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I had no idea

25 Nov

I had no idea

Where I live, on Roatan, when I open the door to the bedroom there is an ancient termite trail etched into the floor–it’s only a couple of months old, but will be there for evermore. Perhaps scrubbing with a wire brush and a harsh chemical concoction will remove traces of it, but for me, in my minds-eye I will always see it–and that makes me happy–there was a time that I had no idea what a termite trail was, or how it may look.

More than seven years ago I heard the word Roatan, I had no idea what that was, but I was intrigued–why? I don’t know–I just was. Thanks to modern technology, I was able to Google it, which was a challenge in itself since I had no idea how to spell it. When sites started popping up describing an Island, off the coast of Honduras, nestled in the Caribbean Sea–I had found Roatan.

At that time I had a home (in suburbia Ontario, Canada), a loving husband, adult children making their own way, three amazing grandsons, a rewarding career, a two car garage, and a house full of–stuff–what more could I want.

Fast forward a year or so, family and friends had gotten very tired of hearing me talk of this Island I claimed I would be going to live on. My husband gently reminded me, while using a tone suitable for telling a two year old, no matter how hard you wish it–you will never be able to fly. He had no idea why, and tried to keep me grounded, but, he accepted what it meant to me–and encouraged my dream becoming a reality.

A year after that, I lost my beloved husband, his final words to me, “I’ll find a way to get you there.” For the next year I gave no conscious thought to Roatan, or anything for that matter. And then I came back to life and realized Roatan was patiently waiting for me. I quit my job, sold my house and all that stuff, said goodbye to my family and friends, boarded a plane and moved to Roatan.

My first encounter: stepping down a set of stairs that doubled as the door of a prop plane, to be greeted by a wall of humidity beyond anything I had ever experienced before, exiting through the only gate, to an area teeming with taxi drivers vying for my attention, followed by a drive through lush jungle, crowding the only paved road, to a village called West End. Along the way I saw: chickens scratching along the side, stray dogs, entire families on scooters, children walking along the edge of the road (no adults watching over them), land-crabs challenging each and every vehicle, and a man riding a bicycle balancing a propane tank on the handlebars.

My accommodations, at the time, I described as quaint, and now describe as typical. Honduran pine from ceiling to floor, a fan spinning in each room, no glass windows–just screens with wooden slats (that only a few of them will close), tropical print sarongs used as table cloths and wall decorations, a kitchen full of rusty utensils, a can opener that didn’t work, and ants. The bedding smelled musty, air-conditioning cost extra, and the TV worked–but everything was dubbed in Spanish.

I really had no idea why… but I had found… home!

That was almost five years ago. I settled in the community of Sandy Bay, and learned how to battle bats, got used to making the mad dash in the middle of the night to close the wooden slats as a “Nor-Easter” roared in, did the heebee-jeebee dance when a tarantula landed on my head, and marvelled every moment at the hoards of hummingbirds and butterflies greeting me when I sat on the porch.

I eventually found a place to buy coat hangers, and came to know the best place to buy pillows and Nutella was at the hardware store. I sat on a curb (of sorts) handing out melting chocolates to local children while my neighbour and I waited for the guy to take our flat tire, by taxi, to be fixed after we had finished grocery shopping and found the vehicle un-derivable.

Ants, of all sizes and varieties, iguanas, monkey lalas, gecko’s chirping and pooping in my home became my norm, as did mosquitoes, sand fleas, and ticks. I never did get used to and will always check under my pillow when I go to bed–for scorpions!

Power goes out: fill buckets from the soon to be empty pipes, forget about checking Facebook, and go read a book by candlelight.

The ATM’s are empty or broken–no shopping today.

The road is under repair, or there is a marching band blocking the only route–oh well, go hang out on the dock until it passes.

The president has been removed (in his pj’s) all Hondurans cheer, knowing that he was going to set democracy back. Watch in disbelieve as the rest of the world condemns the rightful and just actions of the Honduran Government–Learned that the world media agencies settle for nothing less than sensationalism to broadcast–making it up or abandon the story when there aren’t enough people suffering and dying to boost their ratings.

Felt the full force of a major earthquake (7.3) jarring all inhabitants of Roatan awake in the middle of the night. I watched in horrific fascination as an easel back mirror walked across my loft bedroom, while my few wine glasses smash to the floor in the kitchen below, and I couldn’t walk a straight line to escape my cabana that I was sure would collapse around me.

Spent the day shopping with friends, stepping in deep puddles, finding fresh strawberries at one of the grocery stores–bonus! Only to later wonder if I hadn’t picked through the basket of strawberries perhaps we wouldn’t have been the victims of a head on crash that should have killed us all. Time to put the medical care of Roatan through the paces; broken bones, concussions, black eyes (that would do any boxer proud) torn ligaments, whiplash, and a host of other injuries, all treated with compassion, dedication, and a strong medical knowledge–even when there was no running water in the Emergency Dept. and you had to bring your own sheets to the hospital.

Buy oranges from a street vendor, the ugliest looking fruit I’ve ever seen, cut into one and try a taste… as the perfect orange flavour bursts in my mouth, I now know what an orange should taste like, it may not be pretty, but it is real. Mangoes, bananas, sweet peppers, and carrots, from the fruit and veggie truck, rice & beans with most meals, seafood, fish, chicken, Honduran beef and pork, and coconut milk.

