This moment , right now, is so peaceful. These days here at our house moments like this are few. The days are full of so much hustle and bustle and seemingly endless chaos. When a little moment of peaceful silence seeps into my day I embrace it. :::::::::::: OH::::::::::::….and just like that…. its over! A drill has begun to rupture my peaceful moment of contemplation….darn it! Oh well…It was nice while it lasted. I tell ya, the silence really is golden. For a sweet, glorious moment I could hear the birdsong. I could hear the distant dogs and roosters starting their day. And I could hear the gentle breeze rolling through the trees all around me. When the drills stop, giving me a small moment of quiet I begin to long for this construction project to end. What we’ve done in this first three years of our Adventure has so far exceeded any expectations I had during all our years of planning and researching for our relocation to Panama. And, now that we’re living in our house and most (not all) of the major projects are completed I’m ever so ready for some sweet sweet calm. I’m ready for the day when I don’t have to get out of bed when the alarm goes off at 6am. I’m done driving down the hill and picking up workers every morning. I’m ready to leisurely get up and drink my coffee and go about my day without so much mess and noise and guys everywhere.
And at the same time, as I type this I also realize I’ll sorta miss all these darn guys who I’ve spent the last two and a half years with everyday. I know, I’m nuts! Can I blame it on Menopause? hah! Cuz’ I do sorta fluctuate between being sick of them and thinking about how much I’ll miss all the laughing and their never ending harassing each other. They make me laugh everyday. Their humor is so juvenile, the way they think its so funny to call each other girls every chance they get is so funny. And then again… I get annoyed that they always seem to get to my ripe bananas before I get any! Grrrrr! I made the mistake of giving Federico and Richie ice water in a big thermos once and now everyday they call to me from an open window with a smile and an empty thermos wanting me to fill it up for the day…I have given myself the title of “chit-chat monitor”. As I’m so ready for things to get finished I get annoyed when I hear more chit-chat going on than work! Ugh! I swear! These guys talk more than teenage girls! Having all these young men around all day has made Scott and I feel like we have a bunch of kids. They come to us when they have a head ache or a tummy ache and ask for aspirin or for something for a sore throat. I keep an arsenal of band aides and antiseptic for boo boo’s and gladly hand out Advil for head aches. Im smiling as I tell you about this. I do adore them, even as they annoy the heck out of me!
I like to think they are happy to be working for us and that they will miss us when the project is over. But, I am probably delusional to think like that. We are probably just another job for them…shrug…who knows. But, one thing I know for sure, in the future after this construction project is just a memory, when we see any of our guys in town we will always receive greetings of genuine kindness from them. I know there’s a mutual respect we’ve all grown to enjoy and I have no doubt these guys will always be family. There’s a comfort, in my mind, that comes from knowing we have built a small community of sorts with all these young men. There is a warmth that comes from each one of them every single day in the morning when they pile into my car, each one saying to me, “Buenos Dios Holly!” and then every afternoon when they each tumble out of my car and say, “Gracias Holly!”, “Buenos Noches!” , “Hasta mañana”. I can’t help but smile and feel grateful for each one of these Panamanian men who have worked so hard to help us make a home in their country.
I hope they know how much we appreciate them. I’ve made a huge effort to make sure they feel my gratitude for the work they’ve done. And, to be honest I do feel a certain mutual respect between all of them and Scott and I. I know for a fact, based on things they have told me, that we are good employers. We’ve made a huge effort to learn all the labor laws and to abide by them. Paying our proper taxes and Social Security for each one of them. They’ve gotten more than fair wages, we haven’t over paid , staying up to date on our knowledge of the legal minimum wages and have kept them within reasonable levels of pay, giving them raises when necessary or when we see a guy has earned an increase in pay. We always pay all the required bonuses and honor the paid days off for the notes from a doctor when they have missed days. We learned early on that loans between Jeffe’s and Trajabadores is not out of the ordinary. Scotts background in finance has really been a bonus for us as he’s kept a spreadsheet for the loans each week. His unwavering rule about never exceeding $200.00 loan amounts per man has been a good rule. Each guy gets paid vacation and decimo which we use as collateral for loans, so in reality they are just borrowing their own money and if they defaulted we would simply take it out of those bonuses we would owe them. But, in our two and a half years not one time have we had any issue with this. Every guy pays back small amounts with each pay day. We let them decide how much to keep out of their pay each week, some choose to withhold $10, or $20 and sometimes even $50.00 from their weekly pay until the loan is paid off. Its a bit of a paperwork headache but we think its been worth it to keep everyone happy.
This entire post started because I was enjoying a brief moment of peace and quiet this morning. My thoughts were of the day when we no longer live in a construction zone. But, then I began to think about how much I’ll miss everyone….maybe not the noise they make and some of the things that kinda drive me crazy during my days, but I’ll miss the daily connection with my Panamanian kids. For two and a half years these young men have been a constant in our life and as we near the end of our project the bittersweet reality of not having all the noise and chaos, joking, laughing, singing , and massive mess that comes with having 8 construction workers all over our property…makes me both ecstatic and a little sad.
This part of our Adventure , being surrounded by these hard working young Panamanians everyday, will very likely be the part we look back on with the fondest of memories. All the headaches that come with managing all these guys and that really drives Scott absolutely crazy will one day soon be a fading memory . He really , really hates having to supervise so many people and to hear them call his name all day long. “Scott”…”Scott”….”Scott”…I think though, that deep down he’ll also kinda miss some of the nonsense that we often find amusing and that we find ourselves laughing about together at the end of our days. I know my quiet husband is looking forward to having fewer people around so that he can enjoy his big man-cave, also known as his ‘workshop’. When the dust settles up here and the projects narrow down to more reasonable things that he can manage solo, well, thats when Scott will be really and truly in his element. We’re nearing the finish line on the most ominous parts of making this place a home and the constant drilling, singing, hammering, joking, welding, cement pouring, chit-chatting, generators humming, yelling, jack hammering, aspirin requesting, pay roll, running to the supply stores everyday, loan giving….you get the idea….are soon to be things of the past, fond memories. The quiet will soon be the norm and not just a quick moment that seeps into my morning only to be gone as quickly as it came.
Holly, I read your Facebook post and left my comment on it before I even read this. Here you truly brings home the difference you’ve made in many lives.