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Things I learned when I lived on Roatan

22 Jul

Living on Roatan (and prior to that, choosing to move to the relatively small island, off the coast of Honduras, Central America) was all about “going with the flow”. Letting things happen if/or when they will. So, today, I’m choosing to sit on the porch, in Ontario Canada: perfect summer weather; flowers in full bloom; birds, butterflies and bees—flying, flitting and buzzing; and really stupid frogs in the garden—repeatedly leaping head-first into the vinyl skirting around the trailer.

Together, we’ll discover some of the “Things I learned when I lived on Roatan.”

$50 anti-aging cream is a waste of money: Advertisements, fancy booths in the Malls, glossy flyers (that come in the mail) try to convince me otherwise. Drinking plenty of water, getting out in the sunshine, eating more “real” foods, and not stressing over stuff I have no control of (I learned that on Roatan) are my preferred. I’m still aging: gravity, genetics, and the occasional not-good-for-combating-wrinkles choices I’ve made will take their toll, but I’ve also still got the $50 in my pocket.

I am the “Supreme All-Knowing-Calming-Force” during power outages: Recently, we had one in Ontario, after a thunderstorm, there was panic in the streets—the people in shock, lost, afraid! Okay maybe not quite that bad. On Roatan, power went out 2 or 3 times a week (no storm required)—I pretty much learned how to deal with it. Kind of ties in with the “not stressing over the things I have no control of thing” too.

I am the “Supreme All-Super-Happy-the-humidity-is-at-100%” for more than a month now: Nonstop heat-wave. Woohoo! While those around me are melting, grumbling, and hiding in: dry-your-skin-out, windows closed, draw the blinds, air-conditioned… ah… bunkers, I turned the trailer porch into the place to hang out.

“Paradise” is inside me: Okay, that sounds a little hokey! Since moving back to Canada, many people have commented: How could you leave Paradise? Thing is, I went there to figure it out—but I learned I can live it anywhere.

It’s okay to be me: Oh, oh, another corny one. I left everything I knew behind to explore the unknown on a little island called Roatan. And while there, I learned “being me” is all I’ve really got, oh sure, I could have ignored it, in favour, of trying to conform to a lifestyle more-typical to where I grew-up. But, even as a kid, my life was far from typical. I used to be ashamed of it, embarrassed by it—big stigma attached.

I’ll always be grateful to Roatan, for teaching me: “Being me is okay”

To find out more about my: be ashamed, embarrassed, big stigma attached, and now I’m okay with it thing, visit CastleMuse.com – Love Ya Mommy!

Castle Muse on Survivor

13 Feb

The popular ‘reality’ TV series Survivor depicts contestants hanging out in the jungle and on a beach enduring the heat and humidity, getting by with limited resources (stuff), and vying for position in a tribe. Although it may never qualify to become a series on TV my ‘reality’ couldn’t be more opposite. Here’s what I’m doing now that I’ve chosen to vote myself off the Island of Roatan.

Lack of moisture in the air and keeping all the windows closed to hold in the heat don’t sit well with me; nor does readopting old, hard to break habits. Implementing and/or installing the following have helped immensely.

Environment /Physical
Portable steamer – You know, the kind you bring out when someone in the house has a stuffy nose and you slather some menthol goop on the vent. Not wanting my home to smell like a box of cough drops I skip that part, but I do have the steamer going all day and all night; whatever room I’m in, so is the steamer; churgling out a warm, humid mist.
Humidifier on the Furnace – that is in addition to (not instead of) the steamer. I haven’t noticed a dramatic result from having this going, but I’m sure if it wasn’t I’d get a static shock when I touched something metal or I’d hear a crackling sound coming from the cat’s fur when I pet her.
Sauna – At least once a day for 30 minutes at a time. This was the most costly (but worthwhile) measure. It takes about the first 15 minutes to get a sweat going while pouring water on the lava rocks and the temperature gage reads close to 120 F. The first time I used the sauna I was disappointed; what the heck good is sitting in an overheated cedar box gonna do me? But, oh my… once I was finished the session, my skin actually felt soft and supple like skin can and should!
Window open, Fan on – That’s right! To ensure a good night sleep I plug in the steamer (of course) at the foot of the bed; open the window—just an inch or so, no I’m not trying to heat the outside; turn on the overhead fan and snuggle down under a heavy comforter. Air circulation, humidity, and warm ahhhh—works for me.

