Monday, December 8, 2008


In order to understand and appreciate my unabashed glee at my success yesterday in winning a silent auction of a pound of Hacienda La Esmeralda gourmet geisha coffee, you really need a small lesson in Panama coffee. So, with acknowledgment to the various websites I perused, thus begineth your lesson:

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 highlands of Panama have the perfect combination of soil and environment in many microclimates to grow unique specialty coffee and as a result, Panama produces outstanding and very unique beans rated the world's best.

Why Drink Specialty Coffee? And Why Panama's?

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.

Traditions such as hand picking, washed, and sun dried are still practiced. The Ngobe - Bugle natives of Panama have been growing and harvesting coffee for generations. These Ngobe- Bugle know the correct selection of the mature cherry and have the manual quality control that helps makes Panama coffee so uniquely special.

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.

“We are going to auction all of the geisha together. This is the fairest form of exchange,” Peterson told Reuters in the warehouse storing this year's harvest, just 200 60-kg bags.

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.

Hacienda's Geisha was judged World's #1 Coffee at the Specialty Coffee Assn. annual cuppings in 2005, 2006, 2007 & #2 in 2008. Over 100 of the world's best coffees enter this competition. Panama Geisha (gesha varietal) coffee has been taking the coffee world by storm. It has also ranked #1 at the Panama Best of Panama competition for the last four years. It is like no other coffee. Very complex. It smells like jasmine, coffee blossoms with spectacular aromatic quality with hints of blackberry, mango, chocolate, nuts, lemon and more.

This coffee scores in the 94-96 range - about as good as you can get.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

If you have read this far, you should have an appreciation of the rarity and incredible quality of Panama's coffees, especially the Hacienda La Esmeralda Geisha. By the way, the Peterson's run a school for the workers' children, and a health clinic and daycare, as well.

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

Of Musicals and Missions

Last night, Thursday, Bob and I went to a performance of a musical review of the '60s performed by the Boquete Community Players. It consisted of original memoirs written and/or performed by local expat residents interspersed with music of the era performed by "The Boquettes" which was a girl group quintet of silver-haired ladies. It was a hoot and a half, and a wonderful evening. I enjoyed singing along with all the songs. In fact, I had such a good time that I am going to join the BCP and maybe even do some acting myself!

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

Getting Back on the Horse - and other cliches

I have often thought that cliches are as overworked and overused as they are exactly because they are so fundamentally true. I have not posted in quite a while, and it is difficult for me to post today because I have not posted in quite a while.

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.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I Don't Have the Words

Using your favorite search engine, look up "Boquete Panama Flood". I don't have the words. Look at the pictures. Pray for Boquete. Tell everyone you know: Pray for the Boquetenos.

We are safe - not dry, but not flooded.

There are no words...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Terremoto o Temblor?

Which means, basically, "big honker earthquake or not-so-much earthquake". And last night, if you happened to be near the border of Costa Rica and Panama, you experienced a 6.2 degree relatively big honker earthquake. Here in Boquete it was, technically, a not-so-much earthquake.

If, however, you are in your own bed, minding your own business and it sounds like you are in the middle of a very loud and bouncy-wiggly freight train, then it was something of a big honker. Especially when you consider that I have never been in an earthquake before.

The bed - trembled. It shook up and down - not violently, but obviously. There was a deep rumbling sound. The onset was without warning, and after maybe 20 or so seconds, everything sort of tapered off. I never felt any aftershocks. But then neither was I able to fully relax and get any restorative sleep after the event.

I don't think I like earthquakes.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Part of me wants to call this post "'Flat' and 'Level' are Deceiving" and part of me wants to call it "I Won!! I Won!!". So it will be a mishmash.

If I had the proper equipment to transmit photos, which I don't :..( I could show you my pretty yard - flat and level. If you were here to visit me and see it in person, which you aren't :..( we could walk around said yard and enjoy the tropical plants and flowers. (Yeah, I have impatiens and daylilies and peace lilies in bloom today. Outside in the yard. Don't you just hate me??)

But I cut the grass this morning. My flat, level, and fairly small yard isn't. There is a definite, though subtle slant toward the back wall. And there are countless little bumps and hollows and the occasional ginormous root snaking across my path. And what really is a small yard suddenly grows huge when your only weapon is a 22 inch cut, non-self-propelled mower. Oh, yeah, and I mustn't forget the anthills. I don't know if they're fire ants, but they do pack a hefty bite and can get up inside your pants leg REAL quick.

I am proud of myself 'cause I got the grass cut and the laundry off the line WAY before the rains came. I WON!!! And it's just barely after noon!

Maybe I'll celebrate by dust mopping the floors...

Friday, November 7, 2008

The ____day Chowder and Marching Society

Will now come to order! It is official, I have decided, and I am unanimous in saying so.

We women need each other. We need to talk, to laugh, to walk, to sit, to nurture each other. We are the ones who pack the tents (as in Sarai and Abram) or the Mayflower or the Conestoga wagons or the 40-foot containers. We are the ones who gather those of our chicks that we can take with us and tear our hearts from our breasts as we bid farewell to those of our chicks that we cannot take with us.

We are the ones who leave all the familiar sights, sounds, smells, tastes, "feels" that are our homes as we follow our menfolk to the wilderness, the Promised Land, the New World - whatever it is that is around the next bend and just out of their view.

Our menfolk seem to be just fine, thankyouverymuch, as they settle in. They seem to be able to look ahead and to compartmentalize all the left behinds of their lives.

We women don't have that gift. We are the nest-builders, the putter-downers of roots. We decorate. We paint. And it is like splinters under our fingernails to have to up and leave our nests.

So what we do, we women, is to search out each other. We scout for each other. We "Knit in Public". We conspicuously look at local maps at the welcome center coffee shop in the hope that those nice looking people a couple of tables over might also be ex-pats. We listen for English - American or Brit. And we find each other.

And when we find each other and we discover that we are, as Gonzo said in "The Muppet Movie", old friends who've just met, we rejoice. Oh, how we rejoice!

And on a day like today, that rejoicing consists of getting together and driving to David and laughing and talking and sharing and eating and shopping.

My feet are a bit sore but my spirit is soaring! We have decided, Kathleen and I, that once a week is not excessive for meandering down to David and having girl time. We have not yet decided, however, what day would be best. But we shall, indeed, institute the _____day Chowder and Marching Society, effective today.

Because it is cheaper than a ticket to the states. And a heckuva lot more fun than a shrink!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sunshine Came Softly Through My Window Today

Who sang that song? I wish I could remember. I'd either hug them or slug them.

The east-facing bedroom window naturally captures the rising sun. Which can be blindingly bright early in the morning. There is no escaping - and no turning over and going back to sleep. Especially in the rainy season. You just gotta get up and get the clothes done and on the line. Sort of the laundry equivalent of "make hay while the sun shines".

It is in the mid-70's here, and the clouds are already creeping over the mountains to the east of me like the advance scouts - the invaders will be following very soon and the rains will come later today. The rains always come.

But I understand that the dry season will be here in about 2-3 weeks. School will be out, baseball season will be starting in earnest, people will be preparing for the annual Fair of Coffee and Flowers (in January) and the tourists will be arriving. Should be interesting.

Last Saturday we went to a guitar recital at the fairgrounds. I was reminded of the recitals I'd attend in Nashville, although there were no solo performances - just groups. All the pre-performance introductions were in Spanish, but one thing I was able to comprehend was "La musica is salud." Music is health. The college-level student/teacher group was really great. They played everything from classical to jazz to samba to cha-cha. I loved watching the artists' faces as they played. And I loved the music!

