We finally got a day and a half of rain to the point of having puddles! Already the parched grass looks better! The air is humid plus as there is little wind right now, but I greatly hope there is more rain to come for those poor cattle. The cattle here are quite unique looking, a tad on the lean side, but otherwise rather nice to look at.
The lovely cow you see in the field this morning could be on your plate for dinner, as once slaughtered, beef is not aged as in North America and is immediately shipped to to the various outlets for sale. This makes for some tough beef, and apparently slow cooking is the only way to cope with it. The ground beef is very lean, and makes wonderful burgers with no shrinkage. When I see them in the fields like this, I tend to waver back towards vegetarianism. Chicken here is absolutely delicious, probably because all chickens are free range. This also provides us with lovely dark yolks in the eggs. Sadly, there has been virtually no fish to buy - a huge disappointment as we enjoy white fish.
Yesterday, Larry and Kimi, whose house is finishing on lot 64, stopped to say hello. They live in Southern California north of Los Angeles, and will be coming and going over the next few years until retirement. More delightful folks - Kimi has the greatest laugh! Without air conditioning, appliances, or any furniture, they are camping out in their living room for now. Don and Connie lent them some lawn chairs, and we plan to feed them a home-cooked meal this coming week. After the visit, Chris and I took off for Pedasi and spent a pleasant hour photographing various buildings and sites in and around Pedasi for me to put on my Playbook and take on my trip to Canada. We followed the photo shoot with delicious ice creams at LowTide Cafe, then headed off to ask Israel to make two benches to go with our table on the patio. Ready in two weeks this time. Israel actually follows my fractured Spanish - what a sweetie!
Our cats are doing very well...Cagney chases Mitzi, and allows himself to be chased; toys are found in odd places, as are candies! Just as Cagney did as a kitten, Mitzi loves to play with the wrapped candies in the dish. We used to find candies months later under couches, beds, the stove and fridge. Mitzi leaves several on the island counter, and a few scattered where we sit in the evenings. She is too curious for words. I cannot go anywhere or do anything without this little shadow behind me. When she follows Cagney it looks like 'Me' and 'Mini Me' trotting along. I need a photo of this! Sewing can be risky and I simply cannot knit now. I wait until she falls asleep to accomplish any task. It is like having a furry toddler racing around!
I am very glad to report that the water pressure remains constant and consistent and I have enjoyed a long, hot shower every morning for two weeks now! Oh joy, oh rapture!
The weather seems to tease us at times; several sunny days with a light breeze, then the clouds roll in with the anticipation of rain. Nada. Up to 10,000 cattle could die in the Azueros alone if the rains don't start soon. Everywhere is looking brown and tired. The humidity isn't overly bad, and we all love the sun, but some days of rain would so much better for those cattle, the grass, the flowers, and the dusty roads. The winds are now consistently from the south-east so all is set for the next season.
There is no reason to complain about weather here. Yes, the extremes of heat and rain may trouble some, but overall you will hear very little about weather except when it concerns the crops and cattle. I am anticipating our landscaping start, and all we have so far is a drawing! My dream for the back area (which looks huge!) is still a little further off, and I wonder how we can swing a start on it.
The water issues seem to be resolving nicely. This past week, pressure has been consistent and the water is a tad cooler since it has been drawn directly from the well(s). Our own system is working a little better too now that the pressure is constant. Our builder must have cross-wired or something, but Pedro wants us to await the final electrical connection before interfering with that pump. We are the only house with this problem - why me? A few more houses complete over the next few months, and in fact one couple are scheduled to move in next week. The community grows slowly but steadily. Unfortunately, we now know that some lots were bought with no intention to build! I thought we were buying into a residential development, not an investment opportunity. We'll see how this plays out.
Our cats are interacting more and more as Cagney slowly improves, and Mitizi grows bigger and more daring. The entertainment is worth any movie! Mostly, a little chasing, some rolling over and over, a bit of chewing on arms, legs, necks or whatever, and the occasional complaint in the form of a squeak. Mitzi has discovered the cat toybox, and we frequently find piles of litle toys everywhere in the Great Room.
