Our life right now…
Life’s just cruzin’ right along! Of course we’ve been keeping incredibly busy, as I’m sure you could guess. Between building our third and final building and creating a garden in the jungle, getting a new dog, enjoying spending time with friends, doing regular household chores and errands and learning Spanish, I have a really hard time finding moments to just sit and write. Which I regret. I really love writing and sharing our story and I know I’ve become a very bad blogger. So, here’s a little peak into what’s going on in our world…
Where to begin…well, the main house is well underway. The roof is just about totally framed and nearly ready for the zinc, which is the metal they put on over the cariolas which make the frame of the roof. The electrical outlets and conduit are being installed by Richard. We’ve gone through and marked all the concrete block walls with spray paint to indicate where we want the plugs and the light switches and light fixtures. So he is chiseling out channels for conduit into the cement block walls and for the boxes for the outlets all throughout the house.
Javier is our best concrete and block guy so he’s been really busy. Between pouring our very long driveway and building block walls in the house he is back and forth and really really busy. We’ve been so lucky to have found such a talented guy, he’s also our repayo guy, which is a talent. Repayo is the final, smooth finish that goes over the top of all the cement block, inside and out. He’s also done an amazing job creating arches, which I just love ! And, since I’m on the topic of Javi, that guy is so neat and tidy too! Sheesh! In the evenings I go for a walk with Scruffy up to the house and I love to walk around when everyone has gone for the day. Its so nice and quiet and peaceful up there. But what I mean to say is that I can always tell where Javi has been working because It will be the only spot on our entire property that is clean and organized! Hah!
As exciting as it is to see the house start coming to life, I have to admit that I’ve been most excited about having an actual cement road to drive on instead of a slippery, muddy, awful dirt path. With the wettest part of the rainy season just about here Its really important to have a road. Even though both of our vehicles are four wheel drive its still pretty dangerous trying to drive up and down these steep hills in so much mud. I can’t tell you how nervous I get when I feel my anti-lock breaks click in and I feel my car beginning to slide uncontrollably under me! ugh! Not only is it good to have the road for our sake but also for the sake of our construction project. Without a drivable road during the rainy season we’d be in real trouble getting any materials delivered up here. Scotts truck wouldn’t even be able to get up there in those conditions with a heavy load in the bed. So, Yippeeee For a road!
And the most troublesome problem of all when I describe the dangers of our steep, muddy, slippery dirt road is what our poor friends have to go through if and when they come visit us up here!
Its kinda tricky to invite people to come over because its such a chore. Until very recently no one could even make it up here unless they had a four wheel drive vehicle. We still have some friends who can not even drive down the Jaramillo Centro dirt road because its just too rocky and rough. But just recently we had a couple of incidents with friends who made it up here with their cars. First our friends James and Cynthia came by to give us a hand with some of our landscape plans. Cynthia is a retired landscape architect and she kindly came up to offer a bit of her advice on placement for my new heliconias. Well, they drove right on up and parked in front of the casita which was the first time anyone had been able to do that. But then our little dump truck delivery guy came along and dumped a huge load of planting soil that we had ordered right on the road, blocking them in!Ugh! Well, it was nearly lunch time so we suggested that we go out to lunch and by the time we returned we figured our workers could move the dirt out of the way. But, of course when we got home the huge pile was not gone and so Scott and James had to pick up shovels and start moving dirt so that they could get their car out! oh my goodness! I felt so bad! Then the second incident was Luana, she and I went out to lunch and she kindly drove me home afterwards. She drove her little car all the way to the front of the casita and at the time is was a torrential downpour, raining like a hurricane. She could not turn her car around and then she even got stuck and one of our workers had to push her out of a ditch! Then she tried to back her car up but couldn’t see anything. Luckily for us Scott came driving up just in time to get in her car and back it up the steep hill for her. Poor Luana! So, if any of our friends here in Boquete are reading this and we’ve never invited you up here…this is why! Its a huge pain in the ass at the moment to visit us. Humph! In spite of the inconvenience and danger of getting up to our little place we’ve managed to have some really nice gatherings but to come here one must be willing to do a bit of hiking. Most people have just parked their cars way up, before you get to our property and hike in. And we always remind people to bring flashlights and don’t wear nice shoes! But….soon, very soon, this treacherous road problem will be a memory! They are now working on the last section of road and in about two weeks I bet we’ll be done with that part of our project.
Scott tells me we have gone through about 5,000 bags of cement! Our drive is about a thousand feet long, not including the one thousand feet or so of the remainder of the road outside our property. Its one long driveway, thats for sure. So, we’ve got ten guys working for us now and Scott keeps them all busy doing a variety of different projects at once. He’s really good at coordinating and organizing projects. It amazes me to see how strategic he is with all that needs to be done. Many times people look at us and wonder why we don’t do this or that and I even often question the method to his madness! hah! But in the end It seems to always work out right and things end up getting done when they need to get done.
