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Insider’s view

The Roatan Vortex – It Pulls You In and You Never Want to Leave! Warning: Reading this may cause you to get pulled in by the Roatan Vortex. It grabbed me a bunch of years ago and I’ve been here ever since.

******

Sleeping in a tree house.

If I had to pick the number one thing about Roatan that pulled me in…This is it! I technically don’t live in a tree house, but, our wooden cabana sits on stilts and the loft bedroom is in-line with the tree tops. When I open my eyes every morning I gaze out through the (screened) open balcony doors. To watch the waking hummingbirds perching on the thinnest branches of the cashew tree, while the sun rises over the central ridge, the rays of golden light peeking through the leaves.

******

Being first in line when Bob blows the conch shell at Hole-in-the-Wall. *

When I see the staff lining up plates and cutlery on the bar it is time to casually wander over to that area. Whoever is at the front of the line when Bob blows the conch shell is the one who gets to dig in to the pot of steamed lobster tails first. Hole in the Wall

******

Learning to not bother to ask why.

Asking why was a typical thing for me to do when I first came to Roatan. “Why are there speed bumps on bumpy roads? Why does it take 2 hours to do a simple transaction at the bank? Why do they sell cereal at the hardware store?” There is no answer to “why” it’s just the way it is.

******

When that’s just the way it is became my norm.

Once I stopped asking why, I was pleased to see that the way things are on Roatan is what I’m use to, it has become my norm. I know to allow lots of time to go to the bank, and when I want to buy cereal, I’ll check at the hardware store too.

******

It’s always the long weekend.

Glorious long weekends! I used to check the calendar (back in Canada) every month to confirm when the long weekends would be. I don’t bother anymore, I don’t need to on Roatan—every day feels like an extra day off.

******

Knowing the scurrying sounds on the dark path are just land crabs.

Okay I admit this one freaked me out when I first came to Roatan. A dark sand path surrounded by jungle foliage on a moonless night, I would get shivers up my spine not knowing what was scrambling around my feet. Now I know—just land crabs—no worries.

******

Going through the only automatic doors on Roatan.

I came to Roatan from a world of electronic gadgets to make life simpler. Elevators, escalators, hands-free soap dispensing and toilet flushing, and automatic door openers at malls and grocery stores. When the new grocery store opened here last year, it had been so long since I walked through an automatic door I wanted to just keep going in and out for the fun of it!

******

Being able to say, “I live here.”

I know it is inevitable given my Eastern European, blond, fair features that I would look like someone who is just visiting Roatan, especially when I am near one of the cruise ship ports. But when I am approached with offers of souvenirs or a tour of the Island, I can say, “No thank you, I live here.”

******

One of the ATM’s is on-line.

We actually have quite a few ATM’s here and a debit card from a local bank to use in them. The machines also accept foreign cards, which is great. The only thing is it’s become a bit of a game to find the ATM that is actually working on any given day. The bonus is that it will have cash to dispense.

******

Not having to pull dandelions in the spring.

I’ve always loved springtime in Canada. That glorious time of year when the trees are budding, the tulips giving a show of colour, and the Robins have returned. But, then the dandelions start popping up, disrupting the perfect front lawn curb appeal. We don’t need to worry about pulling dandelions on Roatan—there are none. We don’t have curbs either, so “curb appeal” has a whole different meaning.

******

Meeting a ‘newbie’ I know will make it on Roatan.

They are easy to spot. They’re the ones that are heading to the beach, not looking for Macy’s or Walmart. They’ve taken off their watches and stocked up on WD40 and duct tape (staples in every home.)

******

Pushing a stick in the ground and growing a hibiscus bush.

It takes no more effort than cutting a branch off an existing plant and sticking it in the ground. Pretty much every type of plant native to the Island is this easy to grow. Just wait until rainy season to do it. The average temperature is a degree or two lower and no worries to water. This works for pineapple tops too!
Growing Pineapples

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Not having to worry about losing a sock in the dryer.

I used to keep a basket of mismatched socks next to the dryer hoping that on laundry day I would find some mates. Don’t need to worry about that on Roatan…I don’t own socks or a dryer.

******

Being able to promise people they will see seahorses.

Seahorses live under our dock, using the frayed rope dangling in the water as an anchor. When visitors come to snorkel, I’m proud to tell them they will see seahorses.
I Promised Them Seahorses

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Having a friend who also wants to get a driver’s license.

The way it works on Roatan, at the driver’s license office, the photo ID machine takes two pictures. So you need to have a friend who also wants to get their Honduran license. They won’t let you buy both pictures.

Not having to prove you know how to drive to get a driver’s license.

Through the entire process of applying for a driver’s license you do have to; get a physical, an eye test, and fill out forms in Spanish, but at no time will anyone ask you for proof of driver training or even if you know how to drive.

