Jun 30, 2011

Thoughts of a Sympathetic Soul

I've been going to The Bookmark in Dolega for a few months now.  For the last four years I rode right past the place on the Boquete - David bus because it was in the middle of nowhere.  Stopping and browsing seemed more trouble than it was worth.   Then, last September, I did stop once. The owner, Hal de Mun, was such a cranky old goat that I didn't stay long.  I remember it well.  I was laden with heavy things in plastic shopping bags from my trip into David, but impetuously decided to disembark the bus anyway.  I was facing a few days off with nowhere to go and nothing to do... A few mysteries would help pass the time.   I took two steps across the store threshold and Hal stopped me as if I were a common shoplifter.  Acted as if he couldn't decide whether to let me in or chase me out.  Finally he growled at me to leave my bags in the corner by the front desk, and when I asked for a quick orientation to the place he got really peeved.   Which in turn ticked me off because I couldn't believe I got off the crowded Boquete bus for "this".  Just to show him I wouldn't be trifled with, I did a quick saunter around the place,  then left secretly swearing I'd never return,  much less buy anything. 

But as things tend to happen in Panama,  my resolve changed.  I actually liked the store, which reminded me of the old Green Apple Books in San Francisco.  When I acquired wheels in October, getting to The Bookmark was less of a hassle.   I began stopping in when Harold was not around.  He has the good sense to employ people who are a lot nicer than he is, and eventually  I bought a few things.  

Now I drop by every 3-4 weeks, but still avoid Harold to the extent I'm able.  On my last trip, he was sitting in the front with a cat in his lap.   (Cats have good instincts, so if a cat would sit in his lap, he can't be all billy goat gruff.)  Then today, through a series of internet detours, I happened upon Harold's blog.  I liked it as well.  I guess two out of three isn't so bad. 

There were several posts that I enjoyed, but the one about Boquete I feel really rang true.  It's titled "Boquete is getting...so...uptown".     Here's the link : http://booksr4reading.wordpress.com

The following quote was just too good to let sit, so I cut and pasted it to share here.  This is the true [expat] Boquete,  ad nauseaum.   

"Every week there is a new fundraiser, a new rummage sale, a new Bid Your Butt Off, a new “for profit” local guide, a new send your money to, send your food to, send your garbage to, support me, no me, I’m more worthwhile than the other one, thanks Boquete for your support, we need, we want, we help, we can, we are about to, with your generous, with your ever ready, my charity is nicer than her charity, we are not a charity, we are a need-filling organiza….

Oh stop it, for Christopher’s sake."

I'm taking a short trip out of town this 4th of July weekend to visit Panamanian friends.  Still seeking the right relocation opportunity.  Boquete is no longer paradise nor Panamanian, and it's damned hard to avoid or ignore what it's becoming. 

Jun 16, 2011

Inspirational Email

Recently opened another of multiple chain emails that end up in my inbox.   This one hit close to home, as I've been grappling with aging and life-purpose issues lately.  Because it came with the usual "pass it on" warnings, I dutifully forwarded to people I thought wouldn't get terribly irritated.   I did find it inspiring, though, absent the promises for a miracle, etc.   Thought I'd post it to share or reflect upon at a future time...

The first day of school,  our professor introduced  himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn't already know.   I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder.  I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, "Hi handsome. My name is Rose.  I'm eighty-seven years old.  Can I give you a hug?"  I laughed and enthusiastically responded, "Of course you may!"    And she gave me a giant squeeze.  "Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?" I asked.

" To meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids..." she jokingly replied.  "No seriously," I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.   "I always dreamed of having a college education.  Now I'm getting one!" she told me.

After class we walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake.  We became instant friends. Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk nonstop.  I was always mesmerized listening to this "time machine" as she shared her wisdom and experience with    me.   Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went.  She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students.  She was living it up.   At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet.

I'll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium.  As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her 3 x 5 cards on the floor.   Frustrated and a little embarrassed, she leaned into the microphone and said,    "I'm sorry I'm so jittery.   I gave up beer for Lent,  and this whiskey is killing me!   I'll never get my speech back in order,  so let me just tell you what I know."

As we laughed, she cleared her throat and began.   "We do not stop playing because we are old;  we grow old because we stop playing.   There are few secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success.   You have to laugh and find humor every day.   You've got to have a dream.  When you lose your dreams, you die.   There are so many people walking around who are dead and don't even know it!   There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up.   If you are 19 years old, lie in bed for a full year and don't do one productive thing, you will turn 20 yrs old.    If I am 87 years old and stay in bed for a year and don’t do anything,  I’ll turn 88.   Anybody can grow older. That doesn't take talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change. Have no regrets.  The elderly usually don't have regrets for what we did, but rather for  things we didn’t do.   The only people who fear death are those with regrets."

She concluded her speech by courageously singing "The Rose."    She challenged each of us to study the lyrics and live them out in our daily lives.   At the year's end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago.  One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep.   Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the woman who taught by example that it's never too late to be all you can possibly be.

These words have been passed along in loving memory of Rose:
  • Growing older is mandatory.  Growing up is optional. 
  • We make a living by what we get;   we make a life by what we give. 
  • God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.   
  • If God brings you to it,  He will bring you through it.

Jun 13, 2011

Panamanian Parking Meters

After traveling back and forth for 5 years, and actually living here for another 15 months, I just learned there are meter maids in David. But the fun part is that David doesn't have parking meters.  Lack of resources never stops anyone from thinking like the big guys in Panama. 

To the left is a scan of  David, Panama's version of a parking meter.  It's a public parking card.  Public parking is considered anything that isn't private; ie street curbs, designated store parking, etc.   Who would have known!  I was shopping with a Panamanian friend this weekend, and she enlightened me.  I had parked downtown and headed off without a second thought.

The way it works is thus:  People buy parking cards at designated kiosks in the downtown area.  Each card costs ten cents.  You buy as many cards as you think you will need.   Then, when you park in a public spot, you fill out one or more of the cards and leave it on the dash under the windshield. On the card, you fill in the date and time you parked the vehicle.  The first column is for month, second for date, third for hour and fourth for minutes.  Each card is worth 30 minutes of time.  As you can see by my card on the left,  I parked on 6/10/11 at 11:35 am, which gave me til 12:05 pm to remain without being cited.  If I planned to stay for an hour, I would have had to leave a second card in plain view for 12:05 pm, which would allow another half hour.   The honor system comes into play as far as the exact parking time is concerned.   Quite ingenious, don't you think?

Jun 10, 2011

One More and I'm Gonna Lose It !

This isn't the actual beast, but it's the closest photo I could find.  The one I encountered yesterday was about 4.5 inches long and had tan legs.  But the rest of him looked exactly like this.   Black body, brown stinger, large claws.  Unfortunately he got away, so I couldn't get a photo.   This is the second scorpion I've had the dubious honor of meeting in my home in less than 6 months.   This time, I was bringing groceries in from the car.   After depositing the first load, I opened the screen door to go out and get what was left.  As I pushed the door open, the bottom of the door got hung up on the tiled entryway.  Thinking a rock or pebble was caught under it, I pulled the door back and kicked at the area with my sandal.  That's when the critter crawled out.  Luckily he was injured and just scurried off as fast as he could, while I stood there with my mouth open, shuddering.