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!

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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!

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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

Music – The Couch Monkeys – Take Two

Sometimes ideas don’t work out as intended. Facebook live can be great fun. We could see messages from people listening and respond to them, so it felt like we were together even in the virtual space. But, unfortunately the plan didn’t work out well overall.

Joel went live on his own page instead of the band page so you all probably couldn’t find it. And, if you found it, you didn’t get to listen to a lot because the internet was very uncooperative. Neither the connection in the house nor the data on the phone worked out for more than a song or two.

So, we are trying plan B.

Today, we recorded the whole set again. Now you can listen to a decent version anytime it’s convenient, and you can still dance like nobody’s watching!

On Facebook, on The Couch Monkeys page – https://www.facebook.com/102198934851676/videos/3007396819297510/

On YouTube, on my channel – https://youtu.be/G4DymrVMNLY

Feedback is always welcome. Could you find us? Did the video look and sound OK? This process has been really good for us. We don’t usually record ourselves, and never video so it’s been very helpful to do practice recordings all week. We critiqued and improved our performances every day so by the end of the week we felt like we had our act much more together.

We’re pretty happy with this experience so we’re starting to work on our next video. Since this is a new thing for us, we chose older songs we know well, songs that have always been crowd favorites. Next time we’re going to bring out some newer songs along with some other old favorites. If we keep this up, by the time we get out of quarantine and away from the couch, we’re going to be so ready to play live.

Thank you all for your support, and for your patience and understanding. We’ll get er done one way or another!

Posted in Panama | 6 Comments

Couch Monkeys – Music this Sunday evening

Musicians are quarantined. Audiences are quarantined. The growing thing is live music on line so people can still play, and you all can still enjoy the music.  So, we decided to give it a try!  Our plan is…

Grand inaugural event – Dance Like Nobody’s Watching! on Facebook Live
brought to you by the Couch Monkeys, from our quarantine couch to yours.

https://www.facebook.com/events/598812874057803/

Sunday evening, 5/31, 8PM Panama time (9pm EDT, 6m PDT, or GMT -05:00)
We’re playing old favorites, guaranteed to be fun and danceable.

Internet willing, our tech expertise willing, and whatever forces are at play willing, we will see you Sunday evening. If you have trouble finding us, look for our Facebook page The Couch Monkeys (which you can like/follow to be notified of future events). We’re learning as we go so feedback is welcome. It’s exciting to think we can reach everyone wherever they are, so this might be even more fun that before! We’re excited and looking forward to seeing everyone this Sunday evening 🙂

Posted in Panama | 9 Comments

What’s Going On?

Not much! Well nothing has changed a lot, but we are looking forward and working on new things at home.

Of course, the big news is still the virus and the quarantine. We are in phase 1 of the plan to reopen the country. Phase 2 should start any day but the exact date still hasn’t been announced.

Quarantine at the moment is about the same, but a few more people are able to do business in this phase.  Our time out of the house is still only a couple hours determined by the cedula (ID) or passport number, and alternate days by gender. The guys got their Saturdays back though. And, exercise is now allowed, during your allowed time out, within 1 km of home, and with a mask if you are going to be within 2 meters of another person. This has made a world of difference in how I feel both mentally and physically!

I figure if exercise is allowed and it’s also my only time to shop, what if I’m shopping on my bike? There are a lot more people selling fruits, vegetables, and seafood to make a bit of money, so I’ve been picking up a few things on my outings. Yesterday I tried langostinos (like super size shrimp). I bought a pound but ended up giving them to a neighbor, so I had to go all the way down again and buy another pound. I can’t believe how much better and stronger I feel in even a week. The langostinos are good but I find the shrimp just as good at half the price, so I’ll probably stick to shrimp.

We’ve been very busy with the music because we’re getting ready to do some live music on line.  Musicians all over the world are in the same quarantine situation, as are their audiences, so this seems to be the growing thing. We have been working on making a space in the living room, getting the camera setup right, adjusting the sound, deciding on a set of songs, and practicing with the drum machine. (our drummer is quarantined in Boquete, so near yet so far).

Our goal is to do a Facebook live broadcast this Sunday evening, so we’ll see how it goes. This may not be like playing in front of a live audience but on the other hand, we can reach anyone in the world. We don’t have to move equipment, and our audience can listen from the comfort of their own homes (and dance like no one is looking!)  I figure the most optimistic estimate is 2 more months before there is live music again, but realistically it could be much longer. So, why not give this a try?

I’ll keep you all posted on the exact date, time, and how to find us. We’re usually Monkey Nerve but since it’s only two monkeys right now playing from our couch, look for posts about “The Couch Monkeys”, coming soon.

This is still a very stressful time for everyone, it’s hard to see the future, and it often feels like there is no end in sight. Hopefully we can send a bit of music your way to brighten an evening. Hopefully all of us can continue to take care of each other and be kind to each other. Hang in there! Some day this will be a story we tell our kids and grandkids, and that someday will come eventually.

 

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

a Great Day

There is nothing like a pandemic and strict quarantine to make you appreciate a lot of things you usually don’t even think about.

A bit of quick background – we’ve been quarantined since our return on March 1st. We no sooner got off our 14 day quarantine than the whole country was shut down. We’ve been allowed out for very limited hours, and only for food, pharmacy, bank, gas, and health care.

