Monday, December 9, 2013

Some Thoughts On Christmas in Roatan

This morning, as I stood out on our deck in the early morning gazing up at the multitude of stars, being overwhelmed by God's greatness and mercy, my thoughts wandered from how very blessed we are to comparing our circumstances with many of those around us.

 Our daughter is coming at the end of the week, and we are busy planning another Christmas party for our 10 sponsored kids...and let me tell you, they are plenty excited! I asked them to bring their Christmas stockings back to me this week and was met with puzzled looks until I explained that Santa just might fill them again, then 10 little faces lit up with joy! They may not sleep all this week!!

As I pondered their excitement and the joy I have in our being able to give them something special this Christmas, I also reflected on the many other children in our church and community who will have nothing this Christmas. Nothing. Sobering thought.

We have had major changes at our church here - loss of leadership, loss of funding. Long story, but the bottom line is this: there is no money for anything. We have 40 families who have been receiving a food bag once a month which will feed their families for one week. There is no more money for that.
In the past couple of years, the church has tried to do something special for them for Christmas - a basket of food beyond the essential beans and rice, maybe a chicken for their Christmas dinner, or a bag of homemade cookies. There is no money for that either, and that makes me profoundly sad.

We have so many people out of work on this island and in our church body. Every single week there is a request from some struggling mom or dad for money to buy food or pay a bill. My heart just breaks for them. A little boy of maybe 8 years came up to me after church yesterday and asked for work!! Imagine. And I had to turn him away. We cannot help everyone. We employ a part-time housekeeper whom I do not need simply to help provide for her family.

So, as I make plans to bring some joy to 10 children and to their families, I fight back the tears for those who will receive nothing.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

November Celebrations

I'm celebrating the fact that we have working internet and phones right now! It has been a struggle to stay connected back home. We were on the verge of giving up on Hughes Net and finding another internet provider when they suddenly improved our service. So, for right now, it's good.

We have had other things to celebrate this month. Our sponsored kids finished their school year and are now enjoying winter vacation until sometime in February. Four of our kids finished 6th grade and in Honduras that has always marked the end of their compulsory attendance and thus merited a graduation ceremony, at least in the public schools. The private schools were free to observe or not and our school chose to do so last year and this year, but this should be the last one. Honduras has raised the compulsory attendance requirement through 9th grade.

Our kids have been excited this entire school term, just waiting for their graduation. Both Karla and Leidy asked Don and I to be their padrino and madrina (godparents). This is a very special honor in Honduras. The godparents escort their graduating person up to receive their diploma, pose for photos and then walk them back to their seats.

                Karla, Jessie and Leidy pose in caps and gowns. Oh, yes. They go all out here!
      We were especially proud of Jessie who was selected highest honor student of her grade.

               Our pastor's wife, Tia, was madrina for Nelson. His mama is looking on proudly.

Our friend and fellow sponsor/tutor/problem resolution expert, Susan was the madrina for Jessie.

We are so proud of these girls, and as you can see from their big smiles, they're pretty pleased, too! After graduation, Leidy's mom, Concepción treated us to a chicken dinner at Bojangles. This, too, was a big honor for us. As many of you know, Concepción, is a very poor single mom raising Leidy (who is actually her grand-daughter). Don was a bit uncomfortable in letting her pay for the meal, but it was important to her to be able to show her gratitude for all we've done for Leidy.

The next day, all the graduates were recognized during worship. Susan and I had baked cakes and Tia had frosted them the day before. After church we served cake and coffee to everyone.

On Monday, we had a private party at Susan and Larry's for our sponsored kids. We served ice cream floats, played games (Uno, Yahtzee and Smack a Mole) and passed out gifts.

They loved their bejeweled journals (Nelson's had no girly stuff for him!) and an assortment of colored ink pens.
                      They were obviously very thrilled with their new Bibles and Bible cases.

And thus ends the 3-day graduation event. But wait! We're not finished yet! Juan (Susan and Larry's sponsored and nearly adopted son) is graduating from 12th grade with his electrical certificate. That is indeed a cause for celebration...and he's turning 20 years old. There will be another party on Friday.

