Calendar Style
January, 2007 Vol.5 No. 1
monthly news magazine for
Roatan, Utila & Guanaja
Island Reviews
The Cameo Man Text by Tamy Emma Pepin
An Italian-American artist carves out his dreams in a 'sea-side castle' in Gravels Bay

"Roatan island has won my heart for here I've built my castle where in any man's heart is his home," says Franco. Today the Castle is a landmark on Roatan and teaches the techniques of carving to twelve local apprentices. "It does worry me that this art can disappear," says Franco. "It is an art that should continue and that gives a fine representation of what men can do with the raw materials that Mother Nature gave us."
In the back of the Castle is where the mastermind works his craft. Franco retreats behind the two large wooden doors facing the main lobby, in his small and chaotic workplace, to keep the dying tradition of cameo carving alive. The curtains are shut and the room temperature kept no higher than 18 degrees Centigrade. Franco works best when most of the island is asleep. "Just to think, not even carve, to create… it takes a tremendous amount of time," says Franco.
Clues of Franco's artistic influences are noticeable throughout his workshop. Pictures of ships from the Queen Elizabeth II to the Andrea Doria and to Franco's father Cammile, hang on the walls; while scenes from Salvador Dali, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci and images of romantic art and neo-classism are displayed among cameos in glass cases.
A variety of intricate tools lie on the table among colourful gems, books, Italian biscuits and pictures of Franco's two daughters. On another table, piles of wooden boxes carrying hundreds of small cameos are adjacent to an improvised mini-bar. Sitting in a corner of the room is the piece that won Franco a place in the Museum of Metropolitan Art. "It is my representation of the abduction of the Sabine women," he says.
Franco's main clientele is in Japan and his pieces are sold worldwide. Despite the fact that he is a successful businessman, Franco considers himself first and foremost an artist. "If I saw myself as a businessman, I would approach things without the love of perfecting the art," says Franco. "I'm an artist, a realist, an honest man, a sculptor, an architect, a barbarian."
The love of perfection that Franco refers to is reflected through his art. The details in the faces of the angels are flawless and the captivating scenes of Roman history evoke the Italian old school of art.
Covering an important part of the wall is a large painting representing the Crossing of the Atlantic. "It represents people crossing the ocean to come find a better life," says Franco. With the same goal, Franco came to the Americas to share his passion for carving the marine canvas.

