Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanksgiving in Roatan

What a week!  Last week I turned 70 (not happy about that) and then the following week (Thanksgiving) my brother and his wife advised me that they planned on flying to Roatan to spend that week with me!  WOW!

We have not had too many visitors come to our island to spend time with us.  My daughter and her husband, my son, my two grandsons and a granddaughter all over a period of 16 years!  Our island is not difficult to get to but if you have any health issues, it is not the place for some people.  Unfortunately, my brother and his wife have had their share of health problems and I have had to discourage them from coming to Guanaja.  Why?  It would be very difficult just for them to get in and out of boats even in a calm sea.  The time they chose for this visit is the season of our Northers when the wind picks up, rain falls and we have a lot of surge.  So, mindful of that, they decided to go to Roatan.  I immediately made plans to meet with them for the week.

The first photo is my brother, Danny and his wife and the second is me and my wonderful sister-in-law, Marion.

They found a good deal on the hotel Clarion Suites at Pineapple Villas.  What a beautiful place that was!  Five four-story buildings with 4 separate pools and a large lagoon.  Two restaurants and a spa on the premises and shuttle service to and from the airport.  Hey, we are on!

They arrived in Roatan on November 24th and I arrived on the 25th.  They came from Arizona so it was an all day exercise.  I came from Guanaja, just about 15 miles away and it took me 6 hours by plane!  Lot of waiting in the airport.  First flight from Guanaja left late (but that is nothing new) and then it left late from Ceiba and finally arrived on Roatan.  I really hate sitting in airports for hours and hours.  The metal chairs are really uncomfortable and once you get in the waiting room there is nothing in there to eat or drink.  You can exit and buy food and beverages but then you have to go through the whole security thing again!  Ugh.  Anyway, I arrived and after another wait for the hotel shuttle I finally reached my destination.

It was a sunny day and the room they were given was gigantic.  Hey - bigger than my house!  A huge porch with a view of the pool:

Each of the 4 pools had special themes.  This one centered around a rock formation (real, not fake) with waterfalls and a huge iguana on top:

Since I arrived after noon we visited for a while and then went to lunch at Herby's Sports Bar.  They have great food with wonderful service.  We swam in the pool that evening and had a day trip planned on Tues. on a Glass Bottom Boat.

WestBay Tours offered a glass bottom boat ride which my sister-in-law scheduled for us on Tuesday morning.  They sent her an e-mail Mon. afternoon telling her to call them as the weather was starting to look like it might be bad and they wanted to know if we were still planning on going.  Unfortunately they did not answer their phone any of the half-dozen times we tried during the day.  We finally got them Tues. a.m. and they informed us that the boat had been moved from West Bay to Flower Bay and we were instructed to go there and be there by 11:00 a.m.  We did and no one showed up.  Boat was there but no crew.  Tried calling again and as before, no answer.  We finally reached them later in the day and they could give no reason as to why no one showed up.  I, personally, think that when she checked on where the boat was going to be she forgot to tell them there would be customers coming!  So, 1/2 of our day wasted.  We did manage to stop at a wonderful Bulk Gourmet Shop and find many items one normally cannot find on the islands or the mainland.  Since my husband's birthday is coming up I bought us two beautiful steaks and 6 hamburgers (the meat for hamburgers in this country leaves a lot to be desired).  We had a lunch at a crepe restaurant, did some more shopping and returned to the hotel.

Due to the storm that passed over the islands, our weather was less than perfect Wed. through Friday.  My sister-in-law and I took advantage of this and spent the afternoon at the Spa at the hotel having a massage, a facial and she a pedicure and manicure and for me a haircut.  That was a disaster!  I told the girl not to take too much off as my hair is already short and I did not want to look like a boy.  Well, she just went wild and sheared me!  But, as they say, the difference between a good haircut and a bad one is 2-3 weeks!  Can't glue it back on so I'll have to live with it.  The massage and facial were great and I highly recommend them.

We did manage to get in a trip to Anthony's Key on Thurs. for the Dolphin Beach Encounter.  Rain and wind still present but since we were going to get wet anyway, what the heck.  It was great and very educational.  Hey - I can even tell how to distinguish a male from a female dolphin (if they will roll over for me)!.

We were in waist-deep water and keeping our balance was not easy with the surge, but we managed.  The girl trainer worked with Maury the dolphin gave an educational talk.  I learned some facts about dolphins that I did not know before.  In total, there are 19 dolphins in a penned in area.  It is a good sized area but still does not compete with the freedom in their natural habitat.  I have mixed feelings about keeping the dolphins in penned areas or in captivity but see the educational advantages to humans.  Of course, on the other hand, the disadvantages to the mammal are considered and it is hard to weigh those things considering the dolphins are well cared for as they are and the fact that they might otherwise run into more danger in the ocean makes it hard to stay on one side or the other.  But, that is their home so I would tend to lean towards giving them freedom.  This is not going to happen as many places around the world have fish in aquariums and in large pools for people to view and for their education in order to help the creatures of the sea.  The handlers seemed to be well trained and well informed and I was glad to see that aspect.

