Monday, October 25, 2010

Little Richard

This weekend we prepared for and experienced another Hurricane on Guanaja. Since the "Storm of the Century," Mitch, which was a category 5 Hurricane and did the most unusual thing of all by staying in one spot over the island for 3 days causing total havoc, we have had brushings with other Hurricanes and many "Northers" as we call them. Winter storms in the U.S. usually push their way down to the Caribbean and we suffer strong seas, high wind and rain during December, January and part of February all of which are dubbed "Northers" by the locals here.

[Image of areas affected by tropical storm and hurricane force winds]

Since going through Mitch and subsequent Hurricanes, this was the first one in many years that was bearing down directly on Guanaja. Lucky for us, it was classified as a Tropical Storm but it was expected to retain Hurricane status just before reaching the island. This was later revised once the storm got closer. It was a rather disorganized Hurricane; it did not have the typical rotating cloud mass with the defined center and was a weak Hurricane at best. Still, a Hurricane is a Hurricane and we prepared for it as if it was something bigger and stronger.

A part of life we have come to expect here is to be ready for dangerous storms. Precautions must be taken and whether or not we are sure the island will take a direct hit is of no concern. I have heard stories of people in the United States who were miffed because they had to prepare their homes for the possibility of a Hurricane and then, at the last minute, the storm veered off course and the expected onslaught was no longer imminent. I read that people were mad because they had to make preparations and no storm hit. They laid blame with the weather bureau for unnecessarily alarming people!

Well, on the island, we take all storms seriously and would rather be prepared. It is far better to find all the work of preparing was not necessary than to go through a storm without taking precautions.

The big fishing boats were all tucked away in various "safe harbors", people put their boats out of the water onto the shore or up on boat lifts. Excess outside items were stored away and large items that could not be moved easily were tied down.

We were no exception. We removed all porch furniture to the bodega, put all the outside plants under the house, took our large boat to the airport for safe keeping and hauled the skiff out of the water unto the shore. The solar array was tied to prevent it from moving, the dogs, cats and birds were brought in doors and we made sure we had flashlights and candles. Because we have solar, we did purchase extra diesel for our spare generator and made sure that we had plenty of propane for the stove and water heater! With a full cistern, we had no worries about water and we were set.

For the past 3 weeks this tropical depression has been sitting off our coast causing us cloudy skies and plenty of rain. Sunshine was a rarity and forget about getting your laundry to dry! The winds were being sucked out of our area and we faced many days of rain, cloud cover and uncomfortable temperatures because of the lack of a breeze. Finally, Saturday the 23rd we realized that we would be in the path of a Hurricane and started our preparations.

The Hurricane was named "Richard" but, because of its small size it was dubbed "Little Richard." And that is what it was. After a large amount of rain off and on all night on Saturday, about 4:00 a.m. on Sunday morning the wind finally picked up considerably and really started blowing. It continued on until about 8:00 a.m. when it began to slack off. When we went outside in the morning hours there was not a lot of damage. Leaves and tree limbs all over the yard and walkway but no big trees uprooted nor was our house damaged. We did have some minor rain leakage in the house but experienced less than we usually have during a Norther.

So, I was relieved to have gotten through this one unscathed only because I spent it warm and dry in my house, slept comfortably with a nice dinner prior to retiring and did not have to sit up on a stool for 3 days in a house which leaked so much it seemed to be raining indoors nor did I have to wade in ankle deep water in the house. None of our boats were blown away and unlike Mitch, our furniture remained dry! During Mitch we did not sleep for 3 nights except to catch small cat naps sitting up and this time, rather than being met with brown everywhere and a leafless forest along with buildings torn apart and destroyed, we had minor damage.

So, all in all, we are lucky that no large damage had been incurred and all we have to do now is clean up and put our belongs and plants back! The plus side is that with the change in the direction of the seas for the past 3 weeks, we have some of our beach front back. Because of the new direction of the sea, sand was deposited on and built up our shoreline. Of course, over time, it will all return to the sea. You cannot control the sea and change is a constant, so we live with it and are pleasantly surprised to see, for a while, a little more beach to walk on.

P.S. I was unable to post this earlier in the week because of difficulties downloading photos and now we have Hurricane Tomas approaching but, hopefully, it will stay well North of the island! But, as my husband always says, "It's always something!"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I'm Home!

It has been a while since I've blogged but I was off to Europe, once again, and returned the end of September to Guanaja.

