Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving on Roatan

Photo credit: Debi Cowen

This is our first Thanksgiving on the island, but not the first without family. Our family is so far-flung across the U.S. that it is difficult to get together for many holidays. There are so many Americans and Canadians living on Roatan that we now have many people to celebrate with. (Canadians have their own Thanksgiving, but also love to share in ours.)

Our friends, Jeremy and Melissa, who pastor the rChurch in West Bay organized the 3rd annual community Thanksgiving Potluck attended by at least 150 people!! This year the dinner was held at the Beach Club at San Simeon, next to the Mayan Princess in West Bay. Beautiful place, open and airy, and plenty of room for everyone.

I volunteered to cook one of the 7 turkeys served and also made mashed potatoes and, of course, gravy. (By the way, the 12.3 pound Butterball turkey cost $25.00!! How does that compare to the U.S.?)  It was a fairly warm day, too, 86 ˚ in the kitchen, but the gable fans pulled in a good breeze all day.

The dinner started at 5:30. We were a bit late as the turkey wasn't quite done when I began to carve it. The tables were loaded with food, and the people were already lined up in a long line when we arrived. Our friend, Courtney, who takes several young island teenagers under her protective wing, brought 5 or 6 of them to the dinner and boy, did they feast!!

Amazingly, the bar was already out of wine when we arrived leaving many people disappointed. (There had been two cruise ships in that day, but I wouldn't think that they would have drunk much wine.) One of the employees ran out to the grocery store and grabbed several boxes of Almanden wine which they then served.

Photo by Don
It was a lovely evening. Met several "new" people and chatted with many acquaintances. The children had a grand time running around, chasing one another. They could run outside onto the beach and right back inside. The above photo shows the beach with the inside of the club lit up in the rear. Those strange looking beds on the beach, some with curtains, are for the guests to lounge upon. One of the beds with the curtains also sways, as the kids quickly discovered and took full advantage of.

We had two Thanksgiving dinners this year, the one above on Wednesday night, and a restaurant meal on Thursday. We really enjoyed the brined, smoked and roasted turkey with all the usual trimmings at Kent's Blue Bahia. And I finally got a piece of pumpkin pie. Delicious!!
Thursday was a challenging day is some ways. The power went out twice for 60-90 minutes at a time. Fortunately, most people cook with gas here. I was thankful that I wasn't cooking though as none of my electric appliances would have worked.

We'll be finishing up the leftovers today with turkey noodle soup made from the carcass. Hope your Thanksgiving was also wonderful.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Shopping, Island Style

The other day I enlisted the assistance of Susan and Tia to help me find some warmer clothing for some of the women up in the colonia who come to our church. We had noticed that the ladies are frequently cold on chilly, rainy days, and they don't have sweaters or jackets. My goal was to find some. This proved to be challenging! We drove around Coxen Hole checking out the little second-hand shops.

Tia knew of a nice, larger thrift shop down by the old ferry terminal. Not a single sweater to be found, but Susan and I did spot a few girls' swim suits, so we bought one for Leidi and one for Greicy. Don and I are planning to take the girls swimming again soon. On a warm day.

We checked out the shops along Back Street. No luck.

Tia suggested we try the little shops along Thicket, the road into Coxen Hole. We parked in a small lot across from the Roatan Hospital. The first shop was run by an old man who said "we don't need no sweaters here, lady. It don't get cold here!" Apparently not for him.

The little shops are everywhere, tucked into the strangest places. Often it is rather dark in these shops, but once they realized how serious we were, they would turn on the lights! We finally lucked out. We found 8 sweaters/jackets at one larger shop. They actually had more, but we rejected the wool and cashmere sweaters. They don't need that warm! And everything must be easy to wash. We also found 2 more in another little shop. That pretty much exhausted the sweater inventory in Coxen Hole. I was hoping to find more, but at least 10 women will now be a bit warmer during the next storm.

I may have to try crocheting some shawls!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Friends and Fiesta!