I had no idea that I would learn how to slow down, and enjoy each moment for what it was exactly at that moment. Standing in line for hours to complete the simplest of tasks… oh well… bring a book to read while waiting, or better yet chat with friends also waiting their turn. Have a plan to get things done in the afternoon but abandon that when the call goes out to meet friends at the beach instead.

I had no idea how many lifelong friends I would make on Roatan; we became family. Together we celebrated special occasions and the simple art of getting together–just because. Speed dial on every cell-phone guaranteed no matter what’s needed the entire community would answer the call.

I got involved with various projects and programs: Public Hospital Benefit Concert, Miss Peggy’s, Familia Saludabas, The Roatan Daycare, The French Harbour Public Library, and most recently The Roatan Vortex Breakfast Program; and learned what really matters in life–I had no idea, but quickly discovered they gave me far more than I could ever give them.

On Roatan time stands still, while things change so fast. Five years ago the Roatan Vortex© pulled me in, I had no idea what laid ahead for me, and I thank the Universe every day for the gifts bestowed on me. I discovered a passion for writing, and sharing on Roatan Radio. And the time has come for me to take those passions to a whole new level, I’ve known that for some time now, but have been afraid to move forward and act on it. Then I went to Spain… and while there I found my “Castle in the Air”, nudging me to return home. How could I leave Roatan? How could I consider moving backwards instead of forging forward?

Sitting on the balcony of my hotel room in Malaga Spain, unsure what to do, a book that I had been meaning to read for some time fell out of my suitcase when I reached in for a sweater to ward off the cooling evening. I started to read “The Alchemist” the tale of a young man who embarks on a journey, in a quest to fulfill his destiny. He travels far from home, a specific location etched in his mind where his treasure will be found. Along the route he gathers experiences, makes lifelong friends, assists those he can, and learns from those who know more than he. Only to discover–being willing to take the journey–was the treasure!

I’m not going backwards returning to Ontario. I take great pride in the journey I took to Roatan; all that I’ve learned, all the strength in myself that I could have only found here, the lifelong friends I have made, and knowing that if I choose to come here again I will be welcomed with open arms.

The time has come for me to wind down Roatan Vortex©. Just like so many things that came my way as a direct result of moving to Roatan, I have loved sharing the Roatan I have come to know and love with everyone. But I have put off concentrating on writing memoirs and novels in order to keep up with Roatan Vortex©.

The day I arrived on Roatan almost five years ago I knew no one, DJ Genevieve and Roatan Vortex© were unimaginable dreams. Now, they are a part of my reality, known by many, more than three hundred thousand people have visited the Roatan Vortex© website, and read my stories about life on Roatan at Honduras Weekly, Trip Atlas, The Latin America Travel Blogger E-Book, Hecktic Travels, Tiny Buddha, and others. Even Fodor is including a couple of roatanvortex© quotes in their 2011 Honduras & Bay Islands Gold Guide!

Thursday, December 1, is my going away party, The Roatan Vortex Reversal Party, at Infinity Bay Resort, hosted by Roatan Radio, all are welcome, even Vladislav is stopping by to see me off.

 
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I’m happy, I’m at peace, and feel confident and strong about my decisions. Will there be hurdles, of course! Will I be freezing cold and my feet hurt squishing them in shoes & boots… oh yeah! Will I miss Roatan and everything it has meant to me–with all my heart–but I also know, I’ll be bringing the most important aspects of Roatan with me to Canada.

Listen in here to the final Roatan Vortex Hour Show broadcast live November 12, 2011 on 101.1 FM Roatan Radio.

This story can also be read at Honduras Weekly; retitled, I found Roatan

Spanish Moss and Alligators

14 Oct

I just got back from a whirlwind visit to Brunswick, Georgia (and surrounding area) and Copan Ruinas, Honduras.

My agenda for each location couldn’t have been more different–Georgia was to visit friends I had met on Roatan, and Copan Ruinas to attend the 12th annual Conference on Honduras.

I have a lot to share about both, so to keep it simple, and stay within an acceptable length, I’ll tell you all about the Conference on Honduras in my next posting, this one’s all about Georgia–with a Roatan Vortex spin on things–of course!

I met Tiffany, David, Cortney, and Lizzie, when they came to Roatan for the first time a few months ago. They were sooo Roatan–go with flow, laid back kinda folks–didn’t even flinch at how many mosquitoes there were, or the always sweating, humid conditions typical to Roatan. I now know why, the mosquitoes in Georgia are as plentiful, and each one big enough to carry away a small child. And although it cooled down in the evenings, most days were almost as warm and humid as on Roatan.

When they offered for me to go visit them in Georgia, I jumped at the chance to experience their world. Now, I didn’t know for sure they meant it; it’s not uncommon to invite someone (you hardly know) to your house, fully expecting they won’t take you up on the offer; especially when they live many hundreds of miles away from you. Noooo… I knew they meant it.

So I went to Georgia. I had been there a couple of times before, at the airport in Atlanta; waiting for a connecting flight, or the one night I had to stay at an airport hotel because I missed a connection. I don’t think those times really count! Here was my opportunity to see more, and clarify my geography misconceptions. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that prior to this trip, I had no idea that Georgia was on the US east coast… really! I thought it was landlocked on all sides. I can say almost embarrassed, because a few of my friends thought the same thing.