There was an added plus to the experience.  Anthony's Key provided photographers to take photos which could be purchased at the gift shop (a really nice place I might add).  They would either send the photos via your e-mail or for an extra $10 put the photos along with stills of the area taken during better weather days on a thumb-drive.

Since the day of the dolphin encounter was Thanksgiving, we went back to the hotel, showered and dressed up for Thanksgiving dinner.  And what a feast that was!  Turkey, mashed potatoes and a great turkey gravy, toasted bread, scalloped corn, green beans and carrots, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes to die for!  Yumm.  And a big plus: pumpkin pie with real whipped cream topping!  No fuss, no muss, just sit down, order, eat and enjoy!  Now that's a Thanksgiving I could get use to.  The food was delicious and plentiful as you can see from this plate!

My visit at an end I prepared to leave on Friday morning, hopefully to return to Guanaja that same day.  My flight was scheduled to leave at 11:30 a.m. and I was at the airport at about 10:30 a.m.  The weather from Wed. on was bad with rain and wind; a typical Norther as we call it.  Unfortunately rain many times on the islands and the Mainland cause the airports to close.  Such was the case on this day and off and on all day either the airport on Roatan was closed or in La Ceiba.  We finally took off at about 5:00 p.m. which meant there was no way I would catch a flight out to Guanaja.  I spent the night in La Ceiba and was back at the airport on Sat. morning at 7:00 a.m. for a 8:30 a.m. flight.  Little did I know but all day Friday and now, on Saturday, the winds were really blowing on Guanaja and all flights on Friday had been cancelled to the island.  We were not allowed to take off in the morning and I had to stay at the airport all day until at last, at 4:15 p.m., we were advised that planes could not  fly and land on Guanaja.  Another night in a hotel was anticipated, plus flights usually do not go to the island on Sunday so it appeared that I was looking for a departure on Monday!  With the back up the airline decided to fly on Sunday and we were informed while collecting our luggage that a flight was scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning and we were advised to be at the airport at 9:00 a.m.    

To add insult to the whole 3 day experience, one pays an exit tax from the airport they depart from and when you make a transfer, as in La Ceiba, you are, effectively, "in transit".  I was told Friday night that the tax I paid in Roatan would be rolled over to Saturday.  Saturday I was told the same thing.  However, on the day of my departure, Sunday, I was told that since I paid the tax effectively on Friday constituting a 3 day trip, I had to pay the tax.  I went to the ticket counter and the gentleman there went to the tax office with me as he thought I had wrong information.  The people at the tax counter reaffirmed that "in transit" covered only 2 days and since I was there longer (even though it was through no fault of mine) I had to pay.  It doesn't cost much but it was the principal.  I looked at the airline agent and said "No, you will pay my tax as I have incurred two nights stay in a hotel, taxi fares and meals and I will not pay a tax as I am still in transit."  He agreed and paid the tax.  

We took off at about 9:30 a.m. and had a fairly easy flight to the island.  The landing, however, was tricky with strong cross winds still blowing.  We made an approach to the runway but had to pull up and go around again.  The second approach was successful and I was home.  There were a lot of people in the airport waiting to leave and as a result there were approximately 4 flights that day!  No wonder we on the island do not do a lot of "island hopping!"

My thanks to the wonderful staff at the Clarion Suites Hotel, to the great cab driver we had (Homer), to Anthony's Key for a thrilling experience and to the airlines for remaining cordial and helpful during this stressful return trip. Thanks to my brother and his lovely wife for flying those many miles to spend Thanksgiving with me and for the fun we had together.  Thanks too for the items they brought for me and for re-introducing me to Roatan.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Life is a Roller Coaster!

We are at the end of November and where has the year gone?  Honduran elections are this week and with it is the suspense of "will anything change?"  I do not have a lot of faith in politicians as I think they are too far removed from reality!  Just look at the U.S. and its huge debt.  Do they stop spending?  No.  Do they make necessary and much needed cuts?  No.  Do they allow their politicians to live a much better life than the average citizen?  Yes.  Even so I am proud of my government and just wish that Honduras could look to the future - their children and provide them with a much needed and necessary education.  They should start thinking of the future of their country and not their pocketbooks.

