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

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