Environment /Emotional
Tropical Plants and fresh cut flowers – Okay, not quite the same as when they grew wild all around me, but waking up to gaze at potted greenery and colourful blooms beats the heck out of glancing at blank corners.
Sunshine – The sun is shining! The sun is shining! I’m not a fan of going out in the cold but do make a point of getting out there on the rare occasions when the sun isn’t hiding behind bleak cloud-cover. Facing the glowing ball of light, my eyes wide open, a silly grin on my face soaking in that natural vitamin D. And even when the sky is grey all curtains and blinds are opened wide from early morning to night encouraging every spec of light to come oooon in!

Diet and Health
Groceries – My favourite place to buy fruits and veggies is at the Asian Market, oh sure, they don’t offer the same vast selection as the large supermarkets do, and an abundance of blemishes and soft spots will be found—but just as I discovered when I lived on Roatan… it’s real food!
Exercise – Not nearly as much as I should, real easy to not bother when every day I’m wearing twenty (okay, I’m exaggerating) layers of clothes and can’t see the jiggly bits.

Attitude – This is by far the hardest to maintain while being the most important. Pretty much every day a stack of flyers (enticing me to buy stuff) can be found jammed in my mailbox. I transfer them to the recycling bin without a glance. I avoid conversations that rate my (or anyone else’s) value based on what my job is, what neighbourhood I live in, or who I associate with. I try to not be late for anything I’ve committed to attend, but don’t book up my schedule just to keep busy.

When I first moved back to Canada, I caught myself flipping through the pages of those flyers pondering purchasing things I in no way needed. I seriously reconsidered that my value was based on external factors; easy enough to happen when taught from an early age these are the things that matter, but I know in my heart-of-hearts Just Being is all that matters. As for keeping busy for the sake of being busy; I may not need to keep room in my day for an impromptu visit to the beach, but I’m not rushing around trying to fill up time just surviving either. A Roatan Vortex state of mind is mine to keep no matter where I am!

Be sure to stop by Castle Muse oh sure, I’m not done building it yet, but worth a peak and while you’re at it how about clicking on the like button at Castle Muse on Facebook staying connected with Roatan Vortex family and friends makes me smile!

:)

Roatan Vortex State of Mind

1 Feb

Okay, so I had said my previous story here at RoatanVortex.com was going to be my last posting, but what can I say… a wave of homesickness washed over me the other day.

It had nothing to do with the fact that the temperature read as a negative number or hearing the sound of tires spinning, outside my home, on the snow, compressed to a layer of hard packed ice on the roadways.

It had nothing to do with getting ready to go out for a while and having to pull on a bulky jacket, scarf, gloves, a toque to swaddle my head, or sitting on the bottom step in the front hall tugging boots over thick socks entombing my protesting toes.

It had nothing to do with moving the portable humidifier from room to room trying to maintain at least a hint of moisture in the air, or the stockpile of lotions and creams stacked on the bathroom counter that I need to slather on dry and chapped skin—in spite of the claims made by the manufactures that if I use their product my skin will never go flaky.

And it had nothing to do with noticing the weak sunlight emitting from the hazy orange ball suspended in the frosty afternoon sky and wondering—what’s that? Or realizing that I am gazing longingly at the potted herb plants on the kitchen counter not because I’m trying to decide what will go best in an omelette but solely because they’re green and alive and… plants.

I was homesick for my Island family and friends!

Since moving back to my hometown in Canada, I’m learning to cope with the conditions that I have no control over; weather, sleeping vegetation and minimal sunlight. And I’m appreciating advantages I haven’t experienced for a few years. I haven’t had to wipe mould off of anything, there is nary a hint of rust on the fridge needing to be hidden with a fresh coat of primer and none of the door knobs have fallen off because the lockset has crumbled away. There is no need to check under my pillow for scorpions, flick gecko poop off the freshly made bed or swat at the sand-flies nibbling on my ankles.

I’ve had the greatest pleasure of my son and grandkids stopping by and together we watch ‘Planet of the Apes’ on Netflix, getting together with my mom to work side by side on the book we are co-authoring, and spending an afternoon with my daughter when she drives down from Hanover and we go for lunch and shopping at the most exclusive boutique—Value Village! And most evening after a delicious home cooked meal, courtesy of my Steven, we snuggle on the sofa (yup, a real one) to watch a few episodes of our favourite HBO series, ‘Mad Men’.