Ok - so, I became another year older this month and with that a friend said I now have the Wisdom of the Elders.  But, what good will it do?  Young people do not want to listen to their elders.  I mean, when you were young did you want to listen to the stories or take seriously the advice of your elders?  Probably not.  So why should we expect our children to be any different?  So much is happening in the world today and advances are being made at lightning speed.  Wonders are being discovered and life is suppose to be getting better.

But, is it?  I look around our island and see unemployment, thievery, basic needs not being met and the main income of the island, tourism, has fallen drastically.  Now, the local electrical company may go under and what are the majority of the people on the island to do if they hardly have money for food let alone buy a generator to generate their own power?  The people of this island think if they build a road from one end of the island to the other it will make their lives better and attract tourists.  But, if you don't have the amenities to go with that road that attracts tourists, what good will it do?  Hondurans are not known for maintenance and who would maintain a road once it is built?  Right now there is a hole at the end of the airport runway which goes untended to.  The local government, from all reports, is responsible for the upkeep up of the runway and claims they have no money to fix it!  So, I guess we will wait for the airlines to announce they will not land here until the situation is remedied.  Why do we have to wait until the worse scenario comes along?

The education in Honduras is appalling; it does not meet basic standards and when the children finish school, what do they have to look forward to?  A job at a fast food chain?  A job as a teacher who does not get paid for months?  A job where if the local government leaders do not agree with what the individual is suppose to be able to by law so that individual is prevented from doing his legal job?   

Life for an islander is hard.  Life here for a retiree is easier but expensive.  The law is ineffectual and very little is done to stop the on-going thievery or prosecute the thieves.  Drugs are still present with many people taking the stand that the money coming in from drugs helps the islanders.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  There is nothing to spend your money on here on the island - no luxuries and if you are bringing in a lot of money people generally want nicer things in their lives.  People are spending more money on drugs, committing crimes to get the money and are not part of a "responsible" community contributing to the island.  Drugs drag the community down.

There seems to be no law forcing a builder to guarantee the completion of any project they may begin.  Thus, we have "ruins" all over the island.  Areas that are partially built up and then the forest is allowed to grow back over them.  Hotels that once were productive are left to the elements and to people stripping them of their material.  So many construction projects are started and never even reach the half way point leaving a blight on the looks of the island.  This practice should be stopped and there are way to guarantee that it does not happen, but who will put those plans into effect and who will enforce them?

I have not blogged in quite a while as I did not have much more to say about the island.  It is still beautiful and I enjoy living here but things are not getting better.  Things have stagnated and seem to be going backwards.  I ask myself, is this happening all over the world?  With my limited communication and intel from the outside world, I do not know but I suspect that in many places all over the world there is an uneasiness about people who are becoming disgruntled.  So, it is not entirely a phenomena in just this part of the world.

I can only hope that, as in the past, things will change.  People will become wiser and take more pride in their communities.  People will start being concerned about their neighbors and will no longer tolerate lawlessness.  One can wish can't they?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Lights Out for The Island?

I may be setting myself up for some hate mail, but I think that what has transpired on the Island in the past week is something that I should pass on to people, especially those who own property here but do not live here full time.

First of all, I was not at the meeting but depended upon various people to appraise me of what occurred.  Some people took notes; others, well it was from the recollections.  I am reprinting what I sent out to several people in an e-mail the day of the meeting, October 24, 2013.

"For those who did not attend today's meeting of the Board of Directors of Belco, nor live here full time and have no input into the problems facing the island, I offer this e-mail as a "catch up" if you will on the status of the island's electric company, Belco.

A meeting was held on the Cay this morning by the Board of Directors of Belco to announce that if they are unable to formulate a plan or come up with money to achieve their proposed goals, then the electric company will be in bankruptcy come this December and will close their business.

Apparently, according to the individual heading of the meeting, Belco has been in dire straits since 2004.  Ever since Mitch they have been struggling but, things really started to fall apart about 2004.  They are convinced that their purchase of two large generators some time between 2004 and 2007 was a big mistake.  At the time they felt electrical consumption would rise with new businesses opening on the island and the possibility of tourism picking up, along with the fact that 3 fish plants were operating at the time.  None of these predictions came to fruition along with the closing of the fish plants.  I instead of an increase in electrical output, there has been a decline in consumption.  Costs have risen and in spite of the fact that there is a fuel surcharge on the electrical bills representing an absorption of the rising costs of fuel, the company is looking at bankruptcy.

