Monthly news magazine for Roatan,
Utila & Guanaja
February, 2006 Vol.4 No. 2
 
Calendar Style
Bay Islands Voice Updates:
feature story / editorial / local news / business

Words and illustrations by Thomas Tomczyk

Fact or Fiction? (part II)

The 10 biggest island myths revealed

As part of our annual effort to tackle the important issues of 'Island Myths' the 'Myth Buster Team’ of Bay Islands VOICE set out to find the 'truth.' Here is what we found out.
That might be one of the most disputed topics as competition is so vast. With more rainfall the difficulty of some roads increases expedientially making the Flowers Bay Road pretty bad. Third year and third mile into construction the road could take the prize for hopelessness. French Harbour to Palmetto road can be a real challenge, but usually gets fixed within a coupe days. West End road is a tough ride but at least the locals are making efforts to have it paved with alternative paving materials. Our prize goes to the 300 meter long Brick Bay road where cars slide and get stuck in the knee-deep mud regularly. The slimy consistency of the Brick Bay mud makes this road a winner. It is sometimes hard to tell if your car is rolling or sliding and it is probably doing a bit of both. In December a cement truck got stuck so deep that it had to dump its entire load of concrete on the road to be able to leave. Unfortunately the cement wasn't smoothened nor reinforced, creating another creative obstacle in the Brick Bay road.
2
The worst road of the Bay Islands.
1
Why the potholes are different on different part of the road?
 
It's a mystery I tell you. It's a total mystery. There are potholes that are rumored to swallow small cars and even people. There are potholes that appear out of nowhere, even when it hasn't rained in weeks. There are potholes that, like mushrooms after the rain, appear overnight and then move from one side of the road to the other. We estimate that in December 2005 there were around 30 potholes a running quarter mile on an average Roatan road. On a plus side, the potholes phenomena created a small job market of people filling them with dirt and then stopping traffic for days on end collecting tolls for their effort. In fact the time saved by driving over the earth filled potholes is compensated by time waiting behind someone paid one lempira to the pothole worker. Well, at least they are trying.

In the XXIst century world, each person on the planet is no further apart than seven people from the planets' seven billion other inhabitants. I know someone that knows someone that knows you, type of a deal. On the Bay Islands that number of separation degrees is quite reduced. On Utila and Guanaja it is just one, on Roatan it is two. If you don't know someone here, you surely know someone who knows them. Let us follow with an example. Does Mr. X, a fisherman from Saint Helene, know Mrs. Y, a baleada seller from West End? Well… Mr. X has once paid to repair a boat engine for Mr. W, Coral Cay Conservation coordinator, who used to work as a dive master in West End where every other day he would get a baleada at Mrs. Y's baleada stand.
3
No more than two degrees.
 
4
Who are the biggest Gossipers on the Bay Islands?
 
Our search immediately focused on Utila. Although Guanajians are quite good gossipers they lack the spectrum of topics Utilians can gossip about. That's why Utilians are by far the biggest, fiercest gossipers of this Honduran archipelago. They have more time on their hands then they seem to know what to do with. If the visitors' information center on Utila is closed, where should you go? Try the red bench next to Captain Morgan's. The opening hours are 7:30am to 11am and 3pm to 6pm, midnight on weekends. You can find out anything you want and a couple things you don't. "If they don't know it, they will make it up," told us an undisclosed Utila source. The description of the most fearsome gossiper provided: "She fights like a man and swears like a sailor."
5
Who is the most social person on the Island?
 
Our most social person of the year reflected the reality of the 2005: politics, politics and … party. Jerry Hynds may have won the Bay Islands race to congress, but it was Shawn Hyde who edged him out as the most social person of 2005. Shawn was at just about every social event we went to, participated in rallies, dinners and meetings. You name it, he was there and we were there to covert it. The race for the third place was super tight. If it wasn't for Clinton Everett abdicating his Governor's office in September, he was likely to displace our top scorers by the end of the year. Larry McLaughlin and Dale Jackson tied for fourth place with seven photo appearances. Considering that Mr. Larry was the only person not running for office in the top five, that makes him a winner in the "not so political category."
6
You need two witnesses to a crime to prosecute?
 
