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  • Steve

A getting things done kind of day...

So yeah, in case you haven’t heard, it is the rainy season here in Honduras (apparently one of the worst in recent memory) and there’s been a particularly nasty norther blowing through for the past ... several days (a week, hard to say -- what day is it?), so instead of having fun, swimming, snorkeling, diving, sailing and the like, we’ve been cooped up on the boat -- alternating between getting lots of things done and doing nothing -- between periods of intense activity and stretches of reading, playing cards, napping, watching the Crown, etc.

Today was a getting things done kind of day. We were up with the sun to head over to French Harbor in our rented manual transmission jalopy station wagon that has no less than three warning lights blaring and blinking for immediate attention. We had to go meet with a Veterinarian -- Dr. Calderone -- who visits the island once a week to get one of Mischa’s teeth pulled. We were told to get there early and so we were there half an hour after he opened only to find the place packed with Expats and their animals. Like most things in Central America, the Vet here is a bit different than back in the States.

There’s just one room, an operating room/waiting/room/office space that Doctor Calderone and his able, English speaking assistant use to maximum effect. They’re a great team, handling a huge volume of anxious patients and their pets with efficiency and care. Sure, he’s not the tender, treat-dispensing hand-holding Dr. Moskovitch from the Village Vet -- but he got the job done quickly without putting Mischa through any undue anxiety. Of course, the syringe of sedative she got before being examined probably had something to do with that. She also got a tooth-cleaning and a prescription for more antibiotics -- all for about $40 USD. Fozzie’s tooth extraction -- which happened a few months before we left the States and was done by the Village Vet -- cost something like $700.

Combined with the anesthetic, pain-killer and antibiotic shots she got, Mischa wasn’t feeling much of anything -- so much so that she looked like a rag doll hanging in Andrea’s arms when we carried her out of there. Andrea was so worried about her as we weaved through the pothole laden Carretera Principale (the one major paved road connecting the island of Roatán) that she held her hand right next to Mischa’s mouth to make sure she was still breathing. Thankfully there wasn’t a need for any mouth to snout resuscitation -- but Mischa looked like a truck hit her with her tongue hanging limply out of her mouth. As Andrea said, back home they’d never give your pet back in that kind of condition....but we’re not back home anymore.

From there, we went to meet with our lawyer to hand in our updated medical clearance forms for our residency application -- which as we suspected were just a rubber stamp pay-to-play money making scheme for the Honduran economy. We had to buy the forms from a bank and then go through the most cursory examination at the local clinic. Once our lawyer sends those forms in we’ll see which other government agencies we need to pay in order to get our residency application green-lit. Something tells me there will be a few more unexpected rubber-stamp hurdles requiring additional expenditures. While we were there our lawyer told us that our business permit was done and we were able to pick up the original document in Oak Ridge. She also gave us our bank information so we could finalize opening our Honduran bank account -- a process we started last year when we first met with her.

We had to stop to take a picture of the massive turtle on our way back down the muddy dirt road from our lawyer’s barbed-wire fenced in house -- it was just the head when we first saw it a couple of years ago. As you can see from the picture la tortuga has grown immensely and looks to almost be finished. We’re still not quite sure what the function of the building will be -- it’s situated adjacent to a church so we think it could be a place for gatherings, meetings, weddings, baptisms and the like -- but it sure does make a striking sight.

Then we went over to the printer our friend Christie recommended in Sandy Bay to get our flyers printed. Along the way, the glove compartment of our station wagon burst open and completely fell out onto Andrea’s lap when we went through one of the dozens of potholes we hit on the main road. It was clearly broken in several places and refused to go back into place despite Andrea’s gentle, patient nudging. Not surprisingly, the cost for laminated flyers was more than three times what we were quoted over the phone. Turns out we were just quoted a price for lamination, not for actually printing the flyers as well. Le sigh. Regardless, this printer was still much cheaper than the alternative in French Harbor so we placed our order. Unfortunately, Mischa lost control of her bladder lying on the floor and we had a bit of a mess to clean up.

From there we went back up to French Harbor to open our bank account. Only, turns out we needed the original business permit document (as well as another official document) first in order to open the bank account -- so we had to drive another twenty some kilometers up the main road -- all the way past Parrot Tree to get the form. Along the way we stopped in for some Bojangles, because, well, who doesn't love Bojangles?!?

