New Fruit, Mamey

Mamey Sapote….  well it’s new to me and I love this fruit!

I first saw it in Cuba a couple years ago when our hostess served it for breakfast. Then, I saw it again the last time we were there, and then again, recently, at a produce market here in David. Word is that Mamey is only found in March and is used for making “chicha” (the word for pretty much any fruit drink).

The fruit here is considerably bigger than what we saw in Cuba, and tends to have fiber below the skin but the flavor and appearance is the same. It reminds me of a cooked sweet potato but very sweet, and I’m happy to just eat it with a spoon.

The recipes for drinks all seem to ask for fruit, ice, milk, and sugar. I made a drink and it was wonderful but you definitely don’t need sugar! I found it to be super sweet.

I didn’t have any luck sprouting the Cuban seeds/pits, but I have a couple more here in damp paper towels, a method I found recommended on line. Maybe with luck I’ll have a tree someday. I was told they are very large trees so if it doesn’t work I’m happy buying the fruit in season and putting some aside in the freezer for later.

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It’s Hot!

It’s summer here in David, Panama, the height of summer. The dry season is mid December to mid April so by now we are tired of hot, dry weather and we are wishing for rain. Usually we have the most intense heat in April right before the rain but this year it seems to be here early, but there is no sign that the rain will also be early. (I know the weather report above predicts rain but I’ll believe it when I see it)

This is our thermometer this morning, about 10:20 AM.

The last couple nights it only went down to the low 80’s. We almost never use AC at night so the unit is in the living room (for those hot afternoons). But, even with AC and fans to blow the cool air down the hall, it was still hot.

Let night, however, we had a band gig in Boquete, only 40 minutes up the mountain. It was probably around 70 degrees, breezy, and wet! It wasn’t raining but the misty bajareque was rolling through leaving a layer of moisture on everything it touched. It often feels like a different world up there! Here we are approaching Boquete, heading into the clouds.

But, with bajareque comes rainbows! This is the view while we unloaded the band equipment.

We think we have the best of all worlds. We like the warmth of David (even if we are whining a bit at the moment) and the convenience of all the city has to offer nearby. But, we go to Boquete a lot. On the way we see gorgeous views of the mountains. We get a bit of cold weather, we get to see friends and play some music, and then we come home to our David  neighborhood and the dog who is always happy to see us.

There is no snow, ice, flooding, blizzards, and we’ve had much hotter weather in many other places we’ve lived in the US. All in all it’s pretty darn good here.

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There are many mango trees in Panama, and they thrive here. I have seen huge trees and talked to people who say they can be more than 100 years old. People say that you plant mangoes for your grandchildren because by then, they will be large and very productive.

It’s coming into mango time now. We have been watching the trees flower, then the little fruits develop, and now there are many trees with large clusters of fruit hanging and waiting to ripen.

Last year there were no mangoes. Word was there was a storm with lots of wind that blew the flowers off the trees. No flowers – no fruit. This year I’m happy that this didn’t happen again.

We went biking a couple days ago and checked one of my favorite trees. The fruit is small but ripens earlier than most. A lot of it is close to the ground so it doesn’t bruise when it falls, and it tastes good.

The fruit is low…

The fruit is high….

The fruit is ready to spread on a cookie sheet for freezing….

The fruit is frozen, packed, and ready to store in the freezer… By the end of the season I hope to have a few bags to last until next season.

I love that there is so much growing everywhere here. Just in our yard alone we have bananas. We left them up a little too long so they are sunburned but they will still taste great.

We also have yuca, pineapples, passion fruit (but no fruit because the iguanas keep eating the flowers), plantains, and citrus. We have oranges and now something they call “mandarinas” that are large, dark green, orange inside and so sweet and delicious! We also have tons of limóns, funny green fruit with beige patches, tart orange fruit and tons of juice. We have been freezing lots of juice for later. We have soursop, ginger, culantro (not cilantro, but another herb), and we are waiting on coconuts, huge yellow lemons, avocados, and some other fruits I grew but don’t remember now what they are. The land here provides a lot, and the people here tend to appreciate that and grow a lot of food producing plants and trees in their yards.

