Search Chandra's Blog
Blog Tags
"Apparition" "Art of Spiritual Warfare" "Best in Show" "Body of a Girl" "Exposure" "Gone with the Wind" "Half a Life" "Husband and Wife" "My Foreign Cities" "Myth of You and Me" "Open Your Heart with Gardens" "Stiltsville" "Substitute Me" "Temptation by Water" "The Bird Sisters" "The Book Thief" "The Guardian Angel Diary" "The Heroine's Bookshelf" "The King's Speech" "The Language of Light" "The Love Goddess' Cooking School" "The Mobuis Striptease" "The Peach Keeper" "The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted" "The Wednesday Sitsters" "This House" "Unintended" 50th Book Club Prize Pack act 'as if' Adam Levine adoption adventure advice Alpha Male Ann Hood Anna Cole Atlanta attachment parenting authors autism babies babywearing bad reviews bats beach house believer Ben Bethany Hamilton Betty Smith Big Nate birderd birthdays biting Blizzards blog hopping blog tour blogging blogswap blurb body image book book clubs book tour Books and Books Boudreaux boys breastfeeding Bridget Asher brothers Buffalo News Caeli Widger cake California cancer caramel oat bars Caribbean Carol Shields Carolyn Haley cats Cayman Cayman Compass Ceausescu chameleon Charles Bukwosi Cherry Cheryl Chick Lit Plus Chickens childhood CHOP CHOSEN Christina Shideler Christmas Christmas cards chuffy Cinderella clothes coconut water color Colorado comedy community connected contests cooking co-sleeping cow milking craft criticism Crown Publishers cry it out Dakota Darin Strauss David Lipsky dawn Dawn Chorus Daybreak 27 Destined to Fail Diana Abu Jaber Diane Lockward DOG BLOG Dog Whisperer dogs domestic ritual Dr. Anna Leahy Dr. Karen Monroy Dr. Oz Due Uve editing editor education eggs Elizabeth Scarboro Emily Kennedy Erin Blakemore evening walk expeditionary learning Exposure Facebook fake it til your make it Falcor family family bed fan mail fans farm life favorite books feminism Fon Wang Forrest Free stuff friends friendship gardening geography gluten-free goats God Grand Family Grant Schnarr grey hoodie grief guest blog Gyllian Davis Hannah Shelton Harper HarperCollins Hayden HHarperCollins hockey Hoffman's Natural home homeschooling homework Hondiuras Honduras horses hospitals Huffington Post Huffington Post divorce editor ice hockey Ilie Ruby inspiration International Women's Day iPhone island living 'It Takes a Village' Ivan Jungé J Jane Austen jasmine tea Jeffrey Eugenides Jenna Blum Jessica Keenan Smith Jessie Jonah journals Judy Blume Julianna Baggott Kelly Simmons Kid History kids Kristin Kimball Labrador Laos Leah Stewart least favorite word letting go Lincoln Pierce Linda Davis Linden Lisa Belkin Lisa McKay literary agent live in the now living with less Lois Alter Mark Lori Odhner Lori Tharps loss Lost Boy love language love story Lucky jeans Maggie Nelson magic Maria Massie marriage Martha Beck Max Maya Ziv meat Meg Waite Clayton Melissa McNallan Melissa Senate memoir menagerie mentor Michelle McGee micro fiction mindfulness miracle Miranda July modern living mojitos momstinct money mothering MoxieMomma nachos NAIBA New Year Newfoundland Newfoundlands Nichole Bernier NRA Nutella NYTimes NYTimes Motherlode ocean Opening Heavens Doors optimistic orphanage paint Paleo Comfort Foods parenting patience Pay it forward persistence Perthes Disease Peter Pan phobia Piper pizza plot poetry ponies Portland Psychology Today publication publishing puppy puppy breath puppydom Pushcart Prize Q&A quilts Quinn readers reading Rebecca Gyllenhaal Rebecca Rasmussen Remy resolutions retreat review reviews revision ritual rockclimbing romance writer Romania running Sally Kim Samantha March Samoyed Sampson sangria school SCUBA secret confessions security senior project Sept 11 serendipity sewing sexting sexy SheKnows Book Club PIck of the Year SheWrites shopping short fiction SImon&Schuster simple life sister sister-cousin sisters slings smells snow snow day songs Sophie space exploration Spain Spanish spiders sshort fiction Starbucks stuttering style Summer reading sunset Susanna Daniels Swedenborg swimming teens Thanksgiving the climbing tree The Four Ms. Bradwells" The Grain Exchange The Name Game Thelma Zirkelbach Therese Fowler THUMOS TIME magazine tingarita Tourettes tradition travel Twitter two lives ugly dolls unschooling Utila wedding whale sharks white wine William Faulkner winter Wisconsin worry write your life writing writing and parenthood YA Fiction yoga Zulu

