The Ferry to Bainbridge Island

Thursday I decided to take the ferry to Bainbridge Island, a spot not far from Seattle. It was an easy trip on the bus downtown and a short walk to the pier. The day started off cool and overcast but soon cleared up and became another sunny, beautiful, northwest summer day so it was a really scenic trip.

This is by no means all of the adventure I had in the Seattle area! If I don’t get anything else posted today, I will have plenty of time to prepare photos and blog posts on the way home. I leave early in the morning, meet up with Joel in Atlanta (he has been in Maine and Kansas visiting other family), and then we finish the trip together back to Panama City and David.

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Next Stop, Seattle

My younger daughter lives in the Seattle area. I decided to spend a week here so I could explore the city and the area a bit since I haven’t spent much time here before.  She gave me a card for public transportation so with the help of Google maps and directions, I have been out and about while she and her husband were at work. Except for one unplanned excursion to Tacoma (where I met interesting people on the bus and had fun), I have managed to get where I wanted to go.

It is fun to photograph city scenes, something I don’t usually do. I ordered a small camera which unfortunately didn’t get shipped out in a timely manner so my iPad has been my camera. It takes decent enough photos to keep me entertained for a while though, so I have lots of photos to sort through and share.

These photos were taken over a few days. There will be more coming about specific activities in the days while I have been here. Seattle in the summer is a fantastic place with a lot of both natural and made made beauty, and a lot of things to do.

If you want to know more about the sculpture garden, google “Olympic Sculpture Park”.  It is a part of the Seattle Art Museum.

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Visiting Family

We are back in the US. I haven’t posted anything for many days because I’ve been too busy doing things to talk about them. We have been having a fantastic time!

First stop, California, home of my older daughter and family. It was a short visit because they are busy and working and juggling all the things of a young, working family. It was great to see everyone though! Needless to say, my grandson had changed a lot since we saw him last winter. It was so interesting to see his brain in constant motion watching, learning, and mastering new activities.

Next stop, Seattle, where I have had more time so I have lots of photos and adventures to share.

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New Ads on the Photos

Apologies to all my readers for the ads on the photos. They look so annoying!

From what I have been able to learn, they are something new from Word Ads, the folks who put the ads on the bottom of blog posts. I think those ads are acceptable and I appreciate that they now earn enough to cover my hosting costs.

These new ads on the photos are apparently from Luminate. I have written to WordPress and WordAds support to ask how to get them removed. I also found this op out link. http://www.luminate.com/opt-out/  It might be worth a try.

I hope to get this resolved soon, and meanwhile I thank you all for your patience.

 

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Bugs

My life would not be complete without photos of bugs now and then. Most of these were seen on a pillar on the terrace one day so I grabbed my macro lens to take a closer look. The field of focus is very small, but it allows you to see things in much more detail than is possible with the naked eye.

This is the end of the posts I prepared during our many hours on the bus and plane. We are with family in the US now so thee will be photos of my grandson and new sights from new places!

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Community and Acceptance

When on a bus or plane for hours, what do you do? Write blog posts!

My friend Haydee was at my house the other day and had an interesting question. She was watching a TV show from the US and there was a scene of a church service. She wanted to know why everyone in the church was black. Could it be possible that black people live separately from white people?

I explained that yes indeed, it is usually the case that most black people live in one part of a city, and whites live in another. What about Latinos? Yes, they also often live together in their part of town. I explained a bit about efforts to integrate schools and workplaces, and how hard black people have had to work for what equality they have.

Haydee was genuinely shocked. She could not imagine why someone would be treated differently because of how they look. She had never seen a church of people of only one color. She says in Panama everyone lives together, white or black or whatever color, big or small, rich or poor, Panamanian or foreigner, church going or not, straight or gay. If you are a nice person and treat other people well, you are welcomed. It is a very “live and let live” culture and they are quite unconcerned with personal differences.

It was very interesting to have my impressions of this culture confirmed by a Panamanian. I have always felt like a foreigner in the US. After 17 years I knew most of my neighbors but it took years. As an atheist Buddhist I feel very excluded by the ubiquitous Christian religion, and I resent the lack of separation of church and state. I do not conform to the expectations of appearances, consumerism, and constant striving for a higher rung on the ladder. The more I tried to be true to myself the farther I drifted from the mainstream culture and the less I felt I belonged.

