Friday, September 12, 2014

Just had to brag!

I have, in the past, displayed a few of my crochet projects over the years and I'm sure that the majority of the people that read my blog will not be interested in this.  However, this was such an unusual project that I had to take a photo and tell someone!

This is called a Temair Throw and the pattern was free at  Initially it was offered as one of their "projects of the month" and people were given 3 or 5 projects to select from and from the final voting the people at Lion Brand would then decide what project they would put on-line and assist people in making.  This did not win.  I guess because it is so unusual, looks very difficult and how many people want a throw like this?

So, I wrote and asked them where I could find the pattern and ended up getting the pattern and bought their  yarn (linen in color) to use.

I started this project almost 2 years ago.  Now I must admit, I absolutely hate connecting motifs and prefer to make projects with as little "extra" work as possible.  However, this was stunning (in my opinion) and I knew just who I could make it for.

Actually crocheting the multi motifs was not that difficult and it went surprisingly fast and I was done in no time.  I then laid them out to prepare to sew them together.  That's when I got totally frustrated.  It is a time consuming project and because these motifs were circles there was a lot more planning involved.  I then put the project aside and just could not convince myself to return to it for a while.  

The "while" turned into months and this year my friend (who is the recipient of this gift) asked if I would bring it to her when I made my trip to the States.  I said, sure, don't worry, I will bring it.  I did not tell her that it was languishing in my closet and that until the past two weeks I dreaded taking it out.

As it happened, when I took it out, the final parts of the throw went together beautifully and in less time than I thought.  I had to make some alterations to the pattern merely because the way it was explained turned out to be much more difficult and I found an easier way.  Also, after completing the tassels and cords I found that the cords were too long for my taste.  The pattern called for 10 tassels which I felt was a little too much and I made 6.  However, upon completion and when I laid it out to photograph it, I now feel that 10 tassels may be right.  So, I will take my pattern and yarn to Florida, give it to my friend and if she wants, I'll make the extra 4 tassels.

So, I, temporarily, am in the possession of a beautiful throw with a 3-dimensional look.  I will pack it up and take it to the States and then comes the process of "plumping" up the various circles to achieve, again, the wonderful 3-D look they have.

I am now sticking, basically, to much quicker projects but am very proud of this one. So here's a close-up of the center circle.  The first photo is at an angle in order to see the 3-dimension quality.  The second is a close up of the center circle.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

You Just Can't Please Them!

Human nature is amazing - people can be so generous or so cheap.  They can be polite or rude.  They can either be caring or uncaring and they always wish they had hindsight!  And sometimes the open their mouths without thinking!

While vacationing, years ago, at Bayman Bay Club on Guanaja (no longer in existence), we had occasion to hear people complain about the most amazing things.  For example:  "I want a different room because I'm too close to the sea and the ocean noise is keeping me awake."  or "Why don't you serve more beef instead of fish here?"

I recently stumbled upon these complaints posted by a rather famous travel company and think you will get a chuckle out of them:

1. "I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local convenience store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts."

2. "It's lazy of the local shopkeepers in Puerto Vallarta to close in the afternoons.  I often needed to buy things during 'siesta' time -- this should be banned."

3. "On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don't like spicy food."

4. "We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our own swimsuits and towels. We assumed it would be included in the price."

5. "The beach was too sandy. We had to clean everything when we returned to our room."

6. "We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as white but it was more yellow."

7. "They should not allow topless sunbathing on the beach. It was very distracting for my husband who just wanted to relax."

8. "No-one told us there would be fish in the water. The children were scared."

9. "Although the brochure said that there was a fully equipped kitchen, there was no egg-slicer in the drawers."

10. "We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers as   they were all Spanish . "

11. "The roads were uneven and bumpy, so we could not read the local guide book during the bus ride to the resort. Because of this, we were unaware of many things that would have made our holiday more fun."

12. "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair."

13. "I compared the size of our one-bedroom suite to our friends' three-bedroom and ours was significantly smaller."

14. "The brochure stated: 'No hairdressers at the resort.'  We're trainee hairdressers and we think they knew and made us wait longer for service."

15. "When we were in Spain, there were too many Spanish people there. The receptionist spoke Spanish, the food was Spanish. No one told us that there would be so many foreigners."

16. "We had to line up outside to catch the boat and there was no air-conditioning."

17. "It is your duty as a tour operator to advise us of noisy or unruly guests before we travel."

18. "I was bitten by a mosquito. The brochure did not mention mosquitoes."

19. "My fiancee and I requested twin-beds when we booked, but instead we were placed in a room with a king bed. We now hold you responsible and want to be re-reimbursed for the fact that I became pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked."

I am sure that you too have heard some crazy things come out of people's mouths and I am also certain that these are wonderful things for a comic routine!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Conch Festival

It is time once again for a week-long celebration in Guanaja!  Over the years the inhabitants of the island got better and better with planned activities, decorations and expanding the repertoire of the festival so that this year the Conch Festival just got better.

This year is really special.  Everyone is trying harder at being more creative and offering more in the way of entertainment and fun. And this will be a year that the children get more out of the festival than in the past.  