Before my first visit to Roatan I had no clue where it was either, and even when I found out it was an Island off the coast of Honduras… I still wasn’t sure where it was.

My first full day at their house (which is really cool by the way) in Brunswick, we went to “Coastfest” talk about a crash course in learning about the nature of Coastal Georgia: Turtles, Horseshoe Crabs, the Intercoastal Waterway, salt marshes, and more. My vision of Georgia (in general) had been taken from stereotypical… I’m almost embarrassed again… movies. I mean really, isn’t Georgia all about: Gone with the Wind, Forrest Gump, Deliverance… oh my, My Cousin Vinny, or one of my favourites; Fried Green Tomatoes. While these movies give tidbits of information, they really must be taken for what they are–tidbits nothing more.

Sure, there was the stereotypical Spanish moss hanging on everything, and yup–I saw me some alligators–and they weren’t in a zoo. But there was so much more to Georgia than any movie could have expressed.

If you’re planning a visit to Roatan, you may think you have a good idea of what it will be like here. You’ve seen the pictures of the azure Caribbean Sea (like in the magazines, it really is that beautiful) the underwater shots of the coral and sea creatures, the white sand beaches, and so much more. You’ve read the posting on blogs, and followed stories on the news; but only when you visit will you meet and appreciate the real Roatan–as I’ve come to appreciate the real Georgia.

My friend Tiffany gave me a souvenir to bring back to Roatan. Two things make it extra special–it was handmade by her, and it is both practical and functional on the Island–I use it every day!

Redneck Water Bottle Koozie! Take two standard size drinking glass koozies (preferably ones that have something you like written on them), turn both inside out, fold down the rim of the top one (to display text), cut the bottom off of that one, and then attach it to the bottom one with DUCT TAPE! Gotta love it!

Visit Roatan Vortex on Facebook to see many more pics, and be sure to listen in to The Roatan Vortex Hour, Saturday October 15, on 101.1 FM Roatan Radio.com for the inside scoop on how easy it was to get from one place to the next and back to Roatan again!

 
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The State of Chihuahua

7 Sep

Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, Isabella considered, as she slid under one row of seats, across the aisle, then under the row of seats on the other side. Her tiny body smacking into the wall, only to have the whole process repeat in the reverse direction, while the relentless waves played volleyball with the Ferry she had stowed away on. She pressed herself as flat as a lumpy pancake, and struggled to dig her toenails into the metal-clad floor. Cringing from the impending impact, and the high pitched sound of her nails grazing across the slick surface, she lowered her head, hopeful her perky ears wouldn’t be permanently bent.

At least she wasn’t cold anymore; after all, that was why she was moving to the Island. Even as a puppy, wearing the sweater her mother knit for her, snuggling under the blanket, in the basket with her brothers and sisters, she still couldn’t keep from shivering. Being warm, made the nauseating, body bruising ride, to get to the Island worthwhile, well not really, she’d just come and go by airplane from now on.

Even after the Ferry had docked, her insides continued to churn for a few moments; she hesitated to relinquish her false sense of grip. A few deep breaths, a glance at her reflection in the shiny metal floor, relieved to see her ears were not folded in half; she stood up, scurried past the humans, anxious to be on firm ground, and to see her new home—Roatan.

No one was waiting to greet her, no one was expecting her to arrive; actually no one knew she existed. That was okay, she was sure she’d make friends. Maybe not with that land-crab coming towards her, he was at least twice her size, must have been on the Ferry too, the way he walked sideways, and kept opening and closing his big claw like he had no control of its movement. Oh, how about that lizard? No! He’s running along on two legs, when he has four he could be using—what’s up with that? She didn’t notice the green-grey moss covered troll, lurking in the jungle, its huge frame, blocking the dabbling sun peeking through the foliage, the delicate new growth shrivelling from the intense frost left in its wake. The troll had found his next victim of doubt, and would follow her every move—bidding time.

Entering West End (this is a fairytale; Chihuahuas can make it to West End from the Ferry dock in a matter of moments) Isabella peered around the two taxis facing each other, neither one willing to back up, so they could both proceed, transfixed by the deep craters etched in the sand road, she snugged the straps of her backpack, and scrambled down the steep embankment of the first hole, then ran as fast as her petite legs would carry her up the other side. That wasn’t so bad, she thought, only slightly out of breath. But, by the fifth sand trench, she struggled to reach the crest, panting, her tiny toes cramping, glancing ahead; disappointed to see she had travelled less than half a block.

Harvey—the gnome (told you this was a fairytale) straightened his two foot frame to admire his latest excavation. He was pleased with his progress now that those silly humans had stopped filling in his hard work. They never bothered the land-crabs pitiful attempt at mining; finally they’d smartened up and were letting the master show them how open-pit mines should be developed. Initially, he had been furious when kidnapped by the Travelling Gnome Gang, the first few places they shipped him to weren’t to his liking, nice places to visit—but, not as nice as his home in Nome. The gold mining had been spectacular in Alaska, but it was dang cold. After being flown to Roatan, even the week spent in the, “your-luggage-isn’t lost-its-just-not-here” room at the airport, hadn’t bother him so much, now he preferred the year round, balmy climate on Roatan. Besides, Harvey felt he was supposed to be here—he had no idea why—what the heck—why fight it.

