Friday, April 30, 2010

Beach Walk - Gulf Shores

Last night I took a walk on the beach here in Gulf Shores, Alabama, with my cousins. Everyone is carefully watching news reports about the oil spill, dreading its spread along the beaches, hoping that it won't reach here. The winds are not in our favor though. We can only pray that it will be contained before it ruins the coastline and the wildlife living there. The damage would be immense to nature, tourism and the livelihood of many people living along the coast.

Shore birds enjoying the waves.

Sorina and Diana on the beach in Gulf Shores

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Alabama Bound

Yesterday morning found me at the airport on Roatan, standing in the usual long line waiting to check in on a Saturday morning. It seems crazy to arrive 2 hours early at such a small airport on a small island, but the lines are always long and move slowly. I must say though that bringing the computer age to the airport has certainly improved things, at least for checking in. Now, if immigration would get computerized, that would REALLY be an improvement. I moved from that long line to the exit fee line, paid my $36.00, and then got in the immigration line. Very slow moving, mostly because the security screening line was so backed up that no one could move.

The two adjoining waiting areas were packed. Standing room only. The Delta flight had been delayed coming in and that really caused a log-jam. There are at least three flights that arrive, do a quick turn-around (30 mins. or so) and leave again, coming very close together. The Delta flight got first priority and the Continental flights had to wait. I was glad that I had nearly three hours between my connection in Houston. I'm not sure what time we finally took off. I quit wearing a watch when we moved to Roatan, and I figured it did no good to stress out over something out of my control anyway, so why look.

We did land in Houston at 5:00 (4:00 Roatan time). I looked at my boarding pass, saw the 6:35 time and began to stress a bit. Then I saw the line for immigration. Holy Moly!!! I have never seen such a line. The huge room was full and backed up back into the hallway around a corner. I was beginning to feel doomed. As the line slowly inched forward and I got close enough to hear, one of the agents was announcing certain flights that had immediate boarding times. Oh, good, I thought. I may make it yet if they announce my flight. They didn't, so when I got close enough to inquire, I was told my flight was at 7:10. No worries, apparently. I wasn't so sure about that; it was nearly 6:00 and I was still in line. But I was praying the whole time that everything would somehow work out. Otherwise, I would be spending the night in Houston.

Finally, I cleared immigration, retrieved my bag, drug it through customs (interesting choice of verbs since the DEA had a drug-sniffing dog searching some of the bags beside the carousel), and then handed it off to the Continental agents. I raced up the stairs and down the hall to the train and just missed one. I glanced up at the screen over the door and saw the time was 6:25. Cutting it close but still doable. Waited another 5 mins. for the next train, got to B terminal and raced down the loooooong hallway to my gate. Hey! The plane was still there and they hadn't even started boarding!! I briefly collapsed into a chair and then decided I just might have enough time to use the bathroom. As I came out of the bathroom, the jetway door opened and they began boarding my flight. Perfect timing! God's timing is always perfect.  No dinner, but so what.

We landed in Pensacola an hour and 6 minutes later. I made my way downstairs to the baggage claim area and waited. And waited. And waited. I had already called my cousins, Bonnie and Grover, to tell them I was in and waiting on the bag. They were waiting outside for me. Grover finally came in to check on me. Still no bag and no more bags coming out. No one at the Continental baggage office or at the ticketing area. Walked around looking for someone I could report this to and finally, the Continental baggage office opened. I reported my missing bag, he looked it up and found that it was still in Houston. It just didn't have enough time to make it on the flight with me. No worries; they'll deliver it to my parents' home tomorrow morning. Excellent!

Stopped on the way to Foley for a quick bite to eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken - pretty tasty! Grover asked if I wanted to drop by the hospital to see my dad. I glanced at the clock on the dash - nearly 10:30! No, a little late for a hospital call. I certainly hoped he was soundly sleeping. My mother was waiting up for me and was very happy to see me. She told me my sister had missed her connection in  Dallas and was spending the night in a hotel. I was so glad that I had made my connection, even if my bag did not.  I borrowed a nightgown, made use of the new toothbrush she had on hand and went to bed.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Almost Sailing

It's been a tough week to be here so far from home. My dad has been really ill since his surgery a week ago. His sodium level was extremely low, causing lots of problems, and he had a number of other complications. I've been sticking close to the phone and the internet, staying in touch with my sister and mother as they care for him and talking to my dad frequently. He appears to have turned the corner. His sodium is almost back up to low normal, his other problems are resolving, so he may go home today. Good news indeed. I'm still waiting to see if I need to fly up there and help out once my sister goes home. 

