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Follow Your Dream

8 Sep

As threatened, I mean promised, it’s time for one of those infrequent stories at RoatanVortex.com—my inspiration is two-fold:

1) I’m submitting an application to an accredited University Creative Writing Course and need to tell them what I’ve been up to for the past five years. So found myself hanging out on the website to refresh my memory.

2) While subliminally spending time on the Island I noticed the “visit counter” was at 504,129 hits and counting… holy crap!!!

Now, as we all know, these high-tech (free) website hit-o-meters are extremely accurate—within a few thousand or so. But what caught my attention and inspired the “holy crap” was the fact that RoatanVortex.com exceeded HALF A MILLION views and I missed it. Not only that, more importantly, people are still searching out “Paradise.” That makes me smile.

I remember, what seems like a life-time ago, when an avid diver just returned from a vacation, came into my office (yes, in those days I had a real job and office) and talked fondly of his time spent on Roatan. I had never heard of the tiny island in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Honduras before. From that moment, in 2004 (the year) I was enthralled, obsessed, mesmerized by Roatan; I had to know everything about it—was determined to move there—and the day came when I did.

For close to five years I lived on Roatan. Met people I would have otherwise never come to know. Lived a life including sandy beaches, tropical warmth—all year round, exotic landscape, an appreciation for simplistic day to day living, and learned more about what really matters in life than if I had not taken the leap; was inspired to give more than I thought I was capable of, and in return received more than I could have ever imagined possible.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “Yah sure, but you left Roatan.”

Yes I did.

It was time for me to move on. That doesn’t mean I’m done living the life I once thought I could only dream of. I am a vagabond, a free-spirit by nature. I know that and look forward to my next adventure which will have me spending the winter in British Columbia, Canada. In the spring, perhaps: Spain or England, maybe Portugal, how about Thailand—I don’t know; maybe I’ll stay in BC for a while.

The difficult thing about moving on to follow my dream—my life path, is to lose contact with acquired family, friends, and foes. That’s right, even the foes, come on, we’ve all got them—they add a certain spice that only a foe can provide. And although I may never see any of them again, to have never known them would be worse.

If Roatan is calling you… GO FOR IT!

Embrace the journey into the unknown, leave your comfort-zone of sameness—let yourself experience all it has to offer. You may decide to stay for a day, maybe a week or two, a year, or even a lifetime. Whatever time frame it turns out to be is irrelevant—when the Roatan Vortex pulls you in—resistance is futile!

Okay, I stole… I mean, borrowed that line from the Borg… fits well don’t you think?

Thanks for continuing to check out RoatanVortex.com I’ll let you know when the “hit-o-meter” counter reaches another milestone. And if you’d like to read a few of my favourite Roatan Vortex stories without wading through them all here (more than 100) visit “Roatan Vortex Classics” at CastleMuse.com

Roatan Kids

19 May

We all want to give our children access to the best opportunities in life. For most parents it means sourcing the best schools, involvement in sports and/or the arts, commitment to social causes, close contact with extended family; a combination of many factors really.

When my kids were growing up I chose the neighbourhood we would live in based on what schools were nearby, I supported their passion of the week; buying the equipment and attending every sporting event from: basketball, volleyball, track & field, rugby (freaked me out that my son had to tape his ears down though so they wouldn’t get ripped off!) to my daughter’s rowing regattas at 6 AM. I was always grateful that neither of them was interested in playing hockey (too expensive for me) but the year my daughter was four, I did faithfully take her every Saturday morning, regardless of the weather (that means a lot when it is winter in Ontario) to her ballet class. When it was time for her recital I sat in the front row, watching my “little teapot” throw a temper tantrum while all around her the other “little teapots” showed off their handles & spout. Santa arrived with a snowboard and season’s pass to the local resort for my son one year, the snowboard season can last four or five months where we lived; for my son it was one day, when on his second run down the hill he broke his collarbone.

My daughter Rosie & her partner Gup (at least that's what everyone calls him.)