I'm told that the fairgrounds where we were is the location of the Coffee and Flower fair. Right now it looks pretty rough, but I understand that by January it will look lush and colorful. Actually everything will look lush and colorful by January. The farms and garden plots visible from the highway are all planted now - the idea is to get your garden in before November 1 so you can take advantage of the upcoming dry season. Difficult as it is for me to comprehend, they even have irrigation systems for watering! December thru March there is very little rain. I'll believe it when I see it.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Stuff I Wish I'd Learned Earlier

I liced in Nashville, TN, for most of my life. I have lived in other states and even countries, including Colorado and Germany, but for the most part, I have lived in Nashville, TN.

State capital.
Major publishing center.
Major educational center.
Music City, U.S.A.

Altitude: about 900 feet aove sea level. (This is important. Remember this bit of trivia, OK?)

Now, as I mentioned, I have lived in Colorado. Colorado Springs, to be exact.

Altitude: about 6000 feet above sea level.

When I lived in Colorado Springs, I had to buy a new cookbook - one about baking at high altitude. The air is thinner at high altitude and things cook differently. Water even boils at lower temperatures. I knew all about high altitude cooking in Colorado Springs.

I also knew what that kind of altitude did to me - I slept about 14 hours a day for the first 3-4 months because I just couldn't get enough oxygen out of the air.

Now, I did my research before moving to Boquete. I knew that the altitude is about 3300 feet where our house is, but since I have had no problem with oxygen deprivation, I never thought about the fact that baking and general cooking just might be different here. Homemade sugar cookies certainly have not been a problem (other than keeping the cookie jar stocked!), but pound cakes came out looking more like pancakes. And I never could get vegetables cooked properly without having to do some major fiddling.

Last night was the last straw. I'd made mashed potatoes and green beans on the stove. And both tasted awful! Underdone beans, lumpy potatoes. I was devastated - and upset - and so relieved that I didn't have company over.

So I got on line and did some research. Did you know that 3000 feet seems to be the "breaking point" as far as not needing adjustments to recipes?

For that matter, did you know that water (which boils at 212 degrees F. at sea level) boils at 204 degrees F. in my kitchen?

Neither did I, until last night.

I'm so glad that I had not tried to make my "killer chocolate cake" before learning this! Now I just have to work on making adjustments to ALL my cooking.

And as Bob says, all the flavors are there in the pound cakes, and that is more important to him than looks. And the cookies are fine. Disappearing, but fine.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cue the Cutesy Music...

...and let's all join in : "It's a small world after all..." You know that it really is a small world when you can sit in a French restaurant in Boquete, Panama, eating crepes (mine was Indian Curry, by the way) and listen to Patsy Cline's immortal "I Fall to Pieces" playing on the IPod. Kinda wierd.

We went out to lunch yesterday since our trip to David to go to driving school was cancelled. And we did enjoy crepes and country music. After lunch we wandered through a couple of "typical tourist" shops and then drove around for a bit. It was a really nice break from the house. And the weather cooperated: the rain did not start until late afternoon. Of course, it was a true gully washer when it did rain, but there was sunshine there for a while.

I stopped in at Cafe Ruiz where I'd planned to buy some Panamaria blend coffee, but they won't have any more until next week. So I decided to treat myself and bought a couple of varieties of organic coffee. The descriptions make them sound wonderful. I'll report soon...

I also now have a cell phone! I'd give you the number, but it would be an international call and the rates would be horrendous. It's a Samsung and way smarter than I am.

We got a lot done today! We put together a medicine chest for the hall bathroom. What an adventure that was! The directions were drawings only, and several of the drawings were not labeled correctly. We almost had a disaster, but thanks to Bob's casual disregard for directions, everything went together nicely. Well, adequately.

I also got the serger cabinet put together this afternoon. This is one part of the really nice sewing cabinet that I'd bought way back when and saved the putting together until we were all moved. I hope to get the rest of the cabinet put together over the weekend. Then I can get much of my sewing supplies organized. And then I can start sewing the curtains and valance and bedskirt and get that much more done in the house!

I am also going to put a dehumidifier in my sewing/craft room in the hope that it will cut down on the risk of more mildew damage. Having a sewing/craft room is like a dream to me. Just a half-dozen steps off the kitchen, it is a place where I can store my fabric and yarn stashes, make home decorator things for my home, make clothes for myself, and generally retreat to refresh my creativity. The room was originally the bedroom for the live-in maid, but since I was not overly impressed with the quality of her work, and I am confident of my ability to keep ahead of the dust bunnies, I appropriated it for myself.

I really need to educate myself on posting pictures so I can show you what's happening, don't I?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Ugly, The Bad, and The Good

Between the fact that I've not posted much lately, and that yesterday's post was really not informative enough, I am doing some major backtracking to let you know what's been going on. So, with apologies to Clint Eastwood, here is the ugly, the bad, and the good:


In Tennessee, you could often hear people say "It's not the heat, it's the humidity." Having lived in low-humidity Colorado and felt neither as hot nor as cold as "natives", I thought I knew all about that statement. Here in Boquete, however, I have learned another aspect. The temperature here has been a pretty consistent 72-75 degrees all month. The humidity has also been a pretty consistent 80-100%. Laundry is still damp after 24+ hours on the line. Fabric upholstery feels "funny". And, just last week I discovered mildew growing on all my bamboo knitting needles and two of my favorite knitting bags!!! Talk about "Mama ain't happy"! I was able to wipe down the everything with alcohol, but things were pretty ugly there for a while.


Another thing that all the high humidity does is to lay a very light layer of water on pretty much every horizontal surface in the area. When wet shoes from actual rain and puddles meet that light layer of moisture inside, you wind up with tile floors that are as slick as ice skating rinks. I discovered this phenomenon a week ago at Todos a Dolar. This Panamanian Everything's a Dollar store in Boquete is on two levels with a nice broad staircase. Bob and I had stopped in there and he'd gone on ahead of me. Well, I was about halfway down the steps when the slippery surface caused my right foot to slide out from under me. My left foot did not. So there I was, hanging on to the railing with my right hand, sliding down the stairs with my right leg straight, my left leg bent back, and my left ankle bumping every single step. Of course, my dignity flew out the window.

I lay there on the steps, mentally assessing myself, and trying to make the Spanish-speaking (and awfully nice) people understand that I didn't understand them. Eventually I just hollered out to Bob "I've just fallen down the stairs. Please come help me." Which he did. Of course.

No breaks. No boken skin. But I do have several spectacular bruises, especially on my left ankle. And for a couple of days I could feel the muscles in my left leg when I went up and down the stairs here at home.


As I mentioned yesterday, we drove down to David with a couple from church. Our first errand was to go to the "fixer" who is going to help us obtain our Panamanian driver licences. Because I am under 70, my application process is much easier than Bob's. This may also result in my having an unrestricted license, which means I may have to drive to David or to Panama City. (I have sworn that I cannot drive in Panama City. Everyone there uses the horn like crazy, and they cut you off, and they seem to have a fundamental aversion to street signs, and a fundamental aversion to obeying traffic signs and signals. Scary, scary, scary.) Oh, well, we shall find out by Saturday.

After meeting with the fixer, we then went to Price Smart, which is the Costco-affiliated members-only "big box" store in David. It is just like a very small Sam's Club. But I found several treasures there.

I found instant onion soup mix! This is like finding diamonds because I make a pot roast that we both love. (Recipe for those interested in such things: 3-4 pound roast- brisket is great; 1 envelope onion soup mix; 2-3 tablespoons yellow mustard. Put roast in crock pot. Smear mustard over roast. Sprinkle onion soup mix over roast. Cover crock pot. Turn it on low. ((I used to do this on Saturday night and let it cook overnight and through church on Sunday.)) If you really like thick gravy, remove the meat from the crock pot, pour the juices into a small saucepan, mix about a tablespoon of cornstarch in a half cup of water, stir it into the juices, bring to a boil for about a minute. Serve. Enjoy. Slice any leftovers for hot roast sandwiches and freeze. Yum. Thank me later.)