Infinity Bay. This is where we typically spend our Sunday afternoons. We meet up with friends, sometimes eat lunch here, generally go for a snorkel, a swim or a walk on the white sand beach, and we visit. Don took this photo with his new camera of our usual Sunday group: Susan and Larry, Bob and Debi and Dee. We see lots of other friends coming and going while there, may watch the younger folks in a volleyball game or the wee ones digging in the sand. It's a very relaxing, enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Greicy, Hilda, Victor, Oscar

These four kids just graduated from the 6th grade. That's a big deal in Honduras where so many children never make it that far, or if they do, that's the end of their education. These are all sponsored kids who also attend our church. The school had a graduation ceremony for them on Saturday and unfortunately, Don and I somehow failed to fix the date and time in our brains and missed it. Susan, one of the sponsors, told us not to feel bad about it. It was supposed to start at 2 p.m., but true to Honduran ways, actually began at 4 p.m. and was a very short little ceremony. The boys had to have new long pants and long-sleeved shirts and the girls wore graduation gowns.

On Monday afternoon, our church sponsored a fiesta to celebrate the graduates. Everyone came dressed in their finest, the girls had curled their hair, and they all wore big smiles. Lots of little gifts arrived, even from the poorest families. A meal was served by the mothers of the graduates, adults first, then children, including the graduates! Our pastor's wife was afraid that the food would run out before everyone had been fed, but that didn't happen. There was even some Arroz con Pollo (rice with chicken) and slaw left over. The graduates were each allowed to invite 25 people, family and friends. We saw quite a few new faces and met another darling girl named Julette (Jew-layta). I'll tell you more about her another time.
Here's our girl, Leidi, looking mighty cute, and her grandmother, Concepción. Leidi proudly told us that she had passed 4th grade and would be moving up to 5th grade in February when classes resume after the winter break. Concepción looks so pleased, doesn't she?! Leidi is holding her report card, and she had pretty good grades, even in math. She's continuing to take ESL (English as a Second Language) lessons up in the colonia which are free. Concepción often cleans the school and earns credits which she can use to "purchase" donated clothing. That's a terrific program and much needed.

I'll have more to say later.

Photo credits to Don.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sew Sew

Our Bible study was cancelled  the other night. God had other plans. One of the women in our study is a missionary who teaches English to the Spanish-speakers and also hosts a women's sewing group. The women in this group are island women, neighbor's of Deborah's who desperately need a way to make money. Deborah's church in the U.S. provided 3 brand new Janome sewing machines and gave the women basic sewing lessons. The women are using donated fabric to make small items to sell in the gift shops near the cruise ship pier, including the Made In Roatan shop. They make headbands and bows, eyeglass cases, small purses, etc. These sewing machines also allow them to do some fancy finishes. Unfortunately, two of the machines were not working properly. Deborah knew that I sewed and asked if I could come over and take a look at the machines, so off I went.

I worked on the one machine for about an hour, cleaning it, testing it and all the while chatting with Doris as she sewed on the one working machine. The tension was messed up (hate that! So hard to correct.) and the bobbin thread was wadding up and then the upper thread would break. And somehow, the thread was getting wrapped around a lever arm behind the thread guides. I didn't see how that was even possible.

The next day, I went back and took Don with me. We worked on both machines all morning. The second machine also had thread wrapped tightly around the lever arm. Don didn't see how that was possible either. We finally had to admit defeat. Both machines had serious, yet different, tension problems and these Janome machines weren't as simple to figure out as my Singer. I told Deborah that we needed to find someone on the island who was skilled in sewing machine repairs.

A couple of nights later, Don and I attended an art show given by a budding new artist, a self-taught island woman, who is a friend of Deborah's, and who is incredibly talented. Deborah came up to me and joyfully reported that she had found a tailor who was good at repairing sewing machines. We hope he can get these straightened out soon. Deborah wants me to come back and teach the women about basic machine maintenance. I'm also thinking about other simple things that I could teach them to sew. Should be fun.

