Nothing to Say

I just realized it’s been about three weeks since I’ve written anything. There just hasn’t been much to say. But, there is news and progress towards returning the country and the economy to a more normal status so that’s definitely something.

Bob Adams is a good person to follow. He posts useful videos on his YouTube channel on various topics and of course lately, the topics on everyone’s mind are COVID and the economy. https://www.youtuSept 7be.com/user/globalist426

There are also frequent news updates on the health department website. One of the more interesting ones was published on August 26  https://www.yomeinformopma.org/info_detail/185  It presents a schedule for moving forward – Sept 7, restart construction and various retail and commercial businesses, Sept 14th, loosen the mobility restrictions, Sept 21 – sports, but without the public, and Oct 12, the majority of other businesses and activities will reopen and resume.

The country is looking at a RT or transmission rate less than 1%, (meaning that one infected person infects less than one other person), a death rate of less than 3%, the availability of hospital beds over 20%, and the availability of ICU beds over 15%. If numbers start to exceed these thresholds I think we can expect opening to stop or reverse, so wish us luck! But, the country is doing more and more testing and has gotten super serious about contact tracing, and all the health related precautions and restrictions will continue, so maybe we’ll do OK. The next month or two will tell.

The Oct 12 openings include international flights into the country, but with restrictions. They are saying you must present a negative COVID test that is no more than 48 hours old and I just read that if you don’t have one, they will test you (at your expense) on arrival. If you test positive you will be sent to a quarantine hotel or hospital for 14 days. If another test in 7 days is negative you can go free. Otherwise you complete the 14 days. Things change as new plans are published or things are clarified so if you are traveling, please do not take my word for anything! Do your own research and keep up with the news.

I’ve noticed more activity around town in the last couple weeks. We’ve only gone biking and done a few errands nearby, but it seems like there is more traffic, more people out, and construction workers are back on jobs that were stalled. Everyone continues to wear masks. It looks normal to me now and I’d feel naked without mine. You walk through an alcohol cleaning box upon entering any store or establishment, and you get your temperature taken and a generous squirt of alcohol or gel for your hands. We’ve had so much practice with social distancing that it almost doesn’t take any thought now.

Of course people are impatient and frustrated. We have been restricted for months and there have been many many people out of work all this time. Besides the critical needs of food and shelter, people have been separated from family and friends. Kids are all doing school on line which is hard for them, the teachers, and the parents, and more challenging here since internet isn’t ubiquitous. We (and the whole world) continue to live with uncertainty. Who will get sick? When will things return to “normal” and what will that look like? All too often, we seem to take a step forward and then step right back again which is discouraging. But, overall I see very little complaining here. People carry on, help each other wherever they can, and seem to realize that whether we agree or not, this is the reality we are living with and the authorities are doing what they can in a situation that is new and unknown for everyone.

For us, things haven’t really changed. We wake up every day and give thanks that we have everything we need and want. Our area has had more cases than others so we continue to be locked down on the weekends, but since we don’t want to go out anyway it’s not a problem for us personally. During the week try to bike for exercise at least every couple days, and do the few errands we have by bike when it’s possible. I do notice the lack of physical contact though. Some musician friends and others are making tamales and other goodies to earn money. They stop by with deliveries but greetings are elbow bumps at best, and smiles are hidden by masks. Conversations with friends and neighbors are at a distance, and there is no kissing on the cheek in greeting like I’d gotten used to pre-COVID. I notice there isn’t all the chatting while waiting in lines like there used to be. Will the general feel return to the very friendly Panamanian way of life at some point?

But, other things haven’t changed at all. The birds still sing, and the bugs still visit. It’s rainy season now. I woke up to a very cool, still, overcast morning but before long the sun came out and the rest of the morning was just gorgeous. Then, as afternoon wore on, I started hearing thunder in the distance. Sure enough, the thunder and the rain arrived and we had, or are still having a heck of a downpour! This doesn’t happen every day but there are days when the thunder shakes the house and an incredible amount of rain falls from the sky. It’s a great time to be in a comfortable, dry house and enjoy the sound of the rain outside.

Well… I had nothing to say… so 900+ words later I think I’m finished saying it. HA!

Please, take care of yourselves and each other out there. Kindness is more important than ever.

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

A bit of Kindness and Understanding

<rant>   I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while. I know I’ve said that opinions aren’t changed based on something posted on Facebook, and I imagine it’s the same for any blog post I write. But I’ll get some thoughts out of my head and off my chest anyway.

I spend very little time on social media because I’m so tired of what I see there, and I’m not sure if the news sources and other available information are much better. We are terribly divided and it seems like so many people only want to bolster their side and destroy the other side with insults and put downs.

What do we hope to accomplish? What is the way forward? (yeah I know, if they would just think like us and then everything would be hunky dory!) Seriously though, we have a lot of big challenges (I’m thinking mainly about the USA, the whole world is having a hard time). Are we going to accomplish anything productive by insulting and demeaning everyone who thinks differently? I’ve been insulted and called names by people on the other side, and now the last thing I want to do is ever have anything to do with them again, let alone try to work with them. Name calling and lack of respect shuts down any hope of communication and moving forward.

I know… I know… I have a hard time understanding the other side too. How can they see things so differently? Why do they think and behave the way they do? It feels like we are living in different worlds. But, they have their reasons that make sense to them. Until we make an attempt to understand and find even a tiny bit common ground we are never going to get anywhere.