Regardless of all that, I settled into my feeling homesick and longing for Roatan, wrapping it around me like a much needed fleece blanket to ward off the cold, at the same time the Roatan Vortex began pulling at me; warming me from the very core of my being. Now before you get any ideas, no, I’m not moving back to Roatan, but rather, re-embracing what I thought I had to give up. When I made the decision to move back to Canada there were many reasons (and there still are) but I thought I had to completely say goodbye to the Roatan Vortex; it had consumed an extraneous amount of my time when I lived on the Island and became a chore, a job, a, I thought I had to turn it into a business thing.

But, the thing is–the Roatan Vortex was never intended or destined to be any of those things—the Roatan Vortex is a state of mind!

A bunch of years ago I coined a phrase, “the Roatan Vortex—it pulls you in and you’ll never want to leave!” and I’ve come to realize that I don’t have to physically be on the Island to feel and share the positive effects—to stay connected with my Roatan family and friends. Although I won’t be posting stories nearly as often as I used to I still will be occasionally stopping by to say hi and satisfy my craving to blog. Time permitting I will also be re-launching the Roatan Vortex Book with a new look but exactly same content as I originally wrote it, plus additional bonus features! The RV Book will be available at my new website CastleMuse as a FREE downloadable ebook format and the book (paperback) edition will be available on-line to purchase at cost plus (of course) shipping. I also will bring books to the Island and donate them as prizes for various fundraisers—Clinica Esperanza Sundae by the Sea, Familias Saludables Sundays at Bananarama and others.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
If you’re in no hurry and can wait for my re-release of the Roatan Vortex Book… please do. I’ll announce it here at Roatan Vortex.com You may find (what appears to be) the book in its original state available for sale on the Island and floating around cyber-space. Thing is, even though it’s all my content and my name is on it—it’s not the real deal!

Now I’m not asking you to take sides or anything, heck, I’ve got a couple of ‘knock-off’ outfits in my closet, have watched a few illegally copied DVD’s and the sunglasses I bought on the beach may have the ‘Gucci’ logo embossed on the rim… but they sure aren’t ‘Gucci’.

On page 265 of the Tiny Buddha, Simple Wisdom for Life’s Hard Questions—by Lori Deschene, she asked: “What can we control in life?”

My answer: “The absolute only thing we can control in life is how we respond to everything we have no control of.”—@roatanvortex

I’ve got a lot of great things going on in my life that require my full attention right now, and other than the couple of weeks I’m going to spend (with Steven) enjoying the glorious warmth and sunshine on Roatan this month, I plan on taking full advantage of the cold dreary weather to keep me focused on writing content and recording audio books for my new website CastleMuse; that’s where I’m building the foundation for my ‘castle in the air’ while maintaining a Roatan Vortex state of mind.

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

Grocery Shopping on Roatan

12 Sep

Impromptu dinner parties on Roatan are a regular part of the lifestyle here. It’s not uncommon to get a phone call (or Facebook message) just a few hours before, letting you know who is hosting, and what you are requested to bring. Last one I attended, I was asked to bring: a bag of ice, and a pineapple. One my way to the get together, I stopped beside a fruit & veggie truck, selected which pineapple I wanted (without getting out of the driver’s seat), he passed it to me, I paid for it, and drove away. Next stop was the variety store for a bag of ice. The clerk said, “That will be $25 please.” I smiled, handed him a bill, and asked if he could make change for a 50… Lempira. He grinned, and said, “You can’t blame a guy for trying.”

Recently, I hosted a dinner party, and decided, for this one, I would supply all food and drink. It was an extra special occasion for me; a housewarming party at my new digs. Actually called it a house-cooling party, I didn’t turn on the air-conditioning—or anything silly like that, it just sounded more appropriate for Roatan.

Hosting this party required more than a stop at the fruit & veggie truck and the variety store, a full menu had to be compiled. Now, if you are as lucky as me, you have a friend who is an excellent cook, knows the list of ingredients required without looking them up in a cookbook, as I would have to do, and having another friend, who is the queen of baking desserts was a bonus, but a full fledge grocery shopping excursion was still necessary.

