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Chandra's Blog


Entries in Honduras (2)


La Vida Tranquila -- Ten Take Home Lessons

1. Things can be more simple.


sunset dock fishingHayden often said about Utila, "The days here are long, but the time passes quickly." Of course that is true when the day begins at dawn, when much of our effort is spent on the truly elemental tasks of food, exercise, water, heath, learning...

Why do we lose that in the translation of trying to hit the ground running in our US life? I have already caught myself leaving the tap on while I brush my teeth, and my initial combination of wonder and vague queasiness at the absolute abundance in the SuperGiant has been replaced by 'get groceries' on my To Do list.  

 Piper came to me the other day with a plastic bottle cap she had found on the beach.  She was carrying it carefully so the water wouldn't slosh out.

When I asked her what it was she said matter-of-factly,  "It's the back-up cistern for my fairy house." 

How do we remember all this when we go back to the land of stuff?



2. Make or purpose things we don't have.

Max and Pip constructing

we mastered the art of homemade bagels












3. Appreciate but do not abuse our new unlimited access to ... (fill in the blank: instant and constant internet acess, an iPhone that does more than act as a camera/flashlight, 24 hour electricity, hot water, drinkable tap water, paper products in public restrooms, imported produce,, etc)

4. Use less of...  (fill in the blank, see above list

5. We can live without TV, cable, microwave, dishwasher, dryer, Xbox, Playstation, (see above; the list is long)

6. Friendships forged in unusual places can be immediate, lasting, and span vast bodies of water.

Piper and Bine

chandra and amanda











pizza night with friends







Pip and Benja





amigo and max












7. Keep finding the interesting people, the experts in their fields and connecting them with the kids.

Uncle Brad was an endless source of marine biology info

Yesterday on our travels home we met the anthropologist Sue Hendrickson, who lives in Guanaja. She and Hayden chatted dinosaurs and conch pearls, Central American sandfly remedies and SCUBA diving. 

At the end of their visit, she swiped her palm against his for luck, and gave him a signed photo of her and her famous find, the most complete T-Rex skeleton.

We also were lucky to live next door to marine biologists Brad and Andi Ryon. Brad (center at left) was a willing partner in SCUBA, fishing and other maritime adventures, and Andi facilitated our connections to yoga. We also nd became close friends with Amanda and John Arne Løken of Float Utila, the world's largest sensory deprivation tank. You can read Hayden's review of Float Utila here.


Regular dive experiences with Diego Frank and Amir Gavrieli rounded out the experiences at Underwater Vision.


 There is something to be said for the kernel of adventuresome spirit that it takes to live in Utila, and the endlessly interesting characters one is fortunate to encounter there. 


8. You can move thousands of miles away, but it doesn't change who you are.

Within a month, we had a black dog sleeping in our bed, and mewling kittens waking us up to be fed.

Amigo and kids

Thunder, our formerly feral rescue kitten










9. Following our story has taken us to unexpected places both on the globe and within our family.

flying in Capt David's plane

commuting home with Andi









J and Max go diving




Hayden--certified diver














fishing tourney

La Ceiba, Honduras




















10. "Clean" "Safe" and "Necessary" are all relative terms. 


Night bonfires




 treasure collecting





Piper's schoolbus






don't worry--medical care is just a flight away













roasted coconut--a favorite













 BONUS Piper's favorite rule: In Utila, hairbrushing is optional. 

 Island girl



La Vida Tranquila -- Pint-Sized Tour Guide

I've never been a good napper. When I lived in Tarifa as a single woman, I spent the siesta hours of the afternoon taking long walks with my faithful dog and a Nikon. Peeking through arched white-washed doorways in this Spanish town with 13th century roots and heavy Moorish influence, I assembled a photo essay called Las Puertas Antiguas de Tarifa. I was thinking today that if I ever put together a photo essay of Utila, my common theme could be La parte posterior de las cabezas Bine y Piper since I spend much of my time in Utila following these two around. It's a pretty good gig.


The Backs of Bine and Piper's Heads 1

The Backs of Bine and Piper's Heads 2















The Backs of Bine and Piper's Heads 3

The Backs of Bine and Piper's Heads 4










Bine (pron. BEE-nuh) is Piper's dearest friend here. Her parents run FLOAT UTILA, the world's largest float tank (designed and built by Bine's Dad). They have one of the best love stories I have ever heard and I could spend hours sipping coffee and chatting with her mom while our kids play cheerfully.

Bine is a creative, curly-haired girl with a whimsical spirit and such a transparent, honest streak she often floors me with her direct imperatives and observations. 

