Bye Bye Neighbor, and your little dog too.

Have you ever tried so hard not to break something, so nervous that you ended up dropping it? I have, I am one who can see the road ahead, not necessary the future, ok maybe in the immediate future.
What can I say, sh*t sticks to me. I am so used to it, it’s like playing chess, I have to know what all my future moves are…just in case.

I live a non-existent social life. I’m not complaining, it’s how I choose to live. Away from the lounge lizards, the “girl pool” and the bar scene. I do enjoy my Facebook time and have come to feel it has this invisible barrier which protects me from the rude, insincere or the just ass’s. The barrier isn’t fool proof…How ironic is that line?

I have a neighbor who has 4 Chihuahs. When she moved here several years ago, she told me, she was lonely and got the 4th one? Are you kidding me? We all know how these overgrown, shivering beasts bark. Yap, yap, yap. All day and into the evening. I have one big dog, Woof. My dog has his downfalls. He’s a great dog but if another dog barks, he’s got to respond and loudly. After a year I decided I would have to confront the owner. I tried this 6 months ago by calling the city and asking an officer to drop by and warn her that there had been a complaint, nicely. He did this and for a couple of weeks it was better. I made a big effort to keep my dog at bay also. But it was time.

I spent a few days contemplating how to approach this woman. As I have mentioned I pretty much like being alone, I don’t like to know my neighbors too well either, always looking ahead with my head down. I figure if I stay out of their business, they will stay put of mine. Say “hello” while walking the dog or going to the mail box is as close as I want to be to my neighbors. I didn’t want to come off as a bully about her dogs or even confront her face to face if I didn’t have to. You ask a stranger to please respect the neighbors and do something about the barking and, well, who knows how that’s gonna work out. I try to avoid confrontations at any cost and came up with the perfect solution…the note written and placed in her mail box. Not a nasty note, not threatening to poison the little bastards, just a nice note saying it’s time to do something.

The next day I received my own note with comments added and copied asking everyone in the neighborhood, who wrote the note? She was pleasant and wanted to “work together”. So, of course, the great human being that I am, I did the right thing. I went over and told her it was me. She understood and wasn’t angry but the more she talked the more defensive she became. We agreed to try to keep our dogs quiet, and for the past week it has been pleasant. She is doing a marvelous job and in return mine doesn’t bark nearly as much and when he does I try to ward it off as quickly as possible.

Well, there is always that one special person in your neighborhood who you always expect to be behind anything out of the ordinary. And that special person lives between my dog hoarder and myself. And she’s friends with the mother of the little beasts. Of course it doesn’t take long before she has discussed it with everyone in the neighborhood. She was determined to find out who wrote the note and after she was told it was me the fuel hit the fire for another round to the neighbors with whatever. One simple request, which is working for both of us, and the drama keeps building.

I had had enough. She likes to walk her dog, another hairless, shaking toco dog, when she sees my housemate. She’s already brought up the barking to her this week.

I calmly went out on my drive where she had intercepted my house mate while walking her dog. Yes, we all have dogs but not all of us have a need for 4 of ’em. I kindly ask her of she had anything she wanted to discuss with me and she looked like she had been caught but followed through with the expected “no, why?”. After a few heated moments I had finally been able to come to the point, “mind your own business”! I did it, I finally blew my top and told her it did not concern her and it was not her business. I don’t have any issues with her dog, if it barks I must have just learned to ignore anything around this lady as well as herself. One of those future premonitions again. Should have saw it coming but I didn’t. She kept on and on about being friends with the dog whisperer. I made it clear that we were both working together and the neighborhood was better for it but she had to stick her nose in and stir the sh*t. I un-politely told her to get off you property.

It felt good, my knees shaking as bad if not worse that those yapping nightmares. Done, over. No collateral damage to speak of. Then she shows up on my door step with her little rat dog the next night. Of course my dog is coming unglued and his deep bark bounces around my high ceilings until it penetrates my head like a lighten rod. What could this woman want? Has she finally gone over the edge to be on my door step after I un-politely told her to get off my property?

As I am fighting my dog who is trying to get through the 3 inch crack of the door she is standing there talking with both dogs barking to beat the band. What is that you said? You want to be friends?

Think fast….

I bypassed the question as smoothly as possible. I told her if I had a problem with her dog I would let her know. She replied “I was walking on the other side of the road and your dog is still barking, where do you want me to walk him?” Oh Lord, why me? Seriously?

I thanked her for coming, shut the door and cut off the porch light. Good Night Irene.

Trust No One

What is trust anyway? An emotion? A humane desire? A need? Can it be bought or bartered for? Am I the only one with this affliction?

