Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What?!?!?


Espresso Americano is not Honduran?????

It came from Seattle?????

Monday, October 30, 2006

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

I may have to invest in a canoe.



Thursday, October 26, 2006

Back Online!

I sold my house last Tuesday, and have been more-or-less internet free for the past 9 days...

But now I am in La Ceiba!!!

(And found a good source of wifi, to boot.)

So there ya go. I'd give you all more of the scintillating details of my life, but a hamburger was just delivered to me, so it's gonna have to wait until later...

:-)

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Amended PLAN

In the early stages of this grand dream of mine, I had very ambitious timelines. I was going to sell my rental property in two seconds, dump three decades-worth of belongings in a monster-sized yard sale, and be gone like yesterday. During this brief whirlwind of an exodus, I planned also (via nothing more than email and phone conversations) to find a building in La Ceiba, get my residency going, and jump-start a website for the new, fabulous bistro (and traveler emporium) that I would shortly open.

Well, let us just say that I have slowed things down a bit.

Mind you, I had a pretty good start to the plan! But I have learned a lot, and the most important part of what I have learned is that I have SO MUCH MORRRRRRRRRRRRE TO LEARN. Furthermore, I have determined that my mental health is a delicate pearl to be guarded jealously, rather than squandered in a flurry of uneccessary and anxiety-producing haste.

So, with that in mind, I have established the following revised plan:

I will arrive in La Ceiba on October 26th.

I will pick a hotel, and probably go to bed immediately.

I will wake up the next day and go drink coffee at Giarre's, and perhaps read a newspaper, while sunning my clammy Minnesotan shoulders at a sidewalk table.

I will walk around.

I will chat with my aunt, and her friends, and La Gringa.

I will visit Roatan, Utila, and Guanaja, and have a crimminally good time doing "market research."

I will make more friends.

I will meet more sketchy characters. (It's all part of the La Ceiba experience.)

I will visit every damn hole-in-the-wall place there is, and meet everyone I possibly can.

When all of that is done... 'round about late December, I will return to Minnesota to celebrate the holidays with my family, and perhaps take a side-trip to Greece.

(After all of that work in La Ceiba, I will need a vacation, you know!)

And THEN, I MIGHT make a short-term (real estate) investment in Minneapolis that will delay my return to La Ceiba for a bit.

But I will return.

And when I do, I will be all the more prepared.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Thursday Update

1. My closing is delayed - possibly to next Friday.

2. I received some documents from pettravel.com which included veterinarian forms, a letter of request for import permit, and a note indicating that the staff of pettravel.com are STILL not certain about the necessity of said import permit.

3. After divesting my substantial winter wardrobe in anticipation of tropical climes, I turned around and bought two long-sleeved shirts and a sweater-coat the other day.

4. It is currently snowing in Minneapolis, and VERY COLD.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Reality Check

As the date of departure nears, I find myself worrying more than I ever expected.

I have lived my entire life in Minnesota, (excepting a brief study-abroad in Greece) and have constructed an identity here, for which I suppose I am now in a bit of mourning. I made a home, a family, a career, and an extensive network. Now I am leaving it all behind, and the demons of sadness and doubt have crept into my heart and brain like stealthy burglars.

I am going to assume that this is natural.

Another interesting tidbit is that La Ceiba lost a bit of its luster for me during recent trips. I saw things that disturbed me - things which I had not previously noted. (Same goes for Utila this summer - I actually saw and was approached by the drug dealers, which was a new thing.) I don't know if things have changed or if my attitude has changed. I suspect that it's more attitude. As I attempt to plot a realistic course, I am becoming acutely aware of all the challenges that await me... challenges that I had the blissful ability to ignore as a simple visitor.

Anyway, many have expressed their skepticism and concern for what I am about to do, and a few have predicted that I will be back home in a flash, after I realize what a "dangerous, corrupt, third world shithole" I'm in, and how my age, sex and nationality makes me a glowing target for even the garden variety bad guys.

I know that even as it is expressed in this uncouth fashion, the naysayers do have some basis to their arguments. I am indeed a bit scared. Hell, I cannot count on both hands how many residents of Honduras have told me "don't trust ANYONE!!!" My own cousin's father-in-law told me to live there for six months minimum before investing a penny. Lots of people have gotten screwed in La Ceiba. Some have lost their savings. Others have been shot at. Still others have gotten cocky and had their property vandalized by irate workers. Gang activity is huge, and the drug biz is endemic. I hear the stories. I know what can happen.