Another treasure I found (emeralds, anyone?) is Krusteaz Buttermilk Pancake mix!!! This is the BEST pancake mix ever! I am looking forward to serving pancake breakfasts when company comes. You probably won't get bacon, because it is waaaaaay expensive here, but if you treat me very nicely, I'll grill some ham. No southern-style sausage patties or links here, however. Sorry. Not gonna happen.

I also found a whole sirloin in the meat department, which I am going to slice into steaks and freeze. And there were loads of various frozen vegetables, but I think I am going to start frequenting the municipal market in Boquete, where I am told the best, freshest, organic produce is available.

Oh! and I found Bounty (American style) paper towels! The local ones are quite small and do not hold together very well. I just have to ration myself.

After we got home, Bob took a nap while I got my dining room as completely "together" as I could. There is still a pile of rolled-up area rugs in one corner and a medium moving box in another, but for the most part it looks nice: polished wood, tidy china cabinets, and all that.

And I sorted through the medicine chest and got it on the pathway to organization.

Slowly. Things. Are. Coming. Together. Slowly.

So there you have it. The Ugly, The Bad, and The Good.

I love and miss all of you in the States. Know that Casa TARDIS is open, even if not completely "company ready". (If you can negotiate your way past the boxes outside the office, I can offer you hospitality.) Mi casa es su casa.

Monday, October 20, 2008

...Well, I've Been Busy

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I'm learning how to work without many of the "conveniences" I was so accustomed to in the US: inexpensive pasta sauce, consistent water pressure, etc. I'm still learning. And things just take longer.

For example, canned condensed soups are scarce and expensive, and I am having to figure out how to adjust many of my recipes. And stuffing mix! I went on line and found a recipe for "home made stuffing mix" over the weekend, and now I have a ZipLock bag with my own stuffing mix stashed away so I can make a chicken casserole.

My next culinary adventure will be creating my own chili powder. It seems that stores here do not carry McCormick chili powder. You have to make it yourself by blending cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and either paprika or "hot chili powder" (which I learned is Habanero peppers) in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. I'll take notes and let you know.

In other news, we have met several nice people at the church we are attending: Bethel Christian Fellowship. This is a congregation of ex-pats, most of whom are retirees, so I am close to being the baby of the group. There are no youth :..(

At any rate, we are going to David today with one of the couples (Bea and Gordon) on a sort of round-robin excursion. Bob and I will start the process of obtaining our Panama driver licenses. And it actually may turn out that I will be the one with an unrestricted license! Apparently Bob may be "too old" to qualify for one.

We are also going to go to the Costco-affiliated American-style store (Pri ce Smart??) in David on a scouting mission. Bea and Gordon are members and have invited us to shop there on their membership today. I may get a membership myself, but I don't know. We're meeting them in an hour.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Remember The X-Files?

It was a great show about skeptical Scully and gullible Mullible - I mean, Mulder - who sleuthed ceaslessly for psychic sightings. (I'm having too much fun with my alliteration!) At any rate, one thing I remember is that, at the VERY end of the show, after the credits, there was a little "home movie" type clip and a child's voice saying "I made this".

This mountain village, Boquete, is famous not only for its coffee (judged best in the world at more than one international cupping) but for its other agricultural products. We have onions, potatoes, tomatoes, yucca, name (should have a tilde over the "n" and is pronounced Nyah-may), bananas and oranges. The mountain slopes hide a treasure of natural foods.

We have fresh-squeezed orange juice in one of my favorite pitchers sitting in the fridge. When I can buy ripe oranges for less than 4 cents each (I bought 50 oranges for $1.75 the other day AND got a couple of local bananas as a freebie) and juice them with my KitchenAid mixer attachment, it only makes sense to do so. I had to look on line to be sure the bright green orbs I bought were ripe and ready for juicing. Did you know that oranges only turn orange if they get cold enough to kill the chlorophyll or they get exposed to ethylene gas? You could buy processed orange juice if you wanted to, but why bother? And there is no frozen concentrate that I have found. Again, why bother?

I have looked in the Supermercado for jars of spaghetti sauce - I've found Ragu, but it is terribly expensive (like $4 a jar), and tomatoes are really cheap. So I made fresh tomato pasta sauce the other night. It took some time, but both of us really enjoyed it. (Thank you, Julia Child.) Next time, I'm going to quadruple (or more) the recipe and package it for freezing. Despite the fact that it takes longer than opening a jar, it's worth the little bit of extra effort every couple of months, I think. And I can make "Mama Brandy's Frozen Dinners".

I went to a lecture/demonstration Tuesday morning on cooking with native plants. The lecture concentrated on root vegetables: yucca, name, and taro root (which has a Spanish name that I forget). I am looking forward to incorporating them in my cooking - the suggestion is to use them in crockpot stews in place of potatoes or carrots. There is also a way to prepare yucca that sounds really neat for lunch: boil the peeled root for about 15 minutes, mash it with a little salt, let it cool, then pat a couple tablespoons into a sort of oval, place cooked meat (hamburger, roast chicken, etc) or cheese in the middle, form it into a little cigar shape and brown it in a little oil. (Or deep fry it and drain WELL.)

I can see myself, more and more often, reaching the end of the day putting my feet up and saying "I made this!"

Speaking of same, there are a ton of tomatoes in the kitchen right now, calling my name...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Liberty But No Boats

Before we left Nashville I had a bunch of cards printed with my name, email address and my phone number. I promised everyone that "thanks to the miracle of the internet, my Nashville phone number will be valid in Panama! You can just call me like a local call - once we have internet access at the house - and we can talk with no long distance fees."

And that is true. Except for one teeny-tiny little glitch: we cannot locate the phone gizmo that sets up the internet phone connection! We know we disconnected it in Nashville. And we are pretty sure we packed it in one of our suitcases. But darned if we have found it.

So, yes, you should be able to call us as if we were in Nashville. But don't try just yet. And don't throw away those cards with my phone number. Because by hook or by crook, we'll get everything connected. And then we'll talk.

Monday, October 6, 2008

"We're Not in Kansas Any More, Toto"

As wonderful as this place is, it ain't Tennessee (or Kansas, for that matter). Life is flat-dab different here.

The municipal water supply apparently does not get turned on out here until about 8:30AM. Which means that getting up early, showering, and getting ready for the day just doesn't go quite as planned. Oh, and don't bother suggesting a shower just before bed - they turn the water off about 6:30PM.

And this house was built without any hot water system. The showers have these ingenious (but still kinda intimidating to me) electric heaters in the shower heads! Not a problem getting a hot shower, as long as you
a) don't try for a whole lot of water pressure (too much water pressure = cold shower)
and b) do not touch the shower head - ever - while the heater is turned on.

But there is no hot water for the washing machine (actually not much of a problem as washing things in cold water is probably better for the fibers) or for washing dishes. (Dishwasher, you ask? Oh, yes, a very good one: she's typing this blog even as we speak.) So I fill my two stockpots with water, put them on the back burners, light the burners with a match, and heat my water for dishes.

There is no electrical hookup for the dryer we brought down here (and for that matter, no room on the laundry porch either) so for the present I am doing teeny-tiny loads of laundry every day and hanging them to dry. The loads have to be small as there is only about 20 feet of clothesline available for hanging. The line is right next to the back wall of the house, under the approximately 4 foot roof overhang. It is located where it is because that is the only place that affords any protection from the rains. On sunny days the laundry actually dries in 2-3 hours - except for jeans - they take 24 hours, no matter what. And bath towels take 12-18, depending on how much rain there is.

After I take the clothes off the line, I iron all the woven clothes to get the wrinkles out. Knit items, such as T-shirts and underwear I only iron if they still feel damp. I do not iron bath towels or dish cloths. (My OCD is under better control than that!)

I am scheduling my life around running water. Who'd a thunk it?

