Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My new project

I've been busy crocheting up items for gifts and then, while surfing the net, I found a really nice purse pattern.  My friend, Martha, left me some upholstery scraps which she picked up from a store and they no longer wanted the samples.  Martha suggested that I make small purses out of them.  I expanded on her idea and decided to go all out and do a purse for myself.

 The pattern I chose was fairly simple and straightforward.  I wanted to use my quilting template for the center, which is of irregular shape, and then sew strips of varying widths to each side of the shape.  Since the upholstery samples were limited in size (about 8 x 15 or so) this project would use several different designs but I tried to stay within the same color scheme.

Of course the downside of the pattern was that it was oblong in shape with the handles running up the middle of the pattern.  This meant that when I sewed the side seams and laid the purse open, the sewn "side" seams would become the front and my original design would be on the ends.

But, wanting to make a crazy quilt type pattern, I went ahead.  I covered the muslin pattern with all the material sewing each strip individually and adding as I went.  I found a lining material I had on hand and I was good to go.  Made the lining, put a long strip of fabric and sectioned it off for pockets on either side of the inside and then joined the lining and the purse.

Since the side seams were now the front I decided I would cover them with pockets and, hopefully, the design would be pleasing to the eye.  This gave me two extra pockets - one in the front and one in the back.  I put a metal magnetic snap closure on the front gold pocket and added an embellishment.
The back pocket was sewn with right sides together and the top left opened and hemmed.  I then turned the pocket right side out and then sewed to the purse.  Thus I had, in effect, two pockets; the inner one where I had left it open at the open at the top and a space behind the pocket.  This was an organizers dream! 

 Above it one end panel and the second photo is the other end panel.

This is the purse filled with my items to show how it hangs.  The best part was that I could put pockets along the inside on either side; 3 on one side and 2 on the other.  I now had a fully organized purse which was surprisingly lighter weight than some other purses I've had.  

I also finished a baby star afghan blanket for my friend Joan's first grandchild due in June.  I had a lot of baby yarn on hand that I wanted to use up and since most of my friends are well past the "birthing" stage of life and most of them have already had grandchildren, this was an excellent opportunity to use up the yarn.

I had never tackled this particular pattern before and, while it was fairly easy, I did discover a few "dos" and "do nots" while making it.  I plan on making her a baby cocoon as soon as I finish the wedding present for my Grandson and his fiancé who will be getting married in June.

So, I've not been sitting on my laurels, so to speak, and in spite of the fact that I have not blogged much I am still just as busy as ever with Yoga, crocheting, reading, gardening, laundry, baking and entertaining.  

Life must go on even on an island.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Topic Addressed

Ok.  So I said I would not blog anymore, maybe.  But today I was reading the Honduras Living Groups discussion on-line and the topic of whether or not it is beneficial to "help/assist/give" to poor countries came up..  If you do not have access to this Group, here is a little of what they were discussing:

"As a thought experiment, I wonder what would happen if everyone that is trying to "help" Honduras would just stop. And I mean everyone - NGOs, religious groups, foreign governments, etc. - everyone except Hondurans....

[A]ll this "help" has disabled the Hondurans from doing for themselves, similar to the way the U.S.A. government´s "war on poverty" has basically destroyed the American black family. Liberal guilt at work again. At the individual level, MANY here depend of money sent by relatives/boyfriends, etc. living in the states, or given by local well-meaning gringos. They will first ask someone else to pay for it, before considering working. At the governmental level, they "depend on" foreign aid from various countries, such as U.S., China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Spain and other countries I don´t know about. I know from personal experience that police, fire department, churches, cities, schools, what have you, depend on foreign entities contributing money, vehicles, equipment, bridges, etc. The list is ENDLESS. And when the volunteers or technical specialists leave, whatever they built or designed quickly falls into disrepair. Really, this is so well known.

We can debate all day whether or not the latino culture as found in Mexico and C.A. is "not motivated enough" to do for themselves...but there is no doubt in my mind that all this "help" is at best wasted and at worst seriously counter-productive. In fact, (and don´t tell anyone, this is just between you and me, right?) despite my dislike for the whole Mel populist thing, in a way I was secretly glad when the US and other countries cut off aid, and I was secretly hoping it would continue--just so Honduras would be FORCED to get its act together. Alas, Pepe assumed the (beggar) position and got a lot of the "help" back again.

