Summer Flowers

There are two seasons in Panama, summer (dry and windy, Dec – April), and rainy (May – Nov). Right now we are in summer. It almost never rains, some days are very windy, a lot of the grass and plants are turning brown, and brush fires are common. But it is also a time when many plants burst out in flowers and fruit. I thought I’d share some of the treats we are enjoying now.

Bougainvillea are popular here, and they are covered with flowers all over town. They seem to love the sunny, dry days of summer and you can see them in a multitude of colors.

There are some fruit trees showing promise of yummy things to come.

A few other random photos of various things

Funny, as soon as I started to put a caption on the photo of the mot mot, one landed in the tree beside the terrace. They are so pretty and fairly quiet, just making a low key “mot mot” sound now and then.

The best, which I saved for last, are the trees that flower in the summer.

I think I prefer the rainy season when everything is lush and green. But, there are good things about summer too. Unfortunately in this El Niño year Panama is drier than normal and summer is expected to last especially long. You would think in this land of epic downpours there wouldn’t be water problems, but much of the country is having a severe drought this summer. They are especially worried about enough water for livestock, hydroelectric power, and the canal. As this country grows rapidly they are searching for ways to conserve and find alternatives. They have installed a lot of windmills in central Panama, and the new locks for the canal will reuse and conserve water. Carnavales, a huge, country wide party starting tomorrow, has water tankers that spray the crowds with water all day. Word is that this year, there will be a lot less spraying and it will only be for three hours, not all day to conserve water.

So, summer has its problems, especially this year, but we will also try to enjoy the good things that come with it. It’s also great for exercise. Biking home against this 25 mph wind today is a heck of a workout :D

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A Joke – Seenagers

It’s like a teenager but  better as a seenager, or a senior teenager

  • I don’t have to go to school or work
  • I get an allowance (pension)
  • I have my own place
  • I don’t have a cerfew
  • I have a drivers license
  • I have an ID that gets me into bars and the liquor store
  • No one is scared of getting pregnant
  • I don’t have acne

Life is great! :D

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Resolution #3 – Live the Questions

Following up on my earlier post about 16 resolutions, or thoughts to live by, inspired by this article at Brainpickings.org, here is the third thought. It is by Rainer Maria Rilke, and says: “I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

I think this means that you don’t need all the answers. Be patient with those questions without answers, and just live with the questions. Maybe someday when you have more life experience and wisdom the answers will present themselves.

I agree with this. I know very little, and I think humanity overall only knows a tiny fraction of what there is to be known but that’s OK. But I also believe it is through questioning that we grow and learn. Can you imagine if we knew everything? What would there be to explore? It is the questions that make life interesting.

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Rainer Maria Rilke (December 4, 1875–December 29, 1926) was an Austrian poet and novelist. This quote is from one of his books called Letters to a Young Poet. He was corresponding with Franz Xaver Kappus , a young military student who was trying to decide between a military career or becoming a poet. He asked Rilke for advice and critiques of his poetry.

There is more information about Rilke at this Wikipedia article, and of course, Google.

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Iguanas in the Trees

Iguanas are large lizards, but they are also fast and agile climbers. I didn’t realize how high they can climb though, until we saw a couple waaaaay up in a tree.

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That red arrow in the photo, that is about where they were. I was talking with my neighbor who lives to the left of this photo so we had an excellent side view for the following photos, though I have also seen them there from this direction as well. The neighbor in the house in this photo says they live up there.

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There were two iguanas way up there! They seemed to be eating the yellow flowers.

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The lower iguana went out on a branch that was too small and fell. I imagine it was able to grab something else. It is not unheard of for iguanas to fall to the ground, but at that height I certainly hope that didn’t happen to this iguana.

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There is a big iguana in the tree!

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Brush Fire

We were relaxing in the house the other night when we saw a truck come down our dead end street with bright flashing blue lights. It left, went up the street, came back down our street, and then pulled into the empty lot on the other side of our street. By now I was very curious and went out to see what was going on.

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It was firemen, and they were starting to strap water tanks on their backs. It wasn’t until they pointed out the fire in the woods that I realized what was going on. Fortunately for us, the wind was blowing the smoke away from us so we hadn’t smelled anything and we had the TV on, so we didn’t hear anything either.