Next year we will have four more kids graduating from the 9th grade. They are already looking forward to that!!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Settling In

We are slowly settling in. It is still very hot here, and we haven't yet acclimated to that. Thankful to have air-conditioning in one bedroom. Actually, with the kitchen/guest quarters closed up and the a/c running, it stays pretty nice. Not cool, except in the bedroom, but certainly makes cooking more pleasant. We're all waiting for rainy season to set in and cool things down. Rumors have it that rain is on the way for the weekend. I hope so. My jungle garden is looking a bit droopy.

We returned on Saturday to a car with a dead battery, or so Dennis told us. The car has just been sitting for 6 months. In past years, we have loaned it to a single mom, but she's moved off island and no one else seemed to want it. Dennis started it once and drove it down and back up the hill, but he couldn't get it started again after that. We were just sure we were housebound until we could get into town on Monday to buy a new battery. But then we both got to thinking about how we have had difficulty with the car starting in the past due to a loose battery cable. What if.......? Don went up to test it and, sure enough, it started right up! Whew.

With the car running, we were able to go the church where we nearly had the stuffing hugged out of us! Our girls were sooooo happy to see us. All "our" kids were glad to see us back. We got plenty of hugs from the adults, too. This was our first Sunday to worship in the new church that was being built when we left in March. It is certainly much larger and cooler with big screened windows on all four sides. The two huge fans kept the air moving so it was not uncomfortable despite the heat of the day.

After church, with the car continuing to start each time we tried, we decided to go ahead and go to Infinity Bay for the afternoon. Sunday was apparently the hottest day so far in October - a good day to be at the beach. We had a nice lunch, great visit with friends, a refreshing swim in the very clear ocean and a stroll on the beach. We had a big enough lunch that we really weren't hungry for dinner, so I didn't have to cook in that heat. We snacked on cheese and crackers and called it good.

We were also pleasantly surprised to find that our Hughes Net internet was on. Of course, we have been paying for it while off island, despite twice requesting that they suspend our service while we were gone (they would then only charge us half as much for the summer!). Nope, they never did. I still expected to have to call them and asked to have it reactivated or something and was happy to find that all was in working order. That meant that I could use my U.S. phone on wifi and call my parents to tell them that we had arrived. Wifi calls on my U.S. phone are free in both directions. My parents love this! They know they can reach me if need be.

Our Honduran phones needed to be reactivated before we could use them which necessitated a trip to French Harbor to the Claro store. That was fine as I also had a dentist appointment in French Harbor, I thought. My appointment had been cancelled because they weren't able to reach me by phone to confirm. Duh. I must make sure I don't repeat that scheduling mistake again.

We took our phones to the Claro store in that same mall as the dentist. I asked if they could put a Honduran sim card in my U.S. Blackberry which was unlocked. Yes, they could. Good that saved us from having to buy another phone to replace the one Don lost in March. I gave Don my old Honduran phone, both phones were activated, along with our emergency internet modem, and minutes were purchased. When we got home with them, we initially thought something was wrong, that they weren't properly registered into the system, but I was able to finally get the minutes loaded onto them and they work just fine.

Monday was supposedly a Honduran holiday and we were told that the banks would be closed, so we didn't even bring our bank book along. The bank was indeed open and lots of people were lined up waiting to get inside. We owed the bus driver money for the month of October for transporting our sponsored kids back and forth to school, but we couldn't pay him until we visited the bank, we thought. Turned out that we had enough money tucked away to be able to pay him.

Made our second trip to the grocery store. Always shocked by grocery prices wherever I go. It takes a lot to restock a kitchen every year. I have to get rid of everything when we leave in the spring because of the intense heat that builds up inside our closed up house. And then I have to replace all those things in the fall. Takes several trips and too much money. And, of course, I have to get used to the grocery stores being out of things, like celery. Actually, they were pretty low on all produce, crackers, limited meat items, no pretzels. One store had no dishwasher detergent. Laundry soaps had really increased in price. Shopping here always requires going to at least two grocery stores to get the things needed, and often a trip back a few days later, still searching for those items.

I just have to remind myself how very blessed we are to be able to afford groceries and the gas to get to the store. So very many people here struggle everyday. Within one day, we were getting approached by people who needed help. There just isn't enough work for all the people who live here. The cruise ships are returning this month (one port closes for summer and fall and the other has fewer ships coming), so that should bring more money into the island and put some people back to work. There still aren't many construction type jobs though, and that's what so many of the "Spanish" (mainland Hondurans) men came here to do.