First of all, on the second day of the Festival there is a family day at Graham's Cay.  Also, from what I hear there will be para-sailing demonstrations by some world class kiters, and of course, lots of food and entrainment.  The 3rd and 4th day will see parades in various hamlets bringing out the children (and adults) dressed in costumes.  Once again, even before September 15th (Independence day), the children will be making music on their drums.

To top this off, on Wed., July 30th, there will be lots to see, eat and experience.  And, there will be special games for the children at Manati along with a new ride: the Twister.  

The Rumms' (managers of the Restaurant), came up with a brilliant and inspired ride for the children (and adults too).  They erected a 50' pole (well anchored I must say) and from it suspended a cross beam by 4 ropes.  The idea is that one person sits on either end and another person pulls the beam around the pole winding the ropes around the post.  The "worker" pulls the beam to get them started and the riders start whirling around until they reach the bottom where the things begin to rewind and they have another go at getting dizzy.  There are 3-legged races, bobbing for apples and many more games for the children. 

There will be stands selling German Beer, sausages, pork, Spätzle, a German homemade noodle, and potato salad.  There will be a stand selling handcrafted items along with jams and Mango vinegar.  And for sale will be a variety of plants, bags of potting soil and containers for those who delve in gardening.  The big plus will be appearing, Guillermo Anderson, Honduran Singer-Songwriter,and world-renowned famous music artist to entertain one and all.  

From the 31st on to Aug. 3rd, there will be more marching bands allowing the children to display their talents and a new addition, children's games on the Cay.  The final day, the re-enactment of Christopher Columbus' landing, will include a skit portrayed by various children of the island in costume.  Every year the skit gets more creative and interesting.

And, we must remember, there will be "float parade" of boats decorated to arrive at Soldado Beach for the re-enactment.

So, if you are bored and want some fun, entertainment and a good time, as they say in the South; "Come on down!"

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The World of Beauty

I recently received some photos of baby porcupines and thought they were so adoreable! I mean who could not resist these cute little critters?

It brought to mind the little creature I spied in Kunzelsau, Germany in 2012 while having drinks with friends at a local wine cellar.  There, crawling across the parking lot was a hedgehog.  I have never seen one live and this was quite something for me.  Evidentially the Germans adore these little creatures as you find carved images of them all over.

My friend picked up the little rascal and held it while I took a photo.  I guess this is like people seeing a hummingbird for the first time!

Another first for me that year was eating a Chestnut.  My friends and I attended a local fair and there we stumbled upon a stove where Chestnuts were roasting in the drawer of the unit.

Never having had a Chestnut we bought a bagful and I was delighted to find that they were a wonderful tasting, mild nut.

The thing I like about traveling - seeing the beauty of nature.  Germans love their gardens and I must admit that they tend them with what is evidentially a loving passion.  They have  limited space with which to use for gardening, but every tiny corner is utilized:

While in Switzerland I saw the most beautiful pine trees that went up for over 150 feet in the air.  There were wild flowers and all types of ground cover to investigate.  The varieties were unlimited and breathtaking in color.

My friends and I stumbled across some beautiful mushrooms and, because of their color, I was convinced that this was one of those that you should not eat.

Even while visiting friends in Berlin, I noted that rooftops are not immune to gardens.  Their entire rooftop was covered in various low growing plants and moss:

Speaking of flowers, I am very lucky.  When I have guests over for lunch, I just go out to the garden and collect a variety of lovely tropical flowers.

I have orchids, hibiscus, lobster claw, Ixoria, ginger, periwinkle, Queen's wreath, Heliconia, etc.  All of which make beautiful tropical arrangements with fern, ti or other various leaves. All of these arrangements would cost high dollars in the States but are mine for the taking.

The world is filled with beauty and wonder and we should revel in it daily!


One of my husband's favorite observations is "If you can't outsmart them, out-dumb them!"  All the world over this happens.  You think you have made your point and, in effect, outsmarted the other person.  Well, you are wrong.  They will out-dumb you every time and they manage to turn it into an art.

It goes from subtle things like getting your assignment across, setting a deadline they agree to and then it is not done.  Of course there are a million excuses for the lack of activity but, in fact, they have out dumbed you.  They have lead you to believe they understand your instructions, agree with them and will accomplish the outcome in a timely manner.  Not!

But there are other ways of out dumbing people.  Take the government of Honduras.  I have often said that the only way this country will pull itself up, make the lives of their people more productive and their country as well is to educate the people.  But the government knows that educated people are just that!  They are aware of what they deserve, what should be available to them, what improvements or changes should and can be made and they want more equality.

Out-dumb steps in.  The government here offers education.  Catchall: you must pay for all the books (of which there are few), you must buy ALL materials for the classroom, you must pay a fee at the beginning of the year (and I have no idea what this is for) and your children are required to learn whatever is taught them.  Teachers are not paid on time and have low salaries.  They sometimes go months without being paid  Anyone can teach.  If you have the equivalent of a High School Diploma (in spite of what your grades were), you can teach.  There are no instructions given as to how to set up study plans, how to present the material, in fact how to actually teach effectively. No supplies are given, even minimal, to encourage the students to enjoy school and want to study as the teachers haven't a clue as to how to go about this.

