Hustle and bustle of the holidays

xmas

12/27/2016 Christmas is here and gone. The build-up to it is so much less than when the boys were younger and still at home. I used to make myself frantic ensuring everything was just perfect for them. Now we barely celebrate, we stopped exchanging gifts when I moved to Roatan alone in 2012 and never resumed. It’s not like things are easy to find here, shopping is pretty much nil except for Mega Paca, ACE and Serranos. Other than them (a used clothing, household store and 2 hardware stores) it’s slim pickings. And that’s OK, there really isn’t much either of us need or want, really.

Christmas has a different meaning here on this island where so many have so little. The kids on the island don’t have a clue what the kids in the US experience at Christmas time. There are no iPads, iPhones, new laptops, motorcycles, flat screens for their rooms, none of that. The majority of the kids don’t even have a Christmas meal that is any different from their everyday meal of beans and rice. Some don’t even get that because their families are so poor.

Nidia has taken it upon herself for the last 18 years to try to make things better for the kids on Roatan. For her to have so many parties or do food drives is a huge undertaking, but she does it and she does it well. She is so well respected on the island that people jump at the opportunity to help her. I first met her in 2014 when she was doing a food and toy drive at Christmas. We dropped off food and she was there and I introduced myself and said we would help. That was our first year. In 2015 she decided to concentrate more on the kids and make the whole thing center around them. That year there were 2 large parties, one on the east end and one on the west end. This year she expanded to 4 parties and 2 days of visiting different forgotten communities. People have no idea what is involved in pulling off something like this on Roatan but Nidia is undaunted, she just digs in and gets it done. I am so proud to call this whirlwind of energy my friend, I adore her, she is truly a gift to the island of Roatan. Without her, none of this would happen.

I apologize for the super long post (yes, this is one of those, laden with photos). I could do it in 2 posts but I’m not going to. So grab a bottle of wine or a pot of coffee and chill for a bit.

I would say being down here in the gorgeous sunny weather is reward enough but the weather has been downright shitful. WET WET WET, sick of it. Yes, I like the rain but in excesses like this, I’m over it.

My friend Milesse owns Barefoot Cay, and she is also the one who started the airport volunteer group. She had a few ladies over to her place to meet the wife of the new General Manager of BFC. We talked about what we did on the island and had a fabulous lunch and mimosas and wine. It was a nice afternoon. A few days after that I was back there again with all the volunteers that greet at the airport. Once again, Milesse served us lunch and we had drinks and chatted about the direction the airport greeter group was going.

Then we were back at Barefoot Cay again for an evening get together to once again introduce the new GM and his wife. That was a great night, lots of incredible food, the wine was flowing and the place was filled with wonderful people. If I have to go somewhere several times in a short period of time, I can’t think of a better destination, Barefoot is really a one of a kind boutique resort. Everything there is done with exquisite taste.

15493323_1214949731920035_6779995186791725673_o

My friend Dario, the head of Immigration at the Roatan airport and Bill and I at Barefoot. Note to self, wear black bra next time.

Alexi turned 18 on December 12th. We took him to Mega Paca and let him shop for clothes. Most things there aren’t over $5.00 and he spent $63.00, he had a stack of clothes. After that we took him to Herby’s for lunch, he’s never been there before. He changed into a pair of his new shorts in the back seat of the truck before we went to lunch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

His stack of clothes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Alexi, making himself comfortable

img_20161212_125337

Alexi’s first time in Herby’s, probably his first time in a nice restaurant.

img_20161212_104925

Saw this truck at ACE

img_20161211_115949

Dead dinosaur in the pool, actually, it was an Anole. I’m surprised because I have seen them swim in the pool before. Maybe this was a catch and release by the dogs.

img_20161211_111337

Mega Paca haul, 4 each of the dishes and the seahorse wall hook, score.

img_20161211_092518

Morning glories at the end of the driveway

Our friends Marcia and Dennis were having a full moon party at their house. They just had a huge pool put in and were celebrating that and the moon. They have one of Frito’s pups, Duke. It was Marica I was snorkeling with last year on my birthday when the sea was full of jellyfish, it was pretty amazing. Trish and Dave came over and we all rode together to their house. They had over 60 people there, it was a lot of fun. I failed to bring my swimsuit, damn, I could have done some synchronized swimming with Francie.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Caribe Bight

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Inside of their home

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Their new HUGE pool, it’s gorgeous.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Francie went for a dip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bill, Trish and Dave chatting.

