Saturday, January 26, 2008

Anthony's Key Resort, Roatan, Honduras

Recently, I took my family on a cruise vacation to celebrate our 15th anniversary. We had a great time! Of course. Now, I want to tell you about some of the great things we did, just in case you decide to follow in our footsteps. Our cruise left from Galveston, Texas, aboard the Voyager of the Seas, which was once the largest cruise ship that sailed the seven seas. It has a rock climbing wall and an ice rink, not to mention the indoor mall that spreads across three or four decks. As impressive as all that might be, I was more enthralled with what we did once we reached the other sea ports.

Our three destinations were Cozumel, an island off the coast of Mexico, Progresso, Mexico, which is in the Yucatan Peninsula and is where you want to go if you want to see one of the wonders of the world, Chichen Itza, and finally, Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras. Today, I only want to discuss the small paradise we found in Roatan.

Now, I have to admit, I wasn’t terribly keen on visiting Honduras. I’ve either been to, flown over, or sailed past every country in South America. Heck, one time I ate breakfast in Argentina, ate lunch in Bolivia, and ate supper in Peru, all in one day, mind you. So, I approached Roatan with a very pronounced “been there done that” attitude. HOWEVER, once our ship rounded the corner of Roatan, I repented for my laissez-faire attitude. Suddenly I went from a complacent posture to one of great interest. Now, I’ve seen the jungle before, so the romance of a jungle adventure has long since been reckoned within me. But now, as I watched the lush flora and the varying depths of deep, rich, brilliant, light, and free green colors bursting through the dense foliage, mixed with absurdly purple flowers and plants, I was eager with anticipation. I had never been so excited by an arrival in a foreign country.

Now, let me qualify my assessment by backtracking slightly. The villas that were perched along the sea, and the beautiful courtyards that ran the length of the white, sandy beaches displayed the best that money can buy. Even the humble town of Coxen Hole where we docked for the day was inviting. But one must appreciate that once one has pushed past the wealth of a developing country, one has to embrace the quality of life in which the inhabitants dwell. My wife and kids all remarked how intimidated they were by “running the gauntlet” from the cruise ship to our destination. We were greeted by a host of eager and excited street venders, and I kept a close watch on my family and my pack. It turns out that the island is friendly and the town is reasonably safe, but I have to admit, the first few minutes were rather exhilarating.

I hesitate to share this little secret, but my wife discovered the best place in the Western Caribbean to spend a quiet day. We booked a private island resort operated by Fins and Flippers, who are associated with Anthony’s Key Resort, and it was the best decision we made during the short cruise. We were greeted at the dock by a very helpful ferry Captain and his crew of one, who hurriedly shuttled us across the bay to our private island, where the resort manager, Cindy, greeted us from the dock, reminiscent of Fantasy Island. She escorted us on a simple tour of the facilities and left us to wander her island at our leisure. The compound was marvelous. The grounds were manicured with precision, and the landscape was carefully balanced with fruit trees, palms, flowers, and colorful bushes. Once past the gift shop, we entered the courtyard where we were greeted by an incredibly clean and perfectly arranged patio that overlooked the most inviting pool I’d ever seen. The water was a perfect temperature to match the 83 degree day. The kids immediately launched themselves into the pool while my wife and I relaxed on the comfortable deck chairs. What struck me most was the fact that we were the only people present on this island. Talk about peaceful…

After an hour at the pool, we journeyed to the beach, which lay only a few yards away. The sea was gentle, which was perfect for snorkeling and playing at the water’s edge. I began an expedition into the water and I walked a hundred yards into the sea, but the depth was only knee deep. In fact, in order to snorkel, we had to walk out on the pier to find water deep enough to swim in. Once we dropped from the pier, we scrambled through four feet of water for another 8 or 9 yards, and then the depth grew to 10 feet. And the water was so crystal clear and beautiful.

Roatan is host to the second largest coral reef, and the abundance of sea life was apparent in a matter of seconds. We were enthralled by the fish and the sea life, and my kids kept finding humongous conch shells. I began exploring the canyons that ran through the coral with my 9 year old daughter and we had a grand time pointing out the beautiful treasures that surrounded us. Suddenly, we found ourselves on the edge of a 150 foot drop off, and you could almost see to the bottom as the light green and turquoise waters gave way to the royal blues and inky indigo depths of the open waters. We explored the edge of the drop off as long as we dared before we returned to the relative safety of the shallow waters surrounding the island, which was hastened after I swam too close to a brain coral and left my DNA markers in the water. I had no desire to see if my neon sign drew the attention of any undesirable sea creatures. Remarkably, we were never more than 40 or 50 feet from the peer.

