Monday, April 6, 2009

The Return

I am typing this from my bed at home (why is it that nothing ever feels quite as comfortable as your bed at home?) on my laptop with one of my cats curled up beside me- three things (the bed, the computer and the cat in case you lost count) I haven't seen for about a month.

It is great to be home.  It's funny how the world, your mind, the universe, whatever you want to call it, works.  By the first hour I felt more relaxed than I had for weeks, by the first week in Paradise, I was more calm and centered than I had been in years.  Nothing could bother me - I couldn't even remember being bothered by anything at all.  By my second week in Roatan I thought I could be one of those people who just keeps extending her stay indefinitely until I look back and say "I was supposed to be here for one month, and ended up staying 13 years."  By the third week I was happy and content, but had a tiny bit of a stirring inside of me.  That stirring - that need to be productive, to have things happen in a timely manner, to see my husband/my home/my cats/my friends and family, well it just kept growing until by the end of the fourth week I actually felt ready to go.  Of course I would miss my new friends on the island, of course it would be difficult not to snorkel everyday or be cleansed by the calm, beautiful, perfectly clear and temperate ocean everyday.  We don't have a hammock at home.  We can walk down the street in L.A. without a single person stopping us to see how we are doing and what we are up to.

It helps that I got sick during my last couple days on the island.  No, not a gastrointestinal upset (luckily that was very short-lived), but rather the "tos y gripe" (cough and congestion/runny nose) that the vast majority of my gorgeous little Honduran patients had.  This is definitely a new virus/bacteria to me.  I have never had a cough quite so deep and wheezy and chest rattley or a nasal congestion quite so intense and yet dry at the back of my throat.  I most definitely scared the man on the plane ride next to me - each time I coughed (and yes, I always cover my mouth!) I could see him look around the plane in a panic for a different seat to sit in.  The comfort of home is much more alluring when you aren't feeling well.

Despite my cold, our last two days in Roatan were wonderful.  On Eric's birthday I cooked up an overwhelmingly large breakfast and then we took a water taxi (think small row boat with a motor on one end) over to West Bay for the most glorious day of snorkeling.  The water was warmer, clearer and calmer than it had ever been before.  Spectacular.  An island friend then made a very late lunch of a local favorite, arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) - it was more delicious than any other version of this dish that I have had in the past.  That night there was a power failure (which happens fairly frequently on the island, for unexpected and unexplained reasons - can last anywhere from 1 hour to 10 hours at a time).  The moon and stars were brighter because of it.  We walked down town, got some melty gelato from one of the places in town not equipped with a generator and then found some street food (the best baleadas in town).  We got home just in time for the electricity (which for us really just means the A/C) to come back on and cool us off enough to go to sleep.

Everyone should go to Roatan at one point in their lives.  To relax, to tan, to snorkel, to dive, to meet some of the friendliest people you will ever meet, to center yourself and remember who you are, and then to want to return home again.  It's an ideal vacation spot.  Pictures coming soon.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A simple walk down the street.

I thought the easiest way to give people a quick taste of what it's like here in Roatan would be to describe a simple walk down the street. YOu see the area that we're staying in is called the West End. A small carribbean enclave built on tourism but not overrun by it. Our personal stretch of beach is known as Half Moon Bay (if that's not a sign that we belong here I'm not sure what is).
The West End basically has one road that bends in an arc along the waterfront. As we leave our apartment we turn left to get anywhere aside from the local supermarket where we get our 5 gallom jugs of water. Immediately outside our door is the beach that accommodates the majority of our snorkeling needs. It could easily accommodate all of them but we've gotten greedy. Gone looking for more. "It's not you," we say to Half Moon Bay Beach, "It's us." Sadly our relationship with the beach is an unhealthy one. It welcomes us back everytime no matter how much we run around with other snorkeling destinations. But today we're not snorkeling, we're walking.
For a few steps at least because Sundowners Bar is right there. We have to stop for a moment to say hi to the salty ex-pats and bartenders that kept me company for hours on my first day before I was able to track Tami down.
Next we pass the Beach House where two sisters of a new local friend work along with a man who dreams of sailing to the States and living in Miami. The Beach House has a certain charm built on the fact that you can order the exact same menu item everyday and never get the same meal twice. Past the Beach House we find the only source of fruits and vegetables in town, a row of past their prime toyota pick-ups stocked with what back home are generally only considered smoothie ingredients and carrots so big I shudder to imagine the gargatuan rabbits that might feast on them. Invariably, while picturing this prehistoric Bugs Bunny one the many natives that we've met/been invited to dine with/gone fishing with/etc walks by spends a few minutes talking about the heat and locals' common dread of the impending invasion of mainlanders for Semana Santa.
At this point we generally realize that we've spent the entire time between lunch and dinner meandering our way roughly 30 yards down the street and return home for some hammock rocking and Ron y Pinas while watching the sunset at the end of another exhausting day in Roatan.
Tomorrow we hope to make it all the way down to the other end of the road (roughly 500 yards). We're budgeting about 10 hours. Wish us luck.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Catch-up Blogs

I cannot believe it is Friday already. Yet another week has flown by. Let me catch you up on what has been happening here in Paradise:

Snorkeling, Discovering my new favorite drink (and consuming a lot of it) - Rum & Pineapple juice, Relaxing on the beach, Playing cards and dice with Eric and my Honduran BFF Chrissie (a wonderful woman from Kansas who has been on the island for 4 months already and volunteers at the same hospital as I do), Relaxing, Working with the wonderfully nice people here (I diagnosed a broken wrist only to realize that the hospital doesn't have any plaster materials so the mother of the patient had to run out to a pharmacy to buy the materials out of which we could construct her son's cast)

As you can tell, it continues to be a fantastic experience.

