Sunday, February 28, 2010

Baptisms In The Sea

Last week I mentioned that we were going to have a baptism in the ocean after church and that it had been postponed. This week it happened and there were five people who took the plunge. There was an air of excitement as everyone left the church and walked the short distance down to the beach and out onto the dock. I think everyone stayed to witness this event. The excitement grew when we learned that there were to be five baptisms today, two men and two women from the colonia and one boy from England who has been living here for a few  years with his family. There was singing on the dock and rejoicing as each person professed his faith and was baptized. 

I didn't have my camera with me today and was disappointed until I remembered that I now have a camera in my phone (another high-tech marvel). So I took lots of pictures but then realized that I didn't bring the cable to connect the phone to my computer. Oh well, no problem....I'll just e-mail them to myself. Nope, that didn't work. BUT! I was able to send them to Facebook, so if you want to see the pictures, click on the link below.

Happy Day

Today is Rachel's birthday. To celebrate, I drug out this picture which was taken in San Antonio when she still lived in Texas. We had a girls' weekend with my sister and niece, staying on the Riverwalk. What a fun time that was!! We should definitely do that again.
Happy birthday, Rachel. May your day be filled with as much joy and laughter as that weekend was.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Air Show

We went to West Bay yesterday afternoon with Bob, Debi and Emily to snorkel and to watch the air show. The pilots were all staying at Infinity Bay and the place was packed. Lots of extra tables and chairs set up, music playing, a beach buffet being served. The beach was full of people, cameras in hand, watching the show. I forgot my camera, left it at home!! Debi left hers in the car. Thankfully, Emily had brought hers, so she and Debi managed to get some really good shots of the show and were kind enough to share these with me.  Thanks, mi amigas!!
The Carnival Legend was leaving the island just as the air show began. This made for a great photo op for us and I imagine the passengers had a pretty good view of the show as well.

There were two bi-planes and one monoplane doing stunts: climb and stall, loops and rolls, flying so low over the water that they frightened snorkelers and fish alike. They performed for about 90 minutes. It was a crazy, loud, wonderful show. 

We did snorkel during the last part of the show. The fish were quite obviously disturbed by the noise or the vibration; it was interesting to watch them react when the planes came really low just above the water. At one point, Debi and I both popped our heads up above water and said "this is a bit scary! Maybe we should go back in." But we toughed it out. The water was still a bit murky from the huge storm on Wednesday night and the high waves on Thursday, so visibility was not as great. That didn't stop Bob and Emily from going waaaaay out, looking for sea turtles.

We had a great time.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Car Repairs...continued

We may actually have air-conditioning in our car again. I say "may" because we just got the car back today, on a day when we are experiencing very cool temperatures and strong northerly winds - not the best day to test an air-conditioner's power to cool.

 Last year I wrote about our frequent attempts to get our car's air conditioner repaired. At first we tried finding some freon and having someone charge up the a/c. Then a friend recommended a mechanic who worked at the Kia dealership and who was allegedly good with Toyotas. We took the Rav4 in to him and he worked on it a couple of times, but never got it fixed properly. He finally said he would need to replace some parts, and we gave him the money to order them from the mainland. (Sounds risky, I know, but that is how things are often done here.) He had our car for 13 days while parts were being ordered, shipped, returned and reordered when the wrong parts arrived, and on and on. Finally, after calling Henry everyday, stopping by to check on his progress, the job was finished, we got our car back and the a/c worked! Until the freon all leaked out. Again. We decided to just live with it until we were ready to leave the island and then leave the car with Henry, again, to be repaired.

This is where it gets interesting. We had left the car with friends and asked them to drop it off with Henry. We figured he could take as long as he needed without inconveniencing us and hopefully! this time, get it fixed right. And he did take his time. Our friends would periodically stop by and check on it whenever they happened to be out that way. Weeks went by. Henry was never there. Finally, they learned that Henry really wasn't there. Ever. He had been fired.  Our car was also not there! The Kia dealership claimed to not know anything about the car's location but when pressured, did finally give directions to Henry's house. Another friend's car had also vanished along with Henry and the Rav4, so Bob and Jeremy went looking for Henry.

