Saturday, December 29, 2012

Casa Cayuco

Sometimes it's hard for me to describe things while I'm right in them. Describing takes a certain amount of stepping out and looking in. Something I haven't really had a desire to do in a place like this. I like to be 'in it', feel the present moment. Now that I'm about to be on my plane home (see count down) I've been able to see things from the outside perspective, and realized I haven't really described where I am.

A photo my mom took while visiting
The property of Casa Cayuco is a very special place. I've never lived so close to nature, with my accommodations having no full walls. Sometimes there is just a railing where a wall would normally be, with the option of lowering a partition if it happens to be raining with a wind. There are no screens on the windows, it is not in any way a sealed house. Even the bathroom doesn't have four full walls, the shower stops at chest level so you have a full view of the jungle from almost all sides, at all times. The tallest walls still leave almost a foot before reaching the roof to let air pass through, helping to keep the rooms a little cooler and well ventilated. It might surprise you that the kitchen is equally open. Don't worry, every food item after being opened is immediately sealed and put away to not attract bugs. The only place you'll really see a screen is for the specially made fruit and vegetable cabinet.

The bugs are an attraction themselves. Not the usual ones I'm squeamish over in the city. Here the bugs are talked about and pointed out and given funny names, like 'the doctor bug'. Most are crazy colours and can be eaten by something else right before your eyes. The mosquito nets protect you while you sleep but is made better with a gecko to capture any intruders.

The ocean doesn't stop at the beach, the sound carries to almost every corner of the property. As you're going to sleep the swell usually pics up on the beach nearby so you can usually hear those waves even if the front beach is calm. The water is a light blue with lots of turquoise. Looking forward you can see the mainland with mountains far in the distance. Looking out and a little to your left you can see the islands of Zapatillas that is about an hour's ride for a strong kayak-er.

The beach is white sand that gets raked almost every day to clear any debris the tide may have brought the day before. Occasionally big conch shells find their way to shore, so the dock and property have become decorated with them. One large conch shell had the top point cut off so it can be used as the trumpet that lets everyone know a meal is hot and ready. You can comfortably walk 45 minutes along the white sandy beach if you go to the right (passing by an old 'survivor panama' award challenge location), but have to go a little inland on the trails if you go to the left. Palm trees are everywhere and it's highly recommended that you don't stand or walk directly under where the coconuts may fall.

Coconuts are the only thing to fear here, because you don't want one falling on your head (highly unlikely). Anything that may bite you will only give mild irritation that can be tempered with a cream or antihistamine. Fresh coconuts are basically the only thing you can get whenever you want it, right away. Here, at Casa Cayuco, coconuts are shredded and toasted to use in an amazing granola. The stray ones that fall are usually collected by the Ngobe women and fed to their pigs on nearby properties.

The moon and stars are breathtaking, especially when the moon is full, like tonight. It lights up the island as if someone left the lights on, and there's no need for a flashlight, unless you feel like walking deeper into the jungle. The opposite of that when the moon is a sliver, the darkness eats any light you try to put into it.

The rain in unlike anything I've ever experienced. It's warm rain for the most part and usually falls straight down. I'm used to sideways rains that are cold and make life dreary. Here there can be a few sun showers and after a morning rain all the colours are more vivid and lush. The rainforest thrives and all the birds come back chattering to each other.

The birds are vibrant neon hues. They can camouflage by being brown and yellow, vivid green or bright blue. The butterflies follow the same colour scheme and can flit along your path at any time. The hummingbirds are everywhere and there's more than just one type. Lizards bask in the sun and are just as diverse. The occasional nonpoisonous snake can be spotted if you have a good eye. I've been lucky enough to have a vine snake cross my path, but that's pretty rare. The two bully's are actually sweethearts and they have an insatiable need for love (see photo above).

The staff are a whole other wonderful element. Back home the 'who' is so important, it can make or break an experience for most people. Can you imagine living on the same island as all the people in your office? It may be hard to believe, but the crew that works together here is a team. It's hard to pick a favorite person, but I think Paulina's smile makes me happy every time I see her. Everyone jokes around with each other and it's an environment that everyone seems happy to be at. Lloyd and Sue are constantly engaging their staff and pushing them to learn, and they obviously appreciate it.

I've recently been able to see the place in action, with guests coming and going all around. It's quite a change from having the whole place to myself. I've gone from seeing no one new for seven weeks, to not quite knowing who will show up on the dock and when. Everyone comes for their own reasons, and so far, it seems that everyone appreciates the break to a true paradise.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

We're almost at 2013

So it's almost that time of "resolutions". The new year brings a sense of obligation to change things up and re-evaluate goals. There's always a bit of bullshit associated to making new years resolutions when you just seem to pull them out of thin air and think "I should be/do that thing this year" I hate the word should and think it's best eliminated from the vocabulary as soon as possible. So instead of what maybe you should do, here are my fave new years questions and goal help.