As far back as Franco can remember he was immersed in ancient expressions of art. "At the age of three, I used to sit on my grandfather's lap when he was working. I would blow the dust off his carvings," says Franco Tammaro, Roatan's cameo carver.
Cameo carving originated in Ancient Greece and was brought by the colonizing Greeks to Franco's hometown, Naples, in 79AD. For the Tammaros, an Italian family of painters and sculptors, cameo carving has been a tradition since 1851.
His father, also a gemologist and explorer, owned a vessel on which Franco spent most of his free time as a young boy. Franco was actually born during a trip to the Caribbean. "In 1960, we were on the ship and we were passing the island [Roatan]. They say I was born in the waters of Roatan," says Franco. "I decided to make it my home."
Franco grew up in Italy and travelled the world on his father's ship. He later attended NYU where he studied architecture, which he dropped to proceed with the creativity of art history and carving.
Fifteen years ago, Franco moved to Rotan and seven years later started conceptualizing his Stone Castle. In 1999, the Castle was built, serving as Franco's home, workshop, teaching institute and boutique.
Island Reviews
Hugo the Magician
Italian born musician creates a soundtrack to a Roatan experience
As a young biology student he took a part in a 1960s European wide study to find two identical grains of sand. It wasn't found, but Hugo discovered something just as important: "grains of sand can find a way to merging together more easily than most people."
The Italian musician was born on Lace Como in Northern Italy. When he was only six-years-old Hugo saw one of the first color American movies "Captain of Castilla." That viewing set his life of on a course of fascination with Americas' indigenous culture and its music. "I still have goose bumps when I think about this," says Hugo. As a twelve-year-old he was given his first record, by coincidence, a collection of Andean Music, that he listened four hours on end memorizing sounds, rhythms and tunes.
His life philosophy has led him to meat and help many musicians from South America. And that is how he learned his music sounds and skills. In 1968 he contacted a group Bolivia Manta for whom he organized a series of concerts. A few years later, with his seven friends he started Apurimac, a musical group that lasted for 20 years.
Retired, by coming to Roatan Hugo reinvented himself from being known as biologist and an amateur musician to being on of the most recognizable artists the island hosts. Since moving to the island in 1996 he started a musical group "Puro Sol." By playing several South American wooden flutes and mandolins he fascinates his Caribbean audiences.
In 2001 he relised his so far only CD: Puro Sol, or Latin American Fiesta! In a compilation of Hugo's original music, music by Chris Goldman, and American standards he created a soundtrack to Roatan: a mixture of Latin America, western influences and South American sounds. The CD was recorded live and the instrumental- Chocolate Bon Bon- is by far his favorite.
For the last two years his health has turn a turn downwards and Hugo, now 69-years-old, doesn't play as much as he used to. Hugo is more frail now and doesn't play a regular schedule at Palmetto Bay. With a recognizable gray beard, a mustache, and always present smile he spends more time at his home in West End with his son Andrea and Honduran wife Reina.
Hugo does occasionally motivates himself to play a special venue and his greatest satisfaction comes from knowing that his music influenced people around Roatan.
by Thomas Tomczyk
island reviews
A Caribbean Eskimo
Thinking 'outside the box' provides an excuse to raise Bay Islands’ first 'igloo'
While two dozen developers are racing to build hundreds of condominiums to Roatan, a local restaurant owner uses Styrofoam and concrete to create an economical, postmodern answer to Roatan's shortage of housing and storage: a igloo.
Behind the wooden structure of "Rottiseria Aleman" in French Harbour, the three meter tall spherical structure popped practically overnight on May 24. The eye popping, slightly surreal stone igloo was completed in barely two weeks. "Styrofoam is easy to work with, you can cut out that ever you want," said Kurt Neudecker, owner and mastermind behind the structure.
First a four inch slab was poured on site of the 'igloo' to be. Then eight, white, four inch thick Styrofoam shells were braced together with rope and large metal staplers secured each of the shells to the next. The exterior was covered with stone and concrete and the upper portion of the structure will be sealed with a concrete sealer.
Formas Thermicas, of San Pedro Sula, manufactures the building blocks and has helped in construction of 43 such igloos through Honduras. The cost of the eight Styrofoam shells forming the 6 meter diameter semi sphere is $1,200.
After the expense of making two aluminum windows and one door the cost of the 300 square foot structure came out to $5,800 or $19 per square foot. Currently there is no water, or electrical installations in the structure.
Neudecker plans to use the igloo as a hurricane shelter but currently his son Morritz had reserved the igloo as his first apartment.
Neudecker originally planned on constructing four igloos side by side, but the municipal zoning department found the igloo construction not in the spirit of the island architecture. "They say that the rusted zinc sheets and unfinished concrete block houses are more Caribbean than my igloo," said Neudecker, who received a municipal building permit with many restrictions discouraging him from perusing construction of additional 'igloos.'
by Thomas Tomczyk
island reviews
Party! Party! Party!
The carnival week filled around 85% of the island's 350 hotel rooms. "We are still recovering from the two days when UPCO was down during Semana Santa," said Patrick Flynn, Utila businessman and President of the Carnival Committee.
Sue Ruttman, owner of the Mango Tree businesses saw a noticeable spike in business. Ruttman's internet café saw a 20% increase in business, while her ice-cream and tee-shirt shop saw an increase of 50%.
Flynn, who took over the organization of the town's carnival from Lilian Henderson, complained of the infighting amongst the two politician parties during the putting together of the event. "I've stood my ground with the red [liberal party] and stood my ground with the blue [national party]," said Flynn. "It is a shame that something that benefits the entire community involved should suffer because of political views." The carnival committee accepted around Lps. 50,000 from business and individual donations. Cerveceria Horndureña and Congressman Jerry Hynds contributed Lps. 20,000 to the Caarnival.
Utila Carnival is not just a festival for tourists, it provides an opportunity for Utilians living abroad to come back to their island and reconnect with their families and friends. "We always come for Easter and the Carnival. We've seen six of them so far," said Randy Cardona, an Utilian temp worker from Long Island who with his wife Wanda came to visit his Cola de Mico family and home for the festivities.

Unlike last year, sunny weather allowed for the festival to run almost all of its scheduled events. Sandy Bay, Cola de Mico, The Point and Bando Beach all held their neighborhood carnivals, with the Saturday offering the biggest festivities on three stages located through the town. "We hope to use the same concept as a springboard for the future carnivals.," said Flynn.
island books
The Past in Utila’s Present

In his debut novel "And the Sea Shall Hide Them", Mister William (Bill) Jackson has delivered an exciting and well-written account of a horrific maritime tragedy at sea in the western Caribbean near the small tropical island of Utila. Bill Jackson's book falls under the sub-genre…"non-fictive novel", in which many (but not all) of the names of the novel's characters, dates, and places are factual and accurate, and only the colorful dialogue, thoughts, and the manner in which the various characters interact have been fictionalized. In the Author's note Jackson writes: "This is not necessarily only a story of murder-of death. It is also, more importantly, a story of the human will to live, to fight on and survive when all seems hopeless.”

