Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Ray on the Beach & on my Cedar Chest







I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a small 1.5 ft. ray washed up on the beach this morning. It looked most like this bat ray, but I don't know that we have bat rays in Panama (according to Wikipedia, they are in the Eastern Pacific between the Oregon Coast & Gulf of California & also the Galapagos Islands). The scary thing for me was touching him with a stick to check out his underside (pinkish). I barely touched him & he moved. Yikes!! On a different note, my ultimate art piece - a 5 sided painted/carved cedar chest - arrived today (carried down the hill via Tom & Terry's SUV). I need to find the Panamanian artist & get him to sign his beautiful chest. The 5 underwater scenes include: a turtle & clown fish, the ray, 2 dolphin, and two sides with tangs, scorpion fish & raccoon fish. Thanks Mom for this great birthday & Christmas present! Since Mom has consented to visiting me in Panama (late January), she will actually get to touch the chest. I'm leaving tomorrow morning at 6:00 a.m. for my drive to the Carribbean side (hope to arrive around 3:00 p.m.). I'd better go pack. I'll write if I have an Internet connection from Jimmy's Dive Resort (doubtful).

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bengy + Yampi, Guavabana and Chiromoya


It's a trick question... what do Bengy, Yampi, Guavabana and Chiromoya have in common? Probably very little, except they all live in Panama. Actually, Bengy is in jail (for a picture of Bengy look on my September 1 blog). He's a pick-pocket squirrel monkey who has developed some bad habits & is being "retrained" by Sue (an ex-primate trainer who lives here at Las Olas). A new, improved (i.e. less humanized) Bengy will return to Paradise Gardens in a couple of months. Yampi is a root vegetable (similar to a yam) I'm going to cook tomorrow. Chiromoya (similar to Moya I've had in Hawaii) is a white, sweet fruit I'll have for breakfast, and Guavabana was served juiced in Columbia (delicious, but I haven't seen it at fruit stands since I returned from Columbia, ready to try my own juiced version). I couldn't resist including this picture of me being "pinned" by the Panama Rotary Governor. We had a lovely catered lunch at Dr. Newton Osborne's house (he's the Boquete Rotary President & pictured to the right of me & the Gov.). I still can't get over the diversity of people in the club. They are all very interesting and becoming my close friends. On Sunday, I'll drive to Nombre de Dios (you can find it on Google Earth) & spend 4 nights with Pauline (snorkeling, SCUBA-ing & other lazy pleasures). Then it's on to Alaska, California, Oregon & Washington. I'll try to keep up on the blog, but you won't be reading about Panama. I may do one last Panama Blog tomorrow so you can see a picture of my beautiful cedar chest that is arriving tomorrow (thanks to good friends Tom & Terry).

Monday, September 22, 2008

While I Was Sleeping....


As you can see from Marcial's grin, last night was very productive for the Las Olas turtles! Over ciento dos (200) turtle eggs came out of this one hole and will be incubated in Marcial's nursery for the next 35 days. There will be another turtle release this Wednesday (if you happen to be near Las Olas). I knew something was up when I looked out my bedroom window (getting ready for my walk) & could see Marcial poking the sand with a stick. When I got on the beach with my camera, I could capture the turtle tracks & my condo (bottom floor) in the same frame. There was also a natural turtle hatch that happened right in front of the resort, as evidenced by a 2 foot hole, broken eggs and a gazillion little tracks. While I was helping Marcial with the eggs, Anthony Arauz was surfing. I know it's not the greatest footage of him surfing, but it's all I could get at the time. I keep pinching myself... I couldn't have retired in a better place!