One of the biggest sources of mystery, myth and legend on the Bay Islands is provided courtesy of Honduran justice system. After last year dispensing with the myth of "you don't go to jail if you're over 65 myth" we decided to tackle the "two witnesses to the crime" myth. Honduras would indeed be some criminal's idea of heaven as he/she could rob and steal at will when only one person would be in a house or walking an unlit path. Indeed a catch 22 situation. The law abiding citizens would travel only in pairs and a service of "rent a potential crime witness" would no doubt appear on the job market. Well, things are not quite so. According to Roatan prosecutor Claudia Obando, one of three fiscals in the department, since 2002 only one credible witness is needed to prosecute a crime.
7
Which Bay Islands girls are most salacious (AKA: ruthless)
 
Sandy Bay girls are tough and pretty, but Flowers Bay girls have the spunk, the will, determination and the means to compete for any man they set their eyes on. Even though the Sandy Bay girls seen to have a higher profile it is the Flowers Bay girls who usually come out on top. "If you don't pay attention, they will take your husband and move in the next day," told us a victim of such an ordeal. While Sandy Bay girls can gossip you to death in believing your man is already theirs, Flowers Bay girls have been known to use black magic to get the interest of their desires. Watch out.
8
When you get stranded off a cruise ship on Roatan… US embassy helps you get back on
and the ship waits
for 30 minutes.
 
You're on your own. A cruise ship will sound a horn every 30 minutes to remind passengers of imminent departure. They will even wait 10-15 minutes for late passengers, longer if they are contacted by organized tour operator by radio. "I've seen cruise ship passengers getting into a taxi, driving to West End and renting a boat [$100] that could take them to the cruise ship," said Ronald Fisher, 19, a scooter rental company employee at the cruise ship dock. One of the issues that make the departure tricky is that cruise ship's time is on Miami time, usually one hour faster than Honduran time. This was the reason when Valor arrived in October 2004; two women missed their cruise ship. Luckily the Valor wasn't too far-off and ENP offered a free boat delivery to get them on-board. "Once the ship passes the channel, its all over," said Robert Ebanks, ENP employee at the Roatan Cruise ship dock. The passengers have to fly to the cruise ship’s next destination, if they have proper traveling documents and money, in hope they can catch-up with the cruise ship. The occasional cruise ship passenger that will become injured, or suffer a stroke during an on-shore activity- they stay behind no matter what.
Carl Stanley traded his last year's winner for a snappy, brand new truck. In his absence, new cars have risen, or perhaps oxidized, to the occasion of the most rusted Roatan car. It was a tough decision but a 1987 Toyota pick-up owned by Gillian Notton of Subway Watersports takes the cake. The car, named "Swampo," at one point actually belonged to Elvis. Yes, Elvis. "Even the locals are laughing at it," said Gillian. The plastic gasoline pipe is tied with a sailor’s knot to what used to be the side chassis. Paradoxically, the number of purchase offers on the car has risen proportionally to its level of disintegration, averaging currently around two per week. This phenomenon, other than being a great conversation piece, can probably be explained by the car’s reduced fuel consumption, due to its reduced weight… 600 pounds? Despite its look the car is probably safer than 60% of all cars on the island. "It never let me down," insists Gillian.
9
Who has the most rusted car?
 
10
Who has the most speed bumps per mile of road?
 
Jonesville takes the cake hands down. Some sarcastic people would say that if you try to be first in something you might want to find something other people want to be first as well. Still first is first and 18 speed bumps in 1/4 mile of road in Jonesville is nothing to laugh about! What happened? One theory has it that if you made it that far Jonesvillians just don't want you to turn around and leave. The other is that they want to spend more time in their quality town. The third is that they don't want their children to be run over by crazy drivers. The thing is these crazy drivers are many times from Jonesville and in a way the town’s folk are protecting their children from themselves. If you add up all the time that an average Jonesvillian spends slowing down for the speed bumps, or waiting for their car shock to be replaced, you come up with some interesting statistics. If you leave Jonesville once a day and come back, you loose about 64 seconds driving slow for speed bumps. That time does not include extra time looking for shock replacements that are such high commodity for any Jonesville car. 64 seconds a day for 365 days a year that's 23,360 seconds, or 6 hours 28 minutes a year. In a decade, this would allow you to take a week holiday in any Caribbean destination of your choice.
feature story / editorial / local news / business ______________back to top
Not a Crime to Question by Thomas Tomczyk

