Joline in search of a future

Joline is one of Roatan's most beautiful and most contradictory young women.

We met her more than a year ago; she and her family are neighbors in the native village of Hottest Sparrow perched over the sea.

She worked for us briefly, as an evening nanny. She was awestruck by our home. She had never seen a dishwasher before and thought we used it to bake cakes. She had never seen so many lights or ceiling fans; her village has two light poles in the center that serve all the residents. She had never seen such blond hair as Hayden's.

Despite her naiveity, she is somehow endowed with meticulous taste and conspicuously good manners. She dresses like she's going to a party, all the time. Full skirts and ruffly blouses, sequins on her shoes. Apparently her mother makes her living by peddling used clothing up and down the north shore. I can imagine that Joline gets first pick of new inventory.

Once we asked Joline to babysit while we attended a fundraiser. Mike joked that he was going to have to wear a suit and didn't know where he'd find a tie. The next day Joline arrived at our home with a plastic grocery bag filled with ties from her mother's "shop." She'd been horrified to think of Mike not being appropriately outfitted for his big night out.

(Little did she realize that Mike never wanted to see a tie again after leaving his desk job and that was the whole point of being in the Caribbean.)

Sort of embarrassed, we asked Joline how much we owed her. Nothing, this was her gift to Mr. Mike. A bag of used ties from the 1960s and 70s, the kind we've cleaned out of our closets dozens of times for the Good Will, fat and skinny and stained, now right back in our closets a whole world away.

That night while she was babysitting the power went out, as it often does, and our generator failed to kick in. Joline was plunged into darkness, in this big unfamiliar house with two infants. I think she must have been terrified. Shortly after that she stopped coming to work.

We see Joline often walking, with elegance and supreme pride, down Mud Hole Road, all dressed up. It's a twenty minute drive by car, two or three miles of dust and dirt and rocky hills. It must take hours on foot. Sometimes in the pouring rain. But if you are Joline, it's worth it. She craves the hustle and bustle of Coxen Hole and the West End. She once told me how insulted she feels when a car passes by and doesn't stop to give her a lift. I don't blame her.

Once when I gave her a ride down Mud Hole and as far down the main road as the babies' school, she then turned and asked me for money for the cab ride the rest of the way to wherever she was going. (She has learned that you don't get what you don't ask for.) It was only 15 lempiras, less than a dollar. Hard to fathom that kind of need.

Unlike many village children, Joline has managed to attend school and has even been employed as a teacher. One classroom job was in West End, a three-hour commute each way on foot and with hitched rides. But that ended.

She's looking for "Mr. Right" but has no inclination to settle back down in Hottest Sparrow, like her sister Jerline did. Still, she is saddled with lots of responsibility for younger siblings and assorted others. The expression "it takes a village" comes alive when you pull into Hottest Sparrow.

A few weeks ago Joline appeared in our yard with two of her brothers. She asked Mike if they could pick the coconuts that we weren't using. Sure, he said, help yourself. I asked her if she needed a bag to put them in and she said no, they had brought a bag.

We forgot all about them until three hours later when they re-appeared, making trip after trip to drag an enormous quantity of coconuts up from the ravine. At least a hundred, maybe two, enough to fill our truck. We were astonished.

"Mr. Mike, could you drive us and the coconuts home?" they asked, standing tall in front of a coconut mountain. Of course that had been their intention from the beginning.

Our friend Brinck did the honors and learned that their mother was going to make coconut oil. An enormous effort, for a little bit of oil.

Joline dreams of traveling and seeing the world. At first she was going to continue her education on the Honduran mainland. But she said school administrators botched her paperwork and the idea was abandoned.

At one point she was off to Canada to be an au pair. All she was waiting for was the call from the agency that she had found in a magazine.

She walked the miles back and forth to sit by an international phone.

As far as I know the call never came.

Now she tells me she's going to New York to live with family.

I tell her that's wonderful.

And then I say I'll see you soon.


Paradise Found (briefly)

Though we didn't actually declare it, Mike and I made a New Year's Resolution to enjoy island life more fully. To actualize our tropical paradise. To have more fun.

We have the beautiful view, the beautiful house, the beautiful kids.

What we lack, generally, is a night-time babysitter.

Over the last two weeks, though, we've made a real effort.