Oh, well. There are boxes calling my name, wanting to be unpacked. I'd best go placate them. Wonder what I will do to occupy myself once everything is unpacked?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Hand Soap and CDs

I am continually amazed by the memories and emotions that things can evoke. The smell of Crayola crayons consistently transports me to Mrs. Smith's first-grade classroom at Burton Elementary School. Doesn't matter where I am. And it has to be Crayolas. Other crayons just don't have that power.

One of the first things I discovered in my unpacking was three pump bottles of Bath & Body Works Kitchen Lemon AntiBacterial Hand Soap. Instantly, I was back at the bridal shower for Sarah. We were at Tricia's house having a lovely time. The running game during the shower was to: a) avoid speaking the groom's name and b) catch other ladies who did slip up. I was careful (and lucky) enough to win that game, and the prize was the hand soap. I tried to bless Sarah with the soap, but she insisted that I'd won, and should keep my prize.

How very glad I am that I did not give up my prize! Now, whenever I see the soap bottle, or wash my hands in the kitchen, I find myself laughing and talking among loving friends who are - in reality - a thousand miles away.

Later on, in my unpacking, I found a box with a boatload of CDs. Several are my Beegie Adair piano jazz collection, and I have enjoyed them greatly. This morning, however, I found my No Other Name CDs. Sam and Laura are friends from church, and Laura and I have been in a couple of Bible Studies together. As I listened - and worshipped - to their music I was again transported - this time to several places: church, Erin's house for Bible study, even the Tennessee Baptist Convention in Brentwood where the Inglewood Baptist Church choir and No Other Name led in worship. When the little tiny hairs on the back of your neck stand up as you listen to "Washed in the Blood", you know that you are in the Presence - even when you are sweeping floors and unwrapping "stuff".

We have two more months of rainy season. The average rainfall here is somewhere around 140 inches, although last year it was over 180. Every afternoon. Sometimes every morning AND afternoon. Sometimes every morning AND afternoon AND evening. I can sit in the "sun"room and watch the clouds roll down over the mountains. It really is interesting. Wet. But interesting. Sometimes the clouds conceal almost everything except my yard and then it is almost spooky. You cannot see anything but grey mist.

I was awakened early-early this morning by a very near-by woodpecker (or close relative to a woodpecker), and I have worked hard: Washed 2 loads of laundry and hung them out to dry, moved furniture in the living room, gone to David with Bob to do some errands, heated enough water to wash dishes, checked my email, and now posted. I am tired. I am going to read for a little bit and then go to sleep.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Buried Alive

Under a mountain of boxes and paper and shrinkwrap and Goodwill reject blankets (which we used for furniture pads). Those of you who saw the mountain of cardboard boxes on the front porch of the house in Nashville should be aware that the mountain down here in Boquete is actually bigger in diameter and almost as tall. Bob would like to find someone to give them to, and truth be told, so would I. But my "let's wait and see if someone will turn up who wants them" timeframe is not as long as his. And anyway, there is another mountain of boxes inside the house - well, maybe a hill - that still needs attention.

I went to the grocery store in David today. I chose Supermercado Rey in David because it is the closest thing to a Norte Americano supermarket. I found almost everything on my list - even considering that 95% of the labels were only in Spanish. But it took forever. There are a lot of differences in inventory. For example, the frozen food department was less than half the size of those in Tennessee. No TV dinners. No microwave snacks. No Mrs. Smith's Pies (sob!!). No frozen pizza.

Potato chips are about twice as expensive down here. And there is not much choice in cookies - or peanut butter.

And mayonnaise and mustard - and tomato sauce - come in squeeze pouches! Actually pretty clever packaging, don't you think?

The biggest shock to me, however, was seeing Reynolds Wrap 200 sq.ft rolls for almost 10 DOLLARS! I nearly had a heart attack!

Next trip I'm going to make my grocery list and then translate each item into Spanish BEFORE I go.

I still wonder why people would need to buy vanilla extract by the gallon...

Maybe I will now be able to cook a meal. I think I'd like that...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I´m Still Alive

Tuesday and Wednesday were not good days, and I did not want to even TRY to communicate with anyone. I did not get to leave the house and I was - grumpy, to say the least.

Today, however, I drove down to David by myself and spent about 4-5 hours shopping. Not that there was anything in the super-gigantic class of shopping sites, that I could find. But there were places to shop.

I went to the mall first. It is called Mall de Chiriqui and is on the PanAmerican Highway in David. It is a cross between a strip center and a north American mall. No mega-stores. And for that matter, most of the store in the mall were closed at 10:30AM. I have no idea why. The grocery store at one end of the mall was open, and I took advantage of that to prowl around and figure out what is what in Spanish. I found Vanilla extract (artificial, admittedly) by the GALLON! In a regular grocery store. ¿Wonder why? On the other hand, solid shortening (Crisco) is only available in pound cans.

One store that was open is a bookstore, "El Hombre de la Mancha". There were murals of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza on the walls. Fun. I found the Harry Potter series there - at twice the price in the States. And I found a tourists' guide to Cuba, as well as Fidel Castro´s autobiography. I almost bought the tour guide, but didn´t. I bought an English-Spanish dictionary instead. A big thick one.

Then I drove to Cochez, which is a Home Depot type store. I picked up another outlet cover for the kitchen, and some other stuff, including some reflective tape that Bob and I are going to sneak up on the back of one of the signs at the end of our road so we can recognize it at night. Even though we are quite close to "downtown" Boquete, it is still very rural, and we often miss our turn-off.

Then I went to the¨"Do-It Center", another Home Depot-Lowes typs store that also carries kitchen and bath items, bedding, and such like. I spent a fair amount there, but I got a doormat, shelf liner, organizer trays, dust mop, and a bunch of other stuff.

Last I went to Lumicentro, which is a lighting center. I wandered around in front of the sconces for a very long time, trying to find a pair of sconces to replace the fugly ones in the entry. I FINALLY made my choice, only to discover that there was only one in stock. So I took my second choice (a VERY close second), and headed over to TGI Friday´s for a slightly late lunch. After lunch I discovered the receipt for a chandelier we´d ordered for the breakfast nook to replace ANOTHER fugly light. So back I went to Lumicentro where I picked up the chandelier, and then headed home.

It was a mostly successful day. I bought almost everything on my list (and a couple extra things). After I got home, Bob installed the sconces, and they look wonderful. WAY better than the ones that were there.

We came to Boquete for dinner where I had Chilean salmon - YUMMMMMMMMMMMM.
And here I am.

I miss everyone dreadfully, but I am trying to stay busy and positive. We should have cable by tomorrow night, and then I´ll be posting pictures like crazy.

It is the rainy season: a shower nearly every day, and a frog-strangler nearly every week.
Please "write" me. I desperately need to "hear" from you all.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

You just might get it.

You would think that I could learn something along the way about trying to do too much (or have too much done) at once. You´d be wrong. We had tile work being done, a reserve water tank being installed, AND the household goods delivered. All at the same time.

I am sore in places where most of you don´t even have places. I am in what nurses call sensory overload. This is a condition in which so much is going on at the same time that one´s body and mind just shut down. Because if one has to process just one more thing, something will blow.

I had breakfast today about 4PM. And I had a scoop of chocolate almond ice cream at about 8:30. I guess that was either lunch or dinner.

But the household goods are (mostly) in the house. There are several boxes and widgets and whatnots by the porch, as well as other boxes and widgets (including a dryer and chest freezer) by the back porch. I am horrified at the number of baking pans I have unpacked thus far. I am even more horrified at the fact that the cabinets in the kitchen are too small to hold my beloved pottery plates - or over half of my iced tea glasses. But my precious butter dish that Tavie hand painted and gave me is safely ensconced in the china cabinet where I can look at it and smile.

