Wednesday, February 21, 2018

2018 School Preparations

Shortly before we returned to Roatan, before I had even made our plane reservations, I was chatting with my friend, Susan Campbell who was already on the island, and she mentioned that she knew at least 50 children from the colonia in Sandy Bay who would not be able to attend school this year for lack of a sponsor. Work has been scarce for many families, they struggle just to put food on the table, and the cost of outfitting each child for public school (approx. $75.) is just beyond them. (It seems ludicrous that such a poor country would insist that children cannot attend public school unless they have the proper uniform, black shoes, and school supplies.) Susan, a retired school teacher, was saddened by this as was I. We both believe that educating the Honduran children gives them a better chance of improving their lives. I offered to “shake the bushes” back home and see if I could raise any donations.

I posted on Facebook and sent a message out to old high school friends and family and the next day I had 4 donations. Each day, more donations rolled in. The interesting thing about this was that Susan and Larry would meet a family who had x number of kids unable to attend school who were asking for help, and the very next day I would receive that exact number of donations to cover those kids!!! This happened over and over again. God was clearly doing a good work here, meeting needs daily. It was beautiful to watch.

                                                 Bayron, Leti and family

Larry and Susan took many of the kids shopping to outfit them for school: uniforms, shoes, backpacks, notebooks, etc., other families were given money to shop on their own and requested to bring back the receipts.

Susan took plenty of photos of the children and gave me permission to share them with you. In addition she also sent this thank you note from one of the mothers:

And lastly, a note from Arezzi for you.... Estamos muy agradesidos con Dios y con usted y su amiga no la conocemos pero eya tiene buen corazón Gracias a dios!   We are very grateful to God and with you and your friend we do not know her but she has a good heart Thank God.

                                                         Arezzi and family

And another:

Keira’s mom, Rosa broke down in tears when Keira’s school needs were met. Her husband has been out of work, and they didn’t know how they could send Keira to school.


We were thrilled to learn that Travis and Tish’s ministry provided for 25 of these 50  kids. We were humbled to realize that another 26 children were ready for school on the first day thanks to the generosity of people I knew – old high school friends, church friends, family, and friends and work colleagues of my daughter.

Along the way – a boy needed a pair of pants, 2 boys needed P.E. uniforms and shoes, another needed only bus money. Every need was met as it came up!

A huge THANK YOU to all who responded to the needs of the children. Their families are so very grateful; they praise God for sending you to help them.

Monday, February 19, 2018

More Adventures From The Traveling Gartners

This is the longest we have been away from our island home, and we certainly did miss it. Apparently we also missed one of the longest, rainiest rainy seasons in many years. We've only been back one week and it has rained several days, including right now, but no gully washers anyway.

While the island was enduring much rain, mudslides, flooding and general sogginess, we experienced our first winter in several years, and wouldn't you know it, it was the coldest winter Missouri has had in awhile. Really made us appreciate coming back to tropical warmth.

Our good friends, the Campbell's, picked us up at the airport in our car. We were pleased to find Eldon's grocery store pretty well stocked. During the heavy rains, the ferry was not able to make the trip from the mainland, often for days, and the stores ran out of food. We got what we needed for a few days and headed up to our house. Our excellent cleaning crew (Suyapa, Karla, Maria, Jessie) had been in the day before and cleaned from top to bottom. The jungle had been recently trimmed, the concrete steps scrubbed free of mold, and the deck had also been scrubbed. Ready to move in!

We found a note from our friend and neighbor (who looks after our property while we are away). He said that the guest toilet had been running all night and had emptied our 250 gallon storage tank at the top of the hill. Don't use it until you fix it!! Thankful that he discovered it that morning! The ballcock will have to be replaced.

We did notice that while the refrigerator had been plugged in, it had not been turned on, so I left the few cold items from the store inside the insulated shopping bag. We unpacked a few things and went down to Blue Bahia Beach Grill for an early dinner. When we returned, I checked the fridge and it was not cooling at all. Don took the on/off switch/thermostat apart and fiddled with the wiring and found a loose connection. He fixed that and it started cooling but took another 36 hours before it was really cold enough.

