Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Early Rainbow

I noticed this rainbow very early this morning before it rained.

Then it alternated between rain

and sun, but always windy and the sea was choppy.

The rain started just as Don got up on the ladder at the edge of the house to install another motion light, so he hopped off the ladder and went under the house to wait. Our young gardener, Julio, was working in the yard along side the road, not minding the rain until it started to pour. I went out onto the deck and motioned him to come in out of the rain, which he gladly did. Don was just stuck under the house until the rain let up. Then everyone went back to work.

I've noticed that concrete tends to get really ugly in all this rain, starting with greenish streaks and then changing to black. Mold, I guess. Most unattractive on our formerly white, curvy entrance steps. So I was out there this morning with my bucket of Green Works and broom, scrubbing away. Looks better but the retaining wall....

Julio finished up today after five days of hard work on our steep yard. He does fantastic work! I am so pleased. I didn't have to watch him for fear that he would cut down the wrong tree, or check to see if he was enjoying a very long siesta instead of working, or argue with him about what I wanted him to do. Merlin came down with him the first day, gave him instructions after checking with me, and he got right to work. And he cleaned up after himself and didn't just pile the clippings up along our property line and leave it. I hope we can get him again when the yard needs attention. He'll be working for Merlin next week.

We almost went to a birthday party last night for a friend of ours from church. She lives along the beach behind the church. I had to ask how to get down to her house and was given directions which seemed clear enough at the time. We didn't factor in darkness - really dark - or that there would be so many houses, almost all behind walls and gates, along that road. Did I mention that it was a really dark road? And what a road! Mercy. I doubt that it has ever been graded and is just one large swale after another. We were rockin' and rollin'. So we bounced up and down this road, trying to find a large yellow house, thinking, how hard can it be to find a yellow house. Never saw it. Nor did we see any signs of a crowd gathering for a party. I don't think we could have been down the wrong road, but who knows. Finally, we just came home.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Flying Over

Colin flying over our hilltop.

Merlin's hillside garden retreat.

Garden path.

Don and the Rav4 beside our house.

Yesterday was an interesting day, or maybe it just seemed that way because I was operating on very little sleep. Insomnia, again. But no, I think it really was interesting. First, we went into Coxen Hole; no cruise ship in so traffic was light. Our English-speaking teller was not at his window, so Don once again had to go to the Spanish-speaking teller and he did fine. He knows how to ask for money. Crossed the street to Warren's and was happy to find both yogurt (first time in weeks) and fresh lechuga (lettuce). No salad dressing though; that required another stop at Plaza Mar where I also found fresh celery. Success! And, to our delight, we encountered a little detour in front of the gas station/BoJangles Chicken because they are actually repaving the road and actually using concrete! This is huge. This stretch of road is heavily traveled and always deeply rutted with potholes big enough to jar your teeth out of your mouth. Woo boy!

Colin called and asked me to pick Kellie up from school as he had a meeting with the guy who is starting the new helicopter service on the island. At the school (which is behind our church), I encountered two new speed ropes across the road and two young men watching the reaction from the drivers. When I asked about the ropes, they said they were setting up a school zone during dismissal time, just trying to get drivers to be more cautious. As we watched, some taxi drivers drove around the ropes, some drivers refused to slow down despite the big bump, and only one cussed them out. Most people just slowed down and took it in stride.

After I had dropped Kellie off with an after-school snack of chocolate chip cookies I had made, and gone back to my house, Colin called and said to grab Kellie and our cameras and be watching - his new friend with the helicopter was going to fly him right over the top of our houses. So I ran up the hill, got Kellie and we waited. Kellie talked about their new Spanish-speaking housekeeper and how frustrating the language barrier was. I told her the immersion method was supposed to be the best way to learn a language. Moe was happy to see me...came right over and gave me a little love-chomp on the arm. Finally, we heard the chopper approaching and snapped off a bunch of pix as they flew low right above us. There was a reporter from the Bay Islands Voice on board busy taking pictures of us and the hilltop! We could see Colin waving at us, and then they were gone. Kellie went back to her homework, and I went back down the hill with Moe trying to follow me.

