Sunday, October 12, 2008

Disasters in Life

So, it has been awhile since I wrote and much has happened in my personal and in my professional life. It is my 58th birthday today, October 12, 2008. In the past week or so, my granddaughter, McKenzie was hit by an auto going 40 mph and today, she is home recuperating. They aren't sure yet what the extent of her injuries will be...but she is alive, moving and healing. Miracles DO occur.

And then, we eliminated positions at our media company and the person I care so much about, whose position was eliminated turned on me/us on Friday making the whole process an ugly and hurtful one. I miss him. I miss sharing. And mostly, I miss the man I thought I knew.

Today, I went with the HASH group to Santa Lucia and had a wonderful time getting disoriented and a bit off course as we walked/ran the "live" course laid by a few runners marking the course by dropping flour signals here and there. What was fascinating was that the local dogs, geese and chickens were eating the flour markers so the route was a bit odd. I couldn't do the whole route...all uphill and the roadway was intermittent stone arrangements, so we were walking on a rocky road. I did fairly well but the best was that we were outside, walking through a town and feeling incredibly safe. Later I went to get my purse and walked another mile holding it...not feeling unsafe at all.

After the "down down" we went to a local eatery and had lunch. Three local dogs sat and quietly begged food. I am not a beef gal, so gave them my beef chunks and after all were done, I begged everyone's scraps so I could feed the dogs. Another woman who had ordered a fried whole fish, picked pieces of her fish out and we threw the meat out to the dogs. Jason, a military guy and the one responsible for the HASHs is leaving so he passed on the jobs to Sarah and Chad who will be the religious religious here to mean party animals who lead us in song and in the "down downs." And David takes over the job of beermeister...making sure that there is beer for all. I have asked that we consider wine also but the "down down" for that, if a box wine could kill one!

Last Tuesday, I went to the Ahern's house with a bunch of folks to watch the McCain/Obama debate and I am hosting the next debate party which will be this coming Wednesday. In between the debate parties, I went to Jason's Embassy going away party. Interesting to see folks intermingling. Jason sponsors an orphanage so we were asked to bring something for the kids rather than a gift for him. The party was held at a home which literally could have held 250 people but while I was there...there were maybe 125. I am enjoying meeting people from all walks of life and from all parts of the world.

There are two teaching positions available for English teachers here in town. I asked Richard what he thought about living here in Tegucigalpa. He is thinking on that.


Thursday, September 25, 2008


This is the HASH group that took the Trujillo trip, followed by part of Ft. Santa Barbara and William Walker's grave.


Honduran kids dancing in traditional costumes and a sunset scene from Trujillo.


Here is a photo of part of the fort wall...all photos of Trujillo were taken by David Nickerson, with whom I work in Tegucigalpa. Alex had my camera in Tally. Will try to post some more photos...slow going for me!


It has been a couple of weeks since I updated my blog and wanted to share some of the experience we had in Trujillo, a town on the northern coast of Honduras. I went on a weekend trip with a HASH group, which I understand occurs around the world. This is a group of people who get together for fun and ostensibly to run and walk together. We spent avbout 10 hours on a bus to get to Trujillo and stayed in Casa Alemania, a hotel right on the beach. Unlike many places in Honduras, the owners of Casa Alemania, a German named Gunther and his Honduran wife, Patricia, both understand the concept of customer service. We ate home cooked meals and everyone was offered seconds which is highly unusual in a hotel/B&B.

The beach was clean in front of the hotel but in either direction...very filthy. I had a ball...this was the first time I was able to go out at 5:30 a.m. alone and walk. I walked the beach. Later, we went into town and saw tons of parades...this was a holiday weekend so we had three days for the excursion. We stopped on the way at a roadside eatery and some young kids were dressing for a parade/dance so we stayed longer to see them perform in their native costumes.

Like the experience in Amapala, we lost power in Trujillo but only for a couple of hours and due to a transformer explosion. No issues...we were on our way home at that point in just a couple of hours. Hot but nothing like the melting heat of Amapala.

