Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Trip! (And a notice about La Gringa's Blog)

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:

La Gringa's Blogicito is currently experiencing technical difficulties as a result of switching to Beta. Please see LG's temporary blog at
http://blogicito.blogspot.com.

AND NOW FOR THE TRIP:

What a whirlwind! After subtracting nearly two entire days for travel, I ended up with three full days in La Ceiba. They were jam-packed.

Tuesday night:

I popped into the "gringo bar" to chat with the owner. He is clearly desperate to sell. Unfortunately his price, recently lowered to US$18,000 is still too high for what it is. He does not own the location, and so basically he wants me to pay the above price for the "name" (which I don't want, nor do I want his clientele) and equipment... hardly worth $5k in my opinion. Oh, and the owner is also about to leave the country, and wanted a deposit on the place by Friday.

WhatEVER.

I told him I'd ponder the situation and get back to him by Thursday. (In other words, think up a good way to say hell no to the guy.)

After that little chat, I headed over to Maxim's in La Quinta Hotel for dinner. Per Moon Handbooks Honduras guide, it's one of the nicest restaurants in town, vying with Ricardo's for class and quality.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!

OMG it was terrible. First of all, the ambiance is reminiscent of a Chinese all-you-can-eat buffet in any nameless suburban strip-mall. Glaring fluorescent lights, dusty fake foliage everywhere, and a bizarre table centerpiece which consisted of styrofoam pears and apples sprayed in pink and gold glitter.

There was no wine list, which struck me as curious since Moon also indicated that Maxim's has an impressive wine selection. Hmm. I asked the waiter if they had wine, and he nodded vigorously. I asked what kind. Tinto y blanco. Uh, okay. I ordered a glass of vino tinto and the surf & turf. In the meantime, I made notes in my journal and watched ants crawl around the table.

Shortly the waiter returned to inform me that there was in fact no vino tinto in the house, would I like blanco instead? Uh, fine. He brought it in a champagne flute.

Next came the bread. Tiny biscuits of the pre-frozen variety, which had clearly been microwaved, as they were molten hot and rubbery. A miniature plastic ramekin of margarine accompanied them. This was an appropriate segue to the surf & turf, which manifested itself in the form of a shoe-leather steak, (tenderloin my ass!) cooked to death, a "scrod" (unidentified whitefish) fillet and some okay-ish shrimp. The ubiquitous broccoli/carrot/cauliflower mix, drowning in margarine, completed the presentation. All in all, quite dissappointing. (But at least I know that my place will HAVE to be a hit, because the food will beat everyone else's in town!)

Wednesday:

Met an American (expat) real estate agent at the Hotel Paris for breakfast. She came wheezing in with a young Honduran woman (associate? helper?) and the woman's toddler in tow. The agent did not appear to be in good health. She sat down and began to tell me about how she just got out of the hospital for pneumonia, and by the way, (noticing my cigarettes on the table) if I smoke she will simply have to leave because she's terribly allergic. Mmm-kay, anyway...

As the associate/helper/whatever lady flirts with the waiter and her kid eats Equal packets and tries to drown herself in the pool, the agent launches into a speech about how there are no good restaurants in La Ceiba aside from Mango Tango, and don't I want to consider buying a buildable lot since most of the buildings in town are way out of my price range? I tell her that I do not want to build. We finish our breakfast and go for a tour.

The first place she shows me is the $90k fixer-upper house that I told her was overpriced. It's less than centrally located, about a block from the stadium on the east (?) end of town. She tells me that it sold immediately, because it was "so cheap." Next stop, a small, two bedroom house in (I think?) Barrio La Isla, one block inland from the Parthenon Hotel. She tells me that the new condos across the street are selling for "150-200." I'm assuming she means in the thousands of US dollars, but I didn't ask for clarification. The house is okay, but only one story and she suggests that I can build a champa on top. The asking price is US$65,000.

Next stop is a vacant lot near the estuary. Small. $80,000. Nope.

Final lap, we go past a lovely (though broken down) wood house right in the center of town. It's enormous. $750,000. I nearly choked. Later I heard that someone had estimated the rehab cost on that house to be in excess of Lps1,000,000. ($50k-ish?) Anyway...

Finally she took me to see the shop called Fiesta Imports, just for fun. That was probably the most useful stop on our tour. I learned that I can buy Tahini and bulk products there. Excellent. I walked back to the hotel, since the agent lived right across the street from Fiesta and wanted to go home.

Hmph.

Later that evening I went to my aunt's house in Naranjal for dinner. When I arrived, she was in the process of garnishing a salad with (gasp!) Morroccan cured olives!!! She told me that there's a shop in San Pedro Sula where you can get a variety of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean products such as olives and cheeses. I was DELIGHTED! I also learned that pita is available in town, so as far as I was concerned, things were definitely looking up.

Thursday:

Went to meet with the owner of that silly bar and break the news that I would not be coughing up any cash for him the following day. I wished him luck and he wished me the same. That was the end of that.

