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.

Friday, July 6, 2012

it's been a while

So I've been busy. Mostly busy being a teacher. My school does English week every year (the week of July 4th). We fill the bulletin boards with English content (see above)  and have a bunch of contests for the students. This year I organized a film festival for the high school. It went really well, and I'm very proud of my students. I'm also very relieved that it's over. The last two weeks have been hectic and stressful and I've lost sleep wondering what to do about poor sound quality and some questionable content from the tenth grade. And now, Friday afternoon, after all the awards have been handed out and the annual picnic has been eaten, I am tired and wired, I can feel the sharp edge of a migraine lurking at my temple. I need to sleep. I need to recover and catch up. So, all this to say, hello, I'm still here, but just give me a minute. I will be back for real next week.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

5 observations and Delta Rae

  1. I'm tired; I haven't been sleeping well. Too much to think about and too much to do, and I'm not a great sleeper at the best of times. I feel negativity hanging over me like a cloud. It's incredible how not sleeping affects your mood.
  2. The interminable renovations are taking their toll. My girls and I are soooo sick of dudes in the house. It is not possible to strip down and lie on the cool floor after school, and this is cramping the style of some people I know.
  3. I'm running a decent amount, and I'm feeling pretty good. I'm running a 5K race next weekend, and then  I'm going to start a fairly intense training program for the half-marathon in October.
  4. I had a weird conversation with a co-worker this week. The kind of conversation that you just know, is the result of another conversation that she had with someone else earlier. It was about me, questions about how much I spend on clothes (of all things!) and speculation on the cost of things I've worn in the past. It was very surprising to discover that people noticed or cared. I don't pay that much attention to what other people are wearing, and as for my own clothes, I have certain vanity of course (I like pretty things as well as the next person) and I'm fussy about fabrics and comfortable fits. But seriously, my husband takes longer getting dressed in the morning than I do. I am shocked that I am the object of such gossip. It's weird, and it makes me uncomfortable.
  5. The kitten's cute, but still totally feral. I'm wondering if he's not too old to tame.

I discovered this song this week:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy Fathers Day!

My husband was out of town this weekend so our Fathers Day celebration was a little forlorn. We toasted him over our bacon and eggs on Sunday morning, and my daughter recited her poem on skype.  We always miss him when he's gone of course, but we extra missed him on Sunday.

I finally caught that wild kitten and gave him a flea bath. I think the word bedraggled was invented to describe a wet cat.
Have a great Monday!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

5 observations

  1. Twice a week I take a taxi to my volunteer teaching gig in Casco Viejo. Yesterday I had a particularly awesome taxi. It was shared and without air-conditioning (yes, I did arrive to my class with my shirt stuck to my back) but as you can see, it did have some impressive decoration to recommend it. One thing I like about taking taxis is seeing parts of the city I'd never see otherwise. As we drove by Parque de los Aburridos in El Chorrillo (tons of guys playing dominoes) the taxi driver was telling the front seat passenger, who was Venezuelan, about Ruben Blades. The taxi driver was an enthusiastic, passionate storyteller and it was kind of like being in a Ruben Blades song.
  2. There's no hot water in our kitchen. The contracter and his plumber  keep saying it's a problem with the tap or something else that is not their fault. I want a second opinion--I'm almost certain the plumber screwed something up and is too much of a macho arse to admit it.
  3. I'm teaching Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar. This makes me happy.
  4. My daughter is on the mathletes team. It seems incredible that she is my child. How did I produce a mathlete? I'm very proud and a little intimidated by the math problems she's doing--if she doesn't understand something I really can't help her.
  5. Fiona Apple's new album is coming out this week. Possibly you're not as excited about this as I am (what's wrong with you?).

Thursday, June 14, 2012

here to stay

Somehow during renovations, when we were in the apartment, this little kitten moved into our house. He's too wild to catch, and he walks around like he owns the place--he has some serious attitude and terrible manners. We don't need another cat, but he seems to think it's not up to us--as far as he's concerned, he was here first. He's a very cute (despite the fact that there is no fur on the back of his ears) and persistent squatter who needs a flea bath. I imagine he's scratched eat the rich into the wall behind the sofa. My husband is not crazy about the idea of another cat in the house, but this little dude is so punk rock I just can't resist him.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

here I am!

We are living in a bit of a mess. The painters are still here and so are the carpenters. The plumber and electrician will be back tomorrow... You probably have some idea how this goes, these last details. I cannot complain though because I have this kitchen to cook our dinner in:
It's pretty isn't it? I'm very happy with how it's turned out. Life is a little hectic and I haven't gotten to cook anything too elaborate yet (honestly, it's mostly been frozen lasagne and quesadillas) but soon I will be a little free-er and then, look out!