My trust has always been true. To friends, my children and my family members. It wasn’t until recently, this week as a matter of fact, that I have had to look closer at myself about my trust issues. A Facebook friend, not even one whom I know personally but whom I had enjoyed his adventures as a treasure hunter, made me take a serious look at myself. Regrettably I accused him of wrongdoing and for that I am ashamed.

Until now I never really thought much about how I became so mistrusting over the years. has become my only way of life, a necessity. It has never dawned on me why I even find it comforting to vacation alone but looking back I have now taken a trip with anyone in almost 5 years.

My ex husband was probably the first person that betrayed my trust. Spending money we didn’t have, fulfilling his material needs while allowing us to fall into bankruptcy and coming close to losing our home.

In 2009 I had to deal with breast cancer and decided to seek medical treatment in a foreign country due to the lack of insurance. I had always heard that the American Cancer Society was there for those whom had no support, my calls went unreturned. I was so fearful of the outcome or of dying alone that I offered to pay a friend’s expenses to accompany me to Peru for treatments. This woman whom I thought to be the truest of friends. I paid every expense imaginable for her to come with me for my double mastectomy. I took out a second mortgage for my medical needs as well as our travel expenses. I paid for her passport, flight, meals, transportation as well as her living expenses while in Lima. It wasn’t until she visited a local dentist there while I was in my doctors care, ordered veneers for her new smile and left me holding the $700 bill, did I realized I could not even trust my one close friend in my life. At that time I sent her back to the states and have never spoken to her again.

My family made no effort to help in any way. I know they felt sorry for me but not one relative ask “How can I help”? Yes, living 8 hours away didn’t help and it’s understandable that everyone has their own lives, troubles and needs to deal with in their own lives but, come on! The devastation of learning you have cancer is a life changing event, one that deserves at least a hug. I even had to pay someone to pick me up at the airport upon my return home. This issue remains a thorn in my side to this day.

To make matters much worse, upon my return I found that my job aboard a salvage vessel had also fell to the way side. Not only was my position gone but the $25,000 loan to the company was in jeopardy of being repaid. Eventually this was recovered but not after having to threaten to confiscate the boat and the trust I had put into my employer completely demolished. Someone whom I dearly cared for, looked up to and had trusted entirely.

This was at a time when the economy had dropped to a new low, jobs hard to find, salary’s less than adequate and lives being destroyed across the country.

At times my power was in danger of being shut off, my home threatened by foreclosure and my life spiraled down to the deepest depths of depression from PTSD and the need and craving for help. I made bad decisions, looked for the wrong answers and slowly lost myself and my self-respect. There was no one there to help pull me back up. The man I was involved in at the time looked the other way as well.

Over these next few years I was so ashamed of what my life had become that I avoided the friends I had once had and made sure not to make any new ones. I could not hold a job for more than a few months and my contentious fear of loosing my job became so extreme it actually cost me my jobs. I spent my days in bed and nights unable to sleep.

I made some major changes along the way. I had to move to another state to find work. Fortunately I found excellent renters for my home and my cousin was on the other end to help pick up the pieces. After a year and a half I though I could return and make my life as it had been in better days. It didn’t happen. I strived to make a better life by starting a new business although I put an extreme amount of money and work into it as well as my heart, it failed. After a while I, once again, ran away to Central America alone for 6 weeks backpacking.

What kind of life is this? A very sad and lonely one. The avoidance of men for companionship, due to my surgery, has become the norm. My only social life I am able to endure and feel comfort is through communication and posts on the social media networks.

How is one to deal with trust issues? Trust again and endure more disappointments or live with no expectations of another person?

So it’s Valentines Day….Bah


Ok, it’s Valentines Day. Yesterday I traveled from Livingston, Guatemala to La Ceiba, Honduras. This was a prearranged reservation with a hotel which was supposed to set up my 8 hours of transportation. That did not happen. Here is what did.
6am- sat at dock for boat which did not show up.
7:30- Took a launch, kinda like a chicken bus, to Puerto Barrios.
8:15- Taxi to Marcardo to catch van
8:30- Van to border crossing
9:30- Walked across border
10:15- Chicken Bus to Puerto Cortez
1:30- Bus to San Pedro Sula (the most dangerous city in the world)
3:00- Last bus to La Ceiba and to my hotel for the next 3 days
7:30- Finally in La Ceiba

This morning, water not working, room ok but bed almost left me paralyzed.
After breakfast I came back to my room to find the neighbors laundry hanging over MY hammock. NOT! I looked at it for several hours, tried to ignore it and even thought I would give them until tomorrow to move them but decided it was time to send the undies back! Not that I had a great view but just could not make myself relax under men’s briefs.

Valentines Day? Yea, right.

Solo Travelers, Are We Safe?