Unfortunately, I don´t see any of this changing. Neither on the part of the beggars or the donors. The beggars have a good thing going, and the donors have their own agendas that drive them to "help" despite its futility....

However, to me, there is a world of difference between long term volunteers here to enter into our children´s lives and the countless tee shirt groups who arrive daily at the airport, coming into the country for a week or two to ¨help¨. To me, this feeds the terrible habit of so many in the country to hold out their hands, waiting for someone else to give them stuff. Why on earth should 30 people or so come in to build a building?? I believe Hondurans know perfectly well how to build a building. Better to donate the funds needed to a permanent presence in Honduras and employ local people to actually build the buildings. I fear that so many people come here for their own well-being and do not really spend the time analysing the problems here. 

All we have to do is look at Haiti. That country has received more international aid over a longer period of time that any other. And has the poverty rate decreased? Has the educational level improved? Are the people now able to fend for themselves? No to all three and so many other questions we might ask to evaluate the impact of this type of aid.

Why "poor countries stay poor" is not an uncertain science yet to be discovered or unraveled by experts. A handful of books, plenty of research and work has been done to analyze, understand and tackle this worldwide phenomenon. While corruption, bad politics, crime, lack of education/opportunities, etc are some of the things marking the reasons why certain countries remain deprived while others flourish, these are not only the reasons why a country cannot prosper, these are reflections of a country that refuses to prospect.

Honduras is no exception. Honduras remains poor because the country, as a society, is not interested in coming out of poverty. Be it because the impoverished doesn't know or is unable to find a better way of improving their current situation or because the rich and powerful is not interested in distributing the wealth for a greater middle class among Hondurans. Sure, let's have a poll and ask Hondurans how many of them would like Honduras to be a rich, prosperous country instead of poor? I would venture to say the vast majority would be in favor for a rich Honduras. But does the average Honduran know what it takes for a country to be wealthy? I'm sure they are Hondurans of all walks of life: from the laborer, the student, the small business owner, the college graduate, the professional worker, to the politician, the well-established businessmen and the rich who have ideas of how to turn their country around but realize it is impossible to change a nation alone.

I don't believe Hondurans have reached a consensus agreement of how to push their country out of poverty into a prosperous one. The average unemployed, poor-educated Honduran is more likely to immigrate illegally out of Honduras in hopes for a better life than remaining in Honduras and find ways to not only improve their own lives but the lives of everyone else. But who would blame him or her if he/she lives in a society where the vast majority remain poor and the tiny fraction of wealthy get richer? But isn't this the case for every society even in rich countries- the rich get richer and the poor get poorer? Or is there an equilibrium?

I have spoken to Hondurans in the United States who tell me, "Honduras is hopeless. Even if you are lucky enough to graduate from college, you will have to settle with driving a taxi. Even if you have great plans on how to fix the country, those above you- those in power and with money won't let you because they are not interested in a rich Honduras, they are only interested in getting rich themselves." Is this really the mentality of the businessman and politician in Honduras? "I want to run a businesses in Honduras and be very rich, however, I don't want the rest of the people to get a chance as well." How do they expect to run a successful business if the majority of the population are too poor to buy?

NGOs, charities, international aid-- these are all great things but it would be better to tackle the real reasons why Honduras 50 years from now will still be a poor country....

[O]nce that first banana boat hit Utila 150 years ago, the time was past to leave folks to sink or swim. We in the US, whether we intended to or not, have created and influenced many of problems that have contributed to the downward spiral in Honduras. Our insatiable desire for cocaine and cheap material goods has a tremendous impact on the daily lives of Hondurans. Perhaps the responsible thing to do is to at least try to create some balance (i.e. education and health support) so that folks at least have a chance to improve their lot in life....

I agree with other posters, the change has to come from within...the next generation, the children, who many of us have felt called to serve. To love them and care for, to give them our best so they can be the change....

I do personally believe that those who are investing in them will do more than any amount of money from a government...if only they would just give the money to us for the kids instead of lining the pockets of the corrupt on top!"

The above comments were written by several people, people who live in the country and came here, generally, from other countries.

