Sunday, January 31, 2010

Oh the Joys of a High-Tech World

I really have a love/hate relationship with high-tech devices. Much of the time, I know just enough to be dangerous. I hinted at a serious problem I was having in one of last week's blogs and promised to talk about it later....when I COULD talk about it. Last week, I thought I had somehow lost my entire iPhoto library...7000 photos....gone! I was loading photos from my camera to my computer  and had just ejected the camera (properly, I might add!) when something crashed. I got a message saying that a device was improperly disconnected and data may have been damaged. The hard drive was still connected via the hub and the camera was unplugged correctly. But the pictures were gone. I was speechless, then tearful, then speechless again. Finally, I calmed down enough to reassess, call my son who also uses a MacBook, and then follow his advice.

Here's what lead up to this catastrophe. I had too many photos stored in iPhoto on my computer and not enough storage space. First step was to add extra memory. Then we realized that wasn't the kind of memory needed. The internal memory, the start-up disk, was nearly full. I already had my photos backed up on an external hard drive but,  to my dismay, they were on there in wildly random order, not in neat folders, so it was formidable trying to find anything. I did not realize that I should have moved the entire iPhoto library, not just pictures, to the hard drive. And besides, that hard drive was too big to carry around in a purse or bag if I wanted to show my pictures to someone while traveling. I needed to get the entire library off the computer's internal hard drive.

The next step was to get another, smaller external hard drive, one that could easily fit in my purse or even a pocket. This time I tried to carefully follow the directions Dave gave me. I loaded the pictures from the bigger, bulkier hard drive back onto my laptop, which caused the "warning! start-up disk nearly full!" messages to pop up again, but had to be done so that I could then load everything onto the new, smaller hard drive. But, somehow, I messed that operation up and started reloading iPhoto back onto the laptop, so I cancelled that operation. Back to the instructions and finally, I had everything copied onto the new hard drive and eliminated the library from my computer.

Everything was working just fine until the connection to the hard drive crashed and the pictures disappeared. Whenever I tried to open the library, I would get a message saying "rebuilding thumbnails". This was probably a good thing, I reasoned, but alas, it was not. I made the unfortunate decision to just eliminate some extra stuff that showed up on the new hard drive when the library was trying to duplicate itself and then when I opened up the library, I got messages saying "rebuilding the thumbnails" but no pictures. And, to make matters worse, I was still getting messages about the start-up disk (internal hard drive) running out of space. Aiyiyi!

I called Dave who suggested that I go online and search for solutions since he doesn't use iPhoto (probably for a good reason, huh?) .  So I searched and read and was finally ready to act. I then discovered that I still had 3 copies of the iPhoto library, two of them on the start-up disk and one on the external hard drive. Good grief!! I just really wanted one! But, after carefully reading sage advice from Mac experts, I knew how to eliminate the two on the start-up disk, so I drug them to the trash and then emptied the trash. I was feeling pretty good at this point. I was learning.

Then I opened up the library via the external hard drive. Ah! all the thumbnails had recreated themselves; surely everything was ok. Nope. It wasn't. The thumbnails were mostly all there, but many of the photos were not. When I clicked on a thumbnail (tiny picture), it produced a dotted outline with an exclamation point in the center. Turns out that when I made that unfortunate decision to eliminate some "extra" stuff, I actually eliminated some of the links to these photos. Permanently. More agony.

But! Remember the other, bulkier hard drive? Left that back home in the States. I also had most of those older photos additionally backed up on CDs, also back home in the States. My hope is that when I return, I'll be able to reload those photos and re-establish the links to the thumbnails and then everything truly will be ok. Oh, I hope so.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Shopkeepers For The Day

Yesterday Don and I played shopkeepers. Our friends, Bob and Debi, who built this shop for an island couple and who man the shop two days a week, are off island on a little vacation. We agreed to fill in for them on Tuesdays while they are gone.  This sweet little girl is Jennifer, the niece of the island couple for whom the shop was built. She came and spent the day helping us. She's only 9, but she's a pretty good little salesperson and just a delight. You may be wondering why a 9 year old isn't in school on a Tuesday; this is the last week of her school's two-month winter break . She was happy to have something fun to do and, being an extrovert, loves being around people. The cruisers were quite charmed by her. Plus, she is a fountain of information. Our friend, Kristin, came along to spend the day, and Jennifer was able to tell Kris and the cruisers where to find certain things that they were shopping for.
This is the inside of the shop. It was built to provide an outlet for local artists to sell their work. Most of the money from sales goes to the artists with a small percentage being kept by the shop owners. These small paintings were done by Luma, who painted the beautiful murals on the walls of our church.

I took this picture standing in front of the shop. That is the cruise ship behind the palm trees (you can just see the top 2 or 3 decks of the ship). That's how close the shop is to the pier. It was pretty cloudy all day, so, the sky looks gray behind the ship. We were thankful for the clouds though as the shop faces east and has no shade from the sun.

