New Eldon’s: One Less Reason to Drive to French Harbour?

Ooh, the new Eldon’s. Laid out just like the old Eldon’s. No bakery, though (yet). What I did notice on opening day were all the gringos I usually see in French Harbour. Most of them live in West Bay, West End or Sandy Bay, making me wonder if the old Eldon’s will take a hit.

And what of Plaza Mar up on the hill? Will Pachecho’s place suffer? Will competition actually help the consumer?

Weird, though: when I went back on Saturday, they were out of long-lasting boxed milk (Entera), Sula cheese (their Gouda and Edam are my favorites) and frozen pie crusts (just to name a few). And what happened to those Natura’s refried red beans with chorizo?

I guess if you’ve lived here long enough, you realize that when you see stuff you like at the store, buy as much as you can.

Welsh Support Team Helps SOL in Sandy Bay

Outlook Expeditions Hooks Up With SOL Foundation for Good Deeds in Sandy Bay

BY JEFF STRATTON

Monday, August 1, a group of Welshmen and Welshwomen got their hands dirty in Sandy Bay.

Volunteers from Outlook Expeditions worked on a gorgeous mural near the AKR road by the beach, transforming a cinderblock wall into a colorful pastiche of images made from thrown-away bottle caps (which our island has no shortage of, btw). Very cool to see discarded trash turned into art.

Outlook Expeditions, which sends students from Wales all over the world to learn from and help others, is in Honduras to work and play.

Today they were working, helping Dave Elmore from SOL create a giant mural that he estimates will take a year to finish. The work is painstaking, and it’s pretty rough there working with cement in the hot sun, but it was great to see a community project take shape.

Outlook takes Welsh students all over the world, teaching them environmental awareness and responsible travel ethics. Not bad things to be down with on Roatan.

Up near the road, by the basketball courts, SOL member Mark Flanagan was working with other (some quite sunburnt) O/E volunteers constructing a recycling bin for plastic bottles and cans.

The bottles are filled with sand and used, essentially, as bricks — making the bottles a building material instead of part of a landfill. When finished, it will function as a collection/sorting point: bottles in good shape will be used to build walls (and maybe, eventually, homes) and cans will be separated and sold.

Pretty cool idea: using trash to build stuff and beautify the community.

Beer Lovers: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Spotted at Plaza Mar

Get yours today at Plaza Mar!

California Microbrew on Roatan!

BY JEFF STRATTON

Nestled up against Presidente (Dominican Republic) and Guinness Foreign Export Stout (7.5% alcohol!) I saw a couple cases worth of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale— a really wonderful beer I think Oasis used to carry. Butch and Sherry at the Bulk Gourmet also stock it every once in a while.

I didn’t buy any and the price wasn’t marked, but if you’re tired of beers that are bottled with preservatives so they can sit on docks and in hot shipping containers for weeks (I’m looking at you, Cerveceria Hondurena), try a couple of these. It’s a delicious and hoppy brew, naturally fermented in the bottle (that’s a little layer of yeast down at the bottom), and it’s certainly not spotted often around these parts.

Sierra Nevada, based in Chico, California, makes a bunch of tasty ales but the Pale is the oldest and most popular.

Again, thanks to Sully and Katherine at Plaza Mar for helping us sell so many copies of the magazine!

 

Open, Sesame!

How Many Politicians Does It Take To Open a Shipping Container?

BY JEFF STRATTON

four keys to open them

Shortly before 2:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon, a screaming siren emerged from Thicket Mouth Road and made its way to the parking lot outside of Sun/Pizza Inn/Bojangles, where a brown shipping container was surrounded by a phalanx of cameramen, reporters, and local officials.

The cop car shut down its sirens. TV cameras were shouldered.

A big white Hummer and a few other shiny SUVs pulled up, and out spilled Rosa Elena de Lobo (the wife of Honduran President Pepe Lobo), mayor Julio Galindo, deputado Romeo Silvestri, and governor Shawn Hyde.

The first lady was accompanied by at least two members of the presidential security detail, complete with those little ear-transmitter thingies and the blank, slightly menacing expressions you’d see on the faces of U.S. Secret Service agents.

Armed local police and Cobras surrounded the surreal scene. About 35 people were on hand to see the container unlocked.

In less than 30 seconds, Hyde popped open the four padlocks. The first items visible were massive desks and filing cabinets, but clearly the container was full.

“Isn’t this amazing?” asked a gringo bystander. “They hold it up for months, and then open it with all the cameras here!”

It’s true, at least four TV cameras were jostling for the best angles, but the hold-up was paperwork from the mainland, not foot-dragging by local officials.

