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.