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Your luggage is not lost-it is just not here!

26 Mar

Your luggage is not lost-it is just not here!

I spent Christmas with my family in Canada. I had a fantastic time, but by December 26th I was ready to return to my tropical Island home—Roatan, Honduras. I was ready to leave my fleece lined coat and woolly sweaters behind. My toes were screaming to be released from confining winter boots, desperate to be wearing flip-flops again. I arrived at Pearson Airport, Toronto, Ontario three hours ahead of my scheduled departure time (which meant I was there at 4:30 AM.) Little did I realize that three hours wasn’t going to be enough time!

Apparently, the day before (Christmas Day) a passenger on a flight from Nigeria to the US had set his lap on fire! RED ALERT! RED ALERT! RED ALERT!

Before boarding the plane there was an extensive list of new security measures in place for all flights landing in the US that took a couple of extra hours to complete. So by the time my flight landed in Atlanta, my connecting flight to Roatan had already left. I strolled off the plane knowing there was no need to rush; I’d be spending the night in Atlanta. Oh well, but what about my luggage? It’s hit and miss at the best of times to have your bags arrive with you when you fly to Roatan; throw in a twist or two and…

The airline re-booked me with a different carrier for the next day. So when I arrived home to Roatan and stood at the baggage conveyor belt anticipating no luggage for me, I was pleasantly surprised to see one of my bags snaking along the belt. As for my second suitcase, no such luck.

A routine familiar to most of us who travel to and from Roatan was about to unfold. I sauntered over to the counter (where you report if your luggage didn’t arrive with you) ready to explain what happened to the clerk behind the counter. I knew it would be an absolute waste of time, but what the heck—I’d give it a try!

I told my story…and waited. She listened to my tale, peering at me through droopy eyelids. I realized she had lost interest so I start patting my sides, demonstrating being physically searched; as I was at the Toronto airport. Her eyelids rise a bit. Ah ha, she feels my pain—I’m going to get my second suitcase…

Without keying anything into the computer terminal, without even a glance at the room where unclaimed luggage is kept, without suggesting I fill-out a missing luggage report, she said, “Come back tomorrow, your bag will be here then.”

She knew that I knew. It wouldn’t be.

Let the games begin!

Day Two, I returned to the airport. Same clerk, different answer, “Our airline doesn’t have your bag—you flew with another airline.”

Silly me, Wagging my claim ticket in-front of her, I tried to again explain what happened.

“We’ll call you when it arrives.” Her expression as dull as it had been the previous day.

She knew that I knew. Nobody was going to call me.

She won this round, but I’ll be prepared when I return the next day.

Day three, I marched toward the counter. She’s ready with the blocker. “Your bag is still on the Mainland, in San Pedro Sula. It had a RUSH, Expedite sticker on it (with this airline that means don’t send it on.) They took it off the plane coming here today.” She waved me away. “Come back tomorrow.”

Man! She’s good, two excellent fake-outs in a row. We stare at each other. I was weak, I admit it. I meekly suggested she go look in the back room, just to confirm it’s not here yet. She shuffled away, returning a few minutes later, “Your bag’s not here. Come back tomorrow.”

Day four, I’m really ready this time! I’ve studied the game plan book. I’ve been coached, and got the pep talk from friends who had met the same opponent. I’m not leaving the airport without my suitcase. I slammed my claim ticket down on the counter, my nostrils flared, and my stance offensive. “Give me my bag!”

She hesitated… “Your bag’s not here.”

I pounced, “Get my suitcase from the back room or I’ll get it myself!”

“Your bag’s not here,” she foolishly tried to regain her position.

“I’ll get it myself!”

She stepped aside, her gaze averted.

She knew that I knew. She had won the first few rounds—but I was going to win the game!

I went around the counter, (you can get away with doing that at the Roatan airport.) I entered the room where “not here luggage” is held prisoner and there was my bag! A little tattered, the RUSH, Expedite sticker half torn off, but it was here on Roatan, and probably had been since the day I arrived.

I pushed the button to release the pop-up handle, and wheeled my suitcase along. Stomping past her, tossing my claim check tag on the counter, my chin held high—I had WON the game!

What I Miss, What I Don’t, Two Years to Decide.

20 Mar

What I Miss, What I Don’t, Two Years to Decide.

I’m often asked what I miss about living in Canada now that I live in Honduras, on the Island of Roatan.

I miss being able to spend time with my family and friends in Canada. I miss going to watch a movie at the Cineplex Theatre – big screen, surround sound. I miss going to watch a play at The Centre in the Square (fantastic live theatre venue.) I miss my mom’s Summer Supper, a meal she makes that’s kind of like Thanksgiving dinner, except, it includes; cucumber salad with fresh dill, sliced field tomatoes, corn-on-the-cob, home-made potato pancakes or fried potatoes with onion, local summer-sausage, and Canadian cheddar cheese. I’m not sure when or why my mom started this tradition – but I miss the Summer Supper. I miss Blue Jays and Cardinals (the birds not the sports teams.) I miss squirrels coming to my door for peanuts, and raiding the birdfeeders I use to have strung up around my yard (yup, I miss the squirrels!) And I miss the springtime – digging in my garden.

