Plants, Critters

We’re locked down again this weekend. Everything continues to be at a standstill. Numbers are more or less the same day after day, and they are very reluctant to take any more steps to reopen the country under these circumstances. This is so hard on so many people and I’m thankful I don’t have to make those decisions.

We are fine at home. I’m glad we can ride out this crazy time here in Panama.

It’s Sunday morning now, everything calm and quiet except the dogs. They are bored enough to bark at anything and everything, including the neighbor out in his yard. The critters continue to live their lives as usual. Right now there are birds singing everywhere. We have SO many birds!

These huge grasshoppers are cool, but there seem to be more of them this year which worries farmers who don’t appreciate their big appetites.

Some people are very concerned about the wildlife here. We do have a few dangerous things like the fer de lance snake and scorpions, but with some sensible precautions you can reduce the risk of problems. Don’t put your hands where you can’t see. Shake out clothes, shoes, and towels before using. The wildlife would rather escape than attack so don’t put anything in an impossible position. That said though, I had a lot more trouble in Florida where I was always getting bitten or stung by something. Here it rarely happens. I mostly get bitten by one of the many, many varieties ants (which wouldn’t happen if I didn’t disturb them while puttering around in the yard).

Joel keeps some wood scraps behind the house and it’s a popular location with the scorpions. A sting is painful but not deadly.

Cane toads are also something new to me, It seems like I’ve seen more in the last few years, or maybe I’m more aware of them since we have a dog. (A Cane Toad Can Kill Your Dog) Thankfully she totally ignores them. I was sitting at my table on the terrace early one morning, and heard a “plop” on the low shelf by my foot. It was one of the most ginormous cane toads I’d ever seen! It was huge! And slow… I chased it around with the broom trying to send it to the yard instead of the laundry room. It was so slow I ended up pushing it around like a rock. I finally got it off the terrace, and later I saw it hopping slowly towards the fence on the far side of the yard.

Speaking of huge, our produce guy gave me the biggest mango I’ve ever seen.  If it’s as good as I expect, the seed (with some of the fruit) will go to my friend so she can plant it on her land.

yes that’s an ordinary size pencil next to it

Oh, I said plants too, didn’t I? I believe this is some sort of agave. It’s putting up a big stalk and I noticed this week that it’s making flower buds. It will be interesting to see how it proceeds. I’ve seen others around town that make flowers like this, and then the flowers develop into many baby plants.

So, this is about all that’s going on around here. Days fly by and I always seem to keep busy. But, one day is a lot like another which doesn’t define the time much, so it seems to just slip by so quickly.

We’re all going to look back on this as the most insane year! Hopefully we’ll all be here to look back. Take good care of yourselves and each other.

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

Get Some Help

We are in a pandemic and all the restrictions that go with it, but things still need to get done. For us, the license plate on the car was due to expire. It’s not a big deal – gather the paperwork, get the required inspection, and then go to the municipio (city offices) for the new plates (or, right now, a document since there are no new plates). But, we didn’t feel like doing it, so…

Eduardo Horna!  He’s our friend (8 years now), the property manager for our landlord, a tour guide, translator, driver, errand guy, and your guy to get just about anything done.

RioChiriqui@gmail.com 

It was great! He stopped by for the paperwork and some cash. A couple hours later, while we stayed comfortably at home doing our own thing, he returned with everything done.

He took care of our other car last month, and a couple months before that when things were really locked down and complicated, he located a new air conditioner for us (it was the end of summer and HOT, and ours bit the dust). He also helped us get our car to the shop last week for maintenance and some fixes.

It’s really nice to have someone you can count on. Eduardo is responsible, easy to work with, easy to get along with, and he knows his way around Chiriqui and how to get things done. He’s totally fluent in English which makes communication a lot easier.

In this risky time, avoid activities outside the home when you can. If you just don’t want the hassle of some things, find someone to help. If you are doing OK, give work to those who need it when you can. It’s a win-win thing on every level.