One of my fave blogs with a motto "a life less bullshit" has a template that I used last year, one important accomplishment for me was: 'Living in nature for six months'. Check out this post from NicoleIsBetter, and read her alternative method of setting reachable goals in buckets, along with a pretty worksheet that you can download for free.

Then something that I was turned onto a few years ago is fun to fill out with a friend and really nice to look back on throughout the year. This year my 'song of the year' was Vagabond by Wolfmother the verse I wanted to live like: "I'll tell you everything about living free". The year before that, it was Destination Calabria "I left my job, my boss, my car and my home, I'm leaving for a destination I still don't know" The jury is still out for my song for this year...
Questions for the New Year   
1. This year name one person that you will make the attempt to have a stronger relationship with?
2. This year what is one risk that you promise to take?
3. This year what is one aspect of your personality that you will be willing to change to make yourself more likeable?
4. This year, what is one daily ritual that you can commit to?
5. This year, what song could you choose to represent the year you are going to have and will you
download that song after reading these words?
6. This year, who is one civil servant that you will say hello to for the entire year?
7. This year, what is one body of water that you promise yourself you will swim in?
8. This year, name one person that you will truly thank who rarely gets thanked.
9. This year, what is an artistic experience that you promise to have?
10. This year, what is one argument that you will no longer have?
11. This year, what is one thing that you will do to give back to the world or community that you live in?
12. This year, what is one thing that you will learn?
13. This year, what is one thing you will let go of knowing you don't have the power to change it?
14. This year, where will your quiet place be?
15. This year, name three people you will surprise with a random gift?
16. This year, what is one thing that you will teach someone else?
17. This year, what is one fear that you will overcome?
18. This year, what is one food that you will eat more often?
19. This year, what is something wonderful about your personality that you promise to consciously appreciate?
20. This year, what will you do that you have always known you had to do?  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Seductively Sleepy Islands of Bocas del Toro, Panama by Peter Stevenson

I just read this really great article about the town of Bocas (where I'm staying currently) the surrounding archipelago, and even Casa Cayuco (where I just finished my house-sit) by Peter Stevenson, featured this month in Conde Nast Traveler.

The Bliss of the Bocas 
The Seductively Sleepy Islands of Bocas del Toro, Panama  
Columbus landed there. Graham Greene made it on his third try. Now our man in Panama, Peter Stevenson, falls under the laid-back spell of the islands of the Bocas del Toro. Welcome to the Caribbean that time forgot

I stepped blinking into the Panamanian sunshine outside the tiny airport in the Bocas del Toro archipelago and had to blink again. I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. In the front yard of a house across the street from the airport exit was the charred fuselage of a small plane very much like the one I had just taken from Panama City. Apparently no one—neither the airport officials, nor the airlines, nor the resort developers hoping to turn the islands of the Bocas del Toro into a Caribbean idyll—had thought to ask the owners of the house to dispose of the wreck. I looked back at the fuselage and thought, At least move it out of view. Or throw a tarp over it—maybe one saying something like welcome to panama.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Same old, same old.

Everyone gets asked "How's it going?", and once you've fallen into a normal routine you can get by with saying "Oh, just the same old, same old".
You know, the whole waking up, checking the solar voltage while listening to the insane call of a huge male Montezuma Oropendola nearby, making coffee then enjoying it by the water's edge. Taking out two loveable and intelligent bulldogs to the back patch if jungle, and then feeding them a breakfast of eggs and potatoes. Say hello to Seabastian, Piti, and Benjamin, and see what work they're up to for the day. Open up the computer to see what the world outside the island of Bastimentos is up to.

Then look out at the water to decide what kind of day it is. Is it calm and clear enough for a snorkeling trip? Mild waves for a standup paddle board run? Is there a boat anchored to kayak up to? Maybe it's too rainy for all that and it's a writing day or time to curl up with the dogs and a good book or see what projects I can do around the house. Is it scorching sunny and a perfect day to do laundry? Is it a warm cloud covered day, good for a walk to a neighboring property? Maybe I'll go for a swim or eat a coconut.

Time for lunch and I say hello to Cruz or Marta depending on the day and ask them about their week. "Hi Marta, I heard you killed your pig on Monday, how did it go?" Cruz is great conversation while Marta is more timid. I call Marta the ghost as she comes in to work and moves around so quietly I never know when she's arrived and have to go seek her out to say hello.

Some days I go into town for supplies, or have visitors or day trips. I'm usually content to stay just where I am though, and find many little things to pass the day. Then it's sunset on the dock with pelicans and maybe a chat on skype. Dinner for the dogs and myself. A short night walk to the front beach and some moments spent looking up at the stars. I'm either in awe of the brightness of the moon, or in awe of the darkness that eats the light of my flashlight. Some nights it's so dark you can't see your hand in front of your face. Some nights are so bright you can see clearly without any artificial light.