There are plenty of options for grocery shopping on Roatan, with a Roatan twist, of course. When you enter a grocery store, it looks typical North American: shopping carts, brightly lit aisles and sections: dry goods, produce, dairy, and freezer section, even a bakery & deli counter. However, weather, and other factors, will dictate how well stocked the shelves are; you have to be prepared to improvise or make a last minute menu change.

Some typical North American experiences while grocery shopping will not be found here. There is no weekly delivery of flyers to your home (thank goodness), listing all the specials of the week, no coupons to clip either. Grocery stores, only recently started doing “in store specials” but none accept coupons. They are very diligent about expiry dates though, and will discount items that are close to the expiry date. When decided if the savings is worth taking the chance, be sure to take into consideration for dairy and meat products; the time your (must be kept cool, applies to ice cream too) groceries spend in your vehicle while in other stores, and during the drive home, speeds up the spoiling and melting process. The bonus is the non-perishable items that have an expiry date stamped on them. I was looking to purchase a box of white wine (boxed wine connoisseur, don’t you know) and wound up saving a lot! I didn’t know boxed wine had an expiry date, but sure didn’t complain when I saw the discount sticker reducing the price from L265 to L100!

When you get to the check out, there are the typical displays of odds & ends, candy bars and gum. All strategically placed to entice you while you wait in line. Fortunately, no supermarket tabloids will be on display, but you might find your copy of The Roatan New Times. As your items travel on the belt, if you have purchased un-typical produce (imported) be prepared to tell the checkout clerk what it is called, chances are they have no idea, and will spend a lot of time trying to find it on their list. I’ve run into snags a few times when it comes to this, since I know what items are called in English, but not Spanish. While that is going on, your groceries are being (excessively) bagged for you. The “reduce plastic bag waste” hasn’t caught on here—yet! You can bring your own re-usable bags, just be prepared to guide the person bagging your groceries, to not put them in plastic bags first and then into the ones you brought. The other thing you have to assist with is how the purchased items get stacked in your vehicle—that’s right, we get carry-out service!

Shopping cart lounger-Mike Bouchet, designer

On the Island of Roatan, typical North American style grocery shopping is a new concept for those who work in the stores. I try to remind myself of that when I’m getting frustrated because the clerk doesn’t know the name of the product I’m purchasing, or puts the bag with the loaf of bread, under the bag with canned goods in it. While I appreciate the familiarity of North American style grocery shopping—I never want to re-embrace the “typical” being grumpy and unfriendly while grocery shopping on Roatan.

***

Shopping on Roatan at Honduras Weekly

Listen to the Roatan Vortex Hour on 101.1 FM Roatan Radio.com for Saturday, Sept 10 – Now & Then, Here & There

 
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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.

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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

Driving on Roatan

31 Aug

Driving on the Island of Roatan has a few, ahhhh, unique qualities. There is one main road, a few village roads (some paved, some not) and the entire Island is approximately 35 miles long, so you would think it wouldn’t take too long to travel from one end to the other—that would be true if you could drive as the crow flies. Take into consideration: the curves, bends, hills and valleys, and nothing is as close as it may appear on a map.

Then there are other considerations, such as, who you are sharing the road with; the requirement to get your driver’s license on Roatan is showing ID that you are at least 18 years old, an eye test—sort of, a physical exam—sort of, and a friend who goes with you because they want to get a driver’s license too (the camera at the DMV takes two pictures on one sheet of photo paper, hence the requirement to have two people apply for their license at the same time.) At no time through the process will you be asked if you know how to drive, or be tested to prove that you know how to.

Roatan is a bustling metropolis (not really) but the traffic is quite steady, including a vast assortment of SUV’s and cars; taxis—only equipped with four-way flashers and annoying horns; tour buses crawling along so the occupants won’t miss any of the sights, or zooming by with just the driver, on the way to pick up the next batch of passengers; work trucks that seat 30 (the majority in the open back); scooters—the preferred minivan for many; pick-up trucks jammed full of rubbish, household items, and/or supplies—I’m always fascinated by how high stuff can be stacked—and there is usually a guy sitting on-top of the pile—holding it down. I’ve even seen a transport truck navigate the winding road. That wouldn’t be such a big deal except the main road is only exactly wide enough for one vehicle travelling in each direction, and being such a long vehicle requires using the middle of the road to cut the corners. Oh wait—most vehicles claim the middle of the road as their own personal lane on the bends, so length of vehicle is irrelevant.