As they approached  the house, they spotted the Rav4. No sign of Henry or anyone else and no sign of Jeremy's car. They kept looking and finally saw Jeremy's vehicle parked way behind the house, hidden in the jungle. Bob took our car right then and there. Jeremy, for whatever reason, elected to wait and give Henry another chance to redeem himself, which, unfortunately, did not turn out well for Jeremy. His car was stripped clean - a total loss.

So, when we returned this year, our car was waiting for us - thankfully - but still no a/c. Don had learned about another guy who could actually leak check an air-conditioner, so we took the car in this week and left it with Freddy - with the warning that he could only have it for two days. On day two, Freddy said that he had found the leak and welded the offending place. He also changed the oil and filter. The bill? $153.97.

We're feeling pretty far.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Spectacular Snorkeling

That's really the only way to describe it....spectacular. I so wish I had had an underwater camera on Saturday when we went to West Bay (Tabyana Beach) with friends Kristin, Debi, Bob and their daughter, Emily. We started out at Infinity Bay Resort and swam and snorkeled straight out over the reef. It was a beautiful, clear day, the best kind for seeing the most color. And boy! did we ever see a lot of colorful fish!! We also saw some of the largest parrotfish I've ever seen, up to 3 or 4 feet in length. I had never seen an adult Midnight parrotfish (navy blue, as you might imagine, with vivid blue streaks along its back), or an adult Rainbow parrotfish, who is a rather garishly painted creature with an orangey/gold head and front half of the body, back half green, orangey fins edged in green, greenish lips outlined with a darker gray or black, a bit of blue splashed over the eyes. (Think Andy Warhol.)

We also saw several large  black and yellow French Angel fish and the brilliant blue and yellow Queen Angel fish, just beautiful. There were lots of the blue and yellow striped grunts, yellowtail snappers, blue tangs, younger yellow tangs, dark blue damselfish with brilliant blue dots, many types of black and white  or black and yellow butterfly fish, a black and white spotted trunkfish, Sargent Majors with their black and white stripes and a smudge of yellow on their backs. silvery red squirrelfish. There were many, many small fish in blue, purple, yellow, and multi-colored hues. So much fun to just hover over the coral and watch the fish swim.

Another highlight of the day was the large sea turtle. Bob chased him and we chased Bob. After that, I headed back in. I happened to look down and realize the water was incredibly deep and dark blue and then up and back at the beach and could not believe how far out we were (read: how far out I was!!). My first thought: "uh, oh. I have a long swim back." But I made it without any problems. Thank goodness for fins, though, otherwise I might still be out there!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Island Visits

I've been neglecting my blogging and now have a backlog of things to talk about, so this is the second blog for today...

Today was just a fabulous day, starting with worship at Sonrise this morning. The teams from Michigan and Minnesota were loading up their luggage, ready to depart for the airport right after worship. Don worked with these teams this week, building a house in Flowers Bay for a woman from our church. I'll let Don tell you about his experience in another blog.

The second thing I noticed today was that the church was packed, and not just with the teams...there were a LOT of people there from the colonia. No doubt the result of the teams working up there this week. Amazing. And tons of kids in childrens' worship. One of those people attending today was our gardener, Enrique...then I noticed his son, Carlos, was also there. Very cool!!

One of the teams put on an incredible skit, telling the story of the Bread of Life, pretty much in pantomime and with great music in the background. We had singing in Spanish and English.
 The sermon was delivered by a pastor with the Minnesota team and as usual, was translated by our friend and former Spanish teacher,  Esmerelda. Just an excellent message and great worship.

We thought there was going to be a baptism today, in the sea, and we were looking forward to that, but for some reason, it was postponed until next week.

