My Two Worlds

Sorry if I’ve been absent for a while.  One of my goals for 2017 was to slow down a bit and a least a little bit “retire from retirement.”  Well, that isn’t going to happen!  January has been busy promoting my properties for sale and those of others on my site PanamaforSalebyOwner.INFO, and we’ve been doing a whole lot of work painting our house inside and out, getting rid of stuff, and preparing for the eventual sale of our property … it is available! … and eventually downsizing a bit … part of the “slow down” and “retire from retirement” thing.

Boqueete estaste

But we are still enjoying Boquete after 12 years … one of my worlds.

Drying Beans for Own UseCoffee harvest was all screwed up for Central America this year.  The yield was far below average … watch the price of Central American coffee soar on the commodities market.  This was largely due to the crazy weather changes.  We’ve discovered over the years that sometimes the worst years produced the most flavorful beans, so we’ve held out a big part of our crop for our own enjoyment.  We produce really good coffee, and were we younger and had the energy and time, we would have a great opportunity to sell our entire group to an upscale US restaurant that wanted a single source, high quality coffee that would only be available in their restaurant.  But we leave that opportunity to the next owners of our farm.

Coffee In BloomHowever, one of the “miracles” of living on a coffee farm … last week I woke up at 4 am, let the dog out, and walked outside to look at the stars.  Stars where we live on a clear, moonless night are one of the most incredible sights!  It’s something you have to experience to appreciate.  But during the night the coffee had bloomed.  And the air was perfumed with this jasmine, orange blossom like fragrance … it was like walking into a perfume factory on the French Riviera.  Absolutely incredible.  And after sitting down to my computer in our library, which has windows facing east, and watching a gorgeous sunrise, I walked out and it looked like it had snowed overnight.  With the coffee trees covered in beautiful, white blossoms … which, unfortunately, last only a day.  Coffee is self-polinating and really is a remarkable plant, and not just to sip in the morning.  Because we have not lived in the “gringo ghetto” or “American compoud” but in the real Panama, one of our great joys living in Panama is to have been a part of the coffee culture that has dominated life for 100 years in our tiny town.


So that’s one of my worlds … and the other is at sea.  I kind of thought that most of the 1st Quarter I would be at home in Boquete, which was fine by me, and I had nothing on the cruise schedule.  Then Pearl Seas Cruises asked me to join them for one of the first cruises to Cuba on PEARL MIST, the ship I did the Great Lakes and Canada/New England  fall foliage cruses on last year.  Of course I delightedly accepted since we’ve both wanted to visit Cuba for years..  So most of February both Nikki and I will be cruising from Fort Lauderdale to Cuba visiting Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, El Cobre, Santiago and a number of beach/national park areas.  Fantastic!  But it does mean preparing a whole new set of lectures … hence starting work at 4 am.

DSC_0255On the heels of that, Princess asked me to to join CORAL PRINCESS  for six cruises to the Southern Caribbean, Panama Canal and Central America.  Fortunately these are all lectures I have done before.  I get off PEARL MIST and the same day board CORAL PRINCESS!  Fortunately both ships will be in Fort Lauderdale so I just have to get from one terminal to another.

So 1st Quarter 2017 has suddenly gotten very busy and it looks like slowing down and retiring from retirement will have to wait.





Bloom where you are planted, or . . . move!

Vine aThere is a beautiful vine growing on our farm.  It grows and blooms like crazy and it is beautiful, but it hasn’t always been beautiful.

We got a start of this plant years ago when there used to be a little Greek restaurant in Volcan.  The owner gave us a start and we had it this struggling little plant in six different places for about four years.  It never died, but it never grew.  Now my horticultural philosophy with plants is to try a plant in a few different places and if it decides to grow, fine, if not . . . it’s history.  Not only did it not grow, it barely hung on to life.  Many times I almost tossed it.  When we first bought our coffee farm, before we started building or redeveloping the coffee farm, tired of seeing this sick thing around, I just stuck it in the ground on the farm.  I told it . . . I do talk to plants . . . and to myself . . . and to God . . . “Plant, it’s now or never!  Grow or die!”

And it has grown!!!  Wow, has it grown.  I admit that it’s grown so well that it requires a lot of trimming and we stick the trimmings in the compost pile and they start growing!  All producing spectacular purple flowers.

