Monday, February 27, 2023

Passport to The Unknown – #Memoir #Honduras #Epiphanies

I've Worn Many Hats cover

By Anne Hamilton Fowler (Guest Blogger)

I had it all, didn’t I? A thriving successful company, happy adult children, a beautiful home in Toronto, an exciting active, social life. So why at age 60 did I apparently throw in the proverbial towel and upend my life to pursue a new passion by relocating to another country? A country that the BBC had once dubbed “The Murder Capital of the Western World.” Is it possible that appearances were deceiving and life was not everything it seemed? What was missing?

The gauntlet was first thrown down in 1993 when my family doctor, director of an upcoming medical brigade to Honduras, said “Why don’t you come with us Annie? It’s like a poor summer camp; you loved camp, you’ll love it! Dr. Jim had led several teams and I knew this was not his first rodeo so I said yes, not realizing it was a decision that would change the course of my life.

Finally, the day for our much anticipated adventure came. Loaded down with bug spray, Imodium and “roughing it” clothing, I arrived at the airport that October morning very excited, more than a little apprehensive and having no clue what to expect. Off we jetted to Honduras for a two -week medical brigade, accomplished our good works and returned to Toronto. Right? Not quite!! As I relate the following experience, please keep in mind that it occurred before airports resembled lockdown areas, when passenger agents engaged in friendly conversation with travellers and regulations were at a minimum. A busy but more relaxed atmosphere definitely prevailed. You came, gave your ticket to the agent, checked your bags, went for a coffee/drink and proceeded to the departure lounge. What’s not to like? 

I didn’t see Dr. Jim in the crowd so I checked in at the Delta counter and headed for my gate. You should be aware that before a flight it was common practice for me to sit unseen, hidden in the gate’s alcove, with my head buried in a just purchased mystery novel. I am a voracious reader and when into a good book I’m totally oblivious to all external sounds. Today was not an exception. 

As the Delta passenger service agent gently shook my arm, interrupting my reading to bring me back to the real world, she inquired, “Who are you waiting for?” I replied, “For the rest of my medical team travelling on your flight to Miami and on to Honduras.” Looking slightly horrified she announced, “But they left ten minutes ago.” Tucked away in a corner, unaware of any activity around me, I had been invisible to everyone and been overlooked! This was of course a situation that could NEVER happen today. 

“What should I do now?” I asked. Never before encountering a situation like this, the clearly flustered agent replied, “I have no idea, let me check.” Subsequently, I was deposited on their next Miami flight, apologized to profusely and ASSURED that Dr. Rodgerson would be alerted to my dilemma. Didn’t happen and he remained in the dark. Arriving in Miami, I had just missed the last flight of the day to San Pedro Sula. Delta handed me a food voucher, put me up in an airport hotel and I left the following morning on their first flight out to Honduras.

Fast forward three hours to my arrival at San Pedro Sula’s old non-air-conditioned terminal that felt like a sauna inside. The crowded room was filled with voices speaking at warp speed all at once in very loud Spanish. As I would soon learn, Hondurans in groups are incapable of holding a conversation at anything below the eighty-five decibel level. To further complicate things, my luggage containing all contact information was of course on the earlier plane with the other team members. No problem I thought, I’m going to see them shortly. Wrong!

Turned out they had left for the mountains that morning. After all, I WAS a day late. Although I was understandably stressed, I did not panic, did not suffer a memory lapse and managed to remember the name of Honduras MMI director Ruth Castro. Airport staff, who knew her well, telephoned Ruth and then handed me the phone. Hearing my voice, she said, “Where on earth have you been? Dr. Jim was frantic. Don’t move, I’ll be there in forty minutes.” 

Later, I came to appreciate that Ruth was a rare example in Honduras of someone who if they say they will be there at a certain time, it actually happens! The following day, a ride was arranged that would enable me to finally reach my destination. Did the car have air conditioning? Of course not! After surviving a terrifying twelve hour ride on narrow, twisty, pot holed mountain roads, I arrived at the remote village of Erandique and joined my team. Dr. Jim was VERY relieved. It would now be unnecessary for him to explain to my children how he had lost their mother somewhere between Toronto and Honduras!

