The unrest of a couple of weeks ago seems like a distant memory as life returns to normal here in Paradise. The cruise ships have returned and the Islanders are thrilled to be back in business. We spoke to Dilbert, our taxi driver who had made $90 taking cruise ship passengers on an island tour. With an average day's salary being 200 lempiras or $10, that is a good day. He was looking forward to the next day when a large ship, holding 5,000 passengers, was due in.
This conversation we had with Dilbert as he drove us home to Oak Ridge from the Galaxy Breeze ferry terminal this past Wednesday. We had caught his taxi from our home town to the terminal in the morning and he had offered to pick us up at 6 when we returned. There he was, standing among all the people waiting for family and friends, picking us easily out of the crowd and leading us his taxi.
Our 50 mile trip to the mainland was an unexpected pleasure and a reminder of how efficient and inexpensive the medical system is here. I walked into town on Tuesday to see the town doctor about an eye that was bothering me a little lately. She saw me right away, no appointment necessary and charged 200 lemps or about $10. She gave me directions to an opthomologist in La Ceiba on the mainland. There are good doctors on the island but for tests and to see specialists people travel to the mainland. So off we were and I must say I was giddy with excitement.
We had to be in Oak Ridge by 6 am we figured to get to the ferry, just this side of Coxen's Hole by 7. We had hoped to get a water taxi from our dock so we didn't have to leave our dingy unattended over in town all day but when none came by we had to squeeze the 15 minute walk to town into our schedule. Dilbert saved the day though, flying us down the island in his taxi.
La Ceiba reminded me of Morales in Guatemala, only larger and more modern. That is probably because the early growth of both towns back in the 1870's was due to the arrival of The Standard Fruit Company, a Dole subsidiary. We toured a little park sponsored by Dole during our wanderings around town.
Prices on the mainland are much lower than here on the island. Most taxis anywhere within the city are 20 lemps or $1. A beer that is 40 lemps in West End is 13 lemps in La Ceiba. I bought 3 large mangoes for 25 lemps, about the price of one mango here on the island.
The doctor was a lovely woman who had atteneded universtity in the U.S. and spent time in Montreal learning English. Yes, funny. I had a thorough exam, found that my prescription was still a ok and I just have a little floater in my eye, like a fuzzy bit which is a common occurance with age. The charge for her time was 500 lemps or $25. She sent me for an x-ray a few blocks away which was also 500 lemps. We picked the films up and walked them back to her 2 hours later and she looked at them right away and told me all was fine. So within 48 hours from the time I'd seen our little town doctor, who still makes house calls, we were all done and on our way back on the ferry after an enjoyable day in the big city. Central American cities are pretty raunchy but also fun and the people are so friendly. You simply cannot walk past people without saying hello. I bought shampoo and conditioner for a fracion of the cost here on the island from a little stall along the roadside. Theses little stalls are built out from the buildings a few fet and covered so as you walk through the little tunnels full of everything you can imagine, you are shaded and cool. Chicken feed, bras, produce to die for, CDS and DVDs, more shoes than I've ever seen, you name it and you see it. There are thousands of these little stalls in addition to all the stores, so much stuff it makes me dizzy.
Many people greeted us in English and this really surprised me. I had always thought that there was not much English spoken on the mainland. La Ceiba is known as the entertainment capital of Honduras and at night it gets pretty steamy. In May the "Gran Carnaval Internacional de La Ceiba" is held. We weren't sure if it was just over or coming up as many of the buildings were decorated. This annual event brings 500,000 tourists to the city of 170,000 residents in this, the third largest city in Honduras.
The ferry left at 4:30 and arrived back just before 6. We were home in the boat by about 6:30. "Where can I land you?" asked Dilbert as he entered Oak Ridge. Usually the taxis drop us in town and we have a 15 minute walk but he took us down a little back road and almost all the way to our cay, saving us about 10 minutes. Our legs ached after a day of constant walking and we did what we always do when we arrive home. SHOWER! The summer heat is here and the winds have died down. Yesterday I had 5 showers and we cart fans around from room to room and sit in front of them. The afternoon heat brings siesta time and town is empty of people as they all snooze in front of fans.
We've been busy with various boat jobs and repairs but that will be for the next entry.