No time to dilly-dally, he reminded himself, and slid back into the pit, dodging the Fairies (disguised as Hummingbirds), zipping around his head, trying to convince him to: take a break, gaze at the Caribbean Sea, perhaps a nap in a hammock. Roatan may foster a laid-back attitude, but Harvey had brought his self-imposed, work-until-you-drop ethic, with him from North America, and wasn’t about to relinquish it. Unearthing another Yaba Ding Ding (pre-Columbian artefact) he stuffed it in his pocket, to later add to his cache, ready to be sold. He knew he should hand them over as “National Treasures” to be enjoyed by all, but making some cash overpowered all inclinations of what he should do.

When loose sand and gravel started pouring in the hole, fearing a cave-in, Harvey crouched forward, as Isabella tumbled into the pit, landing with a thud in front of him. What the heck is this, he thought, brushing debris from his knees, peering at the creature with the perky ears and a pink backpack askew on her shoulders? Oh, she’s in rough shape, he considered, obviously needs a drink of water, probably hungry too—dang newbie! What’s she doing wandering around my mine? He tugged at her backpack until she was standing on her four feet, went to his rusty lunchbox, pulled out the water-bottle, poured tepid water in the cap, and set it in front of her. While she greedily lapped at the water, he un-wrapped the baleada he was saving for his lunch, and broke off a few pieces for her. She gobbled those down, and couldn’t prevent the belch that escaped her tiny frame as soon as she finished eating.

A dark cloud passed over the open hole, cast by the green-grey moss covered troll, blocking the blazing mid-day sun. Not yet acclimatized to the intense heat, Isabella followed the cloud cover, and attempted to stay under the no panting relief it brought. Just like home, she sighed. Harvey grabbed her, pulling her back into the warmth. If you’re gonna make it here kid, he thought, you better get yourself use to it, and not be drawn to what you use to know—it ain’t right for you anymore!

Isabella bared her tiny sharp teeth, and snapped at Harvey! How dare he tell her what she should do? She’d been figuring things out for herself as far back as she could remember. Nobody, not even a helpful, gave her food and drink gnome, was going to dictate what she should do! Isabella scrambled out of the pit, chasing the deceptive, cooling mist. Harvey watched her go, shaking his head, knowing that eventually she’d figure it out for herself, and if she didn’t, well, she’d just go back to the State of Chihuahua, like so many before her. Oh dang! Harvey summoned the Fairies to follow her. This one belongs here, he indicated; help her—without her knowing that is what you are doing.

Isabella ran as fast as her little legs would carry her. “Wait for me!” she cried to the green-grey troll. He sneered; this was way too easy, slowing his pace, letting her catch up. She dove under the cover of shade the moss provided, letting the familiar sensation of cool envelop her. When she began to shiver, and tried to pull away, it was too late, the bone chilling cold was impeding her ability to move, within a matter of moments she was frozen to the spot, her pink backpack cracking under the strain of ice coating the surface.

“Stay away!” the green-grey troll bellowed, thrashing his arms, swatting at the swarm of hummingbirds rushing toward Isabella. Their swift moving wings and glistening jewel-like feathers breaking up his thick cloud cover, allowing the sun’s rays to peek through. When the ice slick on Isabella’s backpack transformed to water droplets, and started to trickle down the straps, the green-grey troll conceded defeat, swirled his moss covered cloak around himself, and drifted away toward the Ferry Dock—seeking his next victim—so many wannabe’s, so little time. Actually, maybe it was a good day to check out the airport.

As the warmth seeped back into her body and soul, Isabella twitched her perky ears, then one by one, her tiny legs, and finally her entire self was free from the restrains of what once had been her comfort zone. Smiling sheepishly at her friend Harvey, she did a little Chihuahua twirl when he grinned back, and waved her on. She’d be okay now. No longer afraid to explore: the unknown, the unfamiliar, the unexpected—the wonder of life on Roatan.

***

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, dogs, gnomes, trolls, or fairies, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

This story can also be read at Honduras Weekly

Sundae by the Sea

23 Aug

Sunday, August 21, Clinica Esperanza held the 5th annual “Sundae by the Sea” fundraiser.

“Clinica Esperanza’s mission has been the same since Miss Peggy started treating patients from her kitchen table in Sandy Bay 11 years ago: to offer the highest quality health care to everyone on the island, with no patient refused for lack of funds.”

For the large crowd in attendance, the afternoon included performances by Steel Pan Alley, and Bobby Rieman; a delicious island BBQ catered by Island Saloon; all served up under the palapa, next to the Caribbean Sea at Gumbalimba Park.

Tables lined the one side offering an opportunity to participate in a silent auction, a large selection of items; dinners, canopy tours, handmade jewellery, books, services, and more; generously donated by local businesses. A live auction had guests bidding on luxury week long stays at resorts, catered dinners, artwork, even a boat and motor were up for grabs.