I find that I agree totally with the comments made by these readers.  I have witnessed the futility of sending aid to Honduras when one sees the money being funneled off into the pockets of those entrusted with distributing them properly.  I have seen unfinished project creating nothing but a scar on the land; poorly built projects not lasting because the supplies to maintain are not available nor are their qualified people to operate any machinery that is installed.  The people of this country have no idea what it actually takes to build up, run and maintain a society that will benefit all.  The present government suppresses them, refuses to educate them and keeps the wealth to themselves by stealing from those  countries who are the "givers."

As an example, the people of this tiny island actually believe that they can get Great Britain to take them back into the fold and free them from the government of Honduras and make them their own, independent country under British rule.  They have no idea of what structure is need to establish a "new" country, how they would earn funds to fun their government.  All they expect is that if they get enough people to petition Great Britain and are excepted, then the British will subsidize them and allow them to govern themselves.

I have longed hoped that leading world organizations would stop sending aid and if they did insist in helping, that they establish strict guidelines to follow insisting on outside people handling the funds, supervising the work and seeing that the projects are completed.  I would also like to see these same organizations research whatever project they are funding and take into account that with limited electric power, maintenance equipment, properly trained personnel certain things should not be funded.  

Right now we have a "tourist" center being built on the island next to the new airport.  Originally our "airport" consisted, for years I might add, of a small grass hut where refreshments were sold and a roof was available to protect one from the rain.  It was all we needed, functioned as expected, was run by locals and everyone was comfortable with the way things were.   A new building was proposed and later built supposedly to be used as an "Airport" terminal and in the end it was a failure.  Many problems - one door leading in and out spelled danger if there was a panic, fire or emergency.  The bathrooms were never properly drained to a septic, the water never hooked up, the work shoddy and started disintegrating immediately.  No one ever used this building and the only thing they did use it for was to put chairs outside on the walk way to sit in waiting for planes.  It ended up being used for storage for bags of cement and lumber and is now in disarray.  

Then they decided to build a new terminal which, on the whole, is pleasant looking, airy and comfortable.  Funding was made available from somewhere and all in all the new terminal is a plus. 

However, we have fewer tourists coming here and no one that has enough training to inform guests, in English, what they can see and do here and how to get around.  But, someone somewhere got it in their head (maybe it was pushed by locals here, I don't know) that we needed a "tourist center" .  This is now being built  and, in my opinions, will simply be a waste of construction money.  Why?  Because there are no funds to pay anyone to man this center.  They would have to have a way to get to the airport as there are only water taxis available and who would pay for them?  They would have to be capable and responsible enough to man the center 6 days a week for a few hours in the morning and return for a few hours in the afternoon.  And who wants a job where no one comes to you to uss the training, if any, you might have?  

The main problems here are really not problems aFinding a water taxi here is not difficult.  99.9% of the tourists who come here already have reservations at a hotel for their vacation and, therefore, do not need the services this center would provide.

I would predict that this center will go into disuse, eventually be locked up for lack of interest and money to pay someone to staff it.  But that is my opinion.  I wish I could be more upbeat about it, but after 15 years here I have come to see the light and can reasonably deduce the outcome.

I'm sure that I'll get backlash with this blog but the question original put forth above, sparked my interest and I was finally able to hear that other people agree with me.  

If you want someone to get fish for dinner, don't go out and catch the fish for him - teach him how to fish.

Friday, March 2, 2012

2012 - Year of the Dragon

It's March and this is my first blog of 2012.  I have really been lax in keeping current and, as a matter of fact, am considering stopping my blog all together.  There are several reasons for this but the main one is that after 5 years there is not much new to write about regarding living here on an island that is going no where.  It's not all bad, I've just run out of topics without sounding repetitive.  So far we don't have the road everyone wants to build which would be a total negative for this island for many, many reasons.  We have fewer tourists because of the political climate on the mainland (which really doesn't affect us at all), the rise in crime on the mainland (which, again is not a problem for us) and drugs.

I still love my home and love the peace and solitude that island living, especially on an island without roads, gives us.  But I've blogged about building our home, learning to drive and cope with driving a boat, the constant bug problem, the mañana theory which is a permanent fixture in the Caribbean, the crime, the fires, the weather, the diving, the food (or lack thereof), the people, my pets and sometimes my craft work.  Oh, there are many more topics I've touched on but I've pretty much given all the information I can about the island and our life here.