We met lots of interesting people, mainly Americans and Canadians, a lot of people from Ohio and Michigan. We met farmers from Illinois and Ohio who were glad to escape the cold. We met a couple who live part of the year in Seattle and the other part in Hawaii. Don had quite the conversation with them, discussing the price of electricity. We pay 18 cents per kilowatt hour here on Roatan; (as compared to St. Louis' low 4.5 cent/kwh); in Seattle, the rate is 9 cents/kwh and - get this! - in Hawaii (on the big island), it's 33 cents per kilowatt!! People are always interested in the cost of living here, in hearing our story and why we live here. One of the Ohio farmers said he sure would love to do what we're doing.

It was a pretty slow day for sales. Lots of people looked, many more just walked on by, not too many made a purchase. Our friend, Kristin, had a great day of shopping and found many things for her newly rented house. We bought baleadas from one of the local shops for lunch and coconut ice cream for dessert. Baleadas are handmade flour tortillas filled with mashed beans, a little cheese, choice of meat and sometimes, other things like onions or avocado, and then folded in half. These were pretty plain but also pretty cheap.

It was a slow day for the shop owners, too, who are usually busy giving island tours to the cruisers, so Marco came to relieve us early. We stopped at another shop to pick up some of Kristin's larger purchases and then made our way home, anxious to see if we had a working pump in the well house. We were unable to reach Dennis until this morning, so we weren't sure about the water situation and continued to use it carefully. Everything has been replaced and is working normally, so I've been busy with laundry, dishes and cleaning.  It's so good to have plenty of water again.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Water, Water Everywhere...Except Here

We have a serious water shortage up on our hill, and the timing was really lousy. I had been putting off doing laundry for a couple of days, but when I realized that we had no more clean underwear after today, I decided I'd better get busy.

 I had the first load in the washing machine when Dennis called to report trouble with the pump on the deep well...and, to make matters even worse, the two huge (750 gallon) water tanks that collect and hold rain water were empty. Our house and Chuck and Tia's house have been using mainly rain water, while Dennis's house and several others are getting theirs from the well. When the rain tanks are empty or low, he refills them with well water. Well, that explained the lack of water pressure while filling the washer. In fact, I'm not sure there was ever enough water in the washer to fill it.

Dennis said the pump has been acting up, leaking and/or clogging the filter. He's repaired a leak in the pipe a couple of times already. He was heading in to town to get all the parts he would need to replace the pipe and calling an electrician to come out to work on it tomorrow. So, virtually no water until it is fixed. And we can only hope and pray that it gets fixed right the first time.

Hmmmm. So now I had a load of wet clothes through the wash cycle and ready to go into rinse mode, and no water. I took them over to our friends' house on the beach to rinse them and spin dry. And I washed out enough underwear by hand in water from our hot water tank to last us a few days.  Everything else will have to wait.

We picked up drinking water from our friend's house and we have enough hot water in the tank for a couple of quick showers, but we'll have to be very careful otherwise. Water is one of those things that we Americans take for granted, and we've been very blessed to have adequate water from the deep well and rain water up on our hill, courtesy of Dennis and Merlin. Others on this island are not so fortunate, especially on the beach where the water table is so low that often they cannot drill wells. In areas where there is community water available, it is often not safe to drink. In the colonias, where mainland Hondurans are establishing communities, water is a big problem. There are water ministries who are attempting to dig community wells for them, but with hundreds of families sharing the water, conservation is still vital. Most people on the island buy their drinking water in 5 gallon jugs and use community water, if it is available, for washing, laundry, and cleaning.

So, while life on an island is a dream come true in many ways, there are still challenges associated with living here. Hopefully our water crisis will be resolved in a day or two and I can finish the laundry. Until then, I'm making every drop count.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Boat Ride

We spent yesterday afternoon aboard one of Roatan Boat Club's boats. Our friend, Colin, started this boat club last year and has been trying his best (he's very persuasive) to get us to join. This is the first boat to be acquired, a 32 ft., with twin outboards and a flying bridge. In this picture (modeling my new Tilly hat), I'm sitting up on the flying bridge. Great view from up there. Kinda scary climbing up the ladder to reach it though. Very nice riding.
This is actually one of the last photos I took, just after sunset when we grabbed a bite to eat at Infinity Bay. We had no idea that we would be out on the boat that long. We left around 2 p.m. and didn't return to the dock until after dark. Good thing the boat had a partial roof or I would have been fried.
That's Don in the middle, crew member David on the left, and Infinity Bay guest, Janet, on the right. I took this looking down from the flying bridge.
Leaving Sandy Bay with our hillside in the distance.
This is our hill. That's Dennis and Merlin's new BIG house at the top of the hill. Our house is midway up the hill, to the right of that 2-story white house. Our pastor and his family live in the house to the right and up the hill from our house. You should be able to click on this photo to enlarge it. This was really exceeding the limits of my telephoto lens. It was pretty cool to be able to see our house from the water like this.

It was a fun afternoon. We started out with just Colin, Don and I,  and the crew of three. Later we picked up Kellie, Colin's partner, Tom (one of the developers of Infinity Bay), two more crew members and two couples from Wisconsin who were staying at Infinity Bay. We didn't completely circle the island, but we made several trips back and forth from Sandy Bay (where we live) to West Bay and around Lighthouse Point to Keyhole Bay where we could see the town of Coxen Hole in the distance.  All of this is on the west end of the island, going from the north shore to the south shore.  What a great way to spend a hot afternoon!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Breakfast at Rudy's

We went to Rudy's in West End for breakfast yesterday morning. Two cruise
ships were already in port and some of the cruisers were in West End,
kayaking or snorkeling. It was a beautiful, sunny morning with a
great breeze and turquoise water.