The first lady and mayor were interviewed by TV crews.

Nurse Peggy Stranges showed up with a poker face. She and the mayor looked over the manifest. He asked her to sit tight until Monday so the list could be looked over and the items divvied up (3/4 of the items are reported to be for the public hospital, though the items are differentiated clearly on paper and color-coded in the container ).

“Relieved” is how Peggy described her feelings.

We’ll be staying on this and bringing you more news on Monday. For now, two positive events have occurred: Clinica Esperanza is open, and the container has been opened.

Success! Local Politicians Step Up and Take Control of Container Situation

Posted about an hour ago on the Save Clinica Esperanza page:

“For all those who have sent messages expressing concern regarding the medicines and equipment donated by Hope Clinic and the Hospital of Roatan, I hereby let you know that your server, along with Mayor Julio Galindo, Governor Shawn Hyde we have taken with responsibility and unconditional release of interest to the container. Sincerely Romeo Silvestri”

 

This is great news and is certainly progress in the right direction.

Clinica Esperanza, Closed at the Moment, Fights Sticky Red Tape to Re-Open ASAP

Health Care Denied, Time and Energy Wasted as Stalling and Stonewalling Stop Nurse Peggy from Treating Roatan’s Needy

BY JEFF STRATTON

Back in late March, this blog reported that the upstairs wing of Clinica Esperanza in Sandy Bay, with a new pediatrics ward and birthing center, was ready to open.

It’s now mid-July, and the crash carts and beds and defibrillators and incubators have never been used. They’re new, shiny, ready to go … and just sitting there.

“While babies on this island are dying!” wailed one of Peggy’s staff members.

Why is this happening? Why is the best modern medical facility on Roatan sitting dormant? Why is the most-used clinic for “the poor and under-served” populace unable to secure a license to operate the new wing, and why has a shipping container filled with medical supplies for the clinic (but mostly for the public hospital) been sitting in blistering heat for more than three months?

In a word: paperwork.

“Until we get those two pieces of paper (the license and the dispensa) the clinic’s closed,” Peggy said on Friday.

Friday, July 8, was a pretty big news day on Roatan, with plenty of attention focused on the red-haired bundle of nerves and strength who wanted nothing but to do her job. Instead, she was issuing press releases, tracking down the wives of presidents, and chasing wild geese.

That’s how she spent her day, instead of caring for the sick people on the island who have come to depend on her.

That morning, this blog posted her press release warning that the clinic would shut down, and within a few hours, there was a Facebook page dedicated to saving the clinic, the chat groups started buzzing, local radio worked itself into a lather, and — since it’s Roatan — rumors starting flying like junebugs under a porch light.

In fact, right around noon, anonymous reports hinted that the first lady of Honduras was emptying the shipping container of its medical supplies, in broad daylight. I met up with Channel 27 down there, and it didn’t take us long to figure out that no containers were being opened, much less by big-wig dignitaries: in fact, it was lunch/siesta time, and no one was doing anything.

No First Lady in sight

At the same time Chas Watkins was starting up his Facebook page, this blogger was following Peggy’s staff with a notebook, camera and digital recorder, and Roatan Radio (101.1 FM) applied a bit more fire to the lazy feet that are dragging and therefore hampering Peggy’s mission.

It was a weird, wired conjunction where Skype, cell phones, digital social-networking media, old-school radio and eyewitness reporting enjoyed a sort of strange convergence of connectivity.

But back at Clinica Esperanza — where the general mood was shock and disbelief (apart from the patients, who had no idea what was going on) — Peggy was calm. She’d clearly reached “the end of her tether,” as Roatan Radio boss William Crisp put it, but she wasn’t unraveling.

She was eating yogurt.

Right around 2 p.m. her Blackberry rang with an important call: the right people and papers were in place, and the container, sitting at a French Harbour dock since April 24, was ready to be opened. Of course, Peggy jumped in her red pickup and rode right down there.

Did anyone show up? Was the container opened? Did Peggy get the dispensa needed to obtain the materials, or a license that would allow her to open her new facility legally?

No, no, no and no.

Crisp, who said, “We have to assume there’s a more morbid, nasty reason behind this,” was livid. Station boss John Morris played phone tag with various sources for an hour as conflicting reports trickled in. “It’s not the Gringos who are hurting,” Crisp noted. “It’s not the rich people — it’s the people from up in the Colonia.”

And on Monday, Dr. Raymond Cherrington predicts, the closing of the clinica will doubly impact those poor people on Roatan: “I’m concerned that people will spend money on a taxi to get here — spend money they could use on food.”