And that is a capsule of our first five days back on the island.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Return to the Island

We are back on the island after a six month absence, and it sure is good to be home. We had a busy summer back in the States with traveling, visiting family and friends, and helping my parents.  Here are a few photos from our summer:

 We celebrated our birthdays at Lulu's in Gulf Shores, AL with good friends Helen and Roger.

Attended my cousins' reunion in Troy, MO. Some of these cousins had not seen each other in years. Lots of catching up and laughing. We do that well.


We took my mom to Missouri to the cousins' reunion and to visit her family. She had not seen her sister or sister-in-law in several years. My dad's health did not allow him to make the trip, so my sister (from California) came and stayed with him.

  Crazy cousins hiking through the woods looking for a very neglected cemetery. Found it...and the ticks found us!

We managed to pass through Missouri several times during the summer and stayed at our favorite B&B: the Winships. Don loved spending time in the man-cave with Carl while Pat and I yakked.
We were never there long enough - just long enough to visit our doctor or dentist or passing through on the way to somewhere else. We didn't want to wear out our welcome!

Several trips to Wisconsin to visit and to help Dave with his basement project. And of course, to play with Simon!

Spent a fabulous week on the beach in Gulf Shores with our family. Even my dad ventured out for an evening walk on the beach.

We took lots of crazy family photos.  My parents loved having the whole family around for a week, but I know it wore them out.

                                          We had a girls only lunch at Tacky Jacks.

The Greatful Dead Tour...10 days of traveling through Virginia researching our family history. Had so much fun with my cousin and sister. Virginia is a beautiful state; our ancestors live in some breath-taking places. 

Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah Valley
What a view our ancestors had!!

Watched my precious grandson be a ring bearer for his aunt. His daddy had to carry him down the aisle. The flowergirl was also carried down the aisle by her daddy. Weddings during naptime are not a good idea.

Aunt Rachel and I were the official wedding weekend babysitters. Tough job, but someone had to do it! Extra fun to have another visit with Rachel since we never made it to California.

We were happy to have so much time to spend with my parents, helping out with whatever they needed, but a little nervous about leaving them to come back to Roatan. Problem solved: My sister is coming to take the winter shift, helping out our parents. That's a relief for all of us, and a blessing!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Some Last Minute Thoughts

It is hard to believe that half a year can go by so quickly. It's time to return to the States for a few months. We've had such a great time here on Roatan; it has truly become our second home. Here are a few last photos.

We so love watching the sun set from our deck and seeing the cruise ships leave for distant ports.

Carlos has my jungle garden in good shape. I love the riot of color that surrounds our house.

Closing up the house for an extended period is always a big job. Don is putting up the hurricane shutters.
In the meantime, I cleaned out the cabinets and refrigerator of foods that will not keep and delivered gift bags to several friends. We also cleaned out our closet and donated a bag of clothes. I also stopped by Britteny's art studio to pick up a painting  she did for our daughter. That is now safely (I hope!) packed inside our suitcase.
We have our bags packed...not a bad job when you don't have much to take back!

 So, we celebrated our last night here with dinner on the beach at Blue Bahia with good friends, Larry, Susan and Juan. Larry and Susan are also leaving the island for awhile.
Larry and I had the fresh grilled Wahoo. Excellent!!!! If you've never had it and get the chance, try it!

                                             Last sunset for awhile.

Clowning around while watching the sun go down. Thanks to Juan for taking this shot.

                                                        The three amigos.

And now, we're off for some state-side adventures! Adios!!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Saying Goodbye For Now

Every year it gets harder to say goodbye to our friends and church family on Roatan. It's also difficult to say goodbye to our sponsored kids. It is equally as hard for them.

The kids were all on vacation from school this week because it's Semana Santa (Holy Week). Susan and I had decided to skip tutoring, too.  Susan met only with the 8th graders who are working on a big social studies power-point project and needed to use computers. Once we and Larry and Susan leave on Saturday, the kids will not have access to computers outside of school, so they needed to try to finish up their projects this week. I asked some of the kids to come to the classroom anyway to say goodbye and take some pictures.