I bought the Girl Guide cookies, and followed discreetly behind when it was time to go door-to-door getting pledges for the upcoming Walk for MS. Every occasion warranted inviting grandparents, aunts, uncle, cousins and friends over to the house to celebrate. Quite often, an event wasn’t required to call a meeting of the clan—we just liked spending time together. Yeah, I wanted to give my kids a good shot at developing into well rounded, socially conscious, productive adults. I’m happy to report we survived the teen years and they are happy healthy adults living full lives with their chosen partners, and I even have three awesome grandsons in the mix now.

Jumana (daughter-in-law), my son Jeff, me (yes my hair goes very straight when not in the tropics, note snow out side the window), across the front, my grandsons; Aaqil, Zain, and Kaisan

The thing is though—there is something I didn’t expose them to that I wish I had—experiencing life from a broader perspective.

Canada is known for welcoming people from diverse culture around the world, so my kids were fortunate to have many friends from many backgrounds, they were exposed to differences, but at the end of the day they returned to their own niche, a somewhat typical, middleclass, North American lifestyle. And while there was nothing wrong with that, anything outside of their norm was out of their comfort zone—mine too for that matter.

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Science Fair
Not until I moved to Roatan, Honduras could I appreciate how much breaking out of the norm could have enriched my children’s developmental years. There are many Expat kids living on Roatan who are benefiting from a diverse perspective.

This past Friday the kids who attend Sandy Bay Alternative School held their Science Fair at Lands End Resort West End, I very much enjoyed their presentations; the range of topics covered many of the typical Science Project stuff, but with a Roatan approach. One involved studying how deep light can dive; of course it involved the student actually going diving to confirm his results. Another surrounded the properties of cooking oils and which are best for local foods such as plantains (sorta like a banana) which are a staple on Roatan.

Some studied the effects of using organic soils avoiding chemical fertilizers, and others focused on the effects of the sun, or participating in outdoor activities as appose to indoor activities—kids don’t spend much time indoors here.

More pics of the Science Fair can be seen here: Science Fair

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Two Julia’s
On Saturday morning I had the great pleasure of interviewing two of the kids on the Roatan Vortex Radio Show. They shared their views of life on Roatan. One is eleven years old, originally from California, and has lived on Roatan for more than 6 years now. The other is also eleven years old, originally from South Africa, and has lived on Roatan for just a few weeks. You can hear what they had to say here:

 
icon for podpress  Two Julia's: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Here’s what they were doing right outside the studio at Half Moon Bay Beach after the show!

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May the Best Duck Win!
Sunday was the First Annual Duck Races at Infinity Bay Resort West Bay Beach. Oh my, what fun that was. The kids were raising money for the grade six graduation party and other school activities. The Roatan community came together to join in and support their efforts, local businesses sponsored prizes, and Roatan Radio broadcasted live from the event.

More pictures of the Duck Races can be seen here: Duck Races

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Yup, my kids would have benefited greatly from experiencing a Roatan way of life!

Total Nonstop Wrestling Action (Forum) on Roatan

27 Apr

No wait… that already exists. Good thing I created the Roatan Vortex Forum instead.

Now, so far I am the only member (compared to the Wrestling Forum which has over 170,000 members and close to 5 million posts) but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere.

There are forums out there that include discussions about Roatan, so why the Roatan Vortex Forum?

Some are geared toward vacationing on Roatan, or at least sub-categories are: Trip Advisor. Others focus on the life of an Expat Abroad: Expat Forum, again, you have to search for a sub-category specific to Roatan (good luck finding Roatan.) And then there are those that are for a community of people who share a common interest: Diving forums.

The time has come to pull them together in one really simple, easy to use, minimal rules (don’t even like the word), location.


Visitors, Newbies (recently moved to Roatan), Expats: Roatan SME’s (Subject Matter Experts) unite! Let’s talk about Roatan!!!

Who Can Post?
Everyone! Just remember to keep it about Roatan—except for the “Just Because” category. You will have to register to contribute; if you’d rather not add your two cents worth, you are still welcome as a Guest and can peruse the forum all you want.

This is where I’m supposed to give you the rules of posting, but, you’ll know if what you posted wasn’t acceptable (rude, crude, nasty, or possible infringement of copy-right material etc.) because as the Moderator, I’ll delete it.

