Back to work…Oh, I know I thought we were retired, but, shrug, there’s work to be done!

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And the construction continues at the Carter propiedad! Before our vacation we liquidated all our workers. Which means that we paid them all the required vacation and decimo pay and basically laid them all off. Scott let them know that they could resume work on the first Monday of our return if they wanted to. But, we didn’t know for sure if they would still want to come back to work for us because we couldn’t assume that they wouldn’t go find different work for the three weeks we were gone. So I drove down to pick them up at our regular meeting spot at 7:15 on Monday moring (right at the end of the bridge in town) and….Gulp, no one came! I was sad, I kinda thought in my head that they all really, really liked working for us and that “of course” they’d all be back! The two indigenous guys , Federico and Arquiles both showed up at the job site ready to resume work but no one else on Monday. So Scott very calmly said to me, “No problem, Shrug, we’ll just move on to Plan B”….Gotta love a guy who is calm and adaptable! That vacation really renewed his “Tranquilo”! hah! So Plan B in his mind meant that we would just let the main house sit on the back burner until the next dry season and for now if none of our crew aside from the two guys showed back up we would refocus on finishing up all the details on the casita. There’s still quite a bit to finish up like cabinetry, soffits, all the outside hardscaping, walkways , steps, exterior painting, stone work on retaining walls, just to name a few things. Read the rest of this entry

Vacation…It felt so different in so many ways, all good!

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Coming home from vacation felt entirely different to me this time! This is our first big vacation away from our new home here in the highlands of Panama and I must admit, after nearly three weeks away, I was looking forward to getting back to my little casita in the mountains. We’ve taken several pretty long vacations in our past and normally we’re never really ready to go home. We love to travel and see the world and seldom have we looked forward to returning to the grind that was our life in California.
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Our Peruvian Adventure…

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Eighteen days, Six cities, Planes, Trains, taxis, boats, busses and hiking around more ancient Incan ruins than you can shake a stick at (whatever that means!)….. Luana and I both agree that the Peruvians have no lack of huge old rocks in this country, that’s for sure! hah! But, that being said, we’re all just totally “Awestruck” by Machu Picchu… how could anyone not be? It’s simply magnificent! And Lake Titicaca blew us away as well….I was stunned by the floating reed islands and the life they live there! We all loved the town of Ollantaytambo, our first stop on this adventure. Its one of the few places where the people are still living in an original Incan city! The narrow cobbled streets, walls and many of the houses are original and we marveled at the history that was still alive there. This Foursome feels as though we’ve really “SEEN” Peru! Read the rest of this entry

Day 7…Writing 101

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Day Seven: Give and Take

Today’s Prompt: Write a post based on the contrast between two things — whether people, objects, emotions, places, or something else.

compare and contrast….

Dreaming of doing something totally unexpected and freeing or continuing on down the same path your on. Getting up everyday and doing the same thing for years on end. Coming up with an idea, a crazy, wild idea and working towards making that idea a reality. This is a comparison I’ve made in my head many times. I often wonder if, had I not come up with my crazy idea to expatriate and begin an adventure in a different country, would my routine have become so unbearable to me? Or would I have eventually come to feel exactly as I was feeling about the sameness of my days by the time I was prepared to leave? Did the dream of doing something different slowly make my current existence feel unsatisfying? Up until I began dreaming of living in another country and changing my life completely, I was perfectly satisfied with my life and the routine I had created for myself. I often wonder if I would have eventually begun to slowly sink into that feeling of monotony.

So, you begin to dream about a change in your life. Then slowly, as time goes on you begin to research little things about that dream. Reading online, googling different things that relate to the dream. Then you slowly begin to talk to people about what’s been on your mind. You share with trusted friends and people in your life who you know wont gasp with horror at your new idea. People you can chat with about it who agree that , yes, that is an interesting idea. Soon it’s on your mind all the time and you even wake up in the morning having had an actual dream about it while you slept. Then you begin to daydream about it as you drive and walk around. This dream is becoming an obsession. Then somehow without your noticing it, your getting really bored with what your currently doing day in and day out. Your fresh new idea has begun to take on an appeal and your beginning to really crave the reality of what could be.

At some point in your daydreaming you realize your new idea for a new way of living your life could actually really become your reality. You can make it happen if you choose. It will be hard, you don’t totally hate what your doing in you life currently. Your not especially unhappy or even unsatisfied at all by what your life has evolved into. Your actually quite happy with your home, your career, your friends, nothing about your life is so bad that you feel the need to escape. But still, its just all so predictable and ordinary. Your craving change, not just a new hairstyle or a new outfit, something much bigger, all consuming even. The thought of such a huge life change both terrifies and thrills you. Your stomach has butterflies just thinking about what it would be like to do it. To actually dive in head first into a massive life renovation. Can you do it? Can you really do it? Can you make such an immense life change? Will you be happy? Will you regret it? You’ll be giving up so much. You’ll never be able to look back or go back to the way it was. Is that what you really want?

