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Ship's Log: Updated January 19, 2010

Happy New Year! Merry Christmas! And Happy Thanksgiving, Too!

It's been a while since the last update, and the holiday season has come and gone. Pretty quietly down here, for the most part.

That said, try telling THAT to the bull!

The Bull is No More

In anticipation of selling their land, neighbors Tobe and Judy decided to sell off their cows. But because the bull was a big old, mean, ornery bull, he could not be sold. Well, not alive and in one piece, anyway. So, one Saturday morning just before Christmas, a dozen guys and the Green's three dogs set out to round him up...

The bull was a stubborn bull...that's six men pulling on the rope. It was pretty funny when the bull started running in the same direction---you should have seen them scatter!

The guys tailing eventually got him slowed down. The harassing dogs also got his attention.

Whiskey was apparently too annoying, and went for a little ride---on the horns of the bull. Full somersault--Ouch!

Bye, bull. Down the hill you go. And then the bull was no more (well, at least not on the hoof).

But the really funny thing is, now that the cows and bull are gone, Tobe has decided he does not want to sell the property. Hmm...

The Holidays, and Christmas at Casa Qué Será

Thanksgiving Day was miserable, raining buckets and windy, and Sharon was secretly happy to have that excuse not to have to go to either of the two parties being held over in the next bay. Took a rain check, and decided to wait until Tracy comes home safe and sound, when we can have our own "thanksgiving" turkey dinner.

Christmas Day was an entirely different story! The weather was beautiful, and next door neighbors Mary and Carl had their south Dolphin Bay neighbors, Sue and George, David and Linda, and Sharon, over for homemade rum punch, roast turkey with all the traditional fixin's, and homemade cherry cheesecake. And Christmas tree veggies for appetizers! (We had already nibbled on one side of the tree...)

Thanks, Mary!

New Year's Eve here was loud! Seemed like our other neighbors spent all their "bull money" on fireworks! But other than that, the weather was rainy and there was no reason to go anywhere but here.

Over to David for a Shopping Spree

It had been a long time since a trip to David, and with friends Garry Wood and Susan Gear soon to arrive for a visit, when Mary suggested a three day, after-Christmas trip to David, it seemed like a good idea. And it was! Exhausting, but, it gave Sharon a chance to get a guest bed that does double duty as a couch (or is it the other way around?);

while also doing a little "horsing around"!

Found a ten-piece set of wonderfully comfortable porch furniture (on sale!) for outdoor eating

and lounging.

Found cool lighting fixtures and bedside reading lights;

a darling mirror;

curtain fabric for the loft windows---which will have to be called "the Aquarium" once the curtains are made and hung!

A big happy piece of printed cloth to use as a room divider while guests are here, since there are no inside walls yet;

a dolphin shower curtain for Dolphin Bay, which will do initial duty as another room divider, since there is no shower yet;

and a big stock-up on PriceSmart food and drink.

Made for quite the boatload, going home! And we didn't even have any of the big or heavy stuff with us!

We were loaded to the gunwales and riding low in the water as we left Almirante late in the afternoon. "Come on, little Cricket, I know you're really heavy, but I know you can get up on a plane..."

Behind the shelter of the islands protecting the entrance to Almirante, it was calm enough. "Please let there be no waves once we get out onto the main bay?"

Well, of course there were waves, and plenty of wind! Mary, sitting behind Sharon, got soaked. But we were able to put everything else in plastic bags, so all the stuff got home safe and mostly dry.

The big furniture came to Bocas a few days later, along with Mary's big buckets of paint, kerosene, and a whole bunch of other stuff, on the Servicios Toby truck. Carl and Mary loaded up their launch with their stuff, and our couch and patio furniture. Sharon took a lighter, but still full, load home in Cricket. Took our two workers hours to get it all off the boats, onto the docks, and up the hill---there was a lot to haul!

Meanwhile, Over in Kandahar...

Tracy got to hang out with some TV stars! Ross Noble and Charley Boorman were visiting Afghanistan to entertain the troops, and Tracy got to show them around his training site and put them through the trainer.

Charley is an Irish TV adventurer and travel writer and former actor. As a child, he appeared in Deliverance (1972), and went on to make a number of other films. But he is probably better known for his more recent adventures. Long Way Round was a motorcycle trip from London to New York via Europe and Asia that he took with Ewan McGregor in 2004. Their adventure was recorded, then later made into a television series, book and DVD. The series was shown around the world and the DVD and book became best sellers.