The inter-island women's Bible study was last night at Sandi's in Gravel Bay, near the Christian radio station run by her husband. Another great night of food, fellowship, study and prayer. Learned that Tia has a beautiful voice as she sang a song based on the scripture we had just read. Terrific group of women! As we left we were treated to a lovely view of the new cruise ship terminal just around the little bay - very pretty at night with all the lights. We drove back home through Coxen Hole, an even bigger adventure at night than during the day!

This morning we drove up to Merlin's to get some enriched soil from the former rabbit pen and to check out her new sitting area in her hillside garden. Just beautiful. Her gardeners have done a wonderful job in creating a beautiful, restful spot to relax (see photos above). Then we had to go up and see all the new plants she got yesterday (second truckload this week!). I love it because she is always so willing to share her plants with me. Don drove back down with our big pot of dirt, and I walked and took this last picture.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Good Day to Sail

This is the kind of day that has me wishing for a sailboat. It is another gorgeous day here in paradise, just enough breeze to keep a boat moving along.

We survived our first Spanish lesson yesterday. Our little class of 5 met with Esmerelda, a young island woman with experience in teaching Spanish, for the first session. She started out by asking each of us a number of questions, in Spanish, and then based upon our answers, either helping us or praising us. We all know a little, enough to understand most of what she asked us and to answer back in Spanish, things like..."how long have you lived on the island?... where do you live on the island?" She then asked each of us for our objectives - what were our specific needs? Andy is a volunteer at the Sandy Bay Children's Home and takes care of a couple of new arrivals who speak no English so he needs to be able to give them directions (like "take a shower!" or "go to bed"). Another man needs help communicating with construction workers. I need to learn medical terminology if I'm going to be useful at the clinic as well as how to communicate with our gardener, the hairdresser who cut my hair yesterday, and the man with the vegetable truck. The other woman in our class had tried to take a taxi to Alba Plaza and had difficulty conveying where she wanted to go.

Esmerelda then took each person's request, wrote our questions on the board in Spanish and we practiced saying them, along with other possible answers. So I learned to say "don't cut my bangs too short...take a little more off back here", etc. We learned that island people say "take a bath", never "take a shower", and that the word for bath is slightly different if you are telling several people to take a bath versus just one. We also learned a few typical expressions here that are different than in Mexico, like they would say "que tal" rather than "que pasa" when asking what's going on or what's happening, although both are correct, but if you are ever in a car accident the police will ask "que sucediendo"...for what's going on or what has happened. And we tried rolling those blasted "rr", which I just cannot do.

We have homework! Vocabulary words to memorize, a dialogue to practice, rr sounds to try, before our next class on Monday.

Now, if only my haircut had gone that well...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's a dewlap!

I just learned that my little green friend is actually an anole, a type of lizard, and not a gecko and that his puffed out red throat is called a dewlap and may be shown during courtship or assertion of territorial rights. I thank my daughter's long-time friend, Jenny, who is now an elementary school teacher. She pointed me to Wiki-pedia where I read all about this guy as well as the many true geckos who share our home and who are, indeed, the source of the chirping noises that we so often hear.

Also, thanks to Don's friend Daryl, our tree frog is now named "Kilroy". I suspect he is a Cuban tree frog, based on what I read on Wiki-pedia.

Now I'm wondering about this very odd insect that has taken up residence on the hand towel in our bathroom. He appears to have knees, well, more probably elbows - large, round ones, on his front legs. Don thought he was dead, too, but when I moved the towel, he moved slightly. He also has odd shaped wings. I'm guessing he's a type of fly, but don't really know.

In other animal updates, Kellie reports that Moe is now being terrorized by another cat and has twice been "treed". I wonder if it is the same cat that Don saw come sauntering out of their house like he owned the joint.

Dennis reports that all of his dogs have been sick. Wonder what they've gotten into. And Merlin is already tired of the noisy parrots her friend "loaned" her. I imagine they'll be going home pretty soon.