So many questions that have no definite answers. There’s no way to look into a crystal ball and know for sure that all will be well, that giving up what you have will be the ‘right’ thing to do. But, will staying in the same ol’ same ol’ be right? Will you feel happy to ‘not’ do it? What will it feel like to never realize the dream that has you awake all night dreaming? Will the dream just eventually go away if you don’t do it, if you push it aside and try to forget about it? Will you regret not doing it? Will you always wonder what it would have been like to dive in? Will the life that you currently love become a life that you resent? Will you come to feel as though the path you’ve stayed on, the path that’s predictable and known, has become a prison of sorts? Who knew that a dream had the potential to ruin what was, before the dream, a good life, and turn that perfectly fine life into something regrettable? hah! Is that what dreams are for? Are they meant to propel you forward towards change? Change that can become transformational?

In order to grow and to really experience life to its fullest I think one must be open to change. To force yourself to continue down the path that is known and predictable is to reject change. To reject change is to stay the same and never grow. As you know I dove in! Head first! I walked away from everything that was familiar and known. I knew I’d never be able to turn back, to return to what I knew I loved. I took a chance on adventure. And I embraced change. Total and complete , all consuming change.

In many ways I had to spend a lot of time comparing what I knew I loved to what I knew nothing about. I didn’t know for sure what my life would be like living in this little town in the mountains of Panama. But I knew exactly what my life would be like if I stayed in Los Altos. I knew I’d continue to walk to work everyday through my beautiful neighborhood. I knew the grocery store I would continue to shop at day after day I knew the view I would see when I looked out my bedroom window. I knew it well. I didn’t know who my friends would be. I knew who all my friends were in my former life…and I loved, respected, admired and cherished them to the moon! I didn’t know for sure what my living situation would be if I moved to a different country. In my old life I knew that I loved where I lived I loved my house that Scott and I so lovingly built ourselves. I didn’t know if we would for certain have another house that we felt so proud of and that we felt so at home in. One big thing I knew for certain was that no matter where I went in the U.S. I could communicate with everyone I came into contact with…not so in the new place I was moving to. I had no idea what it would be like to struggle to communicate everyday. I had no idea what it meant to dedicate myself to learning a language. I never learned any other language and wow, I had no idea what a difficult yet totally rewarding aspect of this new life this one thing would be for me.

Had I made a different choice about following this dream of totally changing my life, what would that have felt like? How would my life look today? Would I even be blogging now? Would I have embraced this surprising and new passion of writing? I suspect I’d still be doing all the same things I was doing before I decided to uproot myself and embrace change. I would have rejected my need, my deep craving for change. It would have been pushed down, repressed and never realized. I would not know so many new people. I would never have known how to speak Spanish! Scott and I would never have had this incredible adventure of building a home in a different country. It makes my soul hurt just thinking about the people I would have missed out on meeting. The experiences that Scott and I have had together as a couple, experiences that have changed us in so many ways….how sad to have missed out on so many opportunities to grow and evolve.

To have decided to ignore that dream of altering my reality I would have truly missed out on a life filled with a multitude of blessings. Yes, I would have remained living a life that I was happy in, but Im so pleased to now be experiencing a new life that is proving to be another path to look back on with pleasure. How wonderful to be able to compare and contrast two totally different lives and to know that both very different paths have been rewarding and wonderful in so many ways. Yes, I made the right decision for me. This type of experience isn’t for everyone. We all have our own very personal dreams that are right for us. But I think the most important thing about a dream is to find your bliss in whatever unique path that makes your heart soar. It may not be a ‘dream’ at all for you, it may simply be your current ‘reality’ where you embrace your bliss! And I say, Good for you! Adventures are all a matter of perspective and one cant compare your own with that of another’s. I wish for you an Adventure today that makes you feel as though you’ve embraced a change that creates growth in your heart in some magical way. Life is good! And I just love an Adventure!

Day 6..Writing 101…

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Day Six: A Character-Building Experience

Today’s Prompt: Who’s the most interesting person (or people) you’ve met this year?

Our stories are inevitably linked to the people around us. We are social creatures: from the family members and friends who’ve known us since childhood, to the coworkers, service providers, and strangers who populate our world (and, at times, leave an unexpected mark on us).

Today, write a post focusing on one — or more — of the people that have recently entered your life, and tell us how your narratives intersected. It can be your new partner, your newborn child, or the friendly barista whose real story you’d love to learn (or imagine), or any other person you’ve met for the first time in the past year.

