I have always liked the rain. That’s probably a good thing living here in Panama where there is a distinct “rainy” season.
As a kid from the first grade until the seventh, we used to evacuate the suburbs around Boston and head to Nickerson State Park from the day school let out until the day after Labor Day.
My mom and dad slept in a small travel trailer…
My brothers, David and Gary, and I slept in an Army Surplus wall tent like this one…
I loved it when it rained. The sound of the rain drops on the canvas roof of the tent was like music to me. It lulled me to sleep many a night or put me back to sleep on a morning with the pitter patter of the rain.
When I was a teenager we had two sailboats that we kept at Quonset Pond in South Orleans. One was a Sunfish-type sailboard that I used to take and creep into tiny out of the way spots along the shores of Pleasant Bay. I learned where a lot of the sea birds nested which came in handy years later when I owned Nauset Tours, a beach taxi business. The other boat was an O’Day Daysailer that was kept on a mooring ball. It was fitted out with a canvas boom tent. This is a piece of canvas fastened to the mast at the forward end and draped over the boom all the way to the stern to keep rainwater out of what was, essentially an open boat with a small cuddy cabin. There were times when it was raining and I’d been let off work at the restaurant at the beach when I’d drive down to Quonset Pond, row out to the Daysailer and take a nap falling asleep to the sound of the rain on the canvas of the boom tent and the slap lapping of the pond’s wavelets against the hull.
I loved it when it rained when I was living on my beloved Kaiser26, Nancy Dawson. Sleeping in the port section of the vee berth forward the deck was only a couple of feet over my head so naturally the sound of the rain was close. It would be hot, even at night, in Fort Lauderdale in August and September. Before going to bed I’d set up a box fan in the main hatch blowing OUT and open the forward hatch which was over the vee berths. The box fan would pull the air into the boat through the forward hatch and expel it out into the cockpit. By morning it would be so cool (relatively) that I’d have pulled a blanket over myself to stay comfortable. And when showers passed overhead at night I’d feel the raindrops that made it through the open hatch to pelt me on my shoulders. It was just enough to let me know what was happening and I’d without getting up I’d reach up with one arm and let the hatch fall into the down position and the sound of the rain would have me back in dreamland in seconds.
It’s been years since I’ve been lulled by the sound of rain overhead. Oh, there were some times when I was house-sitting in Potrerillos Arriba when I’d slip outside and lay down in a hammock on the broad patio out back (patio, by the way is what the Panamanians call your entire yard around the house, and free-range chickens are referred to as pollo al patio.) but as nice as that was, it wasn’t the same thing.
The next to last time I heard that wonderful roof music was my last visit a year ago over to Bocas del Toro to look at a boat that might be for sale. On each of my trips over to the other side of the Continental Divide I’ve stayed at a small hotel just outside of the craziness of “downtown” Bocas Town, Dos Palmas. It’s built out over the water and the place has a tin roof. I remember being pleasantly awoken a couple of times in the middle of the night to the sound of rain on the roof. Contentment.
Almost all the houses here in Panama have tin roofs, and I’m talking NEARLY ALL, not just cheap, shoddily constructed places like that which I just moved into. The ceiling is a standard 2’X2’ drop ceiling and there’s nothing between it and the tin roofing. So, like right now as I sit here typing this and the tantalizing aromas of chicken curry waft around it’s pouring down rain and I’m loving every drop that hits the roof.
I live online. It’s my connection with the world outside mi barrio de español. Since I’m moving I had to make sure I would be able to get online. Last week I went down to the Cable (Cah Blay) Onda offices in downtown David to check whether or not I could get their service at my new house.