To provide a slice of what a typical Peggy Stranges day is like: in the middle of her fight for the container came an urgent phone call.

A tourist experiencing full-blown renal failure, dependent on daily dialysis for survival, came to Roatan with no supplies, no dialysis fluid, nothing.

Who’s supposed to fix that problem? Saint Peggy. Who else?

“There is NO dialysis fluid on this island,” she tells the caller. “It’s over in Ceiba. He needs to go there, get in a taxi, and ask for dialysis center.”

She hangs up the phone.

“It really upsets me when people do things like this,” she says.

But back to the matter at hand: it’s 3 p.m., the first lady is nowhere to be found, and she’s the only one who has the authority to produce the necessary document to open the container.

If patience is a virtue Peggy is a paragon

An employee tells her, “She’s been told it’s been released, but I have no proof it’s been released.” Peggy recounts how the first lady had blown her off earlier that morning.

“I was very offended by that,” Peggy says. “I don’t care what your title is. Just say no. Just say somethingI don’t understand. I don’t care who it’s been consigned to – why isn’t it being released?

The tangle of paperwork is familiar to anyone on the island who has tried to take possession of anything shipped from the States. But an e-mail she received Friday from Dr. Javier Pastor, the vice-minister of the health department, offered a ray of hope.

“The first lady herself got the final authorization for the release, she is at the island right now to open the container,” read the e-mail. “It will be good, you contact her and thank her for her help.”

Peggy did just that, typing out a nice note to the first lady’s assistant on her Blackberry: “Please thank the first lady for me for all her help in getting the container open.”

“But there’s no paperwork,” the employee explains to Peggy. “If she comes and says open it, we’re gonna open it.”

Meanwhile, the clock’s ticking. A kid on the mainland, Peggy explains, has been waiting for months for a special wheelchair that’s held inside the locked container.

“What if I say open it?” Peggy asks.

The employee laughs. “I think probably at around 4 o’clock, the first lady is going to contact someone,” she says hopefully.

Peggy, exasperated but still chill, says, “She’s here on vacation, and I don’t want to bother her. But how long will a friggin’ signature take?”

No one knows when the first lady is leaving the island, but this much is set in stone:

“Not even the first lady is going to open this business on a Saturday, I can guarantee you that,” the employee tells Peggy. “We may open on a Sunday, but it will not be after 5 p.m. on Friday, and not before 5 p.m. on Saturday. That’s the legacy we’ve built this business on.”

Maybe I should just come back Monday? Peggy wants to know.

“I just don’t understand what the problem is!” she says.

“The problem is there’s no paperwork on it,” answers the employee, “which should have been done six to eight weeks ago. Then it wouldn’t have been a problem.”

Peggy’s tired of waiting. “I don’t expect anything,” she says, “so I’m never disappointed.”

But her frustration bubbles to the surface on her way back to the clinic.

“The biggest business in Honduras isn’t tourism,” she points out, “it’s philanthropy. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of people who come down here every year to help Honduras, and this is the way we get treated?”

She estimates that for the last half-year, at least one hour of her weekday is devoted to the paperwork issue.

“It’s like five weeks of somebody’s life, just gone.”

She parks her pickup in the near-empty clinic lot. Her Blackberry buzzes. It’s a text message from Perla Caceres, the first lady’s personal assistant. It consists of two words.

“Thank you,” it reads.

22 Places You Can Buy a Copy of Roatan New Times: BEST OF ROATAN 2011

THE MAGAZINE IS FOR SALE AT THE FOLLOWING LOCATIONS, NOT ALWAYS IN THE FREEZER SECTION.

A big shout out to Susan Reed and Kevin Stratton for making these award certificates look like something anyone would be proud to receive. A quality job all around.

Suitable for framing or lamination.

Here are 22 places you can get the magazine. Or just come over. I’ll sell you one right off the truck. Like that dude with the limes.

 

Eldon’s
Plaza Mar
Hyper Mega
Bulk Gourmet

Sunshine Cafe

Mangiamo

Cool Beans
Sundowners
The Hungry Munkey
Kika’s Ice Cream
Rudy’s

Lighthouse
Captain Vans

The so-called “Miny Mart” behind Beachers

Blue Bahia
The Deck
Roatan Radio
Lands End
Celeste’s
Noodle Shack
Fresh Bakery
Roatan Life Real Estate

Anthony’s Key Resort Article from 1971

AKR Story from Iowa Newspaper

BY JEFF STRATTON

Thanks to the readers interested in Roatan history. I’m not sure how to get this stuff on the Roatan History forum — please feel free to share this freely. 