Daily life has a rhythym now...the highlight of the week often being the visit of the 'vegetable truck' on Thursday. The driver stops at several locations around town, loaded with freshly picked veggies and some fruits. A couple of weeks ago, I bought a firm lettuce, a cucumber, two tomatoes, six carrots, and a pineapple for under $5.00....a bargain as food prices have been steadily rising in Panama over the past two years. The trick is to find that darn truck each Thursday am as there is no time frame and once empty, the driver leaves. There are also 'fish' trucks that visits our development from time to time; they usually have huge prawns, and sometimes white fish, so I am on the lookout for those guys now. Groceries here probably compare to the US. We have a choice of where to shop; the little local markets carry some basics, but prices fluctuate and we have to rely on whatever arrived that week; The 'Super Carne', the '99' and 'Rey' are set up similar to a North American supermarket, but we found the odour in the first two took some getting used to. Beef and pork are not aged for 28 days here, and the meat is fresh - sometimes killed the same day as it is sold - so there is that pervading odour of bloody meat. 'Rey' does not have that odour problem although they also have a huge meat and cheese counter. I have found that to buy anything wrapped in plastic (for the pleasure of the expats) I will pay at least twice what I pay when I go to the counter and request my chicken, meat, cheese etc. As the servers rarely know any English this was a challenge at first, but now I am an old hand and if all else fails, I just point and hold up fingers to indicate how many. I estimate we average about $75 per week for all supplies, including groceries. In Canada that amount was climbing well over $100 each week!
The house grows more comfortable each week. We now have draperies as well as blinds in most rooms (not bathrooms) and the finished effect is an improvement. My sewing machine has had a good workout, and I am delighted to have it here. Soon I can get back to my knitting - still two sweaters to finish before Christmas! We are on the lookout for a small dining set for our dining area, but there is no hurry as we eat outside all the time anyway! Our artisan pal, Israel, will make us a couple of benches for the outside table soon.
Lots of little events in one week, yet our time seems lazy and very Panamanian right now!
Last Monday we took a short drive to Los Destiladeros (hard to spell and even harder to say!) We drove right to the end of the road, past the big Los D. development with its little casas for rent and its nicely treed grounds, and on to Villa Camilla which is a lovely hotel with absolutely beautiful grounds and a little cafe right off the beach. The beach was glorious - the tide was out and the surf magnificent! A spot to return to with any visitors...
The only problem...we ordered two pina coladas and two ice creams. The bill came to $22.00 before tax. As you can see, the view from our table was lovely, and we could have sat the rest of the day watching that surf.
On the way home, we stopped by an artisan's abode, and ordered a mesa to be made for our patio. Israel is an older local who has a huge outdoor workshop complete with the requisite sawdust and hand-made items sitting everywhere. Our 6' by 30" table finished would cost $120.00, and to our amazement when I asked when he could have it made, he said 'Sabado' - next Saturday? We'll see when we visit. Anyway, Chris picked it up on Saturday, and it looked great. Cash handed over and the table arrived home in the SUV...
On Saturday, ADD Design arrived to finish installation of our bedroom closets. Hurrah! Two workmen were here from 10:30 until 6:00 pm and there is still a door and a piece of bottom trim missing . Ho hum. On Sunday, we hosted an al fresco dinner with four friends in the development with laughter to match the consumption of wine and beer. I think Chris and I literally fell into bed that night.
Cagney is quietly lazing about and saw the vet today. Three shots and oral medicine administered to his utter disgust, and he needs to continue with more antibiotic and vitamins. He is still anaemic, and has a fever. I suppose being a purebreed makes him more sensitive? Mitzi charges around the house when awake, and flops contentedly wherever she is once tired. She is entertaining, and growing leggier than ever. Her coat is developing nicely, and both Dr Diaz and his wife Esse were delighted to see how she had grown when she had her first vet visit today. She too had shots, immunizations and oral worm medicine. Not impressed was her reaction! When we put her back in the crate, she curled up and fell asleep, likely exhausted. Wait 'til we do the flea treatment tomorrow!