Eric and I had our second wedding anniversary on Tuesday. We celebrated by eating some of the best Thai food we have ever had on a dock over the ocean. It was beautiful. Having no idea what the correct representation is for the 2nd anniversary (paper, gold, diamond, etc) we declared it to be shrimp and ate accordingly.

I will admit that the island lifestyle has finally become a little frustrating for me - I cannot imagine living here forever and actually trying to be productive. Everything happens on "island time" which means hours after you had planned if it happens that day at all. Initially I was charmed by the relaxed and lazy pace of everything. But now, after 3 and a half weeks of relaxing I am ready to start being a bit more productive.

Tomorrow is Eric's birthday. We are planning on making breakfast in the morning (banana and blueberry pancakes with a side of bacon and delicious Honduran coffee), then walking out to West Bay for a day of snorkeling and relaxing in the sun. For his birthday dinner I asked him to choose what he most wanted to try, and his decision was to take a tour of all of the local street food vendors (yikes!) There is a guy who cooks pork with pineapple on a rotisserie for tacos, the older lady who makes delicious baleadas, another woman who makes empanadas and enchiladas (which are more like a Mexican tostada than anything else), and a few others. It should be delicious and interesting. The scary thing is that we leave for home the very next day...I am a little weary of getting on a plane after eating street food in a country ripe with gastrointestinal bugs. At least it'll make for a good story (although not a very pleasant experience!)

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Stings

Yesterday morning Eric and I got up early to snorkel in a beautifully quiet, crystal clear ocean that hadn't yet been touched by the day's boats and swimmers. Unfortunately, it was a colder day than usual, with the wind blowing pretty hard making the usual still water bumpy with little waves.

We headed out anyway, in hopes of seeing the brilliant green moray eel we had seen a couple days before, along with my friends Mr. Bojangles and Sr. Barracuda. We were in the water for less than 2 minutes before I felt the first few little burns on my arms and legs. They were short-lived stinging sensations, just enough to make me kick my legs or wave my arms. We continued forth only to find that not only was the visibility not very good, but our little bay was full of tiny dime-sized jellyfish. The further we swam the more stings we felt. Eric even got stung on the mouth, not once, not twice, but three times! It was enough to make the most adventurous and tough snorkelers swim as fast as possible back to the beach.

After discussing our experience with some locals we learned that the "West Wind" ALWAYS blows in the jellyfish. Thanks a lot for the warning!

We decided to spend the rest of our day hiking in the gorgeous botanical gardens instead of being stung by mini jellyfish. The hike was hot and humid, but absolutely beautiful. Along with the fabulous flora, we also saw a number of cool lizards and a large rodent thing with round ears and brown fur. We got a few bug bites, but they were nothing compared to the thousand little stings of those jellyfish!

The Egggarbageeater

A few days ago I was with some of the people from the hospital and we decided to have lunch at our favorite baleada place in the town near the hospital. Granted, the baleadas (made of thick tortillas, refried red beans, cheese and whatever else you like) are delicious, but the place itself is certainly not up to any countries health standards. It is just downright filthy. But the price (cheaper than cheap) and quality of the food somehow allow the patrons to turn a blind eye.

On that particular day it was difficult to turn a blind eye to the large furry animal that walked through the restaurant with a ring-striped tail. I got very excited, thinking that I was seeing one of the island's rare anteaters. Not knowing the word for anteater in Spanish, I asked the waiter if that animal "eats ants". "No, he eats eggs and garbage", was the reply. Oh. An Egggarbageeater, huh?

The word he used for the animal was Pizote, which after much google searching I discovered to mean Coatie. The same animals that Eric and I had seen at Iguazu Falls in Argentina. Not quite as exciting as an anteater, but perhaps a close second.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Best Meal. Ever.

Last night, Eric's first night in Roatan, we got invited by one of the locals that I have become friends with, Kevin, to join him and his family for dinner. Kevin had gotten up early that morning to catch some fresh lobster (for the authorities that may be reading, Kevin was unable to locate any lobster on the Marine Reserve).

So, at his house, we are treated to a spectacular meal of lobster soup (made with the heads of the lobster, sweet plantains, potatoes and a fabulous mix of spices and coconut milk) and grilled lobster tail that puts the boiled lobster we had in Maine to shame. Soaking in an incredible roasted garlic butter sauce that was so tasty we all wanted to lick the plate afterwards.

What a perfect introduction to this paradise for Eric!

The Surprise

Thursday was just like any other day. I went to work in the morning at the hospital, came home, laid in the sun for a few minutes before snorkeling (thank you, Mr. BoJangles, Sr. Barracuda and new friend, Harry, the octopus, for allowing me to see you), laying on the beach for a bit longer and then showering at my apartment before heading out for the night. But, on this particular Thursday, an odd thing happened. I received a text message from Eric, who was supposed to get in on Sunday, asking me where I was. "Roatan, duh!", I thought, before another few seconds passed and I thought "does he mean where on Roatan? Could he somehow be here now?! No way."

Way. He was here. From about 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. (the whole time I was on the beach and snorkeling just a few feet from him) he had been sitting in the Palapa Bar (Sundowners) across the street from my apartment. How had we not seen each other?

What a wonderful surprise. It is spectacular to have him here. He is now a guest writer on this blog, so you will hear from both us (and see if I really am doing this place justice with my posts). And in his less than 24 hours here, he has already adjusted quickly to the island lifestyle and knows everyone on our end of the island!