This post is long overdue, I know. It took me a while to compile all of these observations and photos and come up with a post of my own. Frankly, I’ve been having too much fun to write about it all! Enjoy! – Jen
There are a lot of major differences between life in the States and life on the island of Utila. Here are a few observations. Note: I am not complaining in this post and I really, really, like it here.
It’s hot. Like really fucking hot. All the fucking time. It stays in the 80s here and does not let up (except when it rains, when it could get into the high 70s). In the sun, it feels like the 90s. You are sweating 24-7, except for when you’re in an air-conditioned room, which is not often. The house that we stayed in for a week does not have hot water, and for the first time in my life, I didn’t mind. For those of you who don’t know me very well, I’m one of those people who is cold more often than not. I used to keep a sweatshirt in my office and I’d wear it pretty much all the time. I do not like it when the temperature goes below 65. I call that cold. I am actually enjoying my cold showers. It’s so hot here that as soon as you step out of the cold shower you start sweating again. I think to myself, “Am I still wet from the shower or am I already drenched in sweat?” Tongue to face reveals a salty taste. Fuck, I’m sweating again. I keep reminding myself that sweating is helpful and if I didn’t sweat I’d die. Seriously, the condition is called anhidrosis (hypohidrosis) and it is not something you want.
To make matters worse, the power goes out on the island when there is a storm or a drug plane is coming in (not kidding). There are also scheduled power outages for 3-4 hours during the day occasionally, for reasons beyond me. It’s not always fun to sit in your apartment, unable to have fans or A/C going. At least we can jump in the water to cool down!
When we’d go on road trips in the Northeastern United States, I’d see road kill of the squirrel, possum, raccoon, or skunk variety. Here, it’s crabs. Loads of them – all shapes and sizes. They hang out in holes in the dirt and come out in the evening/nighttime. Have you ever seen a crab walk? They walk from side to side and it’s fucking creepy. There are no sidewalks here and crabs will cross the road whenever they damn please. Golf carts, motorcycles, 4x4s, and scooters will run right over the suckers, leaving a shelly, gooey mess.
Just like in Boston (and I’m sure other parts of the world), people do not pick up after their dogs. I’m not entirely sure all the dogs are owned by people here, so perhaps a lot of the poo piles are from strays. There are also a ton of cats and I’m in heaven. I have an unnatural love of cats. It seems that every bar or restaurant has its own cat (or 5). Every time I see one (which is all the time), I stop and say hi or meow at it or yell out “kitty!” Marbree is not amused. I heard from a local that years ago there was a rat problem on the island so they brought over some cats. Well, there is no spaying or neutering here, so you can guess what happened. I have yet to see a rat here. Other notable island animals include iguanas (and other lizards), hummingbirds, giant disgusting tree cockroaches, large spiders, bats, and crows.
In addition to the squished crabs and dog dookie, the streets are also littered with rambutan peels. There are a few dudes that sell them every day at the main intersection in town. I guess they’re popular because their refuse is everywhere.
What is shocking to me, though, is that there are trash cans every 10 feet or so on the main roads. That is how household and commercial trash is picked up – you put it in the street trashcan and some guys come by on a truck and pick it up every other day. So why all the rambutan peels on the ground? I tracked a piece of one into our old house from my shoe and 10 minutes later there was a tiny ant swarm on top of it. Did I mention the house we used to rent had ants? Ants of all sizes and for some reason, they loved our bathroom. We moved out of that place after a week. It had huge cockroaches, too. Fun times.
Oh, and there’s also a ton of street trash in general, mostly empty soda bottles (hardcore recyclers, try not to cringe too hard). What’s washed up on the beach is worst – it’s like a plastic wasteland. You may be able to find a somewhat matching pair of flip-flops, though, if you sift through the trash.
The food here is decent, when the good restaurants are open. The most common food items are baleadas, which consist of a flour tortilla with beans, cheese, scrambled eggs, sometimes lettuce and tomato and, if you want, chicken, beef or pork. It’s all folded over like a quesadilla or large soft taco. They’re cheap (equivalent of $1.50 – $3.00 depending on the size [regular, super or mega] and what you put in it). Fresh fruit smoothies are also a big thing here. I have to say, the fruit here is amazing – very fresh and quite the variety. In the States, when you order a smoothie, frequently it will be from a concentrate or powder with frozen fruit. On Utila, you can get a smoothie with fresh fruit (or chocolate or peanut butter if you’re feeling indulgent), ice, water or milk or juice, and sugar for anywhere from $1.50 to $3.00. Typical fruits available are watermelon, banana, pineapple, melon, papaya, mango, tamarind, and strawberry. The portions are large and they are sure to cool you down.
There is one Italian restaurant here, which is the most expensive on the island, but they make their own fresh pasta, and it’s delicious. There is also one Asian restaurant, called Foo King Wok (owned and operated by Texan ex-pats) and the portions are large enough to feed 3 hungry people. I am a big fan of their Thai curries. There is also one Mexican restaurant here, and they advertise that they serve food for all types (“Spicy and non-spicy food!”). I enjoy it, and the seating is on an upper deck overlooking the sea. The Mango Inn has a restaurant with the only brick oven on the island and their pizza is delicious.
Utila Food Company delivers sushi every Tuesday if you pre-order, and it’s delicious. We got the veggie and the tuna (10 pcs each and it comes with soy sauce, ginger, wasabi and spicy mayo) and both cost us a total of $11.
We very much miss good cheese (ie, brie, cave aged cheddar, smoked gouda, you know the stuff we eat), dark chocolate (the best they have here is a Milky Way Dark, ugh), good bread (Marbree will not bake bread in our oven due to the overheating of our apartment), hummus, tofu, and seitan. When we get back to the States in December, I foresee us eating ourselves into oblivion for the first week.
More updates to come, including details about my first bartending job! Feel free to comment!