Another week has flown by with some small and interesting developments. Friend Beth left for Toronto on Thursday, and says she already misses Panama! Pierre and Diablo (their standard poodle) are now batching it at Casa 5. Connie asked me to take a look at her plans for redecorating her master bedroom. I'm all for bright colour for this pair, to suit their personalities. Connie and Don half agree...we'll see what they end up with. We met with some more Costa Pedasi owners who stopped by our casa on the weekend. Bob, owner of lot 57, plans to start building in a few months. He and his partner are from Wisconsin and own three West Highland terriers (one of my favourite small dogs!). Bob is chatty and typically mid-west as far as I can make out - open and friendly. With him came Murray and Cathy, from BC, who own lot 65 and are about halfway built. They will be off to the 'big city' today to choose finishings. Not easy to do as I found out. Murray is a cabinet maker - could I ever use his talents! They own two standard poodles which will make Diablo happy, assumedly. I think they have a few years to retirement!
Chris and I got back to beach walking this past week. We spent a pleasant hour beach-combing at Playa el Toro (Bull beach) and found a few small shells. With the tide way out, this beach has a rolling surf that you could watch for hours, and clambering around the rock is fun with all the wee tidal pools. Next was Playa la Garita (our development beach) and again with the tide out, we spent another hour combing the rocks for shells. There were at least 30 adults and kids boogie- board surfing and again, I felt drawn to just sit and watch. Today we will visit Playa el Arenal which is the best for just walking on clean sand with no-one in sight. The surf pounds right beside you, and the water is tepid and refreshing at the same time. After an hour of brisk exercise, we will stop for papas fritas (french fries)- hot and freshly made. The feeling of the wind and the crisp sea air is so invigorating, I could eat a few platefuls of those fries! We often sit for a while there, watch the seagulls and frigate birds wheeling above the boats, seeking fish, listening to the Spanish music, and quietly meditating on our luck. This is the beach where the fishermen leave at 5 am and return around 11 am. At one time, anyone could buy a freshly caught fish for $1 here, but now no such luck - those fish head straight into the city for dinner that night! The fishers make a lot more money with this scheme.
Our cats continue to thrive. Cagney now interacts with Mitzi, carefully and within his limits. She gets sent packing quickly if she dares to presume on his tolerance! Mitzi is growing and now resembles a tummy with four long skinny legs and a long thin tail, with a tiny triangular head attached.
Her energy is boundless until she wearies, drops wherever she is, and instantly falls asleep. Then we all sigh with relief. Cagney feels as though his weight has returned...I must try him on the scales soon.
Friday and Saturday, we had 'electrical' visitors, and it seems we will have our own electricity very soon. About time! I have been careful about using the AC and could run it a lot more for comfort. The house is running well now, and there is little to improve inside. Outside is another topic, and I surely could use some handsome young sons or sons-in-law to help! All in good time...
There has been a lot of lightning at night for over a week now, with the odd thunderclap to remind us the rain is coming. The parched grass and palms will welcome every bit of that rain! Two nights ago, rain fell for awhile, but too little to make any real difference yet. Rain in the 'interior' is quite unlike rain in the northwest of North America. There it can rain for days on end with variations from drizzle to buckets pouring from an open sky. Here, it reminds me of Hawaii - light tepid rain for an hour or two, followed by sunshine. However, in Panama City and the higher elevations where the rain forest reigns, we noted the aforementioned bucketfuls. The rain bounces four inches off the pavement and although it is humid and warm, you get soaked within seconds!
We look forward to seeing our front garden appear once the rain sets in. Matt will be back from his visit to Florida, and back on the hunt for plants, trees, and the necessary decorations to make the gardens beautiful. He tells us there is a need to be highly selective here on the coast. Not only is this Panama with its likes and dislikes of certain plants, but the salty sea air adds another dimension to be considered when selecting plantings. Lately, we have sat in our front 'wasteland' for an hour or so before dinner, enjoying a cold drink, waving to the workers as they leave the development and chatting to anyone who happens by. I mean to request a permanent seating area out there from Matt.
This past week, we have met three more couples in various stages of moving to Panama. Jeff and Matt from New York plan to build on lot 13 next to our friends Don and Connie. A delightful pair, they were very taken with our wee Mitzi, and told us they own four dachshunds. Hopefully they will start building this year. The day after meeting them, a couple knocked at our door telling us they were looking for Don. We entertained them for a short while and showed our home. Bill and Audrey from Arizona are deciding whether this is the location they want, and are looking about the country at alternatives. Later again in the week, we met up with Gordon and Katri from Nelson. BC who were renting for 9 days while on their third or fourth trip to Panama. Another interesting couple, they anticipate coming to Panama and maybe Costa Pedasi. Katri has a long-standing business in Nelson which could be the same kind of albatross that Chris had in Mission. We wish all of them luck!
