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!