Roatan Radio’s Captain Morgan in the Morning was on-sight sending live feeds to the 101.1 FM station in West End, ensuring that even those who couldn’t attend, no matter where in the world they were, could participate in the live auction, as DJ Calico Jack relayed the phone bids, and was the first to share the exciting news…

Just a month ago, Miss Peggy had to make an extremely difficult decision, and announced that Clinica Esperanza was closing immediately due to a year long delay attempting to secure the necessary licensing for the maternity & paediatrics expansion. It was suggested that the fifth annual Sundae by the Sea should be cancelled—no clinic—no need for a fundraising event—right? Wrong!

When word of the much needed and respected clinic closing reached the community (locally and internationally) efforts were launched to ensure Miss Peggy and her dedicated team could carry on. And it was with great pleasure at this year’s Sundae by the Sea; we witnessed Miss Peggy being presented with the licence!

This story can also be read at Honduras Weekly, retitled Miss Peggy gets her license

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

2 Aug

I’ve had my fair share the past few weeks, having just returned to Roatan from Ontario, Canada.

While these are typical modes of transportation; the distinct differences and unique qualities between the two areas are notable.

Planes
Obviously, since Roatan is an island surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, flying was my best option for getting to Canada in a timely fashion. A friend got me to the airport early enough so I could stand in line with fellow travellers—for an extended period of time. It’s kind of like a game of Poker; will the line move quickly (didn’t have to show up at the airport three hours ahead of my flight) or, if I bluff, will it get down to the wire and risk losing the jackpot of jetting away.

For the most part—call me weird, I don’t mind hanging out at the Roatan Airport—admit it, you’re thinking—she’s weird.

The Roatan Airport is small by most standards; one arrival gate, one exit gate. Well, there are two exit gates, but they are right beside each other, and which one you go to is based on where the most people are lining up. Once you complete your check-in, you have to go to the bank line to pay your exit tax. However, keep in mind that the day you are flying they may have changed the rules and you can pay your exit tax (have the person behind or in front of you in the check in line, shuffle your luggage along, so you don’t loss your spot) while you wait to check in.

Confused yet? Just wing it—haha!

Anyhow, I was saying, I like to hang out at the Roatan Airport. Thing is, Roatan is small town living; chances are I’ll meet many friends there. Some are picking up family, friends, and guests to their resorts; while others are sending off the same. Then there is the time of year (mid-November until after Easter) when Sunwing Charters arrive from Toronto and Montreal. That’s when you will find me at the Roatan Airport saying; Welcome to Roatan! to all my fellow Canadians coming for a visit. Just call me the Walmart Greeter of Roatan!

I’ve shared what it is like when you fly to Roatan and the unique qualities of navigating through immigration and customs; when my dad came for a visit a few months ago, so I’ll let you peruse that story rather than repeat myself.

When you are leaving Roatan, there are some features you should know about. Once you are in the “secure” area (you’ve gone through the metal detector and haven’t set off any alarms) you will find: a souvenir shop, and a lunch counter, but, no Duty Free shop. At this time you might assume that you are done with “security” checks, ah… no. When you line up to exit to the waiting plane, you will once again pass through a “security” check—uhuh! Any and all liquids; bottles of water, sodas, etc. that you purchased will be confiscated, and that half tube of toothpaste that got through the first “security” check will be removed as well—or maybe that was just me.

Trains
No, there are no trains on Roatan, but, there will soon be one that will take you on a tour of the glorious flora and fauna on the Island. Roatan Radio’s own DJ and gardening guru, Helen Murphy, is working on that as you read this.

In Canada, trains have a long history, you could even say, our very existence and evolution was based on them. In recent years (sad to say) rails are being removed and replaced with more highways—I don’t get it. That aside, in my hometown of Waterloo, Ontario (where the Blackberry was born—I know, pretty impressive—eh!) there are still some rails intact, and you can often hear the distinct whistle as one passes through. On one particular evening, my mom and I were enjoying dinner on a restaurant patio, when a train approached (the rail line runs right beside the restaurant.) The train engineer was ready—he blasted the whistle when only a few feet from us. Yah, he got the reaction he was looking for; we all jumped in our seats—I think my poorly timed sip of wine came out my nose. Then he had a water gun ready and shot our waitress in the butt, as she was clearing a table—good clean fun! We could see, and hear him laughing as he guided the train on past!

Automobiles
One of the things I was most looking forward to when visiting Canada was driving fast—I admit it, on the long, straight, stretches of highway. A million years ago in a former life, I drove those highways every day to and from work, it wasn’t uncommon to drive to the office, thirty minutes from my home (on a good day), then from the office, head out to see a customer in another city three hours (on a good day) from there. I got pretty tired of doing that, but, hey, it was part of my job.

Whereas here on Roatan, the entire island is only thirty-five miles long.

Even with keeping in mind; the twists, turns, ups & downs; I’m certainly not doing a three hour commute—and I’m sure as heck not driving fast.

I arrived to the Toronto Airport, and made my way to the rental car area. I had reserved a basic economy car for my two week stay in Ontario, well I got upgraded at no extra charge, and with keys in hand, I headed out to claim the brand new, candy apple red, Ford Focus—I know, doesn’t sound too impressive, but, oh my, they’ve come a long way (according to a friend, these are being raced at the track.) And the most bizarre feature is that I was driving a car that thought it was a computer—really! Not one, but two, touch screen computers booted up when I turned the key in the ignition—oh, oh, where are my reading glasses! Anxious to hit the road, I wasted more than a half hour trying to figure the thing out. Finally, I’m on my way; exit the garage, head for the open road—not! First I have to remember which ramp to take to get to the highway I need to travel, but the choices are extensive—and, damn—now I need my glasses for distance so I can read all the signs!