They admitted that they are approximately LPS. 19,000,000.00 in debt to Banco Atlantid and have the owners have been unable to honor their debit.  They proposed at the meeting that an account be set up with the Credit Union and anyone willing to come to their aid could deposit money into this account.  The account would be used to buy a smaller generator to supplement one of the two large ones presently supplying electricity to the island.  According to my sources, nothing was said about what their plans were for the unused large generator that they feel now is unnecessary.  They said that even running the one large generator was not be cost effective and, thus, it necessitates the need to purchase a smaller generator.  They stated that this account would be monitored by the Credit Union and that as soon as Belco began to make a profit from their business those who deposited money in the Credit Union (similar, I guess to owning shares but nothing was mentioned about the method to accomplish this feat), would be paid back the money they "invested."  Nothing was mentioned about any possible sale of the one large remaining generator they have no need for.

There were no flow sheets, no reporting as to how money has been handled, no accounting as to how this situation came to be; just a request that people present lend a hand and loan them money.

Of course I ask the  following questions, which have since been reflected by foreigners and Islanders alike:

1.  Why did they wait until two months before the announcement that they might have to close the business doors in December that they needed help?

2.  Will the books of the company be open for anyone investing so that their business dealings can be monitored to see that the inflow of new money and the subsequent control of credits and debits to rebuild the company will enable them to repay investors?

3.  If they owe the bank approximately Lps. 19,000,000.00, does that not indicate that the bank would be first in line to any profits gained by the company starting up again and thus delaying any pay back to investors?  What projections are available as to a timetable for pay back to the bank and subsequently to investors?

4.  No time table was given for this pay back and no flow charts were submitted to show the possible influx of cash a new generator would bring and/or a table of projected electrical consumption to support the purchase of this generator.  Nothing was shown to indicate what the present electrical consumption is and/or projected future consumption of electricity.

5.  No information was given as to the possibility of new management or the enlisting of someone who could review their bookkeeping records and correct any present spending that may have contributed to this problem.

6.  No explanation was given as to why the fuel surcharge, which is continually rising, has not paid for the fuel consumption or fuel costs each month.

7.  Nothing was said about how they planned to collect on all the outstanding bills owed to the company and do it in an effective manner.

8.  No other sources of electrical power were discussed and, apparently, some gentlemen from the mainland who are interested in getting solar and wind energy to the island, did not show up for this meeting.
  Apparently, at one point in the meeting, it was stated that they would not address various inquiries as to how the status of the company had reached this point of decline and it was made clear that this was merely a meeting to ask for people to "invest".   Yet, nothing was said as to what the invested money would represent in the way of stocks in the company; i.e., how much the shares would be worth individually."

No reports have been forthcoming as to the success of the meeting but it was stated this past week that several individuals were aware that the Board of Directors had left for San Pedro Sula/Tegucigalpa to find investors.  Several people have made various suggestions from allowing the Belco Board to go bankruptcy and relinquish their hold on the company so that new management can take over, if such investors for a new company are found.  

Going co-op has been suggested where everyone using electricity would have a stake in the business.  Quite possibly the electric users in Guanaja could ask for a meeting with the Belco Board and Banco Atlantida to see if this reorganization could be accomplished voluntarily and without interrupting the electrical service.  Belco and Banco Atlantida would have to agree along with the majority of the electrical users.  As a co-op, everyone having an electric meter would get a share and a vote to elect a Board of Directors who would then hire a manager to run the company and make PUBLIC reports to the shareholders as to the rate charged and dividends.  

Some people have suggested that the island copy Utila and go with a pre-paid electric program where the power one uses is paid for in advance.  When the meter showing the amount of purchase indicates that there is no money, the power shuts off.  Of course the problem of organizing, finding money, finding solid people to run the company will be a huge undertaking.

From an islander, the following was submitted:

"Thanks for forwarding these Email. Its hard to get things accomplish in Guanaja, because we always see the mistakes, but much of the time we don't contribute to fix them; we don't stand for one common goal as a community.

We don't set a vision for the future of our Island, we elect people which can't see any further than the point of their nose, and the sad part is that they don't take any advice [from] those people who might know something about the problem.  We have our priorities all messed up; First the Lord, Second our family, Third our friends, Fourth our community, Fifth our country.

Guanaja is sinking, we all agree on this.  There are no jobs, there is no industry, there is no money, and we belive that someone from outside is going to fix these problems.  When we elect a leader is to lead the community in the right path. There was L26,000,000 given [during] Mel's Government to Guanaja Municipality [and] not 1 penny was used for wind, or solar energy, this is the same person that was reelected. He only had to use half of the money for this purpose, and in a short time this would be a income for our local government.  There is a law in Honduras that if you can produce energy cheaper than what it is costing the company, they have to buy it from you.  If this had been done we would not be in this problem. I ask the question, what is going to happen when the big oil companies decide they want $200 a barrel of oil?  It is going to happen! Are we ready for it?

This is the first  meeting BELCO had and there [were] a lot of questions that need to be answered.  And note was taken, to be able to answer them, Belco is going to have [to have] another meeting .... and call in a second meeting with the potential investors, to give them answers to their questions.