So, it was a nice stress reliever to be invited aboard our friends' sailboat to go out to the reef to swim and snorkel. As it turned out, it wasn't the best day to snorkel - lots of clouds decrease visibility and dim the colors underwater and the rough water makes swimming more challenging, but did that stop us? Oh no!!
We still managed to have a pretty good time. The coral was very nice in this spot; I want to go back on a sunny day when I can better appreciate the colors. 

Aboard the Vicks' sailboat. Gilbert, sitting in the bow is watching Snider manuver through the reef. Mindy is enjoying a little nap.
We didn't put the sails up, just motored out to the reef.

That's a nice little swim platform that their neighbor put out near the reef.

Visiting with Don and Anita from Tennessee who have been looking at property on the island. They were at church Sunday and were also invited to come along. Nice people.
That's Lynn on the left in the yellow cap and me in the white one. 

Snider at the wheel and a Vancouver visitor, Raymond, sitting on the right.
Where is my Don? He's back there somewhere, managing to avoid the camera.

This bit of green is Man 'O War Cay, a privately owned island very near the Vicks' home. It was once owned by their friends but recently was sold to a wealthy man of mystery. Rumor has it that it's Sylvester Stallone. Or Michael Douglas. Or a wealthy recluse. No one knows for sure. Whoever he is, he flies in on his own private 727.

Dare to dream. 
This catamaran is owned by a youngish couple who traded their house for a boat and are now living aboard, sailing around wherever the urge takes them. They heard about Roatan and decided to check it out. They were fortunate enough to meet the Vicks who offered to let them moor their boat at their dock.
Next they'll try to trade their house in Vail for one on Roatan.

Rachel and Lance - dare to dream!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Church on the Beach

We arrived at church this morning to find the gate closed and a big sign on it saying "Closed for Fumigation" and another reading "Church on the beach today". The pastor's wife came up to the gate and told us how they had been closed since Thursday when the exterminator came. Last night, they came to check on the building, found the smell was still really bad, then their dog crawled under the building and died! They wisely decided to hold church on the beach today, so everyone trooped down (a very short walk).

It was a beautiful morning to have worship on the beach, cool and breezy with just enough shade. The worship service was a bit shorter than usual since the sun was nibbling away at the shade. We were in the same area where the baptisms took place a few weeks ago.

 During the announcements, they requested help in cleaning the church, kitchen, coffee shop and hotel - a huge job. Every surface has to be washed down before it will be safe to use again. They also said that it wasn't safe for children under the age of 15 to be in the building until it had been cleaned.  That hotel (missionary inn) is a pretty big place, lots of rooms, lots of work. Several of the church/hotel staff live on premises and they've all had to move out temporarily. I offered our help right away. Don then reminded me that I don't do well with fumes like that (asthma) and decided he'd better check it out first. So, after church, we stopped at the building and Don went in and walked around. He came back out and announced that I was not to go in there, not today anyway. He said he would go home, change clothes and come back and clean for awhile. This will no doubt take a few days although I know they want to get it done as quickly as possible. The hotel doesn't get very good ventilation - too many big trees, a courtyard and other buildings around it keep the ocean breezes out - so airing it out may take a while.

When Don returns, we're going to West Bay for a snorkel with many of our church friends, a usual Sunday event. He'll be ready to cool off and relax. I'll be ready to help!

A Breathtaking Sunset

Last night was another spectacular sunset night. 

One that kept getting better

and better

and better


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Glorious Sunsets

We have been blessed with some amazing sunsets this month.
These photos are from last night.
Simply breathtaking.

Friday, April 16, 2010

They Say It's My Birthday, part II

My birthday continued with dinner on the beach with good friends. We arrived just as the sun was setting.
sunset...beach...birthday with the one i love...perfect!

And add some really good friends...priceless!!
Thanks for sharing my day.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