The ultimate out-dumbing is occurring right now on the island.  Evidently no one in the Department of Education is overseeing the distribution of lesson plans or materials to the schools, they simply send material on without review and tell the teacher you must teach this.  The 6 year olds attending the public school presently on Bonacca are victims of this out-dumbing.  Tegus has supplied material and a curriculum to teach to the 6-year old children, however, no one evidently bothered checked to see if this material was at their level.  The material currently being taught to the 6-year olds is material that the 14 year old students might have.  These children are told to go home and write a paragraph or two on the rights of women in Honduras.  Remember, these children don't even know how to write, much less spell and cannot print their alphabet yet.  They are told to write a paper on the top 3 tourist attraction areas in Honduras.  These for children too poor to travel and never having seen a book about tourism in Honduras.  Without the aid of a book, they are told to go home and draw a skeleton of the human bodies and point out the various parts and without any previous teaching!  They are telling children on an island with, basically, one season all year round, to draw pictures depicting the seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.  This to a group of children who never leave the island nor see a change in season and have not, so far, had access to any books depicting these.  It gets much worse then this but I cannot recall all the over-the-head assignments given to the children.

This action is forcing Mothers to go to the Internet cafe to do research for their children in order to complete the daily assignments.  They are printing out volumes of material to meet these needs and at a cost that they cannot afford.  These are people who have little money to spare.  The children are depressed and crying; they don't want to go to school because they cannot understand what is being taught.  If you want your children to learn the alphabet in order to read, mothers must teach them at home.  The younger children go to school from Noon to 6:30 p.m. at night and now 6 days a week; 4 hours on Saturday.  So, spare time is in the late evening when they should be eating supper and going to bed, or receive help in the early hours of the morning when the mother must be getting everyone ready for the day and the older children off for the morning session of school.

Parents have complained to the teachers to no avail.  The teacher simply brushes it off with "this is what they must learn."  Evidently the teacher has no idea how to teach, what to teach and refuses to try and present material to the children at their level.  So, what is happening?  Due to the negligence and uncaring attitude in the school system, these children are being taught to hate learning while causing great financial problems to the parents plus forcing the children to produce assignments of which they have no comprehension.  One way to "un-educate" the masses for sure.  Out dumbed again.

Now, another example of out-dumbing.  There is a law on the books of this country that NO plastic items (bags or soft drink bottles, etc.) can be shipped to the islands.  In the past this was no problem as islanders went to the store with bags to carry their groceries in and bought some food items in glass containers.  Well, with the introduction of those polluting plastic bags and fresco bottles, plastic hit the island in mass.  Several years went by before the government passed the law and by then everyone was accustomed to using plastic.  Attempts were made a few years back, but not very strenuously, by the Municipal to tax plastic bottles to pay for their ultimate collection, compaction and return to the coast.  Plastic bags were banned but not very enthusiastically.  People were use to them and would not do without them so the government turned a blind eye to the matter.  The folks on the mainland passed a law but laid out no guidelines as how to enforce it!  They left that up to the people knowing full well that people would not concern themselves with this issue when just feeding and clothing your family was first and foremost.  The ordinary citizen had no way of "making" the government officials enforce their law and if the government was not worried, why should they?

Just yesterday this picture appeared on FaceBook:

Evidently the Municipal of Roatan is making a concerted effort to clean up their island knowing full well that getting rid of the garbage is of grave concern.  Mountains and mountains daily of trash build up and soon there will be more trash than space to put it!  So, their effort should be watched with great interest by those on Guanaja and Utila, even on the Mainland.  I would hope that the citizens would keep close tabs on the progress and whether the new "law" is working.  IF it does, and that is a big IF, then the same thing should happen on Guanaja.  However, this needs to be expand to plastic bottles as well.  You can go nowhere in the surrounding waters of the islands without seeing plastic soft drink bottles floating on the sea!  Let's all hope that this succeeds and that the other islands take up the banner!  

Maybe, just maybe we can outsmart them!

Monday, June 2, 2014

More Random Thoughts

I guess I’m totally removed from the world.  Heck, it’s “National Frozen Yogurt Month” and I can’t get yogurt here!  Yes, I know, my friends on the island say, “Make your own.”  But I barely have enough room in my refrigerator for all the necessities like chocolate, cheese, chocolate, wine, chicken!  

Then I look at the news and tell myself, “You live on an island, on foreign soil, so why do you worry about what goes on around the world, especially in politics, because you can’t do anything from here!”  I mean articles on “How to deal with on-the-road emergencies” and the fact that Justin Bieber said the “N” word, and which Hollywood star had her face/boobs lifted certainly are of no real interest to me.  Then, of course there is the world of war and politics of which I have no say for the most part.  Keeping up with politics on the island is of interest to me but, again, I have absolutely no say in what happens here.  I just want to stay on the straight and narrow, keep my nose clean so to speak, and enjoy the people that live here.  If I can help my community, I will.

As to World-Wide news; my friends say, read “alternative news”, listen to “alternative radio stations” instead of the local Fox, MSN, Newsum, CNET, etc. to get a more rounded opinion.  And I think, “Why”?  So what if I learn about all the bad things going on in the world or the things that I don’t quite agree with or get a slanted view?  By listening, just what can I do from here?  Voting is difficult at best when elections are held in the U.S. and then why would I vote in the local elections as I am not there to live with the consequences?  Yes, the Presidential election year is important because I can then vote for someone that I think will help my country and the world. So, I think of the Maxine saying: 


I do read the news but don’t get upset with what is going on because it is the same thing year after year after year; just a repeat of the same problems.  So, I focus on what is going on where I actually live.  I focus on keeping in touch with people around me.  I focus on one day at a time.