We drove to West Bay the next morning for church. All the roads are indeed in terrible shape and it is necessary to drive slowly in order to avoid the worst of them. Some of the potholes had been filled in with mud and tamped down by some industrious guys hoping to get a few tips. We were very happy to see that the federal government of Honduras has finally taken pity on us and has sent road paving machinery and work crews to the island!! They are beginning at Infinity Bay in West Bay, paving one side of the road for a short section and allowing proper drying time which means a one-lane road for driving and paying close attention to avoiding the rebar sticking out of the new pavement. They seem to be doing a good job.

Church was wonderful. So good to always be warmly welcomed back. Afterwards we enjoyed yummy coconut shrimp dinners at Beacher's and the company of the Campbell's and Susan's sister and brother-in-law, as well as Peggy Stranges, Dee Haisten and the infamous Juan Meijia! Such fun!! Some of them went snorkeling after lunch, but the water was a bit rough so Susan and I opted to swim....that is, until I realized that the water temp was only about 78º. I stopped at waist deep.
Photo credit: Susan Campbell

Sleeping has been the best! The nights are in the low 70s, often with just a little breeze. Love having the windows open while sleeping. Several nights, the rain began in the wee hours and the windows had to be mostly closed.

During the night, I awoke to an odd beeping noise. I finally tracked it down to the microwave which was displaying  this message "the keypad has shorted." Well, that can't be good. I unplugged it.  Don didn't think he could fix that. His old "hit it with a hammer" method of fixing some things wouldn't work on this due to the over-the-stove and fitting snuggly between cabinets location. Later, I plugged it in again, reset the clock and it was fine for a few hours, then began beeping again. I unplugged it. The next time I replugged, it worked fine all day. The keypad functions all worked and no beeping. I still unplug it at night, just in case. I like appliances that self-heal

The next appliance to go was our fan (portable, on a stand). Apparently no hope there.
I washed clothes mid-week. The next day, I threw another load in and walked away, then turned back around because something didn't sound right. It was leaking water out the bottom as fast as it was trying to fill. Don pulled it out of the laundry closet and discovered the drain pipe had split. Another trip to Ace Hardware which is about 14 miles away over very, very bad roads. Yippee!!

We also had to make two trips to the bank, which is also 14 miles away over very, very bad roads. We may need to find a different bank! We had to reactivate our lempira account. Accounts which haven't been used in 3 or more months are inactivated. Our dollar account was still active as Don had recently transferred money down to fulfill our residency requirement.  We also had to get a letter from the bank stating that we had met that requirement for the year; as retirees, we are required to deposit $18,000.00 every year. They've decided that is the necessary amount for gringos to live on for a year.

We went next to reactivate our phones. Same deal. My poor old, old Blackberry finally gave up the ghost and I had to buy a new phone. My US phone doesn't hold dual SIM cards, and I can't do without it due to having the Kardia device on that phone (portable EKG device and app, which I need). So, while Don was reactivating his phone at the Claro store, I picked out a new smartphone at the Tigo store and had them set it up. We also borrowed a Tigo stick modem and router from the Campbell's to use while we are here instead of reactivating our Maxx (cable/internet) service. We're only here for a few weeks this trip.

On our second trip of the week to Ace Hardware, I found a great table and chairs patio set to replace our old one. They delivered it that 7 pm.