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tis the Season




For the second morning beach walk in a row, I saw turtle tracks leading to a nest & returning back to the sea. Most likely they were Olive Ridley tracks, but I'm told that Leatherbacks nest here as well. Both nests were located above high tide and had been disturbed by humans (probably young, male Panamanians because eating turtle eggs helps maintain one's virility + turtle eggs fetch a high price at the bars). With any luck, the eggs were collected by Marcial Rojas, a local Panamanian marathon runner who's been saving baby turtles from extinction for over 17 years. After he collects the eggs, he brings them to a secure hatchery where baby turtles are safe from predators and poachers. We are coming up on the wettest month of the year (October) which coincides with the best time to lay your eggs (if you are a turtle who was born at Playa Barqueta). When I got close to my Condo, I saw a very uplifting sight... 20 to 30 Panamanians picking up trash from the beach! In case you are wondering, this picture was taken by talented neighbor-photographer Frank. This is a Laughing Falcon eating his favorite food... a small snake (appropriately, these falcons are also called Snake Hawks). This picture was taken right behind my condo on the mangrove access road. I couldn't resist adding this picture of Michelle (with her bird Precious) and these Scarlet Macaws (pets of a Drug Lord who is now in jail) at Paradise Gardens. My days continue to be filled with adventure, love & beauty. Yesterday friends Tom & Terry showed me a nearby part of Panama I had not seen before... a back road/trail that parallels the paved road to Volcan. From their lovely house on the ridge, one can see all the way to the beach were I live. We had a wonderful Thai lunch in Volcan (the only Thai restaurant in Panama). Paul (who I met several months ago at the David Immigration Office & wrote about in a previous blog) is the owner/cook. He showed us his carnivorous plant collection and sold me the most beautiful piece of art I have ever seen (watch for a picture on an upcoming blog). The sun it out, so I must go get my vitamin D! Have a great Sunday!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Slothing Around


Here's the latest addition to Paradise Gardens. His/her (?) name is Tember (for September since that's when he/she came to the Gardens). Very cute and cuddly. Tember is a 2-toed sloth (I believe). Two-toed sloths have 2 fingers & 3 toes. Three-toed sloths have 3 fingers and 3 toes. I'll count Tember's fingers when I see him/her next Thursday & report back. I had to add this other picture as well. It's a weird hanging flower that hits you on the head as you leave the bird aviary (where I was watching Thick-billed Euphonias and Green Honeycreepers). I continue to have way too much fun!

40 Year SRHS Reunion

My 40-year Santa Rosa High School Reunion is coming up next year (Wow! Am I really that old?). I'm involved in the committee helping to plan that event (which will probably happen in October, 2009). Since it's illegal to leave an email address or website on Classmates.com, I've directed classmates to look here for my email address (which is grossmo@gmail.com). I'm putting together a spreadsheet of 1969 SRHS Graduates. If you are one of my classmates, please send me your email and snail-mail addresses. See you next year!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Open Wide

This is just a short blog (well, not really that short) about some minor oral surgery I experienced yesterday in David. Through the Chiriqui Chatter blog & recommendations from my neighbors, I found Dr. Miriam A. Rodriguez Gonzalez. I went there last week and got my teeth cleaned for a mere $30. It's a very nice/clean office, so I decided to ask about the receding gums on my lower front teeth. After talking to Dr. Miriam (who could speak a little English), I decided to get minor surgery on my lower gum. I was somewhat nervous (I mean, who wants gum surgery...even in paradise?) as the Dr.'s assistant welcomed me into the "relax" chair. She pointed to the nearby TV screen where a very handsome (and topless) Latin man was teaching Yoga. She asked if I liked him, to which I laughingly responded, "Si, mucho gusto." The music on the Spanish Yoga DVD was good at least... very New Age. Dr. Miriam came in & immediately put numbing ointment on the inside of my lower lip. A few minutes later, she gave me several TOTALLY PAINLESS Novocaine shots to my lower gum. I don't know about you, but the most painful Novocaine shots I have received in the past have been to the front of my mouth. Never in all my dental experiences have I experienced such a painless shot. For the next 2 hours, Dr. Miriam worked very hard bleaching (with light) the discolored portion of my lower teeth, pulling back the lower gum, scrapping the tooth, "harvesting" other gum material to graft onto my lower teeth, and grafting it on (stitching it in place). I was never uncomfortable during the whole procedure. I'll see Dr. Miriam again next Friday for a follow-up visit. She gave me detailed instructions so I will heal properly & not require a second grafting procedure. The hardest part for me is No Physical Exercise for 2 weeks! I'm not a very good patient. Instead of walking hours each day on the beach, I'm wearing my weight vest around the condo, hanging out by my computer, and watching videos while holding ice to my chin. I just hope I can talk OK when I give my "How To Stay Healthy Through Good Nutrition" talk (where I'll give information about Juice Plus to the Boquete expat community).