This is a very old video, but at least you can see who I’m talking about –

Eduardo’s email is RioChiriqui@gmail.com  or you can leave a comment and I’ll help you get in touch.

 

Posted in Panama | 3 Comments

Music Time

What do you do while you are quarantined? Well, this is what we do – play music. We can’t play live but we can make videos. The good thing about this is that anyone with an internet connection can listen.

On Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/kris.cunningham.735/posts/10223895004070752

On YouTube –

Thanks for tuning in!

Making videos is quite different from playing live gigs. There is the whole technical aspect of making videos that sound decent, and a video is a one time thing. When we play live we play many of the most popular songs frequently. The songs we recorded yesterday are either new, or we haven’t played them for months so it was a lot of practice and rehearsal. And, playing with a midi program isn’t like playing with a live drummer so we’ve had to practice that too. But, we got it all together, more or less, so this is our latest effort.

Now we’re off to start work on the next song list!

We hope the music brightened your days a little. You all take good care of yourselves. It’s hard having no idea when we’ll have our more normal lives back but we know it will happen sometime. Hang in there!

Posted in Panama | 2 Comments

Beautiful Masks!

I’m so excited to have found these masks. We may be wearing masks for quite a while, so why not have something beautiful, and something very helpful to the people who made them.

Here is the most important information right here up top.   This is how you buy your masks!  Contact Victor Peretz. He is in charge of inventory, so he’ll get you fixed up. His WhatsApp is +507 61187621 or email at localinpty@gmail.com or friend request on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/victorprez  .

These Guna (or Kuna) Indians live in eastern Panama, an area known for the gorgeous San Blas Islands. The have local fish and produce but a lot of what they need must be purchased. Their main income is from tourism and their art, much of which they sell to tourists. Needless to say, with the borders closed, none of this is happening now and they are struggling to get by. They saw a need and an opportunity to help themselves and we are the beneficiaries.

A bit of background about the Guna people – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guna_people

Their most famous art form is the Mola. It’s a very labor intensive creation of layers of fabric which are cut to reveal the colors of the layers below, and then carefully hand sewn to finish. Check the article for a much better explanation. Molas are traditionally worn on the upper body, as shown in the photos below.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mola_(art_form)

The art is part of the story of the masks. The other part of the story is Victor Peretz and his team of volunteers. There are people in Panama with very little, and Victor has been supporting the children of some of the poorest with food, books, other support, and lots of love.

https://www.littlethings.com/panama-childrens-organization/

Now he is helping with the masks, another avenue of help in this really difficult time. Victor and his team are all volunteers, so what they receive goes directly to the people in need.

I was so happy to get my mask and find they are not only beautiful, but they are comfortable, fit well, and they are easy to breathe through. Joel and I rode our bikes home with no problem.

 

This is how you buy your mask!  Contact Victor Peretz.  His WhatsApp is +507 61187621 or email at localinpty@gmail.com or friend request on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/victorprez

Most of the pictures and information has been taken from his Facebook page so visit there to learn more about him, what he does, the masks, and to see photos of other happy people wearing their masks.

Here is their GoFundMe page for their ongoing charity work.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/panama-covid19-vulnerable-communities-relief-fund

And, if you want to do more, here is a list of other charities in Panama who are helping people in need.

http://pty.life/coronavirus-help/

Thank you so much for helping these lovely, gentle, and hard working people. You will be doing something really good, and you will also have the most beautiful masks in town! When all your friends want a mask like yours, send them to this blog post 🙂

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

Still More of the Same

What’s going on in Panama?  Nothing much. We have been stalled for weeks with no change in sight. Ever since opening levels 1 and 2 (out of 6 planned levels), the number of cases went up dramatically. I can understand why the authorities are very frustrated and reluctant to open up any further. The daily count of new cases is usually over 1000 now. Hospitals are getting full to capacity. Flags were flown at half mast a couple days ago for the thousand people who have lost their lives to the virus. I know it seems like small numbers compared to the US and other countries but this is a small country, and they really hoped to keep the virus contained and under better control.

