Raising Chickens

Being a city gal, I don’t know anything about raising chickens but I am learning. My friend Cedo has chickens in her yard for eggs, and she recently bought some chicks that she will raise for meat.

There was a particular kind she wanted, and it seems the best place to get them is in Concepcion on Tuesday mornings. So, this last Tuesday we piled in the car and headed over. (They are not allowed on the bus so it’s either a car or taxi when you are carrying chicks. I’m not sure why since it seems pretty much anything else is allowed on buses. But, no chicks, and no fish)

Cedo bought 30 of the white (currently yellow) day old chickens, and four of another brown variety just to try them and see how they do.

When we got back to the house, she had a house ready for them (actually a recycled dog crate). It was in the back yard under a tarp to keep the sun and rain off of them.

The other chickens didn’t seem to interested in the new arrivals, and kept busy inspecting every inch of the yard for a bug or interesting leaf to devour. These chickens also arrived as little one day old chicks and they have grown fast and thrived. They are supposed to start laying eggs when they are six months old which shouldn’t be long now, maybe another month.

Today I stopped by Cedo’s house and the chicks are now in the pen at the back of the yard. They were making a mess with their water, and the newspaper under them was getting all wet which made the chicks a bit damp, not a healthy situation for little chicks. Now they can go in and out at will, and the water is outside where it won’t get their box wet.

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When the chicks are bigger, they will have the run of the entire pen. Now they are too little and can squeeze under the door or find other ways to escape. They are too little to be safe running around the yard, and are too little to be even running around their pen after dark so they go back in their box.

It will be interesting to watch this process. Cedo is very careful to keep her chickens healthy and free of hormones and chemicals, so there should be some really good eggs and meat. My next big question though is, who is going to kill the chickens? I suppose if I eat chicken it’s only right that I learn about how they get from the yard to the plate.

If any of you are local and want eggs or chicken, you know who to ask! She will also be taking orders for tamales a couple times a month, and she can make some really good tamales. At this rate I may never need to leave the neighborhood :D

 

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Saturday Market

Every Saturday there is a market where the government sells staples like rice, sugar, salt, cooking oil, beans, lentils, and some canned goods. I have been to the one in Concepcion a few times, but I recently learned that there is one here in David as well.

I went last week about 10:30 planning to get some rice but they were sold out. Last Saturday I went closer to 9:00 and there was rice, and plenty of people in line to buy it. I had seen 20 pound sacks of rice before, but this day they were selling 4 – 5 pound bags together in larger plastic bags.

People here eat a lot of rice. When they can get it here for $6 for 20 pounds, rather than $10-12 in the supermarket they think it is well worth coming out and standing in line. A few dollars may not be worth the bother to some of us, but it can be significant for many of the local people. My assignment today was mainly to get rice for Cedo who watches every penny. She eats rice herself and she also makes her own dog food. Commercial dog food is very expensive here, and her dog is also much healthier on her diet of rice, lentils, veggie and meat scraps.

Besides the government sales, there are many other vendors along the side of the open space.

I’ll try anything once, including conch. I was expecting something rather large that could have come out of the big conch shells I have seen, but instead the bag was full of small things about the size of a half dollar. The lady carefully explained that I should saute onion and garlic in butter, and then add the conch and cook it quickly. They should be eaten with patacones (a very popular dish of friend plantain patties, something like round french fries). I went to Cedo, my cooking guru and we put onion, garlic, aji (those small but sweet peppers) and some tomato in the food processor, sauteed that in butter, and then added the conch. I didn’t think we cooked them long but it is hard to tell when they are done. They had a very good flavor but were a bit tough, which could have been from cooking or because that is just how they are. I remember eating conch at a restaurant in the Florida Keys and it was about the same. So, I’m glad I tried it but I probably wouldn’t buy it again.

If anyone local is curious and wants to check out this market, here is a map and the red X marks the spot.

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There is a traffic light on the Pan-American highway where you turn onto calle F Sur.