Now if I were still preaching, I would have a sermon “illustration” here.  For those of you unaccustomed to pews, a sermon illustration is a little story stuck into a sermon to wake people up and hopefully make a point.

Yes, generally I think the “Bloom where you are planted!” is a good strategy.  But there are times in life when you find yourself “planted” in the wrong place, in a place where you can’t grow, where whatever it is that you need to grow and flourish just isn’t.  And it’s at those moments I think when you need to have the strength and courage to pick up and move and try growing in a more conducive environment.

Growing is what life is all about!  I think it was Bob Dylan who said, “When you stop growing you start to die.”  If he didn’t say it, whoever said it, it was a good thought.  If you aren’t growing through life, then something is wrong.  You can just sit there and take it, or you can do something about it.

Thus endeth the lesson of the vine.


Where It All Began

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth.

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

Rector Phillips Brooks (1835-1903) of Philadelphia, wrote the words to “O Little Town of Bethlehem”following a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He was inspired by the view of Bethlehem from the hills of Palestine at night and wrote the words and his organist, Lewis Redner (1831-1908), for the church children’s choir.

Well since Brooks visited Bethlehem in 1865 things have changed.

It’s not quite as peaceful as it seemed to Brooks, especially since the first thing you see entering Bethlehem is the ugly Israeli Wall erected to keep suicide bombers from Bethlehem out of Israel.

Bethlehem, now officially the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian National Authority, is honestly a rather crummy [next to Jerusalem] little town of around 30,000 about 40% of whom are Christian and most of the rest Muslim. Here’s downtown Bethlehem today . . .

Manger Square is the center of tourism, where all the action takes place, and the focus of world attention on Christmas Eve.

Traditionally on Christmas Eve Manger Square in Bethlehem comes alive with security forces and tourists from all over the world who want to be here to celebrate what probably wasn’t exactly the actual night of Jesus’ birth. We know that December on the hills outside of Bethlehem can be cold and windy and it is unlikely that “shepherds would be in the fields keeping watch over their sheep by night” in the midst of winter. More likely they would be hunkered down in a cave or barn in town to keep warm. Because the Romans celebrated their pagan festival of Saturnalia on December 25th, the early church, burdened by persecution, decided that when the Romans were all drunk and whooping and hollering, it would be a good time to hold their celebration of the Savior’s birth, and nobody would notice. And so it came about that the western Christian church celebrates the birth of Christ on December 25th.

The sprawling Church of the Nativity covers the tiny cave where tradition says Jesus, the Christ was born. “tradition” might be the most common English word on the tourist route in Israel and sometimes it amounts to little more that tourist hype. The older the tradition the more credulence it has, so because already in 150 AD or so this cave was being attested to by none other than the early Christian apologist – an apologist not being someone who made an apology for Christianity, but someone who explained it to non-Christians – Justin Martyr who lived 100-165 AD. this may actually be the place of Christ’s birth. This site is also a holy site for Muslims who see Jesus as one of the prophets. It is continually being referred to as the birthplace of Christ by many disparate ancient writers.

The first basilica on this site was begun by Saint Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine I in 327 AD. That structure was burnt down in the Samaritan Revolt of 529. The current basilica was rebuilt in its present form in 565 by the Emperor Justinian I. There are two churches here side by side: the older Greek Orthodox church, and a newer Roman Catholic church. The story is that when the Persians invaded their commander was so moved by the depiction inside the original church of the Three Wise Men wearing Persian clothing that he spared the building. The Crusaders made additions to the building and through the years the compound has expanded until today it covers 12,000 square meters making it possible for Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic traditions to share administration of the church and have monastic communities in the facility.

And this is it, after waiting in line an hour, and crushing in with tourists and pilgrims from all over the world, this is . . . supposedly . . . the spot where “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory, glory as of the Only Begotten Son of God.”

If the place doesn’t inspire you, as it won’t, the EVENT can change your life!

As I spend this Christmas at sea, to my wife and  daughter Rebecca in Palmira, my brother in an assisted living home in Washington, and my daughter Noelle, her husband George and my two fantastic grandsons in Seattle, and to you, whoever you are, whatever you believe or don’t believe and wherever you happen to be in the world, I wish you a very blessed Christmas!