Let me now describe our working/living conditions. We slept in sleeping bags spread out on a dirt floor, took cold showers (when they worked), fought off various pests such as scorpions, mosquitoes and a mouse that had inexplicably descended from the ceiling onto the face of a sleeping female volunteer. Eek!!! Routinely we awoke to the sounds of musical roosters serenading us at 4 am and local street dogs fighting over garbage. 

When our work day started at 7 am lines were already in place with hundreds of tired, ragged Hondurans; some had walked all night to reach the medical team. We set up shop in a local school using classrooms as examining rooms, a pharmacy and dental. Following registration people were directed to a doctor or dentist, diagnosed, treated and if required, a prescription was written to be filled in our makeshift pharmacy. Lunch was eaten on the fly, there were just SO many people to see and not enough daylight hours to do it. 

The days’ work ended around 7pm when tired brigade members chowed down at dinner, compared stories, calculated stats (number of patients seen, number of extractions, etc.), chatted for a while and then collapsed in their sleeping bags too exhausted to care about the hard dirt floor, stifling heat and humidity or that there was no electricity for fans.

I didn’t care, I had fallen in love with the Honduran people! One night after falling into a deep sleep, I experienced an event that changed the direction of my life. I suddenly woke up at 3 am clearly aware that the way I was living my life had to change. As I lay there awake, mulling over this new thought, I assessed the steps that would be necessary. It was obvious that in the past I had made some very, very, bad choices! Semblance of a plan slowly formed in my mind and by the time I returned to Toronto I’d come to a decision. I announced that I would retire in 2001, close down my company, sell the house, spend six months of the year in Honduras and six months at the cottage. The supportive response I received? “Sure you will Anne!”

The next seven years were spent driving my staff, friends and family crazy with this new obsession to become a “do gooder!” I continued participating in annual two week medical brigades right up until it was time to pack in my “old life.” The only exception to usual brigade participation occurred in October1998 when Hurricane Mitch, the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record, hit Central America, devastating Honduras. For the second year in a row, two weeks prior to the brigade’s start, I had travelled to Guatemala to study Spanish in Antigua, a town in Central America well-known for its many language schools. Even now 25 years later I can still visualize the devastation caused by Mitch and my heart aches for the people who were affected. November 7, I was transported by military helicopter from Guatemala to their Honduran base. As we flew over Honduras nothing could have prepared me for the devastation that I viewed from the air.

Our team members from North America were unable to come. The airport was closed with mud and water reaching to the second story of the terminal building. I joined volunteers and local medical personnel at a crisis centre set up at the Lions Hall in the centre of one of the hardest hit cities, El Progreso. And the people came, thousands of them. Most had lost everything and they all echoed the same complaints of vomiting, diarrhea, fungal infections and headaches. Psychologically they were completely traumatized. Each day we all worked long hours until I could barely stand. The lines never seemed to get shorter and when we returned the next morning, there were still thousands waiting. After a few weeks some of us ventured outside the city in an attempt to provide medical aid, blankets, clothing and food to surrounding devastated communities. The conditions we encountered were akin to looking at photos of Hiroshima.

My scheduled two-week brigade turned into a two month Honduran stay. Just before Christmas I was able to get a flight out; I was deathly ill. Flight schedules from a heavily damaged San Pedro Sula airport were still disrupted and travel back to Toronto required taking a convoluted route through Puerto Rico plus a few other stops to change planes along the way. My memory of that trip is extremely vague but after enduring nine weeks of sloshing through the Honduran mud, breathing in Heaven only knows what infections, I finally returned home in bad shape but safe.

Was I exhausted? Absolutely. Did the experience change my mind about moving to Honduras?

No one was surprised to hear it had only solidified my determination.