I have heard from some of you mid-westerners that it is pretty chilly up there and that you've been enjoying some snow and ice. Really sorry to hear that. Really, really glad I'm here. The weather here is fantastic. We had a great visit yesterday afternoon, sitting on our deck, with our Canadian friends, Debi and Bob, a recently retired pastor. We were happy to learn that they love cribbage - we've been trying, unsuccessfully, to learn to play by reading Hoyle's. So far, we don't get it. They've agreed to teach us. I was also happy to learn that Bob has all 8 seasons of West Wing on DVD!

I just returned from getting my 190 lempira haircut (slightly less than $10.) and we'll soon be off to our $6. Spanish lessons. I'll tell you more about that tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Amazing Sunset

We were blessed with an amazing sunset last night despite a day of rain and drizzle that made drying laundry nearly impossible. In the top photo you'll notice a barge being towed by a tugboat. We wondered about that. What could be on the barge and where was it headed? They moved slowly toward the east, perhaps toward Guanaja, another of the Bay Islands, much smaller than Roatan. Not much else out there.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Cute Critters

We've had a couple of interesting visitors lately. The gecko is a frequent sight, especially when it's sunny on the deck. This is a pretty good shot of him puffing out his red throat. I'm still not sure what the purpose is behind the puffing, whether it's a warning, a mating ritual, or a sign of pleasure. He was pretty content, having just ingested a nice moth.

The little frog was clinging to the side of the table today when I went out onto the deck to wipe the table off for lunch. Don thinks he's dead because he hasn't budged despite all the close-up photos taken of him. I don't want to touch him to find out.

We're having another cool day, upper 70s, mostly cloudy, sometimes drizzly and occasionally the sun peeps out. I was forced to use the clothes dryer today - way too humid for laundry to dry on a line.

Our cat-sitting has ended - our neighbors returned yesterday. Kellie came back with a new camera, so I'm sure Moe will be a frequent subject. We picked them up at the airport at noon, grabbed some lunch at the Oasis and then they went on up the hill to settle in. I know Moe is a happy cat now. He was getting pretty mischevious, knocking things off onto the floor, continuing to pee in the dustpan, so it's good that Kellie's back.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sending You Some Sunshine

Here are a few of my favorite beach photos of Roatan. Thought you might be needing some serious sunshine, so enjoy!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Construction of La Puerta Trasera

The first bench cut

The second bench cut

Building the retaining wall

Drying the lumber

Roof going on

Windows and doors going in

House stained, deck rail up

These photos show the construction of our house and how steep our hill is. In these photos you can also see that the road had not been paved yet, nor had the entrance stairs been built. You'll notice how close the retaining wall is to the front of the house - this was a real problem in my opinion, but we couldn't move the house. There was also no way to enter the house other than walking down the retaining wall or climbing down that short but very steep hill in front. Merlin saved the day with her suggestion to build the curvy stairway that now graces the front of our house. And Dennis added the railing to the side of the deck that's next to the retaining wall. And Merlin's landscaping helped tremendously. There are more construction pictures in my Picasa album (see link in right column).

Friday, January 23, 2009

We're Socked In

Looks like we're sitting in the middle of a big wet cloud today. It was very cool again when we awoke, about 65 degrees and misting. That soon turned to rain, then stopped for awhile - long enough for us to run up to French Harbor and back, and has now resumed raining in earnest.

It's been an interesting day so far. First, I baked biscuits this morning in my very tempermental oven. It takes forever to heat up, perhaps because it doesn't seem to have much insulation (which is why I seldom bake), and then it is very difficult to figure out the settings. The temperature control knob is marked 1 through 4. What the heck does that mean? Last fall we tried to figure it out using an oven thermometer. The best we can tell, 4 means "char". The thermometer went past 550 degrees! We kept backing it off, trying to find 350 degrees, but it seems to move around on us. This morning I set it around 3, not too worried since biscuits like it hot, and they did turn out pretty good. It seems like a good day to bake, and after our run to French Harbor where I bought sugar (which I could not get at the other stores!) and more flour and some nuts, I decided to take advantage of the cool day and bake some chocolate chip cookies for Don. I needed to find 375 degrees, so I aimed for mid-way between the 3 and 2. First it was a little too hot, closer to 400, so we moved it slightly toward the 2 and then it was a little too cool and refused to budge higher than 360 so it took quite a bit longer for the first pan of cookies to bake, but they looked good. So I gave it a gentle nudge which of course, sent it back towards 400. The second pan baked quicker but also had darker bottoms. This is certainly not an exact science. Also this cheap oven has no interior light.