Most of the problems are in the Panama City area. Those poor folks have been under very strict quarantine for weeks (only allowed out for a few hours a week) but the numbers aren’t getting better. Here in Chiriqui, our province, the numbers have also gone up. Boquete is closed. You can’t get in without proof that you live there. I hear Cero Punto is also closed, which is understandable. It’s up in the mountains where they grow the vegetables for the whole country and we can’t have the farmers all getting sick.

I’ve heard that the worst problems are in the lower income areas where people tend to live in close quarters, making it easy to share the virus. Some farm workers are also having problems since they often live in close quarters as well.  But, these people still need to go to the supermarket and other places where they can share the virus. I’ve also heard about too much socializing, crowded bars, trips to the beach, birthday parties and other gatherings that are dangerous things to do right now. Many say that too many salvo conductos (permission to be out and about) were issued, which encouraged the spread of the virus. But, how do you balance the need to be out and working so you can feed your family, with the need to be staying home to slow the spread of the virus? The government is helping those affected with food and money, but it’s only a small fraction of what is needed to offset the loss of income of too many families.

We went out shopping yesterday and the day before. Things look fairly normal around town, and there was a fair amount of traffic. Most stores seem to be open but with limitations on the number of people inside, so some stores have lines waiting to get in. You will be expected to walk through a pan of alcohol to clean your feet, have your temperature checked, and your hands squirted with hand sanitizer. Everyone, absolutely everyone wears masks at all times. I made a more breathable mask for biking because I feel naked now without a mask, even when I’m not close to anyone. People are jogging, biking, driving cars, and doing yard work, all with masks.

Interesting and creative masks are starting to appear more frequently which is fun. I figure we’ll be wearing masks for a long time so this is good, especially if they are hand made by people trying to support themselves and their families. I still find the masks a bit difficult since it’s harder to understand people with their mouths covered. You can only see eyes and people don’t look the same. But, I’m getting more used to it.

As for us, we continue to be contented at home. Between the freezer and the veggie guy who visits us weekly, we can go more than two months between shopping trips. I go biking about three times a week and it’s easy to pick up a few things from street vendors along the way. My favorites are the sweet gal under the Via Boquete bridge who sells honey, the real deal from her family’s hives, and it’s the best I’ve found here. If I’m out late enough and the seafood guy is out early enough, we can get fresh fish and shrimp from him.

I’ve been doing a lot of yard work at home. It’s rainy season so everything grows like crazy and I enjoy being out. Then of course, there is always the music. We are working on the song list for the next video. But, there are some new songs I want to learn to sing, a slow process for me, so that has diverted me. But, we keep working on material and improving our skills, so whatever happens in the future it’s satisfying to be able to play and sing better.

You all out there…. I have nothing to add what is reported in the news and what I hear from friends. It doesn’t look like much is going to change in the foreseeable future. I know so many are suffering financially and emotionally, and also worry for their health and very lives. Even those who, like my family thank goodness, who are safe and well, it’s so tedious and difficult. Life as we knew it has been pretty much upended.

I hope you all are well and safe, and as sane as possible under the circumstances! This is difficult for everyone.  Take good care of yourselves and each other.

 

Posted in Panama | 2 Comments

More of the Same

So what’s going on in Panama? Not much. Everything seems to be pretty much stalled. There was a 6 phase plan to reopen the country but we have been stuck on phase 2 as the daily count of new virus cases has risen and remained high.

We continue to be allowed out from 5am-7pm, though some areas near Panama City that have especially high numbers of new cases are back to two hours out, 3x/week according to ID number and gender. Hardware stores, repair shops and some other businesses are open (sometimes with long lines because of health related restrictions) but many others remain closed. Many people are still without work and you see people trying to earn money however they can. There has been an explosion of people selling vegetables, eggs, and anything else they can to make a few dollars. A friend’s husband is selling pajamas and underwear. Families are banding together and neighbors help each other when they can. The government has been helping with money and bags of food but it seems very inadequate for the large need.

