May 31, 2008

Gracias, Alma

rainy street, La Ceiba, HondurasRainy street, La Ceiba, Honduras

After grousing about the heat, I have to tell you that the weather has taken a turn. We missed Tropical Storm Alma. She caused quite a few problems in Panama and Costa Rica, so I've heard from my pals. We have been getting some frequent, well behaved rain here in La Ceiba, which was very badly needed. I said that we hadn't had rain in a month, but it might have been closer to two months.

My garden and I thank you, Alma. By the way, Alma was early. Hurricane and tropical storm season is supposed to begin on June 1st. Are we prepared for it? Heck, no.

Best of all, the temperature has dropped to....bearable!

I hope that those of you who are too cold and those of you who are too hot or dry also get your wishes. ;-)

Buildings and traffic in El Porvenir, Honduras

bar on the beach, El Porvenir, HondurasA bar on the beach

boy in El Porvenir, HondurasBoy walking down the gravel main street

bus, El Porvenir, HondurasBuses between El Porvenir and La Ceiba are the major form of transportation. They kick up a lot of dust.

bicycles, El Porvenir, HondurasBicycle traffic is very common.

shed, El Porvenir, HondurasAn old bodega (shed)

church, El Porvenir, HondurasOne of the several churches

courthouse, El Porvenir, HondurasThe new courthouse

municipal building, El Porvenir, HondurasThe municipal building. I could only get some of these photos from the car. El Jefe didn't want to stop.

Social Center, El Porvenir, HondurasThe social center

May 28, 2008

The mundane

Well, sorry, folks. I've had no time for you lately. I miss you, though! I'd much rather be blogging than what I'm doing.

I haven't even had a chance to respond to all of your latest brilliant comments and to admit how horribly outdated my fashion knowledge is − but really, I think perhaps that my shabby photos didn't do those wigs justice. Did anyone try enlarging those photos for a closer look? I am familiar with that spiky, shaggy look for men but this is something entirely different that should be called the machete cut.

Anyway, virtually every single thing that we own in the world that uses electricity is broken, including three fans and our air conditioner. Of course, it has been so damn hot lately with not even the tiniest bit of breeze that even the born-and-raised Ceibeños are crying about the heat.

Of course! Don't air conditioners always break on the hottest day of the year? We're suffering! The other night I was cooking dinner and I had sweat dripping off my nose, lip, chin, and hair − no salt required in the food (gross!) − and my clothes looked like I was in a wet t-shirt contest. Since then, I've just been saying no to cooking whenever I can. Who has an appetite in this heat? Oh, yeah, well, El Jefe does, darn it.

The problem is that nobody really knows how to fix these things. They always suggest to replace the motor or the circuit board or buy a new one. Then if that doesn't work, oops, they suggest buying another part. If we do find someone who seems to know what they are talking about, OF COURSE, the parts are not available in Honduras, even if we bought the darn thing here.

So, even though I know about as much about diagnosing these things and finding parts as I do about performing heart surgery, it has been my duty to scour the internet for info and order the parts. Oh, it gives me a headache! I worry about buying the right part because who knows if the problem really is the capacitator (what's that?) or the switch (whats that?) or the solenoid (what's that?) or some other thing that I wouldn't recognize if it had a label on it and they never do.

Some things come easy to me but for whatever reason, this type of stuff doesn't. I feel like a dunce. Sometimes I act like a dunce and put my hands over my ears when El Jefe tries to explain things to me (which he reaaaaaally doesn't like).

I will say that I've found some great repair forums. The Appliance Guru is one of my favorites. They have Samurai repairmen who are really great. Nice people and very thorough answers. I haven't posted a question myself but in some cases I've been able to find what seem to be very good answers for our problems. Hey, if we have any HVAC or appliance techs in the audience, give me a shout!