I must admit also that I've become disenchanted many things in Honduras: the lack of law enforcement, the lack of structure in construction (mainly the lack of enforceable laws), the lack of interest in the people to make their lives better, the lack of commitment to a business looking to serve its customers, the appearance of drugs on the island and the never ending petty theft and small crimes that everyone turns a blind eye to, etc., etc., etc.  

I am tired o hearing people quote all the statistics which show Honduras as being one of the top countries with uncontrollable crime and of the hollow words that are issued by those in government trying to convince people that, no, it is not so.  I'm tired of people going to jail after committing a major crime and/or murder and find that 2 years later someone has provided enough money to "bail" them out of jail and they are set free.  Supposedly in this country this cannot happen but it does and I know of an incident on the island.  

I'm tired of the fact that our leaders on the island claim they can't keep anyone in jail for more than 24 hours - with no rational explanation for this "law".  I'm tired of people thinking I'm stupid and they try to pull all sorts of asinine tricks in order to get my money.  

I'm tired of arguing with people in the bank who, in spite of the fact that they work with "math" can't even figure out that if you have 3 lines of people (one of which is designated for elderly, pregnant and handicapped people) and 3 tellers that the twenty people in line for the two tellers have to be helped by the person with the "elderly" line of 8 people by sending their customers over to that line, thus increasing the "elderly" line to 16 people and reducing the other two lines to 6 people all in the name of "helping the tellers" out.  This is done by sending one customer at a time from the other two lines to the third line and staggering it after every other customer.  What this ultimately does is make the people in the "privileged" line wait 3 times as long as the other two lines and all is justified because these people are given chairs to sit in!  I guess the handicapped, pregnant and elderly don't have anything better to do with their time but to wait in a longer line at the bank because they have a chair!  Ridiculous and you can't make them see the stupidity of this action.

I have mentioned to a few people, mainly tourists who have come to the island and read my blog, that I'm thinking of stopping it.  They were dismayed and said the only reason they were here on the island was because of my blog.  This is a nice compliment and I thank them, but I'm fresh out of things to tell people.  Oh, I guess I could change my blog and talk about my crafts, but I doubt anyone would be interested and what is the point of publishing something like that when no one will read it?

So, I may or may not blog any more this year.  I can report that this year has not been a good one so far.  My Step-Daughter died of cancer on Feb. 21st just a month after celebrating her 46th birthday.  My husband fell in the boat and injured his back.  And we have a new invasion of termites around our house.  The computers have been acting up and if you follow my blog at all you will know what a pain it is to get them serviced.  The phone service is on again, off again and thankfully I have solar power for electricity as the electric company here leaves a lot to be desired besides being the most expense electric company in all of Honduras.  We had to buy a new motor for our boat and while waiting had our boat re-fiberglassed and painted - a complete disaster.  Terrible job and the painting will have to be re-done, hopefully this month.  Also, we are re-painting our house and the whole upstairs front porch has to be re-done.  I've waited more than a year for this to be repaired but something always comes up and so it is pushed to the bottom of the list.

I can say we had the pleasure of some lovely visitors from Germany who came here to celebrate Annette's 50th birthday.  A big birthday bash was held at Manati and the visitors, who happened to be part of the band that Claus once played with in Germany as a young man, put on a wonderful show for us.  It was fantastic to have live music once more and we all thank them for making the trip and entertaining us.  Oh, Happy Birthday Annette for the 50th time!  HA.

Of course, I'm sure this blog is sounding a little negative and I don't like ending it on that note.  It really is not bad living on the island most of the time.  As in any place one resides, there will always be irritants that just drive one up the wall at times.  Overall, life here is relaxing and peaceful.  I now have a Yoga class to attend (which I love), I have projects to keep me busy until 2050 and I will be attending my Grandson's wedding this June in the U.S.  I still enjoy cooking and must say I've made more yummy things living here than all my life of cooking in the States in spite of the limitations on the availability of food.

I have friends here who are loyal and kind and, in general, the population of the island are a very friendly group of people.  

So, this may or may not be a final blog and quite possibly, one day, something unique will happen and I'll just have to get it on my site!  Until then, it has been great and I hope everyone has enjoyed reading my ramblings.

Oh, to all those people who have written me and asked me to assist them with planning their visit to the island, you can always leave a comment on my blog which comes to my e-mail and I can still help you out as it won't be shut down completely.