Is it safe for the single female to travel through Central America? It depends on who you ask.

Deciding to get “off the grid” 6 months ago took me to the quaint little island off of Nicaragua, Little Corn Island, for a week. Located about 50 miles east of the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua and only about 1.5 sq miles in size, but an oasis of tranquility, and a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of the U.S. The only fear that registered was driving through Miami to the airport.

I arrived on Little Corn Island at sunset on a local Panga boat and all I could do was smile from ear to ear. This little island had more personality than anything I had come across in a long time.
He dropped me onto the sand beach and the most unique tropical island complete with local dogs running loose, the smell of lobster grilling and music coming from one of the few cafe/bars on the island. Lobster being the main export certainly was a plus right at arrival and dinnertime.

There were no cars on the island which means no roads which means no street lights so I was glad I had done my homework and had brought my flashlight for walking after dark down the sidewalk. I was welcomed by friendly, fast speaking locals, expats and those like myself, whom were on a new adventure in uncharted territory. What a hoot! Being a boat captain and long time scuba diver I felt right at home on this lush, remote paradise minus the comfort of a/c. The island’s generator had gone down that morning and still was not working by the time I left.

Being a female and traveling alone, I sometimes get funny looks or a shocked expression but I love to travel alone and there on Little Corn never did I feel uncomfortable or threatened. Of course I am always aware of my surroundings and make sure I don’t find myself in any seedy areas alone and always keep my belongings close.

My days were spent diving, snorkeling, exploring the island, reading in the waterfront hammocks and watching the kids play in the water with their friends and dogs. Afternoons were spent at one of the openair cafe’s waiting for the hotel’s backup generator to kick on to enjoy a cool shower and a short nap before the nightlife picked up.

The local fishermen could be seen daily sitting in the shade preparing bait for their lobster pots while the recently established police department’s patrol woman stopped by the establishments making small talk.
This was the life on Little Corn and I hope to make it back again in the near future but I have learned a few things if I should go back…. travel extra light, bring good walking shoes because you will be walking where ever you go, bring the bug spray (although the bugs were not bad at all while I was there) and make sure to bring your appetite for some wonderful seafood, rice, fruit and black beans.

In the months ahead I could not get Little Corn off of my mind after returning home to Florida. So I am now crossing the country of Guatemala. On the road for almost a month now, I say “yes” it is safe. However, I am always cautious with my belongings as in any country.

After arriving in Guatemala City, my first destination was Antigua, just 45 minutes away. Spending my first afternoon getting accustomed to new surroundings was a great experience. Cobblestone streets, horse drawn buggy’s and a mixture of travelers from all over the world coexisting in harmony.

The first night walking the streets after dark, sent me into an unusual paranoid state. The glow from the low watt street lamps gave me a feeling of foreboding as well as the local men gathered in doorways of bars and on street corners. I took an early dinner and returned to my hotel and comfort zone.

Over the next few days I began to relax and enjoy the smell of fresh baked bread, shoe polish from the shoeshine boys and even the horse hung.

The women I interviewed here also had no fear of being in Guatemala alone and most felt confident and safe. Surprisingly there are many women traveling solo throughout Guatemala. Some have settled in Guatemala for extended stays and the majority have visited several countries and have an extended itinerary or have found a community they felt comfortable in and put down roots.

How are they financially able to stay? The cost of living in Central America is very affordable, much more than the states. Many women have homes which they rent to long term tenants. This can easily be enough to travel comfortable for quite a while. One female backpacker had been traveling 4 years from the income of her rental home in Sydney, Australia. Her average cost per year, for her travels, was $25,000. Others have internet businesses or work locally as yoga instructors and, of course, teachers.

Lake Atitlan, where the Rainbow get’s it’s colors

The word Atitlán is a Mayan word that translates as “the place where the rainbow gets its colors”. The village residents are mostly indigenous, Cakchiquel Mayas.
Lake Atitlán is situated at an altitude of 5118 ft., located in the Western Highlands of Guatemala and approximately four hours from Guatemala City. The lake was formed 150,000 years ago when Tolimán, after years of building pressure, discharged in a violent expulsion of magma, ash and sand. The eruptive column reached heights of 25 to 34 miles and dispersed ash over an area from Florida to Ecuador. So much magma had been expelled that only an empty cavity remained. The area collapsed due to the weight of the earth above it forming the the 11 mile diameter caldera. The caldera filled over time with rainwater and sediment to create the present lake of today and at it’s deepest depth is 340 miles.