Of 70 people that were invited about 25 were there and some were not in the list, I guarantee you if the generator went of for 24 hours it would have been a different story.

As a  grope united with one purpose it can be achieved.  
We are divided, by politics and lead by fools.  What can be achieved with this combination?"   

As you can see from an Islander writing the above comments, it is not only those non-citizens who believe something must be done.  More information is needed; the Board needs to present their accounting records, facts and figures in order for anyone to take seriously the thought of investing.

It must be added that there is a division on how much is owed to Banco Atlantida.  Reports from the meeting (in notes taken by an individual) stated Lps. 19,000,000.00.  Others claim they were told Lps. 9,500,000.00.  All in all, no matter what is owed, it is a huge amount and the fact that the Board chose not to face the problem years ago and waited until the eleventh hour to advise the populace of the dire situation was, in my opinion, irresponsible.

Again, the above comments were made by Islanders and foreigners alike.  So if someone wants to criticize me, you should first take into consideration that the population of Guanaja has been left in the dark - and will be in more ways than one.

Another thought: If the phone towers have no power - there will be no cell phone usage on the island!

We will be hit twice!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

More Updates for 2013

Ok - for those who want me to continue, for those that have a passing interest and for those who are curious - here's another update for early 2013.

As I said earlier, we lost two dogs and acquired a new puppy, Desiree, and a feral cat, Smokey (I did mention Smokey did I not?).  Smokey was the second of two feral cats that have "adopted" us.  The first one, Spook, I wrote about a while back.  He lasted with us less than a week and died of unknown causes.  Smokey showed up a few months ago and was very weary.  He slept on top of the garden house with one of our other cats and came down to feed when we put a dish of food out.  Eventually he became accustomed to our daily routine and in no time blended in with our other pets.  As for Desiree, being a puppy the two older dogs wanted nothing to do with this rambuncious, playful character.  However, Smokey and her hit it off immediately.  They would literally chase each other around the yard taking turns as to who would chase who.  Desiree would bite her on the ears, on the head, on his legs and private parts which Smokey took in stride.  When he became tired of it he would rise up, growl and the chase would ensue.

Smokey was around for about 4-5 months (maybe more) and was a wonderful addition to our family of pets.  However, on August 2nd, a Friday, as we placed out food in the food bowls, Smokey was no where to be found.  He did not return the next day for his morning meal and 4 weeks passed without a sight of him.  I would like to report that he returned safe and sound but he did not.  We have no idea what happened to him, where he went or why. 

On April 21, 2013 one of the island Icons passed away.  Capt. Albert L. Veverica died at the age of 85.  Capt. Al had been in declining health for several years and the last 6 months he went downhill quickly. He lived in Guanaja for over 40years contributing greatly to improvements on the island.  He made it possible for people to get from one side of the island to the other by digging out the canal that runs by the airport.  He contributed to the building of buildings on the Cay and was one of the first people visitors saw when arriving on the island.  He was a great story teller embellishing his life experiences and entertaining all walks of life who visited the island with his charisma.  He was survived  by 4 sons and 2 daughters, 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.  He is fondly remembered and is greatly missed.

Next, I must report the birthday celebration of Jimmy Springer who turned 75 this month.  Friends helped him celebrate with a beautiful cake that his wife commissioned by a woman living in Mangrove Bight.  Happy Birthday Jim!

I am late reporting that Joan and David are now Grandparents.  Sadie was born just one year ago in Alaska and  was able to visit her Grandparents for Christmas in 2012.  She is an adorable child and we all had fun cooing and smiling at her.  Her Mom and Dad are expecting another child this October.  Our best to all of them and wishes for a healthy baby once again.

Conch Festival VI was celebrated this month on the island with week-long activities culminating with a boat flotilla to Soldado Beach with a re-enactment of Christopher Columbus' landing on the island.  This year there was a big blow out at Manati and Klaus and Annette (along with friends) even contributed to the boat flotilla by decorating a boat with various flags of nations around the world.  Good weather and great fun that week.

One of the strangest things that happened in our house was the appearance of a huge termite nest upstairs in my craft room.  I had been absent from my crafts for quite a while and a few months ago went upstairs to gather up some supplies.  Found this huge nest - only part of it is shown.  It was built up on a plastic 3 drawer container and went down to the baseboard.  After removing it we discovered that the whole underside of the oak table had been eaten away and was not salvageable.  My husband had built the table and it provide me with a good work base for years. Termites are a real problem on the island and they move quickly as this nest was built in probably a matter of a week or a little more.