I think the most frustrating thing for many is the unknown. There was the plan for reopening in stages, but now progress has stopped. The president addressed the country last night but there was no information on when progress might start again. I think the isolation is also very hard for people. Panamanians are all about family and friends, but now they can’t get together to celebrate family events or just enjoy time together. Church services are on line, but it’s not like attending with your fellow parishioners. People spend a lot of time on the phone and other technology to keep in touch, but when you have to leave grandmother’s birthday present on the porch instead of enjoying a big family bash for the occasion, it’s definitely not the same.

For us, we are so thankful every single day because we are doing fine. There aren’t many cases in our province, and everyone is wearing masks, following social distancing, and stores are taking all the precautions they can. If we don’t want to go out to do something, we have a number of people we can call on who would be happy for the job. I am able to ride my bike regularly for exercise and fresh air, and I try to support some of the vendors when I’m out. It seems so little, but hopefully it’s something.

I continue to stay mostly away from the news and social media. The news is almost always bad. My family is safe and well in their homes, but so many others can’t say the same.

Anyway, that’s about all for now. Meanwhile though, nature is oblivious to the current problems. Mornings have been absolutely gorgeous and it’s lovely to go for a bike ride.

Right now I’m on my terrace listening to the many bird songs. We’ve been getting quite a bit of rain so everything is green and growing, which means more yard work.

We’ve had an occasional baby iguana visiting us, and I enjoy the toads, lizards, and wide variety of bugs that we see on a daily basis.

One day is a lot like another though, which seems to make the time go faster. If it wasn’t for the info on my devices I wouldn’t know what time or day it is, or even what month. July??! How did this happen??

But we keep busy, and we’re happy and thankful. You all please take care of yourselves and each other!

Posted in Panama | 3 Comments

More Music

I know I haven’t written anything in quite a while, but there isn’t a whole lot to write about. Everything here seems to be at a standstill and essentially unchanged.

Since this seems to be our reality for the foreseeable future, we have been keeping busy with music at home. We have a goal of putting together another video every couple weeks, and using the rest of our time to learn new material and improve skills, techniques, etc. This last video was recorded directly from the mixing board to the iPhone, rather than recording the room sound. This is still taking a lot of learning and  tweaking and fiddling but we’re happier with the results. We are also using midi tracks for the drums instead of the drum machine. A midi track is unforgiving and you must start, stop, and play exactly with it but when you succeed, the drums are more realistic and interesting since they are created for the specific song. I’m sure that’s more than you ever wanted to know about what goes on behind the scenes.

So, here’s our latest –

Facebook  (I had a most exasperating time uploading to Facebook so I hope this works!)  https://www.facebook.com/kris.cunningham.735/videos/10223617721058850/

YouTube

Now we are excited about starting work on the  next set of songs!

Posted in Panama | 2 Comments

More Music from the Couch Monkeys

We made another video

On YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mvpun2QAg3M

On Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/102198934851676/videos/281791146298932/
(on the Couch Monkeys page)

We seem to keeping ourselves quite busy during quarantine, and we’re having fun doing it. We’re happy enough with this video that we’re excited to start working on the next one.  I’ll fit in some regular blog posts along the way too.

You all take good care of yourselves and each other out there!! Hopefully this little diversion will brighten your day.

Posted in Panama | 8 Comments

Fungi, Bugs, Etc.

We may be dealing with a pandemic but when you look at the nature around you, it’s just carrying on as usual. It rains, the plants grow, the birds sing, the lizards enjoy the sun, and toads hang out under the lights at night hoping for bugs – and there are plenty of bugs.

I’ve felt much more normal since I’ve been able to get out on my bike, get some exercise, and feel less isolated from the world, even if it’s the small world in my own area. It also feels good to share some random photos of things that have nothing to do with the virus.

We have been seeing these lizards occasionally. I think they are Jesus lizards but small (Jesus lizards because they can walk/run on water – which they do. I’ve seen it at the river)

I have this cool plant that makes stinky flowers. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stapelia_gigantea) It attracts flies for pollination instead of bees. One night it had attracted this pretty little moth. It was actually more white but the light at night gave everything a yellow glow.