Oh, don't think that El Jefe just turns it all over to me. He gets people to come out and drags parts all over town trying to get them tested and so forth. My problem is that instead of just finding the part that El Jefe tells me to, I start researching the problem because we've been lead astray so many times and bought so many expensive parts that we didn't even need. You
usually can't return parts in Honduras, even if you've never taken them out of the packaging and walk back into the store 5 minutes later. Similarly, if you buy them in the U.S., it usually costs a ton to send them back, if you even can.

It's really amazing how many problems are caused by our unreliable electric supply and the climate here. Nothing lasts! I know that we'll be less likely to go for quality in the future when we start replacing things. We did in the past and these things are not lasting longer than the cheaper brands probably would have.

To end on a happier note, a friend is passing through La Ceiba in a couple of weeks and will be able to bring all these parts to us providing I can find them in time to have them shipped to her.

The other good news is that there is an 80% chance of badly needed rain tomorrow. Not only that, but Weather Underground is predicting a high temp of 73°F (23°C) tomorrow due to a tropical storm that is building. I find that very, very hard to believe − the temperature, not the storm − but it gives me hope of a more comfortable day tomorrow.

Top photo explanation: This is the only replacement plug that we could find in all of La Ceiba. Nice color, huh? Thankfully its only for the iron so it's not on display all the time. Why did we need a replacement on a relatively little used high quality iron? Well, my best guess is that the series of maids all pulled it out of the wall by the cord, even though La Gringa patiently said twenty times, "Always unplug the iron by pulling on the plug, not the cord because it could damage the wires," to which they gave me that look like I'm really stupid and continued to do things the way that they wanted to.

And finally, here is someone who knows how to stay cool!

This is my niece Abby. Isn't she a little doll? She's just as sweet as she looks, too. Her little hands and feet were all shriveled up from her hot afternoon in the pool. This photo puts a smile on my face.

This is how I will feel tomorrow if the temperature really only gets to 73

May 26, 2008

What's with the hair?

badly coiffed mannequins, La Ceiba, HondurasCarrion department store window, La Ceiba, Honduras

These are the display windows outside the Carrion department store, one of the nicer stores in La Ceiba. Those mannequins just cracked me up. I wondered if:
1. Whoever prepared the display just forgot to fix the wigs and the manager hasn't noticed yet,

2. They didn't have any men's wigs so they chopped off some women's wigs with a machete, or

3. There are some new fashionable men's hair styles that haven't made it to Honduras yet.

badly coiffed mannequins, La Ceiba, HondurasWhatever! There isn't a man in La Ceiba who would be caught dead with hair like this. I find them more disturbing than the headless mannequins. The fact that they don't even bother to put the wigs on straight disturbs me a lot, too. Do you really want your customers to laugh at your display windows?

We walked through the door and right in front of us were some more male mannequins with the same style wigs. I started to take a close up photo when the guard informed me that photos were prohibited − like maybe I have a competing store and am going to copy those styles or something.

badly coiffed mannequin, La Ceiba, HondurasOkay, I submitted to the armed one downstairs, but once I was upstairs, I couldn't resist getting a shot of yet another badly coiffed mannequin.

Fashion Fabi, they need you!

That reminds me, I really need to get a haircut.

May 24, 2008

Stairway to nowhere

stairs to nowhereEl Porvenir, Honduras

stairs in field, HondurasEl Jefe thinks I'm a little crazy for taking photos like this. I saw these concrete stairs sitting in the middle of an empty field right on on the beach in El Porvenir and they just looked so interesting to me.

He said there used to be an old wooden house here. I always wonder what happened to the people who lived there. I'm going to guess that the son went to the U.S. and never came back after his parents died.

House of many colorsNo doubt when the house started falling down, the pieces were used elsewhere, maybe in this house of many colors which was apparently built with scrap boards from many different houses. You may have to click to see that.

trash, HondurasI'm sorry, but all that trash cannot go without mention. ¡Que verqüenza! (How shameful!) Have some pride in your town, people! The entire area in front of the beach is covered with trash, even though there are trashcans around.

May 23, 2008

The parade is at 2 pm, or maybe at 9 pm

La Ceiba Carnival paradeLa Ceiba Carnival Parade 2006

While writing the last Carnaval article, I was looking over the Honduran Ministry of Tourism website, foolishly thinking that it might have some more information about the Carnival or at least a link to related website.

