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...