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Roatan North

25 May

Spring has sprung in Ontario, Canada! And just as I took credit for the mild winter (I brought it from the Island with me don’t you know) I am also going to claim credit for the Roatan like weather we are experiencing now!

Warm and gentle breezes, a few fluffy clouds meandering across the sky, no need for jacket or sleeved shirt—tank top and shorts will suffice. And absolute best of all—NO SHOES!!! My toes are happily free to wiggle in flip-flops! My tan has returned and I don’t look out of place anymore as the only one without pasty grey skin-tones. Mind you, there were those who overdid it (kinda like Roatan tourists do) and had a tomato red tinge after the long weekend. The flowers are in bloom, the foliage is lush and green, and eventhough it will have to be brought inside in the fall, the hibiscus tree I couldn’t pass up when strolling through a garden center, is delighting me with its continuous show of velvety red blossoms.

The battle of the bugs has begun! I noticed a couple of “flying ants” they’re huge here, nothing like the wimpy ones on Roatan. Anyhow, the next day I spotted a few more, and in my true form, I set them free. Later that same day when four of them fell on me from the ceiling above, I looked up—ohhh crap! It was like from the scene in “The Amityville Horror” when the bedroom filled with flies (except mine were “flying ants” and they had taken over most of the rooms in my home.) Normally, I prefer to share space with God’s creatures, scorpions being the exception, but this was just too much, I got a can of Raid from my mom, and the carnage began! Fortunately, it was nice and warm outside so I could fog the inside with toxic chemicals and retreat to my porch while I waited…

“Flying ants” aside (well actually dead) the majority of the critters are welcomed. Swarms (or is it flocks) of Monarch butterflies arrived, I think from Mexico, last week. There were so many they were landing on my grandson and me when we arrived to my place. The other day, I sat sipping a beverage on my porch when a hummingbird came by to say hi; he or she returns daily now, as do the fat bumblebee’s. And last night, outside my bedroom window, I watched “fireflies” show-off, turning the dark forest into a twinkling light show.

There are a few un-Roatan things to contend with, for example: not one item I own has gone rusty or moldy, I’m sure you’re thinking that’s not a bad thing, but I’m not use to it, not to mention, there isn’t enough humidity to prevent my clothes from wrinkling—now I know you feel sorry for me. And worst of all—everybody is in such a hurry—come on people—really, it’s not worth it! I thought going out to shop or whatever on Roatan was a challenge—ha. If you drive the speed limit here it’s like you’re a target in some kind of crazy video game. I’ve gotten used to middle-finger-salutes, fist shakings and learned a few new nasty words too. I took it personal at first, but not anymore, I just smile and wave back using ALL my fingers not just the middle one.


By the way, my new website CastleMuse is still in development and should be launching soon, I know I’ve said that before, even gave you date. Instead I think I’ll just say, “the CastleMuse Library will be opening… mañana.” tee-hee.

And for all of you trying to find me on Facebook, I’m there, just not a personal page anymore—click here to visit Genevieve Ross on Facebook. You can send me a message, post on my page, read what I post, or whatever. But now that I’m set-up this way I can’t contact you (until you send me a message first) and unless I set up a personal page again, I can’t see what you post on your personal pages.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.


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


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!


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


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

Smiling on Roatan

3 Apr

Some things that make me SMILE!!! What makes you smile? Let me know, and I’ll share on the next Roatan Vortex Radio Show, Saturday, April 9!

Friendship Ball from my friend Ruth

Dog on Roof

Leg Lamp Night light

Bee in the Cashew Tree Blossoms

The Upcoming Hockey Tournament

Mangoes Ripening on the Tree

Sun-boy Dancing in the Tiki Torch at Infinity Bay See him?

Grape Jam & Jelly Selection at Grocery store

Note I Received at Roatan Vortex Contact Me
“We decided to go with the Mayan Princess and it surpassed my expectations. We were married in January, 2011. We loved Roatan so much we are headed back in March, for a one week honeymoon. I can understand why you moved there, its a little piece of heaven – JoeAnn”

Hibiscus Flower Blooming on Front Porch

Painting by my daughter Rosie. Happy Birthday Rosie!

… and one more! This funny video shot by Glen Osmond when he and his wife Mandy were visiting 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.


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

Just CLICK here: Roatan Vortex | Create Your Badge


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.

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.

Bugs on Roatan

11 Jul

Number 1 question asked by people considering a visit to Roatan, “Do you have bugs?”

Short answer, “Personally…no. On the Island…yes!”