I made it! I’m now on Highway 401 WEST. Ah, this is what I was looking forward to (it’s Sunday so traffic isn’t too heavy) cruising along a straight stretch of highway; knowing where I am and where I’m going, so I can set aside my two pairs of glasses, and slip on my sunglasses. Three lanes wide in both directions (not including the various exit and entrance ramps) I pass other drivers, and some pass me, I’m listening to music, sipping my half decaf, just milk, Timmy’s (Tim Horton’s coffee, for those of you that aren’t familiar with this Canadian staple.) With at least, an hour of driving ahead of me, I settle in… But, wait, this isn’t as much fun as I thought it would be… it’s pretty boring actually, and I think my backside and legs are going to sleep.

What’s wrong with me? I was looking forward to this moment!

I glanced out the driver’s side window as a fellow roadster passes me in the fast lane—I smile, I wave—my reward—a blank stare, and a quick jerk of their head to face forward again—pretending a stranger didn’t say hello.

That’s what’s wrong—on Roatan driving isn’t just a means to get from point A to point B. It’s like hanging out at the airport; a place to say hi to friends—old and new. Or even to do a little shopping when the fruit & veggie truck is parked next to where you are driving—just lean out the window and buy some oranges, pineapple, perhaps some carrots or a cabbage. Low on phone minutes? No worries, the phone card guy will probably stroll by and you can buy some.

You’ve got time (haha)—you’re probably stuck behind two taxis, facing each other blocking the road–in a standoff, anyway!

This story can also be read at Honduras Weekly.

The Junk Drawer

10 Jun

You know—that drawer!

Usually in the kitchen, it’s the catch-all for stuff. It starts out harmless enough, everyone has those things that you want close at hand but don’t want to leave them out cluttering the counter, or chancing them being moved and not at your fingertips when you need them.

For my household it has always included: the scotch-tape (I know that’s a brand name, but if I kept Jello packets in that drawer… I’d call it Jello even if it wasn’t the Jello brand.), kitchen garbage bags, scrap paper, a pen or two, maybe a flashlight, batteries, and matches.

Even on Roatan where stuff isn’t as important to me anymore, I do have a Junk Drawer, and somehow it has managed to get stuffed full of stuff! And now that I have sold the cabana and will be moving on to a new slice of Paradise on the Island (not leaving Roatan) it’s time for me to clean out the Junk Drawer.

So how the heck did this happen? I mean really… what is half this stuff? And why did I keep it?

I’ve got Canadian Tire money for gosh sakes! Probably thought if I hung on to it long enough a Canadian Tire would open on the Island… hahahaha! The plug doesn’t fit any of my drains, the push lights don’t work anymore, and the stack of business cards are useless cause everybody changed their phone numbers. The wine bottle corks??? No idea what I planned on doing with those, besides I’m a boxed wine connoisseur now.

So this is it—time to get rid of some junk!

Oh my, did I mention it’s kind of warm today, and well, friends just posted on Facebook that their heading to the beach… maybe a full Junk Drawer isn’t such a bad thing… I’ll take care of it mañana!

That is, of course, after the Roatan Vortex Hour on 101.1 FM Roatan Radio.com starting at 10 AM (Roatan Time.) Be sure to listen in for tips on making the move to Roatan… you know you wanna!

Sand (Road) Hockey on Roatan

23 May

Sand (Road) Hockey on Roatan


So I moved to a tropical island and a hockey game broke out! As the temperature hovered close to 90 F with nary a cloud in the sky and the humidity around one hundred percent, the spectators filed in, some had paid extra for box seats, and/or to watch on the big screens at the bar… not! The team members donned their uniforms and took to the… sand!

The ice… I mean, sand had been diligently prepared by dedicated volunteers for the first annual hockey tournament on Roatan; boards in place, the surface raked and watered down to cut the dust, state of the art goals (nets) assembled, and one red traffic cone at each end of the rink to discourage vehicles, pedestrians, and scooters from coming through, which helped somewhat, but there were game interruptions when somebody would yell… CAR!

The penalty box (also known as the public washroom) was only called into use once during the entire tournament; I don’t think there was anybody who wanted to be a referee. Of the six teams that played, one team consisted of female hockey players (the Lil Puckers), and although they didn’t win the cup, they sure gave the guys a run for their money, and had the best, original uniforms too.

Speaking of cups… one incident did indicate that the guy’s uniforms (or lack thereof) should have included some form of protection, other than that though, pleasantly surprised there were no serious injuries to players or spectators. The slap shot from John C that bounced off my head while I was taking pictures doesn’t count since I was stupid enough to get to close for the perfect shot… literally. And the players, well, they were looking a little scraped up, noticed a few duct tape bandages by the end of the day, and the majority of them were moving a little slower as the tourney wound down.

All the great action of sand road hockey aside, the highlight of the day’s events was when the Zamboni (Sandboni) took to the ice, I mean, sand… you know what I mean.

