Wednesday, December 21, 2011

up the Chuqunaque

Today's post is a guest post by my twelve-year-old daughter. On Monday, she went with her father to an Embera-Wounaan community to observe the closing meeting of a program that studied the effects of climate change in the region. This is her report:

My experience in Darien was pretty amazing. Other than a long,wet, and bumpy ride, I actually learned a lot and had fun. We started the trip by walking up at 5:30 in the morning  and then after driving about one hour and a half we stopped at a little rancho and had a delicious Panamanian breakfast. Then we stopped to buy some snacks, and after that we were off. We went to the comunity by piragua (canoe) on the Chucunaque river.
When we got there, we were greeted by one of the native ladies. My dad had told me to get painted with special ink made from berries they grow, so I decided, why not? and I got an Embera design on my arm (not on my face even though they offered). 

The meeting was kind of being delayed so they decided to serve the food, (it was delicious) I chose some barbecued  chicken with a side order of bollos torro, and bodochi.Then the meeting finally started.
I went to the meeting, and saw the UN representatives, and some of the people from different indigenous groups. They indigenous people’s leader told us how the change in climate was affecting their lives because of the increase of water to the river causing much flooding. This made me think of how terribly we were treating our planet, and kind of left me wanting to help. Some girls from the Embera Wounaan tribe did two dances that were very beautiful.
Ironically after this meeting the weather changed and it started raining, everyone ran to their piraguas, to go home.
The ride back was nice, but I fell asleep most of the ride. It is a very odd feeling being surrounded by nature, and then waking up to the city all lit up. Like this was my first time in Darien I left with a very good impression of the place, and people.

Friday, December 16, 2011

5 observations and cranberry carrot bread

  1. The bird watching in my backyard has been particularly good lately. The birds and bats helped themselves to a papaya and it's been fascinating to watch them.
  2. On Sunday night Noriega returned to Panama. I was out for a run, when suddenly (about the time he was arriving at the prison) there was an explosion of clanging pots. (People banged pots to show their opposition back when he was in power.) It gave me a strange shivery feeling, that clamour in the night. There were only four or five people banging, but the sound rang so plaintively through the night air... When I finished my long run I went home and read (until late) all about Noriega, and Oliver North and the 1989 invasion.
  3. Some books are just for fun. We are reading Attack of the Vampire Snowmen. It is ridiculous and so frothy after The Graveyard Book. I guess I'm teaching my kids to distinguish between high and low culture (or something).
  4. I hope it stops raining, mostly so I don't have to deal with wet, muddy running shoes every day. My daughter is in day camp. They play soccer and volley ball and go to the pool. It is excellent and she is having the best time. The only problem is her shoes. This morning found me trying to dry them in the oven. I don't mind the mud, but I'm a little worried about trench foot.
  5. Every year I look over the 'best of' lists and find something I'm not nearly cool enough to have discovered on my own. This year was no exception. I love this:

I might have bought the last bag of frozen cranberries in Panama yesterday (probably not, but possibly the last bag in my supermarket). I love cranberries; they are one of a number of gringo indulgences that I partake in this time of year.

cranberry carrot bread

4 tablespoons butter (room temperature), plus more for the pan
2 cups flour (I did a combination of 1½ cups all-purpose and ½ cup whole wheat)
1 cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup milk
¼ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 egg
1 cup grated carrots
1½ cups frozen cranberries

Heat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with butter.

Stir together the dry ingredients. With a mixer, add  the butter a tablespoon at a time. This works great with a stand mixer.

Mix together the milk, orange zest and juice and egg add the grated carrots. Pour into the dry ingredients, mixing just enough to moisten; do not beat and do not mix until the batter is smooth. Fold in the cranberries, then spoon the batter into the loaf pan.

