I have almost completed my visit to the U.S. of A. where I went to visit my brother in Arizona. I will be returning to Guanaja but had to write about my impressions of Arizona.
Coming from a lush island with green mountains, flowers and multi-hued blue water, arriving in Arizona was, well, to some degree filled with "sticker shock." I have visited Arizona in the past when my Mother lived there and once about 6 years ago to visit my brother and his wife. Each time I was there it happened to be either Spring or Summer. I never visited the State in the Winter.
Upon approaching Tucson Airport I observed the area of Tucson/Phoenix from the plane. Tucson lies in a huge bowl surrounded by mountains, similar to the setting for San Pedro Sula. However, unlike San Pedro Sula, which is a green bowl surrounded by green mountains, this land during the winter is many shades of brown. The land was brown, the mountains were brown, the houses were all various shades of brown with brown or occasionally, a white or black roof. Of course Arizona recently experienced some unusual weather with freezing temperatures for several days which burned many plants and removed most traces of green. I was not prepared, however, for the abundance of brown.
The Tucson area, and where my brother lives in Casa Grande, was one flat expanse of brown and quite dismal. The relief from this was when my brother and his wife took me up to Tonto National Park (I do not think if was named after the Lone Ranger's side kick) and subsequently to Roosevelt Dam. It allowed me to see the rugged beauty of the "wild west". We took the Apache Trail which is a dirt road running for about 21-22 miles and which took almost 2 hours to traverse. The scenery was dramatic! Mountains and gorges and a beautiful river flowing through it. This area had a beautiful wild and untamed look. It was hard to imagine pioneers driving wagon trains through this rough, mountainous country and I had to admire the fortitude of those people.
We also visited a Greek Orthodox Monastery which was in the middle of the desert and appeared out of nowhere as an oasis of lovely palm trees, well-kept gardens and beautifully crafted churches. The Monastery was an island in the sea of brown with a quiet and serene feel. The simple handcrafting of the interior of the churches was something to see.
The monastery had been on this location for 15 years and is run and built entirely by the resident monks. The several small chapels/churches were simple but elegant with lovely icons, beautiful brass chandlers, hand carved doors, inlaid wood ceilings and interesting tile work. The chapels are lit entirely by candles except for two small areas where the services are read and a small electric light has been installed.
The monks attend service from 1:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m., work on the grounds and in the chapels during the day and attend two more services before retiring around 8:30 p.m. They certainly must spend a lot of time polishing the brass chandeliers as they showed no trace of tarnish or any wear. The get their beeswax candles from Florida and the heat of the desert certainly is apparent with some of the candles completely bent over!
The monks tend to their gardens of lemons, grapefruit, oranges and various vegetables and have just finished planting a large area of olive trees. They have a well on the premises and get their water from that source. The monastery is also used as a retreat and, therefore, no photos are allowed of the monks or those people who are spending their time in meditation.
A strict clothing code is enforced and visitors not wearing the proper attire are supplied with skirts for the women, long pants for the men and shirts to cover one's arms. Women are required to wear a headscarf at all times and these, too, are furnished.
Our last stop was at a store run by the Florence State Prison where we witnessed some unbelievably beautiful pencil drawings done by the prisoners along with other craft items. I managed to buy a shirt for my husband which I am sure he will enjoy!
I doubt I could live in Arizona, especially in the Winter, having become accustomed to the lushness of Guanaja, but it was amazing to see the contrast between the two and know that for some, this place of dry, arid climate was "paradise" to those who live there.
While visiting my brother and his wife I also managed (through my brother's efforts) to spend an afternoon with my cousin Mike and his wife, Sandy, and my high school girlfriend, Carol, and her husband, Jim. It had been more then 15 years since I had seen any of them and we had a wonderful time catching up on our lives and reliving memories of the past!
As I have said in the past, we all see "paradise" in a different way and it is what you make of it.
My thanks to my brother and his wife for showing me the beauty of the desert and giving me a wonderful tour of their area.