Bill Jackson, himself born on the island of Utila, had been fascinated as a child by the exciting tale of the mysterious vanishing of the island schooner Olympia, and what had happened to all twelve people, both passengers and crew, on board. As a young boy, Bill had often sat in the evenings in the semi-darkness on the front porch of an elderly neighbor-the old man's features lit by the soft, mellow glow of a kerosene lamp-and eagerly listened while "Mister John" related the exciting tale of murder and mayhem on the high seas. It was then, long ago, that the author promised himself that someday he would write down the tale for others. He now has kept this promise and we his readers are his fortunate beneficiaries.
The spell-binding tale begins on the last of June, 1905, on a balmy, dark night on Utila. With both skill and an obvious love for the story itself, the author weaves a tight net that snares his readers from the very beginning. Old Bay Island names are sprinkled throughout, and the vanishing cultural ways of the islands, common throughout most of the Caribbean in those long-ago days of a century ago, along with dialogue rich in Antillean expressions that one can still hear bits of in the islands today, makes those of us familiar with The Bay Islands feel as if we were there that dark night when the schooner Olympia set sail on what was supposed to have been a calm, uneventful voyage of but four hours to the larger, nearby island of Roatán.
What happened on that fateful voyage is the focus of Bill's wonderfully crafted novel, and will leave his readers feeling both elated and sad at the same time. They will find themselves enduring the horrors and miseries that befall Miss Elsie Morgan, heroine of the story, as she struggles and prays to survive long enough to tell her story. Above all, they will rejoice at the final outcome of a young woman's determined "struggle against impossible odds".
This is a small book that you, the reader, will be sad to see end. It will hold you in its grip from page one through its Epilogue and the author's Final Note. Read and enjoy.

by David K. Evans
island books
Judas Bird Arrives

I was a little scared when a friend of mine handed me The Judas Bird by David K. Evans. After all, it weighs over three pounds (I checked) and is almost 1,000 pages long. But my friend promised me that it was a "roman a clef" (actually she said no such thing but that's what she would have called it if she was the kind of person who liked to throw around fancy French phrases) and that I'd find all sorts of real people, people who I know, inside that 3 pound, 972 page novel.
There truly is something for everyone in this treasure book: intrigue, action, pirates, romance, comedy, mystery, history, anthropology, good guys, bad guys, even socio-economic theory, not to mention all your favorite restaurants: Gio's, Romeo's, Que Tal Café. If you are an Islander, born and raised, you'll laugh at Evans' dead-on descriptions of clueless tourists wandering around getting sunburned, drinking margaritas and stumbling back to their cruise ships at the end of the day. You'll also recognize, and love, his beautiful word paintings of your Island. Roatan's beaches, reefs, and sunsets, its curving mountain roads, torrential rains and brilliant sun all come to vivid life. You can decide for yourself how good a job Evans does of duplicating the Island dialects - it sounds pretty exact to me. He even duplicates the way many of you switch back and forth from formal English to dialect in what to all of us who speak only one, not very colorful, English, seems truly amazing!
If you're an Expat (from anywhere) living on one of The Bay Islands, or on the mainland, you'll be tickled pink by the familiarity of Evan's hero and heroine's experience at the TACA counters and waiting rooms in Miami, and you will watch, with growing amusement, their gradual acceptance of the completely insane as completely normal. Tell the truth!

How many trips to Honduras did it take before you started playing "spot the missionaries, the honeymooners, the con artists, the "mochilleros"? And how long was it before all of the above became "foreigners" to us too, the objects of some amusement.
Todd is Evans' hero. He is a fairly young Gringo whose first encounter with Roatan and its people came from a stint in the Peace Corps several years ago. Now, he is returning to the Island because he's bored with the work he's chosen for his career and is trying to find some way to make it exciting again. Colleen, the beautiful young heroine, comes from Scotland and is on Roatan because she has inherited a lovely mountain top estate on this far away island, a place she has never heard of before. The bad guy is Charles Tegget, "a land pirate" with a smile that charms anyone right out of all common sense. That is, unless they catch a good look at his eyes, "the eyes of a stray dog" with no warmth or compassion, only cold calculation.
Todd and Colleen arrive on Roatan just in time to get caught up in Tegget's latest scheme, an attempt to steal a beautiful beach property from the family who has owned it for over 150 years. Of course, Todd must save the property, win Colleen's love, find the treasure and thwart Tegget in such a way that the truly evil pirate never dares to set foot on Roatan ever again. He does so with the help of a band of his island friends, Tony, Sharella, Miss Catherine, Tim, Miss Katy, and Francisco, an old "Turtle Mon" who sees into the Island's distant past. Readers will have a great time guessing the real identities of these people and many others who come and go while Todd and Company and the Evil Men try to outwit each other.
The Judas Bird is jam-packed with fascinating pieces of history, island lore, odd vocabulary and all of Roatan in its idiosyncratic glory! Do you know that "Yabba Ding Ding" is actually "Yappa Ding Ding" and is an old Garifuna expression meaning "something worth less than nothing"? Do you know what "dolla come circle" means? I suppose that everyone but me knew that Coxen Hole itself was most probably named after an infamous pirate, John Coxon, who spent many years living on Roatan. (Until I read the book, I was under the impression that the name was a kind of off-color, Island joke and I have to say I'm a little sad, letting that idea go.)
In any case, the older people on Roatan won't ever have to worry about its history and culture being forgotten. David Evans has done a great job preserving it and serving it all up to us on a really tempting platter. No matter how busy you are you'll be glad you took the time to enjoy this book - whether you gulp it down fast, or savor it slowly, a little bit at a time.