They Say It's My Birthday

What a great way to celebrate a birthday, being serenaded on the beach in the tropics! 
We encountered these men, Lucas and Junior, just as we walked onto the beach from Kristin's house. They began to play as soon as they saw us and, of course, Kris told them it was my birthday, so I got Happy Birthday in English and Spanish. Lovely! 
Lucas's wife goes to our church, Sonrise Calvary Chapel, and Luz had just been talking to her a couple of days ago about Lucas's guitar playing on the beach. 
We walked down the beach to Celeste's Gourmet Baleadas where we ordered lobster and grouper baleadas. Delicious!! My lunch companions and good friends are Luz Maria, Kristin, and Debi. 
Celeste has about 5 parrots in the restaurant. This guy walked all around us, eyeing our baleadas, finally giving up and taking a little nap right behind my chair. Luz got a little excited when another parrot hopped down on the table next to her plate. Debi, our bird lover, came to her rescue and returned the bird to his perch.
Here are a few pictures from earlier in the day. We had this nice boa slither across our entrance to the deck. He finally crawled down under the deck and under the house. 
Just after the snake slid under the deck, this nice dog showed up. She comes to visit us every morning. Think she must belong to the new neighbors whom we have not met yet.
It you look closely at the tops of those trees by the water (Gibson's Bight), you'll see lots of white birds sitting in the trees. I've never seen this before with this type of bird. We got out the telescope and they look somewhat like egrets, but with a tannish upper wing and face/beak.  I think they must be migrating based on the size of the flock and that they all flew in and landed together. An interesting sight.

Also, while we were eating breakfast on the deck and wondering about these birds, Esmerelda, our Canvit's Emerald hummingbird,  came to visit us and even landed on the bit of clothesline where she built her nest last year. She flew to each window and looked inside, checking out the house to see if we've made any changes. She may be planning a return. She'll be happy to see the hummingbird feeder Kris gave me for my birthday.

So it's been a good birthday so far, and there's more to come...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Good, The Bad and The Disgusting

What a strange day this has been, full of odd happenings, like text messages that show up a day later, out of sequence in a string of messages. 
An even more unusual thing occurred this morning that also qualifies in both the bad and the disgusting category:
 I walked out onto the deck after it had gotten light and noticed something on one of the lounge chairs. As I walked towards it, I first thought it was a large shrimp (oxymoron). Well, that's a crazy thought! Why would there be a shrimp laying on the lounger? As I got closer, I realized that it wasn't a shrimp. It was surrounded by tufts of short fur and a few spots of blood. What on earth?!? What is that? Then I knew. It was a fetus!! What kind of animal I couldn't tell, but I suspect a cat. Good grief! What a way to start the day.

That's not all. The toilet in the master bath decided to quit working. Don looked at it but couldn't fix it. The tank won't fill. The satellite connection wasn't connecting early this morning, so no internet. Finally, it came back on, just in time for the power failure. Just as the washing machine was getting ready to spin. Sigh. But, at least the power outage only lasted about an hour. Just a little delay in doing laundry and checking e-mail.

The satellite outage and power failure also meant that I couldn't get a signal on my blackberry phone which I use on a wi-fi setting to call the U.S. My dad was having surgery today so that caused a few anxious moments. Even when the connections were restored, there was a delay in getting a signal again. Finally I got a text message from my daughter saying that my dad's surgery had been moved up and he was in surgery right then, several hours ahead of schedule. I was then able to call my sister to check on Daddy twice and fortunate enough to not lose the signal during either call. 

The good news is that the surgery went well. His carotid artery looked like swiss cheese stuffed with little clots. His surgeon said he was very fortunate. His EEG function slowed down a little during the surgery which caused the surgeon to finish as quickly as he could. Daddy seems to be ok, but the doctor said he would be able to make a better assessment in the morning, so please, keep praying.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Garifuna Celebration

Debi and I went to Punta Gorda today for the annual Garifuna celebration. This is the 213th year since their arrival on Roatan. They parade through the town, along the beach, have a reenactment of their landing on Roatan, dance, sing and drum, sell Garifuna cuisine and crafts. Bob and Emily came a bit later and met us there. Such a good time!
I'm trying to pass as a dancer. Maybe I should have worn a hat to match my shirt? And learned some moves.
The dancers wore very colorful outfits.
The younger kids, lining up for the start of the parade. Most of them were dressed up, either in a costume or a new dress with matching head wrap. So many of the little girls had fancy braids and beads.
Debi and I taking a break from the sun and the walking.
The older women dancing the Punta, a fertility dance. Boy, can they shake those hips!!
The drummers, young and old. 
Lots of pretty babies, but this one stole my heart. 
Debi took this one. She was struck by the beautiful profile on this young woman. I love her colorful dress and headwrap, too. 
We had such a lovely day. The weather was wonderful, not too hot.  The Garifuna are friendly, warm people.  We had really good food for lunch - barbequed chicken, beans, potato salad and tortillas. Great entertainment and fabulous people watching. 