Trujillo is the home of the Santa Barbara Fort which I visited and also went to the cemetary to see William Walker's grave. He bombarded the fort and was a "supposed" insurgent.

Sunday evening after dinner, we had a huge bonfire on the beach. Very lovely with clear skies and millions of twinkling stars. Easy to forget one was in Honduras.

Our bus trip was never ending...going, we had kids movies and blaring music. The volume on the DVD player had one setting...outrageously loud. Thankfully, on the way back, everyone was totally exhausted and so there was no music, no movies and lots of sleeping and snoring going on. Read three books in the three days and started another...we had to share books and moved them between people.

The group was very interesting...about 30 of us. Some Germans, a French Canadian, Americans, a Russian, Honduran dentists, kids, teens, military personnel. A great opportunity to make new friends and network.

We played cornhole...a game where you throw sandbags into a hole and get points. Some folks are very good at it.

Trying to import photos...more later

Friday, September 12, 2008


This morning, a friend in Ft. Myers sent me a most moving tribute to those who died and those who survived 9/11. Yesterday, I was very impressed here that my Honduran friends were tuned into the significance of this date to the gringo amongst them. At least 20 people asked me if I had read, seen, heard of the memorials being held around the US and that they prayed nothing like this would ever happen again. I am reminded often about the caring people I work with...despite the poverty and lawlessness here, these Hondurans are warm caring family people and they have wrapped me in their arms in so many loving and accepting ways. If only we could be everywhere in this world, one person learning about another, touching each other in homes, in the streets and at work. We would be a stronger country and a stronger world. These people who would kill and do kill to get to our country for a better life are the same people who shudder at such destruction and waste. I love it here and cannot wait to be with you all at my other home.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Service, Honduran Style

One of my pet peeves is that customer service has not arrived as a concept here in Honduras. Take the notion of a "customer." I learned that every business has both internal and external customers and that both segments are critical to a business' success. Today, I again explained to a "jefa," a department head,
that her customers are not only the subscribers and the advertisers but they are also all of the employees, including those in the sales department with whom she prefers to not speak or address either personally or via correo.

So, I find that for our staff, I am involved in class every day and the class is called..."Definitions, gringa style." Hence, a customer is anyone on your phone, in your email inbox, in front of your door or in a meeting who needs an answer, an idea, help, information or even something small like a transfer to the person who can really help him/her. And then, there are those nebulous "potential customers" that you may meet in the street, at a party, in a store or even at the bank. We meet people today who may be our customers tomorrow so how we present ourselves and how we talk to people may make an impression about the quality of our employees or the quality of our organization.

This may seem simple and obvious, but not so much here. An example: I took a friend who used to work here to Cafe Mania, for coffee and a muffin. We were given our coffee and seven other people were waited on, served and cashed out and we still did not have our muffins on the tray with our coffee. I, of course, did a most un-Honduran thing and asked "cual es su problema?" The server said..."esta bien" and continued doing what she was doing. Five questions later and a raised voice, the woman finally responded to my friend, a Honduran who was unamused. I explained, "tengo prisa" meaning, I was in a hurry. She nodded, smiled and waited on someone else.

And interestingly enough, one can enter a restaurant here at 6:30 p.m. and have every table empty but with a "reservado" card sitting on it. There is no one there, but they have reservations for 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. but no place to sit??? So, friends and I have explained the concept of "seatings" to various restaurant owners here. Hmmm...I can be seated, eat, and be out before they need the table at 8:30 p.m. and they would make more money! At issue...this could double the work for the waiter! If only I had a few million, I could make so much money.

But then...I would have to have the labor laws changed here but "Labor Law" is another story for another day.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Amapala continued....

Our first view of the hotel from the dock was a positive one, quickly altered as we entered the open air patio where one would eat one's meals and near the pool which had appeared welcoming online. In fact, the pool was filthy, cloudy and had severl urchins swimming in the pool with diapers on.