by Moragh Orr Montoya
island sounds
Culture of Fusion

A local group produces a sophisaticated, eloquent CD

Kris Goldman, 30, was born in Delaware and early on he begun to study music and guitar. He entered the North Caroline School of the Arts where, during one of the lectures he came into contact with Dr. Evans and the idea of Roatan. Kris paid his dues and school fees, playing to audiences at local restaurants until he ran into Dr. Evans who told him of a far away Roatan. Kris was intrigued and ready to find a way to discover his Latin and Caribbean calling.
In 1998 Kris finally found an opportunity to come to Roatan when Edgar Bodden proposed to him starting a music school on the island. The project didn't develop and Kris eventually started teaching students by himself and over the last eight years taught over 200 Roatan students. His latest CD is his third production following "Kristofer y sus Amigos," produced with Puro Sol, "Latin American Fiesta" launched in 2002. Last year Kris set up a recording studio at his Sandy Bay home where he recorded several CDs for his students and his third -most professional to date- "Welcome to Roatan" CD with his Cultura group.
Kris presents himself as a master of all trades composing music, writing lyrics, mixing and producing the CD. One exception to his lyric writing is an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's poem 'El Dorado,' a story about a conquistador's quest and fascination for riches. The song's pensive, skillful and wonderful solo guitar composition and lonesome, melancholic voice introduces the best of Kris' talents. The song offers examples of the CD's best, sophisticated, reflective, sensitive sound. The CD fused some of the best local musical talent into arrangement of guitar, voice, drums and harmonica. Eight musicians were involved in the collaborative creation of "Welcome to Roatan." "I would work with them almost like a director directs a movie," said Kris. Marcos Aranda playing congas and percussion- entices the listener with an exquisite, rhythmic performance.

Kris' wife, Naira, was a co-writer of "Dia Lindo" a song fusing not only musical styles but languages: Spanish and English- quite skillfully.
One of the other compilations is "Bad, bad whiskey". "Bad, bad, bad whiskey is making me walk with the devil again" sings Kris in a melody of a country waltz in a southern drawl accented. The melancholic, reflective song about a down day on a Caribbean island.
"Welcome to Roatan," tries to be many things to many people- not an easy thing to accomplish. On one hand it attempts to be simple, unsophisticated and a bit touristy introduction to Roatan sounds and cultures, on the other, it amazes with depth and elaboration for a listener much more sophisticated.

 

island sounds
Blowing Harp

Bobby Rieman Unique Musical Contribution to Roatan

I Bobby Rieman arrived on Roatan in 1973 with little more than a harmonica in his pocket. He has always loved music. For as long as Bobby can remember he has found himself especially drawn to rhythm and blues. As a kid he had some preliminary guitar lessons and he learned to play a few chords and a few simple songs.
For a while, during high school and college, music took a back seat to his new found talent on the football field. It wasn't until he began his travels that music reestablished its place in Bobby's life. "I always traveled with a harmonica in my pocket. It kept me company in a way."
At first he played as a way to keep busy in a new place, but soon he was playing back-up for musicians and bands. Bobby remembers feeling embarrassed before his musical skill improved.
Bobby came to Roatan almost by accident, intending instead to go to Brazil. He immediately liked the distinct foreign rhythms of the island and as new as reggae sounds were to Bobby, his "harp" was a new instrument to the local music scene. His harmonica playing cleverly incorporated the reggae influence. "What I really like about the harmonica is that it can be played in so many different musical situations."

Bobby returned to Roatan in 1981 with a harmonica holder, a guitar and a newly discovered singing voice. He moved to French Harbour and his trio joined the local music scene. He developed his unique style by playing for "shrimpers," taking requests and any opportunity to improvise. Bobby's music continued to diversify and in 1996 he found himself in a situation neither he nor his music had experienced before…"a band."
Bringing his talents together with those of other people in a more formal way was an exciting experience. "I saw my solo songs really come to life with a band." After four years Bobby and his band TUNU released their first album: "Roatanified."
Six years later and after six months of detail-oriented work, Bobby and the Compadres, as he fondly calls the 11 contributing artists on his new album, released "Pulperia Leah," his second CD. Bobby explains that "each person has a place on that album that really lets them show off their individual talents."
The album's twelve songs tell stories of life on Roatan through Bobby's mixture of bluesy harmonica and Caribbean reggae exhibiting Bobby's soulful lyrics. Some of the songs, like "Leavin' You Babe" are newly recorded versions of those that he played for years. Others, such as "West End Stroll" are witty tales of life on the island.
His stories are realistic and uncomplicated versions of life on Roatan: what the island is and how it is changing. Bobby describes his lyrics as transparent with "nothing hiding behind dreamy language and cryptic words." He claims that he's never been able to decide to sit and write a song, but rather that he gets hit with inspiration: often while driving to and from construction sites that he works on. In fact, many a song has been written in the front seat of his truck, pulled over to the side of the road just long enough to jot down his thoughts.
Bobby looks forward to writing as an outlet and never really considered himself to be a great writer. His writing, together with the entirety of his musical style, reflects in his sparkling personality and gentle demeanor. "Pulperia Leah" is a step forward from "Roatanified," keeping in with the first album's general style and feel. Pulperia's songs successfully broaden the scope of the first album.