I think the sugar I bought today may be raw sugar. It is more coarse and a bit more tan than the sugar I still had on hand. The batter never did get creamy and the cookies have a crunchier texture, but Don liked them anyway. I thought they seemed a little sweeter than usual but I don't eat many cookies so I may be wrong.

Buying sugar and flour is rather interesting. You can buy them in 1 pound, 2 pound, 3 pound, and clear up to 25 pounds (for flour), sized plastic bags and they are, of course, labeled in Spanish, such as "azucar Hondurena". Honduran sugar? I know the words for flour and sugar and salt, but I don't know the descriptives, which may be why I got tan sugar. I've been trying to find bread flour; I'm not sure what I got but we'll see how the bread turns out. The salt also comes in little plastic bags as small as one cup amounts. You can usually get the American box of salt, too, but after awhile it starts clumping together from the humidity.

We saw the usual interesting sights while driving to French Harbor like the man on the bicycle pedaling up a very long, steep hill, carrying a woman sitting side-saddle who was holding a large plastic bag on her lap and he had a propane tank in a plastic crate strapped to his rear fender. He must have some strong leg muscles! On the trip home, we witnessed a very daring (and stupid) feat performed by an impatient truck driver. The road between French Harbor and Coxen Hole is very hilly and curvy, not many good places to pass another vehicle. That didn't stop this guy; he was determined so he kept creeping out there, only to have to pull back in. He was really getting antsy because there were at least 3 cars and 2 big trucks in front of him, all following each other closely, no room to sneak in. Finally, when we got down in front of the airport, he made a bold and daring move, driving off the road onto the left shoulder, around a taxi stopped on the shoulder, nearly hitting a dog and spraying muddy water all over the dog, speeding ahead and pulling back across both lanes in front of all 5 vehicles! Mercy. What a manuever.

Another interesting thing: when I went up to check on Moe this morning around 8:30, he wasn't in the window watching for me and he wasn't at the door waiting to rub against my foot as I opened the door. I could hear him crying rather pitifully somewhere back in the house and as I went down the hallway, I saw that the laundry room door was closed, not latched, but closed enough to keep him inside. I opened the door and he rushed out and rubbed and rubbed against my legs. He had apparently been in there a long time because he had pooped over by the dryer and had peed, very neatly, in the dustpan! He also had not eaten much of his food in the kitchen. We think he must have been chasing a lizard or a bug and batted the door enough that it closed him in. Woo! Was he ever happy to be out. He gobbled down some food, and then he wanted to go outside, now, never mind that it was misting rain. So we did and he joyfully ran around, getting a little wet.

The next interesting thing: while I was baking the cookies, I heard a crash and went to investigate. Don had been sitting at his computer when his chair decided to fall apart and crash to the floor. He wasn't hurt. He felt it starting to go and jumped up just in time. This was one of our kitchen chairs, certainly not an old chair, but apparently not well constructed. It is now in a number of pieces.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tabyana Beach

Today was another beautiful, sunny day. Another good day for a walk on the beach. We took these pictures on Tabyana Beach in West Bay. If you've ever been here on a cruise ship, this is a popular cruiser destination. We were fortunate to pick an afternoon without a cruise ship in port. The West Bay resorts were also not very full, so not too many people on the beach. Nice! Walking in the surf is extremely good leg exercise. I'm not sure how long Tabyana Beach is, maybe a mile long; we walked from one end to the other and back. That on top of my 2 mile walk this morning and Don's a.m. weight-lifting - whew! We're pooped. And one of us still has to walk up the hill later and check on the cat. Right now I'm just resting, sitting here in the porch swing, sipping some iced tea. Aaaah!

This is last night's gorgeous sunset.