Of course, getting our form wasn’t easy at all. What is, after-all?

First of all, Google tried to send us down what looked like a muddy, mogul-infested black diamond ski slope without any snow. Let’s just say there was no way our little station wagon was making it down that road, so we went around the other way ... which ended up on another muddy dirt road where we almost got stuck several times and almost plunged off the road a couple other times before winding up in a cul-du-sac on a rocky, uneven road barely wide enough for our car. I stopped halfway down the downward slope of the end of the road once I saw a car -- evidently abandoned, mired past all the tires, almost to the windows in the middle of the rock and trash strewn field off the sharp embankment to my left.

Andrea got out to have a look around for the Alcaldia Municipal Santos Guardiola as I tried to keep the schnoodle from leaping out the window as more than half a dozen neighborhood island dogs surged past. With Fozzie growling, I contemplated whether I’d have to reverse back down the narrow road where kids and old people alike were staring at us with quizzical expressions on their faces -- no doubt wondering what the hell we were doing -- or whether I would have to execute some kind of complicated three-point turn without rolling down either side of the “road”. I wasn’t exactly feeling great about either option -- but Andrea managed to find a couple of young men to speak with about our predicament, and not surprisingly, one of them spoke pretty good English and Andrea was able to work some magical charm on them. They both knew where we were going but they weren’t confident we would be able to find it. Clearly we weren’t exuding confidence at that point, but armed with directions of a sort, I started executing what turned into the slowest, ten or fifteen point turn in history while Andrea kept watch from outside, letting me know how many inches I had to spare before rolling off into oblivion.

From there, we had to backtrack through literally the worst road I’ve ever driven on -- all this mind you in a car virtually devoid of shocks. We ran into a number of junctions where we had to guess our direction forward, through a couple of places where I was sure we were going to get stuck -- but we followed the directions we’d been given and eventually wound our way down onto an actual concrete road into the town of Oak Ridge. We passed a bank guarded by two pimply-faced children packing shotguns and Andrea hopped out to ask for updated directions, but neither of them spoke English.

However, when she showed them a copy of the form we needed -- our Permiso Para Apertura Y Operacion De Negocio -- I saw one of their faces light up with excitement -- here was a question he could answer without needing any Ingles! He pointed around the corner and pantomimed what I thought meant going over some rough road and smiled. The office was literally around the corner and the rough road I thought he was referring to was just some little speed bumps!

I let Andrea out and started to back up into someone’s driveway to turn the car around -- this was another road barely wide enough to fit the car -- only to hear from some nice English speaking local kids walking past that we were leaking fluid. Eventually I managed to turn the car around again, and now I could see that we’d been leaving a trail of oil along the road for some time. At least, I thought, we’d be able to find our way back out -- even if the car didn’t make it -- just like Hansel and Gretel. But at this point, I was convinced we were going to end up stranded in Oak Ridge for the night, Andrea’s battery was almost dead from giving us great directions from Google and I couldn’t find mine (it was under the seat having slipped out of my pocket when we hit a pothole).

Thankfully we were able to get the original form without any further hoop jumping and we were able to get back on the road pretty quickly. Before long we were climbing back up and down the winding rocky, muddy dirt road out of Oak Ridge, bouncing up and down following the trail of oil we’d left on the way down. I can’t say that I’ve ever been quite as happy to see the pothole minefield that is the main road -- Carretera Principale. At that point, I knew we could always flag down a cab or one of the little shuttle buses to get us back to Parrot Tree Plantation... but the little station wagon that could made it all the way back to Parrot Tree without further incidence. Maybe it’s not used to running with much oil -- maybe it’s been leaking oil the whole time -- we don’t know because the light was blinking the last time we used the car and Charlie didn’t seem to think it was a big deal.

Regardless, we’re glad to be back safe in Parrot Tree Plantation. We’ll see what the car looks like when we have to rent it again to go pickup our laminated flyers and to finish opening the bank account in a couple of days ... so long as we don’t have to go down any dirt roads, and the rain stops one of these days -- I’ll be a happy camper.

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