On the personal front, Cagney is getting livelier and starting to think about chasing Mitzi, who would love the attention. She is like a crazy cat, racing around the house, up and down furniture and practically climbing walls. We have to lock her out of our bedroom at night now or spend a sleepless night! The litany of missing parts to the house remains: no electricity (still borrowing), water pump mostly non-operational, patio door handle not replaced, fallen vent on the ground. Otherwise, we are enjoying this slow life...Chris says he gets bored with no garden to potter in. I am busy: still knitting, sewing, reading, monitoring the online business, blogging, walking, helping to form the Homeowner Association, schmoozing with neighbours, and whatever else takes my fancy!
The week has gone by quickly and many smaller events occurred which are generally good. We started the week with a positive vet visit for Cagney, and he is definitely mending well. We are so glad, as no doubt he is! Later on Monday, our furniture (sofa and loveseat, plus carpet and cushions) was delivered by Madison and looks fantastic in place. I had wanted to buy white furniture and accessorize with bright blues etc. but the choice of dark blue is very acceptable and with the rug, perfect.
We continue to seek a small dinette for the dining area, but all in good time. I spent a good part of the past week finishing the drapes for the Great Room. I brought IKEA white cotton drapes from Canada at a very good price, and with the fabric I selected over two years ago, trimmed the unfinished bottoms of the drapes to lengthen them. The sewing machine Chris gave me for Christmas in 2009 (!) finally got used and is easy and fun to run. It's a Kenmore from Sears. I had it packed all this time. Finished product...see for yourself:
First I started knitting again, then baking bread, now sewing....wonder what's next in my Martha arsenal?
Two evenings were spent with Ken and Connie who own lots 61 and 62. They plan to start building about next January, and are a lovely couple from Chicago. My first dinner guests! Finally. By mid-week, we were off to look at a nursery called Vivero just past Las Tablas. Beautiful healthy plants greeted our gaze and we selected some bougainvillea for four pots we have, plus two indoor greenery plants and the fixings for two hanging baskets. Prices were reasonable, the senorita spoke good English and we left knowing we would return for more. Landscaping is going to be a joy - we both love a garden, and need to rein ourselves in to avoid overworking! At the end of the week, the water trough under the big tree was finally razed and we found there is yet more space to plant. Oh, joy!
The weekend has now passed and the closets were not completed. Ah, me. Next week? The bedroom is so untidy...still no resolution regarding the water pump, and we still "borrow" electricity. What, me worry? We also have a broken door handle (the one that caused me to smash that end table), and one of the vent covers has fallen to earth outside. Will it ever end?
Bright and lively describes our wee Mitzi. Such a little devil, and so full of vim and vigour! She eats, drinks, potties and sleeps well. We call her our little Panamaniac!
This Sunday ends with us meeting new buyers Matt and Jeff from New York who will build on Lot 13 sometime this coming year. All great neighbours to be, and the community grows.
Another week of multiple vet visits, this time in Chitre as well as Pedasi. Cagney is the culprit once more. His leg is healing in nicely, but he has eaten little and tends to retreat under the guest bed much of the day. So, after examining him, the Pedasi vet suggested he may have a large hairball and we drove off to the vet In Chitre for x-rays and blood work. The x-rays were negative - normal stomach and bowel, no sign of any obstruction. However, his blood work was off a little - I knew as soon as the results printed, but we waited for the vet to explain. Yes, his red cells are a little low ( no wonder with that bleeding episode!), and his white cells a bit high (yup, he's been fighting an infection). The two vets conferred and Cagney got an IV dose of antibiotic and vitamins. Good kitty...no resistance and we thought he seemed improved when we got him home. Next day, he won't eat, and we've been told to take him to Pedasi for more antibiotic. This time, the full IV treatment and he was exhausted at the end, as were we! Today, he wants to hide again, eating very little, but looking ok. He has lost some weight, although with all his hair he still looks like a big boy. What to do next? We want to give him some time to recover, but this is too worrisome after what happened with Bogart!