I owe many thanks to our neighbor Luis, good friend of our landlords. He planted all these fruit trees that we all enjoy so much. Gracias Luis.

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The Musician Shostakovich, and a Powerful Book

I have just read (in audiobook form) a most compelling book. I was raised in the classical music world so I have heard the music of Dimitri Shostakovich, but I never realized what a story there is about his life and music. He lived through the time of Stalin, and then the invasion of the Germans. He was evacuated from his home in Leningrad where many tens of thousands of people starved and froze to death. His music was a life sustaining force in Russia, giving the people hope, courage, and a voice to their emotions and grief.

My life overlapped with his by more than two decades. I know other musicians who left Russia to live in the US, but I never really thought about what they must have experienced or the case of colleagues, what their parents and families experienced.

As a fairly new musician, I’m beginning to realize the impact music can have on people so for me, it was so interesting to learn how music was life sustaining to the Russian people during these difficult times. I don’t expect to do anything near that level, but I’ll keep on keeping on a hopefully brighten people’s evenings along the way.

Another point that stuck with me – Those who ate their meger rations and curled up in bed to conserve energy usually didn’t make it, but those who went to work had a better chance of surviving. There is no physical/scientific explanation for this. And, working together and taking care of each other was also huge. The power of the human spirit is an awesome thing.

Read the book.

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Still Here – Sort Of

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything. I think this week is the first one in a while where we haven’t had a lot going on. We went to Cuba. Soon after, our band drummer came back and we had to quickly get back in the grove with him. The day of our first gig together my daughter and her friend arrived for a visit. Then, after a few days in Chiriqui and couple days in Panama City, we all went to the US. Along the way we both had bad colds and a lingering stomach bug. We got back to Panama just in time for another round of practice and gigs, and now here we are almost to the end this week already. Whew!!

What will you DO with yourself when you are retired and no longer working??? Ha! I don’t know how I had time to work. Even before the band I was always busy with one thing or another. Now, add hours of practice, rehearsal, driving to and playing gigs, and I never fit in everything I want or need to do. I’m sure the most listeners have no idea of the many hours of preparation that go into each and every song.

But, we have no travel plans or upcoming commitments besides the band, so maybe little by little I can do some catching up. I owe people emails and visits. I have things I want to write about. There are always chores and errands and in the dry, windy (dusty) season I could clean the house more. Mangoes are ripening, ready to cut up and freeze, and we have oranges and limons for juice to freeze. Thankfully, the dried out yard isn’t growing much but there’s lots of cleanup I could do. And, some reading and relaxing time is always good, and biking! I’ve been out a few times this week and it feels wonderful, but I’m really out of shape (I know, round is a shape 😁).

Yeah… bored…. LOL Never. I’ve had some new experiences, found a new fruit (but no new bugs recently so you all are safe there). Thankfully no Panamanians were watching the cane toad incident or they would have been very entertained.  We had a big old toad in the laundry room, and they are deadly to dogs so it had to go. These two gringos had a heck of a time catching and killing a toad! We are such incompetent killing machines.

Anyway, little by little I’ll catch up on things. And now that we have the band pretty much back on track, there is a list of cool new songs to tackle.

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Summer Brush Fires

It’s summer in Panama which means hot, dry weather. Rain is very unusual and the sun is intense. Everything turns brown and crispy and fires are common. No one seems to know for sure how the fires start (there isn’t lightning or electrical problems that I can see) but there have been rumors that fire is a good way to clean a field or other area. Since this isn’t legal, people set a fire (and run) on a windy day so it will keep burning, but of course it’s easy for it to get out of hand and burn larger areas than intended.

The woods across the street burned (like they seem to do every year). My neighbors have learned to keep a large enough clean area to prevent the fire from coming through their yards, but it’s still scary to see fire approaching and the smoke is very unpleasant. Thankfully, the houses are cement block with metal roofs so they are not in danger of burning. And, fires happen enough that the vegetation can’t get thick enough to fuel a crazy inferno.

