Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Come To Your Senses!

                    The Amador Causeway connects Flamenco Island (our temporary home)
                  with greater Panama City. It was built 100 years ago from the rocks and dirt
                                           dredged for the creation of the canal.

        That phrase "Come to your senses!" is typically used when someone is considered insane, lost, or generally off their rocker.

                                   (I don't know who this guy is.  I did a search on Google
                                images using the key words "insane, lost and 'off their rocker',
                                       and he popped up. I swear, it's true. So anyway...)

       Since we were struck by lightning a month ago and have been stranded here in Panama City on a broken, sweltering boat while our friends move on without us,  I haven't been insane, exactly...but I have cried a few tears like the guy in the photo. And I have been a little lost at times.

        But then, today my morning mediation by Benedictine Monk Thomas Merton told me to "Come to my senses." Literally. He directs that when we are lost, afraid or overwhelmed, the key is to STOP. And LOOK. Listen. Feel the earth. Take a look around. Take a whiff. Dip your toe in the water. Take stock, and try to figure our where in the heck we are. So we can find our way out.

The Revolution Tower is a brand new addition to the Panama City skyline. She's a beauty!

      So as Chris works to repair and rebuild the wounded Espiritu, we're finding time to "Come to our senses" and immerse ourselves in our new home (HOME: meaning literally "Where you live."). It's a pretty amazing place.

             They film the Panamian version of "Dancing With the Stars" at this theater.
              It's the bastard child of the US version. Yes, America, you should be proud --
                       your little cultural seedlings are popping up around the world.

Locals play checkers under a tree in the park using soda bottle tops 

          Look! It's a Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang bus! This amphibious bus is so cool -- but you couldn't pay me a million dollars to ride it on the water. It looks like it could sink at any second, and you'd be trapped inside. But I was thrilled to admire her from the shore!

We think the Panama City skyline looks like Singapore or Hong Kong

      ...and yet, you can never forget that the city is cut out of the rain forest. This shot was taken from a parking lot in the center of the city. The foliage grows so fast thanks to the daily deluge of rain, that if you turn your back for a minute it seems it might overtake you.

        Some days I have the sensation that I have been simply plunked here in Panama City, not unlike Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

"How did we get here, Toto?"

    But, not unlike Dorothy, I figure the only way out is THROUGH. So you may as well enjoy the journey, make some friends and see the sights along the way.

Oh, my. This is at the entrance to the Flamenco Yacht Club. Sigh...

The "K Street" in Panama City bears no resemblance to the one in Washington, D.C. -- thank God.

Of course, since Panama City was founded 500 years ago, there are many old churches.
This Jesus wears an Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.

It's unclear if this Jesus is in thoughtful repose (a la "The Thinker") or simply nodding off

       OK, I'm pretty sure most Protestants would find this one offensive. Is that really Jesus bowing before Mother Mary? It looks like he's asking for his allowance or something. And is the sculptor really saying that Mary "holds the entire church in her hands?"

            I like this Jesus on the top of one of the very oldest churches in town. It looks like he's the Holy Choir Director about to lead us all in a rendition of..."He's got the whole world in His hands...?"

               If you look at the top of the bell tower it appears the tippy-top of the cross has been
               knocked off. By lightning, perhaps? It's certainly an occupational hazard here
                            in Panama City, especially during the rainy season.

            Check out this statue of Simon Bolivar. Man, does he look like a piece of work!
         Look at his posture -- the hip jutted out to the side just so. And that pompadour hairstyle!
               I guess it takes a certain personality type to conquer and overtake entire continents.

          It will take us weeks and weeks to get to know this city, which is convenient, because...
               that's about how long it will take to nurse Espiritu back to health!

This parking spot at the Canal Administration office is reserved for "ME." Well, alrighty then!

Panama City is a perfect blend of the old and the new

    We visited the Panama City Costco (called "Price Smart" here), and stopped in for a snack. It seems that wherever we go in Latin America, the adage is proven true: Nuns love Costco pizza.

                                          "Can't a sister eat her pizza in peace?"      

                                Yikes. Sorry, sister.   As you were...and have a great day!

Do you think this flat screen would fit on the boat? Sigh...me thinks not.

       The Panama City Costco has the same mounds of fattening treats that you've come to know and love in the Costcos in the states -- with the rows of Colgate toothpaste lined up behind, as a chaser.

 In the Allbrook Mall there's a store called "El Costo" with rock-bottom prices unlike even the 99 cent stores in the states. $1.99 for a perfectly presentable nightgown. Made by little hands in China or North Korea, no doubt. Sigh...

Is this guy doing the Electric Boogaloo? Or Maybe the Hokey Pokey? Anyway, interesting pose...

         OK. We admit we have no idea what this means. Uh...well, monoliths are usually
                 phallic symbols, yes? So this "rooster" on the top slams home this idea,
                   in case we're too dense to figure it out?           Yikes. Who knows.

Drawing on a wall next to an alley in the Casco Viejo part of town


    So. Life itself is change.

By looking at the nature of things, we see that nothing remains the same for even two consecutive moments.

   Change is Life.

  We'd best accept this and use this fact to our advantage.

 "Compared to what we ought to be, we are only half awake." -- Father Thomas Merton

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New photos: Wild Islands of Western Panama

The pristine beauty of Islas Secas, Panama


Well, Espiritu passed her haul-out and hull inspection as well as rig inspection with nary a complaint here in Panama City.

                   I figured if Mike the rigger trusted Espiritu enough to climb her all the way to the top, then the least I can do is trust her strength when we head to sea again...whenever that may be.

        I was surprised at my emotions when Espiritu was hauled out here at Flamenco Marina in Panama City. I felt almost maternal towards her. After all, she took a bullet for us. And not only did her rigging and mast survive the lightning strike, her hull passed the inspection as well. No exit wound.