Bake for about an hour, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


blooming banana

What can I tell you? I am adjusting to vacation hours. My youngest is in day camp in the morning and my oldest is practicing lethargy and sloth (actually she doesn't need any practice, she's really good at it). And I need a project. I should do some baking, but nothing is inspiring me. Also, I forget to order the gas and now we are out. So I won't be doing any baking until the gas guys come. I should clean out a closet or something.

I will probably not clean out a closet. Although closet cleaning is a perfectly satisfying activity I'm itching for something bigger. It's raining again which is not helping my restless, dissatisfied mood. I will probably make some coffee and escape into a book. I should be grateful for this lull. I should be writing blogs and planning holiday menus and writing, just writing. But I'm stalled and stuck and I feel like doing nothing and everything. I need a project...

Friday, December 9, 2011

5 observations

  1. It was Mother's Day here in Panama yesterday. I had a nice relaxing day. I didn't cook anything and I finished my book. It was very nice.
  2. Bad service in a restaurant can ruin a perfectly nice meal. We went out for brunch yesterday. While we had bad, but not terrible service, the table beside us was a disaster. After bringing out food for only half the table, a different waiter came to placate them and spilled a drink down one woman's back. Honestly, it was painful to witness. I am pretty tolerant of bad service (people have bad days, are inexperienced) but this was total incompetence.
  3. My kids finished school on Wednesday. We are officially on vacation.
  4. I finished work this week and I am so glad. Traffic gets really crazy here in December and it becomes impossible to find a taxi. I will be staying close to home until this seasonal craziness subsides. 
  5. This is pretty good:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I guess I'm getting into it...

We went to Casco Viejo on Saturday night to take in the Carols by Candlelight concert. We wandered around until we saw the crowd forming. Then we waited a long time because it started late. My kids got a little impatient, and I when I saw parents with smaller kids dealing with full on tantrums, I was grateful for my whiny big kids. But when the singing finally started the mood lifted. It was a very sweet event and the crowd was full of goodwill.

There seems to be a real appetite for cultural events like this. It was nice to see so many people out. The singing was good to. There are a couple of carols in Spanish that my girls love and it was fun to see them performed and hear them sung in a big crowd like that.
I guess all those Christmas songs put me in the mood. We put up our Christmas tree on Sunday. It's always a big deal because we only do it once every three years (the other two years we spend Christmas in Canada or Argentina). The kids have their last day of school tomorrow. And then the real craziness of December begins!

Friday, December 2, 2011

5 observations and chocolate ice cream

  1. December 1st brought sunshine. It feels like December; the sun is out and the breeze is blowing. Glorious.
  2. Perfume sick is the worst sick. Teaching a corporate class in a small conference room, I was felled by one woman's perfume. Certain perfumes have always bothered me but I've usually been able to leave (like at the cosmetic counter in a department store). But where could I go, I was in the middle of my class with cold sweats and that awful constant yawning. It was horrible and the last fifteen minutes were torture (I was sure I would vomit at any moment). Somehow I made it home and spent the rest of the day in bed with a blinding, crashing migraine. What do you do? Do you tell someone their perfume is making you sick?
  3. My daughter came home from school soaked. Yesterday was the anual murga (the wikipedia page is in Spanish but check out the audio clip to get an idea of what it sounds like) for the graduating class. They bring in a little band and spray water and dance and run around. It's pretty cool, big kids and little kids and teachers. The murga traditionally comes from carnavales but is a part of many celebrations in Panama (I've seen them at weddings and birthday parties). My daughter went to school in wet shoes this morning, but I'd think she'd say it was worth it.
  4. My christmas stuff is out. The tree can't be far behind.
  5. This a great video of Panama from Nat Geo. The song is The XX covering and remixing the Florence + the Machine song, You've Got the Love:

My kids weren't thrilled with my banana ice cream last week. So we are working on some old school chocolate ice cream this week.

We are using this recipe:
Easy Cocoa Ice Cream

* My ice cream is  little behind (I lost a day to migraine this week). The mix is currently chilling. I will add a picture tomorrow.