Questions? Don’t be shy, ask away!
So it’s happening… the Roatan Vortex is pulling you here! You are very excited, but wait… Where should you stay? What about the snorkelling and diving? Will you see Seahorses? Dining options? Transportation? What cruise port will you arrive at (there’s more than one?) And the ever popular: are there bugs, is it safe, and will it rain when I’m there? Go ahead ask all you want! The more specific and the less likely a crystal ball is needed to answer, the more responses you will get.

Write a review! We want to hear all about it… really!
You visited Roatan, and had a blast! Be sure to share with everyone; what you saw, where you stayed, and how much fun you had!!! If something wasn’t to your satisfaction we want to know about that too.

Roatan SME’s and Newbies, you know best!
Living on Roatan? Want to share a great place to dine, a business that we should know about? Tell us all about it. Feel free to share your Roatan businesses and links here too.

Please note: Specific details or names of individuals involved; surrounding dissatisfaction are best shared via direct email contact, rather than on this forum (sorry, another rule.)

Coming soon: There will be a handy dandy form for sharing your Roatan experience; in the meantime just tell us all about it right here!

Roatan – Home Sweet Home
So you want to move to Roatan, great idea! I’m sure you have questions: What are the educational options for my kids? Can I buy lactose free milk? Can I bring my pets? What about volunteering? The sample questions I have included are pretty vague… remember, the more specific, the more answers you’ll get.
And if you’ve made the move to Roatan, you can answer some of them. You’ve already started sharing on “The Insider’s Guide for Moving to Roatan” which if any of your suggestions are used in the soon to be released book: your reward is my undying gratitude… only! :-)

Just Because!
Do you ever wonder why? I have questions about those truly important things in life; what’s in marshmallows that make them taste like—well—marshmallows? Are hermit crabs born with a starter shell? Why are there speed bumps on bumpy roads? And why the heck can’t I snap my fingers?

Sometimes I just want to know; what was your favourite toy when you were a kid? What makes you smile? The name of a book that you think I might enjoy?

This is the place to ask and answer those important questions. You can even talk about wrestling here… if you really want to!

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

An insider’s view of day to day life on a Caribbean Island

26 Jan

There are obvious benefits to living on the Island of Roatan: The tropical climate, jungle foliage climbing to the highest peaks, sugar soft white beaches, all surrounded by the crystal clear Caribbean Sea. Then there are the less obvious benefits that come to light when you hang out here for a while—they too are worthy of recognition! What started out as a list of Roatan Vortex things that pulled me in, transformed into—Drum roll please!

The Roatan Vortex… An insider’s view of day to day life… on a Caribbean Island was born!

A celebration of those everyday moments that make living on Roatan extra special! From an insider’s point of view, you too will experience: Watching the sun set while watching the moon rise ***** Not having to know how to drive to get a driver’s license ***** An afternoon nap is encouraged ***** Mangoes, lots of mangoes ***** No worries it will snow in October or April ***** Talking to a gecko in the kitchen ***** The art of eating ice cream on Roatan ***** and more!

77 tidbits of information that only an insider would know. With the bonus of 13 FULL stories that delve a little deeper into the Roatan Vortex experience!

The Roatan Vortex… An insider’s view of day to day life… on a Caribbean Island is now available to order at Lulu and in a few weeks will also be available from Amazon–they need a little extra time to get the cataloging done–I think they operate on “Island time.”

The Roatan Vortex… An insider’s view of day to day life… on a Caribbean Island will be available for purchase on Roatan too! I’m in the process of having books shipped in–but, I know Roatan is on “Island time!” I’ll keep you updated as to when The Roatan Vortex… An insider’s view of day to day life… on a Caribbean Island will be here and where you can purchase your copy.

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Roatan Vortex now on Facebook too! New friends always welcomed!

Just CLICK here: Roatan Vortex | Create Your Badge

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And be sure to listen to the Roatan Vortex Show, every Saturday starting at 10 AM Roatan Time (CST) on 101.1FM Roatan Radio Live streaming around the world!

If you are currently on Roatan be sure to come out this Sunday (January 30) to the Grand opening of the new studio on Half Moon Bay, next to Sundowner’s, West End, from 1-5 PM. Meet the DJ’s, hear some great music, hang out on the beach, and okay… maybe stick around to catch a perfect sunset too!