Seismic activity has been low in the last decade, but volcanic activity does influence relatively long-period fluctuations in the lakes level. Due to changes, caused by a rising and falling of the silt layer at the bottom of the lake, cycles of volcanic activity and inactivity has caused an approximate 50-60 year cycle.
The main village along Lake Atitlán would be Panajachel, Lake Atitlán’s most visited town and transport hub for the whole lake. A large part of the successful tourist infrastructure.
San Pedro La Laguna has become the poplar destination for backpackers and known for a laid-back hippyish small town as well as the indigenous local residents.
San Marcos La Laguna is well known as the village of meditation. Offering reiki, yoga, massages, aromatherapies, Chinese health therapies, reflexology, meditation, holistic treatments and other new age therapies.
On the south side of the lake is Santiago, the largest community around the lake where many still practice many of the old traditions. The main street up from the dock offer stores and stands where the local artisans sell wooden and other handcrafted products. The town offers a small variety of quality hotel-restaurants, although not as widely poplar as some of the other busy villages, this small town is famous for a shrine to Maximón.
Santa Cruz La Laguna, located on north side of Lake Atitlán and has been growing in popularity recently.
San Juan La Laguna is considered the hub for its natural colored dyed fabrics and clothing. Agriculture is most important for the economy as well with the service sector growing, especially as the number of tourists increase.
There are a total of 12 villages on the lake and all are just a boat ride away.

Guatemalan Busses, not just for the Chickens any more

The colorful busses seen across Guatemala are commonly know as Chicken Busses. The used school busses are acquired from the U.S. They are then “pimped” out by their owners, adorned by special stripes, logos and shiny aluminum accessories inside and out. Tires with custom wheels roll these spirited busses along most towns and highways.

In the past these busses were known to carry passengers who transported chickens high above on the roofs of the busses.

Locals prefer the cheap rates equivalent to .30 and the drivers make certain it is filled to 120% capacity. Afternoon passengers include school children, women and men all loudly chattering in Spanish as they get on and off. These busses can be seen careening around the curves of the highlands winding around the mountains and volcanos with little regard to comfort or safety.

Teachers in Guatemala Protest in the Streets

Thousands of teachers protested on the streets of Guatemala on Thursday, January 23 demanding more funds for education. Major roads were blocked by protestors throughout Guatemala as teachers burned old tires and nail riddled boards. Traffic was haunted and vehicles were not allowed to pass. The leader of STEG, one of the teaching unions calling the protest, said, “We don’t want there to be schools without programs or students without food.”
The teachers believe 35% of the budget should be spent on education – at this time the figure is 16%. As well as demanding a pay increase, the teachers are also calling for money for school supplies and school meals.

The minimum wage in Guatemala is the equivalent of approximately $500 per month. Teachers in Guatemala earn $440 a month on average, although many are on temporary contracts and earn only half that amount.

A Colorful Look at Antigua, Guatemala

Arriving into Guatemala City, I was met by my private car and a friend of a friend who is going to store my scuba diving gear for a few weeks. A 45 minute ride takes me to the Colonial City of Antigua, Guatemala. My first stop and a wonderful surprise where I will spend the next 9 days. A beautiful, but crumbling, city bustling with all walks of life. in the center of town is the Central Plaza where local men, women and children congregate selling, very aggressively, their wares until late. The colorful scarves, wristbands and jewelry can be acquired for just a few Quetzals but you must work at getting the best price. Considered a backpackers dream destination.
The cobblestone streets make walking a treacherous endeavor but well worth it. If your not up to walking there are many modes of travel. The tuktuks are a cheap ride but bumpy or the slow horse drawn buggy can be found around the busy central park.
Although I stayed at several hostels, the Holistico Hostal

 is my favorite so far. A wonderful place, not only to lay your head, but to meet and enjoy new friends and trade travel stories. The accommodations are clean and well taken care by the hard working, respectful employees. A wide variety of breakfast options are is served daily in just a matter of minutes and the relaxing atmosphere is a welcoming change to the fast pace of Antigua. Come and enjoy. Sergio Martinez, the owner, is the host with the most! Make early plans to stay additional nights because Hostal Holistico has a large following with many who return time and time again.

Although nights come alive with the sound of music drifting out of the pubs and restaurants the streets are somewhat dark and can be a little intimidating until you get used to it. Antigua is a party town for the young and old alike and bars stay open until late I to the night.
Off the beaten path, outside of Antigua, you will find the small city of Partanos where custom leather boots are made within days to your specifications. The prices will astound and is usually around $30 and up. Very well made with the exact heel height you want as well as the type of leather.
Only a few kilometers outside of Pastores is the Aquas Calientes, or hot springs where the incoming volcano waters can soothe and heal the body. Located at the base of volcanoes And hidden off of the highway, a short walk down a dirt road you will arrive at the entrance. At only Q10 or $1.25 to enter, it is a special treat and one will leave feeling refreshed.