We had been invited to come visit our friend George, the cab driver we recently helped, at his home and meet his wife. (I blogged about him coming to visit us recently and bringing his three sweet children.) We had told him we would be there around 1:30, after the baptism. Since that was postponed, we first had lunch before going to George's house. As we walked up the steps to the house and saw the chicken being barbequed, we had a sinking feeling that we had just made a faux pax. Yup, they were expecting us for lunch, and his wife had been cooking all morning. Oh my! Somehow, when Don and George were making plans, that was not well communicated. It really got lost when George and Kris first talked and then Kris had Don follow up with George. We felt just horrible!! But they were very gracious about it, and his wife packed up plates of food for us to take home for our supper tonight. We had a lovely visit and enjoyed meeting his wife and two of her sisters. George is "Spanish", meaning he's from the mainland and speaks Spanish (although he is bilingual); his wife is an islander and speaks English, so we are getting quite an education in Honduran life and culture from the two of them.  Next time, Kris will fix lunch for them - and make sure that is clearly communicated!

We're blooming!

We have these fabulous green and yellow leaved trees growing on our property and I have not been able to find out the name of it. 
They bloom in February and March.
I love the leaves, but I really love these magnificent flowers. I think they look somewhat like a bottle brush at one end.  I like that all the trees don't bloom at the same time so it prolongs the flowering season. Last year we didn't have very many blooms, but it is looking like this year will make up for it.
We're also seeing a number of different looking lizards, like this guy sunning himself on the rim of our chiminea.
This is a closeup look at the Pride of Barbados. You can see why it is one of my favorites.
Such a beautiful, elegant flower. I just had to share it with you. 

Monday, February 15, 2010

Before and After Enrique

Top photo: before
Next photos: after
Enrique spent two weeks working on our hillside. We were very pleased with his work. He didn't overdo the trimming, and, as you can see, things are blooming again. This morning  I decided to walk down the steep driveway to nowhere just down the hill from our house and then climb up the hill directly behind our house in order to get some photos of the newly cleaned up yard. I was able to climb a little bit higher this time and get some better shots than in the "before" picture. And I didn't even slip-slide down the hill on my bottom this time, and I did manage to avoid all the fire ants, except one. Ouch!
Going down.
The climb back up. Good workout. Note to self: might be an idea to wear shoes other than flipflops though.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


This has been an exciting week for discoveries on our hillside - more so for our gardener, Enrique. Yesterday, while cleaning our front flowerbed, he found this boa constrictor curled up and sleeping.
He said the snake would sleep during the day, awaken around sunset and be active at night. I had a better view of the snake from Don's office window. Sure enough, during sunset, the boa began to stretch and move around.
That's when I realized that he was shedding his old skin. See the difference from his head compared to the darker skin of his lower body?
He seemed to be fairly big. I kept waiting for him to stretch out fully and come out from under the plants, but the light was fading, and I was not able to see him in his full glory.
Merlin came by and was horrified, wanting to know why we didn't have Enrique kill Mr. Boa. We rather like him - as long as he stays outside!

The day before, as Enrique was trimming and cleaning around the ficus trees up our hill, he had even more excitement when he encountered a coral snake - very poisonous. It's a wonder he didn't fall down the hill and slide into the ravine during that discovery; he was standing on a very steep section of the hill and was very startled. Now, he said it was a coral snake, and perhaps it was, but there is also a false coral snake with the same colorful stripes, only the pattern is slightly different. I'm sure he didn't pause to consider the pattern! Don and Lance also saw a coral, or false coral, snake one night while walking down the road on our hill after parking the car. We've also seen tarantulas on our road after dark. That's why we always carry a flashlight at night - never know what you might step on.

Early in the week, while Enrique was trimming the banana trees at the top of our hill along our property line, our neighbor's mom, who has Alzheimer's, wandered out through their gate and fell again. Enrique found her and ran to get help. Sadly, she may have broken her hip this time. It's a good thing that Enrique was there to assist her.

So Enrique has had quite enough excitement for one week. Now, if he can keep from getting blown off the hill today during our 40 mph gusts, he can have a day off for some much needed rest.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Poinsettias in the tropics

This is a poinsettia growing in our neighbors yard. It wasn't there last June when we left, but I noticed it right away when we returned in January. It is at least four feet tall, maybe more. I read in my tropical flower book that poinsettias can reach a height of 12 feet or more if not trimmed. This one hasn't been. They will bloom almost continuously when cut back once or twice a year.
I wonder how tall it will get. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Spanish Lessons