by Julia Vadurro

island sounds
The Marimba Brothers

It is the "Blackfoot" of the Roatan's musical scene. Its sound can sometime be heard in the center of Sandy Bay. It can sometime be seen at small cays and plantations around the island. It's the unique, six foot long, 100 pound marimba instrument.
35 note keys at the bottom and 26 keys at the top arranged in a sequence of twos and threes. This "musical machine" makes for a very complex, technically challenging instrument with a wide range of tones and octaves. If fact it is so complex, that it has to be played by two, or even three people.
To the best of out knowledge, on Roatan there is only one marimba. For the last seven years, two brothers have been playing the instrument on the island while living in Sandy Bay and supporting themselves not through music, but throughy grass cutting and ad jobs.

"La Norteña," how the Muñoz brothers call their marimba, was built in the valley of Santa Barbara 15 years ago. Leonardo Muñoz, 70, has been playing the instrument since he was 17. His brother Manuel Muñoz, 52, started accompanying Leonardo 37 years ago. "I'm base. I'm center. I always play the melody," says Manuel.
The drumsticks used to hit the keys are made from a tree called "ule" and are covered in rubber-like coating. Each musician uses up to six of the drumsticks at the same time. In their controlled, sometimes jerky movements the brothers are reminiscent of Balinese shadow puppets. "We can play in the rhythm of merengue, bolero and sentimental music, "says Manuel.
The sound beat is transferred from drumsticks to the rectangular keys, to wooden square towers that hang below the instrument. These are wood resonators that reverberate the sound into four-five octaves. And the sound their instrument produces is quite amazing.
Ismael Ramirez from San Pedro is considered by the musical brothers to be one of the best marimba players and someone to look up to. In fact, marimba came to Honduras from Guatemala where it was brought by African slaves. Marimbas evolved into diverse forms and were adopted into the Central American music culture and through the world. The word "marimba" is an African Bantu language describing a mallet-struck xylophone with hollow resonators.

by Thomas Tomczyk
 
island homes
The Bird House

Roatan's mountainous geography offers an opportunity to build houses overlooking stunning vistas. One of the more spectacular places to build is Cohoon Ridge, on the West Bay road. Few houses have taken advantage of this opportunity as well as this recognizable octagonal house.
Euro Mesghez and Paolo Finzi were the builders of the house, the first one built on Cohoon Ridge. Both were commercial divers in Italy before coming to Roatan in 1991. Mesghez took the idea of the octagonal island bungalow and repeated it twice creating two towers. The south tower is one-story and the north tower is three stories tall. The two hexagonal-footprint towers are connected with a bridge - a bedroom space with spectacular views towards Flowers Bay shore. Underneath the bridge lies a patio and deck looking over Pirate's cove a mile below.
Rod and Jackie Merwin from Connecticut are the owners of the house today. The 3,600 square-foot house has four bedrooms, four bathrooms and a garage.
The interior is open, with few walls and rooms extending all the way to the roof and the whole design gives an aura of lightness and transparency. Still, it's not easy to build a house with no corners. It can be even harder to find furniture to fit.
The site is surrounded by a very recognizable white-washed property wall with a horizontal slit and horizontal wood bar. The fast-sloping site offers limited opportunities for landscaping, yet it has a meticulously laid out garden: a traveler palm tree thrives here, growing to 30 feet and withstanding the heavy winds.
"When the trade winds are blowing, the island is covered in a cloud of salt," said Mesghez. A cast concrete base and the octagonal shape gives needed stability to the house, which is subjected to tremendous wind forces year-round. "I built it really strong: a lot of concrete, a lot of metal," said Meghez.

Graceful economy of materials was the rule in constructing the structure: pressure-treated pine for floors and deck, cement block walls, painted rebar used for the main gate. The strong octagonal design helped to efficiently tackle the 100-120 mph Hurricane Mitch winds.
There are always at least a dozen birds taking advantage of the lift created by the wind blowing onto the ridge. For hours, they remain suspended, not even moving their wings, in balance above the ridge.

island homes
Caribasian Design

Decorative elements unite in functionality to complement a masterfully designed house on Roatan's North shore