I did a lot of singing today. Mostly hymns and praise songs. Some because I was rejoicing because of my circumstances. Some because I was rejoicing in spite of my circumstances. One of the umpteen men working around the house joined me in singing "Amazing Grace", me in English, he in Spanish. And he was quick to give God glory, thanks and praise when things went well.

I have one room almost completely done. The back bedroom has the bed set up and neatly made, a bedside table with lamp and some flowers from the yard, a rocking chair, and my Grandmother Brandon´s trunk. The new knobs are on the wardrobe doors, the floor is swept, and it looks so peaceful and serene. The curtains are not yet up, but they really don´t matter that much. This is our sanctuary - our retreat - our haven to which we can go and see order and calm and - yes, beauty when the other rooms are not orderly nor calm nor beautiful. The bed is a Lillian Russell style that also was my Grandmother Brandon´s, and the lamp is a hand-painted Gone With the Wind lamp converted from oil to electricity. I already love this room.

I am about as tired as a person can be. My insomnia kicked in and I was up at 2AM sweeping and mopping. I managed to tire myself out enough to have a nap at 4:30. But I am about as tired as a person can be. When I get home from the internet cafe I think I will tuck myself into bed and slip into a coma.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Finally Coming Together

I think things are finally coming together. The tile workers just have the maid´s quarters´floor to finish, and the trim around the walls in the bedroom - and maybe a tad in the dining room. And the painters have the final touch-up work to do.

And, according to our Customs Agent ("fixer") in Panama City, our household goods will be at the house about 7-8AM tomorrow morning! Talk about Christmas Eve! I am very excited. There are some things that I have not seen in over a year! Mind you, other than the big lumps - ie. furniture, I´m not sure where everything will fit, but I don´t care! I can hug my KitchenAid mixer again!

The shipping ordeal was just that: an ordeal. I was terrified that there would be some ginormous glitch, but, thanks be to God, there wasn´t.

Oh, and by next Friday we should have internet access and cable TV at the house. That means my internet VOIP telephone will work and I can call people!!! We bought the Platinum level cable package because it was the one to give us ABC, CBS, and BBC. (If I am extremely lucky I´ll be able to watch Dr. Who AND Torchwood!)

There are a lot of exclamation points in this posting. When she was little, my daughter called them "excitement marks". I guess I am pretty excited. I pray that the reality is just as exciting.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Primitive Camping

When I agreed that "camping out" in the house until the household goods arrived would be kinda fun and an adventure, I did not mean primitive camping. Primitive camping is something one does with the Girl Scouts. At a campsite. With tents. For a weekend. Two nights. Tops.

Primitive camping should not be for over two weeks in one´s own home with no hot water, no refrigeration (not even an ice chest), no cooking utensils, and - way too often - no water at all.

If you are ever asked what modern amenety you could least live without, say- without hesitation, "indoor plumbing".

Because no running water means not only no shower (hot or cold), it also means no way to wash dishes, and it means you cannot flush the toilet!!!

Now do you see what I mean?

The days I have been able to shower (three so far, I think), the water has been only tepid and a trickle at best. It is supposed to get better, but I have reservations. Well, maybe I should say that my reservations are related to the fact that it jolly well better get better or Mama ain´t gonna be at all happy.

All things considered, consider yourselves lucky that you are not downwind!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


We (actually the host of workers) are making progress on the house. The tile crew which started on Saturday has grown from 2 to 4 workers, and the painter who started Monday now has a helper. And progress is being made.

The entry and the office floors are essentially done - the tile equivalent of baseboard has to be installed and the grouting completed before we can call it ¨complete¨. And the living room just has a few not-yet-done places where the workers need walk-around space. The dining room has 2 rows of tile laid, and the master bedroom has one (yes, only one) tile laid. However, the workers have been really moving along.

All the blue has been primed over (thank heaven!!!), and already the house looks larger and brighter. The dining room and the lounge have been painted in the creamy color I chose (I think it looks about the same as the color of a perfectly browned pie crust: kinda tan, kinda creamy, kinda goldish) and they look fantastic. The office and the hallway have been started on and both look brighter and fresher.

I spent some time working on the light fixture over the guest bathroom sink. It was flat-dab NASTY with dirt. The shade is made up of around 75 smooth glass rods suspended through a brass form. I took each and every rod out and washed them by hand. While they were drying, I cleaned about 14 YEARS of crud off the top of the brass form. I had to replace all of the light bulbs, not because they were burned out, but because they were so stinkin´dirty. But with new bulbs and clean glass rods and brass - and a new pull-chain, it looks really good. (I am trying to be charitable here, but if I had a full time housekeeper I would expect her to clean out light fixtures annually at the very least. And some of the fixtures I have been dealing with have never been cleaned, I´d wager.)

Oh, well. I expect to be my own housekeeper here, so I will only have myself to blame if things get that bad again.

The latest word is that our household goods will be delivered on Saturday. And we are telling the workers that Thursday is our deadline for completion of the work. That will give us some time to clean things up before unpacking boxes and bundles.

Sra. Garcia, our across the street neighbor, whose husband is our contractor and who is herself our painting contractor, brought over a plate with a couple of Panamanian chicken dishes for us to enjoy for dinner! We are truly thankful for such wonderful people in our lives.

We still have no internet or cable access at the house, and the timer on my computer here at the internet cafe is telling me that I have to close this soon.

Yesterday was one of the ¨down¨days, but today has been a happy and productive one. This is good. This is very good.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

God is SO Great!

On the way home yesterday, after posting my last message, I stopped on a whim at the Boquete Welcome Center where there is a coffee shop. After ordering my cafe negro I pulled out my freshly bought map to try to familiarize myself with my surroundings.

A friendly couple at another table asked me if I was visiting and I explained that we had just moved there from the States. They invited me to join them at their table, gave me their first names, and told me they had been living here in Boquete for about 3 years. We were having a lovely visit when I gave Jeannie my card with my email address. When she gave me her card, I realized that this was the couple who hold the weekly Bible studies in Boquete. I was so excited and moved by how God brought us together that I literally cried.

Jeannie is facilitating the Beth Moore study on Daniel. They are on week 7. I have my workbook in my household goods, but I know that I can pick up whenever our things arrive.

They told me about a house church that meets on Sunday mornings at 9:30AM. It is quite close to our house. And they worship in English! So we are planning on being there tomorrow morning. It will feel funny, going to church without stopping at the donut shop first, but there is not a Shipley Donuts nearby.

On the other hand, there is a KFC, TGI Fridays, Blockbuster Video, McDonald´s and Pizza Hut in David. But that is 38Km away in the other direction. And it is just not the same as picking up donuts for the youth at Inglewood Baptist Church. Miss you guys!

Friday, September 12, 2008

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back...

and vice versa. Wednesday was the day that I spent in tears. Wailing, moaning, retchingly powerful tears. Two (or more) giant steps back.

Thursday was better. God gave me a couple of neat things to look at in the backyard: one was a gigantic caterpillar with sort of lacy growths (think some of the more fantastic seahorses) all along its back. It must have been 10cm (4 inches) long, green with black bands, and just fascinating to watch.

Then I spotted a very large bird (hawk maybe) in a tree next door. We watched it preen itself quite a bit. Bob got out his binoculars so I could see it pretty close up.

One step forward.

The one step back was that the tile that we really loved for the floors was not in stock and would not be available for about 2 weeks. So we had to drop back and punt. Again.

We drove into David this morning and found a compromise tile that we both can live with. Not my first choice, obviously, but the best that could be had immediately. We also bought a new light fixture for over the breakfast room table. WAY better than what is there currently.

Still have not met many people, but we are concentrating on getting the house ready for the furniture, which may actually arrive a week from today. Yay. Dishes. Glassware. Cookware. A REAL bed to sleep in. Sheets. Books. All the little things that make a house a home. Make a casa uno hogar?? No se.

I'm still having to use an internet cafe, so all the pictures I have taken will have to wait. I have a picture of the caterpillar, and lots of pics of the plantlife in the backyard. And the work in progress at the house.