Frog Rescuer

4 Sep

I moved to Roatan, Honduras for a few reasons, one of them because the Roatan Vortex was pulling me here…of course. Another reason was to embrace a simpler lifestyle, surrounded by the beauty that only nature can supply. The challenge everyday is to live in harmony with the glorious wonders of Roatan, while doing the least amount of damage to the natural balance. That might sound corny, but let’s face it pretty much everything made or introduced by humans for the comfort of humans does far more damage than good.

My sister Laurie chose the same idea, different location. When we were kids, for a period of time, my knick-name for her was Duh. I once locked her in a suitcase…well, she agreed to get in it, not like I forced her to, and she believed me when I said I wouldn’t lock it, hence the name Duh! She got wise to my evil ways and I couldn’t call her that anymore, but thirty odd years later I’ve come up with a new knick-name for her—Frog Rescuer.

Laurie aka Frog Rescuer hasn’t visited me on Roatan yet. Some things about it appeal to her, but for the most part she is content hanging out in Canada with her husband Glen and their two cats. A few years back they decided to move to a new subdivision in Guelph, Ontario, the biggest attraction for them was to be next to Guelph Lake, with meandering paths nearby to stroll or go for a bike ride. They weren’t alone with this desire to live closer to nature while still having the advantages of being in the city. The building lots quickly sold and one by one new houses sprang up around them.

In a recent email she shared with me a crusade she had begun. It would seem that living closer to nature—while nice for the humans—it wasn’t working so well for the critters.

My sister’s home has window-wells around the basement windows, as do all her neighbour’s homes. One day she noticed some frogs trapped in one of the window-wells. Now, Guelph frogs are not like Roatan tree frogs. They can jump, but not high enough to get out on their own, so she climbed in and rescued them. Doing an inspection of the other window-wells surrounding her home, she found more frogs needing help, and a few that it was too late to rescue (they had dried up and perished.)

A daily routine of checking for frogs began. But what about her neighbours, did they know that frogs may need to be rescued from their window-wells too? Just in case they didn’t know she made a poster and taped it on the community mailboxes.

SAVE THE FROGS!!!
Please save me from your window wells…a lot of us are dying out here as we jump in and can’t get out!
You will be glad you take care of us, because we take care of your gardens by eating the bugs that eat your plants… so please cover your window wells with plastic covers….or check for us every day and free us from them.
Sincerely, your local frog population

And she didn’t stop there, next up was to talk to the building company to ask them to cover the window-wells on the show-homes. That request was met with blank stares and snickering.

So she contacted a local newspaper and told them what was going on. Guelph Tribune

I’m proud of my sister. She can’t save all the frogs from the invasion of people, but I’m sure the ones she does rescue on a daily basis from a grizzly death are grateful. Besides, it’s not gratitude from a frog that inspires her to do this. She moved to the area to be close to nature and all it has to offer her sense of being—shouldn’t she take ownership of helping protect it?

No matter where we choose to call home, shouldn’t we all?

Rescued any critters today? I’d love to hear about it.

Snorkeling with the Fishes

20 Jun

Snorkeling with the Fishes

Picture taken from the glass-bottom boat, West Bay Beach, Roatan, Honduras.

Who’s gonna win this race?

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Please Don’t Walk on the Coral

12 Jun

Please Don’t Walk on the Coral

Growing up in Ontario, Canada, I knew next to nothing about the Caribbean Sea, and even less about the second longest coral reef in the world.

Lake Erie Sunset

Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, the community I hail from is surrounded on three sides by Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario, all part of the chain of five lakes known as The Great LakesThe source of the largest fresh water system on Earth!

Wow! That’s pretty impressive…but I never gave it much thought.

For me, as a kid, it just meant there was a beach within an easy driving distance. Then again…as a kid, I never hesitated to ask, “Are we there yet?”
• The Canadian National Exposition (CNE) every year, marked the end of the summer holidays, but also meant I could watch the Air Show my heart pounding with excitement as planes soared, dipped, and performed amazing acrobatic feats above Lake Ontario.
• Lake Huron, more specifically, Tobermory—the Scuba Diving Capital of Canada, is where I almost learned how to scuba dive.