Now I like keeping up with recent medical news so that I am aware of strides made to improve one’s health.  I like reading articles that take me back to yesteryear and reminiscing.  I have no interest in automobile advancements, reading articles on how I can survive retirement (hey, I’m there and have been for 17 years so I guess I have survived), and I have very little interest in 10 obscure facts about Norma Jeane (a/k/a Marilyn Monroe).

My focus - keeping informed with things that are relevant, enjoying life, helping others, keeping my house clean and my body exercised, reading, crocheting, sudoku, visiting, and planning my next vacation.  Shallow huh?  My center is my world and I think it is best if I concentrate on that since I do live on a remote island.  I try to keep in touch with family as best I can as I miss the connection I cannot get just with e-mails.  But, that is all I have so I keep writing them in order to know the things I’m missing out on!  So, I think of cute things to send to my Grandchildren, like:

 Fact:  In the future I'll tell my Grandson's that I am older than the internet.  It will blow their minds forever!

Everyone says “we are living the good life” and I think, the good life is what you make it and we have just as many problems, on a smaller scale, as people all over the world.  Think young, act young, be young, but remember “you are older than you will admit!  HA.

I'm not old, JUST have been young for a long time!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Adding a photo to my "Miscellaneous" post

I just noticed that the photo I copied of Cosmonaut Alex Gerst did not come through on my post so I am repeating the effort here after going through some "saving" techniques:

Just had to make sure everyone saw his gorgeous, happy face!


This is a blog with miscellaneous announcements and topics.  So, here goes.

First, Raphael Colontonio passed away in the U.S. about two weeks ago.  Raphael and his wife, Mary, lived in Mangrove Bight for approximately 15 years and had to move back to the States two years ago because of Raphaael's ill health.  Our condolences to Mary and his family.  Rafael and Mary were the only "gringos" living in downtown Mangrove Bight in a small house up on pilings.  Rafael was formerly a butcher and loved making sausages.  Mary was into quilting and sewing crafts.  Mike was not sure what Raphael meant when he said Mary and he lived in a "cat house in Mangrove Bight" He added to the mystery when he described their house as a veritable "pussy palace."  So, we visited them and found they had dozens of cats as pets and took in strays constantly!  One could always count on seeing Raphael on Bonacca Cay on shopping day, standing against the wall at Sikaffy's and greeting everyone with a smile and small conversation.  He will be missed.

Next, good news.  Our local tourist dive hotel, Clearwater Paradise Resort (a/k/a CPR) received two awards for the second time in a row.  The first was Trip Advisor's 2014 award for being one of the 10 hotels in Honduras for excellent customer service and the Trip Advisor Circle of Excellence Award.  Congratulations to Ginger and George.  I must also add that they have finished up apartment above the dive shop, added tank racks to their new 43' Wellcraft Portofino boat and the above-the-ground pool is complete with a deck, solar lights and lounges.

For those of you who want to see more of the boat or an update on CPR, please go to

Next, there was some excitement on the island about two weeks ago when the anti-drugas, dressed in masks and carrying m-16s, invaded Graham’s Place late in the day, unannounced. They made all the guests move outside while they held guns on everyone and then searched all the rooms and the grounds for several hours. They would not tell Graham who they were or what they were looking for and apparently did not have a warrant or would not show it. Graham found out the next morning who they were. Obviously, the guest were terrified.  They did not find any trace of drugs anywhere. There was a panga (name for a local boat) at Grahams that had not run for several months, they said it was probably used to carry drugs and they seized it.   Graham was totally upset by this intrusion and is in the process of getting a lawyer and filing a complaint.

We have some people arriving and leaving all the time on the island.  Soon several people will be leaving either for the summer, a couple months or 6 weeks.  We will miss them and look forward to their return.  On the other hand, we have people arriving in June and July and short periods and some in August or September.  We welcome Michael Glannegger back to Guanaja.  So even though we have departures, we have arrivals which keep us up-to-date with what's going on in the outside world and new conversation!

I recently had to go to San Pedro Sula to see a new internist.  My doctor had retired several years ago and the only doctor available to me at the time did not have a good grasp of English.  When talking about my heart, even though I can get buy in Spanish, I prefer my native tongue so that I will be totally aware of what is being discussed.  I have great praise for Hospital Cemesa and the new doctor, Dr. Jorge Martinez, who has an office in this complex.  I was impressed with the doctor's enthusiasm for his line of work, his thoroughness, his excellent English, and the fact that he is well-informed.  And, good news, he goes to La Ceiba twice a month so I won't have to make the long trip to San Pedro to see him.   He also told me that a new hospital is in the process of being built in back of the present building.  If you want to see an architectural rending of the building you can go to:   

Dr. Martinez also informed me that they presently have the capability to install pace makers and/or defibrillators, along with other procedures and that they are making advancements all the time and updating their equipment and services.