Of course we have bugs (and other critters) on Roatan. A lush tropical Island, surrounded by soft white sand beaches, nestled in the Caribbean Sea. The temperature average high 28C (82F) with an average low of 24C (75F.) Keep in mind that the humidity level is always up there too. What better conditions for bugs to thrive in.

Here is a list of a few of the ones I encounter, some regularly, others just once or twice so far in the past three years. I don’t know the technical name for them (and I don’t really care.) Some are known by more than one name. And the behaviours that I describe are based on my personal experience with each, nothing more. I will never claim to be an expert.

Sand fleas, sand flies, no seeums
They are tiny and fast, hence the name no seeums.

Everyone reacts differently, but in my experience when one or more get me, the initial sensation is of a sharp sting. Keeping in mind it is relative to their size. The bite gets itchy for a few minutes, and a raised red dot appears. The itching and dot disappear within ½ hour.

Sand fleas, flies, no seeums are definitely annoying. The closer to the beach, sunset, and days with no breeze are when you are more likely to encounter them. When I walk on the beach in Sandy Bay, I wear a light weight, long sleeve shirt to protect my arms and back. I put coconut oil on my legs. Any oil will work (they get trapped and suffocate.) I have found that commercial bug repellents (with or without DEET) do little to deter them.

Some beaches, in particular West Bay, regularly rake the sand (disrupting the eggs) this goes a long way toward keeping the numbers down.

Everybody knows what mosquitoes look like and how it feels when one gets you…itchy, itchy, itchy.

Here on Roatan, the mosquitoes are smaller and faster than the ones I’m used to in Ontario, Canada. When they are most active (rainy season) the worst time is at night. A few will manage to get in the cabana and sure enough, I will have just fallen asleep and a mosquito starts buzzing right next to my ear. I do the most logical thing of course…smack myself in the head. I never succeed with getting rid of the mosquito and I feel ridiculous for having hit myself so hard. But it just seems to be a natural reaction that I can’t control. I do think it annoys them though, so the mosquito, or two, or three, will head for my toes and ankles. It’s not uncommon to wake in the morning with a cluster of their itchy little bites all over my feet.

Malaria? It is possible to contract malaria on the Island. I believe there are different strains of malaria and I honestly couldn’t tell you which ones are present here. When it comes to taking medication to prevent malaria, spending as much time as I do on the Island it isn’t possible. The medication (from what I’ve been told is very hard on your liver) and cannot not be taken for an extended period of time. For anyone looking to visit Roatan for a shorter time, you should talk to your doctor and decide if malaria prevention medication is for you.

Dengue is another mosquito borne illness that there is no prevention for and on mainland Honduras an alert has been issued. It has been highly recommended (on the mainland) to wear long sleeve shirts and long pants, as well as to avoid areas where mosquitoes are most likely to be and to use insect repellent.

I personally choose to not use insect repellents (especially with DEET.) I don’t have serious reactions to being bit by either sand flies or mosquitoes and I’m more concerned about the ill effects of DEET. But that is my choice and should not be what you base your decision on. I can tell you (again, my experience) that since coming to Roatan three years ago, I know of only three people who have had malaria and all three described horrific flu like symptoms that after a few weeks they recovered from. I don’t know of anyone who has had dengue.

Ants are definitely the insect I spent the most time with.

There are so many varieties, each with their own special qualities. The names I use for these two may or may not be correct (again, I don’t really care.) It is just what I’ve come to know them as and all encounters are based on personal experiences here on Roatan.

Sugar ants are itsy-bitsy little guys whose bodies must be all nose and teeth. They can sniff out the smallest particle of food (containing something sweet) and will come marching in to claim it. Every food item must be sealed up in container with a tight fitting lid or at the very least a zip-lock baggie. Leave anything on the counter for more than a few minutes and the sugar ants will claim it.

If…no…when this happens, if you take the dish and set it in direct sunlight the sugar ants will scurry away, so all is not lost. You may be thinking to yourself, yuck, eating food that had ants in it, I’ll never do that. On Roatan…yes you will. It’s not possible to avoid. These little guys are pretty helpful too! Sugar ants took top honors on my list of awesome things about Roatan When ants cleaned the melted candy out of my purse.

Army ants are amazing! Bigger than the sugar ants—they are on a mission. In the past three years I’ve seen them do their thing a couple of times…what a show! Here they come, hundreds (if not thousands) of them, marching single file up the stairs. They then split off into squads and begin the hunt. Don’t bother trying to stop them. They’re not interested in you (you’re too big.) They are coming in to seek out the other bug that may be in your home. It takes about an hour and then they are done, marching out as efficiently as they marched in. They will have rid your home of EVERY bug.

