This is my six-week vacation between 3 months on GRAND PRINCESS and 3 months on RUBY PRINCESS. Vacation? No way! It’s work, work, work. I’ll be exhausted by the time I get back on board the ship. We live on a farm, but I”m too old and soft to be a farmer. I’m not cut out for this! I’m up at 5am, work on my lectures for a while, and then it’s off to plant, and transplant and trim. I’ve finished replanting 100 trees since 90% of them were dead or dying because they were buried above the soil line and the roots of these baby trees were stuck in 4″ of pure chicken shit. Today I started planting another 300 trees. Coffee trees, like most tree crops, periodically need to be replaced. Not that they wouldn’t live decades longer, but their production trails off. [Like me?] Part of my problem is I really can’t communicate. I try, but without the nuances of the language and a complete vocabulary . . . I’ll blame the fact that the workers shortcut, do about half of it the way I asked, etc., not on their being Panamanian, but on my inability to speak the language. Heck, I can’t even chew them out properly! Sure, you can come to Panama, hang out with gringos, and never really need to speak Spanish. But if you want to do something, to undertake a project, to work with people and have them work with you, you’d better speak their language . . . and pretty fluently. May I live so long! It doesn’t help that I’m here, and then I’m off to work on the ship and in 3 months manage to forget most of what I’ve learned.
On the happy side of things . . .
Several student at the University in David who are studying to be language translators have asked, as their final course project, to translate by books [ESCAPE TO PARADISE and CRUISING THE PANAMA CANAL] into Spanish. I think it’s a fantastic idea and I wish them well. We’ve been trying to get together, but with me gone much of the time it has been a challenge. They said they’d come up to Boquete and I agreed to meet them, “In front of the municipal building by the post office” last Saturday. Of course I forgot that it is the Dia de Los Ninos in Panama, a big children’s day celebration that is a time for games, dancing, bouncing things, pony rides, story time, art work – you name it! – for kids. And in Boquete all of that takes place . . . you got it! . . . in the plaza right in front of the municipal building and post office. Amazingly, with zillions of kids and parents and music and dancing, we managed to connect.
Remember Abe Lincoln ?
I have a soft spot for student in college and university, I guess because I spent so much time myself in school. Remember Abe Lincoln? How he read and studied by firelight. Well, that spirit lives on. The quest for knowledge and to go to school is particularly awesome when it’s a 21-year-old Gnobe Bugle kid whose parents never went to school at all and who lives with relatives on a neighboring finca where he helps pick during the coffee picking season. He’s studying at the university here in Boquete at nights and wants to be an English teacher. First class the teacher states that she wants all homework assignments submitted by computer. Right. Understandably that is the way schools work now, BUT how does a highly motivated kid . . . motivated enough to walk 1 hour to school at night after working all day and then walk 1 hour home in the dark after school . . . a kid who spends every spare moment studying . . . how is this kid, who lives in a shipping container with his extended family of aunt, uncle and nieces and nephews going to access a computer when they don’t even have electricity or running water? I admire his courage, his persistence, his willingness to struggle, his not expecting anything from anybody. Is he at a disadvantage with the Latinos in his class? Certainly. Does he see that as a problem? No, he is determined. So whenever we can use extra help we always hire him. And we spend time going over his assignments and helping him prepare for tests, shaking our heads at the educational system in Panama.
The Music of The Spheres
Sometimes on weekends . . . party time . . . the blaring of all the radios in town, and the thumpa-thump of someone’s boom box can drive you nuts. I always want to get up early Sunday morning, stick some mega speakers in front of my house and blare out Widor’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. But I resist. But tonight, as are many weeknights, is a church night when something is going on at the tiny Pentecostal church up the road where my farm worker attends. It is so nice to take the dogs outside at night, under the starry sky, and hear the sounds of praise accompanied only by a guitar and enthusiastic clapping.
Questions . . .
Is Tocumen airport now doing fingerprinting and facial scans? There was news several months old, but nothing current. Love your Blog! Caitlan
Thanks Caitlan! As far as fingerprinting and facial scans . . . not that I observed. Although Panama is increasingly in bed with the US’ world plot to control all information so is eagerly financing this kind of thing. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me.
Richard: I have your book and subscribe to your blog. Can you tell me the most active tennis facility/community in Boquete? Jack McDonald
Jack, I’m not a tennis buff, so I’m probably not the person to ask. Valle Escondido I know has one tennis painted cement court. Lucero Country Club, formerly known as Cielo Paraiso has at least two clay courts. and I think Boquete Country Club has a couple of courts. Maybe some of our readers can add more information.
Hi Richard, I recently bought your book…as my wife Laurie and I are close to retirement and have been studying the best places to retire once we do….My wife has a month’s sabatical next year and is looking to spend her 4 weeks in Panama to check things out…I intend to join her the last week,depending on what she discovers….We have read much on Panama, but find your book and style extremely helpful..Everyone interested in seeking adventure outside the U.S. and is considering this part of the World, should definitely buy your book!
I have so many questions and so little time…(and I’m sure you must be bored to tears with repetitive questions)….but here may be a new one for you….
I am an avid Fly Fisherman…love cold water/stream Trout fishing…I read somewhere that the mountain streams around Boquete contain Trout…is this true?
Thanks again and look forward to more discussion..
P.S. When the Mrs. reads this I know she’ll be thinking..with all the questions we have . , you ask that one…….Oy Vey…:)
lol, Jeffrey K.
Jeffrey, Thanks for the comments and I’m glad you enjoyed my book. Please write a review on Amazon: it’s easy to do and it makes a big difference! I know that Panama is world-renowned for ocean fishing. Many of the world’s records for deep-sea fishing have been set off the Pacific coast of Panama. I know there are peacock bass in Gatun Lake: I’ve caught them! And I know that my Embera friends live off tilapia they catch in the river using underwater goggles and a homemade spear. We grow trout in Boquete and it is a specialty in many of the restaurants here. I believe that Jimmy Carter went fly fishing in Panama. I’m told that during the US Canal days, officially or unofficially, some of the streams above Boquete were stocked with trout. Costa Rica, about 40 km away as the crow flies, advertises fly fishing in some of the rivers that flow off our volcano, Volcan Baru, since we share a national park with Costa Rica. I am told that the water used in processing coffee in Boquete, although totally natural, somehow is no longer healthy for fish, but that if you go high in the mountains you can still find trout. Someone out there must have a better and more complete answer for Jeffery!
Tomorrow, tomorrow . . .
Tomorrow I take a rest from farming, lecture planning and research, and get to ride with the bus driver for our Panama Relocation Tour from Boquete to Panama City. Since now I’m always heading to or from the ship I always end up flying between Boquete and Panama City, so I’m looking forward to the ride down . . . especially with someone else driving so I can just look out the window and appreciate the scenery.
Then I’ll be blogging live all about our tour.
Just to close . . . a picture of my breakfast with berries picked right off my berry bush and bananas right off my tree. Life is good!