Category Archives: May 2017

The Perfect Postscript…

…to my last post, since I have a story that involves early AM, a cruise ship, RECO, and also the space station and UFOs. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Early yesterday morning I was happily asleep when the power went off. I would probably have slept through that if I wasn’t wearing my CPAP mask and suddenly sucking wind (‘being able to breathe’ being one of my minor requirements for staying asleep). I pulled the mask off and quietly sang, “Reeee-co-la” and Ray laughed beside me so I knew he was awake too.

I thought I remembered the pitch black of power outages out on Guam when we were stationed there, but apparently I have since forgotten just how black pitch black really is. So, since I was awake, and since it was DARK, I figured I should get up and have a look at the stars.

We found the flashlight on the wall and got ourselves out to the west porch and Squeek came bounding around, thinking it was chow time – not, actually, too far from it, but that wasn’t the humans’ immediate concern this time.

The stars!!! were amazing. However, I quickly remembered that the porch rail there is lower than normal as I was leaning waaaay out to have a look…yeah, maybe not so much leaning right there. Ray also pointed out at a bright spot on the water and said, “Hey, there’s the cruise ship.” It was still far off and we had a laugh thinking about whoever was steering the ship going “hmm, hmm, WTF happened to that island?!” when all the lights suddenly went out.

I decided I needed more sky to look at and wandered back to the east porch to the spot where there’s an open view. OH. MY. GOD.

My iPhone camera wasn’t going to do it justice, and I’m not even sure the image above does. I don’t think I’ve ever really seen the Milky Way like this. It was amazing. Unreal. Surreal. Add all other synonyms for incredible.

So I had to call to Ray to come around, and he joined me and we just stood there for awhile, awe-inspired. Then I caught something moving out of the corner of my eye and pointed it out: “Space station?” We agreed, watching, that it was way too fast for a plane. As if perfectly planned, a shooting star flared out right ahead of its orbit: “Did you see that?!” And then, just as Ray was heading back to the other porch, I saw another fast-moving light following in the first one’s arc, though just a little slower. He stepped back and we watched it and went, hmm. What. Is. That? Cue the Twilight Zone music. Maybe a satellite. Maybe…not. They both were heading toward the mainland, where they just happen to have Mayan sites, mountains, etc. Just sayin’…

Ray went back to the other side, I stayed awhile picking out Cassiopeia and a few other constellations I could recognize, but noticed it was getting brighter in the east. The crescent moon and Venus were rising, with the sun probably not too far behind them, and their combined light was enough to ruin the pitch black effect that we’d had going for a bit.

I went back to the west porch where it was still nice and dark, and we watched the cruise ship – much closer in now – glide on by like a jeweled bird. And a handful of stars seeming to twinkle like ornaments in the palm trees nearby.

Well, that was wonderful – but 4 AM is still 4 AM to me, so I headed back to bed as Ray and the cat started their normal routine. And – more perfection – just as I laid down, RECO returned the overhead fan and my CPAP to working order. That’s how to start a day. 🙂

Our Typical Day

Ray, as usual, is up early – often before first light. He opens up the house to the breeze and does the AM round of the property, shutting off the night lights, then comes back up to the third level to feed the cat, Squeek (so named because she has barely any voice – doesn’t meow, just squeaks).

He tells me she is pretty feisty at that time of day and wants to play so they’ve become good friends. He turns the satellite radio on low in the kitchen and music drifts through the open window out to the porch where he and the cat watch the world wake up.

By the time I get up and join him – most days between 6-7 AM – he’s ready to report on the latest comings and goings of both humans and animals. The dirt road below is an active one, and anyone from walkers to riders to drivers (sometimes all of the above, making for sometimes interesting negotiations) might be on it at any given time. There are school kids in their white and navy uniforms, some with backpacks bigger than they are; locals off to work on bikes and scooters; the young tanned tourists and divers rolling out of their hostels and other accommodations nearby; taxi drivers heading out to the main road or construction trucks coming up the hill to the project next door (we listen to their hammers and saws all day; when they quit, it’s like heaven).