We ended the week on a high note. We went to the migration office to renew our residency. Now, you never know what to expect there. The office on the island has only been in place a little over a year. Before that, we had to go to the mainland of Honduras to renew and hope that we could get it accomplished in one trip, which usually wasn't the case. This local office is so handy! Last year it was still rather unorganized with stacks of files piled up here and there and everything still filled out by hand. This year, the office has expanded, everything is neatly filed and organized AND computerized!! Yes!!  We had printed and filled in the renewal forms ahead of time and had them stamped at the bank when we paid our renewal fee. We presented them with our passports, old residency cards, constancia from the bank, and filled in one more form each and then were electronically fingerprinted and photographed and a few minutes later, handed our brand new residency cards!! Woo hoo!!!! In and out in less than 30 minutes!
Photo credit: Susan Campbell

We discovered a great new restaurant on our way home, Ellen's Place, located in Pirate's Den. They were having a soft opening, sort of word-of-mouth, while they prepare for their official opening in a few weeks. We had delicious meals, generous servings and very reasonable prices.

It really was a very good week. We ended it with another trip to the beach.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Continued Shaming of Roatan

I haven't posted any follow-ups on the battle between the tax enforcers, DEI, who wreaked havoc upon Roatan businesses in December. First, DEI agents were called off of their witch hunt on Roatan. The head of DEI was called to appear before the Honduran Congress. Congress demanded certain changes be made such changes in the tax code,  training for these DEI agents (who work under contract), forbidding the shutting down of businesses over minor details, such a lack of email address on the receipt - the business will be given a set amount of time to correct the problem, and DEI will pay another visit to insure that this is done.

This was not enough to save our businesses here on the island. Here is  the link to an article published in the Panampost  recently about how the changes in the tax law will affect businesses.

Apparently the tax code and list of increased tax rates on particular businesses amounts to about 150 pages of not-so-fun reading. Even schools will be taxed. Really? The schools don't always pay their teachers who may have up to 90 kids in their class and no assistant (teachers may hire someone to help but are responsible for paying that person out of their own pocket), nor do they always supply textbooks or other necessary supplies for the teachers. Perhaps they are learning from the U.S. how to bury the brutal truth within pages of babble?

Business are not going down without a fight. They met with DEI and other government officials last month (the mayor did not bother to attend), and they have planned a peaceful march to the municipal building for this coming Saturday.

We'll see how this turns out.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wrapping Up Another Year


It's been a busy month in a laid back island sort of way, not like a U.S. busy month. We were very blessed to have a week long visit from Rachel and Jason who arrived with suitcases full of gifts for the island kids.

We had our annual Christmas party for our group of sponsored kids. We do something different every year (just to keep them guessing!), and this year we took them all to Guava Grove for lunch, swimming, and gifting. The kids are always excited to see Rachel. We missed having our co-sponsor coordinators, Larry and Susan Campbell with us.



                                                          Of course we snorkeled!

                                                                      And fished.


                      And enjoyed a sunset cruise and fresh sashimi (tuna caught by Jason).

                  We served lunch to the hardworking people who live and work in the dump.


One of the visiting team members delivered the gospel message and Oscar translated. So very proud of this young man! This is part of the value of a bilingual education.


We had plenty of gifts for the children. This sweet girl is clutching a stuffed unicorn (sent down by one of Rachel's co-workers) in one hand and her cup of chicken rice soup in the other.


                                                    So excited over her fairy princess doll!

                                  Lunch on the beach? Tables set in the water on Pigeon Cay.


                                    Jason and Rachel awaiting their steak and lobster lunch.

                                        Always comes too quickly. Time to say goodbye.


The next day began the series of island Christmas parties which took the place of the food and toy drives. We headed east to Punta Gorda for the first party. This little cutie had no idea what was going on.

                                                      Perfectly color-coordinated.


                         Santa makes his grand entrance to the cheers of happy children.


The next Christmas party for us was held in Pensacola (no, not Florida - community nestled in between Flowers Bay and Gravel Bay.) Right on the beach with fabulous breezes. Both clowns showed up this day. This is the balloon clown.

                                    They were very happy with their balloon  creations.


                       The face painting clown. Why so serious? We're having fun here!

We had so many toys this year including these tables full of stuffed animals brought to us by the Carnival ship crew. We also had toys and new shoes from a number of cruise ship passengers. This is the first time that we did not run out of toys before every child had been given one. Nidia had a lot of leftovers with she sent to the children on Helene.