Projects where the owner gives an architect a free hand are the stuff of legends. Frank Lloyd Wright's Kaufman house, or Frank Gary's Long Island house for his mother are some of the best examples of what can be achieved in such a collaborative, trusting spirit. A new addition to a not-so-long list of such projects can be made: Roatan's Todo Rojo.
The house, located in Roatan's Lawson Rock gated community in Sandy Bay, is composed of four individual structures facing a central patio garden and connected by a series of overlapping roofs, screens and stone walkways. There is a low key axis to the design, running North-South, just East of the carved entry door through the patio, garden, the main living room and out towards the view of green slopes and beach.
The house can remind of a Cretan home with red, simple columns wrapped with vines around the base. The spaces are framed with earth-toned walls: red, browns and olive. There are multiple sources of indirect lighting and at sunset the house comes alive as it is flooded with sun bursting through the horizontal screens and openings.
This "Cretan design" constantly crosses into a South East Asian feel: antique Chinese sliding doors, simple oriental wood sconces, a Hindu statue at the entrance, materials such as bamboo flooring and travertine marble. The patio itself is reminiscent of a Shinto temple, with its scale, water bowl and stone details.
Decorative elements are also functional. The fans are not only useful, but decorative; the bamboo wall is not only pleasing to the eye, but serves as a louver to the closet. The top of the 30,000 gallon cistern serves as the flooring in the center of the house. The 2,500 sq ft home has two bedrooms, two baths, a home-office and an independent guest apartment.

Pine shingles on the roof are a not-expensive, welcome variation to the roof covering materials used on the Bay Islands. Not a single nail penetrates the wood siding below. The workmanship is craftsman like, done to the margins allowed by the materials. Builder Nelson Abbott constructed the house in one year.
The siding is used horizontally outside, as well as "inside-out" on the interior walls, to create a more uniform look, adding to the blurring of traditional inside/outside spaces characteristic of many of this architect's designs. Trimmings are minimal, reduced to simple 1" by 4" moldings. With all the transparency of the internal spaces, it was not easy to hide the wiring of the fans, lamps.
Gutters are made out of wood and lined with fiberglass. They end up looking and being strong, decorative and functional. The downspout in the patio garden is a thick metal chain, a detail originating with architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Only a few owners are brave and intelligent enough to find a good architect and confide in him/her to produce a building that can reflect who they are and how they would like to live. "The clients were fun to work with," said Hal Sorrenti, the architect, of the Alreds. Sorrenti, who has practiced his craft for 11 years on Roatan, considers the house one of his two favorites.
Not unlike the master builder Dedalus' Labyrinth on the island of Crete, Sorrenti produced its Caribbean version, full of hidden space, functional niches and vistas.

 

A Cave Like No Other

The biggest cave of the Bay Islands is not in the waters underneath Utila, or among the Guanaja Peaks: it has been constructed in the hillside above West Bay.

Concrete stalagmites drip water through ½" PVC pipe at 60 drops a minute. Sconces hide the light fixtures and ventilation chimneys allow for air flow. In the big room, jets move water around a three-dimensional map of the Bay Islands. Tablets explaining the history of the archipelago frame the 22' by 28' space. There is even an air conditioning unit. As far as caves go, you can't get a better cave than that.
In the corridor, a cannon overgrown with coral is displayed. It was found in the waters "between la Mosquitia and Guanaja." It is pretty much the only authentic artifact among the cave's objects. The life-sized statue of a pirate (named Coxen), guns and jewels were brought in from a costume store in Miami.
"This will be a different cave. An educational cave," said Marco Galindo, owner of the Gumba Limba Park where the cave was constructed. "It's also a perfect hurricane shelter." The 2,000 square foot cave has three caverns and a series of narrow corridors. Its winding 4' passages slope slightly and exit through a concrete opening sculpted to resemble a fish head. "This will be a different cave. An educational cave," said Marco Galindo, owner of the Gumba Limba Park where the cave was constructed. "It's also a perfect hurricane shelter."