“Oh, yes,” the girl said, “we have service at Brisas de Boquerón.” Great, but I didn’t want them to cut the service off immediately and leave me in the cold since I haven’t quite moved into the new place yet. Poco a poco it’s getting done. Well, today I went down to Cable Onda to set up installation at the new house. Guess what? Well, here, this map will show you what I mean…
You’ll probably have to click on the pic to enlarge it, so I’ll explain what it shows. See those yellow stick pins in the upper portion of the photo? That’s where my house is. The two yellow stick pins are where THE FUCKING SERVICE ENDS RIGHT NOW!!! That’s right, there’s no cable yet on the street where I live, and they have no idea when it might be strung. That really, REALLY SUCKS!
When I moved into the house here in Boquerón the barrio wasn’t wired for cable t.v. or internet. So what I used was a USB modem from the cellular company, Claro. It plugged into a USB port on the computer and, while slow, it was good enough to get most of the sites I use, like this one. It looked like this and it cost me $40/month for unlimited access.
It was okay, but when Cable Onda came around and offered faster internet speeds for the same price, I took them up on the offer, and by and large have been happy with the service. I say by and large because in the last month there have been several times when there was ZERO access, generally after a major thunderstorm moved through the area, and the outages were up to 20-hours long.
Well, after finding out I couldn’t be hooked up at the new house I immediately went to Claro and got their WiFi router service. Same price as I’ve been paying, but slower speeds but it’s better than nothing. And the reason I got the router was so I could download my free Kindle books to my tablet. Originally if I wanted to download books I’d ordered I either had to go up to the InfoPlaza at the town hall or use the country’s free WiFi system at the bus terminal. Not critical, but kind of a pain in the ass having to go to those places. The Claro router looks like this:
The router costs $80 if you go pre-paid which is what I used to do with the USB modem. HOWEVER, if you get a contract then the router is FREE with the plan I’ve chosen. And I was able to get on a contract. The agent, a young man named Kevin who spoke excellent English (our whole transaction which took well over an hour was conducted in a melangé of English and Spanish simply because I feel uncomfortable talking to Panamanians in English) asked me if I had credit here in Panama, a requisite to getting a contract. I said I’d never bought anything on credit here so I doubted I’d qualify. “Wait a minute,” he said, “how long have you had Cable Onda?” I told him about two years or so and he went to his computer and, sure enough, because I’ve been such a good customer with them I qualified to get a contract with Claro! The contract is 18 months, but I can quit at any time with 30 days notice but there is a penalty and that’s that I’d have to pay the full price of the router.
The thing’s working fine. I’m giving it a test run right now writing this post. Well. that’s it. I’ll still be able to get online even if it isn’t the way I’d hoped it would be, but, as we used to say in Antibes, “c’est la vie.”
Some might say I’m a bit strange, and I won’t argue the point. Some might say I live a minimalist lifestyle and I’m not so sure that’s entirely true but there are hints of it.
Almost all of us gringos grew up with hot water for bathing. Hardly any Panamanians did. In fact, there is a belief among many Panamanians that hot showers and baths are actually bad for one’s health. In fact, I had a neighbor lady tell me just that within the last week!
Over the years I’ve had situations where hot water wasn’t available at the turn of the tap. When I lived on my shanty boat in New Orleans I didn’t have hot water. When I wanted hot water to shave I had to put a pot on the stove and warm the water up. No big deal. I worked at a boat yard and did a lot of paint “prep” which consisted of spending eight hours a day with an electric sander in my hand making dust, much of which covered me by quitting time. Back at the boat I had a shower head rigged to a hose supported on a 2X4. New Orleans has a pretty hot climate most of the year, and the water in PVC piping that serviced my dock was rarely cold. Tepid to warm would be the best words to describe the water temperature so it was pleasant. In the three or four winter months I had a good friend who lived on my route home from the yard and he kindly allowed me to shower at his place. So things worked out pretty well.
The next time my living conditions didn’t have hot water on demand was when I bought my much-missed Nancy Dawson, a Kaiser 26 sailboat. I took off on her for nine months and single-handed to Mexico, Belize and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala It was always hot there so when I was in the salt water areas I’d dive off the side of the boat, climb up in the dinghy and lather up with Joy dishwashing soap (the only thing that produces lather in salt water) and then I’d rinse off with fresh water. That’s necessary because salt from the sea drying on your body will eventually give you a rash. When I returned to the States I lived for close to two years in a boat yard and then at a marina for another four years or so, and each place had shower rooms so hot water was not a problem.