Then I think about the new things I've seen for the day. How many hummingbirds, snakes, butterflies, new bugs and fish crossed my path? Was the last time I saw a monkey really Tuesday? Has it been a whole month since I saw a dolphin jump?

Same old, same old is about to change a lot though. The owners of the house are back, the sit is over and guests are arriving soon. My hermit days are gone, and now I'll be with a bustle of people. On the dock with some wine and catching up of all things we had a very thought provoking conversation about what's next, what's possible in months to come...

I have a ticket home, and I can't commit to anything until I make it back home, make sure my head is screwed on right and see how I feel in a different environment surrounded by people who know me best. There's a strong pull though, maybe my year plus of traveling doesn't actually have to end just yet.

Tracy Chapman, I think I just got way more than one reason...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Just some thoughts on Aliens & end of the world theories

It is said that the Devil’s greatest trick was to convince the world he didn’t exist... What if ideology of Gods goes deeper? What if the greatest trick was aliens convincing the world they were Gods?

The “end of the world” draws nearer and theories abound. Perhaps the moment has come where the majority of us humanoids are ready to meet our makers. Not in the traditional sense of dying, to meet the maker as God, but to look up at the sky and see aliens descend. Maybe our lifetime friends and neighbors will take off their masks and expose themselves as beings from other planets. Maybe the divine really is a figment of our imaginations, and the simple solution to our existence, is we are an alien experiment.

I was recently asked “Is it true, will there be a solar eclipse leaving the world dark for days?” One story concerning Christopher Columbus notes that he used the movements of the planets to scare his captors. “If you do not release me, I will cover the sun with the moon in three days.” He did not have control of the planets, but as a celestial navigator had various charts and quite accurately knew planetary movements and used that knowledge as old timey bail out money.

“No” I said, “The world will not go dark for days, it is merely the ending of the Mayan calendar. North American’s need another reason to clear the shops of all bottled water and canned goods (remember Y2K?). The Mayan calendar has many a believable spokespersons, watching talks on youtube always leave me completely convinced by whatever they’re preaching. My favorite prediction is it’s ‘the end of the world, as we know it’ (Great Big Sea, anyone?)”

I have other thoughts on the Mayan calendar makers... Like, it’s a big calendar, maybe their hands cramped, chiseling so many years in stone, come on! Maybe the Mayan’s gave up with the calendar and said, “By the time we reach here, everyone will have access to any knowledge they want, they will be able to seek it themselves without the help of someone passing down information, lets make up to ‘age of Aquarius’, then they can do it themselves”

Stories are no longer passed down through the ages, like they were way back when, but they are sought after by the curious. People seek out their ancestry and where they came from, seek out the knowledge they want, it’s rarely given and taken because there’s just too much to know.

Maybe it’s just another trick, a joke by the Mayan calendar makers, a lesson to tell us we make our own futures now. There are no more pathways to seek, all has been uncovered, all the trails blazers have done their jobs, and we merely have to choose which direction we’ll take.

Out of all the theories, I prefer the Alien’s exposure though. When I look up at a sky full of stars I always catch my breath and wonder, “when?”. I love the fantasy of dragons existing, the stories told with magic realism captivate me, but what makes the most sense for me to be non-fiction, is aliens. I’ve been terrified of many things, that I barrel through, like a truck smashing a brick wall that was never really there. When I think about what scares me most, it would be to have a something-someone shake my hand and tell me they’re from another planet. So that’s my hope for the ‘end of the world, as we know it’, a personal Alien encounter. Bring it on world, please!

Please message me or comment with your favorite theories or hopes for the coming “end of the world, as we know it”.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cheat sheet of inspiration

We ALL get down, we ALL get mopy, EVEN ME: Ms. Positive-Spin-for-everything. I've been known to wallow watching An Affair to Remember (the 1957 makes me cry every time), Grey's Anatomy and Gilmore Girls.

I've also been known for 'Dance it Out' moments and '30 second dance party' inspired by Grey's Anatomy (usually without the tequila), combined with the phrase 'dance like no ones watching'. Pick a dance song and just give 'er! If anyone's around they have to join in and it usually ends in a pile of laughter, the ultimate best medicine. If nothing else you get some endorphins. You're responsible for your own comfort no matter where you are or who you're with.

I would like to share with you my master list of links HERE

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sometimes I just miss everywhere I've been... ♥

No matter how much I may enjoy where I am, I'll get a wave of missing where I've been. As a traveler I've been asked over and over, "Where's your favorite spot?". That's the hardest question to answer. Like when someone asks, 'What's your favorite movie, book, song?" How do you pick a favorite song when there are so many great ones? I don't think I'm the only one afflicted by this.

When I want constructed beauty with secret spots, I miss Paris. When I want loud laughter, sunshine and instant friends, I miss Barcelona. When I want to walk for miles from sun up to sun down, I miss the Camino. When I want to refuel on love, good food, and easy living, I miss the South of Spain. When I want to sit on the floor drinking wine, chatter over coffee, and laugh till I pee my pants, I miss Toronto.