But, no, instead of further tourist information, it offers email addresses for various areas. Huh? Every tourist is going to write an email with their questions and there are so many tourism employees that they will be able to respond in a timely manner to all the emails?

I couldn't resist, so I sent an email asking for a schedule of Carnaval events on April 17, 2008. Surprisingly, I did receive a reply, not with a schedule of events, but with only a suggestion to look at Joel's Conozca La Ceiba site (sorry, this website no longer exists).

Jen recently commented on my Carnival article saying that a schedule of events was available at La That schedule listed Saturday's parade to start at "21:00" hours (9 p.m.)! Thinking that it couldn't possibly be true, I went back to Joel's site and it says that the parade starts at 2 p.m. I'm betting that Joel is right. The parade has always been in the afternoon, though at least one year it was so disorganized that it lasted until well after dark.

I have to admit that I am enjoying how easy it is to prove my points about tourism promotion in Honduras. ;-)

I think that we will be going and will try to get some photos and maybe some video of the dancers. I won't promise as it has been sooooo unbearably hot lately and I can't imagine how miserable it will be standing out in the sun sweating for hours while people push in front of me with umbrellas to block my view. We'll see. No promises.


See the 2013 carnival update here.

May 22, 2008

Animals in El Porvenir

cow, Honduras
Here are some photos of animals from El Porvenir, Atlantida, Honduras. I didn't see any pigs on this trip but they are often seen roaming the streets as well.

cow, HondurasWe had to pause in the road to wait for this bull to pass. I jumped out of the car to take his photo but he kept moving and El Jefe was getting impatient.

bull, Honduras

chickens, HondurasWe saw a funny rooster fight when one rooster started getting too friendly with another's hen. Unfortunately, we were too far away to get a good video.

calf, HondurasPoor baby. Tied up with no place to roam.

Couldn't it be tied up where there is some grass instead of by the side of the road where there is nothing but trash and gravel?

chickens, Honduras

cow, HondurasShe looks content, but tied up like this in the sun, I don't imagine that she is one of those happy cows who makes really good ice cream.

May 21, 2008

A day in the life....

Oops, I planned to post this as my 700th blog article, but I lost track, so it is the 701st article.

I don't know which has been my best article, or most popular, or most read of the 700 posts that I've done, but without a doubt, this article was the most fun to write:

A typical day in La Gringa's life

I wish I'd get in the mood to write another one like that. You know, I still laugh when I read it. You wouldn't believe how I laughed as I wrote it and how many times I reread it, laughing out loud each time. Yeah, I'm one of those people who laugh at my own jokes.

When I first showed it to El Jefe, he started reading and then his eyes got big and he said, "But that's not true...." I asked him to keep reading and by the end of the article he was laughing as hard as me.

It is sad that with so many articles, most new readers are not ever going to go back and read everything. I supposed I should do a list of most popular or best articles. If you have any suggestions, let me know!

May 20, 2008

Are we good enough?

wooden chair, Honduras

I've seen over and over again examples of the "It's good enough" attitude here in Honduras. Whether it is plumbing, brick laying, cooking, cleaning, artesania, I've rarely ever seen firsthand anyone who truly made an effort to do the best that he could possibly do. This happens even in situations where someone was being paid by the hour and was encouraged to do a quality job, rather than a quick job, no matter how long it took.

With a few bright exceptions who took pride in their work, most people were shocked to hear that something could have or should have been done better, as if they have never been told that before.

It reminds me of parents and teachers who so concerned with children's self-esteem, that the best and the worst always have to get the same commendations. Every soccer player on the team gets a trophy, even those who suck at soccer. Every kid in the class wins a ribbon for every activity.

Sure it is good to encourage kids, give them a chance, let them grow into something, but isn't it just as important to let them know that they won't be the best in the world at everything single thing that they try?