My husband has been idle with his camera lately but managed to snap a photo of this rather large spider which had lost one of his 8 legs!  I'm just glad it was outside the house.  We have tarantulas and scorpions in the bodega which he discovers and relocates periodically.

While this may a partial update on what is happening at FeatherRidge, I cannot promise any weekly reports.  I know I have more news I want to share but am drawing a blank at the moment.  So, be patient and I'll try to post something more before the year's end.  I do want to post about my son's recent wedding in the Philippines and hope to do that soon.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Update for 2013

I mentioned in 2012 that I was not going to blog anymore as I felt all the subjects I could pass on to people about Island living had been said.

That being true, for the most part, I did my "final" blog in May about the telephones here.  However, I decided to do an update due to the fact that a handful of people (and they weren't even friends or known to me!) have asked me not to stop as they enjoy reading about life on the island.  So, to honor those few that made the request, I will at least publish this update which I started as a "draft" in 2013.  Sorry for the delay.

I should start from where I left off so as not to confuse people as opposed to jumping around like a jackrabbit, which is my normal speed.  Much of what I will write here will just relate to happenings other than island life.  I will cover my trips, my crafts, some comments on living in Honduras and my pets.  So, here goes.

First of all, in June my Grandson, Joshua, and his lovely fiancé decided to join in wedlock in her hometown just outside Richmond, Indiana on the 10th of June 2012.  I flew up there from Florida where I was visiting with friends and drove from Dayton, Ohio.  My daughter, Tami, also flew in the day after me and together we attended a lovely outdoor ceremony at the home of the Bride.  It was the first time I had met Brandice and her family.  They have a lovely farm and a perfect spot for the wedding.  The weather couldn't have been better and we had a wonderful time.  Congratulations Josh and Brandi.  Of course they have been married a year now and Josh has become a Policeman, they have acquired a dog and moved to a new home.

After the wedding I flew up to Minnesota as I had arranged, through the help of my cousin, Mike, to have a small family reunion.  Out of 8 children on my Father’s side of the family only two sisters are still living; Aunt Margie and Aunt Betty.  Both are spry women in their 80’s and in relatively good health.  Margie has been a widower for more years than I can count and Betty and her husband, Leo, are still in love and active with square dancing, tennis, trips to Florida and Arizona and entertaining their children and grandchildren.

We all met at a lovely restaurant outside Minneapolis and in spite of the fact that it was a week day, several of my cousins were able to attend.  My brother and his wife were there along with my brother’s daughter and her husband.  We talked about old times, had some good laughs along with good food.  Photos were snapped and I can honestly say it was one of the real highlights of my trip.  

My brother then drove me up into Northern Minnesota where I spent a few days with him in his home.  While there I managed to look up a girlfriend of mine with whom I attended high school (1959-1961).  She and I have remained close and correspond as often as distance allows.  She is not overly enthusiastic about computers and, therefore, our letters are few and far between.  Carol and her husband, Jim, met up with us at a restaurant and after a light lunch we returned to their lovely lakeside home.  It was a wonderful day and a great visit and I’m so glad I was able to reunite with her.

My brother drove me back to Minneapolis where I spent the night with my cousin, David, before flying on to Florida and returning to Guanaja.  David and I were years apart as cousins and it was nice to finally learn more about him, his family and his life.  Thanks to David and his wife for putting me up and showing me a lovely evening.  The only black spot on the trip was that somewhere during the time I was being driven back to Minneapolis from Northern Minnesota, someone had managed to get my credit card information and charge about $400+ to my account.  Luckily I discovered it right away and notified my credit card company who promptly cancelled my cards and reissued new cards.  I did not have to pay for these fraudulent charges which was a blessing but it is such a hassle to get new cards and puts a crimp in one's travels.

I returned to the island where things were as usual.  June is generally very pleasant here and 2012 was no exception.  The only difference in the weather this year was that the rains we usually experience in October through mid-January did not appear until the first of Janaury.  This made traveling to and from Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas dinners and celebrating New Year's Eve much more pleasant.  But, I get ahead of myself.

In September I flew to Germany and spent several days with friends in Rotenburg un der Fulda in Northern Germany.  I had been here before and my hosts had more to show me.  It was a visit filled with fantastic sights.  Especially wonderful was Bergpark Wilhelmshohe in Kassel.  This remarkable park has rose gardens, miles of beautiful walking paths and a couple of castles and an octagon shaped building at the top of the hill that is remarkable.  The entire octagon structure, which is the center point of the park, with the statue, stands about 212 feet.  The statue of Hercules at the top stands about 25 feet tall and made up of single, embossed copper sheets on a wrought iron frame. The Statue took 16 years to build and can be seen as far away as the town of Kassel which lies at the foot of the Park.

very first Saturday of the months of June, July, August and September this event takes place during the evening with lights of different colors illuminating the water, the fountain and the different monuments. Every time about 350.000 liters (92,000 gallons) of water are needed and visitors can follow the water's way starting from the Hercules monument and ending at the big lake of the castle Wilhelmshöhe. The water runs down the cascades, the Steinhöfer's waterfall, the devil's bridge, until it tumbles down the aqueduct before finally arriving at the lake of the castle where a fountain of about 50 meters ends the spectacle. This whole system relies on natural pressure from reservoirs and underground pipes whose locks are opened manually. This system has been in place for more than 300 years.