My friend Carmen and her sister, who was visiting from South Dakota, wanted to come over to the house. Brett and Carmen live boat access only and don’t have a car. The girls took a taxi to get massages in Politilly so I picked them up on my way back from BJ’s in Oak Ridge, (I dropped off a box of soccer balls, wrapping paper and a few toys for the Fiddlers Bight kids Christmas party).

15590557_10210023614019625_2726522115903022341_n

These are some of the soccer balls donated by Hillcrest Village Soccer club in Toronto. They were brought down by Dave and Trish Symons and given to me to pass out, along with the soccer uniforms. There were over 60 balls to start, this is what’s left. I’m sure the kids loved them.

Carmen, Kecia and I came back to our house and Kecia met the dogs, sat by the pool for awhile and chatted and then went to Cal’s for lunch. Soon as we sat down and Reynaldo brought our drinks, he said, it’s going to rain. And it did, almost immediately. We moved to a table under the roof and enjoyed our meal. I took the 2 of them back to Oak Ridge and Brett picked them up.

15578543_10154831894418103_395981157089754730_n

Kecia and Carmen, I didn’t take this, it’s from La Sirena at Camp Bay.

Nidia has been getting ready for all of the Christmas parties for the island kids for the past few months. Once she got enough money donated she went to the mainland shopping. She scheduled 4 parties and 2 days of doing deliveries in the smaller communities.  The first one was held in a small community called Wild Cane. It was outdoors under a tree, along a pretty busy road and a stream. Nidia expected 200-250 kids, there were 500. They came from so far  away it took the kids over an hour to walk there, not what we expected at all. We had many generous donations from all over that helped purchase a ton of Santa hats, toys for all of the kids at ALL of the parties, bags of candy, hotdogs, drinks and ice cream cones too. I was excited to see my friends, Fred and Trish, Faber, Jeanette and Don, K.J. and Mike and Toni there. Of course Janisha was there to help her mom and Johnie and Hector helped at several of the parties also. Faber comes from the states for the parties, every year. He goes to every one and is a huge help. He also brings donations from the people he works with at the hospital. (He also comes for the TOMS shoe deliveries.) Jeanette and Don, Faber, Janisha and Kirsty helped out at Big Rock also, slicing rolls, passing out hot dogs, removing packaging from toys. You name it, we did it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The set up area at Wild Cane

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Passing out santa hats

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hmm, Moms weren’t supposed to get hats, guess she slipped by with one.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Love these boys.  (Notice the mud. YUCK)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pensive

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cuties with Minnie ears

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was a sea of red

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Love the curls

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Of course, I always find the dogs. I fed this pitiful pup but one meal wasn’t going to do much for him. He was on deaths doorstep.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Santa arrived in the big shiny truck parked along the wall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

They held onto him as he walked

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Passing out toys

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Santa and the one and only Nidia, the woman with a heart as big as Roatan. Actually, Santa is pretty awesome too, he loves this gig.

The second party was on a Monday in Crawfish Rock, a small community down near the water. The road to Crawfish Rock is dirt and this time of year with the torrential rains it is slick mud with huge ruts and potholes. I was not looking forward to the drive down there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On the way to the party I came around a corner and there were cows in the road, a common sight here on the island. The one cow on the right was running rather haphazardly on the road. The guys on the motorcycles behind them were the “handlers.”