We met an interesting couple from New Jersey while at Rudy's. They've
visited every Caribbean island and every Central American country.
They never visit any place twice. They said they were most impressed
with Roatan and thought this island had all the good things with none
of the bad (over-development, terrible crime, over-priced lodging and
food). They thought we had made a wise choice in settling here.

After breakfast, we walked along the beach, up past Sueño del Mar where we found this sign hanging in a beach bar.

It turned into a very hot day when the winds died. We spent the afternoon hanging pictures and putting up more hooks in the bathrooms and closet, as well as some decorative hooks for hanging hats and the like. I also spent considerable time being very technologically frustrated - more on that another time.

Last night, we picked up Kris and headed to the Oasis to grab a bite to eat before the movie premiere. Yes, that's right...a movie premiere...right here on Roatan! The movie, Tranquil Seas, was produced by Tim Blanton, a diver and photographer who has lived on Roatan for 15 years. This was filmed and processed in high definition and is visually stunning. It reminded me of Planet Earth or Blue Planet. It was filmed in various places like the Solomon Islands in the Pacific, Australia, North Carolina, Mexico, but 40% of it was filmed right here in the Bay Islands reef. His focus was primarily on macro photography - tiny, colorful fish as small as 1/4 inch long.  There was a voluntary cover-charge to see the film; the money went to the Roatan Marine Park to help support their work. With nearly 100 people in attendance, over $1,500. was raised. A fun evening.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Fun Day

This is our friend and houseguest, Kristin, with friends George and his adorable children who came to visit us the other afternoon. Kris met George, who is an island taxi driver, last year when she first arrived. He speaks good English, is a very nice young man and was a big help to Kris. He was so excited to learn that she had returned and came right away to visit her and meet us, promising to bring his children next time. On his last visit, he had told us about wrecking his taxi back in December. He had bought his own taxi, was still making payments on it, didn't have the money to finish paying for the repairs, and now was having to rent a taxi in order to make a living. On top of all that, he is trying to finish high school so he can go to college. He had to reluctantly drop out of school and go to work after the 7th or 8th grade. His family could not afford to put all the children through school. That is very common here; even public education is costly to poor families since they must buy all the school supplies, books, uniforms and shoes. But George is determined to finish, get a college education and make a better life for his family. George did not ask for our help, but we were happy to offer it. He just needs a little assistance to get through this tough time.  Despite all his recent troubles, he remains optimistic and cheerful. He had walked from his house to ours, about a half mile, carrying the baby and leading the other children. It was a hot afternoon, so Don gave them a ride home. His taxi is also the family's only transportation. He is not allowed to keep the rental taxi overnight. He must return it to Coxen Hole in the evening and then catch a ride in another taxi home.

Earlier in the day, we met another of Kris' friends, Olman, who was the security guard at her condo last year. He is another delightful young man, speaks only Spanish, but was learning English from Kris while also teaching her Spanish last year. We had such a great time practicing Spanish and English over pizza, that we  agreed to meet again next week and probably every Monday for more lessons. Olman works 12 hour days, 6 days a week; Monday is his only day off, but he seems happy to share part of that day with us gringos.

In between these visits, I took Kris over to Bob and Debi's to pick up a house key. She's going to house-sit for them while they're in Florida, then she'll move into her newly rented apartment. She's busy packing and cleaning while I write this. It will be a bit quieter for all of us.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Quiet Weekend

We seem to be in a changeable weather mode right now, which I'm finding pleasant. After two weeks of clouds and rain, we finally had two days of sunshine, blue skies, turquoise water, and....heat. The sun certainly makes a big difference in the temperature. But, we've also still been pretty breezy from the NW, which comes right at our deck. Nice. So, we finally got in the water for the first snorkel of the year. Glorious! We snorkeled in our favorite spot, at the bottom of our hill, where there is an old sunken pier. This is inside the reef, in the Marine Park protected area, so minimal boat traffic. Lots of fish come to this pier to spawn and raise their young. Big storms will wash additional varieties of marine life over the reef. We have seen octopus, nurse sharks, star fish, moray eels, lobster, shrimp, conch and more right there at "our" pier. We've seen changes in this area in the 5+ years that we've been snorkeling there. The walls of the old sunken, man-made island are collapsing, falling over and many of the hiding places favored by the more shy fish have disappeared.

This was the first time for our houseguest, Kristin, to snorkel from "our" beach. She enjoyed the variety, too. She's been reading through my fish reference book, identifying the different types. Our newest sighting was a large spiny urchin, about the size of a baseball. We also enjoyed sitting Chris's wooden pier afterwards and watching our friend, Merlin's, grandchildren playing in the water.

For two nights, we had clear skies studded with the brightest stars we've ever seen. It is always amazing to us, especially after living the past six months in mostly urban areas with too much light pollution.