No, we didn’t stand in the rice line after all. We were going to the supermarket next and decided that spending a few dollars more was well worth saving the time. I’m glad we went though for the opportunity to try the conch, and I would definitely buy more of those big chickens!

Posted in culture, Exploring the Area, food, Panama | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Thoughts on Bicycle Travel

I had thought about, planned for, and trained for my bicycle tour for at least a year. Last January I went back to the US and returned with the equipment I couldn’t get here, so I was serious about it even back then. Now that my trip is behind me, what do I think?

Am I glad I did it? Yes!

Would I do it again? Yes!

My bike made it to a Costa Rica beach!

My bike made it to a Costa Rica beach!

As I expected, bike travel is very different. You go slower than a vehicle so you see more, experience more of your surroundings, and interact with people along the way more. You can stop where you want, enjoy a view, cool off in a river, break for lunch, and do whatever you wish.

But, it was also challenging. I don’t usually bike 50 miles, so doing that distance every day was hard especially in the heat, and worse if there were a lot of hills. Aside from being tired I felt well except for my sore seat. Thankfully though I didn’t have any sore muscles or joints. I usually woke up at first light and was anxious to take advantage of the cooler morning, but by mid day it was hot enough to drain your energy. In the evening I was usually tired enough to only want to shower and fall in bed. I heard as the trip goes on you get more used to covering longer distances and this was indeed true for me. I think if I was going to do it again though, I might save more energy to enjoy the places along the way and take more time. Of course, this time, I was also motivated to get there because I had left Joel at home and didn’t want to be away any longer than necessary.

After a while, the trip felt surprisingly normal. I biked with Elza only for three days and then I set off on my own, something that I am very used to from biking around David. The scenery was different, and the experience was different but ultimately, it was just riding your bike down the road which, for me, is not new at all.

Pretty as a postcard

Jaco, Costa Rica, pretty as a postcard

I think I packed well. I took as little as possible to keep weight down. There was a beach towel that I never used, and I should have taken another t-shirt for evenings so I could wear one and wash another. I should have taken more inner tubes. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to buy another, but thankfully I finally found some and never needed them, nor did I need some of the other tools and spare parts I brought along. In general though I felt I had everything I needed and nothing (except the towel) I should have left behind.

Why do we take bicycle trips? Why do we look for new and interesting things? Why do we seek adventure? I think this guy summed it up very well. Check out this National Geographic Video.

Life Lessons from a 7-Thousand-Mile Bike Ride

I don’t plan to bike for 7 thousand miles! But, I can certainly relate to what he says. Maybe that is why I love living in a different country, and why I want to travel more. It’s exciting, challenging, and makes you feel so alive and out of any routines.

would like to travel more and I would consider doing it on the bike. I came back on the bus and it was very frustrating. You have to wait for the next scheduled bus, and you sit there and go where they take you, and stop where they make a stop. I so wanted to just get back on the bike and go now, and go where I wanted to go! I had to keep reminding myself that it would take me five days to do the distance the bus could do in one.

The bus from San Jose, Costa Rica to David, Panama was very interesting though. They came down from the city to the beach road, and drove along the very same road I had traveled on my bike. I saw so many familiar places where I had ridden, taken photos, taken breaks, and wandered off the main road. It was really fun to relive it all over again.

So what now? I have spent the first week back home just resting, settling back in, goofing off, and catching up on things. I don’t have the same training motivation to spend a lot of time on the bike. I sure feel strong now though. I went downtown for some errands and coming home felt like nothing, and I remember in the past how the long gentle uphill could be a challenge. And, I was coming home loaded with art supplies and four pineapples.