I have one month till I return to Toronto. Ask me a month ago and I had very solid reasons for returning. I was very firm in why I was going back. I knew myself so well though that I bought a ticket then... because if I didn't, I'd get caught up in the moment, and who knows how many months it would be before I felt the pull to go back. I have important people to see, jobs to attend to, a life to 'get in order'. Right? Well, listening to the waves of the ocean, that all seems impossible. I've made promises that I need to keep, but otherwise I feel like everything else can wait. Maybe I have Bocas fever and a case of Hotel California Syndrome but I think it's safe to say, the 'live by the seat of your pants' is the lifestyle for me. I don't think I'll be grounded in one place for too long, even a place I've missed so much. I give myself three months before these itchy feet are ready to roam again. I cringe and smile to start the ticking clock, 30 days till I touch home snow.

Photo credit starting from top, Paris by Jenn, Barcelona by Nat, Camino by Alex, South of Spain by Alex, Outside Toronto with Jus by Kate.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Unexpected Visitor Revealed

So the 'someone' from my last post is my mom! After she got caught up on the important things, like how I hardly ever wear shoes, now have tattoos, and has met the new beau, we had lots of beer and wine, and lots of scrabble playing. Our combined score is just under 600 but "those were interrupted by lots of catching up and basically practice games" says my mom.

She's a very excited-about-everything vacationer, from being a die hard fan of the Casa granola, which is a staple for my breakfasts, to becoming the next spokesperson for great mattresses and fitted mosquito nets. I'm happy to see her relaxing on the dock and settling in nicely with the bugs. The occasional bursts of "GHA! What was that?" remind me of my first nights of jungle life (see Does the jungle love me?) and how easily I live here now.

We've talked about my early influences of Panama, and maybe I hadn't remembered, but a lot of family things may have set me up to come to Panama. My grandparents visited Panama with their children almost forty years ago and I grew up with a wall hanging of about 30 Panamanian molas sewn into a quilt. My mother also wrote a short story about why she speaks Spanish but not Polish, and contributes it to her early influences of coming to Panama (hopefully she'll let me share it here).

I also reminded her of the very influential reason I needed to come to Panama, to live with monkeys. My all time absolute favorite book as a kid (Amelia Erhart picture book biography, a close second) was There were monkeys in my kitchen, Written by Sheree Finch, Illustrations by Marc Mongeau. Over and over I begged my mother to read this book to me. I think of it often when I hear the monkeys swinging from trees, and although there are no monkeys directly in my kitchen they are right outside and always hanging around...
Maybe someplace with elephants will be next...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Planets, dreams & the unexpected visitor

Quotes - Pinterest board

I've heard a lot this year: "I love that you're so independent and don't need anyone." It's a blessing and a curse to be lumped into that sentence. I'm glad that I inspire independence and yet it always makes me sad when my friends don't think I need them. I may be head strong in solving my own problems and going on my own trail without consulting anyone, but the cliche is true, no man is an Island, or Woman.

While my cousin was here I took a bad fall and hurt my foot. I was glad to have him around to help with things here and there. After saying goodbye to my cousin and other visitors I realized just how isolated I have made myself. Sure, there are people around but they're working, we can't just sit and have a coffee where they tell me intricate details about their lives. I have enjoyed my hermit styles but I'm ready to be reintegrated. I'm thankful everyday for the communication powers of the internet. It's the way I can connect with my friends and have great long talks over skype, quick notes in g-chat, sharing silly things on facebook. I was just chatting with Jenn when I realized that without the internet and technology, I wouldn't have been able to live so immersed in nature for six months, I would not have come across the house sitting opportunity out in the rainforest.

So, I've been mopey this past week! With the foot, and the constant rain, I've felt the guilt of not being a good "dog" mom. I haven't taken the pups on any good walks and haven't been able to roughhouse with them. I was finally open to some company. When I consciously have a daydream and make a shift in my mind, I feel my whole world shift, like I've sat down and said 'yes' wholeheartedly to something, so then I can direct myself to that new idea. I'll try to explain...

Let's Get Going - Pinterest board
Sitting at the table with my foot up drinking a tea, I started imagining having tea with someone beside me. Someone specific that I haven't spent a full 24hrs with since I was 16. Someone who occasionally makes me tear my hair out but is my best match at Scrabble. Someone who I love dearly, always have hope for, but may be tempted to throw in the back pond with caimans. 

As I was talking to my cousin, looking out at the white sandy beach, and at dogs that I consider kids, I remembered a strange dream during a period of nine months when this person and I weren't speaking to each other. In the dream I'm living with my family on a white sandy beach, and said person just shows up one day, and we stand there staring at each other. I have to decide
if I'm gong to let them in. After a long discussion, "I would let them in now" I confess to my cousin. To everyone's surprise, two days later that someone announced a ticket bought, and a visit set. When I told my cousin the arrival dates he explained the planetary significance of Wednesday November 28th, it's the day of a full moon and the last lunar eclipse of the year, a time for radical changes, new opportunities and the opening of new paths.