We've been continuing our Spanish studies and have been meeting with our friend, Kristin, and pal, Olman for bilingual lessons. Olman is a young, Spanish-speaking security guard whom Kris befriended last year. He is as eager to learn English as we are Spanish....actually, he's much more enthusiastic. Look at that big smile! He gets so tickled when his pronunciation is correct; he has as much difficulty as we do with making certain sounds. He is also really excited when I am able to roll my r's.  Kris and Don have been taking turns preparing our lessons and we all learn together. Olman will quiz us, too. We have lots of fun. 
After our lesson, we gave Olman a ride back to West End. Kris needed a few things, so she came along. Don is sitting in the shade, waiting for her to finish her errands.
This is one of the vegetable vendor trucks. They pick up fresh produce from the mainland, brought over on the ferry, every Tuesday and Friday. There are always two or three of these trucks parked in West End. I like how he hangs his scale from a branch of the tree. 
Kris is buying some avocados. The island avocados aren't producing yet and neither are the mangos.  We like doing business with this man, but we'll often see who has the best looking produce. 
Our Spanish lessons come in handy here; most of these vendors speak Spanish.

Monday, February 8, 2010


An update on how the yardwork is progressing. Above is a "before" photo of the fallen Pride of Barbadoes shrub laying across several hibiscus bushes.
This is "after" the cleanup and trimming. Of course, the trimming always removes most of the flowers on the bushes, but they were pretty wild. New flowers should appear soon.
This is taken from our bedroom window, looking at the steep slope down the side of our house.
This is where Don is building the stairway down the slope. I'm not allowed to go down there right now - it's so easy to slip on the loose gravel and keep on sliding. 
He's got a pretty good start on the first section of stairs. I'll sure be glad when I can go down there and tend my garden myself. I want to put a compost bin down there, too; our soil needs a bit of enriching in order to grow some veggies. I had a little herb garden started behind Don, but it hasn't survived our long absences. Soon, I'll be able to start fresh!

2 great iPhotos

I've gotten a bit lazy about blogging. After a crazy busy week, we had a fairly quiet weekend. It was nice to have Bob and Debi back on the island and share a sunset, a taco pizza, and a game of cribbage.
Debi took this shot of us on the deck with the last glow of the sunset behind us. That's Bob's arm on the right. Obviously, I haven't yet learned how to use the new photoshop elements 8 software! 

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Very Full Day

Yesterday I took our friend, Kristin, in to Coxen Hole to shop. She still needed a number of things for her newly rented house, like pots and pans, trash cans, a hamper, miscellaneous kitchen items. We wandered up Market Street, looking in all the small shops along the way. It is amazing what they carry. Nearly every tiny shop carried some school supplies and children's school shoes (the children are required to wear uniforms and a certain type of black shoe, different for each school). Several of them also sold pedestal fans. We looked but didn't buy one. We walked up the block to Back Street and found the pots and pans store next to the Pepto Bismal pink building (hard to miss!). They had several sets of pans - two in stainless steel, although not the best quality, and one aluminum with a non-stick finish. We discovered that they also carry very large, restaurant-sized pots and lots of plastic items, like dish drainers and storage containers. Yup, she needed those, too. We stopped across the street at the office and school supply store to buy copy paper, then headed back to my car to unload.
This is another shop where Kris bought linens 
Next stop, the Flying Fisherman. Thursday is the day they pack boxes of fish for export and fill orders for local restaurants. We had to settle for frozen fillets unless we wanted to come back on Friday when they process the smaller fish suitable for our needs. We bought some of the squirrel snapper for about $4.00/lb., which the sales woman said was very, very good. On the way back to the car, Kris bought some large, fresh Honduran oranges for 1 lempira each (5.29 cents). She also got a huge papaya for about $2.00.

There was a cruise ship in port and lots of cruisers were out in the streets. It was getting hot, too, so we quickly finished our grocery shopping, first at Warren's and then up the hill at Plaza Mar, one of the more Americanized groceries. Kris was hoping to find stainless steel mixing bowls, but no luck.
This is Plaza Mar. The taxi drivers often bring cruisers up here because there is a nice view of the cruise ship dock. 