Few Bay Islanders before November 27 would imagine that the National party would have its most comfortable margin of victory in Santos Guardiola, a municipal that has voted red for 36 years. Either way you look at it, 2005 Bay Islands elections were close, expensive and full of controversy… all the way until the end.
The SG voters voted more against the malaise of the last four years of Mayor Kirby Ducker, than for a National party's candidate. Islanders have memory of elephants. If someone did them wrong their children's children will remember it, and that is likely to affect their voting and political choices, for generations to come.
On Guanaja the missing ballot box has caused enough confusion that La Prensa has actually awarded the victory to the liberal candidate. In the end National Party candidate Richard Hurlston prevailed winning the Guanaja municipal by just over 40 votes. Utila mayoral race was equally close. Only 47 or so votes decided the reelection of the current Mayor Alton Cooper. After the dust settled on the Bay Islands, the National party exchanged the congress seat for the seat at the Santos Guardiola municipality.
In the presidential race, the large portion of votes were cast against a candidate, rather than for someone. Many voters, uninspired by Mel Zelaya, voted against Pepe Lobo's idea of reintroduction of death penalty after its 1946 abolition.Honduras had the its highest number of null and blank votes in 25 years. In Roatan municipal the number of null and blank votes was disproportionally high as well: 1,095 or 14.6% of null, blank or invalid votes for deputy- more than eight times the number of null votes cast there for president. The number of null and blank votes in the Roatan mayoral race was also higher than anywhere else in the department.

It is hard to determine the exact reason for this anomaly, but it is conceivable that some people who registered to vote on Roatan, but lived off the island and knew little about local candidates decided to vote only for presidential candidate.
Bay Islands Voice conducted an unscientific, anonymous exit pole survey of 200 Roatan Municipal voters (3% of voters) in a survey spread proportionally across the seven voting stations. We wanted to gain a glimpse of the Roatan's voting public profile and find out not only who won, but discover voting patterns. In the process we gained a better understanding of the Roatan voting population: its provenance, racial mix, income level, religious affiliation and age. Here is what we found out:

- The registered voter turnout was highest on Utila (62%) and lowest on Roatan and Guanaja (46%).
- 47% of voters earned under Lps. 4,000 a month, 33% earned between Lps. 4,000 and 8,000 and only 20% earned over Lps. 4,000. In the 20% over Lps. 8,000 earning category, the voters were likely to vote four to one as likely to vote for Julio and Shawn.
- Age of average voter was 48.4. 14% of the voters were 22, or under and only 3.5% were over 65.
- A majority of the voters, 51%, were born outside Roatan.
- Female voters turned out at significantly higher rates (57%) than their male counterparts.
- Of the entire surveyed population 48% were black, 45% were latino, 5% were white and 2% Miskito.
- 10.5% of the voters voted cross party -for both National and Liberal candidates.

 