What a trip! I traveled several cities in Germany, went on to Austria and Switzerland and then to Croatia before returning to Germany and Florida. Despite the fact that the weather was cooler than I expected and the days were mostly overcast, I had a wonderful time and saw amazing things.

Especially nice was all the wonderful people I met. I reacquainted with friends I had made on the island, met new people and got to "people" watch in many spots. Thanks to those wonderful people that made my trip more pleasurable: Claus and Annette, Judith and Daniel, Crista and Heidi, Annette's Parents and Sister, Roland, Tina and Frankie, Rene and Betty, Inge and Martin, David and Joan, Jim and Rose and many others that I got to visit with.

The reason for the trip was the wedding of Judith and Daniel in Kunzelsau, Germany. I spent a week in their lovely town and had a wonderful time with the wedding party before and after the ceremony. Lots of fun, good food, dancing and drinking and sight-seeing. I am fully convinced that if you want a good time - go to Germany!

While in Germany I also visited one of my favorite cities, Frankfurt, with Claus and Annette who also accompanied me to Munich where we went on a Beer Garden Tour of Munich chaperoned by Inge and Martin. We ate, drank, walked, drank, saw sights, drank, shopped and, well, drank. I mean, what does one do on a Beer Garden tour anyway?

Another German City I visited was Rotenburg an de Fulda which is northwest of Frankfurt. There I met up with Rose and Jim who showed me the sights of their town and surrounding country side. Beautiful city and great hosts. I hope to post more blogs on the trips to these various Germany cities in the future.

I also headed to Salzburg, Austria and spent 3 days there. This was the only part of my trip where I was on my own. I toured the City by bicycle, did some shopping, treated myself to a fantastic dinner one night, visited the World's Largest Ice Cave, Eisriesenwelt, and, in general, had a great time in a very interesting city.

It was then on to Croatia where I was whisked off to the Port City of Novigrad and on to Pula, Rovinj and finally Groznjan. The final stop, Groznjan, is a village which is the home to various artists who live and sell their wares in numerous shops lining the beautiful cobblestone streets. This is a "must" see stop for anyone visiting the coast of Croatia as not only is the town unique and beautiful, the wares sold by the artists are fabulous.

Finally, it was on to Switzerland where I spent a couple of days in Davos, a lovely ski resort in the Alps. I did some hiking with my guests, toured the town and experienced my first meal of wild deer in a cozy restaurant, The Vetlinerstubli. The Alps are breathtaking! I was awed by their sheer size and that of the huge pine trees. These were giants, reaching to the sky in beauty and majesty. Lovely hiking paths with outcrops of tiny wild strawberries and cranberries and unusual mushrooms and Nature at is best.

All in all, more than I can cover in this blog but enough to spend a few hours putting together future blogs.

The downside of the beginning and ending of my trip, however, were the deaths of two wonderful people that I have known for a number of years.

Our good friend, Hans Glanegger, died in Miami on August 18th at the age of 75. He was on his way to Germany for medical treatment of a serious health condition but became ill and collapsed in the Miami Airport. He was taken to the hospital in Miami where he was looked after for 3 days before his demise. Hans had lived on Guanaja for over 20 years on Hendricks Cay with his lovely wife, Renate. He had two sons and a Granddaughter in Munich, Germany. Hans and his wife operated the famous restaurant in Munich, The Hofbrauhaus, for more than 20 years before retiring, touring the world by boat and RV and finally settling on Guanaja. Hans was a lovely, gruff man who kept us entertained with stores of his youth, complaints of Germany after the war, instructions on how to prepare food, tales of life with his various Rotweillers, and, in general, a man who will be very much missed.

Prior to my return to the States I was informed that Bobbie Brooks, father-in-law to my daughter, Tami, had passed away on September 12th at the age of 68. Bobbie was a long-time resident of Plant City, Florida and is survived by his wife, Patsy, his son, Scott, two Grandsons and four brothers. His death was unexpected and the community who had much to be thankful for by his presence will miss him very much. There were over 350 people at Bobbie's wake and the funeral was with full military honors. Bobbie was a devoted husband and had dedicated his later years to his Grandsons, Kyle and Ryan. He was a friend to all, a comfort to many and a light in the darkness. He is and will always be well thought of and loved.

Life is filled with beauty and pain, happiness and sadness, all of which I experienced in this last trip to Europe and the States.