The weather is moderate: warm during the day and cool at night. This is rainy season, so there are showers every afternoon. They don't last long, though.

I try not to think about how much I miss everyone.

One of the big steps forward is that I have the solitude to really concentrate on my quiet time, Bible study, and prayer. God has brought me here where I have no easy internet access, no TV, no radio, nothing to get in the way of totally concentrating on Him. I love it. I love pouring my coffee and sitting down in one of the borrowed chairs with my "Believing God" workbook, and reviewing my completed lessons. I am preparing for the lessons I have yet to complete. And I believe God has something wonderful in store for me - something that I will need just at the time I do each lesson. His timing is perfect. Mine ain't, but I'M BELIEVING GOD.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Settling In (dash) Sort Of

One of the most important things to remember when you are in a foreign country is that you are in a foreign country. And the most mundane things can be, well, foreign. Take keyboards, for example. The AT sign, for one, appears over the 2 key. But when you push the shift key and then hit the 2 key, you do not get the @ sign. To get that you have to push alt 6 4 but only if you use the 6 and 4 keys on the numeric keypad. You get the idea (I hope) and (again I hope) understand why I have not posted in the past couple of days. I could not sign on to my own blog page!

Among other things, the lack of internet access in our own home deters me from posting pictures. At a dollar an hour for internet service I do not want to spend time figuring out how to upload pictures. I promise you all, however, that I am taking a boatload of photos of the before and the during of our home spiffing project. Right now the floor in the living room, dining room, and entry hall have been ripped out, and a couple of ginormous piles of wood are in the living room. Tomorrow the floor in the office of Bob (cannot find the apostrophe) and the master bedroom will be ripped up as well. Then new tile floor will be laid. And the walls will be painted. And I do not know what else.

Remember Commander Data, the android on Star Trekquestion mark He could not talk in contractions, and I cannot type in them.

We are here. We are alive. We are still speaking. Life is good.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

In Country Less Than 24 Hours

and I made the local news! We got to the Hotel Riande last night to find a soccer team in the lobby. They are from Nicaragua and in Panama for an international tournament. I noticed the word MITRE on the shoulder of one of the uniforms and realized that their shoes were made by Genesco which is headquartered in Nashville. So I spoke to one of the cute young men while Bob was checking in to the hotel. And the cameraman I saw and thought was connected with the team apparently filmed me in my hand knit sweater (yay variegated yarn!) :)

We saw the story on the news tonight. Kinda neat.

We have moved from that hotel to one in town. It is somewhere to sleep and that is about it. But we do not really need to relax and luxuriate. We have work to do: locate and buy a car, check in with our lawyer about property taxes and other dibs and dabs, and then head to Boquete.

Traffic in Panama has been terrifying to me - and I will not drive. I have told Bob that if he will drive in the city, I will drive to Boquete. I may regret this if he actually makes me do all the driving.

Right now this all feels like a vacation. I know reality will set in again at some point, but for fight now I am taking it as it comes.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Well, We Are Here

I must confess that it was horrendously, agonizingly painful. I cried in Nashville. I cried in Atlanta. I cried in the air over the Gulf of Mexico. And I cried in Panama City.

And I will likely cry in the days to come.

This leaving of family really tears the heart out of a girl, doesn't it. I cannot figure out the keyboard on this computer and right now I don't really care.

We are in Panama. And we are still alive and speaking to each other.

Monday, September 1, 2008

T Minus 2 and Counting...

We fly out day after tomorrow. Less than 48 hours. Wow. Heavy sigh...

Sunday morning was hard. The youth praise band broke tradition and played a couple of my favorite praise songs. Then Renee and Stephen performed an absolutely beautiful song for me. I cried. The youth cried. Then I cried in church and after church. It was a wet morning.

Dinner Sunday night with my brother and sister-in-law was a wonderful remedy, however, because they are both excited and happy for us - and already planning their vacation! I suggested this Christmas, but they have 2 grandbabies due in December: Angie's son and his wife are expecting a baby boy and Mike's son and his wife are also expecting a boy. I have some serious knitting to get started on! But I will have the time once we get to Panama. Even if I have to let other things slide for a while! Baby knitting trumps housework, doesn't it?

Today our son (my stepson if you just have to get techincal about it) and his wife came up from Chattanooga to go over the house and get an idea of the things we do not want to keep and sort of plan a giant "estate sale" strategy. AND they are going to kind of take charge of getting the house ready for my daughter and her roommate to move in: stripping wallpaper in a room (or 2-3) and painting, cleaning carpet things like that. Robert told me to finish packing my suitcases, open a bottle of Eiswein, and relax. I can do that. Happily.

But it is T minus 2 days and counting. This time Wednesday we'll be over the Gulf (hopefully NOT in the path of Hanna!)

By the way, Robert and Angie qualified for sainthood in my book... Thanks to the both of you - for everything!

Friday, August 29, 2008

When You Don't Get What You Want...

That's when you get experience.

I'm experiencing in a big way. I had hoped that these last few days in Nashville might be spent relaxing and visiting and visiting and whatnot. Instead I am looking at a mountain of papers and "things" that still have to be dealt with. And another mountain of "deferred maintenance" that can no longer be deferred.

And I just cannot make decisions about 99% of it. All I can do is fret.

And I'm fretting big time.

Bob compares this to the time when the US Navy was evacuating people from Saigon and had to push helicopters over the sides of the ships because there was no room on the decks to keep them. I know it hurts him to have to dispose of a lot of "neat stuff", and I wish I could shield him from it. But I can't.

Man, does this hurt.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


In all humility I quote Luke 1:46:

"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant... for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name."

At home Bible Study tonight (which I hosted) Will gave the youth and adults present the opportunity to - well, bless me. And my heart is overflowing with love and appreciation for all they said and did.

An English poet, possibly Wordsworth, wrote about "little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love". I mention that quote because many of the things that were so important to the youth I had almost (or completely) forgotten. And things that mean everything to me, I'm sure they've forgotten. It balances.

For every blessing I may have given, I have received back a thousand-fold. "[My] children rise up and call [me] blessed; [my] husband also, and he praises [me]. Prov. 31:28

Please- to God be the glory. My cup runneth over.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


You have no idea how much I would like to tell you about relaxing, going around visiting people and places, and generally recuperating in the time between the departure of our household goods and the departure of us. I'd love to tell you about the great conversations, full of laughter and fond memories, about the hugs and tears and promises to come to see us in our mountain paradise.

Cain't do it. Still adrift in a sea of papers and parts and I-don't-know-what-all. Bob had to go down to Perry County to take care of some property-related business and I have been doing my best to sort through stuff and make decisions about storing or selling or trashing.

I was supposed to have a pedicure today but the lady who was going to pamper me has been sick all week. :..( I had a gift certificate but it was going to expire next month and I really don't have the time for one next week... so I bought some skin care products. I can always use them, but oh! how I wanted that pedicure!

Ah, well, I can always get one in Boquete.

Oh! Some of you have wondered whether I was going to try to work in Panama, and I have had to say "no" as I don't believe my nursing license would transfer. I received an email today, however, offering training for volunteers in Boquete's new hospice program. While I won't be in Boquete for the initial training sessions, I am sure that there will be many other opportunities for training and service. Pray that doors will open.

Sorry this is short, but the salt mines are calling...

Monday, August 18, 2008


Boy, howdy, you'd think with all the furniture and stuff out of the house that it would be a breeze to go through the dibs and dabs left behind and clean a few countertops and floors and then kick back and relax.


I have spent the day working like the proverbial dog and I can't see all that much progress. Honesty forces me to confess that for every "my" item to decide whether to keep or dispose of, Bob probably has 10 or more. The reason is mostly that I flung clutter like a madwoman while I was packing. And Bob has been taking care of all the administrative side of the equation. (I am a fantastic follower, but a truly lousy leader. Trust me.)