In the first year and a half here in Panama I was house sitting at a place for two six-month stints and they had an on-demand hot water heater. The place here in Boqueron also has an on-demand water heater that doesn’t work simply because most of the time the water pressure isn’t high enough to trigger it. Now, I haven’t gotten used to cold water showers, though I have to say the water is never cold as it is in the States, but it’s still cold enough that I don’t find it comfortable most of the time. The exception is on really hot days in the middle of the afternoon then it feels good to get in the shower.
For shaving I do what I did on the shanty boat. Heat water in a pot and use that. I wash dishes in cold water and since most houses in the country don’t have hot water some brilliant people have created a soap that lathers up in cold water.
So, how do I deal with the cold water showers? Well, one way is what I would call a “modified sponge bath.” That is to say I stay out of the main stream of the water and use a soapy face cloth to wash myself. I don’t mind sticking my head in the cold water to wash my hair, though.
But I DO like warm water to shower with. For quite a while I used a “Sun Shower.” One of those four-gallon plastic bags that you lay in the sun for a couple of hours and it heats up the water.
Does a damned good job, too. You can scald yourself if you’re not careful. The problems I had with it was hanging it up in the shower compartment space. Fresh water weighs 8 lbs. a gallon, so hoisting the 32-pound bag was a bit of a pain in the ass. Also, since it’s gravity-fed and the shower head nozzle was only about three feet off the deck I had to squat down to get under the water stream. It wasn’t a lot of fun to use, but I did. The biggest problem was keeping the inside of the bag clean. Green slime would build up and eventually, even bleach wouldn’t get rid of the crud.
The end result for getting a hot water shower comes in the form of this thing.
It’s designed to spray toxic chemicals on weeds. I’d tried a smaller version years ago on the sailboat. It only held a gallon of water, and the spray nozzle wasn’t worth a damn. I think I tried it two or three times and gave up. But I decided to try again. This one holds 2-1/2 gallons. I did cut the hose and nozzle off of the sun shower and rigged it up to the new setup. A little bit of black spray paint et voilà as we used to say over in Antibes, France.
This certainly does the job though it’s no where near as exhilarating as standing under a REAL hot shower. I set it outside in the sun for a few hours and the water heats up nicely. A few strokes of the pump handle and there’s a decent flow of water. There’s a thing-a-mah-jig by the squeezer on the spray handle that allows for a continuous stream. Since the capacity of the unit is only 2-1/2 gallons you can’t stand under the hot water stream for a long time, but it’s enough to actually provide TWO Navy showers.
A Navy shower is essential for shipboard life where fresh water is limited. What you do is get wet, shut off the water stream, lather up, rinse off. It works. Another feature of the new set up over the Sun Shower is that the neck of the bottle is pretty wide, so if it has been a cloudy day, or I want to take a shower early in the morning all I have to do it put on the big pot of water, heat it up and pour it in to the container with the cooler water and then I’m able to get a comfortable shower.
Like I said, I don’t recommend that people live as I do. Most wouldn’t want to, but I’m adaptable. You have to be, after all, to live for nearly six years on a 26-foot sailboat.
No, I haven’t died.
No, I haven’t given up on blogging.
Nothing noteworthy has been happening.
I get up in the morning, drink a cup, sometimes two, of locally-grown coffee. A couple of times a week I go into DahVEED and do some grocery shopping. I surf the net. I read. I listen to a book from Audible on my smartphone. I go to bed and then do it all over again the next day.
Next month I’ll have stuff to write about. The owner of the house I rent, his wife and her sister are coming down for a couple of weeks from Texas and I’m going to try and go through the process of changing my “carnet,” which looks sort of like a cheaply-laminated high school I.D. card to an E (extranjero) cedula.