When I first moved to Roatan I was advised by my new friends that it would take me two years to decide if I would want to continue to call Roatan, Honduras home. Two years…? After two years would I have had enough of; checking under my pillow every night for scorpions? Being woken by barking dogs and crowing roosters? By the way – roosters don’t just crow when the sun comes up, and there’s always more than one. Would I have had enough of not being able to watch HGTV – House Hunters, I love that show, or being so hot sometimes that breathing makes me sweat. Would the frustration of trying to communicate with someone who speaks a different language make me want to move back to Canada? Another by the way; I’ve tried to learn Spanish; I now know that I’m not language oriented.

Two years to decide?

Right around the same time that the two years were up, I went to Canada for a visit. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I hung out with my family and friends, I went to the movies, didn’t make it to live production though. I still checked under my pillow for scorpions – habit! I enjoyed my mom’s cooking. I fed the squirrels, and helped my oldest grandson choose what plants to start for his own garden.

And while I was in Canada, I realized, I had been considering – two year to decide from the wrong point of view…

My decision had nothing to do with would I have had enough and want to return to Canada. My decision had nothing to do with what I miss and what I don’t. My decision was – could I give up the Roatan way of life! After two years, I knew without a doubt… Living in Honduras, on the Island of Roatan is my norm! My decision…

“Roatan, Honduras is my home!”

This story can also be read at Honduras WeeklyMy Island Norm

I just finished to read your blog, Good Job .. I am not easy to tears … should I get nervous now, every time your next one comes up? – by the way … I hope you have another one coming soon – I am addicted to cigarettes, my husband, my dog, my cat and your blog! – Author not named, (don’t want her to get hassled for being a smoker)

Pineapple Tops Take too Long to Compost – I think I’ll Plant Them!

14 Mar

Pineapple Tops Take too Long to Compost – I think I’ll Plant Them!

I love to garden, and where I’m from, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, I learned all about gardening from my grandma. I would watch her, on hands and knees, digging in the soil that crumbled between her fingers. The frigid days of winter had released their grip, the blanket of snow and muddied ice all but gone. Longer, warmer, sunlit days were doing their part to soften the land. The determined crocuses had already pushed their way through weeks earlier, soft, velvet purple blooms, to impatient to wait for the snow to be gone. Grandma taught me when to plant what. She explained what needed full sunshine to thrive, and what preferred to peek out from a shady corner. When the time was just right, she’d have a load of compost delivered and together we would work it into the waking soil, while she reminded me how much better our garden would grow, if we fed it well.

On Roatan, Honduras, a tropical island in the Caribbean Sea, it’s always summer. At least compared to what I was used to. There is no anxiously waiting for the snow to melt away, no crocuses putting on a show in early spring.

The first year, I marvelled at the beauty of plants, trees and flowers growing in the jungle, and lining the paths to the beach, to the road, to my Roatan home. These were species I had previously only seen in greenhouses or cut-stems of bird-of-paradise, and orchids at the flower shops that I would purchase as a special gift. I had never seen a cashew tree before, or mango, or bananas hanging from a banana palm, hibiscus that blooms all year round, or experienced the heavenly fragrance of the guava fruit.

Year two, I had to try my hand at gardening. I quickly learned to only work outside when the sun hasn’t risen to high yet, or just before it goes down. I learned to cover up, with light breathable clothing (or spend all my time swatting bugs.) And the most amazing thing I learned was if you snip a branch, or stem from—just about any plant that is native to here—stick it in the ground—it will grow!

Year three, I’ve started a composting program in my neighbourhood. As my grandma said, “Feed the soil, and watch the garden grow.” I add fallen leaves between each layer, I turn it, I water it daily, and I can’t believe how quickly a batch is ready. The scent of the dark soft compost is sweet, and citrusy, it crumbles between my fingers as I turn it in a new garden bed, or top up a garden I created last year. I do have a problem though, the pineapple tops, won’t break down as quickly as all the other fruit and vegetable scraps do.

…I know, I’ll just push them in the ground and grow pineapples! I bet it will work as well as planting sticks on Roatan does—my Island Garden Paradise.

This posting can also be read at Honduras Weekly

As always, thoroughly enjoyable… thanks Genny, you give wonderful balance and a breath of fresh air to Honduras Weekly. So much of our news is about poverty, Zelaya, aid, etc. After awhile it all weighs down on you a bit, and so it’s nice to be lifted up with your stories. You’re in… Marco

“Keep writing, you have no idea how much we enjoy it – Regards Marlene”

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

                       

Accepting the Torch (as if we had any choice!)

23 Feb

Accepting the Torch (as if we had any choice!)

