Sunday, June 27, 2010

Roof Cleaning

Marco decided the metal roof needs to be repainted. We want to keep it in top condition to avoid leaks inside. So far, we've had no leaks, and there are no telltale signs that anybody ever had any leaks in this house.

First step is to clean the roof. Arturo's son Darinelo came by early one morning at the end of May and said he was ready to start. Marco drove him to where he could borrow a high-pressure washer. (When the workers show up to work, they almost never have any tools, supplies, equipment. Arturo is an exception - he owns his own whipper.) If Marco doesn't have the appropriate piece of equipment or the worker has not arranged for a place to rent/borrow it, Marco drives partway down the hill to the local Comasa store, a vendor of construction materials, gardening supplies, tools, hardware, limited groceries, beverages, ice cream, bird feeders and so forth - and buys it.

So Darinelo climbed up onto the roof with the high-pressure washer hooked to our garden hose and began the process. It was simple and noisy - just water, no bleach or soap or other cleansers - but it took a few hours. The water coming off was filthy, as you can see in Marco's video.

Darinelo said he will be back to paint after we have 2 days without any rain, and of course the day he returns must also be rain-free. This weather sequence did happen just a couple days after he cleaned the roof, but one of those days fell on a Sunday, and almost none of the workers come up on Sundays. Last week we did have 2 rain-free days, but they were followed by a very rainy day. Maybe in March.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

No Bribes, No Fines

It was a good day. We accomplished a lot of chores with a bit of sightseeing rolled in. But, the most educational time was during a traffic stop at Plaza Cinco de Mayo.

The long story begins weeks ago with me exchanging my wallet for a rubber band to keep credit cards and money in my front pants pocket. No, it begins before that, doing Panama research, reading about the vagaries of life in this country and vowing to not get sucked into bribing people, especially the cops. Flash forward to yesterday as I made an illegal left-hand turn Well, if there was a No Left Turn sign, I didn't see it. Someday, I'll return to the scene of the crime and confirm. (Yes, checking later, there is a sign, seen here at the upper left.)

Just about mid-turn, it did feel a bit awkward sitting there in the middle of the intersection waiting for on-coming traffic to part. The traffic cop felt it was more than a bit awkward. He motioned for me to complete the turn and pull over. He unhurriedly walked up and spoke several paragraphs to which I had to reply, "No comprendo mucho Espanol." Hand gestures and our mutual few words of each other's language prompted me to reach for my California license. I included our residence card for Los Altos de Cerro Azul, wondering if that would buy me anything. When the cards came out of my pocket, he must have seen the bills wrapped around them.

He asked how long we have lived here ("tres meses" - three months) and then asked for my passport. He confirmed our last entry into the country and that we were legal on a tourist visa. Several times he used the word, "multa" and asked if I understood. I didn't. After several moments he motioned for me to get out of the truck. I gave Cindy my money and other cards, then joined two cops at the rear of the vehicle.

The cop then gave me a good talking-to and said "multa", pointing at the ticket book the second cop was holding. Now I got it and asked how much it would cost. He said $100 and I acted faint. Then he added that this was Panama! He wanted to know if I wanted a "multa?" I said no. A minute passed and he said it would be "bueno" if I gave him $20 then and there. It was tempting. One Andrew Jackson in place of 5 wouldn't be a bad trade. But, my puritan naiveté kicked in and I said no thanks, I'll take the ticket.

At that point it got as quiet as it could at the busiest corner of Cinco de Mayo. Then the cop received an "urgent" cell phone call, for which he walked down the street, leaving his young associate holding the ticket book with me. The young cop took a stab at the no-left turn lecture and I was attentive. Meanwhile, the first cop walked further away to I don't know what. After several more incomprehensible Spanish sentences the young officer made a gesture which I took to mean I was free to go. Which I did, with thanks all around and a smile on my face.

The video shows a time compressed trip from the no-left turn sign at Cinco de Mayo to the Novey at Albrook Mall. This was on a Sunday afternoon in light traffic which bears only little resemblance to our original trip and without my infamous left turn.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Not a Crouching Tiger

This one is a bobbing and weaving tiger. Specifically, it is a Fasciated Tiger-Heron. Our birding pal, Claudia Aherns, called this morning with news of the bird, which they saw along the river on their way down the hill. Cindy and I made a beeline for the car with camera in hand for what would be a life bird.

Cindy found the it at the designated spot and and I started rolling. Standing in the middle of the river, the Fasicated Tiger-Heron was actively hunting prey. One of it's lunges was captured on video and you can see it swallowing several times.

I certainly enjoyed seeing it walk and hop among the rocks in the Rio Jefe. It only used it's wings to actively fly, so it must have very nimble ankles to make such long jumps.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Devil's Artwork

We've already mentioned the Diablo Rojos - the refurbished school buses from the U.S.A. that have been re-purposed as public transportation here in Panama. Soon (so they say) they will be a thing of the past, since the implementation of the Metro Bus system is now underway. No longer will these colorful (and in many cases, very poorly maintained and unsafe) old vehicles be roaring up and down the streets and byways, belching clouds of diesel smoke, cutting off anyone in their path.

We thought it was worthwhile to get some shots of the creatively decorated exteriors of the Diablos.

My favorites are the ones with shark fins or wings on the top and plenty of lights around the license plate frames and on the grills.

Our friend Jorge noted during his visit that cartoon characters seem to have made quite an impression on the driver/owners. True, it's rare to see a Diablo without at least one cartoon character painted on the back or side.

Pop singers (almost none of whom we've heard of) are another popular theme.

Political figures (none that we've noticed are current office-holders) are perennial favorites . . .

. . . as are religious themes.

And family members (presumably) of the driver/owners are popular as well.

We'll miss the street artistry of the Diablo Rojos when they're gone - but not the spewing Devil Fumes.