I was told AKR has been open since 1969. This report jibes with that estimate.

Check out the misspelling on the inset map.

Cool article, if a tad bittersweet. Here’s a guy who wants to keep the island “as untrodden as possible” and doesn’t want Roatan to become a “booming center of tourism.” So he opens a resort…

Undersea Roatan Featured in Time, National Geographic This Month

Lionfish, sharks, Marine Park, local sub captain showcased

BY JEFF STRATTON

Antonio Busiello

On April 4, National Geographic published a photo essay featuring incredible pictures shot in the waters of the Roatan Marine Park. Though the magazine doesn’t make much  distinction between Honduras and Roatan, it’s got some pretty awesome shots of sharks making meals out of lionfish. Quoted in the article is West End resident Ian Drysdale.

Ten days later, Time ran a short piece about Karl Stanley’s sub.

Kelly Tyler

Time only used one quote from Karl, but it’s a beauty: “Any time I can get my hands on a large dead animal, I take it.”

Roatan Mayor Pushes West End Road

Julio Galindo Answers West End Questions

BY JEFF STRATTON

Unable to stay for the whole thing but here’s what I saw:

As the sun went down, the wind kicked up, and two assistants were called in to keep the screen (above) from being blown over.

Family  scions from West End’s past sat in folding chairs with business- and land-owners who live in West End.

The last meeting, Mayor Galindo began, “seemed like a confrontation. Let’s not have that tonight.” Scattered applause. He explained that last time, the municipal wasn’t properly prepared to answer every question but that tonight, each question would get an answer.

To prove that, he used a PowerPoint presentation to show and zoom in on the cadastral surveys for West End.

The individual lots on the cadastrals displayed could be selected to show exactly what each property owner would owe, whether if paid off in a lump sum or spread out over a 10-year span.

“Thirty-three dollars a month,” said Mayor Galindo, telling one resident what his payment would be. “Insignificant, really.” Large property owners would take a bigger hit but most small homeowners with one lot were presented with numbers that weren’t intimidating at all, usually well under $50 a month.

If anything, the mayor used the meeting not to debate the merits of the road, but to make it as palatable as possible for the people paying for it. Straight off the bat, he was clear about his position:

“My father and my wife were born down here,” he said of West End. “I’ve made my mind up. I would like to pave this road. If I don’t do it, it ain’t gonna get done. And if we don’t do it now, in the future it would be practically impossible.”

The mayor addressed critics who’ve alleged that the road paving is politically motivated. “There’s no politics at all. I love my island,” he told the crowd. Explaining that he draws no salary as mayor, he added, “I’ve never gone to the U.S. or to Tegucigalpa as mayor, and I’ve never charged the municipal for a meal or a hotel room.”

There was a moment of humor when someone asked the mayor if the road would be stamped and if it could be colored.

“Yes,” he answered, “we can make it any color you want.”

“No,” said a man in the audience, “you can’t make it blue.”

“We want it gold!” someone joked, but a guy in front of me grumbled, “For those prices, it should be gold.”

It was then, about a half hour or so in, that a main backer of the petition against the West End road (Caroline Power) left in what appeared to be disgust. The paved road did seem like a foregone conclusion at that point — it was like the meal was over, coffee’d been served, and all there was to do was figure out what everyone’s share of the check would be.

Even that became cloudier when it was revealed that the lempira/dollar amounts told to the landowners didn’t include the interest rates charged by the banks loaning money for the project.

Those rates, according to mayor Galindo: 9 percent if paid off in 10 years, 12 percent if paid off in 15. “You can’t get money for free,” he said. “I wish it could be three percent.”

“So, if we finance it, that [the original figures quoted] won’t be our monthly payment,” someone pointed out, adding that people opting to finance would end up paying almost double the initial estimate.

That prompted another resident to ask what would happen if he sold his property, or a portion of his property — and someone else asked if the outstanding debt could mean a lien could be placed on his property.

“I’m not going to put a lien against you,” the mayor said, “but I don’t know what the bank is going to ask you for.”

With that, it was time to bail and pop in on Quiz Night next door. If anyone has additional anecdotes from the tail-end of the meeting, please share them.

This is clear: wake up today to find the Roatan Reality chat group flaming like a cross-dresser at a pride festival. Some of the smoke lingering around the hills today must be from all the name-calling.

Maybe Caroline can take some solace in this comment from the Facebook page called No West End Road :

Mike Dewar 7:33am Apr 20
“like-minded anti-progress simpletons” When you start to get labels like this from a poster on RoatanReality, you can be pretty sure you’ve won the argument!