The following is the response from guest blogger, John Morris aka Calico Jack, Roatan Radio. www.roatanradio.com

Our first days on Roatan were hectic to say the least. Though we had visited the island many times, now it was different-we actually lived here! In a few days, we had to first find a car, unpack, find the best grocery stores and last but not least, get to our favorite bar, Sundowners, www.sundownersroatan.com . It was there where despite a few familiar faces we remembered on previous visits, we were faced with a whole new crowd. Being at the end of the summer with rainy season looming, we quickly understood we had found the local hangout. My first goal was to discover the musicians on the island in hopes of finding the opportunity of jamming with the local talent. It was our dear late friend Sean who told me about the Canadian contingency from Ontario, where I was sure to find willing participants such as Dave, Genny’s husband and Ron and Bonnie. Sure enough they arrived together and Barbara and I immediately introduced ourselves. Having lived in “friendly” Florida for ten months with a grand total of four people we called “sort of” friends, we were overwhelmed at the friendliness and willingness to help that was offered to us. By the end of the night we had already been invited to our first pool party at Genny’s and Dave’s (Sundancer, Sandy Bay) three days later. We were overwhelmed in a very good way.

In the next few days, we found a car, if you can call it that, stocked the fridge and Barbara began to panic as we were told that the way this type of party worked was that Dave would BBQ and the rest would bring side dishes. Finally deciding (after talking with her Mom in Italy) on pasta with peppers, the big day of our first party arrived. We had only one thing to do that day and that was to have the cable installed in the morning and then we would be free. We quickly learned a very important rule about living in Roatan. When dealing with the service industry here, such as the cable guy, they never show up when they are supposed to, if at all. When they arrived at 3pm, we were already late. When they finally left (cable still not working) we set out for Sandy Bay. It was already getting dark and we were still not overly comfortable with getting around the island despite the fact there are only about three roads here. This combined with the fact that the headlights of our Kia Sportage were about as powerful two small candles, we must have passed the turnoff five times before finding it!

Yes, Genny, we were very nervous when we arrived but it did not last long. Apologies were quickly told to be forgotten, we relaxed and spent a most memorable night under the stars eating, drinking and chatting, learning about our new island and more importantly our new friends.

Six months later, we had made many more friends but our closest are still the ones we met that night. Thus, when we were passed the salad tongs, we gladly accepted especially since we had no tongs of our own! And now, we are faced with a great responsibility to find the next set of newbies though we understand it may take years. No problem for us, we are not going anywhere.

Don’t Try to Rescue a Portuguese Man-of-War!

11 Feb

Don’t Try to Rescue a Portuguese Man-of-War!

It’s overcast on Roatan today. A weather system blew in during the night. The sunrise unseen covered with grey rolling clouds. In the distance, the usual soothing sound of waves encountering the reef—replaced with the roar of them breaking hard. These are the days I love to walk on the beach. It’s too breezy for the sand-flies to grab on and bite my shins. No need for sun-screen or hat—it would blow away anyhow.

Strolling along with Mona (my dog), she chases crabs, and I comb the shoreline for new found treasures. Pieces of coral, shells and sponge litter the beach, all worthy of being admired. Occasionally I find a starfish or two, too far from the receding tide to return to the sea on their own—I toss them back in the water. Hopeful the rescue will be successful.

I’ve also learned a lesson on what NOT to try to rescue.

During one of my walks, on a day such as this one, I came across a creature I had never encountered before. It was the most unusual thing I had ever seen. A translucent blue…bag, water sloshing inside, with pie-crust crimped edges, and sand encrusted stringy tentacles bunched up underneath.

I nudged it with a stick, and shooed Mona away when she came to take a sniff. I suspected it was some kind of a jelly-fish, but with my limited (zero) knowledge of marine life—I really wasn’t sure. Even if it was something that could sting me, didn’t it deserve to return to the sea? It obviously couldn’t get there on its own.

I tried to pick it up with the stick. This didn’t work. Poor thing just plopped back down on the sand—getting even more coated. The next available rescue tool was my flip-flops. One in each hand, bring them together like salad-tongs ready to toss a salad, I scooped up the creature and flung the blue glob toward the sea. I stood back and watched as the creature bobbed along. Proud of my accomplishment I whistled for Mona, and we continued our walk.

After progressing only a few feet, I felt a strange burning sensation on my arms and legs, red angry welts confirming the locations. I realized my error. When I launched the creature, I was unable to contain all the tentacles with my footwear, a few grazed my arms and legs—I had been stung!

Racing back home, I skirted around the creature. It had washed ashore again, only moments after I had thrown it in the water. While I read-up on what I had tried to rescue, confirming it was a Portuguese Man-of-War, the stinging began to ease.

I told marine-suave friends what I had done, they jokingly suggested that the next time I attempted this kind of thing, I just have to get someone to pee on the stings (supposedly the best remedy). I assured them that wouldn’t be necessary. I learned my lesson—don’t try to rescue a Portuguese man-of-war!

***

This story was also featured in Honduras Weekly Don’t Try to Rescue a Portuguese Man-of-War

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