******

When ants clean-up the melted candy in my purse

We have ants on Roatan, big ones, tiny ones, and every size in between. It’s a good idea to not leave stuff out that they might like to help themselves to. But if you do happen to forget about a candy in your purse (and it melts all over the place) don’t worry the ants will help themselves to that too.
Ants Helping Out!

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Not having to paint my rust stained fridge more than once a year.

Everything rusts here…I’m use to it. I found the right paint, so I only have to re-paint the fridge once a year. I just include it on my spring cleaning list.

******

Only getting one or two sand flea bites when walking on the beach.

Let’s face it there are bugs everywhere in the world. Sand-fleas, sand-flies, or no-see’ums (whatever you want to call them) thrive on Roatan. Some times of the year worse than others, as on any tropical location with sand. Annoying…yes! Worth avoiding the beach for …ah, NO!

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Thinking you saw the GREEN FLASH.

The elusive green flash, I’ve never seen it. People sure are happy when they think they did. I believe it is just your eyes playing tricks on you because you stared at the sun…not suppose to do that…right?

******

Not finding a scorpion sleeping under my pillow.

Yup, has happened to me twice in three years. Soon after moving to Roatan the best advice I got was to check under my pillow before getting into bed. I believe in evicting critters, not exterminating them. But when it comes to scorpions…I’ve got scorpion killer spray.

******

Finishing the bananas before they’re too ripe to eat.

I love bananas, but they ripen so fast that I wind up getting a bunch and over-dosing on them before they are too ripe to peel back and eat.

Finding yogurt at the grocery store. If not past due date…bonus.

Dairy products just like bananas don’t keep very long. It’s always a good shopping day when I find yogurt on the store shelf. But they don’t understand the concept of rotating stock so don’t bother rooting around to find a better due date on product at the back…best dates are front and center.

******

Feeding a stray Island dog.

He cautiously climbed the stairs to my front porch; having no way of knowing I wouldn’t hurt him. Ribs showing through skin stretched over a hollow where his stomach should be, his eyes…pleading. He scurries back down the stairs when I approach with a dish overflowing with dog food. I set it down and go back in the cabana. A few minutes later I hear him gulping it down…I smile. He’ll be back tomorrow, we’ll do it again.

******

Hummingbirds.

The most amazing creature there ever was. Use to be that if I saw even one all summer I was happy. Now, here on Roatan, not only do I see flocks of them every day…I get to hold and help them too!
Hummingbird Encounter

******

Not having to clean the hot-tub.

Why the heck would you want a hot tub on Roatan? The only time of the year the air is cool enough to want to sit outside in a hot tub is during rainy season and even than…well it’s raining.

Not having to check if the pool heater is working okay.

Is there such a thing as a pool cooler? That’s something you might want here.

Not needing kindling for the fireplace.

Kinda the same reasons as the ones above. Mind you in rainy season might be nice to have a fireplace on occasion to cosy up in front of.

******

Talking to a gecko in the kitchen.

He (or maybe she) hangs out behind the microwave and scurries out when I open the drawer below. I ask, “How’s it going? What’s new?” The gecko blinks and returns to his hiding spot.

******

No signs telling you what you can and cannot do.

When you walk or drive down the street where you live, how many signs do you pass telling you what you can and cannot do? No passing, no parking, no shirt-no service, dogs must be leashed, no jumping in the pool, no jaywalking, cross here, etc. etc. etc.

Not on Roatan! Nothing blocking our view!

******

Seeing a calendar with a picture for each month of the best beaches around the world and March is a beach on Roatan.

March …is every month of the year for me.

******

Being a member of the Roatan Global Village.
I spend my time on Roatan with good friends from Holland, Ireland, England, Poland, Argentina, Italy, USA, Honduras, Guatemala, and even some fellow Canadians. When you come to Roatan, whether it be for a week or a lifetime—you too will be welcomed into the Global Village of Roatan.

Celebrating Canada Day and the 4th of July with my Roatan Family.

Canadian or American it doesn’t matter…we celebrate them both!
Canada Day on Roatan

World sporting events.

Watching Canada win Gold in Olympic hockey in West End. Or cheering with our Dutch friends during World Cup Soccer. Only on Roatan!

******

Having friends and family come visit and sharing Roatan with them.

Here’s what I can offer; glorious sunsets & sunrises, soft white sand beaches, tropical fruit ready for picking, turquoise blue Caribbean Sea, lush jungle foliage, the world’s second largest coral reef teaming with aquatic life, an afternoon lounging in the hammock, etc. etc. etc. Come on Down to Roatan

******

Butterflies keeping me company while I’m working in the garden.

As I work the sun warmed soil crumbling between my fingers, they hover nearby, landing on a hibiscus flower, their wings as delicate as the pedals of the bloom. Another one flitters in. They swirl and flutter, performing an aerial waltz.

