The Joy of Books

I recently came across an article in Brain Pickings about books. In the words of Herman Hesse “Among the many worlds that man did not receive as a gift from nature but created out of his own mind, the world of books is the greatest‚Ķ Without the word, without the writing of books, there is no history, there is no concept of humanity. And if anyone wants to try to enclose in a small space, in a single house or a single room, the history of the human spirit and to make it his own, he can only do this in the form of a collection of books.”


Herman Hesse

I have always loved books. I was pretty isolated as a child so books were my world. I grew up, life got busy with work, children, and responsibilities so I didn’t have as much time to read. Then I discovered audio books and all that changed. I spent a lot of time in my car as a visiting nurse so this was a wonderful opportunity to listen to books. I could also listen while working around the house and yard. My audio book habit has continued here in Panama.

Technology is a wonderful thing. Between audio books and eBooks, a whole world of books is available and they don’t take up any space or weigh a thing. The internet allows you to access all these books from anywhere you have a connection, and save them to whatever device you prefer.

The article referenced above raised the question of the continuing success of books. Would they be pushed aside by radio and movies, and now in these times, the internet? He says no, no more than photography has hurt painting. “We need not fear a future elimination of the book. On the contrary, the more that certain needs for entertainment and education are satisfied through other inventions, the more the book will win back in dignity and authority. For even the most childish intoxication with progress will soon be forced to recognize that writing and books have a function that is eternal. It will become evident that formulation in words and the handing on of these formulations through writing are not only important aids but actually the only means by which humanity can have a history and a continuing consciousness of itself.”

For me though, the internet has definitely become another source of things to read, like the Brain Pickings that lands in my mailbox every weekend. I also have pocket, an app that lets you save articles to read off line. The pocket folks send me many emails with links to interesting articles, and there is also Stumble Upon who sends me more articles, and all those articles have links to still others. You could spend your entire life reading interesting stuff on line! But, I digress… this post is about books.

When you think about it, books are really an amazing gift. You can read the thoughts and ideas of people long dead, or the writings of the latest best selling author. There are books for entertainment, for learning, for understanding our world and the people in it. There are books on probably any subject you can imagine. All those people, all that wisdom and experience, all those books carefully written by countless people, they are all just waiting for you to read them.

For me, if I could no longer enjoy books, some of the color would go out of my world. My favorite thing these days is to put on an audio book and go weed the yard. I may look like I’m working hard, but I’m actually having a great time. A good book, the outdoors, the birds, the plants, the yard looking better, it just doesn’t get any better than that. Oh, and the bugs, can’t forget the bugsūüėÄ

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What Does a Tourist do in David?

David is a working town. This is a mainly agricultural province, and the city of David is here to support the needs of the people living and working in the area. It is a great place to live with goods and services to meet all your needs. But, it is not a tourist attraction.

Martine, a French lady and one of my blog followers, spent a little time in David and we made plans to get together. Aside from visiting the downtown park and driving around a bit, what were we going to do? I did need to visit a Panamanian friend though, and I thought this would give her a look at the life and home of a local lady.

My friend Elizabeth is a lot of fun. She has parrots, plants, flowers, chickens, bees, fruit trees, medicinal plants, and is a wealth of information about plants, local food, where to shop, and all the things you would expect of a life time resident of the area. She is descended from a Danish man and an indigenous Panamanian woman on one side of the family, and a Spanish couple on the other side.  This day her sister Emma was also there. This was our first time meeting but we quickly became friends too.

We had so much fun! Martine speaks English well and understands quite a bit of Spanish, so with a little translation help now and then we were all able to get along very well. Since we were having such a good time, we decided to all pile in the car and go up to my house. My neighbor across the street was out so she also got involved in the conversation. Since she is a bilingual English teacher, communication was even easier all around. My friends love plants, so the first thing they wanted to do was walk around my yard and see what I had growing. We thought about going down to the river but nobody was wearing good footwear, and¬†they needed to go home after a while¬†because Elizabeth’s son was coming over.

Most of these photos are Martine’s, so thank you Martine for sharing all your photos so I could use them on my blog!:)

We headed back downtown and dropped off my friends. By now it was getting to be lunch time, and we decided that maybe lunch at the beach would be a good idea. Another friend, Tito, is always up for a ride to the beach and lives on the route out of town, so we stopped by to see if he wanted to join us (which he did).