    I felt so proud of her. And as we lowered her back into the water after the haul out quick check of the hull, I felt a renewed surge of inspiration and hope that we would -- we WILL -- sail her again. We will take her through the canal, and to the Caribbean! Because she's a strong old girl. Regal. She wants to sail again. So we will nurse her back to health (her "internal organs" -- the electronics -- are nearly completely fried) and we will continue on. Because Espiritu has not given up! And neither will we. :-)

  As we've been stuck here at the dock in Panama City with our wounded Espiritu, it's hard to believe that it was only a month ago that we were sailing across the wild islands of western Panama.

                             THE ISLANDS OF WESTERN PANAMA -- JUNE 2012

Chris and Howard explore the largely uninhabited Isla Parida

The island featured a trail meandering through a giant grove of fig trees


                             Western Panama and its islands are largely uninhabited.
                               90% of the population of the country is in Panama City.
                                But the islands aren't completely uninhabited...

A young indigenous girl walks onto the beach as our dinghy approaches her small family compound on Isla Parida

         Three brothers live on the island with their families. Fortunately for me they spoke Spanish,
 so we were able to communicate simply. They graciously welcomed us into their homes for a visit.

Check out those eyes. Wow. 

     As they are very isolated here and rarely get to the mainland, we brought them some canned goods, personal care items, candies, a few picture books and toys for the children.

     In return, one of the brothers opened fresh coconuts for us with machetes. Believe it or not, this was our first time drinking fresh coconut milk on this adventure. It was delicious. I drank all of mine down in true chug-a-lug fashion, and I paid for it with two days of abdominal cramps. But it was worth it!

   After we drank our coconut milk, one of the brothers walked over to a lagoon bordering their hut and whistled, as if he were calling a dog. We waited. He whistled again. And then, from the other side of the lagoon, his two "pets" came in response to the call of their master:

              Yep. Two alligators came swimming up to us. We stood back, mesmerized,
                   as we watched him beckon them up onto the beach for a tasty treat.

                  He tossed them live crabs, which flailed wildly as he picked them up from the
                        beach and tossed them into the mouths of these ancient creatures.

            Just up the beach was family #2. They had recently given birth to a newborn son.

           As you look at this photo, note the lagoon just behind us...which contained their pet alligators. Well, if Mom felt comfortable enough to turn her back to them, then so could I. I wondered about the safety of the baby around them, though. Obviously they would never leave him on the ground unattended.

                         I was incredibly touched that Mom let me hold her newborn son.
                    The warmth, gentleness and graciousness of these families moved me deeply.

We took one last look at the lovely Isla Parida, then pulled up anchor and headed on

We needed diesel, so we headed to the tiny village of Bahia Honda

"Sittin' at the dock of the bay, wasting time..." Life is slow here, and the fishing is good.

        This Bahia Honda boy models his donated United Colors of Benneton t-shirt. Fortunately neither he nor his family reads English. But seriously, Benneton -- what in the hell does this mean? JOKE?   Anyway -- what a photo, huh?

 Weirdly, there IS a Panamanian beer named "Soberana." I asked about it, and as best I can understand it, it's sort of a light beer, for ladies.   Hmm. Anyway, needless to say, it's not a big seller. LOL...

Time creeps by at a leisurely pace here. Nothing happens quickly.

Next stop: Isla Cebaco. 25-50 villagers live on this island.

Fishing, of course, is their mainstay. These nets hanging neatly to dry after a day out at sea
 have an almost theatrical affect of shadow and light.

Our Canadian buddy boats I Yam What I Yam and Swift Current rest in the anchorage


The old and the new, coexisting in harmony (we hope)

             Howard marks his territory: "In the name of the great province of British Columbia, I claim this spot for the great country of Canada!" And being Canadian, he said "Please." And "Thank you."

They had the sweetest little church here. The priest only comes from the mainland
 to the island every 4th or 5th Sunday for mass.


This site on an isolated beach proves that contrary to popular opinion, apparently Crocs do NOT last forever

                 After visiting these idyllic islands, it was time for the long night passage around the ominously named "Punta Mala" (Point "BAD") and then rest up at Isla Taboga, just offshore from Panama City.

Chris catches a few zzzzzzz's protected by our lee cloth. This was a rough, blustery passage,
with countless close lightning strikes and 35 knot winds.

Isla Taboga is a favorite weekend getaway for harried Panama City residents

           The town was adorable but when we visited on a weekday, it was completely dead. Not unlike Avalon on Catalina Island back home, it springs to life on the weekends when visitors arrive.

       This mural on Isla Taboga portrays both the Catholic and nautical traditions of this place.  I had to chuckle, though, at the apparent contents of Mother Mary's right hand: are those shopping bags?   ;-)

Check out the grouper this fisherman hauled in!


There are few happier sights for cruisers and locals alike than the fresh fruit and veggie truck!

This Isla Taboga beach would be full by saturday when the tourists arrive

     This strange cloud formation over Isla Taboga was an awesome if mildly anxiety producing sight. A storm blew through not long afterwards and we were forced to leave the anchorage, which was too small, too deep and not secure.

    We pulled anchor and headed to Panama City, where we remain while Espiritu gets nursed back to health after her lightning strike.

    Sometimes in our modern society it feels as though the earth itself is spinning at a different speed and rhythm than much of the human race. We feel dissonant and out of whack -- and it happens so fast that the acceleration of confusion is alarming.

                            I want to find the Rhythm of Life, and fall back into step with it.
       We were able to do that while exploring the wild and beautiful islands of Western Panama.

        It's harder to do when we're in modern society, and dealing with real life. But it is always possible.