I really enjoyed this quote that I found: Venus, Mercury, Saturn and the North Node are in Scorpio during the Gemini Eclipse. Reminding us that as we emerge out of Scorpio’s ashes of the past. We are processing pain, trust issues and betrayals. Yet, these negative emotions will fade into the mist with no lingering memories. As we move higher in vibration. We will be free from these ancient haunting happenings.

Also, in line with the having enough of being a content hermit, I've started dating someone! My last actual relationship wasn't since living in Toronto, and it ended in a way that left me pretty crushed. So, Here's to emerging out of the ashes of the past, being fiercely independent, while absolutely needing the wonderful people that have come into my life. 

Gift Ideas - Pinterest board

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Waiting for the Witch

I had a wonderful bunch of visitors the past two weeks who all left on Thursday. Once again I'm left to my own devices, which had me remembering a funny story...

Upon coming to this great big 'house' in Panama I was asked only a few questions by the local Ngobe people. The most reoccurring from the women was bluntly put,
"Do you have a husband?"
"Do you live with your mom?"
They pressed on, "You don't live with your mom or a husband?"
"Oh, Samantha..." One woman said 'tsk'-ing and shaking her head.
She looked at me quite seriously and said, "I would be scared living in a great big house all by myself."
It was the day before I was to be all alone, so I was a little taken aback. With the neighbors very close and workers coming every day, this is the most people I've been around consistently in three months. I worried for a moment that maybe there was a risk factor I had overlooked...
"Well I have Angus and Bella" I said, referring to the dogs, who are well feared. "Why would you be scared? Just because it's so big?"
"Yes. You know what happens to people who live in a big house all by themselves..."
I shook my head 'no', as I thought about gluttony, and images of people living in L.A. in big mansions. She broke my daydream with, "You have to be very careful, because of the witch"
I did my best not to smile, as I imagined the witch from Beauty and the Beast knocking on mansion's all over the world. I was also careful not to mention that my friends and family often affectionately refer to me as a witch. If there was a witch in the village I certainly would love to meet her, but perhaps I didn't understand.
"Is she a spirit, a ghost, a real person?"
"Oh, she's a real person."
"Can I meet her? Can you tell me where she lives?"
"No no no. Oh, Samantha" More 'tsk'-ing and head shaking.
"...Have you seen her?"
"No! If you see her, she will kill you"
"Oh..." I said, thinking on my vampire, werewolf and zombie apocalypse safety measures.
"Is there anything I can do?"
"Yes, you need a #&)x!."
I was positive I was miss-translating. The clarification of what she was saying went back and forth for a long while, until I went into the kitchen and got a fork.  It couldn't possibly be as simple as a dinner fork, but it was.
"What does the fork do to the witch?" I asked.
"It takes away all her powers"
"So then I can have a nice chat with her? Once her power is gone?"
"Oh, Samantha" She said, again 'tsk'-ing and shaking her head.

I'm happy to report that I have managed more than a month without a witch sighting. It used to startle me, especially in the city when things moved out of the corner of my eye, but there are just so many things moving here, all the time, you just have to relax because its probably a bat, a bird, a leaf, a gecko, or a bug you'd rather not acknowledge. The witch could be here a week trying to sneak up on me and I might just brush her off. 'Oh, that's probably just a monkey' I'll say to myself. So even though all my visitors have left and I'm alone again, don't worry, I have a fork.


I love learning about the different superstitions all over the world (I think it steams from being born on a Friday the 13th). We continued talking and I was having difficulty explaining what a superstition was, so we talked about other different beliefs around here. For example, if your tooth falls out while you're sleeping it means a relative has died. When I told them about the tooth fairy I think they felt a little gypped, and then they really wanted to know more about North America. If you have any superstitions about bats please send them my way.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dinner, a show of the cycle of life