We were greeted nicely and taken to our room, supposedly with a view. The dark closet with two twin beds and a small bath would have had a view out to the sea except the builder failed to put in a window. One had a view if one exited, went around the balcony and then looked out. Not convenient and the room was horrid. We took a room on a lower level...also with no view. It would also have had one because there was a window, except someone decided to build a new building in front of our room. Now buildings here take time to construct. This one had been in the works for awhile and probably will take another five or six years to finish.

The room? Well, let's just say that we had creature in our room which Gladys did not appreciate. Now, we Floridians don't mind a few lizards, but the ants and creepy crawlies were upsetting her as soon as she figured out that they would continue their march through the night and most likely on our bed. We had running ter...unfortunately none of the hot water advertised. And of course, the internet we anticipated...not there either. Not to worry.

We had a nice lunch on the patio and then Gladys began painting. Did I mention it was 90+degrees and humid? We started slowly melting, which I might add, I could afford to do. However, we escaped finally to our room, enjoying some air conditioning, made a nice dinner of cheese, crackers and fruit and imbibed some nice wine and hit the bed rather early.

I was up and at 'em around 5 a.m. and glanced out of our window to see about 50 cormorants swimming in the pool...doing what birds do in water. No way we were entering the pool. At 7:15 a.m. I went out in search of coffee...remember the restaurant?? The man working indicated coffee would happen but not until 9 or 9:30!! By that time, Gladys was up and the power on the whole island was off. NO food. NO air. NO coffee and the best chance of power being reconnected might be 4 p.m. that afternoon.

We decided to walk into town, after taking a tuk-tuk to the beach. There were a number of people standing around...mostly seedy, dirty men holding guns and machetes and muttering. We told the driver to take us back and we walked into town to see the church and the town plaza as well as the pier. We relaxed and after hearing that we would need to wait til the power people in Tegucigalpa decided to turn the power on to the island...we checked out and reversed the process to Tegus.

The trip back was rather eventful...pouring rain so we couldn't see the craters in the road OR they were filled with water, looking black and solid. Fell in a couple of times but didn't cut our tires...almost fell off the mountain and almost hit another rooster, one child and a burro. Otherwise, a typical Sunday 3 hour drive home.

When we got back we asked friends about their stay in Amapala and everyone said, "well we didn't say it was a resort." OK, now I know what to listen for when asking for a Honduran reference.


My good friend, Gladys and I went to Amapala two weekends ago and this trip was the funniest, most entertaining trip I have ever taken and all because it was a series of unusual situations which we could have been angry about or could have been frustrated by...we weren't. We used the trip as a time for bonding as friends and how better to bond than through shared misfortunes and laughter?

The actual road trip to Coyolito, the "town" where one catches the boat over to the island where Amapala is located takes in theory, about two hours. It took us two and a half hours, more or less due to some interesting occurences. Fortunatey, Gladys drove in her SUV because I always rent a small compact car, which in most instances is easier to park...less safe but easier.

The road to the port is very good by Honduran standards and weaves through the mountains. Scenery is verdant and interesting...many poor shacks, kids in the road naked and playing ball and then, there are the animals! We rounded one bend which happened to be a one lane road. The rest of the road had been eliminated either by plan or by falling down the mountain side. So, of course, there could be oncoming traffic, or traffic behind us. What appeared as we rounded the bend??? About two hundred huge head of cattle, with gigantic horns, stampeding towards us. After a two second consult, we decided to stop, mid-road, around the bend where no one coming behind or in front of us could see us and we waited. For what? For the cattle to find a way around us. We were terrified we might be rammed by them. We had to laugh at the thought that I could have driven in my small compact and come face to face with cattle bigger than my car!! There was no person shepharding this group...they were just on a stampede and ran past us, not bothering us at all. We continued on wishing we had had a camera to take a photo and laughing our butts off at what could have been very dangerous...but wasn't.

The road in places had no shoulder or even a lane in spots. At one point, there was NO road and we shinnied up the side curve of the mountain to ride on the edge so we could reach road about two blocks up. The other side...there wasn't one but there were red plastic cones next to the broken off side of the mountain that used to house two lanes of road.