                                    Leidy, Carlos, Jeicy and Karla - goofing around.

Susan and I laughed at this pose - a year ago, Jeicy would NEVER have posed like this...too shy. She's obviously feeling more confident these days.

                                            Jeicy and Karla, sending some love.

 Some funny shots. Some of us just weren't ready yet and Susan was quick with the shutter!

                                      Oh well, they never all smile at the same time.

                                                                Leidy and I

I got the nicest goodbye gift today. Leidy called me on the phone! Two years ago she spoke NO English and now she can call and chat with me!! So exciting! She called to tell us "goodbye and have a good trip" from her mom, Concepción. Isn't that sweet? I thought so, too. She asked if we would be back before her graduation (6th grade - a big deal here), and I said "yes, we would". Her mom asked if we would be Leidy's madrina (I think that's right), and walk with Leidy when she goes up to get her certificate. Karla has already asked us as well. What an honor!! Love these girls!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mouse 0 - Don 1

Yes, that's right, Don has emerged the victor in the Mouse Wars. He decided to move the glue trap into the bathroom because we have seen him in there a few times. He put it in the corner behind the toilet. The next morning, there was the mouse, stuck tight in the glue and frantically trying to pull free. Don became concerned that he might actually succeed, so he bonked him with a 2x4 which seemed to do the job, but just for good measure, he threw the trap and mouse into a bucket of water. That is determination!

We are just hoping that the mouse didn't bring family or friends into the house with him. So far, we've seen no evidence.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

We're Off To The Beach

The day finally arrived. The kids had been so excited ever since we announced that we would take all 10 of them to the beach in West Bay to celebrate the end of exams. We had six adults and  three vehicles to transport them. We met at the church the afternoon of their last day of exams. Oh, how they love going to West Bay to Infinity Bay! It is such a treat for them. Their families are not able to take them 5 1/2 miles away to swim. They don't have cars, and they don't have extra money for transportation, especially not for leisure.

We pretty much had the beach and water to ourselves! It was a Friday afternoon - no cruise ships were in. The Semana Santa crowds had not yet arrived. It was wonderful!! The kids were able to use the beach chairs (usually rented for a few dollars) for free. I only had to chase away one teenage boy who was buzzing around Julissa like a bee to honey. Whew! Watching 10 kids is a big job. I was so glad to have 6 sets of eyeballs on duty - well, actually 5 sets. Snider was holding down a table for us in the shade and watching all the bags. The rest of the adults took to the water and spread out. Don took the deeper water and was the outer boundary.

Greicy is blowing up the new green air mattress while Susan adjusts one of the masks for Jeicy.
We had four masks, two snorkels and three air mattresses. The kids were under orders to share. That had to be repeated often. Look at that empty beach!!

Our two youngest kids, Jeicy and Carlos, are swimming between Lynne and I. They do much better when they have the masks and snorkels.

Victor begged to bring the blue soccer ball along, and while they didn't play soccer on the beach, they managed to have fun with it in the water, as Victor is demonstrating above.  They threw it, kicked it, floated on it and even remembered to bring it home! Honduras was playing in the soccer tournament and had just beaten Mexico, so the boys were excited.

 The water was crystal clear and the nice little breeze had blown away the sea lice that had been spotted earlier in the week, so no bites!

     Jeicy, enjoying the green mattress, which had a small hole and leaked like crazy.

                             Jessie and Nelson preparing to take their turns on the mats.

                                            Jessie (I think) swimming to Lynne.

It sure was easier to keep track of the kids with so few people around - like when Karla left the water for the beach. She was pouting about something, didn't get the mat of her choice or whatever. Such drama!

I discovered that the sunscreen I applied was way past its expiration date and got a bit red. The kids all wanted to use the sunscreen, too, and they had the newer bottle. A Honduran woman noticed that and commented that they didn't need sunscreen with their nice brown bodies. I should have traded them.