We are back to school after a term break and I am up to my neck in lesson plans. Look for a 5 observations post on Saturday.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

the bitter end of the renovation

We were cleaning out a bookcase because they are getting ready to paint when I found this book.

I want to read that again, I thought and tucked it into my handbag. Do you see the 2800 written in the corner? That's the second hand price I paid for the book in Costa Rica. Mora Books. There are many things I miss from Costa Rica, dear friends, good vibes (what they call pura vida) and a love and respect for nature that is distinctly absent here in Panama. I also miss Mora Books. I don't even know if Mora Books still exists, but I remember it with tremendous fondess (and honestly even a little bit of longing). It was (and probably is) a great bookstore. I found so many unexpected treasures, there are actually quite a few books on my bookshelf with a four-digit number scrawled on the cover. Books I read and couldn't put back into the Mora Books rotation. I used to take a bag every couple of months and trade them for new ones. Now we have a Kindle and I love it, but I bet I'd be able to find the Fionavar Tapestry books that I've had a hankering to read at Mora Books (they're not on Kindle).

So as I mentioned above they are getting ready to paint. Sort of. The renovation is at that maddening, details stage where everything seems to happen so slowly. The stage of the renovation where my husband and I wake in the darkest hours of the morning and fret. They delivered the new windows on Saturday, but could not install them. I'm not sure when they will be installed... We are supposed to be moving back in next weekend. I hope there are windows and counters. I hope...
 Looks like it will be another fretful week.

Monday, May 21, 2012

running with the girls

My husband took the above picture at the race on Sunday. I like this picture. Me and my girls... we look strong and ready to take on the world, just the three of us. In fact, we've just deemed the porta-johns to dirty to use, and are talking about going home to use the toilet (can you hold it that long etc...) The picture is also strangely empty and is in no way an accurate representation of how the race was. Which was more like this:

But I like that first picture. I think I like it because it is true without being an accurate record of events.

So the race was great. It is fun to run with just women. My daughter did really well. We didn't run together, so I got to watch her cross the finish line and that was a very proud moment. I am not super fast but I really enjoy running in races, and it was nice to share that with her. I don't think she'll take up running, she already has enough going on with swimming, but I think I'll be able to talk her into the occasional 5K. And next year I'm hoping my younger daughter will join us at this race too.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

5 observations and little else

beauty all around

  1. I've fallen down the paint colour rabbit hole. I can spend hours messing around with the colour tools on paint and design sites (which is probably a complete waste of time because everything looks different in the paint store, not to mention on the walls). It looks like they will be ready to paint next week so I better settle on my choices, and prepare to live with them.
  2. I'm running a women's 5k next weekend with my older daughter. It's been really fun running with her the last couple of weeks, and I'm really looking forward to the race. She's so strong, and I'm so proud.
  3. My ninth graders are doing a found poetry project, and I explained found art and Dadaism and kinda blew their minds. I love teaching teenagers. They are hungry for ideas and anxious to say their opinions. Opinions that are so new, they are forming as they speak. I get to watch opinions being born and I love it. (Even if their opinions are surprisingly conservative sometimes.)
  4. We have a new route to school from the apartment. We have a short-cut through a creepy passage (well that's what we call it). Anyway, we saw some rats there the other day and my younger daughter, with complete sincerity and absolutely no fear, said awww how cute. They were particularly hefty, healthy looking fellows, but cute? I admired her ability to see beauty and told her about garbage and disease. She still thinks rats are cute. I love that she's not a squealing sissy, but I have to admit, I find it a little weird.
  5. Santigold has a new album with songs like this, that are perfect for running and busting your butt at the gym:

I think I'm going to get a slow cooker. So look for a working-mama type recipe in this spot next week.

the creepy passage

Monday, May 7, 2012

the kitchen in progress

Mowgli hanging out on the accent mosaic
So our kitchen is well under way. The tiling should be done by Wednesday. It's pretty exciting to see it come together.