Even more important, isn't it important to let kids know that they do need to strive for excellence and that mediocrity is not rewarded in the real world? And what about that lousy soccer player who might have been a terrific baseball player or piano player or a computer programmer but he'll never know because his parents and coach kept telling him how great he was at soccer?

Looking at it from the standpoint of the child who does excel at something, don't you think that it could be a little demoralizing to know that he doesn't get any more recognition that the poor or mediocre player? Is it possible that he quits trying quite so hard, since....what's the point?

All that is kind of off the subject. I get impatient when people say "We aren't perfect in Honduras." No, Honduras isn't perfect and it's so far from perfect, with the poverty, trash, pollution, lack of decent education, crime, and the corruption, that it is laughable to even say that.

It really does sometimes seem that people are satisfied with the way things are. From a lot of the reading that I've done, it seems to me that a lot of sabotaging of attempts at improvement goes on. That's hard to explain, except that often it is because of personal gain (corruption) or laziness or ignorance interfering with the end goal.

If we constantly tell people that they are doing a great job, do they have any incentive to try harder, do better? I don't think so.

Many of the poor believe that Honduras is the best country in the world because that is what they've been told and they don't have any experience to know that it isn't true. At best, they've watched TV and think that all US Americans are millionaires through the luck of their birth country. They don't have a clue that most Americans worked and studied long, hard hours to have the comforts and luxuries that they have. And, yes, strived to be the best that they could be.

Nobody is perfect, but if you don't try, you'll never even get close.

May 19, 2008

The mother of all chickens: Red Jungle Fowl

Honduras bantam roosterPancho, La Gringa's bantam rooster

Honduran bantam roosterI read a Yahoo Chicken discussion group and the other day someone posted a link to photos of his Red Jungle Fowl. Red Jungle Fowl are the predecessors of all domestic chickens. Tommy's fowl came from the San Diego, California zoo so he believed them to be pure Red Jungle Fowl (RJF). I had heard of RJF but didn't recall ever seeing a photo so I took a look.

Honduran bantam roosterImagine my surprise to see my chickens and rooster's doubles in those photos! Panchos's coloration is exactly like Tommy's cockerel. I was so curious that I spent hours reading info about the Red Jungle Fowl and looking at photos. Several good photos are on this Feathersite page.

Based on this article by H.S. Wong in Malaysia, it turns out that the chickens from the zoo (and mine) are somewhat removed from the originals. The true RJF roosters hold their tails horizontally rather than vertically like Pancho does.

Honduran bantam henRJF have a white thingymabob, rather than red, beneath their ears; only two of my hens do. The hens have no combs and mine do. Two of my hens have yellow legs and the true RJF have slate colored legs like Pancho. Then there is the matter of them being bantams (miniatures). I don't know if there were any bantam RJF or not. So....lots of differences, but still the similarities are amazing.

Honduran bantam henA lot of people who think they have RJF probably don't due to interbreeding with domestic hybrid chickens. In fact, scientists now think that true RJF may be in danger of extinction due to interbreeding with domestic chickens. A history of the Red Jungle Fowl can be found here. DNA studies done in Japan have narrowed down ancestor of the current day domestic chickens to a single RJF species originating in what is now Thailand and Vietnam about 8,000 years ago.

Honduran bantam henAnyway, they sure do look like the Red Jungle Fowl and I got a big kick out of that. Pancho is one handsome guy and he knows it. He is a very good rooster. He stands back, keeping guard, while the hens eat. He also chases the dogs off if they try to bother the hens. Nature at its best. Nature at its worst: He starts crowing at 4 a.m.

Honduran bantam rooster

May 18, 2008

Police posta

Police station, Honduras
Police Posta along the highway

May 17, 2008

Tree house

tree growing through house, HondurasHouse in El Porvenir, Honduras

Or house tree.

tree growing through house, HondurasAt first I thought I was seeing things. Then I thought the house must be vacant and abandoned, but no. This tree apparently started growing in the downstairs porch area before it was enclosed. That is my guess anyway. Now it has grown through the downstairs ceiling and out the upstairs terraza.