Outsmarted By A Mouse

Our efforts to catch the mouse in our house have been thwarted repeatedly. We set out the D-Con and when he wouldn't touch it, we tucked little bits of cheese in with the pellets. He picked out the cheese, scattered some of the D-Con on the floor and probably didn't eat any of the poison. We tried again, and this time he may have eaten some of the D-Con, but not enough to kill him. Don set out a good-sized trap and baited it with cheese. The next day the cheese was gone and so was the mouse. Don put out a smaller piece of cheese and the mouse made off with it. Don modified the trap to make it super sensitive (he got his finger pinched in the process), but the mouse won again. This mouse is crafty!!

We found some glue traps in the grocery store, and our cleaning lady said those worked very well. Don put a piece of cheese in the middle of this trap and set it near the refrigerator (where we're pretty sure he's hiding). The next morning the trap had been moved over next to the futon, the cheese was gone and all that remained were some little mouse footprints in the glue. Don figures that he was able to use the metal edge of the futon to leverage himself off.  The next day, I suggested that we put some soft bits of Velveeta in the trap, maybe he wouldn't be able to pull them off. Sure enough, he didn't, but the trap had no footprints; he simply ignored it. Don said "well, maybe he doesn't like Velveeta; he wants the good cheese. So we tried that again. Nope. This mouse has it all figured out.

The mouse war continues.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hot to Cold

This has been a week of extremes on Roatan. We began the week with the hottest day of the year thus far, 94 degrees on our deck. We also had a scheduled power outage that afternoon during our tutoring time with the kids. I suggested to Susan that we do our tutoring from the beach, and she thought that was a fine idea, so, after a very brief English lesson in the classroom, we headed to the beach behind the church. The kids had a great time, of course.

The next day was cooler as a storm system moved our way. By Wednesday we had probably our coolest day so far - 61 degrees and very, very windy. Brrrrrr!! The windows were closed, blankets on the bed and socks on the feet. The remainder of the week was very cool, windy, and rainy. Our jungle garden was happy to get the rain. It was raining very hard on Wednesday, so we did not have tutoring.

The girls and Concepción came up to the house on Thursday to finish their purses. Maria and Jessie were ready to finish theirs, too, so they also came to the house. I gave them the option of sitting out on the covered deck or inside. Maria and Jessie chose to work outside and the rest came inside. That made for a lot of running back and forth for me as I helped each one finish the bottoms of their purses and then add the straps.

                                                  Leidy working on the strap.

 Maria and Jessie working out on the deck. That's little Jesslee leaning against her mom. She is about 4 years old. She was very good despite having no toys to play with.  She amused herself by crawling behind and under furniture and 'hiding'. I would pretend to not know where she was and then suddenly 'find' her. Great fun!

                                       A close-up look and Jessie's colorful purse.

                                  Concepción chose to work inside at the kitchen table.

                                    Julissa finished first, followed closely by Maria and Jessie.

They were so proud, and I was proud of them!! Maria and Jessie wanted to make black purses next, so I sent them home with the black yarn. Oscar has already collected 100 tab tops for them, enough to make two more purses.

Only Karla did not finish her purse. She was the only one who did not take their materials home last week, so she fell behind. I sent her home with what she needed to finish.

We worked longer than usual because so many of them were just about finished and didn't want to stop. At 4:15 we wrapped it up and were ready to go when Karla gave me a handwritten list. I asked "what is this?" She said it was homework that they needed for the next day. It was in Spanish. I asked what it said, and she didn't know. I pulled up the Google translator and entered the list. Domestic abuse, child abuse, violence from freedom of expression, etc. I asked "ok, so what do you need?" They needed to find five examples, photos,  of each category on that list,  then to print them out and hand them in the next day. That did not go over well. I asked Karla why she waited until 4:15 to tell me this. She shrugged. I asked Jessie if she also needed this. Yes, and so did Leidy. I called to Don, who was sitting in the other room writing, and enlisted his help. He was also not happy. He thought we would be working on that until 8:00.  We began finding images, saving them to a flashdrive while Don figured out how to print them using as little paper as possible. I also called Susan for moral support. She agreed that the assignment was ridiculous, given that none of the kids have computers or printers at home. She had already talked to their teachers once about this, and said that another visit seemed in order. What will they do when we are all gone for several months? We asked them that. They shrugged. After about an hour of frantic (on my part) work, we had four sets of five pages of photos (Nelson also needed a set) and I was able to drive them back to the colonia. I felt bad for Maria and Concepción who still had to go home and make dinner.