Helping at Crawfish Rock were Janisha, Faber, Johnie and Hector and Rusty and Sheila and of course our own special Santa, Sully.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I recall from doing shoes at Crawfish Rock that most of the kids are shoeless. It was the same this time. Once it rained, the whole area turned into a mudhole.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nidia’s dog Coco

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

An unhappy Minnie, waiting for an ice cream cone

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Soon after we got everyone lined up, it poured. We all ran to the school carrying anything we could get ahold of.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Waiting for ice cream

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s backwards to serve the ice cream first but there is no other way to do it when refrigeration is an issue.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We line them up smallest to biggest, at least we try to.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Since it was raining we set up in a classroom and luckily, it had empty shelves. I was sad that the bookshelves were barren, to me, it meant that the kids had no books to read.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Santa visiting with the kids

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I dug food out of the garbage bags and fed this dog.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Happy kids

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

These boys were so cute!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Boxes of apples donated by Ron McNab, owner of the Galaxy Wave ferry. He did this for every party!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A visit with Santa is priceless.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

He was afraid of Santa

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The school

After it rained 3 times while we were there the road turned into a muddy slip and slide. Santa, in his big truck got stuck, I was able to drive right out of there with my AWD car. Faber and Johnie were amazed that we didn’t get stuck.

When I got home on Monday from the party I took a shower immediately. Once I got out of the shower I felt a sore throat coming on. It got worse as the night progressed and by morning I had a full blown cold. Tuesday Nidia and some volunteers (Sheila and Rusty and Bob and Rosalie) were going to a few communities and passing out toys. I had too much to do that day and felt miserable so I didn’t join her. They went to Mudhole, Corazol and Hottest Sparrow. Santa has been busy.

Wednesday was the biggest party at Big Rock in Pensacola. Nidia expected 400+ kids and we had almost 700. Word travels fast on this little island. Many thanks to Don and Jeanette, Faber, Kirsty, Janisha and Franklin and all the other ladies who came to help control the chaos.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Saw this momma pig on the way to Pensacola. She was wandering along the road.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

744 Hot dog buns, second time my car was full of these.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We took as many toys as possible out of the plastic wrap that it came in. One less thing to have to clean up afterwards.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This year instead of throw away cups, they got cups they could take home with them, less garbage is always a good thing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I fed this dog too and if he had not been so timid and come closer, I may have had 6 dogs. He was gorgeous, I really wanted him.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Big Rock bar has changed a lot from last year. It’s really been fixed up with these cool surfboards on the ceilings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

He was a ham

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nidia’s little dog Coco got away and ran under the porch. It took them quite a while to get her out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My friend Kirsty passing out Santa hats

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Beautiful

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I love her, she has a necklace and a handbag.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Enjoying his ice cream

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Santa dishing up ice cream cones

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The place was packed

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Using paper plates, no styrofoam

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mesmerized by Santa

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

He’s a happy boy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

By 4 PM I was feeling awful so I headed home. Everyone was fed, all Santa had to do was pass out toys. After an hour drive, sniffling and sneezing the whole way, I was home and exhausted.

The last party was Thursday on the island of Helene. Helene is part of Roatan but it’s separated by a cut in the island. There is no electricity on the island and they got a well just 2 years ago, prior to that there was no water except for streams and springs. We were taking 2 boats to get there, one owned by Clifford Mejia, the Vice Mayor of Santos Guardiolas (the east end of Roatan) and the other owned by Ron McNab, who owns the Galaxy Wave ferries that go between Roatan and Le Ceiba. Ron is also the one who donated 2 cases of apples to each of our parties. Bob and Rosalie, Faber, Natasha, Nidia, Darla, Carmen, Rusty and Sheila and Mike, Toni and their son Rhys came along. Most of us got in Ron’s boat as Clifford’s was full of Christmas toys and baskets of food for the people of Helene. We set off for Helene close to 9AM. We were out as far as Port Royal, right near Fort Morgan Cay when the boat all of us were in stopped. We initially thought he was slowing down to maneuver inside the reef so the ride would be smoother but alas, not the case. We were drifting perilously close to the reef and to keep from colliding with it we called Joe Wonder on the radio (they live in Port Royal on the water) and he came buzzing out in his little skiff and pulled us away from the reef. Clifford was also alerted and he turned around and came back. The boat had died. We never did get the exact reason it died, all we knew was, we were being towed to Fort Morgan Caye.