Chandra's Blog


Entries in shopping (2)


La Vida Tranquila -- Part Three 

First Trip To Utila Town

           The day began at 5:15, since our feet point east toward the open louvered windows and Honduran pineSunrise from our bed French doors that let in both the breeze and the light. I had actually set an alarm because I was worried after staying up late for dinner and drinks with friends the night before, I might miss my 7:30 boat ride into town with our neighbors for yoga.

 The kids woke up at dawn too--rattling around and scratching and kvetching. Max wound himself up in the lone mosquito netting over their bed like a little taquito all night and left poor Piper to be munched. J was covered in sand fly nips too. A quick call to Señor Tino regarding more mosquito netting from the Mainland, and amazingly, three of them were on our doorstep before the day was over.

Breakfast was weak ground coffee with rice milk for us and for the kids, the overpriced box of Froot Loops. I'd grabbed this when we stopped at Bush's Market on the way home from the airport the first day, not bothering with lempira conversion, just seeing an American product and nabbing it. But in a place where Flor de Caña Nicaraguan rum is cheaper than cow's milk, the kids ended up dumping the cereal and the boxed leche they deemed 'gross' on the crab-compost pile out back. J called this a victory, and I scrambled some eggs. Land and hermit crabs descended on the cereal and the rest of our compost--the entire pile was gone by midday. 

As the sun spread over the red earth, Max and J walked me to the Coral Beach marina where Max astonished everyone by befriending Princess, the most skittish of the project dogs. I boarded Brad and Andi's boat and we wove through the network of mangrove canals to Utila Town, Andi pointing out egrets in the bird sanctuary on the way. They arranged for a tuk-tuk to pick me up at the marina since three would have been too cozy on their motorbike, and Alejandro drove me the short distance over rutted roads, past colorful houses with backyard crab pens. Similar to Cayman, locals catch the abundant land crabs and feed them mangos for several weeks to clean them out and sweeten them before eating.


In town, my first feeling was one of complete nakedness. I often experience a similar sensation whenever I'm without any kids, but this was more intense. I was without all my US trappings as well. Carrying only my yoga mat, a pack of pink Trident, a list of sundries and groceries to pick up, and enough lempiras for the tuk-tuk from the boat dock ($1.50) Ashtanga class ($5) and a few days of supplies. I had no watch or cell phone--I didn't even have J's Honduran phone number. The plan was for him to take the kids to work with him on the South Shore, then bring the Miss Quinn to the dock at Coco's Bar to pick me up, sometime around 11. 

"But how will we find each other?" I worried, and he assured me town was small enough that we would. Did this mean, I wondered, that a gringa like me would not blend in?


Utila TownI spent the early morning at my first-ever Ashtanga yoga class on the outdoor dock of a bar, where Aura clucked knowingly over my tight runner's hamstrings and promised I would get better each time. In Spanish, English and Sanskrit, she guided me and five women through a powerful sequence of poses and breathing and chants. Her adjustments, lilting accent and reassuring demeanor were perfect. The class was complemented by the view across the blue water to the mainland in front and the start-of-day street sounds--the clink of bottles and the putt and pop of dirt bikes--behind us on the narrow street.


After class, I was introduced to two other expat mothers. One has a boy around my boys' age who is learning to windsurf but they are leaving for six weeks in Denmark. Another has a little girl turning five on Friday. She promptly invited us all to the party and I eagerly jotted down the details: "Bine" 5 years old, pizza, kids! Jumping off dock into ocean. Bring suits! Bine's mother told me this is how it often is in Utila--just as one friend leaves, new ones arrive. I remembered the fast friendships formed in other international cities where I have lived-- quick connections, hungry conversation, immediate companionship.

Afterward, I wandered down Main Street and stopped into several little markets, ticking items off my list and practicing my Spanish. When one man chuckled over my purchase of thirty eggs I said, Tengo tres niños acasa que gustan los huevos! He answered with a friendly string of Spanglish I pretended to understand. I was beginning to notice throughout the island that this was an unofficial dialect. Nobody said 'Vale!' like they do all over Andalucia, but the English and Spanish were equally garbled.

At another store, I wracked up 1,024 lempiras of rice, beans and produce. Rather than take and make change for another 500 bill, the man waved me on and told me to bring it the next time I was in town, and with a broad smile, he welcomed me to Utila. 

