What's Shakin' the Schaub's in Roatan
Date: 10 August 2009
Well, it has been a while, eh, since we've spoken... Yes, we are still alive and well here in Roatan, an island in the Caribbean off the coast of Honduras, It's been an exciting few months: a 7.1 earthquake and a political 'coup' still unfolding. How interesting it is now to see Honduras reported in the news (even if the press has it all backwards). I have been hearing from folks I haven't heard from in years -- are we OK? Yes, we are fine, business is slow, but we manage to keep afloat. You'd think the economic downturn would be enough, affecting real estate prices, tourism revenues, and causing anxiety among us all, but Roatan never seems to be lacking in surprises.
I awoke in the middle of the night in our restaurant -- I heard something break, I awoke to see the lights turn off, and as I attempted to stand up, I could feel the entire house rocking on its pilings like I was riding a surf board. A roar like the sound of thunder echoed -- wow, this house is not attached that well to the foundation, I was saying to myself as the floor slid back and forth! It all happened in a matter of a few seconds -- what just happened? Was that an earthquake? Yes! I am sure our friends in California know what we are talking about, but I never thought I would experience a quake like that here, hurricanes, yes, but earthquakes?
I rushed out to the porch, and below our friends staying in the apartment downstairs were outside. "What was that!!" "That was an earthquake, my friend." "Whoa!" Lila called me from home, as I had fallen asleep on the couch in the restaurant after spending another late night talking with my good friend Wayne visiting from Oregon (let's just say that his plans to invest here have been a bit 'shaken up'). I am sure the phone lines were ringing off the hook all over the island. I came home immediately. It was all a blur -- that is until the aftershocks. We were laying in the bed, and it came again -- the windows were rattling in their casings, the doors were shaking in their frames, stuff was falling down again -- and Lila tells me that this was nothing compared to the big one that preceded it. Then the cell phone rings: "Eric, ERIC! It's Wayne. Get out right now, GET OUT, go to the top of the hill, a tsunami might be coming -- get out!!" "Huh, what? Tsunami?" I went outside on the porch -- our house is near the point of the island, on the south side, and the epicentre was 30 miles north on the other side of the island (where Wayne was). I didn't see any difference in the seas -- if a tsunami is coming, usually the waters will recede way out then come in BOOM. "I think we'll be alright." But those guys went to the highest point about 700 feet above sea level and waited for 3 hours in case a tsunami arrived -- it didn't, but the tremors did continue.
Some of the other hotels in West Bay Beach also evacuated their guests to the top of the hill until 7 am. Lila couldn't sleep -- I did though. Of course the next day was all about what happened last night. People were checking their foundations and walls for cracks. Wood houses all tended to be fine as they sway a bit rather than crack. Swimming pools had some of the their water splashed out. A few people we talked to said they slept through the whole thing only to wake in the morning with broken things on the floor not knowing what happened. On the mainland, there was more damage, as some bridges collapsed. There may have been a few deaths on the mainland, but no injuries or deaths on Roatan. We kept feeling tremors for the next few days here and there. The last earthquake in that region had been 10 years ago, but I am not sure of its strength.
Now jump ahead a couple months and the president of Honduras is arrested and taken out of the country. Honduran President Manual Zelaya had been at odds with the Honduran Congress and Courts for many months, seeking to increase his power and authority to levels similar to those wielded by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela . But according to the Honduran Constitution, its president can only serve a single four year term. With his Presidency coming to an end in January, Zelaya decided to sponsor a constitutional referendum to allow him to continue to serve as president. However, the Honduran Constitution doesn’t give him the right to do that. Any constitutional referendum must be called by the Honduran Congress. Never-the-less, Zelaya contacted Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and had ballots printed and ballot boxes prepared in Venezuela and flown to Honduras . The Honduran Supreme Court declared Zelaya’s actions unconstitutional, but again, he was not deterred.
When Zelaya directed the military to distribute the ballots and boxes, the top military commander refused, citing the orders of the Supreme Court. President Zelaya promptly fired him. The Supreme Court ordered him reinstated. Zelaya refused. Still undeterred, Zelaya led a group of his supporters to break into the military installation where the ballots from Venezuela were being stored and then had his people distribute them in defiance of the Supreme Court’s order. Elections in Honduras are supposed to be managed and overseen by the Honduran Election Tribunal, which was not involved in any of Zelaya’s efforts.
On the day of the elections, acting under orders of the Supreme Court, the Honduran military dragged Zelaya out of bed at 6 AM, arrested him, put him on a plane in his pajama’s, flew him to Costa Rica , and released him. The Honduran Congress immediately met in emergency session and designated its president as the interim executive as stipulated in Honduran law. It also said that presidential elections set for November will go forward. The Honduran Constitution is only 25 years old, and the guys who wrote it are still alive to remind the people how it is supposed to work.
