A Dash of Repatriation Blues

We’ve been Stateside again about four and a half months, and it didn’t really occur to me that coming back to America was going to be such a different experience after our time away.

The best part of coming back was, of course, seeing our family and friends again – although we haven’t been able to make all the rounds yet that we want to make (Parrotheads and Pier Crew, I’m talking to you). And yes, there was (and still is) real pleasure at having easy access to things we’re glad to have in our lives again: specific foods we’d been jonesing for, being able to shop at favorite stores, not to mention the security of steady paychecks. At the same time, there’s been alot of open-mouthed gaping at the American way of life we used to take for granted, which now seems vaguely familiar but also foreign – and often too fast, and really wasteful.

Those first days and weeks, though, life was mostly just chaos, since besides re-adjusting to American culture, we had to secure temporary places to live (first a guest room with family, then an extended stay hotel near our new jobs, then an apartment). It was all the upheaval of going away, now in reverse coming back: Changes of address, moving, unpacking, learning the ropes at our new jobs and figuring out how to navigate in a (relatively) big city.

Sigh. And now we’re…settled. Ish.

Half home, that is, and half wishing we were off again. Because things here haven’t changed as much as we have, which is hard to explain if you haven’t been through it. 

So it was good to come across a recent Wall Street Journal blog that gives this half-in, half-out feeling a name: repatriation blues“. When I read this post (and this earlier post on same topic), I thought, yeah, that’s it, and right on time, too.

 

One last look at West End

Back in America and, a few days in, still suffering from an odd mix of culture shock and deja vu. Here was the last set of panorama shots I took in West End.

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We really love this place. Something tells me we’ll be back…

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Last weekend in Roatan

Mike and Sue, the owners of Mariposa Lodge, came back yesterday. We spent some time visiting and turning the place over (we’d moved out of their top-floor apartment into one of the lower rooms earlier), then headed out for our last Saturday night on-island.

As usual, we got stopped on the way to Foster’s by JC at Nova Bar who always insists we have a starter beer there. He’s one of the first people we met here and so much fun, always in a good mood.

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Eventually on to Foster’s, which had been hosting a charter on the boat, so most of the crew was around but busy. I took a few photos of some of ‘the boys’ for posterity, though. Here’s Joseph in the kitchen.

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Burt Reynolds and David behind the bar.

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Ray, who has been sick for the last few days (heavily congested), was feeling better so he wanted to hang around and enjoy the bachata playlist that Wesley (Snipes) had lined up; but since he’d been kind enough to share his crud with me, I was feeling less inclined and eventually we decided we’d just head home.

I like this photo of Christmas lights on the pier and the shoreline behind it. We took many pictures of the evening but most didn’t turn out – not enough light (must have Go Pro before next trip).

xmas-lights-at-fostersDespite ourselves, when JC saw us on our return trip we allowed ourselves to be roped back in for “just one more beer.” More pics of us with JC and the barback, Mario. Nice kid.

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They always have some good dance music going, and JC never stands still, so I started following his lead salsa dancing which was way fun. Ray meanwhile was off in deep conversation with Peter, who owns the place. Anyway, I felt much better once I started dancing, and pretty soon one beer led to another… but the good thing is, if you start getting too drunk, this guy next door always has something good on the grill.

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Then the bar’s managers Joaquin and Jennifer showed up and they started playing some percussion instruments while Jorge here manned the drums.

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And then Jorge’s friend Leonardo decided to teach me how to really salsa and THAT was a blast. He’s one of those guys that knows how to lead well enough that even if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can do okay. Oh my God. I have seriously not had so much fun in a long time.

Well. We left at (gasp) 2:30?! We have not closed a bar in many, many years. And if the way we felt this morning is any indication, there is a good reason for that.

It was lunchtime by the time I got up and we went after breakfast and caffeine – a Bloody Mary for Ray, straight-up Coke for me. That helped some but we still felt awful enough that we walked to Sundowner’s, hoping the exercise would help. However, all that did was convince us not to move for awhile: We got a drink, found a spot on the beach, and enjoyed the great music they were playing.

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Eventually  we made it back to Mariposa Lodge for a long nap. Sigh. We really, really don’t want to leave this place.😦

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Random West End Photos

The Beach House dock took this direct hit from all the wave action with the recent bad weather.

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Near and far views of Dix Half Way Inn on Half Moon Bay. Looks like a cool place but haven’t made it there yet, mostly because we keep getting waylaid by the ice cream shop nearby.