Over the years I had heard that the Great Lakes were getting polluted, that you had to limit the number of fish you ate from them—too many would make you sick. More frequently signs were being posted on the beaches that it wasn’t safe to go swimming—that too would make you sick.
For me…an inconvenience…but I still didn’t give it much thought.

Now I live on Roatan, my front yard is a dock, stretching into the Caribbean Sea. Only a few hundred feet beyond that, I watch waves break on the world’s second longest coral reef.

• I’ve seen seahorses, barracuda, sting-rays, Portuguese man-of-war, and numerous other sea creatures swimming from the reef toward the dock—gracing me with a closer look of their magnificence. I’ve watched a dolphin leisurely swim by, and marvelled at the detail outline of a starfish.
• I stroll along the shore (especially after a storm) picking up pieces of the reef that have broken off and washed ashore. Sea Fans, black sponge, and finger coral (to name only three, of the thousands of species) each piece, as unique as a snowflake, with a beauty of natural form no artist could ever match.

I’m in awe of all that I see and experience, but just like when I was at the beach on Lake Erie, or watching the planes swooping over Lake Ontario, or doing my first open water dive in Lake Huron…

I don’t give it enough thought!

I don’t appreciate enough the importance of preserving and protecting these marvels of nature and all they have to offer. They have been here forever and always will be…right?

Wrong! It is up to You and Me to educate ourselves about their value to our world, the legacy we owe our children, and how, everything we do, we need to – STOP – and consider the impact our actions might be having.

Fortunately in this era of accessible information, education and action are possible. Great Lakes Information Network (GLIN) and The Roatan Marine Park offer a wealth of insight into the health and sustainability of these bodies of water.


Enjoy the reef surrounding Roatan and all it has to offer…just remember it isn’t a man-made attraction (like Disneyworld) that can be replaced. It is a LIVING, BREATHING organism that will thrive if cherished—and will die if neglected or abused.

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This story can also be read at Honduras Weekly

And will be the topic on The Roatan Vortex Show, Wednesday June 16, 9 AM – 11 AM, Roatan time (MTN) on Roatan Radio

Roatan Caption #2

6 Apr

I snapped this from Mario and Lori’s glass bottom boat at West Bay Beach. Roatan Coral Reef Explorer

What do YOU think the fish are saying…or thinking?

Share your caption ideas in the comment section below. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!
(Be sure to click on the picture to get a really good look at what the fish are following.)

I Promised Them Seahorses.

26 Feb

I Promised Them Seahorses.

Since coming to Roatan, Honduras, it’s become a regular occurrence to get an email or skype call that goes something like this:

“Some friends of mine are coming to Roatan for the first time. I told them I KNOW someone who’s there. Would you mind giving them some inside info on the Island, and maybe meet with them while they are there?”

The most recent time this happened, it involved a group of people coming from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. With great enthusiasm I fired off emails answering questions and making suggestions of what to do and see when they got here.

This photo courtesy of Chris Hill, taken under the Sundancer Dock, 2009
High on their list was good snorkelling sites. In particular they wanted to see seahorses. Well, I’m not a snorkeler, but I’ve witness people rave about seeing seahorses below the dock in Sandy Bay. I excitedly invited them to come over.

It was a few months later when they arrived to Roatan, and in the meantime I had completely forgotten what I had promised. When the van showed up, everyone climbed out, (sunburnt, but content) with looks of anticipation on their faces, and snorkel gear in hand. As we walked to the dock, one of the visitors was adjusting his underwater camera.

“Can’t wait to take a picture of a seahorse,” he said.

Uh-oh, what had I promised. Ever since I got pulled in by the Roatan Vortex I can’t seem to help it. I blurt out more than I should. What if there are no seahorses today? When was the last time one was spotted below the dock? I silently fretted while they prepared to enter the water. They might be disappointed and it would be my fault.

I watched them descend the ladder…I waited…and waited.

“I got it!” The visitor with the camera excitedly exclaimed, scrambling back on to the dock. He set his camera to playback mode, and turned the screen to my direction.

There it was—while snorkelling under the dock—he had snapped a photo of a beautiful, healthy seahorse!

 

Thank You, Roatan. You never let me down!


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This story can also be found at Honduras Weekly, I Promised Them Seahorses

                       

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