It is so unexpected and wonderful to feel at home in Panama. Who would ever imagine in a heavily Catholic country, a different culture, and a different language that I would feel like this. People ask me about my beliefs and feelings, maybe ask a question or two out of curiosity, and that’s the end of it. I have never felt that a relationship has changed one bit because of any differences. No one has ever asked me to change a thing to align with their beliefs. Even the Jehovah’s Witnesses – after refusing their offer of literature twice they have never asked me again. They just seem genuinely happy to see me, ask how I am, and make general conversation before proceeding on their way.

I am thankful beyond words that we have come to Panama. Living here is a joyful and life altering experience in so many ways. It feels really good to be home.

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A Visit to the Finca (Farm)

My friend Cedo has a farm in Cuestra Piedra. She grew up in that area. Her mother in law was one of the first eight families to live there, and she named the town. I am starting to learn a lot about managing a Panamanian farm.

The farm has dairy cattle, chickens, pigs, geese, plants for cattle food, and some fruits and vegetables. It is not currently producing many vegetables because that land is growing a cover crop that will be plowed back in to renew the soil. There is an Indian family (a man, women, and their three young sons) living on the property, and the man does the daily work.

I am seeing the reality of living without a car and doing everything on foot or by bus. I am also starting to learn about the reality of managing a farm.

Every week Cedo must go to the farm to pay Isidro, the Indian man, and give him directions. He has worked there for most of the last nine years, but she still has to write clear directions – on Monday do this, on Tuesday do that and this other thing, etc. He speaks the indigenous language and doesn’t always understand everything in Spanish so instructions must also be written.

The cows must be milked twice a day. The milk is stored in a refrigerated tank, and a refrigerated truck comes every other day to collect the milk and take it to the dairy. One day when we were in Conception together she gave some cash to another man, and explained that he also has milk collected with hers so she had to pay him for his share.

If anything else goes on at the finca she has to spend more days there. A couple weeks ago she was up there every day to watch the man with the tractor who was plowing and planting food plants for the cows. She said if she doesn’t keep an eye on him he may charge for more hours than he actually works (we gringos think we are the only one cheated but this is hardly the case).

In addition to actually going to the finca, she must take the bus to Conception to buy feed for the animals (the company delivers it), go to the dairy cooperative for salt, minerals, medicines, or anything else the animals need. Last week she went to a meeting at the dairy where a vet gave a presentation on caring for cows and the best food for optimum milk production. I’m sure there are more activities that I have yet to learn about.

The three little houses in front of the finca are rentals. One is recently vacant, and another will be soon so they need to be repainted and cleaned up for another tenant. The third is the family home so it has been unoccupied for some time. She hopes to get enough money from the other two rentals to buy materials to rehab the larger casita so it can also be rented.

If she hadn’t been with us the other day, she would have had to take the bus to the paint store, walk to the bus stop with the heavy paint cans, take the bus to the terminal, change to our neighborhood bus, and bring the paint home. Tomorrow she will take the paint and some other packages from home on the neighborhood bus to the terminal where she will catch the bus to Volcan, which will drop her off in front of her finca.

I’m tired just thinking about it! This doesn’t count going to Pricesmart for the 20 pound bag of soap to clean the milk tank because it’s the only one that has no perfumes or other unsuitable ingredients. She also has to do the usual things like paying bills, going to the supermarket, church, the doctor, etc. I’m sure there is more that I don’t even known about. Being a farmer is a lot of work, and she is probably 4″ 10″ and in her 70′s, and does it all on the bus. Money is very tight so taking a taxi is too expensive.

I’m glad if I can drive sometimes and help her get a few things done more easily. She is a great friend and we always have fun. She has taught me many things about the area, told me so much about the country, the culture, and the people, and all the Spanish conversation has helped me enormously. I also find it very interesting to get a first hand look at her life and the management of the farm. For us, $2 for a taxi is no big deal. For her, she couldn’t buy a papaya because she wouldn’t have had enough for the paint. It makes me thankful to have the resources we have, and also thankful to have Cedo. She insists that we are family so I insist that she is my Panamanian sister, and I like having a sister here.

