Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Life is certainly different here. Things we take for granted back in the States often prove to be difficult or unattainable here. For instance, in my blog about grocery shopping, I mentioned how items may or may not be available. If you think you might need something in the near future, you'd better buy it when you see it, even if you don't need it right this minute. Yesterday, I was thinking about how good some white chili would be. I found the chicken, even found navy beans and cilantro, but no green chilis to be found. So, I bought what I could and when I find the green chilis, we'll be in business.

We recently had a discussion on hoarding in my women's Bible study group which lead into talking about grocery shopping and the temptation to buy a lot of something when you actually find it in the stores. One of the women mentioned how she loved baby back ribs, which are rarely available here, and when they are, she'll buy several packages but never all of them. We've all seen shoppers with their carts full of cream cheese or butter or yogurt - more items that are often unavailable. And I've mentioned before how very limited the meat selection is; you may find pork chops and deli ham, hamburger and maybe a few steaks, but I've never seen pork or beef roasts or stew meat.

They do seem to carry an amazing selection of US cleaning products, but one thing I've noticed is that the toilet cleaners, although US brands, seem to be watered down. There are no nice thick gels, only liquids, and frankly, they don't work. Bleach works better. Laundry soaps are ridiculously high and the cheaper brands do not clean well. Tide and Cheer liquids run almost $20. for the average sized bottle - not the big jug. Even Arm & Hammer liquid goes for nearly $10. here instead of the $4. I'd pay in the States.

Hardware is often quite limited as far as selection; instead of 50 faucets to choose from you may only have 2. Some items that aren't available: copper pipe, brass fittings. They just don't use copper here (and it would probably be stolen anyway). Don thinks they only use plastic pipe here. You also cannot find aluminum gutters, only plastic, which is lousy because it leaks. Don says the lumber is much better here and when you order a 2x4 or whatever, that's what you get, not a shaved off version.

One of the women in our Spanish class had been looking for a hairdryer, without luck, and needed to know how to say hairdryer in order to inquire about where to find one. I looked several places before I found a round brush and then only had one to choose from. I have been wanting a griddle and saw a cast iron one last year but didn't buy it. Now I can't find one of any type anywhere on the island.

Car parts are limited here, too. If you need a repair, the part usually has to be ordered and it may be weeks before it comes, and assuming that the right part is sent the first time, still makes a long wait for the repair job.

Sometimes there are no printer ink cartridges to be had. We came supplied with those and printer paper, which we've also never seen. And just try to get your computer repaired....
But if you want a cell phone, you have many, many choices for a phone and at least 3 local companies to supply service.

There is a campaign under way to raise the awareness of the need to recycle plastics and to stop litter. Both are a big problem here. There seems to be little regard for the environment. Garbage and plastics are often dumped into the sea on some parts of the island. It is common practice to burn some trash, yard waste, building materials, but burning plastic is just awful, not to mention toxic. We have recently seen more instances of men picking up trash along the roadway, and just today I heard an anti-littering ad on the radio. There are even plastic recycling bins springing up around the island, including one at the school beside our church.
Garbage bins are along the road, paid for and maintained (or not) by the property owner or a group of neighbors. Stray dogs often get into the bins and string trash out all over the side of the road and if the property owner (or an environmentally-minded good Samaritan) doesn't clean it up, it stays right there. So I'm happy to see this growing awareness of taking care of Roatan.


  1. Some time ago a friend of our family arranged the immigration of a young (17 or 18 years old) girl from Russia. This girl spent the early part of her life in an orphanage and then was allowed to leave at age 16. She was living on the streets in St. Petersburg for about a year before she met our friend (a missionary). When the girl first arrived here she was asked if she would like to go grocery shopping. She gladly accepted but shortly after entering a local Schnuks store she became very frightened and nearly froze in her tracks. She was confused and did not know how to deal with the number of choices that were presented on the shelves. She had never seen that much food and that many choices. She was used to standing in line on the street for things like toilet paper and shoes. When she did go into the markets in St. Petersburg the shelves were often bare with few choices. People from the industrialized nations like the U.S. have no concept of how the rest of the world lives. We just assume that everybody lives like we do.