I saw these amazing fungi when I was biking down the road. I think they are https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydnellum_geogenium a type of “tooth fungus”! There is a big dead tree root in the area which I imagine was a good place for them to grow. When I went by 3 days later they had turned totally brown so I’m glad I saw them when they were at their best.

I stopped at another place where I’d picked up some late season mangos. I didn’t find any usable fruit, but I sure found a grasshopper convention! We have grasshoppers of all sizes and colors but I think these are the coolest, biggest, and most colorful.

These are a couple photos from my yard. The perfect little white toadstool was growing on some roots where a shrub used to be. The white fan looking fungi were in our guanabana (soursop) tree. I think it’s a type of oyster mushroom, very good to eat but since I’m not sure, I’m not eating it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleurotus

Last, but definitely not least – we’ve had a lot of rain and cloudy weather lately. Yesterday though, it was clear enough to see our volcano peeking above the clouds. I never get tired of the beauty around us, the mountains in the distance, and this beautiful volcano. Word is that it’s still active but it hasn’t done anything for 400+ years. They keep a close eye on it but think it will continue to be quiet for the foreseeable future, thank goodness.

I used to take a lot of bug pictures, but I’m more familiar with most of them now (and busier with other things). I still find them beautiful and keep telling myself I need to take my good camera around the yard. One of these days….

Meanwhile, we hope to get another music video out next weekend. We’re trying some midi drums (rather than the drum machine), and we’re working on recording directly from the mixing board, rather than recording the room sound. And, we have a different list of songs, some of them new to us. We’re used to playing gigs live so this video business is different, but we’re definitely not bored in quarantine with all these new things to learn.

The world seems crazy out there, and worse every week. I hope eventually it leads to some positive changes but right now, it’s so unsettling. I hope you all are safe and doing all right. Please take care of yourselves and each other!

Posted in Panama | 11 Comments

Another Dentist Story

I am SO glad to be here in Panama!

On Tuesday my back tooth was bothering me and Wednesday it was worse, even waking me up in the night. Thursday morning I called our dentist.  I was hoping I could see my regular dentist but in case I couldn’t, I heard about another dentist who was open for emergency visits.

So, I called our dentist at 9:30 and got an appointment for 10:30! No – can you come in next week? next month? we’re not seeing patients. None of that. Just come on in right now. This was last week when we were still under very strict quarantine, and Thursday was men’s day. I wasn’t allowed out at all but this was a medical need, an exception.

The tooth was indeed on its last legs and the sensible thing was to pull it. So, after an X-ray to confirm his opinion and a good dose of Novocain, this is just what he did.

He said their office had been closed for months, but they are seeing anyone with an emergency problem so if we need anything, don’t hesitate to call. What peace of mind to know that help is available, and at an affordable price. My visit cost me $40.

And, luckily, I didn’t even see any police on my short trip.

This week started stage 2 of lifting the quarantine. We are now allowed out from 5AM-7PM, both men and women, and more people are working. It’s a relief to have more freedom but the whole country is worried about increasing cases, and everyone is urged to continue to take all precautions. Masks, frequent hand washing, and social distancing are required at all times. We continue to be contented at home and have everything we need, but it’s nice to go biking anytime I wish, and if we need to go out we can go together.

For people needing to get back to work though, this forward step is really important. As much as Panama would love to lock down the whole country and keep anyone from getting sick, they realize that they can’t shut down the economy any longer. That could be even more dangerous for the many people who depend on an income to feed their families. There are no easy answers and I don’t envy the people who have to make the decisions.

The news from the US is totally distressing. I don’t have to review what’s going on. It’s all over the news. I just hope you all, wherever you are, are staying safe and doing ok. It’s really tough times right now. There have been tough times before and we have worked through them, and we will this time too but in the middle of it, it’s so difficult. When bad things are going on I always find these words comforting, and true.

Posted in Panama | 9 Comments