Everything is getting done except, It would seem with the exception of getting our electricity run up here. Ugh! Here’s the thorn in my side! To be honest, living with a generator is beginning to wear on me. Everyday I have to take three gas cans down to the gas station and get them filled up (I know, poor me!). We have two generators going most days. The one here at the casita and the one up at the main house which runs all the tools up at the construction site (and my internet connection too!). And then we also have a gas powered cement mixer using up gas as well. As if the inconvenience factor of dealing with a generator was not enough, we have the added problem of the generator here at the casita occasionally somehow seeping Carbon Monoxide into the attic! Yikes! This is a terrible worry.. Our Carbon Monoxide detector goes off luckily, and for some reason this always seems to happen in the evenings when we’re finally trying to relax. But as soon as we turn off the generator the alarm stops yelling at us and we just make sure to keep all the windows open while we sleep. These are just a few of my gripes about living with a generator as our power source.
So, now your wondering…”What’s the hold up with getting your electricity?” Well we’ve got everything ready to go, the conduit is in the ground, all 2000 ft of it! The tapia is built and ready to go with all the meter boxes installed. For those of you who don’t live here in Panama, the ‘tapia’ is this little structure where the electricity meter is located. In the states the meter is located somewhere on the side of a house but here each home has theirs located in a topia at the side of the road. The permits are all approved and ready to go. We have an electrician waiting for us to call him and tell him he can come run all the wire and make our connection.
The missing link is our transformers. We ordered these transformers back in November. Scott says..” We need transformers to increase the voltage so we can run a smaller wire over a longer distance. This is necessary because our run is so far, it will allow us to run a much smaller size cable instead of a monster size one.” So, every week we take a drive into David to the electrical supply place to check if our transformers are there. And every week we are told, “Next week”. Oh My Gosh! I wanna just pull my hair out! hah! No, seriously! How Scott can be so darn patient about this, I will never know! But I’m so glad that he is because the reality is that getting really angry would get us absolutely no where! Not that being patient is getting us very far but at least we still have our sanity and we aren’t making anyone else angry. Eventually we’ll have those babies. And in the meantime we’re pretty darn lucky to have power, even generator power! So, stop bitching and moaning Holly! hah! I’m working on it!
Just this morning Scott and I were measuring for where we would hang these really cool wall sconce lights in the rec room. I was thinking to myself that it’s so great to know that we already have all the various materials we need for the house. We have everything stored in the workshop. We already bought all the light fixtures, for inside and outside. We have all the plumbing fixtures just sitting there waiting, toilets, tub, sinks shower heads. We even have all the tile for every place in the house, bathroom tile, entry tile and the tile for the terrace and the entire house. How great is that?
And….this weekend Scott is making a road trip to Panama City to pick up all the kitchen appliances that we ordered back in April. We managed to find a store who sells Viking stoves which is what we had in our house in Los Altos. And they also sell Kitchenaide refrigerators and dishwashers. We could probably arrange for one of the delivery companies to pick all the appliances up and deliver them, but we really don’t trust that they would arrive in one piece. So Scott has gotten the measurements of the pallet that the stove will be on as well as the exact measurement of the fridge, dishwasher and the hood for the stove and it looks like his truck will be able to fit everything. We bought a bunch of new straps and took out the front passenger seat in the truck so the dishwasher can ride up front with him. He’ll take off bright and early Sunday morning and be at the store when they open to pay off the balance then he’ll get directions to their warehouse and pick everything up, strap it all in and head back to Boquete. The drive to the city is about 7-8 hours these days because they are doing a ton of construction on the PanAmerican highway. Expanding it from two lanes to four lanes, so its a huge mess and not fun at all. I tell ya, Scott must really want these darn appliances, but, to be truthful its the stove he’s really excited about having found here. Leaving the one we had in Los Altos nearly broke his heart, he loved that darn thing. So I have a feeling the suffering he’s going to go through will be worth it to him when his kitchen is up and running!
Aside from construction and electricity, road work and loving on my sweet dog, I’ve been really busy creating a garden out of a jungle. I came up with the idea of finding a project of my own and decided it was time to get my hands dirty. I had been feeling sorta bummed about not really having a project that I could realistically be in charge of (of course Scott is trying to be a take-over-ski! hah!) . Construction is Scott’s thing, and although I do a lot of behind the scenes things, I was missing that feeling of having some sort of ownership over something other than having successfully run a list of errands everyday. Ive been craving a project of my own which I know would satisfy that little voice inside of me that needs to feel productive and proud of having accomplished something a bit more substantial and even a little creative. Creating a pretty garden is right up my alley. I always loved my yard in Los Altos and I’ve missed having an area to plant and dig in. I needed a helper so we put the word out that we needed a gardener. Federico found a guy he knows who was looking for work, Siberio. So we hired him to work full time, six days a week and so far, its been two weeks and its working out great. He’s not really a knowledgable kind of gardener, his experience is mostly working on the coffee fincas all over Boquete, Volcan and some in Costa Rica. He’s got practically zero knowledge about what all the different plants are, but he is great with the machete and can dig and plant like no tomorrow. He’s also shown great enthusiasm for creating something pretty. He’s said many times how Bonita it will be. I’ve been trying to show him pictures of what the various plants and flowers will look like when they mature and he’s beginning to have a vision of what the garden will transform into as it grows.
