Sunday, September 16, 2012

not so great

I ran a 15k race this morning and it was not fun. It was awful actually.

This past week I've been battling something viral. It was in my sinuses and I just felt headachy and yucky all week. I didn't even run. Every night I felt too wiped and every morning there would be my sinus throbbing under my eye. And I wasn't that sick. I wasn't sick enough to stay in bed or really garner any sympathy. I went to my night class, and my volunteer gig, and made buns. Oh, and I kept questioning myself, am I really sick? I even wished I was more sick so I could justify staying in bed. I would say that both physically and mentally, it was not a great week. I felt rotten and pretty much alternated between self-pity and self-loathing the entire week. And that is exactly how the race went.

I felt okay, no sinus headache, definitely much better. I had googled, the night before,  how long it takes to lose your conditioning and I concluded that I would be fine. I wasn't fine. I   felt low, and about 5 k in, my left hip became furious. I could feel a muscle in my thigh curling into a cramp. This, I'm pretty sure is a result of not running all week. My legs were tight. Things did not get better. At 10k I was trying to remember a mantra about pain, and I was sure that if I could just call it to mind things would be so much better ... I couldn't, and instead I started thinking about how miserable I was. The words this is hell are not an effective running mantra by the way. I couldn't stop thinking about the pain in my hip and how rotten I felt. I knew this was not a good thing to be doing, but I couldn't, and didn't stop. It's actually remarkable that I wasn't crying when I crossed the finish line.

It's disappointing because my training's been going well. I had been really looking forward to this race. I probably shouldn't have run it.

The running mantra I was trying to remember was, Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. I'm not sure it would have helped, but it is a pretty accurate description of the situation.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Well here I am again. We're on a term break so I have more time than usual and no excuses not to write The last couple of weeks of a term are always a little stressful; everyone's  tired and the exams.. all the drama and stress surrounding exams. I don't like exams much... Well, I kind of like preparing exams (it's like making a puzzle) but I hate invigilating and I don't like correcting much so... I'm glad it's over.

When I got home from school on Friday, I sat in my chair at the dining room table until all my grades were entered into the system... it took tremendous effort (I had a complete set of exams to finish) and it made me rather grumpy (my kids were in a woohoo-school's-out kind of mood). Oh, and if that wasn't testament enough to my impressive will power, after I finished with the grades I went to bed early and got up at an ungodly hour to do my long run. No celebratory beer was drunk until Saturday night. But that celebratory beer was drunk at the beach. So I really can't complain.

Yes, we got to the beach. It was fantastic. It was relaxing, lots of eating and reading and messing around in the water. There weren't too many people and the weather was nice. I think we are all recharged.

Monday, August 20, 2012


So I survived my day at the football stadium. It was in fact, as disagreeable as I expected. It was hot, and long and I really have nothing in common with the other cheerleader moms. I am often awkward and foreign in mom situations, but this was even worse because I actually felt little hostile (I get that way when too much energy is focused on putting make-up on the eight-year-olds). But, it was all fine. I don't know if I had forgotten, or if I was actually worried that she was changing... but my girl, my baby, is one of the most comfortable -with-herself people I know, and cheerleading... despite whatever ideas I have about it, is just fun to her. There was kind of a mean-girl situation that involved tears and foot-stamping before the girls went on (it had to do with who had been chosen captain)--my daughter didn't even notice the drama. When I asked her about it, she shrugged and said, I don't really care about that stuff mom. And then later at home, while watching TV, she complained gender normative toy commercials. I've got nothing to worry about.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

5 observations and ceviche de camarón y pixbae

  1. Today is a holiday, marking 493 years since Pedrarias Dávila founded the old city of Panama. I wrote a little about this here last year. So we are home and it is lovely. A couple of girls slept over last night and they are all busy and still in their pajamas.
  2. The university put me on a company class this term. This means I have to venture into the banking district at five twice a week. This not in any way enjoyable. It takes an hour to get there and fifteen minutes to get home after class.
  3. Running has been weird. It's really good when I go. Pupils dilated good... The thing is I have been feeling really lazy about going and I've only been getting out there once or twice a week.  I renewed my gym membership hoping some cross-training will get my mojo back. I was hoping to run a 10 k race next weekend--we'll see.
  4. So my youngest daughter is in cheerleading; the one extracurricular I have absolutely no enthusiasm for. In fact, if I think about it too much it makes me mad. So mostly I've avoided thinking about it too much and I've done my best to be supportive. Unfortunately, the football season begins next week, and now we are actually going to have to go to games so we can watch her do what cheerleaders do: cheer on the boys. I'm hoping that in the glare of the hot sun she hates it, and sees it for what it is (demeaning, if you haven't caught my drift).
  5. One of her cheers reminded me of this song. A song that is in my brain thanks to a dear old friend (hello Eric!). The cheer doesn't really sound anything like this song, but the part where they  say, stop! and shake it! totally fired some Plastic Bertrand synapse in my brain. So, cheerleading? not all bad.