Friday was a day with all sorts of visitors; A little girl selling bread for 25cents, people from the neighborhood coming to walk the back path, and a fisherman. A fisherman that reeled in a good catch of fish pulled up in his cayuco (a hollowed out tree that looks like a longer canoe). "$1.50/pound" I was told by the workers, who where buying their dinner from him. Seabastian pulled out a good tuna from the bunch and it was gutted right there in the water at the side of the cayuco. I looked at Seabastian and asked "You're helping me cut it, right?". I've never actually cooked fish on my own before. One of the great things about becoming vegetarian when you're younger, all meals are meat free and easy, no need to worry about under-cooking and causing various food poisoning. So, there we were in the kitchen, him slicing the tuna into two fillets. I commented on how pretty the fish looked, "Ai, que bonito" "Es porque se llama bonito. Tambien dice tuna". After the fillets were in a deep dish, the head, spine, and tail had another destination. We walked out towards the back of the property to the freshwater pond. "This goes to the caimans" he said, then threw the bloody remains into the pond, "Shhhhh, wait"he instructed. We stood there looking, me not quite sure I wanted to see what was to happen next. A Caiman quickly came out of his space and I got to watch as it slowly swam towards the fresh food. Dipping itself under the water to find its catch, it's long tail peaked out. I had seen the smaller ones before but never one this big. We just stood their on the very edge of the pond as the fish remains dangled from it's mouth. "You're sure they don't come out of the water?" I asked again.
"They just eat birds that land in the pond and maybe come out at night, maybe"
"But they don't eat humans?"
"Not that I've heard, not the ones here"
The caiman retreated to its home in the back of the pond. The cycle of life has a higher turnover rate in the jungle. I loved that no part of the fish was wasted. I looked up five tuna recipes and adapted one to what I had and knew I liked. I still had some cayanne pepper (A spice I travel with because I hate to be without) which I added to the garlic, onions and coconut oil. When it was time for dinner I put the fillets in a frying pan, three to four minutes each side and it was awesome! I made fish! It's the first time I've eaten every morsel of fish that's on a plate not made by my Abuela. Dinner was really an experience, buying a fish just recently caught from the fisherman, my waste getting happily eaten by another animal and then eating my piece within a few hours of cutting it up. I'm sure I'll be making more fish while I'm out here, especially when it comes fresh right to my "door".

Thursday, November 15, 2012

One quarter down! - happy 25th Birthday to me

'Sam the blue blob' - Photo courtesy of Tom K
Go figure! White donkey and Black sheep in the same field! Nov 13,  2011
That's me last year on my birthday, unfortunately that's probably not even the most ridiculous photo of me. Below the blue blob is a field with a white donkey and a black sheep! I've cropped myself out of that photo but trust me I fit right in. On my birthday last year I continued on the Camino de Santiago from Finestere to Muxia, it was a beautiful walk and ended at a beach. This year was spent at a warmer beach (with no walking through unexpected bog water, score!) I played in the waves and attempted some snorkeling, my cousin helped make the day special and I sure do feel more older. Below is a song I enjoyed a lot the day of my birthday, it was definitely a day of reflection on the past year, what a trip it's been!

I was really beaming from all the great birthday wishes I received this year, it really felt like I was in a big spotlight of love. So thanks to everyone; especially Kates for the most ridiculous video ever, I felt like a cat and miracle; and my aunt Monica who always sends me a wonderful heartfelt note. Thanks for reading! xoxo

Thursday, November 8, 2012

November 8th

When I knew I was staying in Panama with ample room for visitors I sent out an invitation to my family members hoping a few would be able to take time out of their busy lives and come for a visit.

My cousin Manolo was up for the trip and as I had visited him in January I was really excited to be his host. Since he was coming from Spain and mentioned he'd be stopping in Almuñecar, I asked him to bring a small shoe box with him that I had left at my Abuela's house. When I had left Almuñecar for Paris I had no idea how long I was going for and I had some Camino tokens that I wanted to keep well preserved.

Well he arrived in Bocas today, November 8th, and I picked him up at the airport and brought him to my home here in Panama. Before we had dinner he brought out the box. I got tears in my eyes as I had thought I'd find a few shells but also found my camino passports. When you walk the camino you have a passport stamped at every Albergue where you spend the night. As I flipped through, November 8th had a very special stamp: Santiago. They don't call it Camino de Santiago for nothing, that is the destination for most pilgrims. I had finished my camino a year ago today and was reunited with the most momentous part an exact year later. It's hard to believe that a flimsy piece of paper with ink stamps could make me feel so much.

A special heart felt thanks to Tom and Mike, there was a day I wasn't sure if I'd continue and you saw me through to the very end. You are both very much in my heart and I like to wonder what part of your camino's you're on now. For the rest that I was fortunate enough to walk with for a day, a week, an hour, you made it one of the best journeys I've ever taken. I so look forward to doing it again and have someone very special in mind to do it with, my grandfather. After reading my posts he said he'd be interested in doing it with me sometime and I hope 'sometime' is sometime soon.

After a big hug of thanks to Manolo and a light supper we headed out to the dock and thankfully the bio-luminescence were there to welcome him to the neighborhood. If you have any questions about the camino, don't hesitate to ask as I love reliving it and giving suggestions. If you're on the camino now, take the alternate route to Burgos!

Buen Camino! and COOoooooEEEeeeee!
The morning of November 8th and the imminent Santiago arrival!!