I've Worn Many Hats


Laughter, sadness, empathy, outrage. Canadian Anne Hamilton Fowler appeared to have it all. However, life is not always as idyllic as it seems and at age twenty a series of events almost destroyed her. Emerging from the wreckage she reinvented herself, started over, and proceeded to live on the edge with a risk-taking lifestyle. Then in 1993, an event experienced during a trip to Central America changed everything.

I’ve Worn Many Hats is an inspirational read that demonstrates our human frailties, one’s ability to survive personal adversity, and how we can learn to forgive both ourselves and others. It is a story of redemption.

Anne Fowler is a retired Canadian who divides the year between her Haliburton summer cottage and Central America. This memoir is her first book and all proceeds will go to support Anne’s ongoing humanitarian work in Honduras.


One of the perks of being a single older woman is that you have opportunities to meet successful older men. Ones who often have money to spend on expensive items like jewellery, vacations and mink coats. Mink coats? Yes, MAL managed to snag a full-length blackglama mink from a paramour. Looking very stylish she ignored animal rights defenders and confidently wore it to, among other places, client functions. Imagine her chagrin when the tax man seated in her office auditing Hamilton Enterprises’ company books informed her in a sarcastic voice, almost choking on his coffee as he said it, “Really, Mrs. Fowler, you cannot write off your mink coat as a business expense for entertaining clients.” I wonder what he would have said to the other entertainment it was used for?

You already know MAL is somewhat of a risk taker so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when I describe the following escapade. It was a very cold evening and to celebrate a major business success, the donor of the coat was wining and dining Mrs. F at a well-known Toronto restaurant. MAL greeted him at the door of their downtown hotel room, ready to go, wearing a new pair of stiletto heels, beautiful earrings and of course, the coat. They arrived at the restaurant and were shown to a banquette table. “Can I take your coat Madam?” the waiter inquired. “No, I am still quite chilly so will keep it on,” she said. The shrimp cocktail was delicious and as they waited for their steaks to be served her date said, “Aren’t you hot with that coat on?” 

“You have no idea,” MAL said with a sly smile. Somehow, she managed to eat her dinner without dipping a coat sleeve in the meat or veggies. By the time the Creme Brulee was served, her date was becoming suspicious and discreetly slipped his hand under the coat. “Oh,oh,” she said, guess I forgot something!” Then being such a nasty person, she delayed their exit from the restaurant by ordering a second Spanish coffee. It is fortunate that during their cab ride back to the hotel the driver avoided having an accident and managed to keep his eyes on the road, not on the rear-view mirror. Explanations to the police would have been very awkward!

Buy Links

For Canadian readers:  

Paperback –

eBook –

For US readers:  

Paperback –

eBook –

UK – 

Germany –

France – 

Spain –

Italy – 

Australia –

About the Author

Born and raised in Toronto, I grew up an only child in a traditional middle class Canadian family of the 40’s and 50’s. But my life has been anything but traditional! After finishing school my career included flight attendant with American Airlines, model, travel agent, world traveller, sales and marketing and almost 30 years in Human Resources as an entrepreneur/ business owner. I closed my company and retired in 2001 to take up another role, that of humanitarian. As someone once said when they described my various life pursuits during their introduction of me as that night’s speaker, “And she’s only 108 years old”!

To reach me:


Face Book messenger: Anne Hamilton Fowler

Web Page:


I’ll give you a copy of my memoir I’ve Worn Many Hats if you will agree to email me with your comments after reading the book! To pique your interest in reading it, here is what one reader said!

Her candid account spanning decades of a long bumpy life evokes many emotions; laughter, empathy, shock, admiration. As I read the first half, I kept going back, re-reading and thinking, she did what?! In the second half of the book, I discovered what inspired her to make such a drastic change in her life and accomplish “all this.”  The memoir is hard to put down, in fact I read it twice! Bravo!”



Lisabet Sarai said...

This is a wonderful story, Anne. We never know, do we, when an off-hand decision will turn into a radical life shift!

bn100 said...

sounds interesting
bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Post a Comment

Let me know your thoughts! (And if you're having trouble commenting, try enabling third-party cookies in your browser...)