This is one of Britteny's paintings and perhaps my favorite. She uses fabric for the dresses, giving it a unique, multi-dimensional effect. Deborah has this one hanging in her living room and I just fell in love with it. It reminds me of a small painting that we bought in Belize years ago.  I have asked Britteny to paint another for us and she has agreed. Bob and Debi have asked her to do some small paintings to sell in their Made In Roatan shop. I think Britteny will do well.

Bob and Debi have been blessed by one of their cruise ship customers who saw the good work they are doing here to help struggling families and created an online store for them so they can now sell internationally! It is already a success. There are bios on the various artists and photos of them as well as photos of the items available for purchase. Here's a link to the shop:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Time To Be Social

This past week was a busy week...for me. Some weeks not much is happening except lots of rain so we tend to stay put. Don is happy to do so;  he's writing two books. I enjoy the time to do some genealogy and have been writing up our family history so it will make sense to our children and grandchild(ren??). But, I often miss my social activities back home, so this week was a real treat for me.

Once a month, some of the gringas (ex-pat women) get together for lunch. They began doing this just after we left in the spring, so I had not had an opportunity to join them. A friend from church wanted to go, so I agreed to meet her there. I "knew" some of these women from the various Roatan forums but had never actually met them. There were about two dozen ladies there, many of them own or manage businesses around the island and one is a former Olympic swimmer.  Two of the women came from the very far eastern end of the island and it took them well over an hour to drive in. The calle principal, or main road, is a two lane blacktop to about mid-island, then it is unpaved to the eastern end of the island. Remember, this is rainy season, which makes the drive all the more challenging. Next month we are meeting at the most western part of the island. These ladies have said, jokingly, that they may have to camp out on the beach! It was fun to meet so many new people, and we had a great lunch at Blue Bahia. Kent is usually closed on Tuesdays but opened the restaurant just for our private party. He even served monkey-la-las...on the house!

Later in the week, I was invited to play bunco with a group of women. My friend, Debi, has been playing bunco with this group for several months, and they needed an extra person to fill in for someone.
What a hoot! I used to play with a group back home but had forgotten how much fun it can be. There were 16 other women there. We met at a very high-priced condo in West End that was furnished but unoccupied. Our hostess, a real estate agent, arranged for us to use the place. We all had to carefully pick our way around the potholes and mud of the beach road, walk along the beach a short way and then take a cobbled walkway down to the end of this ironshore lined spit of land. Not possible to drive right up to the place. I was thankful that I had brought a flashlight. Don't want to step on a tarantula!

I knew 4 or 5 of the women already, either from a current bible study or a former one, but the rest were new to me. One face looked familiar and was...Daphne, the owner of Besos where Don and I had lunch the other day and where the above photo was taken. I met a number of young teachers from the alternative school, a massage therapist (good to know!), a gardener/landscaper (also good to know), a French Canadian singer (who sounds a lot like Celine Dion),  and reconnected with a couple of women whom I had not seen in awhile. I really enjoyed the evening. Bunco is less about playing the game and more about the socializing...and eating! Typically, you are assigned something to bring: an appetizer, beverage, something sweet or salty for each table. We had so much food, it was ridiculous! Each person put 100 lemipiras (about $5.) into the pot and the two winners (most buncos, most wins) split the pot at the end of the evening. We didn't play late. The younger, single women wanted to go dancing! Debi and I went home.

This will be a busy week around the island. There are 5 cruise ships due in; 5 chances for our island friends to make some money. Here's the first ship of the week, sailing past our house on a beautiful pastel morning.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Continuing the Walk

Here are some of Don's photos.
 He spotted this long-time resident standing in front of Cannibal's (Mexican restaurant), holding court with some young tourists. Not sure if they were from the cruise ship or were here for a week of diving. At any rate, they were getting quite the education on life on the island.
                                                  Don't you love the nipple rings?
This photo shows the intricate wiring coming into West End. The phone and electric companies like to leave some extra wire rolled up, which is what the circle is on the pole. It really is no wonder that our power goes out so frequently.