******

Hanging out where pirates used to.

This is the place! The Town of Coxen Hole is named after John Coxen – a notorious buccaneer of the 16th century. He, like Henry Morgan, came to Roatan to take on fresh water and to stash stolen Spanish treasures in the caves dotting the east end of the Island. Many believe there are riches of gold and silver still to be found.

******

Don’t need to know the name of the street I live on.

There are no street names.

No need to remember my postal code.

I don’t have one.

No waiting for the mail to be delivered.

There is no mail delivery on Roatan.

******

Not having to complain to the customer service rep.

In North America there was always a phone number to call for customer service. Although I got through (eventually) to a real voice, chances are they answered from a call center half way around the world and there wasn’t much they could or would do to help me.

Not on Roatan! There is no pretending a business or service offers customer service. No worries about getting my hopes up that someone out there will assist me.

******

Seeing where cashews come from and watching them grow.

Cashews, nature’s perfect nut…or is it a fruit. Actually it’s both!
The blossoms start in early April, delicate clusters of tiny flowers, with a hint of the fragrant cashew scent swirling in the Caribbean Sea breeze. By mid-April the fruit is forming as is the solitary cashew sprouting from the bottom of the golden pepper shaped fruit. Cashews on the tree.

******

Being able to use guava as an air freshener.

Forget chemical air fresheners claiming to give you serenity from the artificial tropical scents they emit. Just collect a handful of fallen guava fruit, slice them open, use a shell as a holder, and set next to an open window for a real tropical fragrance.

******

An afternoon nap is encouraged.

The sunrise begins around 5:30 AM, the air is as cool as it’s going to be all day. By noon it is time to retreat to the shade, by 3:00 PM it’s time for a nap (siesta) in the hammock, waking in-time to watch the sunset from the dock.

Watch the sun set while watching the moon rise.

Relaxing on the dock, sipping a cool drink, watching the sun set into the Caribbean Sea. As it dips below the horizon in the West, I glance to the East and marvel as I watch the full moon rise.

******

Returning a starfish to the ocean.

Every morning, strolling on the beach, the chances are a starfish will have washed on-shore. Picking it up and wadding into the Caribbean Sea returning it to where it belongs before it bakes in the rising sun or is scooped up and claimed as a souvenir.

******

Rainy Season.

Great time to snuggle under a blanket.

Rainy Season.

Don’t have to worry about watering the plants.

Rainy Season.

Not sweating.

Rainy Season.

Good excuse to play board games, read a book, have a nap listening to the rain.

******

Not wearing shoes.

I hate shoes…always have. Flip-flops work for me, or better yet barefeet on the sand. No calluses, no corns, no dry cracked heals…no screaming toes begging to be free.

******

Knowing what an orange really tastes like.

I love fresh fruit and vegetables but I never realized until I tried them on Roatan that what I had been eating all these years was a fraud. In an attempt to make everything look good, the true flavour was lost. But not on Roatan, the fruits and veggies might look ugly but…oh the flavor.
What an Orange Really Tastes Like.

******

Painting walls any colour I want.

There are too many rules for me when it comes to what colours are in fashion each year. The majority of them dull muted tones of white, way too boring for me. I never lost the childish enthusiasm for colour. Here on Roatan not only is my passion for electric lime, tangerine orange, sunny lemon yellow, accepted—it is encouraged.

Electric Lime

******

Watching lizards frolic under the spray from the garden hose when watering the compost pile.

Composting on Roatan is a worth-while adventure. The year round balmy tropical air, combined with an abundance of suitable to compost natural materials ensures success. The bonus is the show all the lizards put on when they rush to the pile, to grab a quick snack and enjoy a mist of cool water at the same time.

******

Making sauces with coconut milk.

I’d never cooked with coconut milk before unless a recipe specifically called for it and even then I would hesitate. Coconut milk is way easier to source here, so I started using it more often for any dish that milk is a required ingredient. Not only is it convenient, coconut milk adds a whole new flavour dimension that is uniquely delicious.

******

Not having to squish my feet in to high heel shoes.

Ladies you know what I mean!

My husband doesn’t own a suit or tie.

Who’s idea was this man’s uniform anyhow? An elaborately tailored suit-coat, combined with a rigid collared shirt, buttoned to the throat. A swatch of material noose, snugly knotted over that.

No shoes, no shirt…no problem.

This is a popular sign in West End!

******

Finishing an ice cream before it melts or I get a brain freeze.

Who doesn’t enjoy ice cream on a hot summer day? On Roatan every day is summer, so I have to be careful to not over indulge. There is a real art to gobbling the ice cream down before I have to chase it with my tongue as the melting sweetness trickles from the cone. The challenge is to not go to fast and ward off the pending brain freeze.

******

No coins (change) weighing down my pockets.