The 2,000 square foot cave has three caverns and a series of narrow corridors. Its winding 4' passages slope slightly and exit through a concrete opening sculpted to resemble a fish head. The cave is a part of the multi-use tourist theme park built on the shores of West Bay beach. A huge hole was excavated, then an 8" slab was poured and 10' high concrete block walls were erected. "Just like building a regular house," said Galindo. Then, a concrete slab topped off the structure, the dirt was brought back in and the work on the interior could begin. All of this took about two months to construct.
"The hardest was coming up with the concept," said Bartolo Miranda, 38, a Guatemalan artist specializing in concrete work. With a team of ten people, he sculpted the inside and outside of the cave leaving no wall even. Miranda has moved to Honduras where he now dominates the concrete sculpture market. He sculpted "Water Jungle Park" in La Ceiba, a huge residential park in San Pedro Sula and a turtle nursery at Jerry Hynds' Coral Cay marine park.
Working with re-bar, wire mesh and concrete, Miranda creates surfaces that are hollow yet strong. The construction cost was between $50-60,000 for the 2,000 square foot cave, amounting to half the cost of a natural stone environment.
Now, Miranda is working on what he considers the most challenging part of the project: a seven-foot tall pirate sculpture that will be erected on top of the entrance to the cave. "This is the difference between a normal and extraordinary person: you create something that is unique," said Miranda.
dine
West End Massala
When Columbus discovered Guanaja in 1502 he already knew he didn't arrive at the shores of India. No chance of getting a samosa anywhere… at least for the next five centuries. Forward 503 years and a family run Ooloonthoo restaurant in West End makes the dream of an Indian meal on Bay Islands is reality.
The Ooloonthoo menu offers a bit of everything. Diverse meats, and vegetables from across Indian subcontinent. In an attempt at Indian food anti-traditionalism Shrimp and Calamari dishes cater to the Roatan public. Also the size of the portions matched more Roatan appetites, than Indian tradition.
One could make a meal just from the six appetizers alone. First on our table arrived- pappadums, crisp bread wafers, served with side of delicate mint and cilantro chutney. Light, not greasy, in a light brown color, they were irresistible to put down.
The other appetizer, the ginger pea soup with a swash of yogurt, had a wonderful consistency. It's coriander aftertaste build up, yet not overwhelmed in your mouth to create a staccato of bliss. A feat especially impressive considering the green peas are one of the only produce Ooloonthoo receives frozen, not fresh.
But the most original and inventive of the appetizers was an Indian street side snack elevated to a culinary level: vegetable Samosas served mango chatney, raisins and onions. The reinvention of this dish made it our definite favorite.
The ambiance of the restaurant in uncomplicated, simple but attentive to details that make a dining experience not just dining. Silk saris serve as décor for the ceilings as yellow, thick tablecloths are held by heavy silverware. Cut banana leaves and folded heavy napkins decorated the side dishes and Indian music sets the tone.
The restaurant building was originally designed as a home and Ooloonthoo has worked with the existing space to create a home like feel and offering a bit more privacy in the smaller rooms.
Paul and Soden James, Oolonthoo's owners are conscious of community sensibilities and decided to stay closed on Saturday, a church day observed by many people in their West End neighborhood.


Since opening their doors, over the last three months, the owners spent time fine tuning their menu and décor. Chef Paul James, a graduate of Canada's Stratford Chef School, changes the menu to match the local seasons of fruits and vegetables. The recipes are all original, compiled over time by Chef Paul during his three year sojourn in India.

THE RUNDOWN:
quality
*****
value
*****
atmosphere
*****
price
$7-12/plate
Rogan Josh, the crown jewel of the restaurant's menu and the "hottest dish in India," is not for the faint hearted. The super spicy leg of lamb's taste just builds and builds till you sweat. Courtesy of made from scratch curries.
The rescue can come in the form of room temperature served; white rice or naan- home, daily baked Indian bread. For the Indian food novices, Soden is there to explain the intricacies of every dish and steer them clear from spice overload.
Pork Vindaloo, a dish with Portuguese roots had a more subtle, still lively sweet taste. Eggplant with tomato, onion and garlic accompanied the main courses.
Indian dessert is especially difficult to prepare and can be overwhelmingly sweet to most pallets. Kheer- rum pudding and ice cream were too much for our indulging. We settled for a la carte - chai masala.
The cost to product ratio is great. Including tax and service our feast cost a reasonable Lps. 1,351, or $72. It is an authentic Indian food. Ooloonthoo offers a real Indian cuisine experience elevated by imagination and attention to detail.

Le Magnifique
Spicy and confident Vietnamese cuisine fuses Caribbean and South East Asian tastes.

I always dread doing a review of restaurants that are not as quite good as they perceive themselves to be. It's a recipe for disappointment. This is not the case with "Le Bistro," a recently launched Vietnamese restaurant in West End.
Frank, the owner of the six table restaurant, is not hesitant to wait on tables and pick up empty dishes. After many years of managing Flying Fish, Frank is only fulfilling every Frenchman's duty: "have a son, plant a tree, start a restaurant." And Frank seems to have figured out the essence of why people do start restaurants, not only "how they do it." If you are going to do something, do something original, do it right and do it the way you want… with style.
Roatan is connected to some interesting places around the globe: Bali, Fiji and most recently Vietnam. "Le Bistro" of Vietnamese cuisine? If you are confused about the name… here is your answer. Frank invited a Vietnamese Frenchman from Marseille, Richard, to take charge of his kitchen and a few months later it is hard to get a table.
The simple, not overbuilt menu with affordable prices attracts a "mixao" clientele of Roatan residents and tourists. Frankly, anyone with a taste for spice will feel right at home here.
To start things off, a bowl of complementary appetizers "with a punch" of fresh carrots, cauliflower and water chestnuts could be snacked on with a toothpick. A good tool to use, as the acidic spice can prove scorching hot.
Shrimp, grouper, pork, chicken or vegetarian can be the filling for acras, egg rolls, spring rolls and wantans that form the core of the menu. The result: transparent, super fresh spring rolls are crunchy; the shrimp acras were fried just right, retaining the elasticity of the meat. Three drops of the spicy sauce are lik
e the "blood from the Alien movie," burning through metal and flesh. Handle with caution. Sweet and sour sauce is a better answer for most mortals.
With all thedelights, one can have trouble committing to just one. The answer to the dilemma is to order a Combo Platter and with a bit of everything. (Lps. 200-245)
For the main courses, we decided to try Mixao- a sensory de
light (Lps. 190), and one of the menu's jewels. It's chicken and shrimp are served in a spicy ginger sauce, perched on top of a nest of deep fried noodles.
If you are into a more hands-on cooking experience, Blau Blau, or flaming hot pot of filet beef (Lps. 300 for two), should be your choice.