I still haven’t biked up the mountain to Boquete. This is my main unmet goal right now. That should keep me busy for a while and help me keep my conditioning. It’s only a 1166 meter (3825 feet) climb in 37 kilometers (23 miles) per http://www.cycleroute.org. Wish me luck :D

BoqueteRoute

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A Few Days in Nicaragua

The last few days of my bike trip were spent with my friends Deb and Ron in Ometepe Island, Nicaragua. We met through our blogs, and Joel and I house sat for them last September for 3 weeks and absolutely fell in love with Ometepe Island. It is a unique and beautiful place, and in a short time we had friends everywhere.

I almost felt like I was coming home as I returned to this beautiful island. I remembered my way around, and I remembered the people who lived in the various houses I passed between the ferry to my friends’ house.

I stayed an extra day because Monday was Ron’s birthday. Festivities were planned and they sounded like fun. There are a few back stories to this event, one of which is told better by my friend Deb in her blog. Click on the link to learn how the neighbor’s doctor came to spend his vacation staying at her house with his mother and two sons, and a bit about what it means to be a doctor in Nicaragua (hint – a doctor doesn’t earn enough to afford a hotel for vacation).

There is also a post about the neighbor’s house, and the new addition they put on for the doctor’s visit. It has a cement floor, a step up from the dirt floor in the main part of the house, and they hope to afford doors someday.

The last photo of Petunia and her piglets. There is also an interesting story about her mastitis and the treatment in Deb’s blog here. I had never heard of using a toad to treat infection and swelling so I mentioned it to a few people here back in Panama. One said oh yes, she knew of someone who had an infected and swollen leg, and rubbing a cane toad on it helped her a lot. Another said his wife has very swollen legs when she was pregnant. A friend brought a toad, rubbed it over her legs, and the next day the swelling was gone. Apparently something about the toxic skin secretions of the cane toad are very healing to these problems (thought there is no mention of this in the Wikipedia article). Who would have thought! There is always something new and interesting around here.

Oooh, I must remember to include the happy birthday song!

But, like all good things, my visit came to a close. I biked to the ferry which took me across the lake. By the time I got off and got my bike back, there were no taxi’s but it was easy to just bike to Rivas, the main town just a few miles away. It took me a little while and a bit of help to find the bus station. I wish I could have taken photos of the dozens of streets clogged with street vendors, cars, bikes, pedestrians, horse carts and everything you could imagine. But, I was very busy trying to follow the nice lady with her little girl on her handlebars who was leading me to the bus station.

I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of Nicaragua, and I hope to come back again. Even on this visit it was very interesting to see more of Rivas, and there are many other cities and areas I haven’t seen at all.  There is so much to see and do in this world, and even just in our own area.

 

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Guess Who Came to Dinner?

Kris Cunningham:

This is a post by my friend Deb in Nicaragua. I am glad I got to meet this sweet, gentle doctor while I was there.

Originally posted on Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua:

doctorsMarina was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease over two years ago. Her journey through this condition led her to a public healthcare surgeon in Managua, who removed her diseased thyroid in two operations a year apart. Gloria, her daughter, brought the diseased thyroid home in a plastic cup for all to see before taking it to a private clinic for a biopsy report.

I shook my head in disbelief.

What kind of pubic health system allows patients to bring a diseased body part home, then asks them to pay a private clinic for a biopsy report?

For Ron’s birthday, we decided to make a North American meal for 15 of our Nicaraguan friends and neighbors. Marina said, “My surgeon and his family are vacationing at my house for a week. Can they come, too?”

“Of course,” I replied. Again, I shook my head in disbelief.

Why would a surgeon want to…

View original 556 more words

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A Thousand Thank You’s

As I have accomplished my bicycle trip I have been so thankful and amazed by all the support, encouragement, congratulations, and good thoughts that have been sent to me. I appreciate each and every one of you who have helped me along the way!

Thank you Elza for being my biking partner for the first few days. You are just the BEST! You are young and strong and can bike rings around me, but you stayed by my side helping, teaching, supporting, and encouraging all the way. I didn’t have the experience or courage to set out on my own for my first extended trip, but with your help I got my act together and was able to successfully complete the rest of my trip. I will be watching your progress on your trip and wishing you all the best in everything you are doing along the way.