But I'm still going. I believe in my plan and more importantly, I believe in the value of pursuing a dream. I would rather fail and return to a boring bureaucratic job in my leafy-green city than always wonder if I could have succeeded.

And besides - I have other plans waiting in the wings, so I need to get this one going to make room for the future endeavors... :-)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Here kitty, kitty...

I have two cats.

They're kind of annoying, but I feel obligated to keep them since they were abandoned by previous owners, and have served me well by killing lots of rodents, including rats. (My aunt tells me that there are quite a lot of rats in her La Ceiba neighborhood, and has already asked to borrow my furballs when they arrive!)

So now the question is: how to transport the yowlers?

I found two sources, which differ slightly in their advice. The first is from an article on roatanet.com, written by Ryan Bernal: (I am snipping to the relevant info)

(...) Getting a Health Certificate for Roatan
A recent health certificate from your veterinarian (no older than ten days) is required for each pet entering Honduras and for check-in at the airport. As a precaution you can also have your vet fill out a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) form and have it authenticated by a local Department of Agriculture office: $45. An even further precaution is to take the USDA authenticated form to a local Honduran Consulate for their authentication: $30. However, most times a ten-day recent health certificate will suffice accompanied by vaccination (including rabies) records.

The forms should be available at your local veterinarian or on the USDA website.

Pets Arriving in Honduras
Pets can fly into most airports in Honduras including Roatan International (RTB) and San Pedro-La Mesa International (SAP). Upon arrival with your pet you will go through immigration, but then be directed to the Honduran Department of Agriculture office (found in or near customs). There, the office staff will call for a veterinarian to come and inspect your pets.

You will have to wait for the veterinarian to arrive and if he or she is unavailable at the time you will be asked to come back at a later date and permitted to leave the airport. When your pet is inspected by the veterinarian you will be charged $50 and will need to show the health certificate and vaccination records. (...)


The second source is a post report from www.ediplomat.com, filled with various instructions for foreign service workers moving to Honduras. Here's what they say:

Pets Last Updated: 6/2/2004 1:12 PM

If you are planning to bring a pet to post, you must check airline restrictions on pet travel and make reservations well in advance. All U.S. airlines now restrict pet travel during the summer months. It is important to check and double-check that your pet is still confirmed for travel on the date scheduled, and to have alternate plans in the event your pet's travel is delayed. Detailed information on pet travel is available at the Overseas Briefing Center at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, or by visiting their web site at http://fsi.state.gov/fsi/tc/default.asp

If you bring your pet with you, you must have a health certificate from a U.S. veterinarian, dated no earlier than 10 days before your arrival, as well as proof of immunization against rabies and parvo between six and twelve months prior to arrival. A Honduran import permit must be presented to the airline when boarding in the U.S. and to the Honduran customs authorities upon arrival in Honduras. Your official sponsor will obtain this permit through a Honduran veterinarian. Your sponsor will need fax copies of your pet's U.S. health certificate, the photo page of your passport, and information on the type/breed, color, sex, weight and age of your pet. The cost of the import permit is approximately $50 per animal. The document normally takes several days to obtain, so you should provide the necessary information to your sponsor as soon as possible after receiving the (10 day) U.S. veterinary certificate.

You may also arrange to ship your pet separately as air cargo, but this is a more costly option. Arrangements on the U.S. side must be made via a commercial pet shipper. In addition to providing the above documentation, you must arrange for a local customs agent to clear the pet upon arrival in Honduras. GSO can assist by providing a list of reputable customs agents. There are additional fees for the commercial U.S. shipper, the actual shipping costs and Honduran customs agent.

All incoming pets are considered livestock by the Honduran customs authorities. As such, they are subject to import fees. These charges vary widely, depending on the breed and size of the animal. The fees cannot be waived for diplomatic personnel. (...)

Note the difference between these two sources - the ediplomat.com one indicates that you should obtain an import permit (via "your sponsor" which I guess I don't have... shucks) through a Honduran vet AHEAD OF TIME. Conversely, the article by Mr. Bernal seems to indicate that this can be obtained onsite at immigration in San Pedro Sula.