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Standing in our driveway looking across the street

When the firemen are called for a brush fire, they go out with their portable water tanks and spray the perimeter in an attempt to keep the fire from spreading into someone’s property. I think they stayed for less than an hour and though the fire didn’t seem to come closer to the houses, it was definitely still burning in the woods.

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My neighbor’s house across the street

I spent the next couple hours on my terrace. The fire would flare up and start popping and crackling, and then it would quiet down again. By 1 AM I figured I should get some sleep. The fire wasn’t coming closer or doing anything different so I figure everything would be ok.

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When I got up the next morning the fire was still burning and had come up to my neighbors back yards. These plantain trees are almost to their property line and you can see the fire shouldering just a few feet behind them.

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My neighbor said they were out there at 3 AM with the water hose wetting the perimeter, and sweeping and raking up anything that would burn between the woods and their property. They said these woods tend to burn every year and it is surprising that they haven’t for the last couple summers.

At first I was very freaked out by the brush fires that happen everywhere in the dry season. People do try to protect their yards and property but in general no one gets very excited. If it’s a field or woods without homes, the fire is allowed to just burn itself out. But, homes are made of cement with metal roofs so they aren’t going to burn. And, if an area burns every year or two, there won’t be enough thick undergrowth to fuel a big, dangerous fire.

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You can tell its summer in Panama by the smoke in the air. I can smell it today coming from the east. If a fire is close and the wind is in the right direction, you also get a sprinkling of ashes on everything.

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There’s a Bug in the Shower

I woke up this morning to find a huge bug in the shower. I’ve seen one like it in the outside laundry room just a week or two ago and was quite impressed with it then also.

UPDATE – thanks to one of my readers, it has been identified as a peppered roach, or archimandrita tesselata. They are sometimes kept as pets! 

What is it??!

What is it??!

It looks harmless, just really big. I didn’t see any stingers or fierce teeth or anything scary, but I’m still not touching it. I scooped it up in a jar and took it outside. It tried to open its wings in the jar, and when I put it on the edge of the patio it ran to the center.

It's next to a large, heavy duty garden hose here

It’s next to a large, heavy duty garden hose here

I managed to get a couple photos outside before it decided to run again. The last I saw it was heading for a dark corner of the laundry room at a surprisingly fast pace.

When we lived in Florida there were those palmetto bugs that look like giant cockroaches. I always knew when one was in the shower when I heard from down the hall “Mommmmmmm  help!  a BUG!” I think my daughter would have been even less pleased to find one of these in her shower.

Just when you think you’ve seen all the bugs around here, you find a new one to surprise you! As many bugs as there are here though, I doubt I’ll ever see them all.

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Resolution #2

Following up on my earlier post about 16 resolutions, or thoughts to live by, inspired by this article at Brainpickings.org, here is the second thought. It is by SØREN KIERKEGAARD, and says RESIST ABSENTMINDED BUSYNESS

He writes : “Of all ridiculous things the most ridiculous seems to me, to be busy — to be a man who is brisk about his food and his work.

He also says “The unhappy person is one who has his ideal, the content of his life, the fullness of his consciousness, the essence of his being, in some manner outside of himself. The unhappy man is always absent from himself, never present to himself. But one can be absent, obviously, either in the past or in the future. This adequately circumscribes the entire territory of the unhappy consciousness.  The unhappy one is absent… It is only the person who is present to himself that is happy.”

Thus one definitely makes me think! I have bought into our culture of hard work, and if you are constantly busy you are working very hard, and this is very good, right?  But, if you never sit still, are you ever present to yourself? Are you constantly so distracted that you never have to look at yourself, never have to be with yourself, never have to think about who you are and what is within?

I have had a very busy life working and raising a family. I signed up for children very much on purpose, and I wanted to devote as much of myself and I could to them. I also signed up on purpose for a demanding profession. But, as the years went by I started feeling more overwhelmed and buffeted by forces outside myself. Then, I discovered Buddhism and meditation and slowly, I started to sense the deep quiet under the waves and storms.