It was a nice drive through the countryside, and we talked and laughed talked so much that the drive went quickly. In this area there is a lot of sugar cane, rice, and cattle, and everything is green and beautiful in the rainy season.


It was a Tuesday and we had the entire beach area all to ourselves. There is a little restaurant and they only had fried fish but it was really good! They take the whole fish (they said it was rabalo), make some cuts in the thick part so it will cook evenly, and as far as I could tell they just toss the whole fish in oil until it is cooked. It was great!

But like all good things, the time eventually came to head back and call it a day. We had so much fun that we plan to get together again on Sunday and go to Boquete to hear Joel’s band. Well unfortunately, not Martine since she has traveled on now, but we will think of her and send pictures.

Apparently, when you don’t know what to do, you hunt down some Panamanian friends and have a great time doing not much of anything. It was such a fun day! Martine and I got along wonderfully and she really enjoyed having a day with¬†people after days and days of traveling alone. And, she also got a taste of life as a resident rather than a tourist. Since she is considering living here later on this was good. She has to keep working for a few more years but hopefully there will be other visits to Panama before then.

And, something totally unrelated… we have a metal roof on this house, and I heard what sounded like a heard of animals running around on the roof. I finally went outside to see what was going on, and spotted this iguana. It saw me and froze as flat as it could to the roof, but I was still able to catch it with my camera. You can just see him left of center, pointed out by the pink arrows.


Sunday is my birthday and I’m looking forward to another fun time with my friends, this time with music and dancing. Life is good in Panama!


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Are You Willing to Help?

A young Panamanian university student is in a tough spot fighting lymphoma. My friend and fellow blogger is helping him and his family raise some much needed funds. If we all help a little bit it can add up to a significant difference for this family.

In Da Campo

A while ago I was asked to help set up a fundraising site for the nephew of one of my friend’s.  I agreed on the condition that the family provided me with details about his condition.  Today, I finally completed reading through, translating and putting that website up.

I already knew that he has had a struggle, first with a misdiagnosis and then with traveling back and forth every couple of weeks for chemotherapy.  The community came together and raised $1,000.00 earlier in the year, but the people of our town are farmers, fishermen, and laborers that don’t make much more than $20.00 a day for the most part.

Marbin is fortunate.  He has a loving family surrounding him that would do anything to see him well.  He has two younger siblings still in school, and he is trying to complete his university studies while he has been ill.  There…

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Hotel Deal in Boquete

We have Ofertasimple here, like Groupon in the US. Every day they send out an email with the latest deals. Most things are in Panama City – hotels, restaurants, spa treatments, all kinds of things but sometimes there are deals for other parts of the country as well.

Photo from the Ofertasimple page

Photo from the Ofertasimple page

Today they have a deal on the Boquete Garden Inn. I’ve seen this place and it is really nice. It should be since it is expensive, but with this you can stay there for much less, $75 instead of $220.

Here is THE LINK. It’s good for three months starting on June 22nd.

If you plan to travel to Panama, it might be worth keeping an eye on this site.¬†Maybe you’ll find other deals that will also help you out.

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Rainy Season

We have two seasons on the Pacific coast of Panama, dry and rainy. Dry season starts about mid-December. Schools have summer vacation until early February. Rain is very unlikely and everything gets more and more dry and brown. Brush fires are common. Different trees burst out in flowers and new fruits appear. My favorites are the mari√Īon (cashew apples) and of course, mangoes!

The rains are supposed to come back around mid-April. In this el ni√Īo year there was talk that the rains would be delayed, even by as much as two months but thankfully this did not happen. The rains came back right on schedule.

I like the rainy season and I’m always happy to see the rain return. Everything turns green again and the rain brings welcome cooler air. Sometimes though, an amazing amount of water can come down in a short time! I took this video a few days ago during one of those epic rains but it was even more impressive in person. We have a metal roof so it’s also very loud! Don’t call me on the phone when it’s raining like thisūüėČ

People worry about being here in the rainy season but it is actually quite easy to work around. Mornings are usually clear and bright, though there are some cloudy days. Rain comes later in the day, sometimes mid-afternoon but usually later as it gets closer to dark. (Days are pretty constant this close to the equator and dark is always shortly after 6:30PM) It may rain hard for a little while, followed by a lighter rain in the evening ending around mid-evening or bedtime.

This is just the average though. I can’t say it never rains in the morning because I am sitting here at 10:30 AM and it has been raining lightly for well over an hour. Yesterday it didn’t rain at all. But, generally, if you do your errands and outside activities in the morning you will be fine. Rainy afternoons are good for relaxing and engaging in at home activities. And, even if you do get caught in the rain, it’s warm.

