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I had no idea

25 Nov

I had no idea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

2 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

Confused yet? Just wing it—haha!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This story can also be read at Honduras Weekly.

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.

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

Just CLICK here: Roatan Vortex | Create Your Badge

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

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

Just Being

29 Sep

I’ve added something new to the Roatan Vortex site called: What I talk About. It’s actually called categories, but I can give it any title I want. When I first set-up this website/blog I was given the option of creating categories then. But at that time,

A) I was too new to blogging to feel comfortable with adding another step. I found tagging tough enough to comprehend.
B) I figured I was always going to be writing about day-to-day life on Roatan so why did I need categories to group stories in.

Well that was seven months ago. Now, 50 stories, 190 tags, and more than 50,000 page views later—by the way, thanks for stopping by! I appreciate the value of categories. It’s an easier way for you to navigate through the Roatan Vortex.

I read through each story I had posted, so I could group them in categories with a similar thread of content. When you click on Tropical Fruit: How to Eat a Kiwi, What an Orange Really Tastes Like, Pineapples Take too Long to Compost—I think I’ll Plant Them, and other stories that relate to tropical fruit will come forward for you to read.

As I created the names for each category, one in particular stuck out—Just Being. I adding some of the stories I had written to this category, but I realized that none of them clearly stated my opinion of what it means to Just Be.

So here it is—from a Roatan Vortex point of view—of course.

Soon after moving to Roatan a family emergency called me back to Ontario for a few weeks. I quickly made arrangements and boarded a flight the next day. My stop in Miami was uneventful, through immigration in a matter of moments—I was in transit to Canada, not sticking around in the USA for more than an hour. Then my next flight landed in Toronto, Canada.

I’m carrying my Canadian passport. I’m home! There should be no delay here.

I approached the Canadian Immigration Officer perched on a high stool, a stern scowl on his face. His uniform, perfectly pressed, with sharp creases in the midnight blue material exactly where they should be. I couldn’t see his black boots from my position on the other side of the steel grey counter. But I’m sure they were polished to a reflective shine, with the laces snugged too tight.

I smiled, handed him my passport, and croaked a nervous hello. I’m always convinced I look guilty of something when I meet an authority figure. I know that’s silly of me, I just can’t seem to help it.

He accepted the passport I offered with a firm hand, only his forearm moved. The rest of his body maintained the rigid pose, the scowl still on his face.

I waited, while he scanned the passport, and then flipped through the entries and exits stamped on the pages.

“Your address?” he asked.

“Excuse me?”

He shifted slightly, one eyebrow twitched. “You don’t know your address?”

Of course I do, I quickly rhymed off my Canadian mailing address. Technically I don’t think that counted for what he was looking for. But heck it’s all I’ve got in Canada.

“What do you do?”

I couldn’t proceed until I answered.

The scowl on his face transforming in to something even harsher, as it appears he now has one angry eyebrow where before there was a gap of unclenched skin between the two.

The line of fellow passengers standing behind me start to fidget, they are also anxious to be on their way. Great, now I’m really in trouble—I’m taking too long to answer this simple question.

“What do you do in Canada?” the Officer leaning forward, asking me again.

“Ahhh, nothing.” I replied. Definitely not the best answer I could have given but in my nervous state it was what came to mind.

Ever since I quit my job, sold my house, and moved to Roatan I’ve realized, who I am in my home country, is defined by what I do and where I live. When did that happen? When I was a child nobody asked what I did. I just was! Mind you they did ask, “What do you want to do when you grow up? Or the ever popular, what do you want to be?”

“Are you a student?” my Immigration Officer suggested. I obviously needed help with declaring what I do.
“No, I am not in school,” I replied.

“Are you independently wealthy?”

“Hardly,” I snort.

“Are you retired?”

Oh, I’ve been asked this one before. It seemed to be my best shot at getting permission to leave.

“Yes, I am retired.” I bobbed my head up and down.

“Isn’t retirement age around 65? Are you 65?”

“No!” I snorted again.

I guess the word retired has the same condemnation of the questions asked of me when I was a child. However, once retired the question changes to…What DID you do?