I'm also getting ready for my next trip - almost 5 weeks in the States. I'll leave here September 28 & spend 4 nights at Caribbean Jimmy's Dive Resort (tuning up my SCUBA skills & hanging out in the warm Caribbean water), fly to Fairbanks on October 2 (arriving at my friend Patrice's house October 3), fly to Sacramento on October 7 for the River Management Society annual board meeting (since I'll be the National Secretary for the next 3 years), fly to Portland October 13 to visit my mother in Winlock WA, drive to Yosemite October 26 to attend the Yosemite employee reunion from Oct. 27-Oct. 30 (I worked there from 1976-1980), drive back to Winlock October 30, and stay with Mom until November 6 when I fly back to Panama. Richard & Nina (from Alaska) will fly into Panama 1 day after I return, and we'll be together for the next month hiking, kayaking & exploring. I won't return to the States again until March, 2007 when I attend the Juice Plus Conference in Long Beach, CA. One last thing before I close... I just purchased a Skype phone #: 1-360-262-6016. That means you can call me from your cell or land-line phones (especially handy for my mother) any time you feel the urge. Have a wonderful Sunday!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Llana Nopo -- The Heart of Panama


Lucky me! As I said in my previous blog, I joined the Boquete Rotary (Club Rotario de Boquete) last Thursday and was immediately invited to join them on a 3-day, 2-night trip to investigate the needs of the Ngobe-Bugle who live in Llana Nopo (a small community within the Comarca (similar to a Native American reservation in the States). First some brief background information: Llana Nopo (a double "l" is pronounced like a Y) is located in the highlands of the Comarca (roughly a 4-hour drive on paved & dirt roads from where I live). The Comarca is mostly inhabited by the Guaymi or Ngobe indigenous Indian tribes. Their land was set aside by the Panamanian government in 1997... only 11 years ago. The Guaymi's and Ngobe's live in extreme poverty in small family clusters of several "homes" without a defined town center or centralized community. They have been left by the government to fend for themselves. Charitable and religious organizations (like Rotary) have been working in the Comarca, but it is so large and the people so scattered, it continues to be difficult to help large numbers of the population through one central project. The Boquete Rotary recently stepped up to the plate with a plan to help. This trip was a fact-finding trip to record the needs of the community. Llano Nopo is fortunate to have a large (over 800 students) school that was created many years ago with help from Catholic Charities and the Diocese of David. But it's not easy to get to school. Most students have to walk an average of 4 hours (one-way) to attend school. Students come from all over the Comarca. Imagine negotiating very difficult terrain with extreme weather (heavy rain) and poisonous snakes (the medical clinic sees 2 bites per month that result in death and loss of limbs). Grades 1-6 attend from 7:30 am to 12:30 pm and grades 7-10 (grades 11 & 12 will come in the next 2 years) attend from 12:30 pm to 5:30 pm. Recently a dormitory was built to house 25 children (they are selected based on grades... boys only for now). An expansion to the existing dorm and more dormitories (even a girl's dorm) are planned, and this is where the Club Rotario de Boquete comes in. This club (with the help of other Rotary clubs) wants to fund a project that addresses several problems: Malnutrition (often severe, creating an average mortality age of 40), lack of housing for the children to attend school, lack of school supplies and lack of water storage for the community. On this trip, I had the great privilege of seeing small children receive shoes for the first time (notice the bright green Croc in the first picture), the medical clinic receive 15 viles of snake anti-venom, and the school honor us for donating our time, energy and money to them (see pictures of lined-up students in their blue uniforms at the "ceremony" to thank us). I tell you, it brought tears to my eyes! Anyway, if you have any desire to donate money or materials to this project (especially you, my rich Uncle Bruce), contact me. P.S. This is the rainy season, so the Rio Rey (pictured above) must be crossed by the Indians every time they take supplies (often rice) from Llano Nopo to their homes many miles away or bring in supplies (like the wood pictured with this Indian couple about to cross Rio Rey...she got her dress wet to her shoulders). Plus, as we drove up the very poor road, we saw Guaymi's and Ngobe's voting (lined up in these "forever" lines) as this picture taken at the Llano Nopo school shows. I hope to be back in mid-November (hopefully with friends Nina & Richard who are visiting from Alaska) as the people of Llano Nopo asked us to return for the fair/ceremony that will honor Club Rotario de Boquete. Panamanians love an excuse to party!
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Meeting GREAT People at Paradise Gardens -- Monica