A group of us are going to a new bar near Mangrove Bight this coming week to check it out.  Run by a man called "Bully" it is on the beach and between Mangrove Bight and Susan's place.

The most excitement, however, was the launching of the Soyuz rocket from Russia.  On board was a Russian cosmonaut Max Surayev and German Alexander Gerst and American, Reid Wiseman.  This took place on Wed., May 28th and we were able to watch it at Manati Bar and Restaurant that afternoon.  What was exciting was that the German cosmonaut, Alexander (Alex) Gerst is a childhood friend of Claus and Annette's son, Roland) and they (Claus and Annette) are good friends with his parents in Künzelsau.  I had met Alex and his Dad at various times when they visited the island and, so, we have been watching his progress for quite some time while he underwent training for the position.  He speaks German, Russian (which he had to learn in 3 months!) and excellent English.  

The launch, flight and docking were all totally successful.  This is a photo of Alex inside the ISS.

So, congratulations to all the cosmonauts and their flawless journey so far.

Also, I read that the American cosmonaut had to pay $71,000,000.00 for his seat in the rocket.  When one considers the expense that is incurred just building a rocket in the U.S., launching it, training, etc., this is probably a bargain-basement price.

I was also happy to see how the three men got along together.  They had great camaraderie, seemed very happy and comfortable together and because of their common interest (science) they were able to, in some respects, avoid the politics of this endeavor.  We wish them much success.  Oh, Roland (Claus and Annette's son) now has permission to e-mail Alex in space!  All I can say is WOW!

And that's it for my update.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Outside the Box!

I understand the importance of security in this dangerous world.  I understand the rationale behind having identification, or a license to operate machinery, and for certificates of authenticity, i.e., a degree stating that an individual has completed sufficient courses and is competent in his or her chosen field.  

What I do not understand is the inability of a country to not encourage their people to look "outside the box" when there are guidelines set down.  Most guidelines are not set in stone.  They are just that "guidelines" and some discretion must be shown by the individuals working within those guidelines.

What am I getting at?  Mainly, the security one must go through at airports now a days.  I accept this slight inconvenience and understand the necessity for it, but I also think that the people in Honduras at these checkpoints really don't understand fully what they are looking for or are able to use rationale in their searches.

Case in point.  We are told that we cannot travel with bottles of liquids containing more than, I believe, 1.5 ounces.  Fine.  We are told that these objects must be placed in our suitcase and checked as baggage.  Fine.  We are told that we cannot carry guns or knives, which I am in total agreement with, and fingernail files or clippers, which I find a little far fetched.  Yes, one can use a fingernail file to poke out the eye of someone and use it as a weapon, but the same can be said for a pencil or pen or knitting needle and none of these are banned.  Now as to a fingernail clipper - sorry, I can't see anyone using it as a weapon and threatening to clip someone's nails off as dangerous.  But, then, maybe the officials in security know something about fingernail clippers that I don't.  

Everything, with the exception of aerosols and chemicals, weapons, etc. can be carried in our luggage.  We can carry bottles of liquor, balsamic vinegar, bottles of hand lotion or shampoo, canned olives; anything not considered dangerous by securities' standards.  HOWEVER, when I go to San Pedro Sula I always go to Los Andes, which is the Mecca for grocery shopping.  They have just about everything I would want and even things I do not know about!  They have things I can never get on the island and things that delight me when I can buy them.  

We have, basically, three kinds of soup on the Island: Chicken noodle, vegetable and cream of mushroom.  That's it.  I can go to Los Andes and get at least 15-20 different types of soups, some of which I love to use in my recipes.  Cream of Broccoli, Broccoli with Cheese, Nacho Cheese, Onion soup, etc.  So, when I am in San Pedro I buy these soups as a treat for the special dishes I can otherwise not enjoy.

In April, my husband and I went to San Pedro to complete business and shop.  I packed all grocery items in my suitcase and cold items, such a meat in cheese in a carry-on cooler bag.  My luggage was checked and we proceeded to security and the waiting lounge.  My carry-on cooler bag made it through with no problem and we patiently awaited the departure of our flight.  

Imagine my surprise when I was approached not 5 minutes after getting into the lounge by a Sosa Airline employee telling me I would have to go open my luggage downstairs.  He took me to the security area where 3 men were waiting.  They asked me to open my suitcase, which I did, and they proceeded to search it.  The man found the soup, looked at it (Cream of Broccoli) and said "You must open this."  I could not believe my ears.  I said, "Why?"  He said that it was a liquid and I had to open it.  I said it was not a liquid but a cream based soup and what were they expecting to find?  He did not respond to my question, simply said that it must be opened.  I told him I had a receipt from the store showing my purchase that very day and how could I seal up a can between the time I bought it and them finding it in my luggage?  Of course he shrugged his shoulders and said I must open it.  I then told him (and the policeman there) that this was totally ridiculous, it was a stupid request and that if they used their knowledge they would know that there was nothing wrong with the can of soup.  It did not seem to matter that I had packed it in my suitcase with other liquids (which they never opened).  They seemed indifferent as to which one of the 4 cans they had to open.  