Thank you Steve and Martha for sharing your home with me in Playa Hermosa. It was great getting to know you and having such a comfortable place to take a break. Thank you for putting me up, for the great food, for the ride to the bus station, the tour of the area, and everything else you shared with me. I am looking forward to seeing you again when you are in our area.

Thank you Deb and Ron for giving me a home away from home on Ometepe, a magical place I quickly came to love also. Thanks for all the encouragement, for taking care of me when I arrived, and for being all around great friends. It’s wonderful to see you again and I am so happy to be here.

Thank all of you also, too many of you to mention – the fellow cyclists who have taught me and encouraged me, the friends who have supported me, the emails, Facebook messages, the blog comments, and the multitude of other ways you all have been here with me. Every one of you has helped me along the way.

If course the biggest thanks goes to Joel, my husband, who has always encouraged me to go for my dreams, whatever they are, no matter how crazy they may look! It is a beautiful thing to have a partner who gives you both roots and wings. I am a very lucky wife, and I appreciate you very much.

I will spend a couple more days here enjoying this wonderful place before I head home again, where life will continue. Who knows what other adventures and interesting things are in my future.

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The Destination is Reached!

After all the dreaming, preparation, training, cycling, and traveling I could hardly believe it when I crossed into Nicaragua, and I can hardly believe now that I am here. The last leg of the trip was also the best – really beautiful, fun, exciting, and an easy ride after the longer days I had done before.

I left the Nicaragua border behind me!

I left the Nicaragua border behind me!

it was a great day with a cool breeze, not too much sun, and a lot of happy feelings.

I know from hosting cyclists that there are many others on the road but up until now, I hadn’t seen any. Today though, I saw two, one from Chili traveling to Alaska, and another from England traveling down from Toronto to Argentina.

As I pedaled along the lake, there was a welcome cool breeze coming from the side, and sometimes a bit from the back. It is unusual for it to be so windy at this time of year and I was thankful it wasn’t a head wind.

Something I find very interesting in this area are the dozens of windmills along the lake. I have never had the opportunity to see them at such close range.

After a while the road went farther from the lake, went over some hills, and then came into Rivas. From Rivas I had to make my way a few more miles east to San Jorge and the ferry dock.

I was lucky at the ferry. They were loading up and left not long after I arrived.

It felt like I was coming home. I got off the ferry, proceeded up the familiar main road into town, turned down the other road towards the airport, made my way through the neighborhood, turned left at the school, and then through my friends’ neighborhood to arrive at their house.

Home!

Home!

Debbie, a fellow blogger, and her husband Ron are good friends. We house sat for them for three weeks last September and took care of their dog and cats, so I feel very familiar with their home, neighborhood, and neighbors. It does feel like coming to my Nicaraguan home, and I can hardly believe I actually made the goal of my bicycle trip!

I plan to spend a few days here, and then I will catch a bus back home.

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Leaving Costa Rica

I had been cycling for many days, occasionally taking a bus but mostly making my way on the bike. When I started it seemed like it was going to take a long time to get anywhere, but later when I checked a map it was hard to believe I was in the middle of the country, and then I was getting close to the Nicaragua border.

The last leg from Playa Hermosa though looked questionable. I knew it was more than I could bike in one day but there didn’t look like there were any towns or possible places to stay along the way. I have a tent for emergencies, but spending the night in the countryside in a tent wasn’t really what I wanted to do. So, I decided to take a bus to the border.

I was very glad I had made this decision. I was correct that there was nothing out there but untamed land. There is the Parque National Santa Rosa, and then the Parque National Guanacaste. Beyond them is the town of La Cruz which might have a hostel or two but was definitely farther than I could ride in a day. I was safe and comfortable on a bus that would get me to the border in plenty enough time to bike from there to the ferry to Ometepe Island.

We made it to the border in a couple hours, a distance that would have taken me a couple days to cycle. It was also hot, windy, and sunny so I know the weather would have been a challenge. With the bus though, I was at the border fresh and ready to go.