 

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A Birthday Party

One of the best things about blogging is the great new friends you meet. A Panamanian man living in the US has left many helpful comments, and over the months we have kept in touch occasionally by email as well. He is a teacher so he and his family have used their summer break to visit his family here in Chriqui.

They came to David one day so we got together for lunch and had a great time getting to know each other in person. He also invited me to his daughter’s first birthday party, and of course I wasn’t going to pass up such a nice invitation.

What a pleasure and an honor to celebrate with his extended family, and to be able to meet all of them! We had such a good time. It’s also very interesting to see the similarities and differences between a birthday parties here and in the US. As it usually happens, there are many more similarities than differences.

One difference though is no one shows up at the appointed time. We arrived at noon and were the only guesses there for a while. Guests were still arriving three hours later. But that gave us time to talk a bit more and to admire the birthday girl who is so adorable!

Everyone was given a drink on arrival. When there were enough guests present, lunch was served – arroz con pollo (rice with chicken, which I was told is usually served at all celebrations in this area) and a potato dish, sort of like potato salad but warm and with chicken, really delicious.

It was interesting to see that everyone who arrived greeted everyone there, including us even though no one knew who we were. As the afternoon went on though, we we’re introduced to the other guests or struck up conversations on our own. We met my friend’s parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and neighbors.

After everyone ate and had time to visit, it was time for dessert. The happy birthday song is the same tune, just “compleanos feliz” instead of “happy birthday”. Dessert was an excellent cake and ice cream.

Next was the piñata, something that isn’t done much in the US. This one was a number 1 strung up on a rope. The birthday girl took the first swing at it with her dad’s help. Then the rest of the kids and any adults who wanted to participate swung at the piñata while someone raised it and lowered it out of reach to make the game more challenging. Eventually though the piñata succumbed and candy started to fall out of the hole in the bottom. After the kids collected the first pieces one of the adults finished by shaking the rest of the candy out on all the tables. No one went home hungry!

Then, after some more conversation the party started to wind down and guests made their goodbyes, again greeting everyone on their way out.

We had such a good time! Internet friends are great but it’s wonderful to be able to spend time face to face. I was really honored to share this time with the family and meet so many nice people. Everywhere we go we are made to feel so welcome and this was no exception. Thank you my friend for spending time with me, for introducing us to your family, and for including us in your celebration! I’m already looking forward to your visit next year :)

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An Interesting Bug

Snakes, bugs… I know, I know but I keep seeing things I’ve never seen before. This bug was sitting on a pail in the utility room one night, and then on the broom handle. It looked like some sort of mosaic work of art!

You’ve got to admit, that’s a pretty interesting bug. And, it doesn’t look like it bites or stings or does anything unpleasant.

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Dangerous Snakes

We know there are dangerous snakes here in Panama. We’ve only seen a few snakes but none of the dangerous, until a few days ago. I posted a few photos in the photo challenge recently, and thought this little snake was probably a Fer de Lance (also known as a pit viper or Bothrops asper).

I recently checked my good camera and discovered that I had indeed taken a couple more photos!

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These photos are shaper so it’s easier to get a better look. I believe that this is indeed a Fer de Lance. It has the correct markings and the large, flat head typical of this snake.

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I have also heard that small young snakes can be more dangerous that adults. They have not developed the fine tuning and will just give you all the venom they have when they bite. I’m not sure if this is true but either way, this is a snake to be treated with much caution! Now that anti-venom is available it is very unusual for someone to die from a bite, but it is still a serious matter. These snakes can be found near, and even occasionally in homes. They are also fast, agile, and will aggressively defend themselves if they think they must.

This snake was obviously not avoiding us since it was found behind the gate to the patio where I spend a lot of my time.

We got up one morning and I spotted something small between the wall and the back gate.

We got up one morning and I spotted something small between the wall and the back gate.

We will continue to be aware of possible dangers around here. No sticking bare hands in leaf piles, no bare feet outside, and use caution with any space you can’t see into clearly. I still love snakes and appreciate the beauty of this one, but I’m also glad I’m not inclined to get within biting distance of any wildlife!

 

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