twice a week.
I pick up Pamela
first. It’s 9:11am. “You’re late.” She chides me. I’m always a few minutes
late. I wasn’t in the States. Always punctual. A fetish for being on time.
I’ve slipped, I guess. Carmen’s next. She climbs in at 9:20. “Buenas dias.
Como estan?”—Hi. How are you all? “Bien, y tu?”—fine and you? “Bien,
At the house,
Phyllis has her creative writing group sitting around the table on the
terrace. Kisses and hugs all around as we come in. Carmen knows what to
do and goes and does it. Pamela and I head out to the house construction
site bringing material from yesterday's foray into the city of David, 20
miles away on Panama's Pacific coast.
Roberto are working on a set of stairs from the carport to the garbage
deposit near the road. Braulio and his two guys are putting up gypsum ceilings
and soffits. Jimi is testing the electrical wiring. Oscar’s guys are on
site putting in the iron stair railings. Finally. Great. Stuff is really
happening. Edmundo should be here after he gets off his government job
at about 1 PM, to install another couple doors. He does good work with
the tropical hardwood doors his brother built for us. His brother, Oldamar,
is also doing our cabinets. I took a sample of the wood - called Quira
here, Cristobal in Costa Rica - to see if it would float. It doesn't. It
sits at the level you put it in water.
what?” Pamela takes down the list. Gasoline for the generator, “What again?
What are you guys doing, drinking it?” I ask, (but with a wink). Turns
out the generator, going most of the day, uses a lot of gas - at $2.43
a gallon, we use about $8 a day.
I now travel about 15Km across the Boquete valley to the farm. We pick
up the 2-cycle gas mixture and weed-eater at the house, as Juan asked for
it to clear weeds between the coffee trees. Juan is our farm manager. He
lives on the farm with his wife and family of nine kids.
The farm is
in a jungle valley, bordered by a year-round stream. I go there twice or
three times a week during the rainy season (because there’s few of the
vegetables I sell growing in the rainy season) and four or five times a
week during the dry season. Every time I go, I see the jungle wrapping
around the valley and think I’m in the middle of some Indiana Jones movie.
We wave and
smile at the cute Ngobe-Bugle indian kids staying on the farm next to ours,
as we travel the 400 meters of right-of-way to the farm. The girls are
all wearing their traditional colorful muu-muu-type dresses. They’re quite
shy, but having seen us many times smile back, their eyes still give evidence
to their shyness.
The farm is
an organic farm, dedicated to multi-cropping coffee, strawberries, lettuce,
citrus, bananas, avocado and a variety of other berries, fruits and vegetables.
The coffee is shaded by citrus, banana/plantain and second-growth forest
to provide an ecology we hope is sustainable for the people, and the plants
and critters that live here. I’ve noticed that while we have some bugs
they’re never out of control. There are never too many. I’m guessing that
in a proper balance, the birds, lizards, spiders, etc., provide the culling.
Fact is, I’m thrilled to be able to walk about in a jungle environment
without having to worry about bringing along the Deep Woods Off or DEET.
We deliver the weed-eater, the 2-cycle gas mixture, and a pair of shoes
I bought yesterday for one of his sons, Narciso (who, I think wrecked the
last pair playing soccer, or something). Narciso needs the shoes for school.
The kids wear uniforms to school.
We find that
Juan is working with his machete on the weeds at the far end of the farm.
OK, he’s about 200 yards down the creek. (The farm’s not big). We give
him the weed eater, give Livia, his wife, the shoes and get in return a
bag of zarzamora - a blackberry-like berry. Zarzamora can be eaten raw;
it’s also excellent as a sherbet with a bit of orange or lime squeezed
Juan has a
request too. Coming in off the road we noticed water gushing up from the
middle of the road. Someone had broken the water feed to the farm. Probably
a heavily-laden farm truck. We need to get some of the thicker gauge 3”
PVC pipe to repair it.
Need PVC. Pamela says she needs lunch. Lunch first. It’s 12:45.