Roatan Rabbit

In the yards below, mama hens scratch around, with a brood of babies on their butts, and the occasional crowing rooster; the hummingbirds and dragonflies are everywhere performing aerobatics; and the “Roatan rabbits” (aka “agoutis” or “watusis” – because all of those names sound better than a tourist saying “OMG. Did you see the size of that rat?”) might wander through. It’s a regular National Geographic show from the porch.

And that’s not even the birds. Ray has seen the macaws twice (once in the dark but he could ID them from their size and silhouette; and once he caught a brilliant flash of red underwings, though far away). The parrots announce when they’re around and usually come in packs. The resident woodpeckers aren’t as close in as they used to be when the dead tree still stood near the porch (it’s been cut down since our last visit) but they hang out on the phone poles nearby, tapping out their Morse code messages. We appear to be here during the white-headed pigeon mating season. They are so abundant that I figured I could Google them and learn something, but they are apparently not interesting enough for a full-scale investigation. At any rate, there have been a lot of preening and prancing young fellows hanging out in the area, landing beside females even if they’re perched on something awkward like the spine of a palm frond (I think she’s trying to tell you something, dude); but something must be working, because there’s quite a lot of contented cooing going on around us too.

And there’s the water view too: Ray’s the one who sees the cruise ships arrive (early AM) but I have seen them leave (late in the day). We’ve seen the gray Honduran Coast Guard gunboat that patrols the area, and all kinds of dive boats and tour boats and water taxis and skiffs and everything else that heads out over the reef.
Eventually I have to pull myself away from all that compelling entertainment and start my work gig hours – not really such a trial, since the view from ‘my’ (Mike’s) office is blue sky, palm trees, and the water; and Ray usually concocts some delicious breakfast or other to get me started.

For the next few hours, with the tunes turned up, we each retire to our computer corners, occasionally yelling back and forth if we come across something interesting – and taking occasional hammock (me) / smoke (him) breaks to catch some of the breeze outside.

Some days we decide that’s enough and go somewhere. One day last week we caught the collectivo (a 12-seat van that usually packs in 18-20 riders at a time) and enjoyed a ride up to Eldon’s (the supermarket) in Coxen Hole with a side stop at BoJangles. Ray remarked how funny it was that we could feel so much more comfortable jammed into a bus with 18 strangers, most of whom were speaking animated Spanish that we understood none of, than we ever could stuck in Orlando traffic surrounded by “people just like us.” One day we met up with Mark, our old friend from Foster’s circa 2014, and his wife Bonnie and had a bunch of beers at Coconut Tree Divers restaurant here in West End – which seems to be becoming our new hang out.

If we stay put, we may or may not eat lunch. Mostly it’s been not. It’s just too hot to have an appetite. We’ve pretty much acclimated and especially figured out the right hydration dynamic, but even the locals have been complaining that it’s hot, so it’s not just us.

On those days, when the sun shifts over the house to the west side around 3 PM, it’s time to quit. We retire to the east side porch where there’s breeze and shade, and Squeek pads after to join us. Ray brings the speaker along so we have music and we watch the crew building a 2-story structure close by, trying to figure out what they are saying to each other in Spanish.

The afternoon planes fly in (“de plane! de plane!” is de riguer when one comes along – as is the usual refrains to RECO (Roatan Electric Company) whenever we lose power, which has happened several times for several hours: singing “Ricola” like the commercial or muttering, “Come on, RECO suave (suave-ay)”. We watch the clouds build up toward the south and wish it would rain.

Or, we go out. There’s usually a rush on West End Road right around sundown – people out to eat, the dive boats coming in – that sometimes lasts and sometimes doesn’t. One night we headed toward Foster’s and caught this beautiful sundown, but very few people were out and about, so we just went back up. One the other hand, another evening we wandered out and caught some live music at Sundowner’s with a pretty good crowd.IMG_3626-smallIf we aren’t going anywhere, we usually catch the American national news (early here, at 4:30 pm) just to make sure we haven’t gone to war or impeached the President, then Ray cooks. I help if he lets me but most of the time he’s on it. I feed Squeek, and as the sun starts to sink, Ray gets his camera ready in case it’s a good one, and I do the PM property rounds, turning on the lights. We watch the light fade away. A couple of hours of TV and we’re done.