In the past, firemen have come with water tanks on their backs and nozzles to squirt water on the perimeter of the fire to keep it from spreading. This year they came in a pickup with a water tank in the back, and a motor to run a fairly large water hose which they used to wet down the perimeter. This worked temporarily but in the dry and very windy conditions, the fire soon flared up again. Later they sent an actual fire truck to put more water on the fire, which seemed to take care of the progression. The next morning however, when the winds picked up again, smoldering areas were able to break into flames again.

We were afraid the fire would come into our yard. We have it cleaned up fairly well,  but the heat from burning vegetation outside the fence is probably enough to cause our fruit trees to drop their leaves and then the fruit. This happened once in the past and it was two years brfore we had fruit again. Thankfully though this didn’t happen this time and we can continue to enjoy our oranges and limons.

Summer is not my favorite time. It starts in mid December which is fine, and January is OK. By February though I am tired of high winds and no rain, and I’d be happy for rainy season to return. This doesn’t happen until mid April though. People worry about the rainy season and sometimes have the idea that it rains all the time, which is not the case. Mornings are clear and beautiful, clouds gather in the afternoon and then it rains, sometimes a little, sometimes in buckets, but it usually settles down by dark and the evenings are cool and beautiful. Of course there are some days with no rain, and some days with rain from early afternoon into the night (or even 24 hours if there is an unusual weather system), but in general the rain is fairly predictable and it keeps everything lush, green, and beautiful.

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Catching up – Cuba

I still have quite a few photos from our trip to Cuba. That was quite an experience! Living like a Cuban and hunting for daily food and necessities was quite an eye opener, and a huge lesson in appreciation in what we have available to us every day. For a reminder, read. Friday, Food Shopping in Cuba

Joel did some research on the food situation and learned the soil isn’t as fertile as one would hope, and all the sugar cane growing by the US and Russia hasn’t helped it either. Cuba is able to grow little of its own food and the vast majority is imported. There are the beginnings of sustainable farming efforts and measures to heal the soil but it’s not at all widespread and there is so much more to be learned and done before things can even begin to turn around.

So anyway….

Monday, we went walking in another direction, (down Simon Bolivar, if my map and memory serve) for some shopping we were told about. On the way we passed this beautiful church, Iglesia Del Sagrado Corazón de Jesus Then, we found PlazaPlaza Carlos III, one of the largest shopping complexes in Cuba. There was a variety of stores but we only visited the supermarket which had a better selection, but still hardly anything like we are accustomed to in our lives. There was only instant coffee, plenty of oil, rum, and fruit juice, and even some small frozen chickens (which we didn’t try)

Later on after we got back, we were hanging out on the balcony watching the world go by, including some furniture moving across the street. The stairs are steep and narrow but the guys were experts at hauling things up to the balcony with ropes.

The last of the photos, in no particular order….

Whew! I’m sure there is a whole lot more to be said about Cuba but this is it for me, and I’m turning my attention to more recent things now. Chao Cuba

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That’s me, MIA (missing in action). There’s been too much going on and the blog got pushed to the back burner where it has been sitting for weeks. But, that’s the thing with retirement and blogs that aren’t meant to produce income. You can leave things on the back burner and not worry about it.

Our band drummer came back! We have had a good time with our substitutes Mike 1 (from the Still Kickin country band) and Mike 2 (from the Hashtag band and others) and Mike 3 (the drum machine) but it’s great to have Chris back. We know each other and play together so well after all this time. You can imagine. But it’s been a lot of organization and practice and extra time to keep all the gigs and drummers going.

My daughter and her friend came for a visit which was fantastic. More on that later. Besides seeing them and being able to show them our Panamanian life, we got to play tourist which we usually don’t do in our daily lives. We had so much fun!

And, we both got colds *sigh*. It’s not a huge deal but it doesn’t leave a lot of extra energy. Thankfully, except for some leftover coughing and congestion, we are doing fine now.

So, that’s the short version of most of February. We are in Seattle now with my younger daughter and family, and since it’s a school/work day I have some down time. It’s too cold to go out so I’m happy doing things in the house. Later in the week we’ll head to California for some more family time with my other daughter, and then back home to Panama.