The can was one with a pop top and they managed, with difficulty, to open it.  He looked at it and said it was ok.  He never dumped the contents out, never probed the contents to see if something else was in there.  He handed me the can and I said it is ruined now, what do you expect me to do with it?  He just shrugged.  Then, since the policeman had not shown his ability to rule over me, he asked if he could search my suitcase further.  I said go ahead and do you want to search me to which he replied no.  They completed their efforts, set the open can of soup aside and let me take the other 3 in the suitcase and I was allowed to return to the waiting area.

No one has ever produced a list to me of what, exactly, I can and cannot carry in my luggage except for a few notices posted about flammable items, chemicals, guns, etc.  Now soup is considered dangerous?  If this "liquid" was dangerous, why did they not check the cans of olives, the balsamic vinegar, the bottles of Triple Sec?  I was told on my second trip just this past week (they opened another can of soup then too) that they had a list downstairs in the main terminal but no one offered to go get it for me.  I had already pointed out to the airline personnel that I was carrying soup and canned olives and he placed them in a bag and took them to Security who, again, ultimately said I had to open one!

My question is: why can't they think "outside the box?"  The items were packed in my suitcase where I had no access to them.  I was taking nothing that was listed on their posters in the main terminal.  Other items with "liquid" were not brought into question and only the soup which had a "pop top" opening was the target of their interest.  

Can they not take my receipt as evidence that I had just bought the item?  Can they not realize that I had no way of resealing a pop top can?  And, lastly, why would anyone try to hide drugs, if that was what they were looking for, in one can of soup?  Surely they must realize that if one's intent was to transport drugs for sale, a single can of soup would not contain much of anything and, besides, they never searched the contents.

Again, I realize that our security while flying is something we should all be concerned about.  But let's use our heads people!  If you are going to do a job and insist on opening a can of soup - well then search it and show me that you are really serious about this.  Don't just do it because you are bored and must show your ability to control things.  Do it because you actually fear that something illegal is going on.  And, take into consideration that even though it is a "pop top" can, I have no access to it from inside the plane!

Think outside the box!

As a side note: the security in La Ceiba must have a different set of rules because they do not question soup as one of the items carried in a suitcase as they do in San Pedro Sula.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Are Changes in Sight?

First, I would like to announce that the fishing boat with 3 young men that left the island on Tuesday, May 6th, were finally located somewhere near Belize by the Belize Coast Guard!  The young men went out on a particularly windy day last week and had not been heard from.  Boats from the island searched the surrounding area for them with no luck. Since we have had over a full week of really rough seas and high winds, everyone feared they may have encountered problems and either sunk or were capsized and were lost at sea.  So, I am glad to report that they have been located.  Upon reading the Belize News, the boys were dehydrated with associated illnesses and were in the hospital, otherwise they were in fairly good condition.  It is not known when they will return to the island.

We still have no word on the fate of Matthew Zapata who was last reported in San Pedro Sula and has not been heard back from in a while.  We are not clear as to when he arrived there or when he was to return or why he has not contacted his family.  Needless to say it is feared that something has happened to him and the family is anxious.

But back to my topic.  In the hopes of laying to rest our curiosity about what the new administration of the island has for it's future, my husband, Mike, and I met with the Mayor, Spurgeon Miller, on Monday.  We had some concerns and wanted to get some input as to his ideas for the island.

First, Mayor Miller is an educated island-born individual with a good grasp of English which certainly helps when trying to communicate.  My husband and I have a fair grasp of Spanish and I can converse with doctors, bankers, shop keepers and locals in Spanish.  I love Spanish; it is very descriptive and fairly easy to grasp.  However, trying to be come bi-lingual at my age is difficult.  Not impossible, it just take a lot more time.  

Mayor Miller met with us promptly at our appointed time.  He is a very cordial young man who seemed to be on top of things.  I questioned him about the Municipal Dock and my concerns with the problems that are facing it.  This structure is fairly new having been completed a little over a year ago.  We were much in need of a new dock and although it took longer than projected it is of sturdy concrete construction which we hope will stand the test of the sea.  However, the design did not include any plans for smaller, local boats to use it for docking and/or parking when one has business in town.  The large commercial boats that go to and from the Mainland weekly have no trouble docking there and off-loading but the height of the dock and the fact that the openings under it restricts use by small boats who wish to tie up.  Presently there is a platform at the beginning of the dock where a few boats can tie up - maybe 3 or 4 minimum.  More than that and it becomes a crowded, unsafe area. This is the only area where water taxis can drop off their clients and people can park to take care of whatever task they have in town that day.  

As of a couple of weeks ago we have been told that no small boats can park at this platform.  We are directed to park beside the dock which, because of the height of the structure and the openings, presents a huge problem to the safety of people and boats alike.  Previously it was a "first come, first served" basis for parking at the platform.  Now there is no parking.  

I asked the Mayor what his plans were to correct this situation as, after all, it is a public dock.  He said that as we spoke materials were being sought to build a wooden dock abutting the larger dock on the east side of the structure.  Prices were being quoted and plans were being assembled to build this dock.  He estimated that once everything was in place it should be completed in 30 days.

I suggested that he post a notice informing the local citizenry of the plans and the exact present restrictions for using the platform at dock; i.e., is parking allowed or is it merely a drop off?  I felt that informing the public would be helpful.  I also told him it would be constructive and informative if they would also post a notice informing the public-at-large that a parking dock is being considered and details be given regarding the final outcome of the plans.  He agreed that it was an idea worth considering.  