Cockroaches and other beetles
You can try all you want to eliminate these ones from your home.

Good luck…just remember they outlived the dinosaurs. The army ants coming through are your best temporary defence. What I still don’t understand is why coackroaches like to live in my scotch-tape dispenser—I keep that in a zip-lock bag now.

I prefer to evict bugs rather than exterminate them—except when it comes to scorpions.

When I mention scorpions to anyone from Texas or other areas where they have them, it’s no big deal. Everyone else freaks out, and I admit so do I! For some reason scorpions like to take a nap under my pillow. I got into the habit early on to check under my pillow before climbing into bed. This has paid off a few times when I have found a scorpion sleeping right where I was going to be laying. I run for the can of scorpion killer (yup, specifically for scorpions) and chase them down, spraying half the can on them. I do apologize as they take their final breathe—I feel bad for what I’ve done. But I admit I am terrified of getting stung by a scorpion and I won’t take the chance. So far, so good…never been stung!

Spiders for the most part are okay by me—just the usual ones hanging around.

They do their part to trap the mosquitoes and other pests in their webs. Running a broom around the ceiling to get rid of the webs every now and then is no big deal.

I had an encounter with a spider recently however, that I will never forget! I was watching TV (while in bed,) checking emails on my laptop, when I felt something drop from the ceiling onto my head, then scurry away. Fortunately, I set my laptop aside before leaping off the bed. My immediate thought was, oh my God, a SCORPION! There was no way I was getting back on the bed until I found and got rid of whatever had landed on me. Cautiously I approached and with two fingers clutched the corner of a pillow to move it aside. What had landed on my head was under that pillow and made a mad dash to the headboard.

It wasn’t a scorpion. It wasn’t a common house spider. It was a TARANTULA! Time to do the heeby-jeeby dance, “Oh my God! Oh my God!”

Once I got over the initial shock, I moved in closer to get a good look (not too close though—I’ve heard tarantulas are good jumpers. It was the size of my palm, covered in coarse black hair, beautiful multicolored lines on its back—I was impressed! I ran to get my camera and took a bunch of pictures from different angle (glad I have a zoom lens.) Having captured the moment…it was now time to evict the eight legged, hairy creature. I put an empty plastic ice-cream tub, over top of it and slid the tub along until I could put the lid on the container. Carrying it outside…I set the tarantula free!

I could tell you about a lot more bugs and other critters I now know of and encounter here on Roatan, but figured this was enough to give you a sense of what’s here. Will this make you decide to not come to Roatan? I hope not, that definitely was not my intention with this posting. The way I see it is that no matter where you go THERE ARE BUGS! They’re pretty cool actually and far more efficient at how they conduct their business than we are.
Think about it…bugs contribute to nature…we’re the ones messing it up!

Roatan Vortex-Things That Pull You In-Number 23

15 May

Roatan Vortex-Things That Pull You In-Number 23

Cashews, natures perfect nut…or is it a fruit. Actually it’s both!

I didn’t know where they came from. Just like I didn’t know what an orange really tastes like.

But now, living on a tropical Island, nestled in the Caribbean Sea. Not only do I know where cashews come from, I watch them grow outside my window.

The blossoms start in early April, delicate clusters of tiny flowers, with a hint of the fragrant cashew fruit swirling in the Ocean breeze. The bees and hummingbirds are very happy. By mid-April, the developing fruit and nut are forming – one cashew per fruit.

The fruit – similar in size and color of a yellow sweet pepper.
The nut – encased in a outer shell.

Electric Lime

20 Apr

Electric Lime

Remember when you were a kid sitting on the living-room floor, a tattered box of crayons beside you, and your favourite colouring book next to that?

You’d flip the lid on the box of crayons, tilt it over and shake the contents out. Plop down on your stomach and turn the pages of the colouring book, looking for the perfect black outlined scene to transform.

You could colour the sky…bubble gum, the grass, perhaps…plum, and the flowers, maybe…electric lime. The sky wasn’t pink, the grass purple or the flowers green, but you didn’t care; through a child’s way of looking at them—they could be.

Remember as you got older, those colouring book pictures that the better you stayed within the lines, and the closer the colours matched to what they were supposed to be…the more praise you got?

As an adult this didn’t just apply to colouring books, it grew to include; home decorating, and only shades of white for painting walls. Streets of homes, lined up in perfect rows, exacting lawns, landscaping (to rival your neighbours), perfect interlocking brick drive-ways, and identical fencing defining each lot.

Sadly, the glorious colours and organic shapes of nature got tucked away and forgotten about…

But not on Roatan!

On Roatan, the sky can be pink.