We had stayed in an Albergue just a few Km away so we could watch the sun
come up but really we wanted an excuse to draw out the camino as long as possible!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The day the Kobo died

I am very sad to report that my electronics are on the fritz due to the high levels of humidity that come with living in the rain forest. Specifically my Kobo. Don't worry my baby (laptop) is in fine shape. I didn't want to admit it especially when I've just accumulated a collection of hundreds of books but it's true, my Kobo is not responding. I've tried putting it in a bag of rice, restarting it, plugging it in, but it seems I have put it through a tough fourteen months of overuse and varying climates. Thankfully I have a great collection of books here and have adjusted my 'to read' list accordingly. Something I do in the first week of living somewhere new is organize the bookshelf, usually alphabetically (with foreign, cookbooks and travel books separate) so I get myself well acquainted with the available library. Sadly though all my favorites are locked into the computer screen. This is really a huge loss for me, I love books and an e-reader is the easiest way for me to carry hundreds around without breaking my back. I even made a fun cover for it that also is not looking so great due to the continual humidity. I've been a fan of making Haiku's lately so here's one
for My Dear Kobo,

So much joy you gave
In my palm you held all words
Wont give up on you


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Heart Thoughts by Louise L. Hay

This is the prettiest book I've read. It's filled with colour, swirly designs and flowers. I picked it up in Paris and have been happy to bring it along to Panama. It's really like a hug and a positive reboot if you're in need of one. One page that's dogeared is the 
freedom page: "You can choose to be that part of your spirit that is totally free. If you can be free in one area, you can be free in many areas. Be willing to be free." 'Learning to be Free' has been my theme for the year. This book reaffirmed a lot of the things I had already learned at TAC but as Louse Hay often says "The work you are doing on yourself is not a goal, it is a process- a lifetime process." It's always good to have an influence to remind you not to 'should' all over yourself, be kind to yourself no matter what stage you're at. You are the only person with yourself 24/7-forever so you better learn how to be nice or it's going to be a tough going. If you don't have very positive self talk there's no better time to start than now. This is one of many methods to get there. The first time I heard about looking at yourself in the mirror and saying "I love myself" was probably Brian Tracy sales techniques. Sometimes that's a big leap but starting with "I like myself" is doable. That little whisper of words can start to change a lot of things, starting with taking less crap from people, having more confidence, or generally feeling better. It's a long process but so far a worthwhile one for me. Even if you think words of affirmation are not high on your list of needs I invite you to speak more positively to yourself and those you love.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Proving Ground by G. Bruce Knecht

This book on boat racing started out confusing for me. Listing too many crewmen to keep track of while adding things about boats that I still haven't learned about. Then, a few chapters in the story really takes over. I read the most of the book on a windy boat ride to and from town and found it riveting. I hope I never have to experience 1998 Hobart weather conditions, the likes of which Australia had never seen in summer. Boats flipped, boats sank, sailors died, and few made it to the finish line. The Hobart is a race in Australia that starts in Sydney harbor. I am now very intrigued to see a boat race. It's been suggested to me that I start off learning sailing by being a dead weight on racing boats. Sometimes racing boats need crew just to sit on different sides to add weight on the boat to help with the wind. I'll be sure to start with small races though, no overnight Hobart types for me just yet.I'm sure the marina in Toronto will be seeing a lot of me when I come back home. Great recommendation from Carl, Thanks!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Trip to Zaps

These photos are from the small island called Zapatillas. It was once a coconut plantation and now is a good spot to go on a day trip, swim, and snorkel nearby reefs. In about an hour you can walk slowly through and circle around this little island.

Tree on Zaps 2 extending over the water

Trees growing out of fallen trees. Almost all the tree systems look like that.

Dried coconut husks

Boardwalk through the island

Driftwood on the beach

Monday, October 22, 2012

Coming home for realsies!

I'll be coming home Jan 10th, 2013. To buy my plane ticket I put my residence as Canadian, my passport as Canadian but my card as French with a French address that's linked to my Spanish passport while buying in American dollars... I though I had fritzed the system because it refreshed three times to tell me it was changing currency and did I approve? Then took me to a page that didn't seem quite like a confirmation. A few hours later I got the ticket delivered to my inbox so it's really true. Bitter sweet but coming and going always is.

October 2nd was the first time I ever cancelled a plane ticket. I was to fly from Panama City to Florida and figure out where to go from there. On cancelling my ticket I got half back. The ticket was less than $200 to begin with so it wasn't a big loss considering I get to stay in paradise. I learned recently that paradise came from 'walled garden' or 'enclosed park', also referred to as a limbo then finally as idyllic place. I would agree to all of the above.

This year I've been on more planes then I could remember so I've made an effort to track them. It's been a hell of a year:
Toronto to Paris (Train to Spain)
Malaga to Paris
Paris to Barcelona
Barcelona to Ibiza
Ibiza to Barcelona
Barcelona to Paris
Paris to Calvi (Train to Paris)
Paris to Toronto
Toronto to Miami to Panama City

A quick search on Goolge of "make a map of your plane trips" allowed me to make this map:

Fun Facts since my plane trip from Toronto to Paris on September 24, 201l:
Approximate time spent in flight: 28hrs
Miles covered by Plane: 12,749
Kilometers covered by Plane: 20,518

Friday, October 19, 2012

If you asked me a few months ago

Sunset in September from porch in Panama
If you had told me I'd be walking through the jungle with a dog as my guide, the moon as my light, and a bird call as my warning... I would have thought you crazy... but that was my life a month ago.