A Walk in West End

 Don wanted to go for a walk in West End this morning and take some photos. These are some of my photos, I'll post his next. The dock above was damaged when Hurricane Rina passed by to the east of us.
 Lots of road and sanitation work going on in West End. Things are constantly torn up. The municipal is putting in a sanitation system, water treatment plant and improving the road. All much needed. They dug up the beach road and little side roads to put in the sewer pipes, then filled it all in. Now they're digging all up again to lay water lines above the sewer lines. They've got a system! Most people don't want to see the beach road paved except some of the local residents, but unfortunately, it is going to be paved. The road just won't have the same feel to it.
 Now, who would want to give up large potholes like this? Charming, huh? Seriously, the road is charming when it has been graded and it hasn't rained for awhile.
This is farther down the beach road where it is a muddy mess. The bulldozer is at the far end.
Vehicle traffic can't get past the area where the trenches are being dug (by hand). The tourist buses and taxis are dropping their passengers near the entrance to West End to pick their way through the potholes. Few tourists are venturing down very far, which I'm sure is hurting some of the businesses.  High season has begun. It will be interesting  to see what happens next week when 5 cruise ships will be in, or the following week when 7 ships are expected. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

A New Lake in the Neighborhood

 This newly created "lake" is directly across the road from our church. The recent heavy rains have filled this yard with water.
 Much more rain, and this water will spill over the road and into the missionary inn connected to our church and the pastor's apartment. He's already had mud flow in there once.
 That house is completely surrounded by water and mostly likely flooded inside as well. The "lake" site is for sale, in case you're interested.
The wall where that person is sitting is beside a creek that flows down from the colonia. It looks like a road, but isn't. It is mostly full of mud which also washed down, so the water had to find another outlet....and a lake was formed.

We saw all this as we drove up to French Harbor yesterday to see if the kitchen faucets had come in to Ace Hardware. No, and not only that, the few they had a week ago were gone. We had been assured by an employee 10 days ago that a boat would be in soon carrying all these out of stock faucets. We've learned that they will tell you anything, promise you that it will be in mañana, over and over again. We spoke to the manager yesterday who said a boat would not be in for another week and upon checking, that it would not be bringing the faucet we wanted, but he could special order it for us. He took our e-mail address and phone number to let us know when it does come in. Meanwhile, we're spontaneously blessed with hot water in the kitchen every now and then. We just never know when. Keeps life interesting anyway.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Feeling Soggy

We've been back on the island 3 weeks and 3 days. So far, we've had 19.6 inches of rain. Rainy season is definitely here.
 It's difficult to do laundry. My laundry closet is on this deck which was completely soaked. And those are my clothes lines running across the deck. I've been forced to use the dryer more often, and with electric rates being 7 times as high here compared to St. Louis, you can understand why I'm reluctant.
The view is still pretty, even during a rain. We have had some downpours where there was NO view beyond our deck railing.

Another frequent problem is power outages. We had the power go out five times yesterday and stay out for an hour or more each time. Sometimes it would just barely have come back on when it would go out again. Really hard on those appliances like refrigerators.

We learned that some of our church members who live up in the colonia have had problems. Pastor Chuck is most anxious for Larry and Susan to return from Canada so we can have a work crew to go make some repairs. Concepción's roof is leaking because the metal panels were not overlapped properly and were screwed down too tightly, allowing rain to run under them and into the house. Suyapa's new house that is being constructed of concrete blocks is being built too close to edge of a hill and is being badly eroded. A retaining wall needs to be built soon. I think Don, Chuck and Larry will be busy whenever they get a break in the weather.

I also learned that many of the women who come to church are complaining of the cold. They don't have sweaters or shawls to wrap around themselves. I don't know if they even have a light blanket to throw on their bed on cool nights. This is an easy problem for me to tackle. There are lots of second-hand shops in Coxen Hole where these items can be purchased.
 We love our sunsets here, and they seem extra special when the sun appears briefly at the end of rainy day.