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Eagle Ray’s over-water bar from the West End Diver‘s dock, with water enthusiasts.

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On cruise ship days we can usually hear the Garifuna performances from E.R.’s deck (turtle shells and drums for percussion, conch shells for horns, and much spirited singing). We finally made it down one day to watch some crazy hips-don’t-lie dancing by these women.

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Speaking of music drifting our way, the Roatan Oasis, just up the hill from our parrot perch, has been featuring live acoustic music the last few Monday nights. This week we finally trekked along the muddy shortcut to the paved road leading that way and met one of the owners (Loren) as we enjoyed some good tunes with their friendly staff and a group of mostly local patrons – not to mention a few beers, two delicious appetizers, and some incredibly awesome desserts (homemade Snickers bar with ice cream). Ray is already plotting how to make these himself.

Our favorite place in West End by far, though, has been Foster’s, pictured here between Eagle Ray’s deck posts and in a following Facebook page photo. The staff – bartender and manager Mark, “PR Guy” Roland, “Future Manager” David, Wesley (Snipes), Burt (Reynolds), cook Joseph, and boat captain Greg – are all so much fun. We’ve had many a good time there in our six short weeks. Too bad we aren’t able to transport the Pier-ettes and Pier-verts here when the music gets going. Miss you guys!

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Here’s one of many gift shops along West End road, typically selling tropical attire, woven bags, brightly colored hammocks and swings, and all kinds of jewelry and trinkets.

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This is the intersection of the main road and the dirt track that leads to Mariposa Lodge. Behind this little fence is Splash Inn Dive Center; I was standing in front of their restaurant, see second pic, which makes really good pizza.

west-end-5007Lastly, one night when I was making the rounds of the property and switching on lights, I liked this view and thought I’d experiment. My iPhone camera has definitely been trusty but we must get a GoPro before our next travels. Even so, I kind of like the way this one turned out.🙂

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Roatan Explore 3, Part 3: Havana Beach Club

Even though the rain was worsening, we had the rental car so we did one more short exploration up the road to Havana Beach Club where we met Jack, a chef from South Carolina who Ray had friended on Facebook while we were still in Belize (he’s the one we were originally trying to find in French Harbor), as well as Doug, one of the owners, and friendly staffers Tasha and Cesar. Very nice folks!

The club is out of the way but it’s a beautiful beach once you get there, even in the rain. Would like to go back on a brighter day for horseback riding in the surf (if not this trip, then maybe the next one).

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Roatan Explore 3, Part 2: Little French Key

So we’re ferrying out to Little French Key and the rain seems to be easing up.🙂

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There were two cruise ships in port on Roatan, but the rain (or threat of it) must have kept many onboard because there were few others with us on the key – though it’s clear the owners and staff can (and I’m sure do) host hundreds at a time.

This aerial image is from the LFK website (if you haven’t checked it out yet, go! Lots of good info and many more beautiful photos). For a small island, there are a lot of structures cubby-holed all over – from the mini-zoo’s animal cages to a variety of fun bars, restaurants and hang-out spots, yet the overall feeling is laid-back and expansive.

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Here’s the view looking back to shore from the boat dock (which is the gray rectangle in the water at mid left in pic above).

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We started with a right turn from the dock, and our first encounter was with this staff member chatting up an adorable little capuchin monkey…

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…and some colorful macaws.

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Then, moving down this dock, where we could see out to the reef…

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We went up and down this structure, with its jump-off dock.

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Which was also home to a pretty cool little bar…

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With a view….

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to this place (aerial from LFK website again):

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And now I’m just going to let the pictures do the talking.

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These flow-y benches are everywhere – even in the water alongside the docks, which is pretty fun.

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Also loved the swing bar. where you’re sitting in the water.

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We took a quick peek in the gift shop, which had lots of fun items for sale…

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And we ran back into Foster, who had greeted us first at Frenchy’s and then headed over to the key before we did. He greeted us by happily singing along with the good music playing in the area (Rude, by Magic – bouncy fun if you don’t know it): “Can I have your daughter for the rest of my life? (Say yes, say yes)” so I told him we actually have a single daughter, so I don’t know…but maybe (he said come visit, Kayla).

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The island across the way is Big French Key, owned by someone else and not developed (yet?).

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Obviously the coolest area on the island (at least in our opinion). However, there was more. Here’s another restaurant/bar a little further along on the reef side of the island.