He also achieved fame with his 2007 journey with McGregor in Long Way Down, a trip from John o' Groats in Scotland, to Cape Town, South Africa. Then in 2008, he started the By Any Means adventures, using local transportation appropriate to the area being traveled, which has taken him all around the world, starting in his home town in County Wicklow, Ireland and ending in Sydney, Australia, and then in By Any Means 2, from Sydney to Tokyo via the Pacific Rim.

Ross is an award-winning English comedian whose stand-up routine is a largely improvised and surreal performance with a stream of consciousness delivery. Often, a large percentage of his set becomes based around heckles and conversations with members of the audience...

Apparently they were both a heck of a lot of fun to have around Kandahar! Tracy loaned them his Gator. Ross immediately headed off to scale some of the dirt mounds, and promptly got the Gator well and truly stuck!

Fortunately, there were a lot of guys around to get it un-stuck!

Off for a tour...

Looks like Charley likes the ride!

Charley and Ross were traveling with friends/assistants Rachel & Naomi. Looks like Tracy was hoping he could get some special "assistance" of his own from them!

As it is, he is usually in very different company. Here he is with his December MET team in front of one of their training vehicles.

And a sad reminder of why they are all there.

Back at Home...

Looks like Indy is wondering why Sharon didn't get her a new bed in David. She has clearly outgrown her old one!

See how much better Gellie fits in her bed?

Here's one idea for where some walls could go...

Welcome, Peace Corps Michelle!

The whole gringo community here is just delighted that the local village, Buena Esperanza, was lucky enough to get a Peace Corps volunteer appointed here for the next two years. Michelle Aguilar is a recent graduate of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, (better known as "Cal Poly"), one of the nation's top public universities. She was raised in South Lake Tahoe, California.

She is here to try to help the Buena Esperanza community figure out ways to raise their standards of living (clean water and a trash disposal plan would be a good start, for example), and also figure out ways for them to make money. Along with local action groups like BESO and Operation Clean Water, Michelle is going to try to help the villagers launch new projects that will improve the quality of their lives.

Michelle is living in the village and visiting around the area in her brand new cayuco, made for her by the villagers.

It takes some getting used to, but she seems to be quickly getting the hang of it!

Lots of kayaking in her background sure helps.

Speaking of Kayaking...

Last week Sharon decided to round up the kayaks in the lower bay here and take a few of the ladies on a tour. Sue, Colleen and Michelle were game. And Colleen had "sort of an idea" where there was a little creek near her place we could paddle up...

So Sharon loaded up her kayak in Cricket, went two docks over to borrow Linda's kayak for Michelle to use, then went around the point to pick up Michelle at the school dock below her village house. They zipped across the bay to get Sue and her two kayaks. Fortunately, George happened to be cleaning the bottom of their launch when we pulled up, and when he saw how overloaded Cricket would be with four kayaks, he volunteered to take their kayaks and Sue over to Colleen's dock, where we'd planned to start our adventure.

OK, let's start unloading!

We had a general idea that we should head left out of Colleen's little bay...but after the creek wasn't where we thought it would be, we started asking for directions. These kids said (in Spanish) "Just keep going..."

A bit later we saw some guys hanging out on their dock, and we paddled over to ask. They too said just keep on we did.

But we just weren't making much progress. We kept finding dead-end bays and mangrove thickets.

As we were coming out of another dead end, we heard a motor. It was the guy we had asked for directions, worried about us, and come to show us the way! We all latched onto his boat while he squired us around the end of the bay, then looped back around to drop us off at the entrance to the little creek. His name was Robinson, and he told us his stories as we putted along at barely more than idle speed.

Then we were up the creek--but with our paddles...

After being out for a couple of hours, we were ready to head back. From Colleen's dock we all walked up to her house, where she picked up her salad for the ladies' lunch. Then we loaded up two boats in Cricket and towed two back to Sue's.

We all went up for snacks and bird and butterfly watching on her deck.

Then on to Cerro Velero and a very late lunch. Neighbor Mary joined us, bringing a Waldorf salad. Out came the wine, and we all toasted to another wonderful day in Paradise!

Changing Faces of the Bay

One of the things we love about living here on the Caribbean coast of Panama is the weather. It may rain a lot, but it is never boring! Well, ok, maybe three weeks of rain in a row is tiresome. But mostly, before you get tired of the same old sun or the same old rain, it changes!

Glass calm some mornings. "As idle as a painted ship Upon a painted ocean..." Coleridge, in his Rime of the Ancient Mariner, was describing a sailing ship in the doldrums, dead albatross around the mariner's neck. But we often have our own intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) here, and it can get very, very still.