Fort Morgan Cay is a small privately owned island. It is approximately 30 acres in size and was once a pirate hideout. There is a small runway on the island and a few pirate ruins and a fabulous large home with 4 rentable rooms. I can safely say that the majority of us on the boat were very excited to see Fort Morgan Cay. We tied the boat up there and all got off.

Clifford was going on to Helene, with Nidia, Rusty and Sheila and all the toys and food. The rest of us waited behind because we all couldn’t fit on one boat. Some of the stranded people started wandering around until they got reprimanded by the German manager. After talking to an islander who lives there and helps maintain the place he said he would take us for a tour of the west end of the island. If I were going to be stranded somewhere, this would be my choice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At Clifford’s dock in Oak Ridge, this is my friend Darla’s daughter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ron’s boat that we were all going to Helene in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Loading the boats

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Food donated by Ron and the Galaxy Wave to be given to the people of Helene.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Just south of Lime Key where the boat stopped. Look at the color of this water. It’s why I moved to Roatan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Clifford came to tow us to Fort Morgan Cay

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The skiff in the top of the photo belongs to Kim and Joe Wonder, Joe came and towed us away from the reef until Clifford could get to us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The buildings at FMC, notice the chairs on the roof.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

An outdoor shower

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The pool, OMG, it was gorgeous. The guy walking on the left is the one who gave us the tour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Looks like a deserted island

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What dreams are made of

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I could be shipwrecked here for a very long time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Natasha is the daughter of Dave and Trish who have a home on Roa. She’s awesome (and gorgeous), I absolutely adore her.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Part of the old pirate fort

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

wall decor

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Absolutely waterfront

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Doors to one of the rooms

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Outdoor shower

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

She is not camera shy. I know her name but have no idea how to spell it. Keneesha??

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ron said he was calling his Dad and he would come with a bigger boat. He forgot to mention it was a flipping yacht. We drooled.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ron’s boat is pretty amazing itself, it has 3- 300 HP outboards, but compared to this big “boat” it looks a tad insignificant.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After they got more gas transferred to the other boat, they left us in their wake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Going through the mangrove cut.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At the school in Helene

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ron McNab, passing out toys, I think the cute boy in glasses next to Ron is his son.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This little boy got a big plane and was thrilled with it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This school is in deplorable condition. So sad.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

These kids are adorable.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Some are shy, most are not.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cute young boys

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pretty girls

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The kids were told to wear red or green, most did.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Look at the eyes on the girl on the left, gorgeous.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another poorly cared for dog.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ron, Rosalie and Nidia giving the kids toys. Santa didn’t come on this trip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The older boys got soccer balls.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sleeping beauty

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

MMM, apples

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I remember this little guy from the TOM’s shoe drive and from when we passed out backpacks. He has the longest eyelashes ever.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Big sister drying his tears

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Natasha handing out candy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Carmen liked this little guy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Baskets and bags of food to be passed out to the residents of Helene

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We got to see the Free Radical on the way home. That’s the boat the EXPATS go out on for the day and party.

It was a fast, uneventful trip home and we even made it by early afternoon. I was amazed. We had a party to go to at 4 that day so I was thrilled to get back in time.

Nidia and a few others were doing deliveries to Camp Bay and Diamond Rock on Friday with a Santa that came from Canada, but I couldn’t go due to prior plans. At the end of one week approximately 1800 kids got Christmas gifts. A significant number indeed.

It was a busy week for all of us but much more so for Nidia who orchestrated the whole thing. She could probably run and direct the next economic summit or be Speaker of the House. I think her skills and her ability to make things happen far outweigh anything I have ever seen. Remember, NOTHING is easy here, we’re a small island belonging to a 3rd world country, floating in the Caribbean. It just goes to show that when someone puts their mind to something, anything is possible. Nidia has proven that time and again.

It will soon be March and time to begin the distribution of TOM’s shoes, something else to look forward to. Another good deed and the kids of the island once again benefit. Because of the force that is Nidia P. Webster. I love you girlfriend.