Women are allowed out M-W-F, and men Tu-Th-Sa for one hour, according to the number of your cedula

Now the country is taking the first steps toward reopening the country and returning to normal. Today, the big thing that made me so happy was exercise!! We are allowed out to run, walk, skate, and bike, still only during our very limited hours, and only within 1 kilometer of home, and with a mask if you think you will get close to any other people, but hey. I’ll take it!

It was never clear to me if I could bike to shopping, but I know I can’t get in the bank, and probably not the supermarket with biking clothes. I don’t want to bike in street clothes, so it had been 3 months since I’d been on the bike. That’s a long time!

Today, I decided to risk “shopping” so I got on the bike (oh my did that feel wonderful!!) and biked to the vegetable market and bought 3 cucumbers. That’s shopping, right? It’s 3 kilometers from home, but I don’t know what a kilometer is. It’s 2.2 miles, right? and I hardly speak any Spanish, right? As it turns out I had no problems, saw no police, and came home with more goodies in my pannier.

Across from the veggie market was a guy selling seafood. I got shrimp ($4.25/lb) and tuna ($3.50/lb)! Both are treats and look wonderful. The shrimp is big too, and really yummy. We’ll have tuna for supper tonight, with beer. I also went to the chino (convenience store) and got a 6-pack of beer. (The alcohol ban has been lifted but we are only allowed to buy one 6 pack or one bottle of something for home consumption. It’s not worth it to me to wait in line at the supermarket but the chino is really fast and easy.)

The country is starting a 6 phase process of opening up, and this is phase 1.  The next phases will come 10-14 days apart, depending on how things go, so it will take at least 2-3 months before everything gets back to anything resembling normal. Many people have suffered greatly, so the country is trying to restore essential services and get as many people back to work as possible, without jeopardizing health and safety.

 

We’ve been fine so I hardly have cause to complain. But, I’ve really missed biking. I can go out M-W-F from 11-1pm (over 60’s get 2 hours instead of 1!). I’m glad it’s not later in the day or I would either be really hot or really wet, but I’d go out anytime if necessary. I’m a believer in exercise, fresh air, and community for health and sanity, so I also enjoyed saying hello to some people along the way, and catching up a bit with some I hadn’t seen in quite a while.

I don’t know if the band will be out in phase 5 or 6, but that will be a while. I don’t know if I’ll see my family at all in 2020, so I’m very thankful for the internet and video chat. I see the grandkids adapting quickly to video as their main means of communication, so I’m enjoying more and more conversations and activities with them. Today two of them read to us in the group chat, and another showed me all the cake mixes in the cupboard that she is looking forward to making with me when I finally get there. The little one says HI a hundred times, but she’s learning more words every week so she’s getting more interesting too.

Crazy times, huh? I hope you all are staying safe, sane, and healthy, as much as possible under the circumstances. Be kind to each other.

 

Posted in Panama | 13 Comments

Friends Helping Friends

Many people have lost their livelihood in this pandemic. Many other people are unable to do the things they need to do, especially here in Panama with the very restrictive quarantine. Maybe we can be creative and help each other out?

Wherever you are – My Spanish teacher could use extra work. She was teaching at a private school which is no longer paying staff since they are closed. Her husband is also not working at the moment so she’s supporting the family. She’s an excellent, experienced teacher who has helped me enormously. But I still have a lot to learn so I’m back in class again. If you want to learn or improve your Spanish – http://yairatutoria.com/

If you are local – Eduardo Horna has been a friend for a long time. He works with expats and tourists giving tours, finding housing, translating, and helping them with whatever they need to get set up in their new lives. Of course there are no tourists or expats moving in right now. I mentioned yesterday that our air conditioner bit the dust and we were in the market for a new one. But, most stores are closed. The AC tech couldn’t find a unit through his usual wholesale channels. Let’s put Eduardo on the job! City Mall seemed like a good option. They sell food so they are open, but they also sell about anything else you could imagine at reasonable prices. He returned a couple hours later with a new AC unit, and at a reasonable price!

We didn’t have to go out. We didn’t have to drive to the other side of town. We just put him on the job and he got it done. Now that the quarantine has loosened up for technicians, including AC techs, we should be able to get it installed soon.

If you need errands done in Chiriqui, contact Eduardo. I’m sure he’ll do whatever he can to help you out. We’ve known him for 8 years and can vouch for his honesty and integrity, and he’s just an all around nice and helpful guy. riochiriqui@gmail.com

Also, for local people –

The Boquete Brewing Company, one of our band venues, has been shut down but now you can buy their beer on line  https://boquetebrewingcompany.com/index.php/store/?fbclid=IwAR1LegW4ugHSnKMRd4wa8_npkNZ-S6NjgLWRmlM3IeirIAcE8k2j0m4UJa4 They will deliver or you can pick up.  Support them, buy their hand crafted beer, and enjoy their delicious product. You are allowed one 6-pack for home consumption.

Our other friends at Mike’s Global Grill are making food for pickup or delivery. https://www.mikesglobalgrill.com/   Check the website for menu options, and to order something yummy to enjoy in your quarantine.

These are only a few people I know personally, but of course there are many many, more businesses and individuals trying to survive this difficult time. Do what you can support them with work, purchases, publicity, donations, or whatever might help them through.

Above all, be kind to each other. I’m feeling better after a couple days of minimal social media, but maybe I should still put this at the bottom of every post for a while.

 

Posted in Panama | 6 Comments