With a heavy sigh and an annoyed glance at his watch, the Canadian Immigration Officer abruptly shifted his position, swiping a red slash on my declaration form. “Proceed, welcome back to Canada…next!”

As I walk quickly through the maze of corridors that will get me out of the airport I consider what I want to say whenever I am asked—what do you do?

What I do is irrelevant. Just being is all that really matters!
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I originally wrote and posted this story at my old Travel Blog site. It was titled, What do you do?

Although at that time I had just moved to Roatan and was living out of a suitcase this story is still relevant today.

How to Eat a Kiwi Fruit

17 Aug

You know when you need to take a break…escape for an hour or two and just do something for you. Perhaps you lounge in a warm bath, with scented candles and a glass of wine your only companion. Or if you are on Roatan (you sure as heck don’t want to take a warm bath) you lay in a hammock and get lost in your new favorite novel.

Me…well, I write a story. Not one that I have a message to share. Or even one that I tell you a detail of day-to-day life on a tropical Island in the Caribbean Sea.

Nope, this one is for me, for an hour or two it’s all about something frivolous and fun. It’s all about making myself smile and shake my head wondering why the heck did I take the time to take these pictures…and wait patiently for this perfect moment to post this story.

It makes me happy!

I enjoy eating kiwi fruit. When I still lived in Ontario, Canada I could pick some up anytime I wanted to from my local grocery store, they were imported all year round. On Roatan, even though I live in the tropics, Kiwi fruit doesn’t grow here. We can get the best bananas, pineapple, guava, mangoes and oranges, to name a few. But kiwi fruit is imported…and not to often. So when I find them at the grocery store on Roatan and they are not covered in fruit flies or too ripe to enjoy. I buy a few.

I used to take a serrated edge knife and as carefully as possible peel off the fuzzy brown skin and then slice the pulpy, delicate jewel green contents. It would always take me longer to peel than to eat, because I would go so slow…determined to not loose any to the peeling process.

Well I know a much better way to eat a kiwi fruit…and I thought perhaps (if you don’t already know this gem of an idea) I’d share with you.

I was at work one day (in my former life) when a co-worker and friend took out a kiwi fruit and a spoon.

I watched in fascination as she used the spoon (a grapefruit spoon works best) to take the top off the kiwi fruit.

She then went on to scoop out the luscious fruit. Popping each spoonful into her mouth.

Until all that remained was the hollow, scraped clean, brown fuzzy skin…I was in awe!

And that is how to eat a kiwi fruit!

The end.

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.

Do and Don’t on Roatan

1 May

Do and Don’t on Roatan

Do Need
• to be able to improvise a favourite recipe
• WD40
• a source for canning jars before you decide to make Voodoo Mango Chutney
• to know someone who can get your IPhone going again after APPLE crashes it
• containers with tight fitting lids – preferably not metal
• to be able to enjoy doing…nothing
• to know how to convert Lempiras to US dollars
• to accept when the Roatan Vortex pulls you in
• to carry a book when you go to the bank – you might be in-line long enough to read the whole thing
• if you are Canadian; a red shirt with a maple leaf on it when watching Canada beat the US in the final gold medal Olympic Hockey Night in Canada, on Roatan
• a friend who also needs a drivers license when you go for yours – they only process two at a time
• a running list of things you need, so when friends come to visit they can bring them
• to keep a towel handy to wipe the sweat off your face
• to accept that when you are told something will be available manana (tomorrow) that really means, next week, next month or maybe never

Don’t Need
• A mailbox –we don’t get mail delivered
• a reason to have a party
• to take vitamin D
• a last name
• winter clothing
• a watch
• high heel shoes
• to try to rescue a Portuguese Man of War
• to prove you know how to drive to get a driver’s license
• anything with “anti-freeze” on the label
• a sauna
• envelopes and stamps
• anything made from pressed board – termite candy
• to worry when the power goes out at the power company

While all my comments and suggestions are light-hearted, sometimes silly statements about life on Roatan, they all represent what I believe is the most important aspects of Do and Don’t on Roatan.

DON’T move to Roatan expecting to turn it into where you came from. Instead, DO enjoy and appreciate everything it has to offer you that is different from where you came from.

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.

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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.

Finally…..
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

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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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