welcome to our blog!

This blog tells the story of our 22-month sailing journey from Oakland, California, to Bristol, Rhode Island, aboard our beloved Bristol 32 sailboat, Ute. Please feel free to browse through the archives (partway down the sidebar to your left) to see pics and read stories of our adventures in North America and Central America . (Sorry the first 3 months of the trip are missing - they vanished somewhere in an internet cafe in Mexico - but all you're missing is CA, Baja and Western Mex).

If you're trying to track us down now that we're landlubbers, try us at uteatlarge at yahoo dot com. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

So in a few short days I’ll be on a plane for Los Angeles…and it occurred to me today that perhaps I should get a new pair of pants for the occasion. Partly so I won’t freeze, but mostly because the shorts I wear nearly every day are a pair of men’s swim trunks I got at the West Marine Bargain Store for $5 two years ago. I have torn out the butt of these shorts so many times that their entire aft section is now constructed of a zigzagged patchwork of different colors of boat canvas.

They do tell quite a story, but still. Anyway, I thought my pants buying experience might serve as one example of how our life here is a little different than back home.

The first step in getting a new pair of pants was to figure out a way to get to Coxen Hole, Roatan’s “capital” of sorts, the island’s business center. Lucky for me, a couple of our neighbors, Don and Yvonne, who are cruising sailors-turned-Roatan-dwellers, were planning a trip into town today.

So I head off in the dinghy, and turn into the mangrove tunnel where I would find their dock. On the way I pass the school where I’ve been teaching, and am treated to a chorus of “Hi Teacher Cora!”. I maneuver the dinghy into their boat-shed and tie it off. Their house is on a key that is really more of a sandbar, with the ocean on one side and the mangrove tunnel on the other. As I walk across the key I pass by the house of Gladys, the laundry lady. She asks about Allen’s trip and when he will be back in town.

When I arrive at Don and Yvonne’s we enjoy a quick snack of pancakes with canned butter from New Zealand. You can’t get real butter here, so when the canned stuff comes into the grocery store (rare) it sells out within a matter of hours. In other words, this is a special treat.

We then commence the trip to Coxen Hole. We start out on a dirt road that leads us to a bridge over the mangrove channel, and then curves through jungle, past the Jonesville cemetery, past the Christian Camp, to the highway. From there it’s about an a 45-minute drive over roads that start out very potholed but improve in condition as one nears the cruise ship terminal (go figure). The views from the road are stunning – every turn reveals a new contour of the island – or another shimmering reef vista. The heavy rains lately have brought on an explosion of color in the trees and plants along the roadside. It’s a little piece of heaven.

When we get to Coxen Hole, I get dropped off in what’s known as the public market. This is an open air flea market type of thing that covers about two blocks of side streets. The main street in town is paved, again to pacify the cruise shippers, but the side streets – which cruise shippers rarely dare to tread – are ungroomed, stinky dirt alleys. Much more authentic Central America, to be sure.

I roam around until I find a booth selling clothes. There are several, so it doesn’t take long. Imagine a small shack with a bunch of lightly used American clothes pinned onto hangers all over the inside and outside. These clothes are in that weird state where they don’t look new, but they don’t really look used either, kind of like the clothes you find in consignment shops in upscale neighborhoods. Aside from that, however, this store has little resemblance to one of those stores. I start looking around and an adorable, grimy, barefoot 5-year-old girl brings out the special broom-handle-with-a-nail to lower the pair of pants I have just been eyeing.

I can’t help but notice that the girl bears a strong resemblance to one of my students who is Miskito (an ethnic group from mainland Honduras – learn more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosquito_Coast). My two Miskito students in Jonesville have been teaching me how to say a couple basic things in their native tongue. I take a chance and say, “Mahni. nak sma?” which roughly means Good Morning, how are you? (either that, or my students have been teaching me dirty words and just telling me that’s what they mean). She smiles, her face lights up and she replies in her language – I understand nothing but it doesn’t seem to bother her. Her father asks where I’ve learned these tidbits and I explain - in Spanish. He tells me they've moved here to find work. This is a common theme around Roatan - the unemployment rates on the mainland are dismal.

I am lucky in my shopping – it appears that someone’s cousin must have run into an Ann Taylor Loft store, shoplifted everything in the size 12 pants section, and shipped the whole lot to this one tiny hut. You just never know what you’re going to find down here. I take a pair off the hanger and ask if I can try them on over my shorts. “No, no!” shouts the mother, running out of the kitchen with dough in her hands, “you must try them on your body! You must try them on here in the kitchen! Come, come! I will leave the kitchen!”.

They are so intent on creating a fitting room in their kitchen, that I can’t say no. I grab the pants and walk into the kitchen. It is slightly larger than an airplane bathroom. Atop the counter in front of me are a sleeping baby in a basket and a plastic tub holding a pile of tortilla dough balls about 3 feet tall. Next to that is a roaring stove with a huge bubbling pot of some kind of stew. I think I spot an iguana bone in there.

I try the pants on while resisting the temptation to sink my teeth into one of the dough balls. Or my finger into the stew. The pants basically fit. “Basically” is as good as it gets down here – I don’t even think about what they might look like. The baby sighs in his sleep and squirms a little.

I emerge from the kitchen, wearing my patchwork shorts once again. “How much?” I ask the father, who seems to be in charge of pricing. “Sixty lempiras” he replies. About 3 bucks. A little steep by public market standards, but they are okay pants and I’ve fallen for their children so he knows I will pay. I don’t have the heart to bargain him down.

Before I leave I make sure to give the girl a lucky plastic pig. She smiles.

Another successful errand run in Roatan.


Anonymous said...

Great blog entry Cora! You must be going for the Pulitzer prize of blogging - send me the form I'll nominate you. Happy travels to our great state.


Anonymous said...

Have you started writing your book yet???????? I'd tear through it. Your voice is so strong in this I feel like I'm there with you. xoxo