May 16, 2008

El Fogoncito, La Ceiba

El Fogoncito, La Ceiba, HondurasColorful El Fogoncito

Update: It appears that every restaurant that I recommend will close down. This one did, too.

Another new restaurant has come to La Ceiba. El Fogoncito, a Mexican chain restaurant, opened recently. We tried it out − and will wonders never cease? − we'll be going back. That alone is high praise from La Gringa for Ceibeño restaurants. :-)

coved ceiling, El Fogoncito, HondurasI love the way the restaurant looks from the outside (photo at top). It's huge and it's colorful. So many of buildings in La Ceiba are dirty white or bare concrete and moldy so just looking at this restaurant tempted me to try it. This photo shows the coved ceiling about our table.

chips and hot sauceHere is another wonder: They serve a teensy-tiny bowl of chips with two types hot sauce before you order. Just not done in La Ceiba. Restaurant owners would be too worried that you would order a glass of water, eat their chips, and then leave. Not only do they serve "free" chips, but the waitress brought us a refill without us even asking! For a minute, I thought I was in Texas, except that the chips were thick and way too greasy.

Fogoncito menuThe menu consists of lots of tacos, some seafood and chicken dishes, and lots of big meat plates − Hondurans do love their meat. I was a little offended by the Gringadas section, which consisted of chicken fingers, beef fingers, and hamburgers. What? No fish sticks? (Oh, you know I'm kidding, right?)

Since they don't have unsweetened tea, I ordered the te de jamaica (iced hibiscus tea), which comes with refills, although I was a little concerned that it would be too sweet for my taste. But it was fresh and prepared pretty much the way I make it. El Jefe ordered the horchata which was very good but a little heavy on the cinnamon. No refills on the horchata, though.

burritos, Fogoncito, La Ceiba, HondurasI chose the burritos which were the closest thing to the Tex-Mex food that I miss so much. I just had to rock the boat again and ask if I could have burritos mixtos (one pork and one chicken). The waitress looked a little concerned and said she would ask, but a split second later she was back with my mixtos.

fajitas, Fogoncito, La Ceiba, HondurasEl Jefe ordered fajitas mixtas. He was disappointed with the quantity of meat but they were good, as were my burritos which were really stuffed with meat and cheese. The beef and pork were a little too salty for my taste, but I liked the chicken.

El Jefe only took one bite of the guacamole and declared it to be old. I reminded him
that he's just not going to find guacamole like La Gringa makes in any restaurant. He said, "You got that right!"

Reina, Fogoncito, La Ceiba, HondurasOur waitress was Reina and she was wonderful. Very attentive, friendly, and always with a big smile. This was my second photo of Reina as she was displeased with the first. She said it made her look too fat, which it did because of the angle of the shot. She liked this one better.

Even if I didn't know, I would have guessed that this was a chain restaurant. With very few exceptions in La Ceiba, only chains teach their waiters and waitresses to smile and .... well, do the stuff that most people expect waiters to do. As you can guess, Reina got a tip above and beyond that 10% added to the check.

Fogoncito, La Ceiba, HondurasEl Jefe asked which of the several desserts on the menu were available, just because that is what you do in La Ceiba. It saves a lot of time and heartbreak. Reina looked at him with surprise and said "All of them!"

cheesecake, Fogoncito, La Ceiba, HondurasEl Jefe had this huge piece of cheesecake. As you can see, I am not yet a professional blogger as we had already started attacking the cheesecake from both ends before I remembered to take a photo.

tiramisu, Fogoncito, La Ceiba, HondurasI ordered the tiramisu. It was just okay. A little too wet and spongy, with a flavor that wasn't exactly coffee, but something else that I couldn't place. Next time I'll try the brownie sundae.

bar, Fogoncito, La Ceiba, HondurasSome of the prices seem a little high for what you get, but overall, it was good, it was something different from the myriad of restaurantes tipicos, and we'll definitely be going back. I want to go on a weekend night when they have dancers who dance on this long bar.

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