I first had Siberio get to work on clearing out this one area across from the casita. It was so overgrown with weeds and vines we couldn’t see what was going on in there, a literal Jungle. After he did his magic with that machete of his we had a monster pile of rubbish. It was bigger than a car. We had him burn it and what a sight that was! I get a kick out of thinking about what would have happened had we decided to burn a huge pile of weeds and cardboard in Los Altos. It was a monster fire and it took him like three days to get it all to burn…I did mention we’re in the rainy season, right? hah! Well, its not easy to get a fire to start with wet weeds. We had to cover the pile with a huge tarp as best we could, and let it dry out for a day or two before attempting to burn it. Then when we were driving down to David we could see the smoke from all the way across town.
Its been so rewarding to see this area slowly transforming into a garden. I supervised the clearing and made sure he didn’t just chop every single living thing down. There are tons of incredible plants that I wanted to be sure to keep. Wild heliconias, little trees, ferns and other things that will just stay as they are. Mainly I needed to have him just clean it up so we could actually walk around. Then we planted the heliconias that we bought in Volcan. We also bought a bunch of flowering ginger and I sent Siberio around to dig up ferns that are growing all over our property. He translated those and then I had him dig up some of the gladiolas and transplant those as well. I have orange and yellow gladiolas and this other incredible flower called a Mexican Shell flower just growing all over my hillside. We also got some more banana trees from Bond & Luana. The banana trees that we already had are a different variety so we thought it’d be nice to have some other types as well. Banana trees are kinda like weeds here. We got some cuttings of Luanas hibiscus as well. I think we now have at least a dozen different colors of hibiscus, I can’t wait for them to start blooming. We also went to a couple of nurseries and bought some big palms and other varieties of ferns. And then I took Siberio down to Kat & Allans (our neighbors) and we got a huge bucket of cuttings of a little ground cover called Mani, its really pretty, low growing vine like plant with tiny yellow flowers. Mani grows like a weed here too. I love it. We planted this all over this one area that is along the road. It will fill in in no time and be like a green carpet along the road. I still need to get some Angels trumpets and we have a few other spots we plant to plant some colorful trees, but Its really looking pretty so far.
Aside from planting a bunch of pretty plants I also carved out a trail that we framed in with this sturdy plastic boarder stuff, then we filled it in with gravel. Our plan is to slowly start to clear areas on the way up the hill and carve out pathways all into the wild areas so that we can walk around. We also have two or three areas where we will build small bridges over the quebrada (a deep ditch that is a seasonal stream). The bridges will also connect to pathways making it easy to hike around and explore our property. We really are not trying to create a hi-maintenace garden. More of an organized wildness where we will be able to have lots of native plants and flowers to enjoy. We don’t plan to put in any type of irrigation or sprinklers instead just trying to plant things that will survive as much on their own as they would just in the wild, well I guess it is pretty wild up here naturally, right? . I hope to attract wildlife, lots of birds, butterflies and anything else that wants to call our garden home. At the moment with all this construction going on I think we’ve probably scared away much of the animals and wildlife, but one day it will be a really quiet, peaceful spot.
When I’m not running around town doing banking, and grocery shopping and buying gas for the generators, working on my new garden project or playing with Scruffy, I’m going to Spanish class. Three days a week I go for one hour and I’m just loving this time. Its a slow process and one that takes a serious commitment but I’m seeing my progress. I’m very far from being anywhere close to fluent but I’m really good at making myself at least understood and I’m beginning to understand more and more that is said to me. Considering this time two years ago I couldn’t say anything at all aside from donde es el banó, I’m feelin’ great! And most importantly I’m enjoying the process of learning. It really helps that I love my Spanish teacher! She is my dearest friend and she really supports my process and makes me feel so good about what I’m doing. Being immersed in a country where Spanish is the native language is really helpful for me. I find myself trying to use my limited Spanish all the time, even when a Spanish speaker tells me they speak English, I just keep on trying to use what I know and they smile and struggle right along with me. Its great!
It seems like lately I’ve gotten so much busier than I’ve ever been since living here. I know our project has been an ongoing thing, but to be honest it hasn’t really felt like I could contribute in ways that made me feel especially productive. I was really lacking that sense of purpose and achievement that’s always been a part of my life in the past. Somehow with the recent addition of my dog and my garden I feel like I have some things in my life that are giving me more of a balance, and a purpose. That may sound strange to you, with a huge construction project going on, lot’s of wonderful new friends in my life, and a new and exciting life unfolding . But I’ve felt as though there was still just some little thing I’d been searching for, that little something that would feed my soul. Sometimes just being ‘busy’ isnt enough, ya know? For me, anyways, I’m finding that I’ve somehow reached a plateau that feels good and I don’t know why that is, but I’m just going with it.