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Birds and Bugs

I’ve been falling down on the job here! It’s been ages since I have posted photos of bugs.

But first, a few birds. Here is a beautiful Crimson-Backed Tanager in our front yard.


One day I saw this Crimson-crested woodpecker on the other side of our chain link fence.


We also have Gray-Headed Chachalacas which the locals call paisanos. Small groups of the tend to hang out in trees making delicate peeping sounds almost like baby chickens until they get excited about something. Then they can make a heck of a racket! The other day I saw some in a bare tree beside our yard.

OK, now on to the bugs. This is one of the more bizarre things we’ve seen. Joel was clearing some weeds next to the house when he hollered “Come over here. The ground is moving!” The ground was indeed moving and when he dug down a little more, he uncovered this huge grub. That was¬†Friday, and it’s still there. We buried it back in the dirt like we found it, but since then it has had the tail end sticking out, and sometimes moving. What on earth is this thing?!

We have also had a fairly large beehive in the orange tree, or at least fairly large for the little bees that build these hives. Yesterday I found it in the grass where it apparently fell. There were no bees but some ants were scavenging a few larvae and bits of the hive. It is very delicate, like delicate paper so I don’t know how long it will last, but at the moment it is hanging up on the gate of the terrace.

I was doing some weeding yesterday and saw so many interesting little bugs, I had to get my camera with my macro lens.

So, that’s just a little bit of what I have been seeing in the yard lately. It got a bit overgrown when I was gone and of course, with all the rain we have been getting everything is growing. But, I enjoy working outdoors where I often see interesting and beautiful wildlife, large and small.

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Huecos en la Cabeza

Holes in the head. Sometimes that is my problem. I put an email aside until I can give it proper attention, it gets pushed down below other incoming emails and I never get back to it. I totally overlook a blog comment. I forget to return a phone call. Things just leak out of the holes in my head. I used to be super organized because I had to be but now that life is more relaxed, sometimes I get too relaxed.  Apologies to anyone I unintentionally ignored, and if it happens to you please poke me and remind me that you are waiting to hear from me.

That’s all I have on my mind today. Other than that, life is pretty normal el bario (the neighborhood). Well maybe not totally normal. There was a whole lot of noise this morning. The teak guys were sawing and loading wood. I haven’t seen them again since the truck left though and I have a feeling they are done. The guys across the street are adding a new room so they were banging around. Our other neighbor got a delivery of materials for his work. The yard guy was next door with his weed whacker. About the time I figured there was not going to be any more sleeping, our realtor showed up to collect the rent.

One of our banana trees has had bananas on it for quite a while, so we decided to harvest them a couple days ago. They are still green. I heard you can use green bananas like green plantains so I tried to make patacones out of one that got damaged in the fall. It didn’t smash well into the little pancake like things but it tasted good, a lot like a potato so it is now in the chicken soup.

My Facebook friends have already seen these photos so excuse the repeats.

I have three plantain trees in the front yard. I used to have two but we had a tree fall last year and it smashed one of them. The roots put up two pups though, and that is why I now have three. The bigger one now has a flower!


Bananas and plantains make the most interesting strange flowers! Our veggie guy told me it should be about two months to plantains now. I will keep an eye on it as things progress.

Yes, our veggie guy came by today. Enrique gets up at 4AM, goes up to Cerro Punta and who knows where all else to get his fruits and vegetables, and then drives around town selling them out of his truck. We look forward to his visit every week because he has the best fresh produce. And, he’s a heck of a nice guy.

This afternoon the thunderstorms came through and really cooled things down! For us, this is quite cool and sent me looking for my long pants. Joel took it as an excuse to make hot chocolate. It poured like crazy for a while but finally settled down, and by dark it had quit (dark here is around 6:30. We are so close to the equator that the length of the days hardly varies throughout the year). Now at 10:30 it’s 73, a nice temperature for sleeping.



After the rain, my neighbor came over. She has been required to take English classes at the university (she is getting the credentials she needs to be the boss of all the special ed teachers!). I have been helping her which means explaining things in Spanish which helps me too. She is very smart and learns a lot faster than I do. I explain something one day and the next day she’s got it. I need things repeated multiple times over many days, and if I don’t use it in a month it’s gone again.