A wild and crazy game of musical chairs. Extremely competitive, these kids would dive for a chair, sometimes 3 of them on one chair. We had 2 minor injuries and one broken chair.

         Fellow elf Debbie-Leigh Crofutt and I taking a very short break in the madness.


Christmas Eve in the lobby of Infinity Bay Resort. R-church meets here on the top floor. We had a beautiful candlelight service. This is Oscar who I was bragging about earlier.

After a delightful and delicious Christmas dinner at the Cowen's, I mentioned that our family always played charades. Everyone thought that was a great idea. Debi is taking her turn. There were about 12 of us which made for a good game.

Another Christmas is over, another year gone by. Wishing all of you a very Happy New Year.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Shaming of Roatan

In light of all the crazy things going on in the United States lately, I thought I would share some of the bizarre happenings on Roatan.

About a week ago, 60 DEI agents arrived on the island. They seem to be comparable to IRS agents in the U.S. They have been inspecting businesses, not only to insure that taxes have been paid, but to look for any other possible error or omission such as failure to have an email address on their customer receipts or using a logo on their receipts which has not been copyrighted with the DEI(?). The receipts are very strangely issued a range of effective dates. If a company is using a receipt with an expired effective date, they are fined and/or closed down, even if they have already applied for new dates but have not received them. This really makes no sense.

They began their inspection tours with one of the biggest businesses on the island, Sun Corporation, which owns Eldon's grocery stores, gas stations, Bojangles chicken stores and Pizza Inn stores. They promptly shut down Bojangles because they did not have an L (for lempiras - the currency here) before the amount owed on the receipt. They also did not have an email address on their receipt. Their next move was to close the big Eldon's grocery store just up the hill. They went into the store, wearing bullet proof vests and carrying automatic rifles, and ordered everyone out! Eldon was able to quickly show his compliance with everything else and that all taxes had been paid  and reopen his stores.

Other businesses were not so fortunate and 40 businesses were quickly closed. Another big business, a lumber/hardware business was shut down for 5 days for not having the L on their receipts and even though they told the agents that they could have that corrected on their servers within an hour, they were still forced to close. They were told that they were being shut down to "shame" them! Even though they were in full compliance with everything else. They stuck big signs to the door and windows saying the store was closed. They are not even fining them, just "shaming" them.

A small souvenir shop was closed and fined heavily. Do you think a small souvenir shop has an email address? Some of the smaller businesses have preemptively closed shop, hoping the DEI would go away. That so angered the agents that they sought a court order to force the shops to reopen just so they could close them again.

Some businesses have printed out the receipt requirements from the DEI's own website and shown it to the agents to prove that they are in compliance with what they know to be required. It seems that these agents are enjoying their power and have been throwing their weight around. They were initially scheduled to be on island for 2 weeks; that has now been extended with 40 agents remaining through Christmas.

What this means for the island is that many, many workers are now out of work. No work, no pay. Many of these workers only earn $10 - $15. per day and live hand to mouth. And Christmas is coming. Missed income will make it just that much more difficult to provide any kind of Christmas for their families.

This is also high season on the island. Does it makes any sense to close businesses thus limiting services to tourists as well as decreasing the amount of taxes that could be collected? Just read that of the 3000 businesses on Roatan only 830 are registered as being in compliance with the new invoicing system the DEI requires.

Business owners are so upset with the high-handed tactics being used that they have appealed to the Chamber of Commerce who has scheduled a meeting of shop owners, and DEI agents for today. Hopefully, something will be worked out.

In the meantime, is it safe here? Yes. Can you still buy what you need? Yes, grocery stores and gas stations are open.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Spectacular Sundays

Occasionally, the morning will be so crystal clear that we can see the mountains on the mainland 40 miles away during our drive to church. This photo was taken with my phone through the windshield of our car.  It is dangerous to stop on the road to West Bay with all its hills, curves and lack of shoulders, otherwise, I would have hopped out of the car for a better shot. 