I bought clothespins for the drying line I strung behind Casa Tranquila, a butane torch for the stove, six huge fresh mangos, bananas, coconut and almond milk for the smoothies my kids guzzled and a white cheese so intense-smelling it reminded me instantly of Gertie and Phoebe.

I passed on a rasta-colored hammock for the porch that was overpriced, and made a note that the movie showing at the tiny cinema Friday night looked good--something about Drew Barrymore and trapped whales. I scanned the menus of cafés and ogled nightspots where fifteen years ago, I would have been whipping my hair and dancing til daylight. The general street population was a curious mix of young Euros, grungy, barefoot twenty-somethings, SCUBA divers, and coffee-skinned locals, all jockeying through the narrow streets on anything with wheels. 

Wandering back toward Coco's, I happened to look up as the Miss Quinn came into the harbor with J at the motor and my three tangly-haired blondes in baseball caps and sunglasses. There was some relief in the serendipity of this--that all of this happened as we planned, without texts or obsessive calling or discussion over whether or not we needed the hammock I passed on, and where he thought I might find cinnamon and whole bean coffee. The important parts had been accomplished, and now we were here, the family reuniting.

A motley group of island dogs, odd mixes of dachsund and pitbull and pointer and labrador jogged past the next yoga class on the dock to greet them. One growled at J and his owner whacked his rump.

"All dogs like me!" J insisted. The kids found this hilarious and a girl swabbing the bar deck waggled her mop after him. Together, we loaded up our little craft with the flimsy bags of groceries and glass bottles of olive oil and wine and supplies. Max untied us, J engaged the motor, we waved goodbye to everyone and headed back out to sea, toward the quieter side of the island, and home.

 * *** *


To read Part Two, The Things We Carried, click here

To read Part Four, La Vida Simple, click here




Does everyone feel this queasy when holiday shopping? I am sitting here at midnight, the veritable dawn of CyberMonday, preparing to fill my online shopping cart with items for my kids, anxious to get the major chunk of my Christmas shopping out of the way, and sick about it all at the same time.

I've spent a month scouring the expensive catalogs for the meaningful toys, the lasting toys, the learning toys, the art supplies, the games and crafts that will bring the family together. I've made my list and I've checked it way more than twice, trying to stay on budget, be equitable, and have things that everyone will love both on Christmas morning, and long after. I take this very seriously. So, hang on to your order slips, Museum Tour, Hearthsong, Nova Natural and Back to Basics: you're about to get your cyberboom. 

But there are a few more items on my list, the ones that give me even more pause. I refuse to brave the mall and after roughly sixty fishing emails from ToysRUs this weekend I've decided to boycott them too. (There must be a term for that--when your marketing is so aggressive that it backfires, making people pissed enough that they'll look elsewhere.)

And I know I have to hit a sporting goods store for the 'gear' items on the boys' lists sometime quiet midday/midweek, but then there's still these last few things... these nagging six items...


Sometime between now and Christmas, I have to make a Target/WalMart run for what my husband and I call plasticrap.

Not literally, not rubber dog doo, but the jazzy-looking, one-hit-wonders of Toyland, the crap plastic toys that get advertised on TV, that will have *wow* factor for three to seven glorious minutes Christmas morning, followed by their random parts turning up in the bottom of toy bins, under the couch cushions or jamming up my central vac for the next six months when, if I can find enough of their parts, I hustle them on to the Thrift Barn.

Last Christmas, I tried to avoid this. I told my kids we were going plastic-free for Christmas, went so far as to show them the plastic sea in the Pacific . My then eight-year-old and fervent marine-life lover Hayden was horrified by this, but he was equally concerned about a Christmas without Bionicles. "But, Mom?" he asked in a heartbreakingly hopeful voice, "Can't our plastic just go in a landfill?"




So here's my question: 

How do you handle the influx of plasticrap, of the nagging need to buy meaningless, multipart, overmarketed toys?


Go ahead. You can tell me. I won't feel bad if you do it better than me, if you hand-make all your kids' gifts or buy them all at local craft sales, or if you have your kids convinced that Christmas is about cooking at the homeless shelter and knitting for the needy. But I just might steal some of your ideas for next year...



PS Last year's solution was also to let grandparents be exempt from my rules about the plasticrap, a la Max's ridiculously large collection of crazybones from his Maynah in the photo at right. As you can see from his Christmas morning grin, we are a-okay with this. And I have to tell you, the boys continue to love these, use them in trading situations with friends and play a modern version of jacks with them several times a week. Win win?