Hmmm.

Anybody know which is right????

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Stuff... and more Stuff... and still more STUFF


I have two weeks left in Minneapolis and am appalled at how much stuff remains to be packed, given away, or otherwise dealt with.

What I am I gonna do with all of this STUFF?

It's so hard to decide what should go and what should stay... according to the listservs I read about moving to Honduras, the question of what to bring and what to leave is of immediate concern to almost everyone.

I really don't care to import my Minneapolis life to Honduras in the form of boxes upon boxes of STUFF. I want to make a new life, with, errrr... new stuff, I guess. (Hopefully not too much it, either.)

But the question remains: what kind of stuff can you get in Honduras? And is it as good or better or worse than foreign stuff?

Take the example of an espresso machine. I have my eye on a Rancilio Silvia espresso machine. It's available online for about $500. So I ask myself, should I buy this thing here and bring it down? Buy it here and ship it down? Move down and then order it to be shipped there, if possible? Or could I find one in a store there? (Doubtful on the last bit, since it's barely available in stores in the US)

Kitchen equipment is of high concern to me, as you might have guessed. I have a ton of KitchenAid stuff and cannot figure out if I should bring that either. Can I replace it in Honduras with something of equal quality? Will I get in trouble if airline security finds kitchen knives tucked in among jeans and underwear in my suitcase? (Crap, maybe I should toss the jeans and underwear in favor of more room for a blender...)

And do you know how heavy my food processor is????

Ugh. I can't decide what to do!!!

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Clearance Letter


According to the Honduran Embassy, one of the required documents for obtaining residency is a so-called "clearance letter" from your local law enforcement agency, which must be subsequently authenticated by Embassy or Consulate staff. (I believe this is one of the "stamps" that expats often refer to, though I could be wrong.)

Last week I contacted the Minneapolis Police Department via my local "311" non-emergency switchboard to enquire. The woman on the phone knew just what I was talking about, and directed to Police History in room 310 of City Hall, and even told me what the cost would be ($1.25) and the hours of the office.

I went, and within five minutes I had a lovely, notorized document proclaiming my innocence and virtue. (Well okay, just innocence.)

On the other hand, LL contact his respective law enforcement authority in Houston and was ostensibly met by uncertainty as to what he was requesting. He was told that he needed to be fingerprinted, and then had to go through Texas DOJ records in Austin, and the FBI. (At what cost, I have not yet determined.)

Well a simple search on google led me to the Houston Police website which clearly states that they do clearance letters.

So here's my question:

Do we get more emigration in Minnesota than they do in Texas???

Obviously we are both borders states... but perhaps more Americans move up north to Canada than down south to the other myriad destinations in this fine hemisphere.

Who knows?

At any rate, I am quite sure that the erroneous information given to LL was taken from the procedures used for IMmigrants, rather than Emigrants.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

And now for a warm fuzzy feeling....

When I started this blog, (not so long ago, though it feels like an eternity to me) my purpose was twofold:

1) to share my experiences in this wild and weird journey from Minnesota to La Ceiba, in hopes that at some point they might be helpful to others.

2) to network with people in the area and hopefully gain some insight into life as a North American Expat in Central America. (And #2 essentially feeds back into #1, so long as I post info about the things I learn.)

Well, let me just say that the #2 objective has been met above my expectations. (And I've only had this blog for a couple of months!) Everyone I've contacted in Central America has been over-the-top helpful, and I feel incredibly lucky and grateful for the advice I've received.

(And please keep it coming folks... I'm still stupid about this, in many regards....)

BUT:

I have a small triumph related to objective #1.

Somebody actually contacted me to enquire about the details of moving to La Ceiba.

That's right, you heard me correctly!!!

(Pity the poor couple... hahaha... it's like the blind leading the blind, eh?)

But I still want to say a big "YAY!"

I will do what I can to help them... which will clearly amount to nothing more than sharing my own experiences and obstacles. It does feel nice though, I gotta say...

Crime

I feel sick to my stomach.

I was just reading the blog of another expat in Central America whose house was burglarized when he was away. Get this: not only did the burglars rob his home, but they also killed his two young dogs.

I consider myself to be a pretty tough chica, but if something like this happened to me and my pets, I would be absolutely hysterical.

Ugh.