That’s quite a lot for someone who started off with nothing much to say!ūüėÄ It’s late now though and time to wrap things up. So, along with a quick shopping trip, some yard work, computer time, and a few chores that’s what has been going on around here.


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Ballet in Panama

Panama is not a cultural center, but I have been seeing more and more events here. Most things are in Panama City, of course, which is on the opposite side of the country from us, but still it is nice to see that there are things going on.

Today I saw this¬† ¬†We have ofertasimple which is like groupon, offering discounts on a variety of things from restaurants, spa treatments, hotels, events, and all sorts of other things. Today they had a deal on the Russian Ballet who will be performing Swan Lake in Panama City. You don’t get more upscale than the Russian ballet!


The Metropolitan Opera in New York broadcasts performances live to movie theaters, and those are also available in Panama City. I’ve seen symphony concerts and other classical music, plays, theater, pop concerts and many other events advertised in Panama City. That makes sense since it is a big city with the population to support such events.

Here in Chiriqui we are not totally without culture. There is an expat community in Boquete and they have a lot of things going on up there such as a theater, lectures on a variety of subjects, photography club with a gallery in the library, and we can’t forget the famous and well attended Blues and Jazz Festival that is a yearly event.

If cultural events are really important to you, you might feel deprived in Panama especially outside of Panama City. But there seems to be an increasing number of events which is nice to see. And, we also have the internet which provides a wealth of opportunities.

Even my art school here in David also offers music, ballet, and other dance classes and some of those kids are impressive.

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I came across an article recently – Poverty is often looked at in isolation, but it is an American problem. A photographer set out from California on a trip across the US to find and photograph the poorest communities, and was surprised that he never had to go more than 20 miles to find another community with a significant percentage of the population living in poverty.

There is poverty in Panama also, sometimes extreme poverty. The indigenous seem to suffer the most, especially in the comarka or land under their control. But, there is poverty in the general population as well. It is worse in rural areas but also present in cities. We have seen slums in cities, and shacks made of foraged materials along roads in the country. I know there are many protections for the indigenous and programs to help the poor, and frustration among the general population that the helping hands aren’t always used or welcomed.

I have rarely seen begging on the streets of Panama. Occasionally there is an indigenous person, usually a woman or child, outside a supermarket or place where people gather. I have seen a few people begging in Santiago where people get off the buses for a break and a bite to eat. There is a blind man I’ve seen a few times, and occasionally an indigenous frail looking woman. I have also seen many people drop a few coins in their cups as they get back on the bus.

There is also poverty in the US, and the homeless population has been on my mind a lot since my bicycle trip. Then, I saw the article and these photos by Matt Black from the article above (check them out, very striking black and white photos). I think many agree that the distance between the haves and have nots is increasing, and it seems that more people are struggling. The last recession hit many people hard, and the lack of job opportunities is still a problem especially for people closer to retirement age.

The people living on the streets are at the bottom, and they seem to be everywhere I went. In my experience when I was homeless (by choice on my bike) I learned a valuable lesson about the social isolation these people also face. The majority of homeless who I met were not young people either, but people probably in their 40’s, 50’s, or more.

There was a lady living in this RV with her disabled grandson in an RV park in central Washington state, trying to make it on $750/month social security. The roof leaked, the electric didn’t work, and the toilet had fallen through the floor. She said the low income housing program had been cut back so there was nothing for her, and she had no idea what she was going to do.


There was the homeless man on the bus. The bus driver was kind enough to give him a ride to the next town, and he had all his belongings in a trash bag. He said he had just gotten out of the hospital with pneumonia. He was still weak and having trouble breathing, but he was taking antibiotics and breathing pills. He only had a daughter who was estranged so he was very alone. As a nurse I wouldn’t have a lot of hope for his health, sending him back to the streets in his condition.


These are only two people for whom I have photographs. I also spoke to others, the guy who’s only friend was his dog and a sign that said if you don’t help me, at least help my dog. The lady with her stuff in a shopping cart who said she just walked every day hoping to find a place where she could spend the night in peace. There was one who didn’t want to be approached but all the others seemed surprised and happy that I would take the time for a short chat.

I know there are some people who choose to live on the streets. There are others who are mentally ill. But, how many are not there by choice but can’t get themselves back on track? My CA daughter works for the county government. After hours they open their large parking lot to people living in cars and RV’s, and it’s so full that they are looking for more space. In Oregon I saw a news segment from Portland. People don’t want the homeless in RV’s and cars parking in their neighborhoods, but if everyone feels like this where can they go? In Seattle, I saw another news segment about the homeless living in tents, and they are causing a problem with their trash but there are no provisions for them to dispose of their trash.