My husband brought up the disparity in building permit fees and wanted to know if a fee structure could be established as in the past there seemed to be no set price and the opportunity for graft was great.  The Mayor was informed that some individuals in the past have been charged as much as 150% more than other buildings in proportion to their overall size and function.  The Mayor said there was a set rate on 1.5% per million lempiras for building permits and anything over that was not within legal limits.  He said he would examine the records for past charges to establish if the legal limits had been overstepped.

Next we inquired as to the status of the investigation regarding the attack on the night watchman at Dunbar Rock over a week ago.  The building was reportedly broken into by 2 men who arrived in a boat.  They attacked the 78 year old guard and stole food and a radio.   It appears that whoever the perpetrators were they may have had keys as the freezer they entered was not broken into and the lock appears to have been opened with a key.  The guard sustained 10 stitches to his head and got medical help by going to the room of two of the guests there at the time asking for help.

The Mayor said there was an active investigation into the crime as it is suspected by some that it was an "inside" job and may have been done by disgruntled employees who had not been paid in some time.  This fact, however, has to be researched to establish if it is true.

With regard to that topic, my husband asked if employers running a business and, therefore, having been issued an operating permit, can be held accountable and be made to pay their workers when wages are being withheld an inordinate length of time.  Mike proposed that people withholding wages are creating a problem which may lead to stealing from the business or others by the employee just to sustain their daily lives because they are not being paid.  We said this does not look good for the island in general if people are allowed to come, build a business and withhold salaries for whatever reason.  A consideration should be given to pull their operating permit until they have rectified the problem and a fine charged for such deplorable actions.  Upon proof that all employees have finally been paid and any outstanding debts cleared, they would be allowed to re-open their business.  The Mayor showed interest in such action and said he would check further into the actions of what went on at Dunbar rock to see if proper steps could be taken to prevent occurrences that may have created this problem.

The Mayor was advised by my husband that this is not the only case where employers are withholding wages and not because the employee is not doing the job. Why any employer in a viable business would delay normal employee salaries is open to everyone's speculation but seems un-productive.  We asked if he could somehow check into this practice and take moves to correct it by fines or other restrictions.

Mike then questioned the Mayor on environmental issues stating his concern for the hunting and retention of turtles in confined areas.  It is against the law to interfere with turtles in any way, either by hunting, selling or keeping them in penned areas.  The Mayor understands the environmental impact regarding sea life around the island and it is his desire to cooperate with restricting these actions and enforcing the law.

The Mayor also said that special considerations are being sought to establish better ways of gathering needed construction materials such as sand and gravel.  His Honor is looking into areas that can be used for these supplies without harming the environment or jeopardizing the shorelines of the island.

We can only hope that this administration will shed a new light on the face of Guanaja, helping rather than hindering its development.  We realize that the Mayor has a tough job ahead of him which will take many hours of his time and important decisions.  We wish him the best in his endeavor and hope that all citizens will be willing to work and assist him in making Guanaja more productive and a place that people will want to return to.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Can you believe what they say?

The world turns and promises are constantly made and broken.  No matter where you go in the world it is difficult to actually believe what is being told to the citizens at large.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that will impose fines on people and organizations for swearing; books that contain swearing will require warning labels.  Does this mean the Russians are so sensitive to swear words that he has created a law against them?  What about the law that says a country voted to break away from the Soviet Union and become their own country and now, because a small minority of the overall population seem to think the Motherland needs to be a real part of their life, Big Brother steps back in saying "their" people are being mistreated and manages to get them back into "the fold".  The people wanted out and now they are back in - who is to believe what anyone really wants?

It was pizza night at our house and I made use of my cherry tomatoes which are coming fast and furious now.  I would give more away but I only see people when I shop once a week on the Cay or at Manati when we go there!  So, I have to eat them up while they are fresh.  Now, in reference to the title of my blog this is where the pizza comes in.

I wanted to make French bread the other day and it was a total failure.  Evidently the yeast had lost all its oomph!  I had just bought new yeast about 2 months ago (maybe 3), kept it in the refrigerator and have used it several times.  Well, it must have been at the very end of its shelf life (as most things purchased here are) and I did not realize it.  So, the bread failed and the pizza dough, although it was OK and not FANTASTIC, and rose very little.  We suffered through this and ate the whole thing!  Most things here are beyond their shelf life and many times finding that date printed on the packaging is almost impossible.  I mean, most of the medicine that is in the clinic (and relatively free) is way past its due date.  Drug companies send their past-due stuff to third world countries and even though I have read that you can use a lot of the drugs almost 2 years past date, in this climate I would not trust that rule of thumb.

Then, I went to town yesterday to make a bank deposit.  Now, I pay taxes and, yes, I choose to live in a remote area where I have no access to local electricity, water or garbage service.  This was my choice.  I get nothing in return for this.  Even when I need the police I have to pay them, pick them up and cart them around if they need to investigate a crime for me.  The ONLY thing I see that gives me any entitlement from the payment of my taxes is I can park at the Municipal dock when I go to town, if I happen to want to park in that area when I have business to deal with on that end of the Cay.  The Municipal dock is public property having been built by the Municipal, i.e., ultimately the taxes of the people.  Same as the airport, it was built with funds that were contributed but, ultimately, it really belongs to the people as part of our tax structure.  