But just like the players taking a dip in the Caribbean Sea between games, there wasn’t much typical about Hockey on Roatan, other than it brought together good friends, to have great fun… and that’s definitely typical of Roatan!

Congratulations to the winning team: The Cocolobo’s

Lots of pictures of all the action can be seen here: Sand (Road) Hockey Tourney
Proceeds from the Tournament went to SOL Foundation—Developing Nations, one child at a time.

Special thanks to Bonnie and Ron, Lisa and Stu, sponsors: Cocolobo, Sundowner’s, and 101.1 FM Roatan Radio.com. Hockey sticks and replacement blades donated by: Toni, John, and Mary Mollica, Donna and Ed Cotnam; which were shipped to Roatan courtesy of Sunwing Charters, and thanks to Larry Avery (please confirm I got your name right) for donating road hockey ball for the tourney, poster design courtesy of PhunkiMonkey Designs.

The next Sand (Road) Hockey Tournament will be July 1st, Canada day, in front of Sundowner’s, West End, Roatan… you’re not going to want to miss it!

More teams, sponsors, equipment (specifically more hockey sticks and Gatorade drink mix powder) and prize donations, and spectators welcome!!!

Tour Guide and Tourist

5 May

My dad came for his first visit to Roatan.

Prior to his arrival he took advantage of my years of living on the Island to enquire what his best flight option was to get here from North Battleford, Saskatchewan.

With complete confidence I explained his possible routes and airline choices. The ease I felt in rattling off the details reminded me of the difference from my first few trips to Roatan when I didn’t have a clue how to get here (and neither did the travel agents I had contacted.)

The night before his scheduled arrival I got another question from him regarding (sorry dad, hope you don’t mind me sharing this stuff): what should he write on the Immigration Form as to where he would be staying on Roatan? Oh yah, I hadn’t told him my address. Not because I didn’t want him to know it (or anything like that) I didn’t tell him because we don’t do addresses on Roatan. “Just write down Sandy Bay,” I assured him that would be sufficient. While we were on the topic of arriving to Roatan, I let him know that he would also be given a Customs Form, which he could choose to fill out or not… since nobody would ask him for it, but his luggage would have to go through an x-ray machine. And no worries about finding each other at the airport… there is only one arrival gate.

Again, I couldn’t help but think back to when I first started coming to Roatan. I was convinced alarms would sound if I left the luggage area still clutching the Customs Form I had so painstakingly filled out on the plane. I was confused why my suitcases that had already cleared security in Houston were being x-rayed on Roatan, and I was terrified that the scheduled to pick me up person wouldn’t be waiting for me at the correct gate when I arrived.

Oh my, how things change when you do them enough times. I’ve flown to and from Roatan so many times now that I even felt qualified to write a story about what to do when your luggage doesn’t arrive with you.

I left home twenty minutes before my dad’s plane was due to land, traveled a familiar road (there is only one), greeted the parking attendant, and parked in the lot facing the Airport. When I went inside I didn’t bother stopping at the coffee shop… coffee machine’s been broken for a while now. I nodded and waved at familiar faces, I said goodbye to recent visitors I had met who were now standing at the check-in preparing to depart on the plane my dad was coming in on. I made my way to the arrival area, again waving and nodding at people I know, and took my place next to the others expecting a visitor or two. We chatted about how business was at their restaurant, did I know that the grocery store had fresh strawberries this week and how booked up all the resorts were for Semana Santa (Holy (Easter) Week.)

I glanced at the arrival board overhead, scrolling flight details. I didn’t pay much attention to it though… even if a flight is delayed nobody updates the stats. Dad did arrive on schedule, and so did his luggage, he crumpled up the Customs Form and tossed it in a nearby garbage can on the way to the car. While driving to my place I was the Tour Guide pointing out the highlights of the interesting features of Roatan between the airport and Sandy Bay. We chatted about all the places I would take him: the beaches, restaurants, resorts, the attractions and events we would attend. He promised to follow the 10 Tips to Not Get Treated like a Tourist but did admit he had considered wearing shorts with white knee socks and dress shoes when he arrived to tease me. Very funny dad!

I showed him which room would be his for the next two weeks, and while he unpacked I told him which beach bar we would be heading to so he could watch the final round of the Masters Golf Tourney. On the way to West Bay Beach, I couldn’t help but notice him clutching the OMG handle as I wove around sudden stopping taxis, chickens crossing the road (haha), on coming vehicles in our lane on most curves, and around the barrier set up at the top of one of the ridges to keep drivers and passengers from free falling where the road had been washed away by the big rain storm six weeks previous. (Dad stopped reaching for the OMG handle after a couple of days when he realized this was how all our road trips were going to be.)

For the duration of his visit, I introduced him to many friends, suggested where we should dine each day, and what attraction was next on our agenda. And while I was the Tour Guide, the coolest thing was I also got to be a Tourist! You know how it is… once you’ve lived somewhere for a while (even if it is a Tropical Island nestled in the Caribbean Sea) you don’t see it the way you did when you first visited—enthralled by all that unfolded in front of you.

For two weeks I got to enjoy Roatan with my dad as he did, marvelling in all it has to offer while at the same time being the Tour Guide sharing the inside scoop on Roatan.

For a review of some of the places we dined, and what we saw and did, be sure to visit: Roatan Vortex Forum – Tour Guide and Tourist.