This is truly a spectacle to see and I would highly recommend it to any travelers visiting Germany.

I then took a train to Berlin where my Yoga teacher in Guanaja, Anke, and her husband, Bernd, provided a lovely room for me in their home.  Their apartment building was once in the Eastern part of Berlin and much renovation had to be done after the wall came down.  The area they live in is a bustling community with apartments, shops, restaurants and a transit system that is convenient and efficient.  We did a 9 mile bicycle tour of Berlin where my hosts pointed out some of the special sights of Berlin.  I had been to Berlin in 2009 but had seen only the buildings in the “Western” part of Berlin so this was a treat.  We also did a 3 hour boat tour of the River Spree.  It was a lovely fall day and a great way to take a relaxed overview of the city.  On my last day Anke’s Mother, Gerta, and I were ushered to a local museum where we took in a 360° panorama of the ancient city of Pergamon.  This was an incredible mural about 5 stories high which has to be seen to appreciated.  It was simply breathtaking.  The whole undertaking was created from the mind of Yadesar Asisi.  It was the last days of this spectacle in Berlin but soon to follow will be a panorama of the Berlin wall as it was before it was torn down.

Unfortunately, again, my credit card was compromised with a whopping $600-$700 charge from Zimbabwe made.  My credit card company were on their toes, caught the charge and cancelled my cards!  Made for an inconvenience but my host, Bernd, loaned me Euros for the remainder of my trip.  Thanks Bernd and Anke.  

Leaving Berlin I continued by train on to Künzelsau the home of Annette and Klaus who run Manati the German restaurant on Guanaja.  Their daughter was pregnant with her second child which was due to be born any minute after my arrival in Künzelsau.  The weather had held out for my whole trip and in spite of a few chilly and overcast days while here, it was really beautiful.  I visited friends I had made on the island when they came to visit Klaus and Annette, picked grapes in a vineyard.  The day was damp for picking grapes but I wanted the experience.  We were set to the task of picking purple grapes, which are much easier to locate than green ones on the vine.  The people were from around the area and hard working, fun, friendly souls.  At lunch they set up tables in the vineyard and provided typical German fare of ham loaf, potato salad, bread and wine - lots of it.  We worked on into the afternoon and I was really glad to see the work day come to an end.  Picking is not so hard or even the bending - it’s the standing on a hill at a slant that will ruin your back!  Thanks to the owner, my friend, Molie, for allowing me the experience of picking grapes.  He also runs an excellent restaurant where we had a fantastic meal.

I got to visit little Riko who was born about 3 days after my arrival.  He arrived healthy and sound and is a beautiful baby.  Congratulations to Judith, Daniel and Erik.  Riko is a lot bigger now and doing well being watched over by his Mom, Dad and Erik who is of course, growing by leaps and bounds.

I had wonderful meals, went to a couple of fairs, shopped in town, saw some unusual house ornaments and furniture and saw my first hedgehog!  I sampled chestnuts that had been roasted over a fire for the first time and lots and lots of wonderful German wine.

I left Germany to return to the island filled with wonderful memories.  When I returned home I took up my Yoga again but in about a month’s time I discovered small discomfort with my left knee.  After procrastinating, I finally went to the coast and had a CT Scan.  It was discovered that I had a torn meniscus and surgery would be required.  I scheduled an appointment with my surgeon in San Pedro Sula, Dr. Saybe, and in less than one week (the end of October) I had my successful surgery and was back home with no pain and just some physical therapy to keep me busy.  All was going well and I had no problems with the knee.  But........

As I mentioned at the beginning, Oct.-Dec. did not produce the normal amount of rain and we had more sunshine than we normally do in those months.  However, it did rain and several days saw from 5-7” of liquid sunshine.  The sidewalk in back of our house receives all the drainage running down hill and thus is the recipient of a lot of clay which the rain washes down to the sea.  Our sidewalk is very slippery and so I was being extra cautious when I had to walk out there.  It just so happened, one month almost to the day of my surgery, I stepped off the back steps and as I placed my foot on the slick sidewalk, it went out from under me and I fell on my left leg!  First thought was I hope I haven’t done something to my knee.  I lay there with my leg under me and what pain!  I had sprained my ankle!