And I am also much more inclined to just give something away than try to sell it. (I mean, if the object is to clear things out, then that trumps getting top dollar, in my humble opinion.)

We're "leavin' on a jet plane" in 2 weeks and 2 days. We have about 6 weeks of work ahead of us to get this place ready to rent - even if the renters are family. I think that works out to doing 3 days work in 1. I'm tired already.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

"No Regrets" Means No Regrets

Four wonderful teenage boys from church came over this afternoon and helped us move a bunch of stuff from the carport to the basement for long-term storage. While they were working, we found several boxes that somehow got shoved aside, covered up, and left off our inventory (and off the shipping container) :..(

Nothing that we can't live without, but things that Bob and I would have enjoyed having. The most unfortunate was the box of accessories to the router that DID make it onto the container. I took a look in the box, and I think the accessories are small enough to tuck into a corner of one of our checked bags. But my three small garden statues and the pomegranite tabletop fountain will just have to stay here.

No regrets. No regrets. No regrets.

The youth "Surrender Weekend" retreat, held this weekend at church, always includes several mission projects. The kids love doing them, and they are always meaningful. This year, the boys' original project fell through and Will, the Youth Pastor, asked me if I might know of a possible project the guys could do other than going around the church property and surrounding neighborhood picking up trash along side the road. Knowing how much there still is to sort and store (yes, even after loading up that shipping container) I called Bob to see if he'd like some help. So Isaac, Joshua, Moses, and Michael (how's that for a Biblical quartet?) piled into my car and came to the house and moved boxes and buckets and anvils and other stuff. They worked hard and accomplished a lot.

I am glad for their willingness to help us. And I am VERY glad they had the opportunity to learn that "mission work" does not have to involve a trip to another town or state or country, nor does it have to be for the "less fortunate". They got to experience the fact that "missions" can be as simple as helping a neighbor carry in groceries or sweeping snow off the driveway next door - or helping friends get ready to move.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Good Morning, America, How Are You

The shipper guy came with his tractor and hooked up the 40' container at noon today. He told Bob that he would take it to the train yard out in south Nashville where it would be loaded on a freight train and head south. We are guessing New Orleans will be the port it'll ship out of, based on our (admittedly limited) knowledge of train service.

We broke into a rather awful rendition of Arlo Guthrie's "City of New Orleans" in recognition of that guess.

We've already discovered 4 of Bob's paintings - and the vacuum cleaner! - in the "Left Behind" pile. Oh, well.I promised myself no regrets. So no regrets.

The house echoes now. And I am horrified at the dust bunnies, some of which could endanger small children and most pets. I just don't move recliner-sofas or refrigerators or large heavy dressers all that often when I'm cleaning. (Exhausted as I was Thursday evening after all the angst involved in getting our stuff into the shipping container, I got on my hands and knees and cleaned the kitchen floor where the refrigerator had been standing. I don't think I could have slept for fear that the dust-monsters would come and git me in my sleep!)

People are being wonderful, though. I stopped off at the nursing home where I worked and asked the head of housekeeping if I could borrow a broom and dustpan. While she was getting them out of the laundry, I joked that I am tempted to smuggle a load or two of laundry in after midnight one night and use the washers there. Her response "I don't think anyone would mind if you did." And the evening shift nurses told me tonight that they want Bob and me to come over in a couple of weeks (the Friday evening before we leave on Wednesday) for a potluck farewell dinner. I am truly touched.

We will be camping out in our house in Boquete between the time we get there and our things get there. Camping out means just that. No bed, no refrigerator. I have packed one of our checked bags with air mattresses and sleeping bags (and towels - showers would be nice, right?) and things like that. It is zipped up, weighed ("Congratulations, Mrs. G., you have a healthy 42-pound suitcase!"), and sitting in the hallway.

The house still has a boatload of junk to sort through: papers that need shredding, odd socks and other stuff that needs military burial in the trash can, and such like. And then there are the dust bunnies! I thank God on a couple of counts about the vacuum: 1) I have it to deal with them, and 2) it is a bagless. Because otherwise I'd go broke, I'm afraid, buying vacuum cleaner bags!

I got to knit a bit tonight. Our church student ministry is having its annual back-to-school in-town retreat, and I got to sit in "my" corner and knit. What a blessing! I've missed knitting. I've missed just relaxing and enjoying the company of my beloved students. I cannot think about how much I am going to miss them.

No regrets. Look ahead.

Bob just came home with ice cream. Ice cream trumps blogging, sorting and even giant dust bunnies!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

No Turning Back

It is 3PM, Central Daylight Saving Time. The 40' container is packed, sealed, and awaiting the arrival of the tractor-trailer driver to come and start it on its way. Despite all our fears, there was just about enough room left over to have tucked a Smart Car in sideways. Kudoes to Bill and Everett who worked miracles. And heartfelt thanks to Lance, Bill, Terry, Kimberly, Amy, and especially Robert and Angie who "dropped over" from Chattanooga to help out. Also to Mark and Will & Tara who, while they couldn't actually get over to get their hands dirty and their backs and feet sore, were standing by to assist us later in the day.

Also to the precious women in my Bible Study who have been girding us up in prayer.

Great googley moogley. No turning back now. And no regrets allowed about things packed or not packed. It's a done deal.

I cannot share pictures, however. Apparently one of our hired "helpers" (NOT named above) helped himself to my nearly-new digital camera. At least it has been missing since the day he was here. :..(

We're finishing up the paperwork right now. Or Bob is. I'm trying to let you know what's going on while my body complains about the abuse I've put it through.

Friday, August 8, 2008

They're Putting Us Into Overtime!

We got a phone call today from the movers. They want to change the pickup date from Tuesday, August 12, to Thursday, August 14.

I don't even know how to describe my emotions. Firstly, I am frustrated because I had a "Brandy's Pamper Time" scheduled for Thursday afternoon so I could recover from Tuesday. So the first thing I had to do was call and reschedule all my appointments. Blessings upon Seraphim Salon for taking care of everything on that end!

Then I actually felt a sense of relief because the 2 extra days lifts some of the burden of "ohmigosh I have to get this done NOWWWWWW" feeling I've had for the last week. I'm down to emptying the refrigerator/freezer, packing up the washing machine, and putting my clothes in the wardrobe box. Then I can pack my suitcases and wait for our departure date.

Well, there ARE other things to be packed and dealt with, but - well - the other things appear to belong to Mr. Bob.

Oh, yeah, and another thing. We sent the estimated packing list to the movers last night, and the agent is worried that we may be "over a bit". So we went through the packing spreadsheet and highlighted those items that we can "pack last" because once the box or item is in the container they will not bring it back out. The "pack last" items are the things we could live without. Don't worry about me. The yarn and kitchen items are not negotiable. I'll leave the refrigerator before I'll leave my dishes and my yarn.

Anyone want to join me on this roller-coaster ride??

Monday, July 28, 2008

It's Crunch Time!

Wow, I cannot believe that the movers will be here two weeks from tomorrow!

And I REALLY cannot believe that I actually thought I was in good shape as far as the packing is concerned.

The movers will be here in TWO WEEKS!!! Holy ^%@^@!!!!

We took our bed apart today - it's a Sleep Number bed and queen sized - and now are going through all the "hidden treasures" that were tucked underneath it. That's an adventure. Bob is in charge of the treasure scrounging. We have a double mattress and box springs leaning against the hallway wall and I jolly well expect to be sleeping on them tonight. OR I'm taking the sofa and leaving Bob the recliner.

I am keeping a fairly perpetual headache these days.

The movers will be here two weeks from tomorrow. Heavy sigh.

I gotta start taking some pictures cause you'd never believe it...

Monday, July 21, 2008

That Gleam in My Eyes the reflection of the oncoming headlights. And all of a sudden I feel like the deer that is caught in them.

