceiba (there are only two really named "large stores") and headed for the lingerie department.

We got there and were disappointed at the limited supply of bras available. Very little to choose from in style and size. My friend found a few that she was interested in and went to find a fitting room. Now when you enter a store in Honduras a sales-person is with you immediately and they are on your heels the whole time you are shopping. I have determined that 1) they either work on commission, 2) are told to watch people for possible shop lifting or 3) both. Anyway, the girl following my friend advised her that one of the bras she had she could not try on - against store regulations. We could not believe this. The other 2 she was allowed to try but they informed her only over her clothing! For some reason one of the name-brand bras are not allowed to touch human skin until you purchase them. This was so ridiculous that we questioned the girl as to why the policy. However, as experience has shown in the past, the employees of any store have no idea why their employer instigates any of the rules! She had no idea why my friend could not try on the bra but insisted that if she tried any of them (with the exception of the one), it was to be over her clothing. My friend reassured her that would be the case, went into the fitting room and tried in on to her bare skin anyway! Gee whiz - they didn't find out, we weren't arrested and she didn't leave some foreign disease behind on the bra!

I have also found, and probably to the store's credit, that anything you buy must be removed from the box and checked completely for cracks or breaks before they will let you buy it. Electric bulbs are removed from their cartons and tested that they light, and containers opened to make sure the number of items in the box matches what it says on the front. Either they have had people return old light bulbs saying these were the new ones and they didn't work or went home, broke the plate or whatever was in the box and returned it for a new one or full refund! You do not get refunds in Honduras! If you return something even after a long explanation and an argument you may only trade it for something else in the store. One store on the island told me that since I didn't return the item on the Friday I bought it, when I came in on Monday it was too late! They are closed Saturday and Sunday so I guess the expiration date on the sold item was no good! Gee, it was a clock! One store finally relented and said they would return the cash but not for 30 days!

I bought an 8 place setting of dishes once and each and every dish was inspected. If you are not in a hurry and have all the time in the world to shop, then I guess one would not be bothered. If you have a schedule to keep (such as an airplane to get to), then it is totally frustrating. Well, the dishes were fine but when I arrived home I noticed that they were what we call "seconds" in the States. Heck, these were "thirds". I noticed that on some of the plates the design was slightly off center and some of the decorations on the edge did not get imprinted fully. In the States they cannot sell these items to people unless they let them know that they are "seconds". Well, "seconds" sell in the States, but I am convinced these were "thirds" because of the poor quality of the printed design. Plus, I had to pay more for them here than I would for the "good" plates in the States, so it was disappointing to end up with poor quality merchandise.

As I have mentioned before, one does not buy a whole bottle of aspirin on the Island - one buys the number of tablets you need at a time. You can buy 2 ribs of celery, 1 cigarette, a few bouillon cubes cubes, etc. This is because the people 1) can't afford any more than a few items a day, 2) don't have proper refrigeration to keep items that require it and/or 3) buy only what they need to cook the meal for that day - maybe because if they store the item it will attract bugs. I'm not sure of all the reasons or rationale (if you can call it that) but I am sure it is because of one of the foregoing.

People do not budget their money here and when building a home they simply acquire an amount of money (very few people have a savings account), start building and when they run out of money they wait until the next windfall! Unfinished homes stand for years here. Even on the Mainland I see this and have to assume they are just houses in progress! Besides, trying to determine what building a house will cost or even making repairs is almost impossible as you can never get anyone to give you a price for their services and the cost and availability of, say, lumber may vary from the time you see it to the time you return to pick it up. My rule is that when in the store, if you see something you like or want, do not leave and think about it for when you return it will be gone. Of, if you buy an item with the hope that they will continue to stock it and return next week hoping they will have more of the same product you will find it is gone never to be seen again! As, to saving money, well, I can understand why people don't want to put their money in a bank here!

I have found maybe one book store in La Ceiba (a new one at the Mall) and one in San Pedro Sula! That is it! There are a few more stores, but they sell only Christian books. I never have found magazines for sale, even at airports. All book stores naturally sell only Spanish books - haven't found a book printed in English yet.

Sewing goods are sold in separate stores; fabric in one, buttons/zippers in another, thread in another. This makes shopping for material to make something a real chore because you may find a fabric you like but no thread, buttons or zippers of a matching color to sew it with. Thread of all types if highly inferior and I avoid purchasing it here. I have found very few "craft" items and recently, to my amazement, discovered hand-made paper in a large hardware store. I make books, crochet panels of various designs, make my own cards and gift boxes, sew baskets from fabric covered clothesline, sew quilts, etc. I have to get all my supplies from the U.S. (with the exception of some fabric) and do a lot of craft shopping when I'm in the States as certain items, such as Velcro or iron-on Pellon cannot be found here.

We have a local Deposito here where we can buy soft drinks and/or beer. You pay for the bottles up front when you buy a new case of whatever drink you want but never expect to get that deposit back. They say they will give you the deposit back if you bring back the original receipt! We have had some cases of beer for years and no longer have the receipts. This was important a few years back when one of the local beer companies no longer printed their logo physically etched onto the beer bottle and chose to replace it with a paper label. The Deposito refused to take the bottles back (even with a receipt) because the new ones had paper labels! We no longer get "Fresca" in large bottles and now are stuck with a case of those big Fresca bottles! We put a deposit on a large plastic bottle once which contained bottled water when our cistern ran dry (see my blog at http://featherridge.blogspot.com/2008/02/anyone-know-good-rain-dance.html). After the problem was solved and we no longer needed the over sized bottle, we returned it for a refund on our "deposit". The salesman looked at us like we were crazy and said "no one ever returns the bottle." They refused to give us our money back! So why do they call it a "deposit" when what they mean is "You buy it and it is yours no matter what our sign says!"

So, we are always surprised by the next newest experience and wonder at the ingenuity of people here to make life a challenge for us!