Visions of Help

Five patients, wearing dark glasses uncomplainingly wait for their turn to be examined at the Oak Ridge Community Clinic. Eight years ago Ray McNab, one of the five patients, paid Lps. 3,000 for the cataract surgery on her one eye. Today a similar surgery in La Ceiba would cost Lps. 15,000 and McNab had no way of financing it.
A surgery that in the US costs between $1,200 and $1,500 was offered at no costs to 11 patients from Roatan. The volunteer team from Piedmont Eye Center in Lynchburg, Virginia performed the surgeries and left a PHACO machine, worth $60,000 and an operating microscope, worth $7,000, to equip the Oak Ridge Community Clinic making it an eye care center for Bay Islands practically overnight.
The volunteers examined 30 patients in June of 2005 and on their January visit they were prepared to do perform as many as 15-20 surgeries. Due to coordination issues 11 Roatan patients received surgery at Roatan Hospital on January 10 and 11. Dr. Bowers operated on nine cataract patients and two patients suffering from Pterygium, a dust and salt caused eye malady prevalent in tropical climates.
The PHACO machine used to perform the surgery was named Capt. Pete, after Charles Bodden, the first Roatan client to be operated on it. The state-of-the-art machine uses ultrasound to brake-up the cataracts, and then removes the dead tissue from the eye. Compared to traditional eye surgery, the operation causes no scarring and reduces healing time. "The people here are very appreciative," said Dr. Bowers. He plans on coming back to Oak Ridge once, or twice a year to perform evaluations and surgeries among the local community.
The idea of bringing free eye care to the Oak Ridge community begun five years ago with Ben Rosenthal, a semi retired plumbing contractor from Virginia who made his home in Oak Ridge since 1994. After bringing a free pair of eye glasses to a local person Rosenthal realized how neglected and unaffordable eye care on the island was. "Since we made a home here we wanted to give back to the community," said Rosenthal who over time gained skills at evaluating eye maladies.
Rosenthal contacted Piedmont Eye Center in Lynchburg, Virginia and brought a donated slit lamp on one of his trips to Roatan. In 2005 Rosenthal raised $12,000 at his Virginia Presbyterian Church to pay for the operating costs of the Oak Ridge Clinic run by Nurse Carol Bloom.

Using a slit lamp machine at the Oak Ridge Community clinic Dr. Darin Bowers MD, and eye technician Debbie Anderson evaluate the results of cataract surgery of Sally Holland, a patient from Pandy Town.
Nurse Carol Bloom came to Roatan to attend a wedding of a friend in 1996. A year later she was back, taking part in opening a small clinic for employees and families of Marisco de Bahia, a seafood processing plant in Oak Ridge. The plant went out of business after Hurricane Mitch and the clinic then went into receivership by the bank.
Bloom has been in several serious auto accidents and was told that she would never walk again nor could she continue to practice her nursing career. "I knew that my head still worked and that I could wheel myself around in a chair and tend to patients," said Bloom. Roatan gave Bloom the opportunity to continue her life's passion and Oak Ridge patients received a chance at receiving attentive health care service.
The clinic started with a few plastic chairs, a large examination table, a few books and a few medications. To the rescue came the St. Louis Kiwanis Club that outfitted the entire clinic with beds, desks, chairs, microscope and other laboratory equipment.
The clinic has been able to remain open due to the good will of a local bank that owned the property. In 2004 two Virginia businessmen and the St. Louis Kiwanis Club came to the clinic's rescue again with $11,500 donation. Clinic's Board of Directors has been having lots of benefits to raise the monthly mortgage payment and reduce the $15,000 principal still owed.
The financial situation of the clinic is particularly difficult as it does not charge for any treatment, overnight care or medications. For those willing to pay there is a free will donation pan in the reception area. Part of the Clinic's mission is to deliver free health care and over time the clinic and nurse Bloom were able to establish a working relationship with hospitals and pharmaceutical companies
"Once in a while we remove fishing hooks from a variety of places, or care for a stroke or heart patient," said nurse Bloom. Every Thursday the clinic fills with patients waiting for their consultation or diabetic treatment- a prevalent and serious disease amongst the local community. "Those we are unable to treat we send to the hospital in Coxen Hole or La Ceiba," says nurse Bloom who managed to bring several teams of professional physicians to the island. Specialists in eye care psychiatric, orthopedic and osteopathic problems offered their services free of charge through the Oak Ridge Clinic.
Currently electricity and medication are the clinics biggest expenses. After a 2003 earthquake destroyed a seawall protecting the clinic's seaside building the issue of protecting the structure became another priority. "The tide has slowly pulled out the sand and small gravel under this corner of the building causing the floor tiles inside to buckle and crack," said nurse Bloom.
 