Our house, which was built in 1977, had the traditional Panamanian Kitchen lay-out. That is, an enclosed kitchen with maid's room and bathroom. This kind of kitchen was designed with a maid in mind; a maid who cooks and lives in the kitchen. In it's favour, this design also keeps the heat of the kitchen separate from the rest of the house. For me, as someone who loves cooking and hanging out in the kitchen (and as someone without a full-time live in maid) this design is not ideal. Also the bathroom in the kitchen was the maid's bathroom and I'm sure, had the original 1977 fixtures. It was not a nice bathroom, and was the only bathroom downstairs. I wanted a nicer more practical downstairs bathroom and an open kitchen.
So we've opened the kitchen and changed the maid's room bathroom configuration. We kept the maid's room because it is a standard feature in Panamanian houses and our maid does sleep over once or twice a week when I teach at night. But our kids are getting older and soon this won't be necessary, and the little room can easily be converted to storage or pantry in the future. The bathroom opens to the entrance hall of the house, and it has a connecting door to the maid's room. So now the bathroom can serve as a powder room.

The tiling is almost finished in the kitchen. We are tiling with large whites tiles and mosaic on accent walls.
This reno is something I've been dreaming of since we moved into the house. I've had some misgivings about changing the very traditional, kitchen-maid's-room configuration (will any Panamanian buy a house with an open kitchen?). But in the end, we decided that we should renovate to our own needs.

Next week I should have some pictures of the bathroom.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

5 observations and no recipe

  1. We are pretty used to apartment life. Which is a good thing because we will be here two more weeks than planned. We are used to it, but I can't wait to get back home. The apartment's default smell is feet and I'll be honest, it bothers me. No one else seems to notice it, and I'm not into artificial air fresheners so I'm not really doing anything about it. But every time I open a closet, or even the kid's rooms after a day of being closed up, I am hit by a wall of yucky feet smell. I want to go home.
  2. On Monday, my quads killed! I have never been so sore from a race. Heels were pretty much out of the question for me all week. I taught all my classes standing up because just the thought of going from sitting to standing made me wince.
  3. We picked out all the tile for our reno las weekend. It was nerve-wracking and exciting and it took way longer than we expected. This weekend is all all about sinks and toilets. Wish me luck! I'll try to remember to take some pictures of how everything is going and post them on Monday.
  4. We are on another long weekend because Monday is a day of mourning for a dead ex-president. The kids are thrilled and I'm hoping we can get lots done.
  5. As a long time fan af the Beastie Boys, I was very sad to learn of Adam Yauch's passing. He seemed like a particularly decent human. Rest in peace MCA.

I have no recipe this week. I have been trying to make a decent chocolate cake in the rental kitchen with little success, well really with no success. The other night my daughter said, "this would make the perfect prank cake; it looks really good but tastes really bad." Too much baking soda (I don't have any measuring cups or spoons) and too hot an oven resulted in the grossest chocolate cake possible. I'll let you know if I get it right.

Monday, April 30, 2012

on the trail

So yes, I survived the 15k trail run yesterday. In fact I felt pretty great for the first 10k. I just kind of held it together for the last 5. I had been worried that I wouldn't be ready for the hills and I wasn't... well not for that distance. It was pretty much all uphill to the finish line--brutal! (the longest two kilometres ever). I was so done when I crossed the finish line! Before the race I had worried about mud and loose rock and running on that kind of technical surface, and as I walked in to the starting line on the mucky trail my fears grew. But it was totally fine. I actually loved the challenge of rocks and mud. My finish time was 2 hours, which is what I expected. Next time will be better.
It was a totally new experience for me not just because it was a trail race, but because I went all by myself. It was just super inconvenient to get the whole family up at 4:30AM, and then have them hang around at the finish line (in the mud) waiting for me--inconvenient and selfish. So I got on the bus at 5:00, not knowing a soul, to go to a race that frankly, scared me. (You might say I was a little outside my comfort zone.) I missed them, but it was totally fine and kind of satisfying too.
My new trail shoes are definitely broken in now!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

catching up

Well that was kind of a crazy week!

  1. I started teaching high school again. (I teach Lit.) It's part-time and I'm happy to be back (and happy it's part-time--well I wouldn't have gone back full-time). If you can believe it, I missed teenagers. This is entirely unexpected, as I hated high school and teenagers when I was a teenager. But now I find that I enjoy them. It's all their optimism and angst--they're pretty interesting to be around.
  2. My kitchen has been demolished. Finally, the reno that's been in my head for years (since we moved into the house) is happening. The crumbling, laminate cabinets have been removed. Walls have been removed. There is a huge hole in the floor (plumbing concerns). But I could not be happier. 
  3. While our house is being tore apart and remade, we are in an apartment. We've never lived in an apartment and we all feel strangely confined. We are beside a park, and there is a nice social area but still... We are definitely house people. 
  4. I signed up for a 15k trail race next weekend. I had my last long run before the race yesterday. I don't know how well I'll do, I'm not feeling super strong. My legs are achey and I'm dreading the cross-training I have to go do after I finish writing this. The race is in Altos de Campana which is a beautiful park that I've written about here. My goals are pretty much to not get lost, and to finish. We'll see how it goes.
  5. I turned 41. I had lunch with my husband at the cutest little crepe place. The girls wrote gushing letters to me (apparently I'm the best). It was nice.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

new normal

new view
So we are shaking things up a bit.