Now the disappointing news from last night is this: LOST was lost. Yup. After looking forward to it all day, walking up the hill just before 7 p.m. and making Don go with me to look out for tarantulas and snakes on the way, we got up there only to discover that Colin and Kaleen's satillite broadcasts only the west coast network programs, not the east coast. Since the west coast is a 2 hour difference, they were just running the early evening news programs and wouldn't be showing LOST until 11 p.m. Horrible time! Some people are sleeping long before then - me! I couldn't even switch over and watch American Idol, too early. And no way to record LOST either. This is enough to ruin a person's day. But Moe was just delighted to have someone to curl up with on the couch.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Day of Surprises

A break in the clouds to the north.

A pink glow to the west.

Getting interesting!


Yesterday, just after I posted the blog bragging about the beautiful sunshine, a big storm rolled in and it poured! The temperature dropped, the winds picked up, and I had to close most of the windows and go inside, leaving my comfortable perch on the porch swing for another day. We even put on our long-sleeved shirts!

We woke up this morning to very cool temperatures, 66 degrees, I think, but dry and clear. As I ventured out onto the deck while Don got the coffee going, I was thrilled to see so many stars, and as I stood there watching, I saw a spectacular shooting star overhead.

Several interesting things happened yesterday. First, our stove decided to quit working, at least we thought it was the stove's fault. I went to light the gas burner yesterday morning and nothing happened. Not even a hiss of gas. Don went down under the house to check the new gas tank and found it empty! Remember, it's only been a few days since we had leaky burners; he sealed one valve and decided the other leak was so slow that it didn't matter, but we did have a full gas tank at that time. Well, not any more. Bone dry. So he brought in the tank from the gas grill and hooked it up in the kitchen and tested for leaks. The stove wasn't leaking at all. The hose didn't seem to be leaking. He couldn't figure it out. Was it the new regulator? Very strange. For the past couple of nights I had noticed that the flame didn't look right - it had a green inner circle surrounded by blue flames, perhaps because the tank was running low.

The afternoon rain was the second surprise, followed by an amazing surprise sunset. I really did not think we would have any kind of visible sunset at all. Don had more faith than I, he saw a break in the clouds to the north around 5 p.m. I was still skeptical, but suddenly, the sun dropped below the heavy cloud bank in the west and put on quite a show. Beautiful.

The last surprise of the day was that the power went off at 4:45 just as Don hopped into the shower, and it stayed off for about 2 1/2 hours. We sat out on the deck, watching the sunset and the increasing darkness. The power stayed off and we began to get hungry. Thank goodness the gas stove was working and that I had already stewed a chicken with vegetables earlier in the afternoon, and that I had the potatoes peeled, ready to cook, the chicken deboned, and the corn ready to cook. We had a fluorescent lamp handy, but when Don turned it on, the bulbs were so weak it was nearly useless. Once again we were thankful that we had brought spare bulbs down with us, and it was not yet too dark to see to change the bulbs. Dinner was saved! We ate by candlelight and lantern light. Just as we got the kitchen cleaned up, the power came back on and we were able to watch a video and then read for awhile before sleeping.

Another beautiful, sunny start to the day, followed by late-morning clouds rolling in. We both went up the hill to check on the cat and to watch the inauguration (we have no t.v. reception, still). We let Moe outside. He clearly wanted Don to follow him around, which he did. When we went back inside to watch the t.v. coverage, Moe came back in too and just went wild! He ran across the room, jumped up on the couch and latched onto my arm with his teeth. I knocked him off and he jumped back up, nipping me again, so I grabbed the obedience bottle just as he launched an attack on Don. I squirted him right in the face. It didn't faze him. He attacked again, so Don scooped him up and put him in time-out! That's right. Shut him up in the bathroom for about 1/2 hour. He was somewhat more subdued when I let him out, curling up in my lap and purring, pretending to be all innocent and cuddly, but pretty soon he was getting frisky and needed to be squirted again! What a stinker. He was happy that we stayed up there with him extra long this morning, but he didn't seem the least bit interested in the awesome inaugural address.