This is certainly not to say I have it all together! I’m very far from that, but I finally have some awareness of the deeper stillness. I think this is a lot of what biking has come to mean for me. When I get out of time on the rural roads, it’s just me, the outdoors, and the beauty around me. I can’t busy myself with a 1000 other things and I just have to be.

I think what this resolution is saying is be careful of being so busy. Being constantly busy is not a path to happiness. Take time to nurture yourself and to be with yourself, because that is what you need.

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Søren Kierkegaard (May 5, 1813–November 11, 1855)

He is considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. He was a social critic, poet, theologian, and religious author. There is a Wikipedia article here, and a lot more links on Google.

This is why I’m so busy. See, there is just too much interesting stuff to get into out there! :D

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A Lizard, a Snake, a Moon, and some Birds

How’s that for an unlikely combination of things! But, this is Panama where unlikely things happen. This is just a bit of a day in the life of an expat in Panama.

There is a video at the bottom of the post – nothing to see but you can listen to the cocalacas sing while you look at the pictures.

I caught this baby iguana running out from under the washing machine to the side yard.

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Then, I set out on the bike, heading southwest and then north to cross the highway and make a loop around towards the hills and back to town. I thought the hills and mountains were looking especially beautiful with the misty, hazy clouds covering their tops.

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It is the dry season with no rain, so if you want to keep the plants in your yard happy you have to water them. I was out watering and saw something slide through the grass towards the wall and fence.

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This is a baby Fer de Lance viper, one of the most dangerous snakes in Panama. It is said that the babies are even more dangerous because they don’t have control over the amount of venom they give when they bite, and just give you all they’ve got. This photo doesn’t show the head very well, but they have a very distinctive, large, angular head. I also recognize their markings, beautiful as they are, and kept my distance, using the zoom on my camera instead. The snake obviously didn’t want to be near me either, and as soon as it felt safe enough to move it took off.

I’ve talked about precautions many times, and being aware that anything could be hiding where you can’t see. Here’s another example of why precautions are important.

This snake encounter wasn’t a problem, the watering was done, se we prepared to go to a full moon event near Boquete. We set off with plenty of time to get there before dark, being totally unaware that there was some big event going on in Dolega. The traffic was at a total standstill, we could see a parade going through town, and we inched along as the sun set and the sky got darker and darker. Thankfully I had brought my tablet with Waze to help navigate and I had a good idea where we were headed, but I didn’t spot it until we had driven past. We had to drive on until we could find a turn around, drive south until we could find another turn around, and take another pass at it. By then some good friends were concerned and one went out to the road to flag us down so we wouldn’t miss it on the second try.

It was worth the trouble finding the event. It was really nice to see a lot of our good Boquete friends, and it wasn’t long before the moon made its way above the mountains and clouds. What a beautiful sight! I need to go back to this area because at the back of the property, there is a huge canyon with a river below. It looked beautiful in the moonlight, but I want to see it in the daytime too.

Later that night, the cocalacas (gray necked wood rails) had a lot to talk about in my neighbor’s yard. The first time I heard them I couldn’t imagine what was making those strange sounds!! Now I am very familiar with them, but I never tire of hearing them.

There is nothing to see, but turn up your sound so you can hear.

A day in the life of an expat in Panama. Life is always interesting!

 

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What Did You Do All Day?

Umm…I dunno…  I found the cable provider’s office, bought some art supplies, made lunch… next thing I knew the day was over.

Getting things done in Panama can be a process. Even the Panamanians comment on how much running around it can take. Thank goodness we aren’t working and usually don’t have to be anywhere.

I had a fraudulent charge on my credit card last month. Chase bank took care of it right away, but it meant cancelling my credit card and issuing me a new one. You don’t realize how much automatic billing you have set up until your card no longer works. One of the bills was Cable Onda, our cable and internet provider.

I had a list of errands and the first was to straighten out things with Cable Onda. We made our way through the always fun and exciting downtown traffic, found a parking spot, and went to the office only to find they were remodeling and the office has moved to a temporary spot. Take that street there, go up to Chiriqui Hospital, then four blocks, turn left, and it’s right there. OK, thanks, no problem. We stopped at the art store, checked on some mail I’m expecting, and then set off to find the office.