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Great Birthday

Yesterday was Don's 65th birthday.  A milestone. We invited some dear friends to come help us celebrate...Bob and Rick...
Luz Maria, Emily and Debi.
"Come early", I said, "we'll watch the sunset together". The afternoon had been clear, right up to the arrival of our guests, then the clouds moved in. The actual sunset was obscured by a massive cloud bank, but the lingering colors in the sky were lovely. 
I had found a nice big beef roast in the supermarket last week. A rare find here on the island. Don loves roast beef, so that's what we had for his birthday meal. Debi and Emily wanted to make his birthday cake. Chocolate cake with chocolate icing...his favorite. Emily got creative and gave him a binary code cake: "Happy 65th Binary" and spelled his name in binary code (ones and zeros). Very cute! 
A bit of explanation for this: Don spends quite a bit of time with binary code these days. He's writing a computer program in Java for a complicated card game that our family enjoys.

After a wonderful meal and sharing our thoughts on why we appreciate Don, we set up our outdoor movie theatre and watched the video "Everything Is Spiritual" by Rob Bell. We love that video and were happy to share it with our friends. They loved it, too. 
A wonderful evening for a wonderful man. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

On The Road Again

I can hardly believe it. We got our car back yesterday.  Only two days in the shop. 
The right fan came in on the ferry. Raoul told us his secret for getting the right part the first time...send the old part over with the money for the new part. And it works.
So far his soldering work is holding. The new fan works fine. AND there is semi-cool air coming out of the vents. Don thinks that maybe the high-pressure switch shut everything down before, so perhaps with a bit more refrigerant, we might really be cool. 
We'll see.
For now, we're happy to have our car running again.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sunsets and Radiators

Last night's sunset was rather pretty. I always think clouds add interest to the setting sun, although far too often the clouds roll up and obscure the end of the sunset. That happened last night, but not before I got some nice shots.

Mr. Orange Shirt, the radiator mechanic I mentioned yesterday, called to report his findings. First, his name is Raoul. Second, he's pretty sure that he can solder the leak in the radiator. Third, one of the fans burned up and will have to be replaced; he will have to order the part from the mainland. Don got a ride up to his shop this morning to take him the money to order the part. No one on this island orders parts without having the money in hand first. The price? 2400 lempiras, or $159.00. He will charge us about $37.00 to do the soldering work. That's all. Amazing, isn't it? If the fan comes in on the ferry tonight, he'll have the car ready for us by tomorrow night. We'll see.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Air-Conditioning Saga

Last installment:
The Rav4's a/c had once again quit working on day 15 after having the leak welded.

Today's episode:
Don got over being so disgusted with our failed air-conditioning repair job that he couldn't even think about it. He decided to follow up on a suggestion to add a can of sealant to the a/c in the hope that that would fix the leak. 

We first needed to go to the bank, which we did and which only took one hour. Don got in one line and I got in another. My line never moved. The first person in line had about 15 transactions, the next 3 people had been sitting, waiting their turn in the old people/pregnant women line, and I was still waaaay back in the line when Don finally got to move up to the window. We ran a couple of quick errands and then stopped at the refrigeration shop.
It looked like it was going to work at first. The sealant was put in and then they began charging the a/c. They even had pressure gauges! Don was keeping watch on the sight-glass, watching for it to clear, which means that it is fully charged. He saw it clear, but then saw a few more bubbles and suggested that they might want to add just a little more refrigerant; they did. It had been starting to cool. Suddenly, it stopped cooling, the electric fans quit working. I was sitting on the wall, watching, and caught a whiff of boiling water. Sure enough, the guys noticed that the radiator was extremely hot and that steam was beginning to rise. While they were puzzling over that, the one guy noticed little spits of water coming from the condensing unit which sits right in front of the radiator and pointed that out to me.  I told Don, who was sitting in the car watching the temperature gauge. Just then, the spit turned into a squirt. A big squirt. Don got out to investigate and immediately saw that it was the radiator squirting water out through the condensing unit. The problem had just gone from bad to worse.
One of the guys hollered at a man in an orange shirt across the street and had him come over. Mr. Orange Shirt is a mechanic of some kind. He took a look and decided that he might be able to solder the leak. Did Don want him to do that?  Don was quite upset at this point and needed a few minutes to think.
 He told Mr. Orange Shirt that we would go across the street to the pulperia, get a cold drink and think about this. Don soon decided that we might as well try the soldering, otherwise, we're looking at having to order a new radiator from the mainland, wait for it to come in while hoping that they ship the right one the first time. Did we trust this mechanic? Not really, we don't even know him or anything about him. It's pretty much a crap-shoot around here for car repairs. Even when we've gotten recommendations, it doesn't seem to turn out well. 
I called our pal, Debi, to see if she could pick us up and give us a lift home; she could and she did. She came right away. Once again we are sitting at home, car-less, having no idea how long this will take or if it will work, but we can always hope.