The border crossing went wonderfully smoothly. I paid my $7 exit tax out of Costa Rica, took the receipt to customs where there was no line, and was stamped through immediately. Then I rode a short ways to the Nicaragua border where I was shown to the first stop. They took my temperature by shining a little red light on my wrist, pronounced me fine and gave me a small piece of paper. Then I was sent to customs where I paid $1, I am not sure for what. I took that receipt, the filled out customs form, my health paper and again with no line, gave it all to the agent who asked me where I was going and stamped me through. The next stop was baggage check where they took one look at my loaded bike and just waved me through. The final stop was leaving the area for the open road where an agent checked my passport, asked where I was going, and welcomed me to Nicaragua as he sent me on my way. I don’t think it even quite noon and. I was ready to get rolling!

 

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Playa Hermosa at Sunset

I had a really good time at Playa Hermosa, nice friends, comfortable home, beautiful area, what’s not to like! Of course while I was there we needed to walk down and check out the beach. Sunset is my favorite time because it is beautiful and the setting sun doesn’t threaten to burn me.

Playa Hermosa is one of a number of lovely beaches in the area. There are also resorts and many expat homes here.

The setting sun was really beautiful and peaceful.

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We passed by a hotel to wash the sand off our feet. I loved how they had built the hotel around the huge trees.

I really enjoyed my time at Playa Hermosa with my new friends. Sometimes it is interesting to find out how much you have in common with someone. Steve and I were both in home health, had made side roads into computer work, and we enjoyed photography and art, to name just the highlights. He and his wife wanted to meet on their visit to Panama but I had already left on my cycling tour. Who would have thought that we would meet in Costa Rica instead! Check out their blog here http://stevesexpatblog.weebly.com/

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Nicoya to Playa Hermosa

Wednesday, my objective was to bike from Nicoya to Playa Hermosa where some friends offered to host me for a while. I was so tired the night before that I fell asleep before 8pm, so I woke up shortly after 5am. I packed, checked emails, but wasn’t feeling like eating at that early hour so I was on the road a bit before 6am. It is nice to get such an early start in the cool morning air. I was almost chilly the first hour, and I tend to look around a lot more when I’m not trying to keep my face out of the intense sun.

It was interesting to be out so early. There was some traffic on the road, but if I had any ideas of stopping for breakfast in an hour or two I was out of luck because nothing was open. The cool air was really nice though. I had also been warned to get an early start because it was expected to be windy in the afternoon. I could already feel the wind picking up by 7am. This is unusual because this is not the season for wind.

The time went by, the miles went by, the sun became higher, and the wind got stronger and stronger. Thankfully there was only a few spots where I was facing it head on. Most of the time it was partly or fully from the side and at least the terrain was quite flat. I listened to Seven Years in Tibet on my MP3, and his account of escaping from a prison camp in India by trekking through deadly cold conditions in the Himalayas, often with minimal food, that made my heat and saddle soreness seem quite insignificant.

Today was a 50 mile day which went very well, but the last few miles were the most challenging. As I got close to my destination the road began to climb, and climb, and climb while I was hot and tired. Another cyclist gave me a big cheer of encouragement, not knowing that I just walked the last section. But, eventually I reached the top but then faced a really intense downhill. I took it a bit slowly and checked my bike part way down, and my rims were too hot to touch. I waited a while until they were cooler and the discovered, thankfully, that I was very close to my destination. The directions to my friends’ house were excellent and I didn’t have any trouble finding them.

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There was a great reward at the end of the day – good friends, a very comfortable house, and even a pool!

I can’t believe I have made it to the other side of Costa Rica! The plan now is to rest for a day at my friends’ house. Then I will bus to the border rather than risk a need to spend the night in a rather remote area. Once at the border I bike into Nicaragua to Rivas and catch a ferry to Ometepe Island, my destination! I am really excited.

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