I had hoped we might snorkel again yesterday afternoon, after church and lunch, but a storm blew in just before noon. It is supposed to be a quick in-and-out kind of storm, so perhaps we'll get to go today. We also had interrupted satellite service yesterday, so sketchy internet connection. I was able to call our son on my Blackberry via wi-fi, but towards the end of our conversation, the connection was failing.  Dave's birthday was Saturday, but we didn't get to talk then, other than to say "happy birthday"; he was taking Tracy to Chicago where she was flying out with a group of students, bound for 12 days of study in Belize.

The humidity is incredibly high this morning and it is still cloudy. The windows were fogged and are now dripping! They're still in need of washing to remove the sea salt residue that collects. I'll get to that after we finish scrubbing the mold off our white concrete stairway!

Life in the tropics. We love it! You just have to learn to go with the flow. We brought plenty of books and are pretty content to curl up on the deck with a good read, and plenty of movies to watch, if we have power. No cruise ships in port today...might be a good day to go into West End and maybe snorkel....

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Library

I read on one of the Roatan forums a posting from the librarian in
French Harbor about the need for school supplies for some of the
children. Many families cannot afford to buy the supplies needed,
especially if they have several children. Don and I decided that we
could help meet this need, so when we went in to Coxen Hole to run
some errands, we took a walk up Market Street and down Back Street to
the office supply/school supply store. The woman who waited on us
spoke English and was able to help us pick out the correct items.

We drove up to French Harbor and found the library (bibliotéca) and the librarian, Joan Dixon. This was our first visit to the library, and I must say, we were favorably impressed. Joan is a delightful young woman who seems to care deeply about the library and the school children. She proudly showed us around and apologized for the water on the floor at the back of the room, explaining that last year's earthquake had cracked the wall by the window and now when it rains
and blows hard, water leaks through. None of the bookshelves appear to have been damaged. The library is in a very nice municipal building
built in 1996. It does not appear to be very well maintained, though.
Joan said that is often the case. Buildings are built, projects are
started by one administration and then neglected or abandoned by the
next one. She does not know if she will still have a job after the new
administration takes office later this month. Her job is a political
appointment. I do hope she is able to stay on; she seems like such a
good fit for the job.
We asked where the books come from, are they donated or does she have
a budget to purchase books? Many of them are donated, some were
purchased. The paperbacks were all donated and she runs an exchange
program for them, or they can be purchased for about $1.00 each. She
had a decent selection of hardbound fiction for adults and paperback
books for younger children in English, lesser amounts of non-fiction,
and a fair amount of reference materials used mainly by the children
for their homework. She has the textbooks they use available; many of
them cannot afford to buy their books.
Some items they really need: computers and a copy machine. None of
these children have access to these, outside of the library, and often
need to use a computer or make a copy of something for their homework.
The libarary has very few computers and only one copier. Joan donates
the paper for them. She said they could really use a few more
Another need is for books in Spanish. She's getting more Spanish
speakers coming into the library wanting to check out a book and she
has perhaps 20-30 books in Spanish, some fiction, some non-fiction.
She would really like to have more to offer. I told her that perhaps
we could help her with this.  Don and I love to read, and we love
to encourage others to read. Perhaps when St. Louis has their big book
fair in April, we could have our daughter go shopping for Spanish
books. Joan said that we might be able to ship a box of books to
Roatan through Hyde Shipping for free; she knows the owner's daughter.
So, I'll see what we can come up with and then contact her for help
with shipping. There are so many ways to help out on this island;
we're happy to be of service.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Busy Day

Yesterday we spent much of the day looking at apartments for Kris. After several attempts, we were finally able to get the key to look at the tiny house next to the pizza place at the bottom of our hill. Kris liked that it was so near our house, but it was also right by the road - lots of road noise. It was cute, but very small, lacked an oven, air-conditioner, or much furniture. 

I saw a new ad for an apartment on one of the forums that sounded perfect for Kris. We went there next. The property manager, Guillermo, met us on the road to guide us. The road was dreadful with huge, nearly-lose-your-car potholes full of water, lots of mud. Lots of twists and turns. It turns out that the house is connected to the big boat dock that is now part of our friend Colin's boat club on Mangrove Bight. We had been here before, but never inside the house.

The apartment was on the ground floor of this three story building and was obviously being used by the security guard. One thing that sounded good about this place was the security: five security cameras in operation and a 24-hour watchman. We prefer the watchman to be outside, watching. He must get bored doing that; he had quite the stash of movies and a DVD player inside, food in the fridge, clothes in the closet, wet towel draped over a chair, a book on the bed. But, we were told, he doesn't live there. Good to know. More good and bad points: Kris loves to fish and would be able to fish right from the dock. She also loves to swim but was advised NOT to swim in that bight. We got the impression that some of the islanders houses on the bight just might be dumping raw sewage into the water. Ugh. It's called Mangrove bight for a good reason; it is surrounded by mangroves and during the rainy season, becomes quite swampy, and smelly. He told us the mosquitos can be pretty bad. Kris wasn't too enthused.