I took Kris home and we unloaded her groceries. Thankfully her security guard came up the steps just in time to help carry her purchases down the many steps to her house, cause I was ready to go home. I was so hot, my face was beet red, I was thirsty, and I was getting pretty hungry.

 After a quick lunch, I walked up the hill to visit my friend and neighbor, Tia (who is our pastor's wife). Her mother, who has rather advanced Alzheimer's, lives with Tia and it's getting pretty stressful. Pastor Chuck took her mom out for a long drive and a stop at the coffee shop so Tia and I could have a nice visit. 

But the day wasn't over yet! Dennis and Merlin picked us up at 6 p.m. to go to a benefit concert for Haiti being held at the new mall near French Harbor.  This was an outdoor concert, held by the fountains at the front of the mall from 5-10 p.m. We missed the first band and only heard part of the second band's performance. Paul, the fire dancer, also performed and puts on an incredible show. There were a total of 6 bands who performed for free.  During the concert, large 5 gallon water jugs were passed around to collect donations for Haiti. The money will go to an organization called Avaaz which is already in place in Haiti. 

It was a beautiful, clear night, with a great breeze which grew steadily stronger and cooler as the night wore on, but perfect for sitting outside. This mall has two American restaurants; Applebee's and Wendy's. Applebee's is near the fountains and has a large outdoor patio so many concert goers sat there and ate during the show, others wandered in and out. We ate at the smaller Big House Burgers (which also makes great Honduran "fast" food, all very good. This was also right next to the fountains, so we could still see and hear much of what went on.

When the last band finished, Merlin walked over to the new casino (the island's first casino - sad, but true...way too Americanized) and tried to round up her three friends who had also ridden with us. They were much more interested in playing the slot machines than in the concert, and were also reluctant to leave. Dennis finally had to go in and get them. 

It was a long, tiring, fun day. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

TheTaming of the Jungle

We finally have a gardener at work on our hillside, and so far, we are quite pleased with his work. We returned to the island after a six month absence to find everything very overgrown. Normally, we ask our friends, Dennis and Merlin, to hire a gardener to trim and clean up our property before our return. For some reason, that didn't happen this year. I think Don forgot to ask Dennis and, as we learned after our return, Dennis and Merlin gave all their workers the entire month of December off. 

This is the "before" view, looking over our deck down onto the hill below. What you are looking at is mostly our huge Pride of Barbados tree that fell over but continued to grow......sideways.....across the top of several hibiscus bushes. This tree is probably actually a shrub since it has multiple trunks. Two of the larger trunks fell over, two small ones grew up between the floorboards of our deck, and five more small trunks are growing up along side one of the support posts for our deck. These have now been thinned out.
Enrique and a friend of his chopped off the two fallen sections of the tree/shrub. They had quite a little struggle pulling those sections free; the tree/shrub must have been 15 feet tall and was enmeshed with vines and overgrown branches of hibiscus and bougainvilla plants. The "Pride" also has nasty thorns, so Enrique and his pal were happy that we provided nice thick work gloves for them.
I took a walk early in the morning before Enrique arrived. This is looking down the hill just below our property. I walked down to where there appears to be a cross in the grass and then part way up the very steep hill to the left.
My objective was to take this photo looking up at our house and at the jungle below it. This shows pretty well how overgrown everything had become. We are just ending the rainy season, which explains the lushness. I don't want a severe trimming and cleaning like some of our former gardeners have done. I just want a healthy trimming to maximize the beauty of the flowers, and to eliminate some excess of the more invasive plants and shrubs. For example, those large green and yellow-leaved trees behind our house all started from one small tree that someone gave Merlin. They are beautiful, but get very large and are now nearly surrounding our property, much like the banana trees have done. Because they are so large, they tend to block some of the breeze, coming from the east especially, and block the view in other directions, so a trimming is in order.

I really appreciate that Enrique will call me to look over what he is doing and ask if it meets my approval. When he began trimming the hibiscus bushes, he asked if that height was ok; I asked him to leave the others just a bit taller, and he did. I really hate to lose any of the flowers, but unfortunately, they seem to grow at the end of wild 8 foot long branches. Once trimmed, they will soon begin flowering on the shorter branches. 
I'll post some "after" photos later.