In this last year I’ve been deeply touched by so many of my new neighbors here in this small town in Panama. You see even though I’ve been living in Bouqete for nearly two years, I’m still a newcomer. So many things about living in a different country have required a bit of adjustment. For me, being amongst so many warm, welcoming people has made my ability to adjust just a little bit easier.

This past year I’ve really gotten to know our eight Panamanian employees who are working on building our house with my husband. Six days a week I drive down into town to pick them up in the morning and then at the end of the day I drive them back down again. I must say the one thing that stands out for me during that 10 minute ride in my car twice a day, is the incredible sense of humor they all have. The camaraderie between them is a hoot to witness. They laugh and make jokes and call each other “crazy women” (Loca) and poke fun at one another all the time. All in good fun, of course. It seems as if they switch around to a different guy each day as they gang up on someone new. No one seems to escape the harassment that they dish out to one another. As we’re driving in my car, whenever one guy makes some remark that’s funny or snarky they all, in unison do this kinda singsong… “Ayyyyyyye” …its hard to describe in the written word, but hilarious in the car. Or Javier says, “Totalamente!” With a grin as they all nod their heads in agreement to whatever was said.

When I have those 6 guys in the car with me and Javier (he seems to be the ringleader!) says something, obviously meant to be a joke , and all six men in unison say…”Ayyyyyyyyyye”… the laughter breaks out all around and I smile. I just love the feeling of pleasure it seems these guys get everyday harassing each other on their way to work. They seem to smile a lot and always find something to say to make each other laugh. I’ve tried to join in the fun by calling the last guy to arrive in the morning, “Princesa” because we’ve had to wait for whoever’s late…that gets a big laugh! And recently, when they were all coming down with a cold, one by one… I told them they needed to stop kissing each other so much! “Tu necesitas no mas Besitos!” Boy did that get a big “Ayyyyyyyye”! And laughs, and coughs and a few sniff sniffs! hah!

Before we moved into our casita I hardly ever got to really interact with our crew, but now I’m around everyday and have even been honored with a title…”La Jefa”! Yep! I’m the Boss! hah! You know I love that! Right??? I love the way they sort of look out for me whenever they’re around. If they see me trying to carry something heavy to the car they drop what they’re doing and run to help me. If I come home with bags of groceries and they’re nearby, it never fails, I’ll turn around and see that I have a helper! I just love being so pampered and respected. I understand this is just a sample of one aspect of Latin Culture, respect for women, well especially ‘older’ women…which, ahem..I guess I am! Humph! Well, I love the pampering! And…I’ll take it with pleasure!

I don’t really know for sure but I like to think that Scott and I are providing these eight men with a good job. A job where they feel respected and appreciated. I feel like we’ve had such a wonderful experience gathering a group of men that seem like they actually enjoy working together and get along so well. I also feel like there’s a mutual respect that goes between Scott and the entire crew of men. I have no idea what types of jobs they’ve had in the past but I really hope that as employers we’ve treated them well and that they’ll look back years from now and remember us and our job fondly. If its possible to think of employers in such a way…hah!

One other thing that I’ve enjoyed is having a mix of both Panamanians and Indigenous men working side by side. I’ve gotten to see how they interact with one another and to learn from my observations that at least our crew seem to offer one another equal amounts of respect. The three indigenous guys have learned a lot from Scott. Before working with Scott Federico had only ever been a machete guy. He had zero construction experience and we’ve watched him really pay attention and learn so much. Even just using a measure tape is a new skill that he never had before. Scott is a very patient teacher and mentor and has such a gentle, calm spirit I think they all look up to him and respect him greatly. At least from my observation of him when I see them all working together they seem to really want to please him and work hard.

I’ve learned so much from them and I don’t have enough clarity in my level of communication yet to be able to express to them how much I’ve enjoyed having them around everyday. They know I’m trying hard to learn Spanish and they often ask me if I understand something they’ve said, if I say no, then all of them try to help me. I have so many teachers! It’s just great! I think of what it will be like when we finally finish this project. I’ll miss them so much. Ricardo, Javier, Daniel, Richard, Carlos, Federico, Arquiles, and Martin , each of them. We’ll most certainly treat them to a big fiesta when all this hard work is finally completed. And I know from now on, when we see any of them around town it will be with a warm heart and a big smile that I will greet them. But for now I look forward to seeing them everyday and to hearing their laughter. There’s nothing more endearing to me these days then the smiling faces I see when I look in my rear view mirror at all those happy Panamanian men in the car with me. I’m a lucky girl indeed!