Other days dawn like a tiger, roaring and howling, and blowing sheets of rain sideways. Many times in these storms, it rains so hard we can't even see the sailboats!

Some days bring visiting boats and visiting wildlife. The sailboat folks stopped for a few days before heading off to the San Blas islands. The herons come down each winter, then head back north in the spring.

And some days, when the weather just can't decide, we get a little bit of rainbow.

Then there is just the sheer SIZE of some things. We had visiting boaters from the sailboat Pogo in our bay last week. Sarah and Craig live near Boquete now, after living in the Canal Zone and sailing Pogo around Panamanian waters, especially the San Blas islands, for the past 20-plus years. Sarah was a cruiser in the 1970's, long before it became fashionable or common, and went on to become the first woman pilot in the Panama Canal---way to go, Sarah! Her brother Mort was visiting from Cape Cod, Massachusetts (can you say cold in the winter?). Sharon took them on a hike over at Jim and Dorothy's place.

That is some big bamboo!

And how about the size of this tree?

Maybe it's all that rain??

Here's a graph of our annual rainfall, courtesy of Sue and George. 2009 rained more than average, with 169.1 inches. The yearly average in our bay for the last 6 years has been 156.45 inches. And November this past year was markedly nicer than 2008!

Cerro Velero Critters

This spider surprised Sharon one morning when she picked up a roll of toilet paper off the shelf. The spider had been hiding in the toilet paper tube, and plopped out onto the utility room floor when she picked up the roll. Thank goodness it plopped onto the floor, and not somewhere else!

It was fairly docile and easy to catch. But at close to 4 inches, too big to keep around the house! That jar is a Costco-size parmesan cheese container, not the regular size.

And its mouth looked like it could probably give you a bit of a bite.

So we went for a walk to the back of the property, where it was given a nice tree cavity to hide in. If anyone knows what kind it is, we'd really like to know.

This one is another mystery. Some kind of moth...

but look at those weird antlers!

These two moths have been engaged in an on-going drama on the house siding for the past week or so.


Yes, there really are two of them there...

Laying eggs...

And hatching teeny, tiny, caterpillars, while fertilizing more eggs!

Hard to know whether to disrupt the cycle, or not. But that's going to be a lot of hungry caterpillars!

And Then There Was This Bird...

Working at the computer up in the loft the other day, Sharon heard little mewing calls, a flutter of wings, and the clacking of nails on wood. What the...??

Well, he's certainly curious! Next thing you know, he's begging at the window!

Mary had mentioned a week or two ago that she had visited Erica and Josecito, who run a small resort across the bay, and that they had a young Oropendola they were trying to re-introduce to the wild. The people who run the Howler Monkey rescue center in Chiriqui had traded them their rescued, maturing monkey for an abandoned young Oropendola.

Could it be? Sharon called, left a message. Then by the time she got back from the bodega with some food for him, he'd flown off.

Erica called a couple of days later to say yes, it certainly could be! They had released him at least five times, each time further and further away, because he kept coming back. And snatching food from their resort's guests' breakfast plates! Stealing candy out of their baby's hands...and pooping everywhere. They really needed him gone.

Erica suggested that if it was him, he would probably be begging around houses, since that was what he was used to. Sharon called David and Linda to ask if they had seen him; they hadn't. But as she was talking to David, Mary was calling. After hanging up with David, Sharon called Mary back. "Hey, there's a bird on our deck and he's drinking my Pepsi!"

"He seemed really hungry, so we're giving him some of Mandy's dog food."

"Oh, it must be Erica's bird, I was just trying to find him! I'll be right over!" Mary and Carl have no desire to have a pet bird, and their dog Mandy would love to sink her teeth into one, so...Sharon took him home.

There's a good chance he will integrate himself into the large local flock of Montezuma Oropendolas, but until he can forage successfully on his own, he now knows that when he comes to visit and he's hungry, he's got food at Cerro Velero. There's rice and lobster (he especially loves lobster), beans and watermelon, and crumbled bird food pellets for him here.

And it turns out, he loves to have his head rubbed. So he'll get a lot of that, too. He only stays to eat and get his head rubs so far, and then flies off. Good luck, little guy! Hope you keep coming back!

More Stories to Come...

Friends Susan and Garry, not related but both from Washington state, arrive in Bocas tomorrow, and there's a plan for a Costa Rica trip while they are here, so there will be lots to tell in the next update!

Stay tuned...

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