I’ve done quite a bit of reading and thinking. The reasons we feel the way we do can run very deep, and changing our beliefs is often changing the very identity we hold dear. Holding up facts and well thought out arguments doesn’t work. Our identity and core beliefs are more important, and we all know that “facts” and “truths” aren’t absolute. Would you change your beliefs become someone brings opposing facts to your attention, and is better at debating their point of view?

But, if we can just listen,  make a safe space where someone on the other side can say how they feel and what they think, maybe we can understand a little of it. We don’t have to agree and we’re as unlikely to change our views as they are. But, maybe there is a grain of hope, of a little bit of common ground that can be a tiny start.

There are couple books that immediately come to mind.

Rising out of Hatred, the Awakening of a Former White Nationalist, by Eli Saslow.  This guy was raised in a white nationalist household. It wasn’t until we went to college and met some of the people he had been taught to hate, that his views gradually changed. But, his new friends didn’t “teach” him anything. They just included him in their daily lives, and made him feel safe and welcomed and he came to his own conclusions.

Together, the Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, by Vivek H Murthy. There is so much in this book that I need to reread it again, and take notes. We are social creatures. It’s literally our survival and we hardly realize now much this drives our thinking and actions. I’m not even going to try to say any more, except to recommend that you all read these two books.

There’s also a lot written about the political thinking and divisions. Just google “conservative vs liberal thinking” and you’ll be busy for quite a while.

Bottom line, in my opinion, we need to stop the negativity and bashing of the other side. We are better than this. By all means, VOTE! Work towards your goals, but lets also try to find some kindness and understanding of each other. Instead of being part of the problem, lets work toward being part of the solution.

</end rant>

Posted in Panama | 12 Comments

Moving Forward

I haven’t written much lately, because there hasn’t been much to write. One week is like another and we haven’t seen much change in the country, or in our little world at home. But, last night there were announcements.

There planned changes are:

Right now in many areas, mostly in and near Panama City, people are allowed out all day but still by gender, women on M-W-F and men on Tu-Th-Sa. As of September 14, the restriction by gender will be lifted and people can go out on any day. The curfew will continue, however, from 11PM – 5AM. A salvoconducto (safe conduct or permission to be out) will only be needed for workers who need to be out during the curfew hours.

On September 21 sports activities will be allowed, but without the public.

On September 28, retail stores, restaurants, and inns will be open to people (apparently for shopping in the store, not just ordering and picking up at the door, and for dining in a restaurant, not just take out). Professional services, administrative and general services will resume, as will national aviation, and family activities at the beaches, rivers, and parks. The racetrack can resume, but without the public. (we have a racetrack?!)

On October 12 there will be no more curfew. People can go out any time on any day.  Also to resume – international flights, hotels, hostels and other lodging sites and related tourist activities, and recreational and tourist transport. Also to resume, creative and cultural activities, music, art, libraries, swimming pools, and the national lottery.

Dates are still to be determined for opening schools, universities, and child care services. Also waiting are movie theaters, other theaters, museums, tourist sites, casinos, bars, discotheques, concerts, fairs, parades, and other such activities.

Health related measures must still be strictly followed by everyone! It is stressed that the safety of the people is the most important, and everything must be done to keep everyone healthy and safe so the country can continue to move forward.

So, this is the plan at the moment. Of course there will be questions about details but the general direction is clear. But, we have seen it happen in the past when they reopened some things, that the cases of the virus went up and everything came to a screeching halt for weeks and weeks. I figure we can’t count on anything this time either, but this is definitely a hopeful sign. The authorities have done more and more testing, and are very serious about contact tracing. There continue to be more cases but the number of people in the hospital has remained stable, and the transmission rate has fallen below the ratio of one person infecting one more. There are hopeful signs!

For us, nothing much is changing. Travel to the US and live music, the things that affect us personally, are still way out there in the future. Thankfully we are happy at home indefinitely, and have everything we need. So, now we wait and see what happens to the country, and to the rest of the world. Be careful out there, and take good care of yourselves and each other!

 

Posted in Panama | 12 Comments

Give Some Help

Get some help.. Give some help… that’s what it’s all about these days. We’re all going through a crazy time, and a really difficult time for a lot of people. We need to help each other more than ever to get us all through this.

My friend Kayla is an elementary school teacher in Colorado, and they are preparing to go back to school. Reading is a big deal! It opens up the whole world. She wants to teach her students to read and love reading, so she has a large lending library for the students. This is especially important for the many kids who can’t afford books and don’t have any books at home. But, this year is going to be so different with all the changes to try to keep the kids safe and healthy. One of these changes is no more lending library, no more book sharing.

So, Kayla is asking for help. She has found Scholastic Book Clubs. $16 will sponsor a student for a year and provide them with a new book every month. This is their book to keep, to read, to take home, and to enjoy. I remember that books were some of my most prized possessions as a kid, and I can imagine how much this will mean to a student. Now, especially, when people are struggling financially, emotionally, and psychologically it is even more important to have a world of books to enjoy.

There is a lot of information on the website about how this book club thing works. Here’s one page with the basics – https://scholastic.force.com/parentfaqs/s/article/How-Book-Clubs-Works  They are able to buy publishing rights for books for schools, so this program can provide low cost books only for school use. It’s a really cool idea not only for these difficult times, but for any time.

So, contact my friend Kayla to get involved and contribute to her book fund for the students (Venmo or Paypal)

On Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/kayla.terasas

By Email – kaylaterasas@gmail.com

Thank you all! I’ve known Kayla for quite a few years. She is a kind and generous person who loves teaching, and loves all of her precious students. It doesn’t seem like much money to many of us, but stepping up to support her efforts and the efforts of all the teachers in this difficult time is a very big deal.

 

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

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 | 6 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 | 5 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