Of course it wasn’t where I thought it was. So, we stop at the supermarket to ask the security guard. He hollers to the lottery ticket sales lady and soon everyone in the parking lot was having a conference and giving us directions to the place. Go back to Chiriqui Hospital, turn right at the street below the hospital, go a few blocks and its right by something I never heard of before.

Nope, it wasn’t there either. By now it’s getting to be lunch time and Joel is tired of driving around, so we decide to head towards home. After lunch I headed back to town, back to the hospital, back down the street below the hospital. Nope. So, I tried the street above the hospital, and there it was! They are camped out in a building that I believe is a TV station, judging by all the huge satellite dishes behind it.

They find my account, make a note of my new credit card number, I sign the papers, they make copies (nothing ever happens here without copies!) and I am on my way, quick and easy.

This morning I get an email from Cable Onda. There is a problem with your credit card. The information on the form is correct and other charges have been going through on this card, so I can’t figure out the problem. Back to the office we go. They tell me that it looks like everything is fine, so maybe the email went out before they ran the charges with my new card.

This afternoon I get a statement – thank you for your payment. Whew! OK, all is well.

See, it even takes me a novel to tell the story :D But, this is how things often go in Panama. You go to buy something simple like printer cartridges, blue thread, or a cleaning product they had last month. We went to five stores before we found the printer cartridges (but of course now that we don’t need them they have reappeared in the store where we bought the printer). There is a minimum of thread in the fabric store, but plenty in the supermarket (and I have since found other fabric stores that have lots). I am still looking for pumice scouring stick, (but learned steel wool also does well for cleaning the dark deposits in toilet bowls). When something is easy it’s a surprise! Usually though it’s like a scavenger hunt. You need to set out with this in mind so it doesn’t make you nuts.

And, if you are local and need the Cable Onda office, do not go downtown. Go to Chiriqui Hospital. Turn west on the street on the north side of the hospital, and go three blocks. The building is on the far left corner. Look carefully for their sign above the door.

Next week I get to go back downtown to check on license plates for my bike. They didn’t have any so I have a paper and instructions to come back in early February. But, this afternoon I was sitting on my terrace working on a project, and a toucan landed in the tree not 10 feet from me. I must have had a dozen other kinds of birds visit the bird bath today also. Overall life is pretty darn good, and now I’m friends with the Cable Onda lady.

Posted in culture, Getting Things Done, Panama | 8 Comments

16 Resolutions, or Thoughts to Live By?

I suppose it’s still January so one can talk about resolutions for the new year, or maybe we’ll just call it sharing useful thoughts. I ran across 16 Elevating Resolutions for 2016 Inspired by Some of Humanity’s Greatest Minds on Brain Pickings and liked the article so much I wanted to share. It’s a lot to digest and think about though, so one at a time is about my speed.

#1 Cultivate Honorable Relationships, by Adrienne Rich

The quote is: “An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love” — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.

It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity.

It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.”

Of all the resolutions I am finding this the hardest to wrap my head around. What does it mean?

I believe it means that we are willing to break down the barriers with another person and to reveal our true inner self, our vulnerable inner core. It is a scary thing to do, but it is also beautiful because with the right person, you can form a connection that is deep and meaningful and there is nothing else quite like it in our human existence. But as she says, you can count on so few people to go there with you.

I think many people go through their entire lives without a connection like this. I have worked with many families and when you look under the surface, so many of them have problems, dramas, broken relationships, and broken people. If you have someone to connect with this deeply, this honestly, you are fortunate indeed.

So, I believe what she is saying is to look for these special people and nurture these valuable relationships.

Adrienne Rich (May 16, 1929–March 27, 2012) was one of the most influential writers of poetry and prose of the 20th century, and a woman of strong convictions. She was the only person to decline the National Medal of Arts to protest the government’s plan to end funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. You can also read more about her at THIS BrainPickings LINK which contains a number of other links to her books and other articles. There is this WIKIPEDIA LINK which has a detailed biography and list of her work. Google will also point you to more ways to learn more about this remarkable woman.

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