We learned that the owner had a second apartment for rent on the road to West Bay, but Guillermo insisted that the boat club was a better, safer place for Kris. We decided to drive over there and look at the location anyway, liked what we saw, so we called Guillermo and asked to see inside. The watchman came up and let us in the locked gate. It does set beside a busy road, but it is built on the side of a steep hill going down the hill, so it was actually pretty quiet. Wow! What a difference. Beautiful carved and painted entry doors with huge carved Chinese figures standing beside the doors. Much bigger place, much nicer. Huge kitchen with enormous, commercial size double refrigerator/freezers and restaurant size stove with an oven, a separate ice-maker. Very nice. Built on two levels with circular stairs inside.  Larger rooms, lots of windows, surrounded by decks on both levels, more furniture. Beautiful wood floors with inlaid designs on the main floor, tile floors on the lower bedroom level. Lots of interesting built-ins. Kris liked it very much. And the price? Exactly the same as the other apartment. $600/month!
The security guard lives in his own tiny house at the top of the hill beside the locked gates and seemed to be a very pleasant young man.  Kris called Guillermo and said she would take it. On the way out, the guard gave me a cutting from the gorgeous purple bougainvillea growing over the fence.

We had invited Bob and Debi for dinner, so we went home to start preparations. Kris made a great chocolate cake for dessert. We had a lovely evening, visiting with friends, sharing our day's events.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Mostly Dry Day

After days of wind and rain, we finally saw some relief. The winds have died down, the seas have calmed and there was little rain today. Kris and I were tired of being cooped up and anxious for some exercise, so we took a walk around the top of our hill this morning. Good glute exercise, climbing the hills.  While we were out walking, Debi called, asking if we were by any chance heading into Coxen Hole and if so, could she hitch a ride. Don said yes, we had decided we needed to get out and would pick her up after lunch. And we did.

It started raining just as we headed down the hill. Debi was waiting beside the road, with her umbrella up. By the time we reached Coxen Hole, the rain had stopped. We dropped Debi off at her new souvenir shop and Don parked the car at the International Pharmacy next door. Kris had not been in to see Bob and Debi's shop yet. We found Bob standing outside the shop, chatting with a man whom he introduced to us as Dave, from Ontario, Canada. Dave was from the Norwegian Cruise ship in port. We talked for a little while.

 I left them and went to the pharmacy to get some drugs. Nice being able to just walk into the pharmacy, ask "do you have Inderal?", they say yes, hand it to you and charge you only about $6.00 for 50 tablets. No prescription needed. While in the pharmacy, Dave came in, just checking it out, and began asking me questions about moving to Roatan, building a house there, all the hows and whys. We chatted so long that Don came looking for me, then he and Dave got into a big discussion on life in Honduras. I finally left when Kris came in looking for us. She and I wandered around in some of the shops and walked out on the pier looking at the cruise ships. There were four ships in today. Way too many in my opinion. It was pretty crazy with lots and lots of people, taxis, loud reggae music, etc. The cruise ship people were all chilly, too. Many were walking around with the Norwegian blue and white striped towels wrapped around their shoulders. Lots of Europeans onboard that ship.

Don and Dave finally ended their discussion when I popped in to say that Kris and I were going to walk on down to Warren's. Don came with us. He went into the bank, got in line and then realized that he had not brought his passport with him. No passport, no transaction. Well, at least we still had some cash. Kris stopped at an ATM to get more money (she doesn't have a bank account there yet). I went on into Warren's to pick up a few grocery items. Then we walked over to the Flying Fisherman to see what kind of fish they had. Kris wanted to make fish tacos. The boats will be in tomorrow and she will call us if they have an mahi mahi. On the way back to the car, Kris bought some beans from a street vendor and some nice big shrimp. Yum.

Don had been looking for the auto parts store that supposedly carries the brake light bulbs we need. We didn't see any parts stores anywhere around the bank. Dennis had told Don about another parts store a bit farther down Main Street, so we drove that way looking for it. I finally spotted a concrete wall with auto type logos painted on it, so Don stopped and parked the car. We still weren't sure that this was the Demsey place that Dennis described, but as we walked into the yard and I looked at the sign hanging sideways inside the wall, I saw the name "Demsey" in small print at the bottom of the sign. And they had our brake lights! Woo Hoo! A good day all in all.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Unusual Sightings

I knew I should have grabbed my camera as we left to go to French Harbor Saturday morning. Here are some of the sightings from that day:
 First thing we encountered was a police checkpoint at the bottom of our hill in front of Bella Napoli pizza. Fortunately we were turning right, not left, so we avoided it. That wasn't really worthy of a photo, but the next one was.
As we neared Coxen Hole, we saw another roadblock of sorts: a mattress standing on end, blocking the westbound lane of the road. As we passed it, we saw that it was being held up by a man on the opposite side AND there was another man lying on the pavement. Just then, a police car pulled up with a brief "whrrrr" of it's siren, and the man lying on the road sat up with a big grin on his face. We didn't stay to see how that turned out.
Third: another police checkpoint outside the airport, but we weren't stopped. Actually, this is a fairly common occurance, especially outside the airport.
Fourth: In Las Fuertes, kids standing in the middle of the road at both ends of the "business district"  collecting money in large plastic jars bearing a picture of someone. This is not an uncommon way of collecting money for someone in need of surgery or some other type of help. This stretch of road is typically congested with cars and people and this collection just made it more so.
Fifth: (this was a good one) we came up behind a pickup truck whose bed was loaded with police carrying automatic weapons and sitting in the midst of them were two young women who didn't look at all happy. Very curious.