Walked the town, took pics of some buildings of interest, sweated my ass off. Paid a visit to the Rainforest Gift Shop, where not much had changed since the last time I was there. They had one single copy of Moon Handbooks Honduras Guide, priced at US$30. (US retail is $17.95)

In the evening, I returned to my aunt's house, where she had organized a dinner for me and several of her friends that she thought might have information and advice to offer. Her friends included the director and several employees of an English language school in town, as well as a writer and the wife of a furniture maker from Louisiana. It was a very enjoyable evening, the ladies were all very nice, and had lots to say about living in La Ceiba, and living as expats. (Well, those who were expats themselves, anyway.)

Friday:

I had coffee with La Gringa! She is the cooooooooooolest, but then my readers probably all know this already from having seen her blog. We had coffee at Giarre's and talked about some of her experiences living as an expat in Honduras, as well as the technicalities of transporting things like personal effects, cars, pets, and seeds for gardening. We stayed past the restaurant closing - they had cleared everything away right down to the ashtray and we stil sat there chatting! It was excellent.

After coffee, I raced off to join a happy hour gathering of the Mazapan school at the newly-reopened Expatriates bar. It was soooooooooooo NOT FINISHED! There was no rail on the long flight of stairs up to the rooftop bar, and when my poor aunt reached out to the wall to steady herself for the climb, we discovered that the paint was still wet. (!) When we got to the top of the stairs, workmen were still roughing in tiles. We had to step over them, and still got quite a bit of clay-ish grout stuff all over ourselves. I asked where the bathroom was to wash my hands (the spot where it used to be is now an extension of the new kitchen) and was told that there was no sink as of yet. At least they let me wash my hands in the kitchen.

I learned lots more about the availability of stuff like specialty foods and supplies during this gathering, and also that one of the employees of the school has a wife who recently graduated from Chef school. (And she's not yet employed in Honduras - Yay!)

My cousin's father-in-law advised me to live six months in the country before investing a penny. Interesting. I don't know if I'm patient enough for that, but we'll see how things go.

But the very BEST part of the evening was when he (my cousin's father in law) turned to me and said "you want to talk to a consulate about the residency thing? Hold on." He leans back in his chair and taps a guy on the shoulder at the next table over. "There's two of 'em right here. Why don't you go ask them some questions?"

So I did!

And guess what?

I asked them all the same Qs about whether I should go for rentista or investor residency, they hemmed and hawwed, blah blah blah, until finally one of them was like: "why don't you just get the regular residency?"

Uh...... what? Regular? Regular residency? What's that?

FFS.

I couldn't stop laughing for 5 minutes when I realized that they were serious, and that I've managed to complicate and stress over something completely uneccessary for who knows how many months now. DUH!

And that about sums it up. I left the following morning with a new plan to stop planning so much, and just move down there and see how everything flows.

Whew!

5 Comments:

At 2:19 PM, Blogger La Gringa said...

Oh my god! So much to talk about here!

First, thank you so so much for the public service announcement. I'm afraid everyone will give up on La Gringa and delete the bookmark before the blog ever comes back.

Second, that ##&@% didn't even take you back to your hotel! It's a long way from Fiesta to Hotel Paris, not to mention that the "real-feel" temperature was about 105F. Should I have saved gas and let you walk back from Girarre's?????? I don't think so!! Unbelievable.

Third, Nope -- you are the coolest. I can't wait until you come back again. Let's go to San Pedro and check out the stores!

Fourth, but aren't there some tax breaks for the investor status? Or can you get those anyway with a regular residency?

Fifth, I think the 6 months is a good idea.

Well, I better send an email. This is getting too long.

It was great meeting you!

 
At 6:02 PM, Blogger DON GODO said...

So short a time, but so much accomplished!!!!

My wife makes the best hummus... What's the store in SPS that sells tahini? Do you know of one in Teguz?

I really liked your critique of the restaurant. You must get a part time job as a restaurant critic, but them this might be a conflict of interest if you open your own restaurant. LOL

Talking about your own restaurant, have you figured out the menu yet? What will be your specialties? It seems you like middle-eastern food... This would do well as the people with all the money in Honduras are Palestinians and Lebanese.

 
At 12:54 PM, Blogger Bound for Ceiba said...

Yeah, that realtor was certainly a piece of work... haha!

The store in SPS that sells Middle Eastern products is called "Mediterraneo" according to my aunt. I don't yet know where it is, but as soon as I find out, I'll be sure to let everyone know. And yes LG, we should definitely hit the shops together, it will be fun!

I don't know about Teguz Jeff, but if I hear anything I'll pass it on. There's just gotta be a place with that stuff in the capitol...

 
At 4:53 PM, Blogger Bound for Ceiba said...

Oh, and on the RESIDENCY POINT, I should make a public notation, since my big purpose of this blog is to elaborate the process for those who may come after me:

It remains as yet unclear as to whether I need investor residency status in order to qualify for the Tourism Law Incentive benefits. I have asked every single attorney I contacted, and not a one of them knew the answer.

So, we will see.

One thing which gives me pause, however, is that I know all these fast food corps are getting the LIT status. (At least per the articles I read in Honduras this Week, La Prensa and La Tribuna.) Do they have some exec moving there and getting investor residency? Doubtful. But then again, they probably have more resources and connections at their disposal than lil' old me. Nevertheless, I am determined to figure this thing out!

 
At 10:01 AM, Blogger allspaces said...

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