This is just a short post (before I go on to my longer post about travel to the heart of Panama) to let you know that I met a great woman Monica when I "worked" at Paradise Gardens last Thursday. She's written some lovely blogs about Panama (could it be because she is a journalist for a metropolitan daily in New York?). She just found her way into Costa Rica & that will be interesting to follow as well. If you want to see Monica's blog, just click on her highlighted name.
"See" you at the next post!
Elena

Monday, September 1, 2008

Service and Blue Skies







In spite of Hurricane Gustav and my mother (in WA) buildng fires to stay warm over Labor Day weekend, I'm blissfully walking the Playa Barqueta beach looking for turtle tracks (like this picture of tracks I snapped in Costa Rica right before seeing the Olive Ridley going back into the ocean after laying her eggs) collecting sea beans (for my ever-growing collection pictured here with fake orchids), and hoping to see a humpback whale breech (several neighbors saw them breeching Friday night). I am continually amazed at the great weather we have here on the Pacific side of Panama. While friends near Boquete deal with downpours, power outages & eroding topsoil, I'm birding, body boarding, maintaining my vitamin D levels (sunning) and flying kites. When it does rain (which an be very hard ... i.e. tropical), it's usually late afternoon or after the sun goes down.
Last week became a full-fledged volunteer of Paradise Gardens and a member of Rotary Club Boquete (the David Rotary is closer to me but the meeting is conducted in Spanish). Paradise Gardens is so peaceful (except when this pictured red-backed squirrel monkey tries to pick-pocket you). I spent my first day getting acquainted with the occupants of this lovely wildlife rescue santuary near Boquete. I watched in awe as 7 year old Dollar & 9 year old Ruby (Greenwing Macaws bred in England) tried to "feed" each other. They reached into each other's beaks & acted like feeding mothers. I asked Jenny (who owns/runs Paradise Gardens with her husband Paul) what was going on. She was very excited to hear about this behavior because it's a sign they are going to breed and raise baby macaws (since they are practicing feeding). Go to http://www.paradisegardensboquete.com/ if you want more information. I also joined the 15 member Boquete Rotary Club. It meets every Thursday at 9:00 a.m., so I can easily attend the meeting & volunteer at Paradise Gardens after the meeting. As it turns out, I went to Santa Rosa High School with the great nephew of Rotary Club founder Paul P. Harris. Since I'm planning the SRHS class of 1969 40-year reunion (for July 18, 2009), I've been emailing various classmates, including Chris Traub (the great nephew). Seems like we are all so connected. The sun is out so I'm headed for the pool. I hope everyone had a fine Labor Day Weekend. Of course, in my blissful state of retirement, every day is a holiday!