We returned home just ahead of the big storm that was rolling in and thankfully had enough time to unload the car before the rain began. It rained so hard that it actually plugged up our electronic rain gauge, forcing water into the battery compartment, so we're really not sure how much rain fell on Saturday, but since Monday we're showing 6.48 inches recorded rainfall. The storm is blowing out of the NNW at 35+ mph with seas up to 11 feet. We haven't spent much time out on our deck, which faces NW for obvious reasons. The lowest temperature we've seen thus far is 63 degrees and yesterday's high only around 71 or 72 degrees. We're all wearing socks, long sleeves, sweaters. Sounds funny, I know, to all of you in the States battling below zero temps, but that's chilly for the tropics.

We're also experiencing power surges, outages and high voltage readings. Our APC unit was acting up yesterday and when Don checked the voltage, it was running at 138 volts, so we unplugged his PC and the router to avoid damaging the computers.  When the voltage is that high, the pump from the well will not run. Fortunately, with all this rain, there is plenty of water in the rain collection tanks to supply the houses up on our hill.

Rainy day activities: Kris and I spent the afternoon loading some of my music onto her iPod and looking at her pictures from Italy. We now have a film library of over 400 movies and t.v. series seasons on an external hard drive that Rachel and Lance gave us for Christmas, so Don watched Blade Runner. I don't usually like futuristic/sci-fi movies, which is why I opted to help Kris instead. It's also a good time to be running the oven, so Kris made a big batch of granola and I baked muffins.

Someone asked me about Kris and I guess I haven't made it clear who that is. Kris is Kristin, our friend from Montana, whom we met here on Roatan early last year and then visited in Montana in July. She returned to Roatan the same day we did. She didn't yet have a place rented, so we invited her to stay with us while she looks for a suitable place to live.  She's a good cook, so we've been sharing the meal preparations.



Saturday, January 9, 2010

Catching Up

We're still settling in and catching up. Yesterday we did some laundry and gave the tile floors a serious scrubbing with the Floormate (love that machine!). Our house guest, Kristin, has begun looking for a place to rent, so she's been in contact with old friends, using the island grapevine for leads on available places.

We've also been pretty social this week, visiting friends around the island. We dropped Kris off in West End to visit with friends and then drove out to West Bay to visit  former neighbors and friends, Colin and Kellie, before they leave for a 10 day visit to Florida. They've moved again, now staying in the fabulous condos at Keyhole Bay. Kellie still has Moe, the crazy cat we've often cat-sat, who seems to have settled down. He did not attack our feet or nip either one of us. Kellie has also acquired a dog, a chihuahua named Cosita who is smaller than the cat...a lot smaller. Kellie greeted us at the door with Cosita in her arms, dressed in a sparkly little outfit (Cosita, not Kellie) and immediately led us to her room to show off the rest of Cosita's wardrobe. Cosita is such a tiny little thing, she probably enjoys the warmth of being dressed in little outfits. She is very sweet and lovable and apparently gets along pretty well with Moe, now that he's reconciled himself to the idea that she's not leaving anytime soon. He's probably thankful that Kellie doesn't try to dress him as much, although she did try to stuff him into a little black tuxedo-looking vest outift; he wasn't thrilled.

Colin's latest housekeeper/cook prepared a wonderful lunch for us: curried chicken breasts, rice cooked with curry and spicy black beans. Delish! Colin now has his boat club up and running and was taking a client out on one of the boats. He invited us to go, but we declined this time - I'm fighting a bit of a sore throat.

After we picked Kris up, we drove her back to Sandy Bay to look at a house that will soon be available. It didn't seem to be a good choice for her though. Not sure she would be safe enough in that spot. So, she'll stay with us and keep looking. She'll be housesitting for other friends the last half of this month which will give her more time to find something suitable.

Don had a men's dinner/fellowship event at church last night. Kris and I went to Bob and Debi's for their Friday night pizza and fun. Great pizzas, homemade crusts - so good. Debi had purchased Blindside from the movie pirate, so we settled in to watch. Excellent movie. If you haven't yet seen it, you should.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Break In The Clouds

We were quite excited to see the sun pop out - first time since our arrival 6 days ago. This certainly called for a walk on the beach, so we ate a quick lunch, grabbed our cameras, sunglasses and hats and took off down the hill to the beach. This was the first time our friend, Kristin, had walked on the Sandy Bay beach, so it was fun to show it to her. Don found a lovely, unbroken conch shell that had washed ashore at the last high tide.

We had not walked long when Don noticed these very dark rain clouds moving our way. We were just about to turn back when the rain began to fall, luckily just a gentle sprinkle.

The clouds looked ominous so we decided to get a move on it.

It was a short walk, but we enjoyed every second of it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

An Unplanned Day

Some days just take an interesting path, like today. We had no set plans for today. A cool, rainy morning greeted us and we were quite content, sitting on the covered deck with cups of hot coffee. I had just read Tia's e-mail about a bilingual women's brunch at church today when her car pulled up in front of our house. She was stopping to cut some heliconia from our yard and asked if we were coming today. Kris and I quickly decided that we would go.