I’ll leave you with an interesting fly (I have been very deficient in bug pictures 😀 ). I was sitting on the terrace in Panama one morning when I heard this fly repeatedly buzzing towards my shelves and a folded towel. It looked like a fly and sounded like a fly,  but I’d never seen a fly do this. It was carrying either small leaves or flower petals to make some sort of nest in the towel!

I have quite a few more pictures stored away ready to include in blog posts, so more things will be coming along. I also have emails and correspondence to catch up on, so stand by….

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Sunday in Havana, Cuba

I’m catching up with posting things I wrote on our recent trip to Havana, Cuba. Internet there is minimal so it was easier to just wait until we got home.


Today, our third full day, we decided to take the hop on, hop off bus around town. The pictures should be self explanatory. It was a nice day with rain predicted in the afternoon but thankfully we only got some sprinkles, and we got to see a lot of the city while giving our feet a bit of a break. 

Little did we know this night would be rather eventful. We walked home, stopping to wait in the bread line on the way, and spent the evening relaxing and snacking. The guys had gone to the bedrooms, and Haydeé and I were watching TV. It had started to storm outside and we could hear it getting more intense, and then the TV signal went out. I was just wondering about the power when the lights went out. With nothing else to do, we all went to bed. 

I spent a restless night listening to the din of tin roofs rattling like pieces of fabric as the storm raged outside. I knew it was better later in the night when the storm settled down and you could hear voices in the street again. We didn’t realize what happened though until the next morning when Diana came down and reported a tornado, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since 1940. 3 people were killed and hundreds injured. 

Rare tornado strikes in Havana, killing at least 3 and injuring more than 100

The power came back on in the mid morning along with the TV signal so then we were able to see the news reports of buildings destroyed, cars and even large trucks tossed around like toys, and injured people being interviewed in hospitals. The destruction was quite impressive! The news reported that every effort was being made to support the people affected and clean up the affected areas. 

I was hoping the news didn’t get outside the country and worry family, especially since the internet was knocked out and we couldn’t connect. Thankfully on Tuesday we were able to get connected and reassure everyone who had indeed heard the news and were very concerned. We were fine but really felt for the people who had suffered the worst of the storm.

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Saturday in Cuba, Being a Tourist

This is the third post about our recent trip to Havana, Cuba. Now that we are home with regular internet, I’m catching up with photos and stories.


We woke up this morning to another line of people waiting for chicken, plastic bags in hand. Since the sidewalk on the shop side of the street (below us) is so narrow most of them wait on the other side. 

Today we decided to set out for the historic and more scenic parts of town. The pictures and their captions should be explanatory. Havana is beautiful, even in our more modest neighborhood, but there haven’t been resources to keep anything in good repair. The more upscale parts of the city have some buildings beautifully restored and others in progress, but there are still many others looking unkempt, and some literally falling down. 

One of my favorite experiences was a guy in the park with an ancient camera (103 years old, from Russia). I enjoyed talking with him about his camera, photography, the people he meets, and Cuba’s relation with other countries. We paid $2 for a photo that didn’t come out as well as he wanted because of the cloudy conditions, but it’s still very cool. 

We went walking down Obispo street in the tourist area and it was so crowded that it was almost hard to get through. Word is there are many tourists from Europe, South America, and Mexico, and more have been coming from the US. Tourist oriented business are visible everywhere here – shops, restaurants, hotels, tour buses, and of course the classic cars. It’s common to see caravans of convertibles honking their horns as they drive groups of tourists around town. 


On the way home we stopped by the 24 hour bread store, and the ham and sausage shop next door.

When we got back home there was still a line waiting for chicken. I watched one old woman wait 2 hours. When she finally made it into the shop it took her 10 minutes to come out again. The shop is directly below us so I might not be able to see exactly what is going on but I know for sure there was a lot of waiting time for a pound of chicken. It made me think about the two entire chickens in our freezer, and if we want more we just go to our choice of many supermarkets, without giving it a second thought. 

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