Thursday, August 30, 2012
I've not visited my blog in well over a year. I've wimped out and posted notes - albeit few and far between - on Facebook. I've reduced myself to the occasional comment and frequent "like". I do still keep my journal, but that is handwritten and for my eyes only.
So where/how do I begin? I'm not really sure. I suppose by putting something - anything - down "on paper". And then doing it again. And again.
Anyway, I'm not dead. Really. Actually, I'm doing pretty well. And life is good. Right this minute the laundry is calling my name, though, and I need to answer...
I'm back. And I'll be back.
Friday, January 21, 2011
I can sit here in my sun room and see hills and mountains covered in hundreds of shades of green. I can enjoy the dance of the palm fronds and exult in the silence broken only by the "chirk-chirk" of a gecko.
The majority of my Facebook friends live in Tennessee. And they are buried - again - in snow. Now, "buried" in the South is not the same thing as "buried" is in other parts of the country. Nonetheless, schools are closed, and people are telecommuting wherever possible. And while they are trying to make the best of the situation, I can tell that a lot of them are starting to come down with cabin fever.
And here I am. Comfortable in shorts and short sleeves. Sipping coffee with open windows. I want to talk about it, but I'm afraid my friends will get really tired of the subject and wander off to pout. Kermit was right, "It's not easy being green", especially when the world your friends are in is snow white.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Panama is a tiny country, geographically speaking. An isthmus lying east to west between North and South America, it looks something like a skinny "S" turned on its side. At its narrowest point it is 48 miles north to south. At its widest it is a whopping 114 miles north to south. It is about 480 miles east to west.
By comparison, the state of Tennessee is about 110 miles north to south, and about 430 miles east to west.
For such a tiny country, Panama has a rich, often bloody history, from the indigenous peoples who have lived here for thousands of years, to the fabled "lost civilizations", to the invasions by Spain, Colombia, and, yes, the United States of America. We are the country of the "big ditch", the path between the oceans, wonder of the modern world: The Panama Canal. We grow internationally famous and desired coffee. Coffee that consistently is judged among the best, if not the best, in the world.
One of the wonderfully unique things about Panama is the number of national holidays related to our history, most of which, coincidentally, fall in November. During the first week of November, we had a religious holiday on Tuesday, and "political" holidays on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
November 2 is the Day of the Dead. This is a solemn religious holiday - not at all like the celebrations in Mexico. More akin to Memorial Day or Remembrance Day, this is a time to visit the cemeteries and tidy up the sepulchers, cleaning the tiles and statues and decorating them with flowers.
November 3 is "El Dia de Independencia"! A day for parades and fireworks and fiestas! On this day in 1903, Panama became an independent republic, severing ties with Colombia. (Aided by the US, which wanted control of the land extending 3 miles on either side of the canal under construction.)
November 4 is "El Dia de Bandera" - flag day. The first Panamanian flag was sewn in secret by the first First Lady of the newly created republic and flown for the first time on this date in 1903.
November 5 is "Colon Day" - not like the US Columbus Day, this day commemorates the day the last Colombian troops withdrew from Panama from the port city of Colon, which is on the north end of the Panama Canal. (Remember that the Panama Canal lies northwest to southeast. This means that if you want to travel from the Atlantic Ocean ("east") to the Pacific Ocean ("west"), you are actually sailing southeast. Don't worry. It gives me a headache, too.)
Then today, November 10 is "El Premer Dia de Grito Independencia". On this day in 1821, the first call for independence from Spain was raised in the streets of Villa de Los Santos, by the women, so I'm told! (You go, girls!)
Finally, on November 28, we celebrate "El Dia de Independencia" from Spain! This happened also in 1821. But you must remember that from 1821 to 1903, Panama was a province of Colombia. November 28 is a huge day of celebration throughout the country, but especially here in Boquete. Our tiny mountain village plays host to bands from high schools and colleges all over the country and there will be a parade filled with drummers and xylophone players, beautiful young girls in polleras and trembleques that put my feeble attempt to shame (although I'm working on remedying that!). There will be fireworks starting at 11:59PM on the 27th, calling us to wake up and start celebrating!
As I said at the beginning, Panama is a tiny country. But we have a long, proud history. And a vital place in the world. And, I believe, a bright and prosperous future. I am so glad to be able to say I am a guest in this country. It is my heart's desire to welcome you here as a guest in my home so I can share this beauty and history with you!
Monday, December 8, 2008
In the land of the Panama Canal, bird-filled rain forests and world class fishing, lie coffee farms producing world class coffee. In Panama's highland region, the western province of Chiriqui, is the placid and wonderful town of Boquete. It is known as the "Valley of the Flowers and Eternal Spring." On the side 0f the Baru Volcano (over 11400 feet) near the border with Costa Rica, are some of the best, if not the best, Estate coffees in the world. The area has the perfect environment for growing world class coffee beans. The unique area receives winds from the north, known as the "bajareque," along with a light drizzle accompanied by a cool breeze. The best and highest ranking coffees in the world come from this region of Panama. The Boquete and Volcano Baru region's high altitude grown Estate coffees consistently outperform the rest of the world.
The simple answer is: Because it tastes better. "Grown only in ideal climates and prepared according to exacting standards, specialty coffee possesses a richer and more balanced flavor than mass-produced coffee. Plus, it must pass a stringent certification process to ensure that it is free of flaws and imperfections." according to the Specialty Coffee Association. Specialty coffees compete in "blind" tasting competitions which grade each coffee to a standard. Although many of the finest specialty coffees from the top 15 coffee producing countries enter these contests which are judged by panels of international judges, Panama's specialty coffee statistically out cups them all.