Once we had our fill of snorkeling, we returned to the courtyard and feasted upon the wonderful foods offered to us at the grill. We sampled an incredible bean and cheese dip, a conch salad, a few enormous hotdogs, and made a meal of the quesadillas stuffed with chicken and whatever onions, tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms we desired.

All in all, it was a perfect day. The kids laughed and played until they were forced from the water, and we read our books and relaxed under the cool shade of the patio trees. At the end of the day, we begrudgingly returned to the luxury of our cruise ship. And, if you recognize the luxury of a cruise ship, you might understand how inviting our island retreat was. Through the course of the day, not more than 15 people shared our privacy, and the peace was never breached. (One note of caution, we didn’t apply sunscreen often enough, so my daughter ended up with an equator-strength sunburn.) Please, please, don’t find this little paradise, because I want it all to myself when I return.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I must admit, I haven't made it to the roof to remove the increasingly safe Christmas lights. I was hungry and was desperate for some breakfast. I grew accustomed to eating kippered Herring for breakfast on the cruise, but I was fresh out of fish at home. In fact, we hardly had food at all. If you're going to be gone for 10 days, you try to limit food spoilage. So, I had to scramble to find some breakfast. That's when I remembered an old standby--Chilaquiles, tortillas in tomato/chili sauce. These are rather pleasant.

10 corn tortillas
cooking oil
2 large or 4 medium tomatoes cut into thin wedges
1 small onion
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 green chili, chopped (or more)
dash of salt
pinch of ground comino (cumin) (More if you like comino. I use more than a pinch myself)

Cut tortillas into 2 inch squares and fry briefly in hot oil, being sure they don't become crisp. Drain well. Combine all the ingredients with the tortillas in a saucepan. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

Now, I like to add a dash of chili powder sometimes. Usually, I'll top the tortillas with a fried egg, over medium. Serve immediately. Makes 4 to 5 servings. Also great with guacamole.

If in a pinch, a can of Rotel can be used, but it's not nearly as good. For those of you from overseas, I might be willing to help you find the ingredients if you can't buy them online. Let me know, and I'll work something out for you.


I'm Back

Pardon the long pause in my postings. I have just returned from a 7 day cruise with Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas, where we toured the Western Caribbean for a week. I will take some time in the next few days and describe our journey. Don't worry, I'll try not to be the boorish next door neighbor who insists on showing his vacation slides, but I have some interesting things to report, and I hope you will find them interesting also. But for now, I have to return to normal living and put our lives back into order. It's hard to watch my wife do all that laundry, so I think I'll go outside and take down the Christmas lights.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Young Texas Boy

I was thinking a few pictures might be worth a few words....

The first photo is the old fort down by the creek.

The second is another view of the West Wing.

The third is a view of the waterfall during the rainy season.

When I was a kid, I had a blast playing outside. While I offer you a sample of a weekend camping trip from my youth, I assure you that these events aren’t exaggerated. For that matter, you might not find them interesting at all. That being the case, I’ll share with you a day in the life of a young Texas boy….

A Day in the Life of a Young Texas Boy

My friend and I had gone out playing with our BB guns, and there was nothing unusual about that—it’s something we always did. I lived on a ranch and my friend, Marty, would join me for the weekends, and off to the creek we’d go.

It’s been years since I walked those trails we made, but as I sit and close my eyes, I can see the path as it wound through the pasture. We would cut through the garden, jump over the barbed wire fence, and hide behind an old water trough, just in case someone was following. Then it was past the short mesquite tree, and around a telephone pole. Quickly! Before anyone sees us! We were under the trees now—but that’s where the Indians hide, so keep your powder dry… We would skim over the dry waterfall and cross under the wild pecan trees. Now we were at home.

We had fashioned a fort out of fallen trees and limbs; it was fair-sized and stood around 4 feet tall. Inside there was enough room for a tent or some horses, but not at the same time. In the “west wing,” there were great intentions to build a stagecoach stop, just incase the West returned and needed a place to rest the horses. In our eyes, we’d built a second Alamo, and it was a really great place. On the south wall we’d built against some cacti, which prevented any Union soldiers from seeking up and flanking us.

We would spend hours walking up and down the creek collecting treasures. Anything of value (which is in the eye of the beholder) would be taken to the fort and locked away in the armory. For example, I had a turtle shell, which I used for cooking, an old frying pan that had completely rusted through, and some old paint cans. The list would grow with each summer.