I'm noticing a tender innocence to many of the children of my Utila friends. On the one hand, they are exposed to so much on the streets of Town. I often wish for ear muffs for my own kids when we pass the ferry port and there's crazy shirtless Webb greeting the incoming boat with his tarantula on a stick and some pelvic thrusting as he howls, "GOT-DAMN I WANT SOME FAH-KING GRINGA PUSS-Y!" as the horrified backpacker girls scuttle past. Or there's the diabetic bum begging for soda as he urinates openly next to the cafe where we're having breakfast. Or the crackies spitting at each other in a domestic dispute, or the brash potty-mouths of the twenty-something Aussie divemasters as we pile in the bed of the pick-up truck driving out to beach clean-up. 

But here there is also no TV, no commercials, no WalMart; a complete blissful lack of awareness of mainstream juvenile popculture. Maxim (5) only just learned of the existence of Batman. There is a commitment between the mothers here to maintain that innocence, and preserve some of the wonder of childhood, where afternoons are spent finding snails in the harbor, creating castles for hermit crabs on the beach or visiting bats in abandoned hotels. 

Bine, our tour guide

Today, after Piper's BICA school and yoga and workbooks with the boys in Bundu Cafe, we followed Bine on a tour of her version of Utila. We set out with the girls' hands tucked into mine as we attempted a snake-like single-file through the narrow street, the boys running ahead, and Bine and Pip singing in the sweetest improv soprano soundtrack, 

You have to be nice and caring

to fulfill your heart

and your dreams

of love

You can't be aggressive 

like a bulldog

or Piper's brothers...



 This place caught my attention the first time I traveled from Utila Town to the South Shore by boat, on our way from the US. It is a distinctly dated but elegant structure clinging to the hillside over the harbor. I asked our boat captain so many questions about it--why had it never been finished? who owned it? who lived there? that my kids dubbed it "Mom's Old Hotel".


Bine skipped ahead up the steep, green-slick street of Colibri Hill past a tangle of woods and barbed wire with the promise of bats on the fourth floor and a breathtaking view of the harbor. 

hiking up the hill 

Bat hotel 










I was fascinated by the wild grounds that showed hints of ambition, intricate tile work and the design of future fountains and gardens.

Bine danced past laundry on moss-slick paths, past an ornate red iron bedframe and turquoise bike and tugged open the unlocked door. All four children raced up the stairs screaming and clapping.

Underfoot, decades of guano and fruit pits crunched, amidst panes of broken glass and construction debris.


beautiful tile workIt reminded me of the Disney World attraction "Tower of Terror", set in a 1940s abandoned hotel with endless attention to historical detail to entertain park guests as they stood in hours of snaking line and waited to be thrilled. Only here, as my children clapped to startle bats and climbed through broken windows to balconies, I was acutely aware that no ride inspector or first world litigious system was ensuring their security. 


potentially stunning botanical and water features

view from the topThe view of the harbor below was worth it.



Bine's mom waved to us from the porch of their house below where she was whipping up one of her signature delicious lunches and toddler Gus was no doubt sword-weilding or plunging into their homemade boat bath in his underwear. 


Back inside the hotel, the startled, nocturnal bats flew in and out as we trekked through their territory. Photos couldn't capture it, so I shot a little shaky iPhone video (in between ducking).



bike and bed on the grounds

After I convinced the kids that dropping broken glass from the windows would be a bad idea, we followed Bine back through the overgrown grounds to lookout points. On the balcony of an outbuilding, a young couple kissed, smoke curling up from the cigarettes tucked in their dangling hands. Leafcutter ants stretched a procession a hundred yards long like a miniature landlocked green regatta.

At a fork in the road, we wound up to the Colibri Hotel with the promise of kittens, only to find they had grown into standoffish cats. Instead, we discovered a bright blue pool in a cove of palm trees, and an overloaded avocado tree that rained down its fruit in a gust of wind.


the backs of Bine and Piper's heads 5








A street puppy followed Piper and Bine over the rise in the hill and down again to town, panting and smiling up at them.

A motorbike carrying a family of four zipped past, the baby straddling the gas tank in an overloaded diaper.

An elderly Honduran cowboy in a bright orange shirt bowed and chuckled as Piper and Bine breezed by him.


"Come on!" Bine cried as she and Piper opened their arms like bird wings and rounded the curve of the hill by Johnny's Water back to Town.

"I know where we can see a bulldog named Ceiba and real live green parrots!"

I hurried to catch up. 

* *** *