This poverty and homeless problem really bothered me, and still does. I have never seen it at such close range or talked to so many people. When I lived in Sarasota FL there were homeless people, three I knew fairly well, all mentally ill and the community took care of them. But, the community also put a lot of effort into pushing the homeless out. The¬†benches in the park were removed so people couldn’t hang out, for example.

I know people are trying to help and there are programs, but it’s obviously not solving the problem. And, when you add the social isolation and disrespect from the general population, it’s even harder for people. At least here in Panama I don’t see that. You are judged much less on your economic circumstances. I have no answers. Panama is not my native country and people with much more understanding and wisdom are working on it. Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m in sync with the US either, where priorities seem to have gone so far off track.

From the article above, this interesting thought from the photographer –¬†‚Äú… what has surprised me is the similarities I have encountered as I traveled from one community to another. All these diverse communities are connected, not least in their powerlessness. In the mainstream media, poverty is often looked at in isolation, but it is an American problem. It seems to me that it goes unreported because it does not fit the way America sees itself.‚ÄĚ

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Just Another Day in Panama

It’s been a really nice day, sunny, light breeze, not too hot, very enjoyable. I’m sitting here reflecting on my day, just a ordinary typical day in my life here (as ordinary and typical as any day can be in a different country).

The teak harvesting continues. They arrived about 8:15-8:30 this morning. It is now 5:30 PM and they are still at work. I caught the truck leaving yesterday. If you¬†missed my previous posts about this work in progress and want to see more, the posts are here and here. It’s been quite interesting to watch.

The guys who load the wood (by hand!) on to the truck all pile on tip when they drive off. I don't know where they do, but before long they are back to load more.

The guys who load the wood (by hand!) on to the truck all pile on top when they drive off. I don’t know where they go, but before long they are back to load more.

When I went through my photos I saw I had caught my neighbor Lucho who was also watching the truck leave. He said he did that work when he was young and it was really hard. After a year he knew he needed to find a different line of work (he is now a welder who makes security gates for doors and windows, and also does a variety of construction projects). He said the guys doing the heavy lifting make $20/day, or at most $25/day.¬†I also talked to the very strong little guy this morning. He said he is making good money but he’s heading up the whole operation.

Lucho watching the truck. I have such nice neighbors I smile just looking at the photo. He's smart, hard working, sensible, and has a heart of gold.

Lucho watching the truck. I have such nice neighbors. ¬†He’s smart, hard working, sensible, and has a heart of gold, and just looking at the photo makes me smile.

I hadn’t been on my bike in a while, so I set off for a ride and some errands this morning. As you leave our neighborhood, there is another neighborhood on the other side of the street with a lot of new activity.

There is a big field south of our neighborhood, and once in a while they hire three guys with machetes to cut the grass. It usually takes them three days. That kind of labor is very cheap, so they probably figure it makes more sense to do this than hire a machine that could cut it in a couple hours. What hard work out in the hot sun though.


Next I headed over to the old Via Boquete and saw this new sign. It looks like a large apartment building is going in there, also in a neighborhood of single family homes. It’s crazy all the construction and growth going on around here!


I was headed to the art school since I hadn’t been there since my trip. I had a good time saying hi to the other teachers but my painting teacher was out doing other things, so I’ll stop by another time. On the way back I passed another view of the construction in progress for the new bus terminal and shopping center.


No tire basura = don’t throw trash. Se vende = for sale. This would be a nice lot with a pretty view.

That’s about it for this morning. I have a cold, nothing serious, just a very runny and sneezy nose but I’ve lost my desire to fill my afternoon with activity. ¬†I’ve been mostly sitting and reading and I’ve found some interesting articles. You have been warnedūüėÄ There may be more off topic posts.

It’s now 6PM. Joel went to Boquete this morning for band practice for tomorrow’s gig. Then he had an afternoon thing with his other group, and now suddenly they have also been asked to play at a restaurant tonight! It looks like the teak people are wrapping it up for today. A couple of the pickup trucks have left, and they have parked the tractor in Lucho’s yard (huh? Maybe he’s keeping an eye on it for them if they aren’t coming tomorrow). It looks like I have a whole baked chicken all to myself!ūüėÄ

Life in Panama…

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