When we’d camp out, we would end up shooting 40 to 50 Indians—each, (it was our duty to protect the defenseless settlers). Then, in the mornings, we would make the charge at Gettysburg, only this time General Lee was proclaimed President of the World due to our swift victories. When the afternoon skirmish came, we were joined with the Choctaw Nation fighting off Geronimo or Sitting Bull. There are thousands of dead soldiers and warriors lying out in the pasture along the creek. Once in a while we would shoot Nazi Storm Troopers or Darth Vader’s Storm Troopers, and we never ever lost a battle. But all of that was just for fun, and was nothing compared to the battle that occurred in the evening as the sun set. That’s when we’d defend the Alamo one last time. We would trade turns being Davy Crockett, and we would hold off the Mexicans until the last minute, and then Davy would die, swinging his rifle, because he’d run out of bullets.

We named every cow trail that crossed the creek. I remember having Blue, Red, Yellow, Green, and Brown Trails. (Apparently, we weren’t very creative.) We also had our Civil War trails, cowboy trails, and so forth. None of these trails went anywhere, they were just trails.

Food? There was more food out there can you could shake a stick at. There were rabbits, and when the creek ran, fish. We ate lots of roots and plants, and thousands of sparrows. However, it seems to me that I was the only one that actually ate those things; everyone else ate their sandwiches of canned stew. Since marshmallows weren’t cool, we roasted cans of pudding and wild pizzas. We would drink gallons of Cokes and lemonade. Of course, we never drank beer, because we were good Christian boys, but we always pretended to do so…

Yikes, look at the time. It seems to me that I’ve been yappin’ on for quite a while, and it’s time to bring these random thoughts to a close. Perhaps some of you have childhood memories that make you smile. I invite you to share them with us now.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Curiosity Killed the Christian

This isn't any one I know personally, just in case you were wondering.

Curiosity killed the Christian, but it began with a small compromise.

Meet David, a normal American man who lived a normal American life. He grew up in a good church—a church where his father was the pastor, and he gave his life to the Lord at the tender age of eight. His story is the same as so many other boys who grew up in the church. He was eager to learn stories from the Bible and he always said grace over their evening meals. David’s father was a good man who raised David to the best of his abilities to serve God with all of his heart.

When David became a teenager, his heart started to fall away from the church. Officially, his digression began when he hit puberty and he developed a fascination with girls. Though he never really left God, his heart was never fully committed to Him for a very long time. For some reason, he was not able to create a relationship with God that permanently changed his heart; it was always a “head” relationship. He became distracted with movies and music, but he never stopped attending the youth ski trips with his church. In fact, on almost every trip, he would walk forward at the end of the weekend and rededicate his life to the Lord. The change would last for a few weeks, but something would happen and he would forget to pray in the morning, then suddenly he would be at the next youth weekend walking the aisle one more time.

David dated many different girls on many different occasions. He was never looking for a serious relationship; he rather enjoyed dating and meeting a variety of girls. He would never date one for more than a month at a time. As he was a good-looking boy, he had no trouble finding girls who would show interest in them. For the most part, he treated the girls with respect. They would go to his favorite parking place and neck, but he always placed his Bible between them as a constant reminder that he wanted to remain a virgin when he got married.

When he went to college, he began to hang out at the frat house, where there was a plethora of beer and alcohol. He would drink once in a while, but he never got drunk; at least not very drunk. He was afraid that he would do something stupid if he got drunk, so he set his mind to never go too far. Life was fun for David. Most of it was a blur, for he went from one exiting event to the other. For David, life was very entertaining. When he was a senior he met Jennifer. They were married at the end of their last semester and moved to Dallas where he took a job as a computer technician.

They always attended church, but always watched their watches for the end of the service. One week, a dynamic speaker came to their church and together, they walked the aisle of recommitment at the end of the week. For Jennifer, it was the first time she really committed to God and she developed a relationship with God in her heart.

As time went by, the two of them became four and sleep became a foreign element for the small family. Jennifer felt as though she would be changing diapers for the rest of her life and David began to miss the days when times were fun. He loved his family, but deep inside, he felt the tug of his youth calling for him to return to Neverland. Before long, the kids were starting school and not long ago, they attended their son’s first Christmas recital. That was the year that David and Jennifer taught the young married couples Sunday school class together. They had never felt closer to God than they did now.