Panama coffees are shade grown at the highest altitudes in the Chiriqui Provence of Panama. The farms have close working relationships with their Ngobe - Bugle native workers and strive to enhance the communities as well as the social, medical, nutritional and educational services available to their workers. There is great pride in the traditions that have led to the quality and taste generated by these traditions.
Panama's Hacienda La Esmeralda gourmet “geisha” coffee, which has broken world price records in online coffee auctions, is now so sought after that the farm is planning its own Internet auction this year.
In a bold step never before attempted by a single estate, the farm in the cool highlands above Panama's western town of Boquete will put its entire crop up for bidding in a private auction, farm administrator Daniel Peterson said.
The farm's coffee is popular with high-end roasters and connoisseurs drawn to its sweet jasmine flavors that win the rare beans high scores at cupping events.
The coffee had cultivated a reputation similar to fine wines grown in specific regions, and is now one of the world's most expensive varieties.
Last year Hacienda's small lot sold at an unprecedented $130 per pound at the “Best of Panama” online auction, where bids were taken by telephone after passing the computer system's maximum price of $99.99 per pound.
At a charity auction/tag sale/social "do" yesterday here in Boquete, there was a silent auction at which two bags of Geisha coffee were up for bid. And I scored big time by winning one at about half its market value! In addition to that I was able, by participating, to assist four different charities here in the area.
"My" coffee will be ready in April, after harvesting, aging and roasting. If you come visit me, and are very, very nice to me, I just might brew you a (single) cup of the best - and most expensive coffee in the world.
Friday, December 5, 2008
This morning I went over to the Mission for my first day on the "job". All the little children ran over to the car as soon as I tried to open the door. They just wanted to stare at me. My silver hair and pale skin are rare here.
I spent much of the morning filing medical records, but got one moment of "real nursing" when one of the little boys at the mission managed to split open his head when he fell from a swing. I cleaned the wound and helped Monica get things set up for the doctor. Then I got the job of holding the kid's head still while Alan (the doctor) deadened the area, clipped the hair, and sutured the wound. All the kid could do was to cry for his "abuelo" (grandfather). We got him taken care of and on his way.
I loved it.
Not that the kid got hurt, of course, but that I could do something concrete to help.
Then this afternoon, a newly-arrived couple that we met this past Tuesday came over to visit. Chi-Chi is a knitter who had sort of abandoned the craft, but when I showed her my "stupid simple" baby blanket pattern and explained that I am knitting baby blankets for the Ngobe Bugle Indian women who walk down from the comarca, or mountain wilderness, to the mission to have their babies, she decided that she wanted in on the fun. So I've loaned her a circular needle and supplied her with 3 skeins of Lion Brand Homespun and have created another charity knitter! Mwaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh hahahahahahaha! My plan is working!! Soon I'll have enough people identified to start a Sit 'n' Knit night somewhere in town.
The sun was shining this morning. Not just in the sky, but also in my heart.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Between the earthquake and the unusual rain system and the flooding and a broken tooth and Thanksgiving Day and a friend's return to the States for 2 months, I have been exceptionally down. Many days it was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning - and keep myself from crawling back into (or under) the bed before noon. I am better now. Not great. Not back to "normal". But better.
I am requiring myself to get out of the house 2 mornings a week to volunteer at one of the local missions. I am requiring myself to carry on the Chowder and Marching Society. I am requiring myself to "fake it till I make it".
I heard earlier this week that we had 57 inches of rain in November. Think of it like this: it rained an average of almost 2 inches a day. Every day. All month long. Or think of it like this: It rained 5 FEET 9 INCHES in November.
Bob informed me that, as of November 30, we had accumulated 219 inches of rain for the year. Again, think of it like this: OVER 18 FEET OF RAIN. In eleven months.
And they say that there is a dry season in January/February/March. I don't quite believe them.
In other news, we went last Saturday with our church to a feeding station that the church supports. We took gift bags for the 35 mothers who cook (over wood fires in cast iron kettles thankyouverymuch) for the almost 100 children who eat there daily. The Ngobe (or Ngabe) Bugle (or Bukle) Indians live in the mountains and eke out a meager existence on the land. All too often the meal provided at the feeding station is the only one the children receive each day. Anyway, Mother's Day in Panama is December 8, and we provided gift bags with cosmetics, toothbrushes, lotion and powder and other things for the moms.
Life is so hard for the women especially. They are often pregnant by 15, and have a baby every year or so. The grown women almost never smile, and the children rarely do. With my silver hair and glasses, I looked so different that several children were afraid of me, although after a while a little flirt of a boy and an angel of a little girl sat on my lap or leaned on my leg. (I wanted to bring about half a dozen of the little girls home with me to rescue them from a future of no education, likely abuse, and certain early motherhood.)
We are going back in a couple of weeks to bring Christmas presents to the children.
By the way, the feeding station is NOT the mission where I will be working 2 days a week. THAT mission is much closer to home, has a Bible Institute, sponsors many of the Gnobe Bugle children in school (by providing uniforms, shoes, school supplies, etc), and has a clinic. I'll probably work most with the clinic, depending on patient needs. I understand that the Indian women walk down to the mission clinic to give birth (Yes, you read that right: they walk down to the clinic while they are in labor), so I may get to practice midwifery. I'll let you know. (I hope to finish knitting the baby blanket I'm currently working on before assisting in a delivery, so I can give it to the new baby.)
I still have my down days. I still have my down moments. I still cry. But I am making a valiant effort to "Bloom Where I Am Planted" - a cliche with which to close this for now.