The lush jungle is always green.

You can paint your walls electric lime, and decorate with authentic organic shapes Reverse Aquarium.

You won’t find even one street of perfectly lined up homes. Most fences are made from living trees and the landscaping…you can follow nature’s lead!

The “Mango Voodoo Chutney” Caper!

30 Mar

The “Mango Voodoo Chutney” Caper!

This is a guest post by Penny Leigh, owner operator of Penelope’s Island Emporium, founder of Roatan Renegade Rescue, and the lady who put to use the multitude of mangoes that would have gone to waste on our property.


How it all started…….

I always wanted to have my own line of food………Miss Penny’s “whatever.” I am a gourmet cook, ran a Chicago gourmet club for eleven years and really enjoy experimenting with new recipes. I always thought if I had not been such a busy corporate executive’s wife and mom, I would have given Martha Stewart a run for her money.

Moving to Roatan five years ago and opening Penelope’s Island Emporium kept me pretty busy in the beginning. I marveled at all the luscious tropical fruits growing abundantly, much of it falling to the ground. I remember paying $5.00 for a mango back in Chicago and it looked a lot worse than the discards here on the island!

I was browsing through my Caribbean Pantry Cookbook and found a scrumptious sounding recipe for Mango Chutney. My friends were coming to visit from Atlanta, it was mango season and this would be a new adventure they would surely enjoy. I contacted Dave and Genny to ask permission to pick a truckload of mangos. I had been by their property and had actually “heard” the mangos falling off the trees. Well, the Big Mango Adventure Day arrived. Mangos are sticky with juice and the jungle is hot, humid and buggy.

My compatriots were less than thrilled. I thought my friend, Francine had passed out somewhere deep in the jungle, when actually she had been rescued by Genny & was enjoying a cool drink and the shade of their deck. In hindsight Francine was the smarter of the bunch.

We loaded up the truck with hundreds of mangos and dragged them home, upstairs onto my deck. I couldn’t let them spoil in the plastic garbage bags outside, so set them up all over the deck. Then came the invasion of bats……………Uck Muck! Back in the bags they went, getting softer by the minute. One look at Francine’s face the following morning told me she would not be joining me in the cleaning, cutting and pit removal of this oozing mess I had created. My partner immediately announced he was allergic to mangoes, couldn’t even touch them…………..of course he was.

I got through it finally, took a whole day.

Next, the cooking. I had large canning pots, cauldrons going on all four gas burners. I had had other friends bring me down Cardamom seed pods and fresh vanilla beans, $6.00 a bean! Twenty-three ingredients went into the pots, simmering for two days and it was 90 degrees outside, so about 150 degrees in my kitchen and I don’t have air conditioning. Alas, there was no turning back.

I did not mention that, being the organized person I am, I had ordered ten dozen jelly canning jars from our biggest grocery market two months before jumping into Mango Land. Every week I was told they would most definitely be on the next boat. Well, long story short, the chutney was ready and I had no jars. My big chest freezer was destroyed in a flood and I was in full blown panic mode. Fortunately, my next door neighbor developer let me store the chutney in his empty condo freezer compartments, as it was only for a few days……

1 month later!
The canning jars have arrived…the size of mayonnaise jars.

2 months later!
The canning jars have arrived…quart size.

4 months later!
The canning jars have arrived…pint size.

Not jelly jars, but dammit close enough. Just in the nick of time as I got a call that people were moving into the condos and would not be pleased to find mysterious bags of unrecognizable glop in their freezers.

Thawed and reheated the mango chutney, boiled all the jars, filled them and hand labeled each jar. Ready to go on the shelf! Feeling quite accomplished, I then had to figure out how much to charge. Anyone running a business knows you must keep track of all your costs to determine your selling price of an item.

So: Gas for the truck, a half day of labor x 4 people, 200 gallon size ziplock bags, 12 hours of cleaning and peeling fruit, 2 days of cooking with propane, 120 canning jars, 23 ingredients, 120 fancy labels, raffia decoration of jars, slightly damaged friendship…priceless.

I figured that if I priced them at $60.00 a jar I might break even. At $10.00 a jar they sold briskly and I only have 2 jars left. Genny, I hope you enjoy your Mango Voodoo Chutney, because it will NEVER, EVER be made or sold at Penelope’s again!!!

Penny Leigh, owner operator of Penelope’s Island Emporium, founder of Roatan Renegade Rescue


Thanks for sharing your story Penny! Wednesday March 31, the Roatan Vortex Radio Show, on Roatan Radio the theme will be all about “Mangoes and Other Tropical Fruit Adventures on Roatan.”

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