The brunch was wonderful and well attended with upwards of 50 women, most of whom were from the nearby colonia and who spoke only Spanish. The brunch was the work of the two mission teams who are staying at the church. Pictures were taken and small gifts were given to each woman. Esmerelda (our former Spanish teacher and a wonderful singer) led the singing in a time of worship. It was beautiful to hear all those voices lifted in song! One of the women from the team delivered an encouraging message to the women, telling them how much God loved them and how they could have joy even during the most difficult times in their lives. Several of the women wiped away tears as she spoke. They need hope. She encouraged them to be supportive of one another, to pray for each other. It was interesting to watch their reactions when the brunch was served - quiche, a banana nut muffin and fruit. They had no idea what quiche was and seemed afraid to try it. Some nibbled at the fruit, other bravely tasted the quiche and saw that it was good. Most took at least some of their food home. Some also wanted to take the plastic utensils home. They did love the coffee that was served and drank lots of it. After the brunch, bags of food containing (raw) rice and beans and other things were passed out to the women from the colonia. Quite a lovely morning.

I took Kris back to the house, and Don said let's drive up to our lawyer's office in French Harbor. I called to make sure she would be there and learned that she was in Coxen Hole. She suggested that we meet her there at the bank, so off we went. We sat in the (oddly quiet) bank lobby and visited with her, catching up on news and giving her another document needed for acquiring residency here. We popped into Warren's to get some rosemary (no luck) and salt...and they had bread! Lots of it! But I had just bought a freshly baked loaf of still warm wheat bread at the church coffee shop.

We decided to walk down the street toward the cruise ship pier and check out the new souvenier shop our friends Bob and Debi built to sell locally made artwork and jewelry. We bought a small painting by Luma who also attends our church. While there, we met a group of people from the cruise ship who asked directions to Yaba Ding Ding, another gift shop. We decided to walk them there since it was back just past where we had left our car. We had a nice visit with them; they were very curious about living on the island.

Next left the Hole, stopping by Walter's car wash and auto repair to get replacement brake light bulbs. He didn't have any but directed us to a shop near our bank back in the Hole. We drove by there but didn't find it. We'll go back and walk along there, maybe we'll find it. We made a quick stop at Plaza Mar, searching for some rosemary, which we didn't find, and ran into friends Lynn and Bob and spent some time catching up with them.

On the way home, we drove on up to Dennis and Merlin's to see the new house which we call the Starship Enterprise because of it's dramatic rounded design. It is pretty impressive. They had other guests and were watching a George Jones concert video and when that ended, a Tina Turner concert. They invited us to stay and watch, so we did. It was a fun afternoon in an interesting, unplanned day.

Monday, January 4, 2010


After a delightful meal last night at the home of Bob and Debi and awaking to a short list of food options, I resolved to drive up to Eldon's in French Harbor for some major restocking of cupboards and fridge. Our breakfast choices were limited to eggs or pancakes. I opted for the cakes and as I was preparing them, Dennis and Merlin dropped by to welcome us back. Yup, the pancakes got cold, but were easily reheated. As I was cleaning up, I noticed that the little sugar ants are back and had discovered the box of pancake mix. I added gallon-sized ziplock bags to the grocery list.

My other goals: get additional minutes for my Honduran phone, find bread, and avoid getting rear-ended as two of the three tail lights on the Rav4 are burned out.

Don's goal for today was to get the rest of the hurricane shutters down. He got three of them removed from the steepest side of the house before the rain drove him back inside. At least Kris can see out her bedroom window now. We left him to his chores and set off for French Harbor.

Top of my list was bread. Plaza Mar had none yesterday. Eldon's didn't have any either. And no tortillas in either store. Hard to make a sandwich without bread of some kind. We settled on crackers and they had my beloved Triscuits! And they had the good yogurt and soft margarine with olive oil. Their produce wasn't too good though, except for a lovely yellow bell pepper.

Kris's goal for the day was to get some cash from an ATM, get more minutes for her phone and take a walk. Eldon's has an ATM but as she walked up to it, she realized that she had not brought her card with her. When we finished our shopping, we stopped at a bank to see if she could exchange her Euros for Lempira. Nope.

Next stop: the new Mega Mall grocery store where we just ran in and asked if they had any bread. Yes! They had a half dozen loaves of white bread, nothing else, so we grabbed it and headed home. It was already after twelve and I knew Don would be wanting some lunch. We'll have to go back and explore this store and the other shops in the new mall (with an Applebee's and Wendy's) another time.