In Canada the goal is to do away with paper money and introduce more coins. So far, a dollar coin, and a two dollar coin have been added. This extra change can start to way you down. Not to mention the annoying clatter in your pocket or purse. Honduras doesn’t bother with coins at all. The one Lempira bill is only worth pennies so anything less than that is a waste of time. Mind you if I wind up with a wad of one Lempira bills, I may only have fifty cents in my wallet but the bulge of twenty-five bills does take up some space.

******

A falling coconut not hitting me on the head.

I never thought this would be a potential hazard I’d have to watch out for. It would be like something from an episode of Gilligan’s Island. Lots of coconuts in the trees, but so far so good—none have dropped on me when I’ve been lounging underneath a coconut palm tree.

******

WD40

I buy it in bulk. At least once a month every fan, door knob key-hole, zipper, vehicle seat-belt clasp, vehicle stick-shift (not good when you can’t shift from park to drive), Even used it on a unique belt buckle that wasn’t going to open without giving it a quick spray. Just knowing that I can use WD40 to fix all those things that rust, corrode, or get jammed up because of the sea-salt drifting through the air—is a good thing.

******

Just because—is a reason to have a party.

A quick phone call, a Facebook message, or a chance meeting at the grocery store, and a get together is arranged. The reason for the party—just because! Most everyone will attend, spending time with Island family and friends, is what it’s all about.

******

Having a towel handy to wipe the sweat off my face.

I’m okay with sweating all the time, really I am. No dry parched skin, always a thin sheen of moisture. But when I’m working on something and the thin sheen becomes my own personal sweat fountain, it helps to have a towel handy to wipe the drops from my eyes.

******

Less stuff—less dusting.

I have far better things to do with my time than dust stuff. You know those knick-knacks, and bits and pieces that really have no purpose. I’d rather be enjoying the sunset, walking on the beach, or watching the hummingbirds flitter around the feeder hanging on my porch.

******

Doesn’t matter what time it is.

Unless it’s getting close to time to go watch the sunset.

Doesn’t matter what day it is.

Unless it’s my birthday, that when the wild orchids bloom.

Doesn’t matter what month it is.

Unless I have family coming to visit in February, than February matters.

Doesn’t matter what year it is.

Enjoying right here, right now, is all that matters.

******

Winning the ‘your luggage isn’t lost, it’s just not here’ game.*

I did it! I wasn’t successful my first few tries, but I’ve got the hang of it now.
Your Luggage Isn’t Lost – It’s Just not Here.

******

Not needing to take vitamin D supplements.

Glorious sunshine, nature’s own vitamin D. Ten minutes a day is all I need to meet my daily requirement.

******

Wild orchids blooming.

Every year on my birthday, in July, I take a stroll through the jungle foliage, and snap pictures of the delicate, exquisite wild orchids in full bloom. They only last a few days, but oh what a show they give, and just in-time for my birthday!

******

Enjoying…nothing.

Laying still listening to the waves break on the reef, watching the sun rise over the ridge, or the sun set in the Caribbean Sea, or perhaps just sitting on the front porch steps, with my dog Mona—I always make time to enjoy…nothing.

******

A firefly in the house after the sun goes down.

I turn out the lights ready to go to sleep. I listen to the frogs croaking, the crickets chirping, and the leaves on the cashew tree rustling in the gentle breeze. I’d close my eyes now, except wait, there is a warm glowing light drifting around the room. I watch it for a while, drifting off to sleep, hoping he’ll return tomorrow night.

******

Not having to adjust the clock for day-light savings.

We tried it one year, but since the sun always rises right around 6 AM and sets close to 6 PM, why bother. Besides, it doesn’t matter what time it is.

******

Not trying to keep up with the Jones’

The Jones’ don’t care if my car is; dinged, dented or scratched. Their vehicle probably is too. The Jones’ don’t care how big my house is. They don’t care what I wear. Actually, when I really think about it there aren’t any Jones’ on Roatan—at least none that I know of or try to keep up with.

******

Mangoes, lots of mangoes.

I like mangoes, the sweet, mellow flesh, hidden under a smooth glowing gold and red skin. When it is mango season it reminds me of back in Canada when it was time to pick the zucchini—I enjoy zucchini too, but there was always so much in a short period of time I couldn’t give them away. Every neighbourhood on Roatan has at least one mango tree, and usually more, plenty to go around. I make mango juice, mango muffins, cakes and bread. Mango pancakes are a favourite, as is mango ice cream.

******

Creating a drink called The Roatan Vortex.

-coconut milk
-coconut cream
-strawberry liqueur
-vodka or white rum
-ice
Blend until smooth, garnish with a swirl of strawberry syrup or liqueur.

******

Roatan is a hidden gem worthy of exploring. But I’ve warned you: Once the Roatan Vortex pulls you in…You will never want to leave.

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