Around another bend...naked young boys and girls playing soccer in the road. Reaction time was super and we hit no kids and no roosters. Keep in mind, we were navigating 2.5 hours away from what passes as civilization here in Tegucigalpa with directions like...turn at the llanteria (tire fixing place) turn left at the church and go about an hour and look for a right turn south. And there aren't signs to anything so each expedition is truly a TRIP. We found the place to catch the boat...ah, which boat will really take us where we want to go safely? And maps? Ha. I have one with names of cities on it and roads that MAY have once been there, but aren't today and without roads that are there.

And then, which boat is safe? None have life preservers. Some have holes in the bottoms and are leaking. All have hungry boat owners or drivers. Which should we take? And where ever do we park the vehicle so it is there when we one piece? Found a home with a metal gate where we could rent a parking space...the price, about $5 per day and we were to be gone two days. So we pulled our suitcases, Gladys' painting supplies, my cooler and chairs along to the dock and chose our "boat" and off we went.

The view...spectacular. Islands, the sea, green mountains. And from afar one cannot see the poverty, the dirt or the isolation. Yes, we arrived safely at the hotel dock and enjoyed the breeze and trip. Did I mention this place is in the south where it was about 98 degrees and about 98% humidity?

Now this hotel, Hotel Mirador, is one of four on the island. This is the nicest and we knew folks who had been there a year or more ago. The hotel even has a website with information and photos so we had selected the hotel with care. But more about that later...I have a breakfast meeting shortly!!

Monday, September 8, 2008


Well, the good news is...I am living. The really interesting news is how I live here in Tegucigalpa, a large, yet very small community. This is a city of approximately 2 million people, yet one can go to any number of places: local restaurants, book stores, the grocery store nearby and run into people you know or have met.

I honestly can go to the mall in Ft. Myers, dine out or go for a walk and never see one person I know. Why is it different here? Because those who can afford to shop, eat out, or go to the theatre are a small percentage of the total population...and those of us with the resources to go have a night out, live in just a couple of areas of the city. For example, if I go to the stadium to walk at 5:30 a.m., guaranteed, I will run into a politician, Embassy people, owners of nearby restaurants and teachers at the private schools located in Las Lomas, an area where I live.

I looked at a new apartment option yesterday and the person who would be living above me is the Panamanian Ambassador...below me where I live now is a man running for President of Honduras. While I don't run in these exalted circles socially, I do get to interact, meet and know these people and their families. I have met the former US Ambassador to Honduras, Charles Ford and really enjoy/ed him. Smart, sharp, great communicator and now working in Miami and DC. Hope to see him there.

Life on a day to day basis, besides the earlier commentary on driving is quite entertaining...when one is in the mood. There is no central air conditioning here and I have a wall mounted air conditioning unit on my wall in my bedroom. Not a window unit...a metal contraption mounted near the ceiling which makes an inordinate amount of noise. So, I freeze the bedroom before going to sleep. Cut off the air, snuggle under a mountain of blankies and shed them til I need a blast of cool and reverse the process. Add to that barking dogs, newspaper delivery at 4 a.m. on motorcyles, roosters crowing at all hours of the night (thought this was an early morning/daybreak kind of activity) and a building elevator that comes and goes all through the night (just who is using this at 3 a.m.??) and I am awake all night, every 30-45 minutes. Exhausting.


One stop shopping does not happen here. I have my favorite grocery store, La Colonia. There are three I frequent. Why three? Because the concept of stocking the shelves is non-existent here. I can buy hot salami for crackers and cheese today, and next week, there is no indication they ever had it. So, to have a dinner party takes some serious advance planning. One may have to hit all of the La Colonia, Pais, Mas x Menos stores in town to find almost all of the ingredients needed to cook or entertain. And often, I end up buying things just not found down here. One month, I bought cornmeal, chili powder, prepared horseradish and sunflower seeds...for myself and three other families. Yes, there is cornmeal down here, but its texture is unusual and makes lousy muffins or bread.