Roatan Marine Park Bash aka Don’t Step on Puppies

15 Apr

Last Saturday (April 9) was the Marine Park Bash at Bananarama on West Bay Beach; an annual fundraiser to assist the Roatan Marine Park with promoting awareness, preservation, and protection of the aquatic wonders of Roatan. A great time was had by all, and in-turn we were able to contribute in some fashion to their efforts.

Last year I wrote and posted a story about the Marine Park on Roatan Vortex. My theme (you know how much I love the word theme) was Please Don’t Walk on the Coral. At the time I was looking to do my part to help visitors who, like me, had limited understanding of the importance of not stepping on coral. I mean—really—come on—it’s just a bunch of pretty rocks under the water… right?

I had a lot to learn!

Through the Roatan Vortex, on Facebook, Roatan Radio, and best of all—in person I get to meet a lot of visitors to Roatan. Many know they shouldn’t step on coral, but, many really don’t know. There are a few signs posted at the beaches that simply say, Please don’t step on the Coral but without knowing why it matters, these signs quite often go un-noticed.

Now I could attach a bunch of links explaining the reasons to not step on the coral, I could copy and paste pages of documentation outlining the importance of not stepping on the coral… but let’s face it Roatan is about enjoying a get away from the hustle and bustle of day to day life, getting away from the cold and snow, and basking in the glories of an Island surrounded by the second largest coral reef in the world (okay so just one link) nestled in the Caribbean Sea.

So instead, I offer you this:

Fine Print: Mona (my dog) was not harmed in the making of this poster; she quite enjoyed the belly rub. Oh, and Pat didn’t get hurt either, he got a couple of dog biscuits as a reward for a job well done after the photo shoot!
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One more thing: In case you missed last Saturday’s live show on 101.1 FM Roatanradio.com, listen in to Smile–It Confuses People right here!

 
icon for podpress  Smile--It Confuses People: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Tomorrow (Saturday, April 16) the Roatan Vortex Radio Show theme will be – An Insider’s Guide for Moving to Roatan

Hockey Night in Canada on Roatan

17 Mar

Hockey Night in Canada on Roatan

Yup, you read the title correctly—today’s insider view of day to day life on the Island of Roatan, nestled in the Caribbean Sea, is about NHL ice hockey!

When I was growing up in Ontario, Canada, hockey was the sport of choice. From a young age most EVERYONE watched and/or played hockey. Backyards would be flooded, and then left to freeze over, in anticipation of lacing up the skates to get out there and play. Arenas: with one and sometimes two, ice rinks could be found in every community. Even when a suitable surface to wear skates wasn’t available, it was typical to see two hockey nets (goals) set up on the road in neighbourhoods—game on! Mind you, it would get regularly interrupted when someone yelled; “CAR!” and the nets had to be moved aside so a vehicle could pass.

I never played hockey, couldn’t skate worth a darn—but I was always an eager spectator. I got to see my first NHL (pre-season game) at the Kitchener Auditorium when I was only 8 or 9 and my first NHL (regular-season game) at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto when I was 12. I was hooked on hockey! And yes—a Toronto Maple Leafs fan—stop snickering please!

For many years, I rarely missed a game. I didn’t get to see live ones too often, but still enjoyed watching them from home.

There was a period of time when I didn’t watch hockey very much anymore (kids at home, career, etc.) and I did lose track. Then I moved to Roatan, and well, I didn’t give hockey much of a thought; tropical island: white sand beaches, swaying palm trees and all that—if my yard gets flooded it sure as heck isn’t going to freeze over! And yet, I’m glad to let you know—NHL hockey is here! So was the Canada Wins Gold Olympic Hockey Game!

Just head over to Sundowner’s, West End, Roatan, Honduras to watch a game. Order a beverage (and perhaps a burger or wrap) at the bar, then make your way to the semi-big screen TV under the palm tree, kick off your flip-flops and settle in to watch a game with fellow hockey fans. It can be a tad distracting at times though… when from behind the TV—a cruise ship can be seen sailing by on its way to its next port of call! Oh, and if you’re not a Leafs fan, best to keep that to yourself—the Box Seat holder’s might “Hab” you, and you’ll be delegated to move the “standing room only” area!

In Canada, when hockey season is over it’s time for golf. The only difference on Roatan… you can go golfing the same day you watch a NHL hockey game! No waiting for the ice to melt!

FYI: Some of the Box Seat holders here on Roatan are organizing a Road Hockey Tournament to raise funds for kid in need, to teach those who are unfamiliar with the fine art of hockey, and to just plain have some fun!

Boards will be set up outlining the rink—can’t have balls rolling across the beach and into the Caribbean Sea don’t you know. Advertizing space on these boards is available! Donations and sponsors (corporate: Tim Horton’s, Canadian Tire, Scotia Bank, TD, Royal, Sunwing Charters, Home Hardware—wink wink—nudge nudge, and individual hockey fans like you) of hockey related prizes and helping get stuff to the Island (can’t buy hockey sticks here) are also welcomed and appreciated. All sponsors will be recognized in a future story that will be posted on Roatan Vortex and on the Roatan Vortex Show on 101.1 FM Roatan Radio. For more information contact me here: Contact Me!

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