Dr. Worley's Worries

Bay Island Voice: Will Polo Galindo Clinic still be in business six months from now?
Dr. Worley: No doubt. We are struggling financially and we have struggled for the last three years since we've been opened. It's required additional infusion of funding on a monthly base to meet the operational cost but we are committed to make this thing work.
B.I.V: How does the signed government agreement framework look?
Dr. W: The clinic would provide basic medical care, expensive surgery or cat scans or other technologies that are beyond the scope of the primary medical care would have to go to a hospital or to the main land. But to provide ongoing emergency care, OB care, deliveries… In addition to that the government agree to provide the drugs that they buy for their health care facilities and sell them to us at there cost. (…) There's no religious motivation, there's no financial gain to be achieve here, just done out of an interested to improve the life of a small group of people. And they created a model for that, which could be replicated in many places through out Central America. The frustration is that we need the help of the federal government to do the part that they said they will provide it. The potential is that it could be replicated that it could impact more than just fifteen thousand people. It could impact hundred of thousand of people as a matter of fact. It could take a lot of stress off of the ministry of health (…) I think [the entire project is now] at risk and I don't hope to have a new president that is as supportive of this clinic as president Maduro has been.
B.I.V.: What's your biggest frustration with the situation that is occurring right now?
Dr. W.: In January of 2003 we began negotiation with the ministry of health of the federal government. (…) We expected substantial amount of support from the federal government. President Maduro's tri part type [healthcare] model included local governmental support from the N.G.O that came from international resources and federal government support. Since that time the local government has provided the property for the building to be on, and the N.G.O has provided over $350,000 cash that's come basically from the U.S.A to this community. (…) We reached an agreement in May of 2004. It took eighteen months to get to an agreement that was then signed with the representative of ministry of health and a representative of the United Nations and the clinic. Following the signing of the contract no money has ever appeared.
B.I.V: Why do you think that is? Why has nothing happened?
Dr. W: We had great support from President Maduro and from the former ministry of health -Rozardo. So the people at the top want this project to occur and they told the people that are working for them to make this happen. Somewhere in the chain of command there're people who muddy the water and from the desire to have it happen at the top to the actual implementation something goes wrong. The President [Maduro] said: "look whatever it takes get this project moving, I want this to happen," that was January [2005] and since that time not a single lempira has come our way.

Polo Galindo Clinic in Punta Gorda has survived for the last three years, but over time it had reduced its staff, it no longer offers 24 emergency services and its plan for cooperation with Honduran government to provide community wide health service has practically collapsed. The clinic is not financially viable and its leaders are trying to find new ways of keeping it afloat. In the fall of 2005 M.R.I (Medical Relief International) had backed out from taking over the clinic, in part, because the government deal debacle.
For now at least, the Honduran government program to pay $1.50 monthly per capita fee to a nonprofit, independent healthcare provider remains a theory. If ever implemented, the program could serve as a model of creating an efficient healthcare for other Central American countries. Bay Islands VOICE talked to Dr. Ron Worley, founder and president of the board of directors of the 'From the heart Foundation," that begun the Punta Gorda Clinic to find out what happened.

B.I.V: Why haven't you received more assistance?
Dr. W: There's always some resistance and anxiety. In the last several years I am told that over 250 clinics had to close in Honduras because of the lack of funding. Now a model like this has the ability to bring more comprehensive health care to more people for less money for the government. The government is mired in bureaucracy and 70% of the cost of medical treatment is burned up in bureaucracy. (…) They [the government] can see a large segment of their population been treated for only a $1.50 a month and that saves them all of their effort and bureaucracy. We handle the whole administration of the clinic, the staffing and they stay out of it completely except for this small payment. It's a heck of a deal for the government.

 


Taking Over

The new Roatan Municipal government: Marcos Nelson, Felix Gale, Vice-mayor Delzie Rosales, Rosendo Rosales, Mayor Dale Jackson, Benjamin Diaz, Alejandro Pacheco, Gilberto Rosales and Julio Galindo
Roatan's Mayor Dale Jackson took the oath of office on the Honduran constitution and was given a white ribbon symbolizing his authority in a ceremony at the Outreach Ministries Church in Coxen Hole on January 24. Around 1,000 people gathered to take part in the local government inauguration that has grown in scope every four years.