For the first time in about nine months, I got a pedicure. This seems so trivial, except that anyone who knows me knows that the infrequency of pedicures is one of my chief complaints about motherhood. It's just hard to make the time.
But last week I did, with an appointment at the lovely Baan Suerte day spa in Sandy Bay. Here is Lidia waiting for me in her palapa-covered treatment room. With a trickling water garden, scented candles, herb-infused iced tea, a copy of British Vogue and the Caribbean breezes blowing, this was about the best darn pedicure a girl could ask for. (Yes, that's a hand-made clay bowl with tropical flowers floating in the warm water for me to put my feet in.)

Mike and I also got a night out with visiting friends Brinck and Susie, their daughter Alex and her boyfriend Kyle. Our daytime nanny was convinced to spend the night (though it turns out she spent the evening terrified, which we discerned by the fact that she fell asleep with every light on inside the house and out).
We made the trek from Palmetto to the West End, ending up at The Lighthouse for dinner.

Here is Reggie making Rum Punches for Susie and me. He sure knew his way around that blender. And here I am enjoying it, as the sun goes down.



Move Over Eric Estrada (take 3)

I am having feed and ping and delivery woes.

Yesterday's post, Move Over Eric Estrada, just won't get delivered to your mailboxes.

This is my last try to let you know that it's there, waiting for you; then I'm on to more self-focused entries called something like Bliss or West End Attitude or Calgon Take Me Away.

If you want to see just what was up on those motorcycles, though, please read the preceeding post.

Move Over, Eric Estrada (take 2)

Hayden has a thing for Mo-Mos. Motorcycles. And planes and helicopters. And trucks -- don't forget the trucks. Anything that moves, he squeals over.

But a motorcycle offers that special advantage: if you play it right, you might be able to climb on it.

Last month, Hayden got a special thrill in Los Angeles, when his grandpa ("Papa") took us all to the Peterson Automotive Museum. Shrieking with delight, he got up close and personal with the boys from Chips.

He stopped just short of giving his Dad a ticket for driving too slowly down Wilshire Blvd in Papa's nifty new Ford sort-of SUV.

While Hayden was on the bike, Delaney tried on all the uniforms. Like my hat?

Then she took a spin in this antique. Look out, Delaney, you're supposed to keep your hands on the wheel.

The very friendly volunteer took a picture of all of us, ready for a road trip in a Ford of another vintage.

When we returned to Roatan, Hayden was in for one more moveable treat from Papa and Meme: a wheelbarrow he could use to help Senor Gomez, shown bringing up the rear in this picture. Notice that Gomez is moving more slowly, while Hayden's load is considerably lighter.

Since learning how to maneuver it, however, Hayden has filled his wheelbarrow with anything and everything. Rocks, flowers, dolls, blocks, spoons, shoes, and of course the dozens of tiny cars from the new 18-wheeler big-rig car-carrier that Santa brought. If you have 100 balls and 1,000 band-aids to play with, why not 50-some matchbox cars?

But the cars are just placeholders in Hayden's heart for the main event, trucks and airplanes.

"TRU," he says emphatically. Then waves his arm in the air.

He is prompting you to tell him that he flew on an airplane to get to Los Angeles to see Meme and Papa for Christmas. He rode in a truck (van, really) to get to the airport to get on the plane.

"DWO," he says, spitting.

He is reminding you that it took not one, but TWO airplanes after he rode in the truck (van) to get to the airport to get to Los Angeles to see Meme and Papa for Christmas.

"SHHHHhhhh," he says, squinting, and holding his right finger up to the left side of his nose.

Let's all be quiet. Meme and Papa might be sleeping.

"Ba-Ba," he says finally. Bye bye.

Time to get a move on.


A Child is Born

Maria gave birth to her eleventh child (or was it the twelfth?) on the twenty-third of December.

Today we paid homage to the little guy by stopping at their house on the side of the road, bearing gifts generously provided by friends from Hartford. Among others, Phil and Tim took it upon themselves to collect clothing, toys and medicines for the family with "muchos ninos". Thank you, guys. It was a joy for me and Mike to be able to distribute them.

Maria was beaming with pride as the baby held on to her breast. All the other kids swarmed around with great excitement as they saw our basket brimming with stuff. Plush animals, crayons, coloring books, plastic dinosaurs. I explained the diaper rash ointment by patting the baby's bottom and saying "crema."

We gave them one of our bouncy chairs, which lulled Delaney or Hayden to sleep countless times during their babyhood. There was another box of clothes for the older kids, though I think they are all younger than I originally perceived. Now I worry that I didn't have just the "right" stuff, but I know that's silly. What matters is that we came to say our Felicidades. We took some pictures and plan to print them out for them.

Feliz Anno Nuevo. The holidays may be over, but even on Mud Hole Road there is a new beginning.