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 MaƱana 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!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Time Marches On!

Haven't been too busy lately, just enjoying the weather and Spring.  My last post was about the flowers appearing in my yard.  Well, since then I've planted cherry tomatoes, garlic, parsley, chives, basil and celery.  The tomatoes are producing at a record speed since I put in about 18 plants and cultivated a new spot to plant them in.

It has worked out well and here's some of the luscious tomatoes I've picked and am still picking:

Friends are happy when I share them with them and there is plenty to go around.  I have found my parsley and chives do better in pots and it took three cuttings off the bottom of a stalk of celery to get the plant to start growing and it has finally started showing signs of life.  Just hope it is not too hot to continue with it.  The basil is always successful but with the dry season here watering is getting a little difficult as we collect and use rain water to refresh the plants!

My husband and I spent the first week of April in La Ceiba and San Pedro Sula getting 1) residency cards renewed and 2) U.S. Passports renewed at the U.S. Embassy.  All in all, I don't really like working with any government as it usually involves foolish questions, a lot of paperwork and expense with delayed gratification.  This time we could not get the actual residency card as for a year now the Immigration offices to renew the cards have not had either the machines to make the cards, the laminate to finish them, the cameras to take pictures or, if they had all of the above, it did not work.  In 2013 we managed to hit them just right and got our card.  The week after that everything all over the country took a nose dive and is just starting to come back but still hitting glitches.

The U.S. Embassy was fairly quick and painless although expensive.  But, we did get our new passports in the allotted 3-4 weeks and now are good for 10 more years.

We did grocery shopping in both cities before we returned and the only incident was when the Security at San Pedro Sula airport decided that I had to open a can of Cream of Broccoli soup as it was suspicious.  I had 4 cans of soup and argued with them that I had a receipt showing I just purchased the soup that very day and they were sealed.  Nope, could not argue with them, they were set and they wanted the "pop top" on the can popped!  I was not happy and won't repeat all the remarks I made to people who wear blinders and refuse to think out of the box.  I opened one can and the man didn't even fish around in it looking for anything!  Don't know what he expected to be in a can of cream of broccoli soup but whatever it was, he was satisfied when I had opened the can and the soup was ruined.  Next time I plan on seeing a security officer in San Pedro before shopping to get a list of what I can and cannot buy to take back to Guanaja with me!

I finally found in La Ceiba a rattan chair to replace the one my dog destroyed (the parrot had a hand in the destruction too).  It is almost impossible to find rattan furniture in Honduras and finally, at Muebles Ali, I hit the jackpot.  Chose a chair and it was delivered the next week on the boat.  I hope to get some of the fabric and have new cushions made for my old chair.  He also says he can fix my other chair of which arms were chewed up by the dog, I just have to get it on the boat and to La Ceiba.

Earlier this year I had my 30 year old Rattan Couch recovered with fabric I found in San Pedro Sula.  A local here, Carlos, does a wonderful job and he did not fail me:

On May 1st my husband and I celebrated our 33 Wedding Anniversary and a small group all met up for lunch at George and Ginger's place (Clearwater Paradise).  We had a wonderful lunch, as always, as Ginger is a great cook.  A pleasant time and a beautiful day weather-wise.  Sometimes it just all comes together!

Soon Conch Festival will be upon us and the island is getting ready for this event which takes place in July.  Lots of activities and fun and beach time for all!

I also must make note that a new Bed and Breakfast has opened up run by Roland Rumm.  Located up the hill from Manati Restaurant, Roland's Garden Guesthouse is a lovely two story house with a beautiful view and lots to do.  Roland has not been in business very long but is getting bookings at a steady rate and has been rated 4 out of 46 hotels in the Bay Islands!  This is quite an accomplishment for such a new business and our hats are off to Roland. If you like a relaxed style, a great host, hiking, kayaking, diving, snorkeling all at a reasonable price, look him up.  Lovely accommodations, breakfast and airport transport included.  Check him out on-line.  Go to:

And now back to baking bread, reading and relaxing as it is Sunday!