The majority of the main road is, ahhh, paved. When it starts to rain the surface is slipperier than an ice rink, extreme caution is required to avoid a collision! There are few street lights, but, quite a few vehicles don’t have working headlights or tail-lights either—so it balances out.

Then there are the pedestrians sans motorized vehicles; I’ll include bicycles here, lots of those too! Very few areas have actual sidewalks lining the road, lucky if there is a gravel shoulder, or a path trampled in the ever encroaching jungle. You will encounter: children walking to and from school, entire families on their way to wherever, individuals heading to work, and groups of friends strolling side by each (so they can have a conversation) oblivious to on-coming traffic since they usually walk with the direction of traffic, instead of facing it. The only ones facing the vehicles zipping by are the joggers, ready to jump to the side if necessary. However, the runaway horses, dogs, iguanas, crabs, chickens, and other assorted creatures and critters, have no preference for which side of the road they use to get from point A to B.

I enjoy driving on Roatan, it’s always an adventure! It’s great fun to freak out visitors, especially when I take them down switchback roads, or ones that are so steep it looks like we are going to fall off the face of the earth—I know the road is there! One of the features I like best about the Roatan roads is that there are few signs blocking the view. You’ll see the occasion “bend in the road” sign, a few “one way” signs, and we even have a couple of “stop” signs. But, for the most part that’s it.

However, there is one road on Roatan that could use some signage:
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This story can also be read at Honduras Weekly, retitled: The Adventures of Driving on Roatan

Don’t Step on Thorns

5 Aug

Don’t Step on Thorns


Started out harmless enough, strolling along a path, heading to the beach, minding my own business, when one of those pesky barbed end daggers, launched itself between my flip-flop and the tender underside of my foot.

Yes, I cursed! Pulled it out, and carried on, muttering under my breath as the assaulted area stung. Later that evening, I suspected the tip of the thorn was still imbedded; contorting my leg (in what I’m sure was an advanced yoga position—I don’t do yoga) I examined the bottom of my foot. Yup, there was something in there; I poked, and prodded in an attempt to remove it. When my hip protested the pretzel formation I had forced it to endure, in my infinite wisdom, I decided to leave it be—the remnant of thorn would work itself to the surface, and that would be that.

Well, that didn’t happen. With every step I took, the offending debris was pushed further in—not out. And once again, in my infinite wisdom, I chose to ignore it. Fast forward a couple of months (okay so I was in complete denial) I hobbled along, complaining to all that would listen, that there was a thorn in my foot and it hurt! More than once, it was suggested that I should go to Miss Peggy’s (Clinica Esperanza) and have that taken care of. I knew that, but had every excuse for why I didn’t have time; I am on such a tight schedule on Roatan, don’t you know. Finally—common sense kicked in and I went to the clinic.

Located at the top of a hill, in Sandy Bay, what once was Miss Peggy’s home (she ran the clinic out of her kitchen) has expanded to a full fledge, not-for-profit, medical facility; Miss Peggy and her team of dedicated staff and volunteers tend to the medical needs of all on Roatan.

Being the chicken that I am, when I approached the entrance, I was grateful for the welcoming and calming atmosphere. Children played on the jungle gym, their parents nearby, others sat on the wide front porch, fanning themselves. Inside, more clients sat in the neatly arranged waiting area, the air-conditioning negating the need to fan. Most were quick with a sincere smile and greeting, as was the receptionist, who took my information.

When it was my turn, I was led to a consultation room, where one of the volunteers checked my vital signs, noted them on a chart, and assessed what I would require; consulting with Dr Raymond, it was decided that more than a pair of tweezers were needed; he would personally tend to my treatment. I won’t go into the gory details, let’s just say… the thorn remnants are gone, as is the infection, that I had given free rein by letting it fester for so long… the necessary excavation was then closed with five stitches!

Once again relying on my infinite wisdom, I devised a secret plan that as soon as Dr Raymond was finished, and before the freezing wore off, I would go grocery shopping, and take care of a few errands. Fortunately, (although I didn’t think so at the time) Dr Raymond is a mind reader. He handed me a blanket and a pillow, turned off the light, and as he exited the room said, “Have a good nap, see you in a couple hours.”

“But, but, but, I’ve got things to do before the freezing wears off!” I protested.