We have ordered the movers! And they are coming on either the 12th or 13th of August. The good news is that we have chosen to go with a firm that will give us door-to-door service, meaning that we do NOT have to load any shipping containers!

We do, however, have to provide them with about forty-eleven different sorts of inventories and forms and whatchamacallits and whatevers. AND we have to have everything packed and padded and ready for them to haul out. No big deal, right? Easy-peasy, no? "Hey, Bambi, are them bright shiny things up ahead yonder stars, ya think?"

Up until this moment I felt like I had things fairly well under control.

Not now.

Soooooooo. The plan of attack is to:

1) identify and pack those things left unpacked that we want to have in Boquete
2) pad and/or wrap the furniture and have it ready to go
3) have all the various and sundry pieces of paper (and thumbdrives) sorted out and ready
4) wave farewell to our household goods (with fervent prayers for the safety thereof)
5) collapse onto the floor (no sofa, remember??) in exhaustion for 13 minutes and 28 seconds

because we have to then
6) go through all the %^*(&%^*%$* that is left and make decisions about what in the ^(%^&$ to do with it!
7) actually DO what in the ^(%^&$ we decided to do with all the %^*(&%^*%$* that is left

See? Piece of cake. Easy-peasy.

I think I want to either go off into the corner and suck my thumb or have a root canal. Either would be easier.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Fat Lady is Gettin' Ready to Sing!

Watch out! This really bad opera is heading into the final act and the Fat Lady is starting her deep breathing exercises in order to sing.

We have set a date for the shipping container to be here. At least we have decided that August 12 is the date that we want the shipping container to be here. We still have not made "the call". Maybe we should put that on our TODO List...

Yesterday was our 18th anniversary. Wow! What an amazing and wonderful ride this has been. I certainly did not expect many of the things that the past 18 years have held. The one great constant has been my beloved Bob. Always there. Always supportive. Always loving.

With a date set, there is mucho pressure on me to git to gittin on this packing.

Pray for sanity.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

K1P1 Until You're Sick of It

In knitting, you have to do something to keep the edges of your work from curling up. Generally you do something called "ribbing" which is a stitch or two of knit stitch followed by a stitch or two of purl stitch. It looks nice on the finished sweater or jacket, but it is a pain in the neck to knit - and very easy to mess up. Which results in throwing your work back in the knitting bag and drowning your frustrations in something. Chocolate ice cream works nicely.

At any rate, the title of this blog comes from the famous line of knitting maven Elizabeth Zimmermann who wrote it originally in one of her patterns. And that is what most knitters do: knit the ribbing until they're sick of it. Then they go on to the body of the sweater or whatever.

I am sorting and packing and packing and sorting and sorting and packing. I am might near to the "I'm sick of it" point. I have decided that this is a recipe for madness.

I thank God, reverently and humbly, that Tuesday evenings now grant me the challenge and loving friendship and peace of a Beth Moore Bible study. A diverse group of ladies with a good 40-year age difference in some cases, gather at Erin Israel's home to pray, talk, encourage, love on, and study together. We are studying "Believing God" and, after only 2 sessions, I can tell that this is exactly where God wants me to be on Tuesdays! I have seen, over and over, in just 8 days (last Tuesday to tonight) how His hand is over me and how He is blessing me through this group. I expectantly wait to see how He grows me, pruning and all, into the child He wants me to be.

I found one of those musical cards yesterday. You know: they play the Chicken Dance or a movie theme or country or rock song. Well, this one plays a song from "Godspell", a 70's musical based on the story of Jesus. A secular play, true, but this song is a wonderful prayer set to infectuous (I hope that is spelled correctly!) music. The words are: "Day by day, day by day, Oh dear Lord, three things I pray: to see Thee more clearly, Love Thee more dearly, Follow Thee more nearly, day by day." Happy song. Sincere prayer. I bought the card. I'm keeping it for myself. For now.

Back to the sorting and packing. I am proud to announce that we are down to one car and one truck. Well, one car if you don't count the three collector's cars that we don't drive. But since they've not been on the road for over a decade, I don't count them. Just pray that SOMEONE wants a 1931 Model A, or a 1955 Chevy Bel Air, or a 1961 Bentley S-2 (I think) with right hand drive. They're for sale, in case you couldn't guess. Reasonable offers passed on to Bob who will then contact you.

I am about to the point of having nothing left to pack except the last minute stuff: dishes we still eat off of, sheets that go on the bed, clothes, shoes, my knitting! (I used a lot of my yarn as padding material when I was packing dishes and glassware, so I get to have a lot more yarn in Panama!) This is good because they don't seem to believe in yarn shops in Panama. Either I take it with me, or I buy on-line and pay big bucks for shipping. Personally, I'd rather be safe than sorry and take it with me...

Tomorrow I'm going to sort and pack! SQUEEEEEEEEE! I'm thrilled. Not.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Casting On Redux

The point of doing a gauge swatch is to make sure that the garment you are knitting will actually fit the person you are knitting it for. Most knitting patterns say something like "Needle size is not important, the correct number of stitches per inch is. Use the size needles necessary to get gauge."
is a
More often than not, that means that I knit a gauge swatch, carefully remove it from the needles and measure it, swear under my breath, rip everything out and start over again. It is an unseen, thankless task.

Sometimes I think sorting and packing is a thankless task - it certainly is not unseen! There is a mountain of empty boxes waiting on the front porch waiting to be brought in and filled - and another mountain of stuff waiting for us to decide what to do with. Do we take it with us? Do we pack it away and store it in the basement in Nashville (an option made possible due to the fact that my darling daughter Tory and her roommate Natalie are moving in to our house)? Do we try to sell it? Do we donate it or just try to give it away?

When you stop to realize that Bob not only had his lifetime of stuff, but inherited his aunt's and parents' stuff and that Brandy did likewise you begin to understand the magnitude of the situation, uh, disaster.

On the happier side, Bob and I met a delightful couple from Georgia who are also thinking about retiring to Panama. We all had dinner together on Tuesday and talked about "shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings", to quote Lewis Carroll. Gina is a knitter with about 10 times the experience I have, and who was also able to show me many of the ins and out of the amazing knitting website

I also discovered a great website called that has all sorts of information about our new hometown. I wasted, uh, spent much of the aftenoon browsing through much of it. (I did get another box packed, and gave away a big bag of books.)

As Bob is fond of saying "Softly, softly catchee monkey." He also reminds me that you eat an elephant one bite at a time.

I probably should go pack something...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Casting On - An Introduction

This is a first for me: blogging, that is. But it seems to be the 21st century way to keep in touch with lots of people at once, so here goes.

Our move to Panama is dragging out like a bad opera. Days have turned into weeks, weeks into months, and the months are adding up to a year and a half delay from my original departure target. Oh, well. It has been an exercise in patience (and I swore I would never pray for patience because that's when my patience would be tried!)

I remember learning in nursing school about the stages of dying: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. I have bounced around all five of them in the past 18 months, but I am at peace now, so I guess I'm at acceptance. This is good.

I don't think of moving to Panama as dying, but such a major change does require one to get through it in stages. In working on this move, there have also been moments of excited anticipation: Boquete is a perfectly beautiful little village in the mountains of Panama, the climate is eternally springlike, and the coffee is even better than I could have dreamed. (The beans from which the notorious "$15 cup of coffee" is brewed come from Boquete!)

As a knitter, I called this post "Casting On", and so it is. I'm not yet knitting the intended garment, but I am working on the gauge swatch, making sure I am using the right yarn and needles so that when the Postcard From Panama is actually from Panama, it will be a thing of usefulness and, perhaps, beauty.

As I learn more about this new "craft" of blogging, I'm sure I'll be able to add pictures and suchlike. Be patient. I'm not the fastest learner, but like the tortoise, I'll get there sooner or later.