Pixbae, pronounced pibá, is in season right now. This is the fruit of the peach palm, in Costa Rica it's called pejibaye. It is a fascinating fruit that has been cultivated in the Americas for thousands of years. Here in Panama it is thought of as sustaining--like you could eat a couple for breakfast and be good to go until lunch. It is full of beta carotene and protein; any day now it will be on one of those power food lists. You normally buy it precooked.

ceviche de camarón y pixbae
I love ceviche. I learned to love it in Costa Rica. We lived on the Central Pacific Coast and the second biggest perk, after the beaches, was the ceviche. Amazing. The ceviche is good of course here in Panama, but I prefer it Costa Rican style, so this recipe reflects that (no mayo, and lots of cilantro).

9 cooked pixbae
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 large handful of cilantro finely chopped
1/2 a habanero pepper (or the whole thing if you can handle the heat!)
juice of 3 lemons
1 tsp salt
1 lb of uncooked, peeled and deveined shrimp
water or stock to cook the shrimp

Peel and chop the pixbae, put it in a large bowl with the onion, cilantro, habanero, lemon juice and salt. Stir and set aside.

Put the stock or water on to boil. When it's boiling  add the shrimp and cook for a minute. Remove the shrimp and plunge into ice. When the shrimp are cool enough to handle roughly chop them and add to the pixbae. Stir and chill.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

things that make me happy

We replaced a smallish louvre window with a patio door in our bedroom and it makes me ridiculously happy. The reja is a box so I'll be able to put some plants in it. We need a blind and I would like some new bed-side lamps and we need to put stuff on the walls... but I am so pleased. The light filtering through the big trees is lovely.

When we bought the house this small, low-ceilinged bedroom was painted navy (!!) and the window had blackout material taped to it, sealing any light out. The woman who owned the house suffered from bad migraines and this was her solution. So this particular room has come a long way.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

5 observations and puffed wheat cake

  1. I ran an 8k race this morning and it went pretty well. It was steamy hot. But, I don't have a headache. I think that means I've finally mastered the art of hydration in this god-forsaken climate.
  2. I am teaching Romeo and Juliet to 9th graders. I love teaching Romeo and Juliet to 9th graders. I don't think I'd have any particular affection for R & J, if it weren't for how much they dig it.  I know it's famous for its poetry, but I love it for its characters and plotting (and maybe its excess of dirty jokes). My students were on the edge of their seats as Mercutio and Tybalt  fought this week (oh and we were reading not watching). 
  3. I continue to volunteer teach at Calicanto. It's been such a great experience. In fact it has changed the way I think about teaching. I think I knew, but I didn't really understand, that so much of teaching is about human interaction. There is the subject being taught of course, but there's so much about respect and kindness, and how to interact with other humans... I feel quite strongly, that the classroom is one of the important places we learn about how to treat each other (and where we might get the idea that we don't matter if we are treated badly). I have seen women change profoundly in a few short weeks of training, and I believe that it has as much to with kindness and respect as it does with the subjects being taught.
  4. We had no school on Wednesday because of a water main break. There's really nothing like an unexpected day off. We were supremely lazy and didn't shower, even though there was water at our house. 
  5. Have you seen this? It's mash-up of the two ubiquitous songs. I think I like it better than either of the originals.

Here's a recipe for puffed wheat cake. It is the easiest thing ever and it is delicious. It reminds of being a kid and it reminds me of tree planting--it's totally nostalgic, but more nutritious than peanut butter marshmallow squares (which I also adore). I've been making it a lot lately (3 times last week!). 

Puffed Wheat Cake
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 cups puffed wheat (or a combination of puffed grains if you want to mix it up)

Butter a 9x13 cake pan.

Boil the honey, sugar, butter and cocoa for five minutes. Take off the heat and stir in vanilla and then the puffed cereal. Press the mixture into the pan.

If you live in 90% humidity, you will need to keep this in the fridge.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I got up early on Sunday with the intention of writing a blog post. I made coffee and sat down. I had lots of ideas and even a recipe. Then the power went out. Of course I could have kept writing, but without the cheery buzz of the Internet, my laptop had no hold over me. I took my coffee to the backyard. I noticed some plants that needed re-potting and a couple that needed dividing. And then I noticed some gaps along the wall, and before long I was in up to my elbows in top soil. I never made it back to my computer. I spent the entire day in the garden. It was great. Rubber boots on, and dirt under my finger nails, great.

As you can see, Cookie was a big help. Honestly, I really have nothing but admiration for her splayed suntanning poses. She is the picture of relaxation.