“I know—that’s why you’re staying right here.” He smiled and closed the door.

I’m regularly asked how I could risk giving up “First World” healthcare when I moved to Roatan—thing is—the best care I’ve ever gotten is on the Island of Roatan. A dedicated team of trained professionals take care of my medical need with compassion and a true commitment for the well being of ALL the people of Roatan—even those like me, whose infinite wisdom is solely lacking.

Please visit the Clinica Esperanza website for more information on what they offer, and details of the upcoming 5th annual “Sundae by the Sea” at Gumbalimba Park; all proceeds directly benefit the ongoing efforts to provide quality healthcare to all on Roatan.

This story can also be read at Honduras Weekly; retitled, Miss Peggy’s First World Clinic in Honduras.

Typical Roatan

14 Jun

Typical Roatan

Roatan is… ah… UNIQUE! At least compared to a typical North American lifestyle. Here are a few random pictures and a couple of videos to give you an idea of what I mean:

Emergency Route signs at airport

Roatan Deer

The Roatan Vortex Pulls You in and You Never Want to Leave!

What to Bring – What to Leave Behind

8 May

More often than not when you make the move to Roatan the home you rent or purchase on the island will be furnished; including dishes, other kitchen stuff, and linens.

Chances are though you will have items from wherever you are moving from that you will want to bring with you—those bits and pieces that are a part of your everyday life.

However when you move to Roatan your priorities of what you need to set up house and home will change; some by choosing a simpler, less cluttered lifestyle, and others because… well… chances are it isn’t going to survive here!

A lot of what you may need or want can now be found on Roatan compared to when I moved here. I never realized how important coat hangers were until the previous owner of my cabana took them all with them when they moved out. It took me two weeks of searching every store in my quest to get my clothes hung up. I finally found some in the Fruit & Veggie Market in Coxen Hole. Silly me, I had been looking in hardware stores and at the Carrion—Roatan’s version of a Walmart; which is absolutely nothing like a Walmart. You no longer need to worry about bringing coat hangers when you move to Roatan; there are many places that carry them. If you do decide to bring some though just make sure they are plastic! Guaranteed, metal ones will rust, and that sheet of paper covering the metal frame will go mouldy!

Here is my list of must bring items to Roatan:
• a stainless steel (heavy duty) cheese grater

• a stainless steel (heavy duty) can opener

• those little silica packets in shoe boxes (don’t bring the shoes)

• zip-lock bags in various sizes; including extra, extra large, for storing… everything!

• a Swiffer Sweeper Vac and numerous packages of Swiffer dust clothes and filters

• tri-light bulbs

• a cooling fan for laptop

• crank flashlight

• Yorkshire pudding mix—if you like Yorkshire pudding but not to make it from scratch

• acrylic paints and brushes—or your preferred art & craft supplies

• needles, thread, sewing accessories—that I store in a zip lock baggy with those silica packets from the shoe boxes

• extra batteries, cords, accessories for computer and camera equipment

• An English calendar—not that I worry too much what day it is, but I always have had a calendar on the fridge—habit.

• Feather and down pillows

• bedding / linens—still not much to choose from on Roatan

• Couch (sofa) with springs & frame, and puffy cushy cushions … I haven’t got one yet, but trust me I will one of these days. On those evenings when I want to kick back and relax on the couch, it ain’t gonna happen unless I bring my own!

What NOT to bring
• an alarm clock—being on time for something on Roatan is to be at least a ½ hour late.

• rollerblades—majority of paths are loose stones or sand, not so good for rollerblading

• an iron—the humidity will remove all wrinkles

• metal heirloom picture frames—they will rust through in no time

• any pieces (furniture) made from fake wood—termite candy

• any article of clothing that you never wear, but think you might—it will go mouldy

• chairs or stools covered in plastic—sweaty, sweaty, sweaty

• Leather stuff—I brought one leather belt… anytime I wear it I have to wipe the mould off first!

So what about you? Getting ready to make the move, what would be on your list of must bring?

Just remember when you make the move to Roatan, you’ll be too busy doing stuff to worry about what stuff you brought to Paradise!

Listen here to what DJ Chef Frances – “Live it up, the guide to living the sweet life in Paradise” shared from his list, when he popped in on the Roatan Vortex Radio Show, on 101.1 FM Roatan Radio.com

 
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