The dish can be prepared for one person as well. The strips of beef, zucchini, shallots, orange pepper and Chinese mushrooms are presented and cooked to your satisfaction in a pot surrounded with flames of rubbing alcohol.
The presentation of the dishes was simple, but tasteful. Plates, silverware, even napkins are not exuberant, but certainly not skimpy. The setting isn't too fancy. The restaurant is nestled in between a dive shop and a souvenir store and the dining experience is reminiscent of an outdoor market: casual and funky. Batik tablecloths, space lit by candlelight and metal frame cloth clad lamps.
If we could add anything to the experience, it would be a bigger wine menu, or even a couple Vietnamese fruit shake drinks. We were told the espresso machine is on its way.
Desserts are not on the menu, but should not be missed. Flan, crème caramel and pineapple slice flambé were the evening's deserts. Even though we found the sliver of flan a bit bubbly, the pineapple stole the show: super sweet and rummy.
Most amazing of all… our bill was under 800 Lps., that's including two drinks and coffee. "Danh t? s? nhi?u, Mr. Richard." Or, should we just say "Merci?".

THE RUNDOWN:
quality
*****
value
*****
atmosphere
****
price
$6-11/plate
A Meal With a View
When "The View" opened in March, it was Carl Husband's third restaurant on Roatan. Since 1999, he managed the Reggae Bar in West End, created the more urban Back Room Restaurant in Coxen Hole and finally moved even further East to Six Huts.
The wood, thatched-roof building sits on the side of the main road next opposite to Parrot Tree road. The restaurant's large deck overlooks the North Shore of Roatan. Other then a beautiful vista, we came expecting Carl's consistency in culinary quality. We weren't disappointed.
A friend's Shrimp Piña Cocktail (Lps. 74) arrived with a selection of four jumbo shrimps. The crusty breaded fried shrimps were decorated with fresh parsley and the cocktail sauce had a pineapple twist to create a Bay Island original.
Just as original were the Tempura Drumsticks (Lps. 70). The local island favorite- fried chicken, was treated to an innovative oriental context. The made-from-scratch tempura batter was accompanied by honey to create a salty-sweet tasting combination.
It was main course time and we saw duck. The last time we had seen this migratory bird on the Bay Islands was when it was flying over us, a very long time ago. The View could very well have the only duck featured on a restaurant menu in the Bay Islands. Chef Carl gets his duck meat from the US to create a selection of "flying" appetizers and entrées. Our Roasted ½ Duckling with Orange Tarragon Sauce (Lps. 270) came accompanied by piped mashed potatoes and a zesty salad.

The smell of cinnamon surrounded the table as Cinnamon Beef Tacos (Lps. 110) arrived at the table. The tacos were a more affordable entrée choice offering just as much attention in presentation and taste. The white flower tortilla was fresh and fluffy and the cabbage topping gave the tacos a nice crunch.
Offering a nice touch of originality in tableware, a stone yaba-ding-ding served as the napkin weight on our table. Still, an upgrade in napkins would more accurately match the quality and originality of the food.
All deserts were affordably priced at Lps. 40. Our Banana Rum Cake with roasted peanuts was smooth and sweet. Two of them would make you fail the Roatan police breathalyzer test. The Island Lime Pie arrived decorated with honey and a slice of lime. It was sweet and almost a bit tart, but coffee mellowed the taste. The price for our feast for two came to a reasonable Lps. 750, not including service.
Chef Carl never quite got used to the wisecracks made by some cruise ship tourists about the restaurant's name. "The 'Even better View' restaurant could pop-out anytime," said Carl. Still, even the stunning view of Crawfish Rock and North Shore below can't distract the visitor from the originality and quality of the restaurant's cuisine.
A popular spot with a varied clientele, the restaurant can be packed on a weekday lunch and filled to the brim on a Friday night after-work. It is a varied, imaginative cuisine at an affordable price.


THE RUNDOWN:
quality
*****
value
*****
atmosphere
*****
price
$6-15/plate

ISLAND RECIPES

by Chef Hellen Thompson

 

YUCCA (CASSAVA) CAKE

65 lbs yucca, peeled and grated
4 cups sugar (or more or less to taste)
1 t salt
2 t vanilla
2tbl cinnamon
2 can coconut milk
1 can condensed milk
1/4 stick margarine
2 cups water

Mix together grated yucca and other ingredients, the thinner the mixture the better the cake, bake at 450º for 1 hour or until top is brown then slow oven to 350º and bake for another 3 hours in a 14x10x2 in. Baking pan

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