Now it appears I cannot park at the Municipal dock.  I can drop off people but what am I to do with my boat on shopping day if there are no more areas to park (and they are becoming less and less)?  Taxis, large boats that come from Savannah Bight and Mangrove Bight and now the Conch Festival "Pirate" boat is parked at the dock.  Most of these boats are business ventures and make money by transporting people.  They are allowed to park there.  But we private citizens cannot park there.  

When the dock was built no one seemed to think about the fact that this was a public dock and, as such, spaces should have been allowed and built to accommodate the hundreds of boats owned by the local people.  These locally owned boats are nor longer then 15-20 feet and of standard height.  The dock was built for commercial type boats and no thought was given to the locals who need parking with much smaller boats. Have you ever tried to get up off your boat onto a dock that is at least 5 feet above your head with no way of gaining access to it?  

I have heard rumors that our new government is planning on building something to accommodate the vast majority of citizens.  But with little funds in their budget I don't know when they will get that done.  I mean the dock was suppose to have taken less than 6 months to build and took over a year!  Things do not move quickly here and saying something will be built and actually seeing it started or completed can take years.  Case in point - our airport.  We now have a fine airport "terminal" and were content with that.  The dock for that construction was inadequate from the get go and everyone could see that it would not provide sufficient parking for people coming to pick up or drop off.  It took several years before they finally woke up, found the funds and built on extra dock area.  So, we cannot believe what we are told, especially when it is time sensitive.

Our residency cards must be renewed once a year and in order to do this we must return to La Ceiba (or wherever we applied for the card) and have a new card issued.  It took them years just to figure out they needed to create a file folder on each individual so that when one returned, the process could be shortened by referring to the past file.  Each year we had to bring copies of the same paperwork, 2 photos, a bank statement and get finger printed (guess our finger prints from the previous year were lost each year).  Finally, a really diligent girl at the office started making files!  It saved so much time and now we don't need to bring all that paperwork to dump on them any more.  They even had a camera to take a new photo for the card!  Well, the system ran into a problem last year.   My husband and I didn't suffer with the problem as we got our cards renewed in April.  Right after that, lo and behold, the camera stopped functioning, the machine to make the cards stopped working and the laminator was out of supplies to finish the job!  This went on for over a year!  After last April when one went to get a new card you were issued a piece of paper extending your residency for 90 days.  This means you have to go back every 90 days and get it re-issued.  There is no cost involved except for those that must fly there, stay in a hotel, eat and use taxis.  I recently inquired of various people asking if we did not show up to renew the "extension" would we be fined?  I have been told no, so I did not see a purpose for spending all that money to return to get an extension but, then, I need my paper to use for discounts and identification.

We all heard the rumors that because last year was a voting year the government in power did not want to spend any of the money in the budget that could be placed elsewhere else (in their pockets?) and so, new supplies were not purchased, machines were not repaired and nothing was updated until the government knew who was in charge for the next 4 years.  I don't know if this was true but it sounds reasonable.  

Supposedly now, as of this month, new machines have been delivered to La Ceiba and San Pedro but I hear they are still having problems and, for the most part, cards are being sent to be issued in Tegucigalpa.  I guess the world over you really can't believe what you are told by the government.

With no newspaper on the island the only way one knows what is going on is word-of-mouth and we know how unreliable that is.  But, that is how we survive here with rumors, tales, innuendos and a lot of guessing.  One person will tell you what is "really going on" to find out that they heard it from someone who had no facts or, as word-of-mouth goes, unreliable.

I remember one time, many, many, many years ago, I made up a "newspaper" as a joke and the gist of it was just to have some fun.  However, at the time I made a serious remark about the construction of a certain necessary piece of work (I will not say what but it was necessary) and noted that the construction did not appear to meet the necessary requirements in order to be fully serviceable and/or last.  My husband's life was in construction and I worked by his side for many years so we both had a grasp on what would work and what had the potential for failure.  So, it was not a wild guess or supposition on my part that produced my comments.  I merely pointed out the fact that it was not of good design.  Well, the backlash I got for making that comment and actually having the gumption to criticize was not well taken.  Can't repeat what I was told but needless to say one must keep their thoughts to themselves in a foreign country as evidently, at least in the past, they did not want to be given any advice.  Oh, the construction ultimately failed and fell down!

It is true of humans that we don't like change and don't take advice well, sometimes even when we ask for it.  But, when we ask questions it would be nice to know that whoever we are asking will tell us honestly that this is either their opinion, or they don't know, or they aren't sure or can direct us to someone who CAN help.  I have discovered that many times here you are told what the other person THINKS you want to hear even if it is not true.  Guess that is why they have the Mañana theory!

Now, you can believe me or not; your choice.  A minority of the people I have found who read my blogs read what they "think" I am saying and do not read the actual words.  This is why I say "in my opinion" or that "I'm not sure it is true."  These people will write and tell me that I should watch my words and get quite upset with what I have published.  Yet, it is they inserting their own opinion into my blog and not actually reading my words.  So, believe what you want, I'm just writing my opinion!