Rise, rinse, and repeat. 🙂

. . . And Here We Are Again On Roatan

Just a little less than a week here now, and this time it’s been quite a different experience – and yet in many ways, everything is so familiarly the same.

For starters, we may have come back to the same physical place, but we’re definitely in a different mental place now than we were in 2014. Back then, we’d been quite isolated in Belize for months, so we felt almost giddy at what amounted to the much-more-comparable “civilization as we knew it” on-island. And we also knew it was our last hurrah before returning to America; with the adventure winding down, we made the most of those six short weeks.

This time, we’re in almost the opposite scenario – coming from just a bit much social stimulation during our stint as motel managers (it goes without saying that I now have a much broader appreciation for customer service employees). Fortunately, we also had a month before our arrival here to decompress, thanks to visits with family and friends, a few re-energizing trips to the beach, and especially because of a gracious offer from Ray’s sister for us to park ourselves at her home in rural north Florida for a few weeks. So we’re generally mellow vs giddy this time; and the fact that I am working remotely this time (ie, a paid gig, not just blogging for myself) and need to establish a new work routine has kept us from more than immediate settling in so far. Seriously: We haven’t even made it to Bojangles yet – what’s up with that?!!

Anyway – even with very limited forays out, some changes in West End are obvious: There’s quite a bit of new construction, and there’s also places that have become different versions of themselves (Foster’s, I’m talking about you). So far, we’ve only briefly re-connected with a few local friends, but already we can tell that their lives have had significant changes (new marriages, different jobs) – whereas I bet to them, we probably seem pretty much the same (all right, except older and fatter).

There’s a time difference this time – we’re two hours ahead of Florida – so that’s been a gradual adjustment, too. But there’s mostly been this very trippy time warp of feeling like we never actually left; both of us feel so completely comfortable, so instantaneously again. We keep having these weird little deja vu moments, like turning to reach for the right light switch before realizing that it IS the right light switch – or our completely inane excitement at the “Happy Days” song blaring from the gas truck this morning (however, we won’t really be in Roatan until the Cintas gas truck comes – Ray is waiting). And the ‘I-remember-this’ feeling of swinging in the hammock while Ray is taking sunset pics from the front porch.

So, what we’ve been doing the most so far is just looking at each other and smiling: Yup. We’re baaack.

So, That Happened.

The condensed version from my last post to now:

In late 2014, we returned from Central America and jumped back into the reality of U.S. life, like it or not: By which I mean that we got jobs and an apartment in Orlando, and we also got smarter — and busier — with college courses (Ray starting in web design, then shifting to tourism and hospitality, while I refreshed my graphic skills).

We got very, very tired of the traffic and the crowds; but we were putting money away, and we were learning useful new things; and whenever one of us got dejected, we reminded each other why we were doing this. In other words, we were on an “anti-sabbatical.”

This is a word I was not familiar with until recently when I read about it in Vagabonding, an excellent book by Rolf Potts: In Generation X, Douglas Coupland defined “anti-sabbatical” as a job approached with the sole intention of staying for a limited period of time (often one year) . . . to raise enough funds to partake in another, more personally meaningful activity.

So, we told each other, just 6 months, maybe 9 months more, and then we’ll be ready to go again. Except we started to suspect that our jobs were maybe not going to last (ultimately they didn’t – the company we were both working for went under). By then, though, we’d applied for a role as resident managers of a motel in Bonita Springs FL, and we got hired. It was a job I think we were very well suited for, and we learned a ton, even though not everything about the situation was ideal.

In March, we said yes to a return housesit on Roatan, and shortly afterward we wound down our stint at the motel. We fly out this week, and we are so ready!