We have a place called STOCK which could be a mix of a K-Mart and Dollar Store where one can buy stuff for the house and inexpensive but good South American wines. And PriceSmart is a Sam's Club, Honduran style. So, when I want or need an adventure and a challenge, I plan a dinner party. Bound to cause serious stress...and all before I start the cooking.

And home security is a serious issue here. I live in a gated, guarded building with an alarm system which is in use constantly. My alarm is set when I decide to stay in for the night and taken off when I wake up. This has caused some issues because I am prone to getting up at 4:30 a.m. and wanting to look out to see what new and annoying noise I have heard. Forget to UNSET the alarm and there is a God awful wailing which I am sure wakes the neighbors up. Only happened twice, once at night and once in the madrugada!

I cannot walk here in the streets. Not safe. This is truly annoying but I have conformed. When I first started coming, I refused but after hearing and seeing what goes on...I now walk nowhere. Getting fat as a result!

More another time!

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Yesterday was another interesting day...I went with Blanca Sevilla, my Spanish teacher and friend to locate a pewter factory/showroom. She had been there another time and knew, in general where this was located, but as always, driving and locating something is always an adventure.

This place is located right across from the Catholic University and while we were lost for awhile, we did find it. Navigating was a tad difficult because there were "desfiles" all through the streets. Parades of young children in the streets celebrating the "day of children" and then streets were blocked with school buses and more. We found it and I bought several pieces of pewterware for Christmas gifts. Cost is 50% less here than in the U.S.

Speaking of school buses...Blanca and her husband bought a used bus from the U.S. and had it shipped here a couple of months ago. The bus was to be used as a business but of course, it needed lots of work. And then, one of the people who worked on it filled it with gasoline not diesel so that made for another awful situation.

Driving, which I do everyday here is quite difficult. There are maybe 2% of the streets that have street signs and names. There are street lights on various corners, but no one obeys them. No stop signs anywhere...but it doesn't matter, no one would obey them anyway.

One can and does go through an intersection on red. Yellow means may mean to go unless someone else is crossing and not obeying their red. So caution is critical. There appear to be laws but no one follows them. One communicates while driving by honking. The angrier you are, the longer you hold the horn down. One says, "please, thanks, passing, look out, creep, hate you" and much much more using the horn.

I took one of our staff to Florida and the first day there she realized that people use their blinkers, obey the rules, stay in lanes (oh, there aren't painted lanes here either!), can actually give directions using street names and addresses. Here we do two things...we use our hands to show directions when giving directions to a location and/or we draw a map. If someone doesn't know where you live or locate a common reference point like the American School Rotary, the American Embassy, Cafe Mania and then start there...

My directions...go down the hill from the American School Rotary towards Ruby Tuesday. Turn right at the bee building, go in til you can go no further. Turn right. One block up, turn left. My building is on your metal gates with a guard house. IF there is a street name or a building name, I do not know them.

I live in apt. 609 but there is no number on the apt. Take the fifth floor elevator and get off. I am on the left. Yes, the fifth floor...they count the garage as 1. I have a parking space in the garage but generally cannot park in my spot because the car is bigger than the space and if the DEA guy is parked and the neighbor is in his spot, there is no room to make the 90 degree turn necessary to pull in next to the support pillar. Very I park outside and pray that I can get in behind the gates with my computer and briefcase with no one on the street noticing. But safety is another story!

Friday, September 5, 2008

September 5, 2008
About seventeen months after I should have started this blog to share what I am doing with our independent media company here in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Did a really good job of documentation while in Colombia for six months in 2006 and just never thought I would still be working here after all this time.

Honduras is a tough country to work in...truly a Third World Country but a country that I have grown to love and that I look foward to visiting every month.

I am working with Grupo Picacho, a media company that now consists of a weekly newspaper, named El Patriota and a radio programming group, named Audio Picacho. After one year in business, the radio group is now profitable and we have taken the newspaper from a monthly to weekly newspaper.