Perhaps he'll find LOST more to his liking tomorrow night. I know I can't wait!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Walking on Sunshine

We are enjoying a beautiful, sunny day! Whew! We needed to dry out a bit; we were beginning to get a bit waterlogged. I spent a long time outside with Moe this morning. We both had a fabulous time. I took my camera up with me and took a lot of pictures. Moe was so happy to be outside and found many lizards and geckos to chase. All managed to elude him, but he certainly put a lot of effort into it. He also ran down to the gate, meowing, like he was expecting Kellie to be coming through the gate any moment. There are a couple of large puddles in front of the gate and he was very intrigued by the reflections he saw. He stopped, stared, jumped back as he saw some movement, then moved closer, and finally had to paw at the water. He decided it was safe, took a little drink of the muddy water and then splashed around a bit. Later he was slapping and pawing around in the mud surrounding the puddle. Just like a little kid! He also enjoyed stretching out and laying in the sunny driveway. Rachel's dog, T-Bone, used to do this all the time and earned the nickname "driveway dog".

When it was time for me to go, Moe was upset with me for making him go back in the house. I don't blame him; it's much too pretty to be inside, but he'll get another outdoor adventure this afternoon when we go back up.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Rainy Season Is NOT Over!

The ocean WAS out there....

Our friend, Merlin, was down on our deck a few days ago and commented that "the rainy season is pretty much over now. I don't think we'll have much more rain." Well, it's been raining ever since. We've had 5-1/2 inches of rain this week and the forecast is for rain through Thursday, with a heavy storm expected tonight. Last night was bad enough. Don and I have been wanting to go out to eat for days now, but virtually every restaurant on the island is open air - not exactly where you want to go on a rainy, blustery night. And it's been cool; it was 68 degrees last night! We had to shut the windows and pull up the blanket. (Ok, all you mid-westerners, I know you have no sympathy for us at all, and I don't blame you!)

I pulled out the camo rain ponchos, provided by Rachel and Lance, to wear to church this morning, but thankfully, the rain stopped just long enough for us to get into the car, but, of course, by the time we drove the 2 miles to church, it was raining again. Pastor Chuck and his wife, Tia, were waiting for us on the porch, afraid that no one would show up today. We were just the first of many to arrive, and there was a pretty good crowd.

A young man from Arizona who has been here for a week doing some mission work gave the sermon today, and he was really good. He gave us all a lot to think about from Mark 12: do you love God with everything you have, all the time, no matter what, or do you hold back some little piece of your life that is just for you? Something you don't want God to know about - like that's possible!, or don't want to give up. He said God doesn't want to be #1 in your life because # 2 and #3, etc. are always trying to beat him out and become the new #1, to take over top billing. God wants TO BE your life. Food for thought, for sure.

There was no meal after church today; someone had broken into the church and stolen the offering from the tithe box, and that's the money they use to provide the lunches on Sunday. So we just had coffee and fellowship time. They run a little coffee shop/bakery at the church, and also roast and sell coffee (Java Mon!).

It wasn't raining when we left church, so we quickly decided to take advantage of the lull and go grab a bite to eat. We were beginning to get a touch of cabin fever, so it was nice to be out. It started raining again while we were eating. Every restaurant down here has rain flaps to keep most of the rain and wind out, however, the roof began leaking right above where Don was sitting, so we had to move our table over a bit. Maggie, the resident Doberman who loves everyone, is always so happy when I order the Black Angus burger with blue cheese; she knows I can't eat the whole thing and will share the leftovers. Today, Mark kept trying to keep her away from us (she's really not a pest, she just sits nearby, waiting) and so had closed her in the room off the kitchen and latched the door. Pretty soon, there she was again. She had figured out how to keep bumping into the door until the latch let loose. So he put her back in and adjusted the latch. She did got out again. Smart dog. As soon as the rain let up, we made a run for it and made it back home before the next downpour.

Even Moe is feeling the effects of the rain - he was back to sucking the tip of his tail this morning. He needs a good lizard chase.

Rainy Season Is NOT Over! - Part 2

But the flowers LOVE it!!!