When the President tried to overstep his bounds, the legislative and judicial branches stepped in and did not allow it. You might make a case that Zelaya should have been arrested and held in Honduras , but I understand he was exiled in order to minimize the probability of violence of which there has been little and none on Roatan. The airports were closed for a week and the borders basically shut down. National curfews were put in place to prevent violent uprisings -- there were a couple of student protests at the president's mansion but nothing significant. There have been some meetings with Micheletti, the interim president (from the same party as Zelaya) and Zelaya, but the Honduran government will not compromise its decision -- Zelaya has been exiled indefinitely. Zelaya continues to try to fly in to Honduras but has been refused -- he has been in Costa Rica and El Salvador, he camped out for a few weeks on a remote Nicaraguan border, and currently, I believe he is in Mexico. He is losing what little credibility he once had with the people. His confiscated computers were found with election results already tallied -- guess who won?! It looks like he will be kept out of the country until after the next election. He also left with 2.2 million dollars from the Treasury, and his nephew was already under investigation for stealing 100 million dollars from the national telecom company, Hondutel.
Most Hondurans now know that Zelaya has tried to take over the country with Chavez's help. We are all very proud of how the government has handled the situation; however, US travel warnings to Americans have practically killed the tourism business which is one of Honduras income streams. We all have been living under various curfews preventing people from going out after dark. Here in Roatan, tourism is the primary activity and there has been no danger to tourists here -- if we hadn't heard anything from the mainland, life would just be going on as normal. Also during summer, we have many visitors from Central America, but it is exceedingly difficult to cross over land in Honduras right now. Tourism was already slowed down because of American economic woes, and now the political situation is hurting us more. But the cruise ships are still coming, and that brings in needed cash to the island. The curfew has been lifted recently in Roatan after a contingent of Americans who have lived here for decades went to the capital, Tegucigalpa, to talk with the American ambassador there and also Honduran officials. They surprised the ambassador, as the party line from the State Department is that it does not support the decisions of the Honduran government and call for Zelaya to be reinstated as president. Needless-to-say, it seems to be contrary to what the overwhelming majority and the constitutional government legitimately decided.
Whew! So, how are we? We are hanging on. Surprisingly, our newly launched Sushi Cafe (in January) is still being discovered by locals and tourists alike. We manage to keep bringing in customers even while other places are dead. We have a good following of regulars, and if weekly tourists learn about us early in their week, we usually get them for Friday or Saturday night, so part of our job is to go to the beach and talk to people (rough life, eh?). A lot of visitors save our place for their 'special' night. We have a sushi bar, indoor and outdoor candlelit dining, and a 'tatami' room, where you can sit on cushions on the floor with low tables -- a popular room for groups. The building is actually a house built 15 years ago or so. Beautiful hardwood floors (solid, not veneer), high ceilings, long front porch, and set on the side of a hill facing the sea (which you used to be able to see before condos were built along the beach). The house was formerly an Art Gallery of the owner who is a painter. Her art still hangs in the restaurant as well as a few pieces from other artists. The restaurant name is Le Rendezvous Cafe des Arts and Sushi Grill -- or 'Rendezvous' for short. ;-)
Lila has been making these fantastic desserts for the restaurant. First, it was her now world-famous apple pie that earned her reputation -- her crusts are incredible. Then she started making banana cream pie with fresh bananas -- she would layer in the bananas over the crust and after baking, it would just be banana cream! I was never a fan of banana cream pie before, but this one is killer. Then came the lime chiffon pie -- again, how does she get that hint of caramelization on the fluffy white chiffon topping? There is also the semi-freddo lime-watermelon bar - frozen lime cream on top of a layer of frozen watermelon puree -- it's like a Popsicle cake -- awesome. There's more, but suffice it to say, she has as many fans (maybe more) of her desserts than I do for my sushi. So, the restaurant is doing well, and will do even better once the people start returning to Roatan. In the mean time, however, I will have to keep up with the computer work to make ends meet. I look forward to the day when we will do better than that...
Cheyenne has sprung up -- she is 5' 4" now maybe a little more. Thirteen going on twenty-five, Cheyenne is starting 10th grade next month (she'll be 14 then). She attends an 8-person high school class (all 10th graders but different ages) at the Sandy Bay Alternative School ( the 3rd or 4th name of the same home-school they have been attending for 4 years). Cheyenne has been learning more guitar and recording some songs with one of her teachers and friends. She is part of a theatre group that has been performing dinner theatre over the last year, and she recently had a part in a local presentation of the V@gina Monologues doing 'My Short Skirt' for those of you in the know (misspelled so this message won't be marked as spam). She was the youngest member of the group and certainly held her own on stage -- she was a big hit needless-to-say. She sure seems to be speeding into adulthood, a little to quickly for me -- where is my little girl? ;-)
Lakota is more comfortable with himself than I have ever seen before. Bright and funny, he is really coming into his own at 11 years of age. Unlike Cheyenne, he is happy being an eleven year old boy and is in no hurry to grow up although he prepares his own food now that we are working at night. He is building his 2nd robot, this one follows a line on the floor and throws a ball at anything that crosses its path -- sort of an 'intruder alert' robot. Man, so many tiny pieces, and he finds them all eventually. I get to show him how to do the programming, but he does all the construction himself. He loves Seinfeld and Get Smart, and can probably recite every joke by heart. "Sorry about that, Chief" he often says to break the tension of getting in trouble -- he gets me every time. ;-)
Lila and I will be celebrating our 15th year of marriage on September 3rd. It has not been without some major bumps, but I can say that what we have now between us is something that couldn't have come about any other way. We are getting old! But then, we all are, eh? How about you, are you still out there? What's going on with you? If you're still kicking, let us know! We will send a link to pictures soon...
-Eric, Lila, Cheyenne and Lakota
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