If you had told me I'd be living on a boat with a pitbull, snorkeling in secret spots, sitting top deck at night to better count shooting stars... I would have thought you crazy... but that was my life a few weeks ago.

If you had told me I'd be navigating my own little boat through mangroves in the dark, having my next door neighbor an island away, sitting at thanksgiving dinner a continent away via skype and a laptop... I would have thought you crazy... but that was my life a week ago.

If you had told me I'd be all taken care of while taking care of two bulldogs at a resort, learning how to paddle board and taking long walks on a white sandy beach... I would have thought you crazy... but that is my life these next coming weeks. 

'The Aquarium' snorkel spot, early in the morning
I'll just keep saying thanks, and thanks, and thanks again...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

I enjoyed reading this book. It's a well researched story that brings you back to Paris is it's most romantic time. It parallels the time frame of A Moveable Feast. The narrative is from the first wife of Ernest Hemingway. One of my favorite quotes from the book is in a letter from Ernest:
"No one you love is every truly lost"
The book club I was part of (before I left Toronto) had it on their list and I've been eager to pick it up. I've savored it although the last chapters the author does a great job of making you feel the pain that Hadley feels. It's a book that leaves room for discussion and if you're looking for a romance read this flows very nicely. It was a pleasure to read.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Professor and the madman by Simon Winchester

It took me a while to make my way through this national bestseller 'a tale of murder, insanity, and the making of the Oxford English Dictionary.' As I closed it's final pages I imagined the day I have a serious library and a complete Oxford English Dictionary will be a worthwhile addition. The story is an interesting one but in all honesty I didn't care for the writing. The tid-bits I found most fascinating can be compiled into a page of notes. There are many run on sentences, sentences that begin with 'and' along with repetition of the same speculations. I like to be told something once but as I put the book down so frequently, I guess it was good to be reminded. Reading about lexicography I have a profound desire to play Scrabble. Hopefully one of my new neighbors is also enamored with words...

Awesome Book

My aunt posted a link to this book on facebook and it really is Awesome. It's worth a read and since the author is just excited to share his idea you can read it free: Awesomebook

Friday, October 12, 2012

Move-in Day

I'm having my good-morning coffee with a different kind of monkey. When I woke up this morning there was a family of white faced monkeys waiting to welcome me to the neighbourhood. They ran off more quickly then the howlers I'm used to but I was happy to see the new face.

Bocas Town view from the dock
Chickens wandering around Bocas town
Yesterday I said goodbye to dolphin bay. Obviously I'll be back. Actually I'll be back as soon as Sunday for the restaurant Rana Azul's Octoberfest party. It will be a steady separation from a place that feels very much like home. I'm about an hour away by boat but the environment is so different it almost feels like a whole other planet. There are white sandy beaches here, two different species of monkeys, red frogs, iguanas and jesus lizards. Not to mention a whole different set of characters.

Off main street towards the fire station, beside La Union is Michael's
Yesterday afternoon I got picked up and went into town where I had a few hours to walk around and get anything I needed. I decided since I was going to be around more people the hole-y wardrobe needed an update. I went on a big shopping spree in town and spent a whopping $22.65. I spent $15 at a second hand shop named Michaels beside the hidden upstairs Tom #2 restaurant, beside la Union. Then at Union I spent $5.15 on new guitar strings, embroidery thread and razors. La Union is the place to get most everything but the sales lady at the counter has a favourite saying "no we don't have that" or rather the Spanish "no hay" even if you just bought it. To top off a 'full day' of shopping (in Bocas even your full grocery list wont take more than an hour) needs a treat. I got a $0.75 empanada at John's Bakery a regular check point for the early morning shopper and spent $1.75 for a double scoop of ice cream at Golden Grill. As traveling by boat in the heat is not conducive to ice cream and it's one of my favourite food groups I try to get some in town when I think of it.

The New Wardrobe: 3 t-shirts, 3 tank tops, 2 long sleeve shirts, 1 linen pants
Then it was a boat ride to Casa Cayuco. I have been looking forward to this for weeks and it's a place I instantly feel comfortable. We arrived in the dark through a sea full of bio luminescence and I hadn't even made it to my cabin when everyone stopped to look at night monkeys with big huge eyes, furry tails and little ears. A rare glimpse and heart melting cute, especially the baby. Then it was a wonderful meal prepared by Sue, a night swim and great sleep.

My computer even matches the chair, it was meant to be!
I'm onto my second coffee and ready for a day of learning with Lloyd and Sue. This is one of those arrangements where I'm not quite sure who's happier. I feel so appreciated for taking this on and so grateful for having this as my new home. If it's possible to be in love with a place this jungle certainly has my heart.