A dog banned, A first bribe, and other happenings…

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Poor little Chumbo, the neighborhood doggy who wanders up to our house for love…and food. (I suspect mostly food, but oh well) Yesterday we had to hang chicken wire all around our terrace to keep Chumbo off the terrace. Aww, Poor guy. That may sound mean to you but it had to be done. Unfortunately I couldn’t stop him from peeing on everything! Ugh! I know! Gross! He peed on the BBQ, on the chairs, on my plants in the pots on the terrace and on the pillars too…He really wanted to be sure any other dogs in the neighborhood were well aware of who’s territory our terrace is. And well, he was not aware that it’s not actually his territory at all….it’s Scott’s! Yep…Scott couldn’t enjoy his hammock time with the fumes of Chumbos markings all around him. Now Chumbo has been banned from visiting our porch. He’s more than welcome to visit our yard, I moved his food and water bowl out to the front of the house, so no need to worry about him getting nourishment! I really love dogs and I’ve been looking forward to the day that we can get our own, so I thought I would love having Chumbo up here , and I do, but I must agree dog pee isn’t a pleasant fragrance. He’s such a sweet dog and If he were mine I’d train him not to do such an uncivilized thing, but he’s not mine so I’ll just have to live with the ban on his terrace time visits. Darn it. Read the rest of this entry

Day 5…Writing 101

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Today’s Prompt: You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible….yeah, right…eye roll! hah!

What’s that? It looks like a white envelope. Right over there, under that tree where the Resplendent Quetzal is peeking out of it’s nest. My what bright, beautiful colors that Quetzal has…strange, it seems to be looking right at me…

See it? Can you see the envelope? Oh come on…you can’t miss that bright white paper that stands out so vividly amongst all the brown of the leaves and the lush green ferns. It clearly doesn’t belong there. Here, use my binoculars. Now can you see it? I don’t know how you can possibly miss something so clearly out of place here in the lush, green vegetation of the jungle.

What? Oh, Yes, I see that Blue Morpho Butterfly fluttering by… Yes, Its an incredible butterfly, I know! But do you see that envelope way over there? What? Oh, lets see….where did you see the monkey? Gasp! Ohhhh He grabbed the envelope! Hah!

Yes! He really did! Wait! The envelope…I think… it has …my name on it! Holy shit! It does! It has my name on it…how weird! This can’t be happening… Okay, here look again through my binoculars…he’s jumped over there, see him? In that big Cecropia tree, no, not that one….the one near the river.

What’s he doing now? I can barely see him, he’s climbed so hight up in the tree. Is there another monkey up there? No? Well, what is it? Huh? ……A Sloth??? Let’s get closer….. Give me the binoculars. Look out for that big creamy colored mushroom, don’t step on it! Isn’t it amazing! Gasp! Look at that iguana! I think its looking right at me….and doesn’t seem scared at all. Kinda creepy…

Oh, my…Doesn’t is seem like as we get nearer to the Cecropia tree there’s more and more of those Blue Morpho Butterflies fluttering all around? Huh…I’ve never seen so many in one place before. Don’t loose the monkey. Do you still see him? Where’d he go?……Oh! There he is….wait….what? Does the Sloth have the envelope now? I can clearly see Holly Carter written on the envelope….hah!

Why is this happening? I don’t get it. How on earth could a random white envelope with my name on it end up in the middle of the jungle in the hands of a howler monkey who has clearly handed it off to a sloth sitting in a huge Cecropia tree? And what’s in that envelope? And, why are these butterflies swarming us? Sheesh!

Did you see it too? You did, right? You saw my name on that envelope, right? I’m not crazy, am I? Haha! Well…now that we’ve gotten closer I can clearly see it, and the sloth seems to be intently looking at the monkey, almost as if to say,”Whats this?”. Since when did Howler monkeys and Sloths socialize this way? I don’t think they normally behave this way…ugh! I mean I’m not a pro on monkey and sloth behavior, but do you think this is ‘normal’?

These Blue Morpho’s are kinda annoying…flying all around us like this…shoo! Get outa here butterflies! ugh! Pfffffft! I feel like they’re kinda attacking us…The attack of the killer Blue Morpho’s! hah! Let’s just move over there…wait? Oh my gosh! That iguana is behind us, is he following us? Naw…can’t be. Creepy!

Um, I’m gonna stand on the big log over there…Okay, let me see those binoculars, what’s the sloth gonna do with that envelope?…….huh? What? No Way! The sloth is gonna open it…she’s trying to open the envelope that has my name on it! A sloth cant possibly even know to ‘open’ an envelope…can it? Well, this sloth seems to know that there’s something inside, and she clearly wants to see what it is….

She did it…she actually opened the envelope…and…no..
way….is she?…gulp…Look! Look! Are you seeing this?? Gasp! Shit! I can’t believe this! Oh my God! The sloth looks like she’s reading the letter inside the envelope…this is just unbelievable!

She’s smiling…..and….now she’s looking at me with a huge crazy grin on her little sloth face…