Meanwhile, Mitzi has doubled her size, wants to play, eat, and stalk. She is a little delight, and makes us laugh despite our worries over Cagney.
Around the house, all is functioning well right now. Hot water every day is a delight! Our site engineer, Pedro suspects there may be a problem with the hook-up to the community water system, and we need to investigate this. Today we were supposed to have our bedroom closets installed, but no sign of the installers by 4 pm, so maybe manana? I long to hang our clothes up properly.
The weather had been windy as heck for a few weeks, with lots of morning cloud, but that seems to have disappeared now and days are balmy with little wind. Hard to believe we have spent a whole winter with no snow, no rain, no chilly temperatures. It seems surreal! Another month plus of this, and the rainy season starts which means rain many days for part of the day, a change in wind direction, slightly cooler temperatures. There really is no bad weather here. Today I booked a visit to Canada for mid-June and will be away for 15 days plus travel time. I am using Chris' Aeroplan points which saves at least $700 plus dollars. I really will enjoy connecting with my pals, and seeing the family will be a joy.
My Spanish is improving - Chris is impressed, but most Panamanians aren't! I can carry on a brief conversation, but with poor grammar (if any), occasional Spanglish or English, or gestures to fill the gaps. I ordered lunch at McDonalds - in Spanish -without getting the wrong order! I think of taking lessons, but have been too lazy to search out a source. Instead, I knit, read, blog, write, walk the beach, photograph, and generally act like I am retired!
Another week of near crises, laughter over the ridiculousness of it all, some good, some bad! Why does my life remain like a roller-coaster - did I displease the Universe?
To continue, last Tuesday our water pressure suddenly almost tripled, so unknown to me, my day would not be good. Chris left early to have some car maintenance done in Las Tablas which meant he was gone five hours. I rose as he left, and could hear a trickling noise in our bathroom - sure enough the toilet inlet was spewing water and I had the start of a minor flood. I knew how to turn the proper knob and stopped it. Sigh - disaster number one averted. I had my shower, noticing how lovely the stream of water felt, and wishing it could always be so great. Off to my breakfast, made our bed, returned to the Great Room to find a huge area covered with an inch of water, and quickly growing! It took several minutes to find the source, but finally I pinpointed the sound of running water from the refrigerator. Disaster two on the way. Opening doors, found no obvious leaks. Then I peered behind to the water intake and lo' there it was. It took a long time to get that blinking fridge pulled out, and to start turning this tiny valve. Immediately, the water hit the ceiling and spurted even more. OOPS! Wrong way. Needless to say, I reversed direction and everything stopped. Most of the kitchen was under water and a large part of the Great Room. I unplugged everything, moved Mitzi's cage, and watched our rug get wetter and wetter as the thing soaked up a portion of the flood. I didn't know how to turn off the water intake for the house, so I whisked around to make sure nowhere else was an imminent disaster! Later, we discovered our water pressure was "in the red".
I looked outside, no-one around! Off to the office I stomped, and asked the assistant to contact someone, anyone, to help me. As I marched back to the house in high dudgeon, cursing and half-crying, I swore I would pack my bags and head home on the next available plane. "I've had it with this d*** place!" I yelled to the birds, weeds, sun and clouds. Boy, but I was p***** off! Chris arrived home after I had calmed down and spent the next two hours with the wet vacuum - the one we hadn't intended to bring here. We haven't had ANY hot water since, so are both rather rancid!
Trying to feel normal has become a challenge. Cagney needed our local vet when we found a huge abscessed area on his back leg. Dr Diaz (our newest best friend) shaved most of the leg, gave him several injections, provided antibiotic cream, and off home we went with another sick cat dilemma. Sure enough the abscess broke and he bled like crazy, so another vet visit ensued. It took 24 hours before that bleeding finally stopped. At least Mitzi is thriving, growing, exploring, stealing Cagney's food, and starting to play. In other words, a normal kitten.
The highlight of the week was a trip to Playa Venao and a treated lunch with new pals, Tom and Teresa. Beautiful location, and excellent food. We walked the beach and visited the Play Venao Hotel Resort. This is a place we will visit often!
So, the week has ended calmly. No closet installation, but this is Panama. Another week begins and perhaps we can finally solve the plumbing issues once and for all? Ah, me....