This is our spectacular view from the 3rd floor conference room at Infinity Bay where our church meets. Yes, we have to keep the drapes drawn to prevent our minds from wandering during worship! This spot is where we often have lunch after church and always where we head out for our snorkel. There is a nice cut in the reef straight ahead that affords a trail of sorts meandering through the reef allowing good viewing of all the beautiful fish and sea creatures. And if you swim out far enough to where the water is deep blue, the floor of the ocean drops away. It's breathtaking and a trifle scary!

Our women's Bible study group meets on Wednesday mornings at 11:00 at a new Peruvian restaurant, Machu Pichu. They generally open to the public only for dinner. They have graciously allowed us to meet here and serve us a delicious lunch in a quiet, air-conditioned, and otherwise empty restaurant.  The men's Bible study also meets here for breakfast once a week (at 6:45 a.m.!). It has been wonderful having this nice place to meet, to study the Bible with friends, and to enjoy a time of fellowship over lunch followed by a time of praying for each other.  Our group size varies as people come and go from the island. We miss Heather (3rd person on left) who just returned home to Indiana after 3 months here.

I need to be taking more beach pictures! More to come....

Monday, November 16, 2015

On Settling In

Returning to the island after a 6 month absence is always an adventure. Things can change quickly here making settling back in a bit more of a challenge. For example: we had suspended our cable service while away. The cable office had moved last spring to the second floor of Plaza Mar, above the grocery store. We were told that we could stop in there on our way home from the airport and have our service reinstated. Sounded so convenient since we would be stopping at the grocery store for essentials on the way home, BUT the office moved while we were away. Thankfully, our friend Lynne, who had picked us up, is also a cable subscriber and knew were the new office was located. So she drove us down to Main street in Coxen Hole only to find that the office was not open on Saturday - or maybe it was only open in the morning. We rarely watch tv so that part didn’t bother us, but we get our internet via cable, and that did bother us.

Monday morning found us back at the cable office where we reactivated our account and, of course, we expected that it would instantly be turned back on. Nope, it would take 3-4 days. Groan. Actually, the cable guy came by late Tuesday afternoon and let us know that we were up and running. 

We have in the past had to re-register our cell phones upon every return, which requires a drive to French Harbor to the Claro store and is a minor nuisance. This year we left our phones with friends, Larry and Susan, and had them keep the phones active by using them once in awhile and also, the big factor, adding more saldo (balance) to the phones every 3 months, otherwise the minutes expire and the phone will need to be reregistered which also results in getting a new phone number with the added hassle of letting Roatan friends know the new number. Our strategy worked beautifully; the phones were in good order. I did require an intervention from our young friend, Juan. My Blackberry was receiving 10-12 pop-up messages from Claro everyday, and I was being charged for each one. They were all ads for services that never interested me and annoyed the heck out of me, as well as draining my balance more quickly. Juan called the main office on the mainland and got it stopped.  Thank you, Juan!!!! 

Our car, which we bought shortly before we left in the spring, had to have the registration renewed in July. Nope, they would not change the renewal date even though we bought the car in March. Friends to the rescue again - Franklin took our old registration to the bank, paid the $200. fee and received the unofficial new registration. Apparently, the bank was out of the correct color of paper needed, and their laminator was broken. They stamped the registration as paid but said a return visit would be necessary, so Don took the paper into a branch of our bank. They had the necessary supplies but were reluctant to print it for us because the renewal had been paid at another bank. Don played dumb, and they finally relented, charging him just a couple of bucks.

The car battery was completely dead. Dennis had charged it a few times, but it finally would not hold the charge. So, we borrowed our old car back from Larry, and went to town for a new battery ($130.). The a/c was also not working, but it is legal to buy cans of freon (or whatever they call it now), so Don was able to recharge the a/c himself. Ahhhhh! Blessed relief! Thankful for a husband who can do all these things. And thankful for all our Roatan friends who made our reentry more pleasant!