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The reef is literally this close…

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We liked this cool natural planter and the kids’ treehouse.

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Surprise: We didn’t get to see a jaguar in Belize, but there’s one here:

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And a lion too, with his own platform overlook…

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And more monkeys…

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And toucans…

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All too soon, we were back at the boat dock…

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And just in time for the rain to resume.

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What a wonderful place ~ sigh. I highly recommend a visit if you are ever in Roatan! Thanks, Larissa and Kaveh, for sharing your little piece of paradise with us.

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Roatan Explore 3, Part 1: Frenchy’s 44

Yesterday we rented a car and headed out for another explore: this time beyond French Harbor (see our previous explore, here), to Frenchy’s 44 Restaurant / Little French Key.

Frenchy’s 44 Restaurant is the restaurant/office which is the point of access for the small island of Little French Key, which is mostly an upscale shore excursion destination for cruise ship passengers, though it’s also open to locals and non-cruise tourists. They offer several different packages, from a basic day-at-the-beach to max-amenities.

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We had spoken with Larissa, who owns both properties with her husband Kaveh, and she had invited us to visit. While we were waiting for her, her staff was very welcoming and gave us free rein to wander around, so of course I went exploring with my iPhone.

It would have been nice if the weather had cooperated but it was a mostly rainy day, so you’ll just have to imagine how great these views would look if it was sunny. But even on a rainy day, the scenes in front of us were so photo-worthy that I took over 100 pictures – on a very brief visit. And anyway, I’m not sure even sunny-day photos could do the real thing justice, because this place is AMAZING.

Here’s the view from the office steps, before entering the waterfront bar:

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The decor was an eclectic mix of all kinds of interesting chic/rustic things (many from the owners’ personal collection) and there was a festive tropical holiday feel going, with a decked-out Christmas tree, red bows on palm fronds, etc. Love the chandeliers too.

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These unique chairs were all over the place – very comfortable.

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Here’s one for the Gator fans back in Florida.

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Here’s a view toward Little French Key, much closer in that it seemed on the map.

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And here’s a couple of views of the bar area.

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I got on a tear with a bunch of photos of these boats from the pier. Here’s some of the best ones, from what I call my Cleat Series (ha ha).

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We also noticed this little strip of land with a realtor sign on and decided it might be just about the size of the private island we could afford to buy,  ha ha.

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Despite all these pictures, we didn’t wait long for Larissa. She turned out to be both lovely and gracious and greeted us warmly. After chatting for a bit, she suggested that we take a boat ride over to the island and have a look around while she attended to some business.

You can imagine that she didn’t have to ask us twice, and in short order we headed out with our boat captain, Alex.

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Sorry for the split posting, but I have to finish sorting and optimizing ALOT more photos before I can write Part 2. Back soon!🙂

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Wild weather on the island

Earlier this week, friends in Belize were reporting a cold front coming in so we figured we were next. On Wednesday we went for a walk and stumbled across a resort called Lands End. It wasn’t open yet but we wandered the premises and took some pics by their saltwater pool.

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On the way back to Woody’s for groceries (our original destination), we came upon a shore excursion of horse back riders. Ray asked how they were doing and the woman laughed: “I’m horseback riding on Roatan!” Guess she was enjoying herself.

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And here as everywhere, Christmas creep happens (it’s not Thanksgiving yet, people!)…

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So we stowed the groceries and then headed back out to Foster’s to watch the weather continue to move in. The surf was definitely up, even in this calmer area with protection from the reef, and a wide stretch of seaweed and assorted junk was floating in the swells. Stayed long enough for one beer and decided we better head back or we’d be stuck there in the rain (not a bad place to be stuck, but from the color of the sky, we’d have been stuck there a long time).

Just made it back in time for a downpour and a rush of banana-bending wind, and that’s pretty much what it has been like since. At one point yesterday, definitely gale-force winds for a few hours.

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And the power coming and going, though we did get to see some Thanksgiving football (the first part of the first game, the middle of the middle game, and the end of the last one – ha ha). Too much fun!

The rain finally let up one time yesterday and we could see (and hear) how roiled up the surf was.

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And you know what? After August in Belize, we are loving this kind of weather. Bring it on!

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Sunset from Sundowner’s

Watching the sunset last night from Sundowner’s Beach Bar…such a beautiful place!

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West End Sundown

Looked like it would be a pretty sunset last night so we headed out for a walk through West End.

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