The inauguration was preceded by speeches and award ceremony when an award was given to Manuel Martinez, veteran accounts manager at the municipal. "If Manuel is my 'paraguas' (umbrella), you are my lightning arrester," said about Nicole Brady Mayor Hynds. Brady received a silver recognition plate for her work as the Mayor's secretary.
Before signing off to Mayor Jackson, Mayor Hynds held the title of Roatan Mayor and Bay Islands congressman for three days. "After having managed Roatan Municipal for eight years I can manage any business anywhere in the world," said Mayor Hynds. Few people disagreed about Mayor Hynds' achievements in his eight years in office. "He is the best mayor we ever had," said Bill Brady, a business owner from Sandy Bay.
One of Mayor Hynds' biggest achievements, unprecedented on the national scale, is that he leaves Roatan Municipal debt free and with a balanced budget. According to Emilio Tugliani, Municipal's lawyer, Roatan has Lps. 10 million in cash reserves. When in the fall of 2005 the last portion of the pre-Hynds incurred debt was paid off, Roatan became the only of the country's 297 Municipals to be debt free.
In a small ceremony on January 25, keys to the Santos Guardiola Municipal building were handed over to Mayor Perry Bodden. 300 people including Mayor Dale Jackson witnessed the ceremony, but neither the departing SG Mayor Kirby Ducker nor his vice-mayor were present.

feature story / editorial / local news / business______________back to top
Community Center and Library opens doors in French Harour

Building for Dreamers

In a collaboration of local government funding, Expat initiative and local business know-how French Harbour and Roatan received its first community center and library. The two-story, bright, yellow building stands next to the French Harbour Adventist Church. Its 6,500 square feet are tailed with ceramic tiles, lined with mahogany shelves and its media center walls are decorated with French impressionist painters' posters. An eighty-year-old breadfruit that grew on the site donated by the municipal was not only saved, but given a prominent place in the center’s courtyard.
This generous and attentively built culture center was built to design and standards uncommon in Honduras. "This is the best constructed [Roatan] municipal structure," said Jose Antonio Perdomo, who supervised for as many as 36 municipal workers constructing the building. In fact the structure is built strong and big enough to serve as the municipal's first Hurricane shelter.
On May 25, 2005, the project broke ground and during the last six month, the worksite was a beehive of activity as workers scrambled to finish the construction before the change of local government.

On January 22 the Jared Hynds Community Center, named after Mayor Hynd's son who died in an automobile accident, opened its doors. Several people had tears in their eyes as the ribbon was cut and over 200 people listened to the opening ceremony, enjoyed a snack at the center's café and got their library cards, for some, their first ones ever.
The person who was key in making the project happen, was Catherine McCabe, an American retiree, who ever since she moved to the island in 2000, was thinking about constructing a community library on the island. McCabe wrote-up a proposal for the library and carried it around everywhere she went for the past four years.
Finally, in September 2004, she took the proposal to a meeting about the Bay Islands University in which a requirement for a university library was discussed. Again she proposed the idea of the library and she finally found a listing ear. "Mayor Hynds told me: 'I will build it, if you run it,'" said McCabe.
Subsequently the library idea expanded into a larger community center building that included plans for a post office and a driver education center. "We want eventually to have everyone take it [driver education course]. If we are going to be a tourist destination, we need to do this," said Mayor Hynds.
The building houses a 5,200 book lending library, a reference library, beginnings of a media center, children's library, driver education center, a space for a post office, and an internet café. "It's not just a building. It's a purpose," said McCabe who donated 3,000 of her own books to the library. Linda Brown, an American Expat, catalogued the collection and Secretariat of Honduras' Culture Sports and Culture donated 600 books in Spanish to complement the mostly English language collection.
The multipurpose building will not only serve the local community, but is envisioned as tourist attraction and a university research library. According to Marlene Jackson, one of two librarians working at the center, the library had 22 members.


by Thomas Tomczyk

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