Fairly major renovations are starting in our house tomorrow (I forgot to take before pictures) and we've moved into an apartment for a month. Oh and I'm starting a new (old) job tomorrow (because moving and renovating didn't seem like enough all in one week). So things have been a little crazy. And this week is going to be kind of nuts.

Blog posting will be light--I think I'll have some time on Thursday.

I am stupid tired and there's a bunch of dirty dishes in the sink...

I'll see you Thursday.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

some Guna Yala camping tips

  1. There is no fresh water on the islands so bring plenty of water. If you have any water left when you leave, give it to someone (one of the boat guys will surely take it).
  2. There isn't any wood. So you have to bring fuel for cooking. We had charcoal and a little butane burner. Sandwiches are kind of ideal.
  3. Each island is looked after by a family or group of families. They collect the trash and generally look after things. While we were there a lion fish swam up to the beach and after everyone got a good look at it, the resident Guna family came and took it away. Lion fish are an invasive species that poses a threat to the Guna fishery and they are killed on sight throughout the islands.
  4. As I mentioned above, garbage is collected. The garbage is collected but I'm not sure where it's taken and I will be honest here, I was afraid to ask. I did notice a lot of garbage in the mangrove when we were coming back to shore, and suspect that there is a dump somewhere there. All this to say, take it easy on the garbage. Really, people should have to take everything out that they take in. But sadly, Panama is not ready for rules like that.
  5. It is hot. The ice in your cooler will melt in a day. I think you would need a block of ice for two nights. The best thing would be to minimize perishables.
  6. Guna fishermen bring fresh fish and sea food to the islands to sell. (NOTE: the Guna fishery observes a self-imposed ban on crustaceans and shellfish in March and April). Also the local family will cook the fish for you. Make sure you have cash with you so can enjoy this.
  7. I whined talked about music and generators in my last post. It's worth mentioning that holiday weekends are busy on the islands. If you're looking for peace and quiet go some other time, or specify your wishes to your boat driver. And if you do end up beside a stereo, remember, that's the sound of people having fun. I was feeling grumpy about some blaring musica tipica, but when I looked over the people were dancing. How can you hate on people who are dancing?
  8. Watch out for coconuts. Don't set up your tent, or hang your hammock under a big cluster of coconuts. They will come down in the breeze and they are dangerous.
  9. Sunscreen. Do not be fooled by breeze and clouds. You will be fried if you are not slathered in it. Swim shirts are great for kids who spend the entire day in the sand and water.
  10. Be respectful. Guna culture is fascinating. The women's traditional dress is beautiful. There was a boat of Guna women and children heading out as we were coming back to the dock. They took my breath away, the cute babies and colourful molas. I didn't take a picture, it seemed inappropriate--they were just getting on with their day. Guna women charge for photographs ($2 I think). I've heard people complain about this. I think by charging money they set some boundaries. Clearly they don't want to be photographed without permission.

Monday, April 9, 2012

island life

dawn (it looks peaceful doesn't it)
So we went camping and it was great. There were toasted marshmallows, and coffee at dawn looking out over the water. There was snorkeling--a lot of snorkeling. The kids really took advantage of the time. There were a few minutes of rain huddled cozily, close in the tent. It was wonderful but... Oh yes, there is a but (there has to be right? or what kind of fairy tale am I living?) There was one small thing that prevented perfection.

So in Panama, people love music. They love music and they like it loud. Reggae, Salsa, Tipico, and really the list goes on. Panamanians love music, and love to listen to it everywhere (can you guess where I'm going with this?) restaurants, buses, stores, and even the beach. Now I knew this. I've been to the beach many times, and I've noticed the big booming stereos (hard to miss really). Usually we just move down the beach (to where you can just hear the faint thump of bass). It has never bothered me, and I've even admired people's obvious enjoyment. But camping on a small island... I did not feel admiration. People had generators and huge stereos. The music was constant and loud. I will be honest, at two in the morning, my feelings about Panamanians and there love of music was distinctly hostile.