Then one day, completely unaware that he was being targeted, curiosity killed the Christian. David was finishing a report that was due the first thing on Monday morning and it was very late at night. Jennifer and the kids had long been snuggled in their beds, unaware that David had fallen. A pop up message appeared on his computer screen that said, “Come see me. My new web cam is working and I am cute.” He immediately deleted the message. An hour later, David saw the same message again. It was from a girl named Candy. He began to wonder if she was using the new web cam that he had seen at the mall the other day. It had better resolution than any of the previous models and he had been considering buying the camera for his office work. He walked into the bedroom and saw that Jennifer was asleep. He snuck back into his office and typed the web address into his computer. He only wanted to see if the resolution was truly as good as the advertisements had suggested. What he saw was in perfect clarity. Candy was indeed a very cute girl and they chatted for a moment before he logged off. But an hour had passed and the image of Candy was forever burned into his mind. He never logged on to that web site again.

After a year, David was promoted to manager and things were looking good for him. His son was now in third grade and his daughter was now playing soccer with her first grade class. Life became very busy for them. Between work and home and school and games and church and life, David began to miss his old fun days again. But he knew that those days were done and he re-embraced responsibility. As Halloween approached, his boss delegated the task of hiring a new office assistant to David. He met with all of the applicants for more than a week. He found most of the applicants to be more than qualified for the position, but he decided not to make a decision until after the company Halloween party. That night, one of the applicants, Beth, came dressed as a witch, a very naughty witch.

Beth was very attractive and she reminded David of his old days when he was carefree and able to do whatever he wanted. She floated around the room and flirted with all of the single men. He watched her for a long time and determined that with her charming personality, she would be an asset as an office assistant. Besides, she was really good with public relations.

The next morning, he invited her to lunch where he discussed the job responsibilities and made arrangements for her to get started the first thing Monday morning. His boss was more than pleased with his new assistant, especially when he noticed that she kept a bowl of candy on her desk for the pleasure of whoever chose to partake.

When David had to work overtime to complete the last of the fourth quarter reports, Beth volunteered to stay late and help him. He was hesitant, but she insisted and he consented. He watched her typing on her keyboard through his office window and realized that she was very attractive. He started to pick up his phone and call Jennifer to give her an update on his late night, but Beth was taking off her sweater, and she was very cute. He decided to do his on line research and turned away from her, but his computer failed to log on. David thought it best for him to shut down for the night and called Beth into his office to inform her of his decision. But while she listened to him, she reconfigured his log on information and his system was up and running before he could finish his sentence. He sat down to conduct his search, but his system froze up. Beth leaned over him and typed on his keyboard for a moment. Her hair touched his cheek and he sat breathless for a moment, not wanting to move, but screaming at himself to get a grip on reality. He tried to remember what his wife looked like, but then he remembered that she had put on about ten pounds. David leaned back to give Beth access to his computer, but when he did, he inadvertently looked over his shoulder and could see down Beth’s shirt. She was nearly perfect in every way. The long night grew longer and David, compromised and ashamed of himself for being unfaithful to his wife, drove home a defeated man. He tried to put the incident behind him, but he could still smell Beth’s perfume. He tried to forget the way she looked, but found one of her long blond hairs on his shirtsleeve. His life would never be the same.

If Jennifer knew of the incident she never said anything. David simply chose to forget the affair and continued to live his life. He no longer wished for his fun days. He only wished that he had never lived them only to be tempted by them. He was miserable and hated himself for his indiscretion.

After a year, he had almost forgotten that fateful and solitary night. Beth never mentioned the incident and she pretended that it never happened better than David did. She probably had practice in putting these things behind her. But every time David saw Beth, his memory would flare up and he asked his boss for a lateral transfer to a satellite office across town. He focused very hard on his relationship with his wife and things were better for them than they ever had been. The next winter he developed a cough that caused him to miss a lot of work and he stayed home for a full week while he recovered from his cold. He was watching the 700 Club one morning when he heard a loud scream coming from his son’s room. He ran into the bedroom and saw that his son had lacerated his arm with a piece of broken glass and was bleeding profusely. David reached to stop the blood flow but cut his own hand on the glass that was still protruding from the wound. They rushed to the emergency room and managed to stitch up both of their wounds without further incident.

David’s cough never got better and he went to the doctor to get the latest in prescribed medications that stops colds. The doctor could do nothing for him but took some blood samples to check his cholesterol levels. The cough never went away. Within three days, the doctor called to tell David that they needed to meet within the week, he had bad news for him.

David first called Beth to tell her that she needed to go to a doctor and be tested for HIV.

Mankind is miserably curious, often to his own detriment.