Lucky for me the wind was not blowing because if it had neither my husband nor or worker would have heard me screaming for help; one was at the boat dock and the other high on the hill behind the house.  As it was, after a couple of good yells they both came running.  I could not walk and they had to almost carry me into the house.  I immediately put ice on the ankle and kept it up most of the day.  So, here I was, back at square one, my knee just about healed and I could walk and now I could not walk because of my ankle.  

Thanksgiving was on its way and even on an Honduran island this feast is celebrated, at least by those who either have family in the U.S., are dual citizens or have spent time up there.  Turkeys come into Sikaffy’s and Wood’s store and we all look forward to a big feast.  My friend, Linda was preparing to move back to Texas and so gave me all her cans of pumpkin as that was something one cannot find here.  My Thanksgiving meal is not complete with out my famous pumpkin bread and I had plenty now to make and give as gifts.  Sadly this year there was no canned cranberry sauce so I had to use my imagination and I made some up from dried, frozen cranberries I had on hand.  

We had about 10 people at the house and everything went like clock work for once.  The meal was great and everyone enjoyed themselves.  PLUS the weather cooperated which is a big happening here on a holiday.  No one arrived soaking wet and the seas were calm.  About the same thing can be said for December; mild, sunny and calm seas.   We celebrated as always at Manati where two beautiful turkeys were cooked on the outside oven by Klaus.  Good job Klaus!  We jumped right into New Year's Eve confident that the weather would hold.  It did and my husband and I took our boat around to the other side of the island to celebrate with George, Ginger, David and Joan.  

This is something we rarely do as we try to be home by dark, especially when we go to the “other” side.  We are just not as familiar with the reefs over there and with no “big” town or homes on the hillside to light the way, it is DARK!.  Again, we brought appetizers and George and Ginger fixed a delightfull small meal for us as we had really pigged out on the appetizers.  We did leave about 11 p.m. as the day had been a long one.  Nevertheless, we had a wonderful time ushering in 2013 (even if we left before it was ushered in) and thank our companions for a great time.

All this time I had been busy with my crafts, making presents for people and trying to come up with new ideas for gifts.  I discovered Origami and found some great instructions on line in order to make a variety of little boxes to contain small trinkets for people.  I still did some crocheting and got a few table runners made for Annette's gift.

January arrived and with it rain and more rain.  The whole month we saw little of Mr. Sun but the yard and garden thrived.  In the meantime, about the 2nd week of January I came down with bronchitis.  I am susceptible to this and had it about 12-13 years ago.  I was really sick then and so I was on my guard.  In spite of this I suffered for 4 weeks and the coughing was wearing me down.  I had no energy and this was the worse part for me as I am always a go-go-go person.  I read up about it on the internet and since 90% of bronchitis cases are viral and I had no way of running a blood test here to determine whether it was bacterial or viral, I treated it with hot tea with lemon and honey, hot, hot showers on my chest followed by slathering my chest with Vicks, taking aspirin, and lots of rest which was forced upon me.  The 4th week my ear started aching and I had a sore throat so I went to see the doctor on the Cay to see what she would advise.  She gave me something for my sinus and a mild spectrum antibiotic to take.  Everything finally worked and I bounced back.

In the meantime I must report that our 14 year old dog, Nod, passed on.  She had been bad for a few months but nothing we could not control with occasional drugs.  One day, however, I heard a thump on the stairs.  Apparently her legs gave out and she fell down the last two stairs off the porch.  We brought her up and laid her down but she could not stand up on her back legs.  We watched over her for more than an hour and finally decided that this was it for her.  My husband dug her grave and had to put her down.  I really hate this and we now have 7 pets in our little pet cemetery.  

Then, one of our dogs, Desi (the brother to Lucy) had decided that he did not want to live with us anymore.  Desi loved to run and be free.  He hated to be locked on the porch when we go somewhere and the minute we let him out, he is off.  He runs up to the hills where there is a farm with cattle, chickens, another puppy and horses.  They do not feed him there and he will be gone for at least 2 weeks at a time.  About that time, Lucy and CocoNut go off and bring him home.  We feed him like a King, keep him over night, give him a meal in the morning and let him out.  Off he goes not to return until one of the dogs goes to get him.  He was a beautiful, sleek dog, with a beautiful body.  He is now skin and bones and has an infection in his ear and ticks.  We treated the infection and kept him locked on the porch.  With medication and feeding he returned to normal but with his penuche for roving we decided to return him to Susan, his original owner, and she found a home in La Ceiba for him.  But, she insisted we take one of her puppies so we now have Desiree:

I think I'll end here and report more on Desiree and happenings on the island in 2013 in another blog.