So, don't camp on Isla Perro on a holiday weekend. Unless of course you plan to party all night, and then you'll have a great time. Our Kuna boat driver told us, we could camp a couple of islands over--where there were less people. And next time, that's what we'll do. Because it was glorious, and there are 378 islands in the archipelago so I'm sure we can find a quiet one.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

gone camping

We are going camping. My kids have never been camping and they are excited. And I am excited, because I love camping.

I'll tell you all about it in Monday,

Monday, April 2, 2012

April fools

looks like a refreshing glass of orange juice...
My husband doesn't come from a practical joking family, but in my family practical jokes are venerated. I know about pranks my grandfather did before I was born. Practical jokes are woven into family history; no gathering is complete without a prank or at least the retelling of a favourite past joke. My husband is an excellent sport, and though he my have found my family's love of jokes a little odd at first, I would say he has embraced it, and has been even been responsible for some pretty good gags of his own. So obviously we celebrate April Fools' Day in my house. It is not celebrated in Panama, so it is a family tradition. And one that probably seems a little strange to my girls' friends, but it's something we really look forward to every year. And this year was no exception.

I didn't do anything elaborate this year. Slippery toilet seats and door knobs were as far as I went. But the kids really went for it. My husband and I have standing date with the gym on Sunday morning. I left knowing that the house would be booby-trapped when I got back. There was a lot of shaving cream in the bathroom, and I was offered some very yucky orange juice when I came in and there were Cheerios in the shoes. But the best was the water that crashed down on my husband when he opened his closet. It was fantastic, the best April Fools' Day ever according to my daughters.

My family would be proud.

Friday, March 30, 2012

5 observations and salt cod fritters (torrejas de bacalao)

  1. One of my students gave me the fruit pictured above as a gift. It is a malay apple. Here in Panama it's called marañón curazao and in Costa Rica we knew it well as manzana de agua. This particular specimen was darker than I had seen before, but it tasted the same as it's rosy red brothers. It's a delicious fruit.; it's like crunchy, fragrant pear.
  2. I still hate spelling. My daughter's weekly spelling list seriously bums me out. She is a terrible speller and we need to drill spelling words every day. Her spelling is improving, but the thought of a new list every week until the end of the school year makes me peevish.
  3. My kids have brought Beyonce into my life. I would not know, or care too much about her if it were not for them. Last night, while I was running I realized that I love the song Countdown, not just like it in passing, but love it. It was the highlight of my playlist. Of course Radio Disney still makes me want to gnaw my arm off, I have my limits.
  4. The mosquitos seem to have subsided. Which is great, but I'm pretty sure the reason is that the broken pipe that was puddling water all over the street, is now a small river running down the street (mosquitos prefer standing water).
  5. This is song always makes me happy:

I love anything made with salt cod and I always take advantage of it's availability during Lent to make these:
salt cod fritters (torrejas de bacalao)
1 small fillet of salt cod
4 large starchy potatoes--cooked
1 cup of milk
1 egg
oil for frying

Start the day before you plan to make this by soaking the fish in water. This is to remove some of the salt --you should change the water regularly.
Rinse the fish and put it in a small pan with the milk. Let the fish simmer in the milk for 15-20 minutes.

Drain the fish and let it cool. Flake the fish with a fork.

Mash the potatoes. Add the fish and the egg and the pepper. Mix all the ingredients together.

Heat the oil. Form the mixture into little patties and fry until golden.

Enjoy them with hot sauce!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

run the risk

as you can see it's pretty flat
I'm doing my training for a trail race in the middle of the city. There are a couple of hilly places to run in Panama, but for a real trail run you need to drive out of town. So my regular weeknight runs are on flat, city streets. I do the alpine workout on the elliptical at the gym (of which I am the boss of, by the way) but I have some apprehension about how well I will be prepared to race on a trail in the mountains.

And last night I wiped out (bit it quite spectacularly). Scraped my shoulder and shin and skinned my knee and elbow (I look a mess). I was running on a straight stretch of street. I think I might have tripped on a loose rock (there was a lot of debris on the street last night). But it worries me. I am a klutz. Will I really be ready for a trail run at the end of April?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sunday afternoon Casco Viejo

We went down to Casco Viejo to see some streel theatre in Plaza Catedral. It was part of a performing arts that is going on right now and the show was really good.
clowns from Argentina

After the show we got ice cream and wandered around.
city view
ruins on the beach
the shady way
the lady with an iguana on  her shoulder
so many pretty things
gathering her wares
the guy with the banjo played a little calypso
the bridge

tango on the saxophone
It was a very satisfying couple of hours. And the light was so lovely as we walked back to the car...