After a quick lunch, Kris and I headed to West End. The first ATM was out of order and the first three shops had no Claro phone cards. We walked way down the beach road to Kris' old apartment to see if her pal Olman was still around. He still works there but was off today. She visited with several other people before we headed back to complete our mission. I found the veggie truck and made a few purchases. Kris found a working ATM at Coconut Tree and got some cash. We finally found phone cards at Woody's. Whew! Oh yeah, I forgot to mention how much fun it is walking down the beach road which is pitted with potholes of all sizes (some large enough to swallow a small dog) and all full of water. We did avoid getting splashed somehow. We also mostly avoided getting rained on, but as soon as we got back home, there was a torrential downpour. And we avoided getting rear-ended. Most of the shutters are off and Don fixed the dishwasher. So, all-in-all, a good day.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Return

We rose early yesterday, up by 3 a.m. Don had loaded all our bags in the car the night before so we essentially just dressed, tossed a few toiletries into our carry-on, hugged the sad-looking dogs and bundled up for the ride to the airport. We were glad to be leaving the 8 degree St. Louis weather behind. Rachel and Lance braved the cold and the early hour to drive us to the airport, collect our coats and send us off with big hugs.
We were not prepared for the chaos at the terminal. Despite the recent episode and the heightened security, we just didn't imagine that it would be packed at 4 a.m. on the first Saturday in January. It took awhile to find the end of the Continental line as it curled around, interweaving with the Delta and American lines, and once in place, we noticed that no one was working at the Continental counter. Not good. The other lines began to move, slowly at first, then more quickly, giving us a bit more space. Finally a couple of agents came out, looked around, disappeared and repeated this performance a couple of times. At 4:30 one of them motioned those at the head of the line to step up to the kiosks. I had hope that we would start to move, but no. Either every kiosk was not working properly or every person in line had issues that needed to be resolved by one of the two agents because we were still stagnant. Don muttered "we're never going to make that 6 a.m. flight". We slowly moved up and took our turn.
I knew we had not been assigned seats on the flight to Houston and right away got a message that the flight was oversold, did we want to opt out and get a voucher? Are you kidding? No. Continuing on, we were fortunate to get seats, not together, but so what, and proceeded with weighing our 4 bags to be checked: 50 lbs, 50 lbs, 50 lbs, oops - a smidge over 50 lbs. but ok (Don stuck his glass cases in that bag). The clock said 5:05.
We had already paid for the 2 extra bags online, so we hauled them over to the drop point and raced downstairs to terminal A and came to a screeching halt - security was backed up clear down the hallway to concourse A. (I know...that should not have been a surprise given the huge crowd upstairs.) Don and I both muttered "we're never going to make it". A TSA agent heard similar mutterings and assured all of us that we would be through the check-point in 15-20 minutes and actually, the lines did move pretty well. I heard them announce that our flight was boarding before we got up to the stripping point.
Finally, our turn came and we were ready tossing jackets, shoes, laptops, carry-ons, purse, pocket contents into the bins, doing fine....until a TSA agent held up my carry-on and asked if it was mine. He needed to search it. Great. It's 5:45 and they're boarding my plane and he wants to pull everything out of my carefully packed bag...and he did. I had packed two small external hard drives, the PC to tv connector, i-Pod, chargers, camera, etc. very neatly in the bottom of the bag. He pulled it all out, put it flat in a bin and re-scanned everything. "Ok, you're good to go." I hastly shoved everything not-so-neatly back in the bag and took off running. It was 5:50 a.m. We hurried down the concourse - fortunately only halfway down, to our gate and boarded the plane. The crew kindly waited for 2 other passengers who were still wading through security. Then we waited while our wings were de-iced before taxiing out. The tarmac had some ice and a light dusting of snow.
Once in the air, I finally exhaled and gave thanks that we were onboard and on our way. I then realized that it was still very cold inside the plane. I was thankful that I was wearing socks and real shoes, long pants, light sweatshirt and t-shirt, but I was still cold. People around me began rummaging in their bags, pulling out whatever clothing they had. I assumed the entire plane was cold but, no, I later learned that Don was nice and warm in the back of the plane.
Two hours later, we landed in Houston where it was 34 degrees but warm inside the terminal. I was so cold; it took awhile to really warm up. We had a great breakfast and lots of hot coffee at Ruby's just outside the international terminal. The flight to Roatan was only half-full, a sign I suppose, that tourism has not completely revived despite the travel restrictions being lifted.
We landed on Roatan 20 minutes early and were lucky enough to deboard the plane and get inside before the rain began. We were the only passengers waiting to clear customs and with only half as many passengers and three customs agents working, it didn't take long. Our bags all arrived safely (a blessing), and there was our pal, Debi, waiting at the door! Also her hubby, Bob, our Honduran lawyer and her husband (not to greet us, waiting on someone else, but still nice to see them). It was pouring outside, so we stayed under the roof talking. When the rain let up, Bob ran out and moved his car up to the curb to load our bags. Debi stayed behind with our car to await Kristin's arrival on the Delta flight.
It is still rainy season, so it's cooler (mid-70's) and very lush and green everywhere. Our hillside looks like a jungle. We'll have to get a gardener in here to trim back trees and bushes.
But our house was in good shape. Debi and her housekeeper had come over this week and uncovered furniture, swept up all the gecko poop, made ice, cleaned bathrooms (amazing how nasty toilets get when unused for 6 months!) and put clean sheets on the bed. So nice. We are so greatful for the dear friends we have made here.
Debi and Kris arrived a short time later bearing a few bags of groceries and Debi invited us to supper. I took a raincheck on dinner. We had not had lunch and decided to just combine a late lunch and early dinner at Oasis, unpack a bit, and get to bed early. After all, we're here for 6 months; we have lots of time for fun!!