The Weather in Our Neck of the Woods

Monday, December 27, 2010

Farm & Garden Chores

We are slowly but surely fixing up the farm and garden. We knew that Dani would not have time with her other job to take care of the farm. That is why we had asked Magdiel’s parents to come live here while we were gone. But when Keyvin, their son, fell from a tree and broke his wrist, that plan fell through. They had planned to leave him with his grandparents, but they are older, and could not get him to the various appointments he was to have in the following months. So, Dani agreed to stay on, but as I said, she had a full time job, so had little time nor energy to work with the sheep or keep the garden.

So, as you can see from the pictures, the garden is coming along. David is working two days a week cleaning out the weeds and flowers, and Lynn and I have been working on the fences for the sheep. Yari just finished out her school year, so now she is helping out too.

The picture below is of the two of them planting sugar cane – a gift from our neighbor. We have wanted to start growing sugar cane since we got here, so are excited about finally getting some planted! It will also help take up some of the space that we had prepared for the community garden that fell through shortly after beginning. Less weeds to pull in the future!

I am dreading it, but we need to butcher our first sheep. It is long overdue. I much prefer taking them to the butcher, but alas, we are in Panama! The meat is wonderful, so we must adapt or do without. We really prefer to adapt in this case. George is the man (that is the name of the sheep set for slaughter). We have only done this once before with a goat, so are…skeptical of our butchering abilities. Truly, I think I can do all of it but the kill. So, one night not long ago, I asked Lynn, “what is the worst part ot you about butchering George?”. While he thought I prayed that he would say cleaning the hide, or trying to get the chops just right, or some such thing. His reply was. “I think I can handle it all except killing him”. Great! We are two weenies! We do not have a gun so we will slit his throat. Maybe we can get a neighbor to come do that part!!!!

The wind liked to have blown the house away last night. First night of true ‘summer breezes’ – wind bursts up to 80 mph, all the moss, branches and leaves from the trees fly every which a way – under the doorways, onto the roof with loud crashes, and into any crevice available, including eyes and nostrils. But it is sunny! 70 degrees! No rain! It is GREAT!

Trusting that you all had a wonderful Christmas, and that God will renew your strength and resolve for the coming year! We could all do well to resolve to know Him better, to serve Him more humbly, and to love Him more deeply!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Giving Season

We made the 7 hour trip to Santa Marta to deliver the two Dalmatian pups to Magdiel and Keyvin. Our trip was multi-purposed. We also brought in Christmas gifts for the children of the church, attended Keyvin’s graduation, visited with the church, and delivered the pups. I had made a makeshift cage for them in the back of the truck. They made it just fine. We did worry a bit that we might have trouble getting them through the agricultural checkpoint, but just smiled our way through, and had no trouble. The pups were nearly scared to death by all the kids when we got there. After delivering the ‘goodies’ from Santa, and a short visit we headed for Penonome. There we picked up some groceries, a box of apples, and a case of grapes to take in to Marta on Thursday. We spent the night in Hotel Guacamaya (or Guacamole as I generally call it). We were up at 5:30 to go back to Santa Marta.
The 9th grade graduation was one of the reasons we went to Santa Marta on that specific day. Keyvin, Magdiel’s younger brother was graduating. Joy is Keyvin’s godmother, which is something special at the graduation. She had to present a special gift to him. The graduation was very nice. We were told that Joy should be there by 8:00 am, and we were there. We were all but alone, though. Only the cooks arrived before us. When we arrived at Las Tibias, the turn off from the pavement, we found Magdiel and his dad, an uncle and one of the teachers from the school waiting. Magdiel and his dad were supposed to have picked up the cupcakes from a nearby town at 6 that morning. They had not been able to get a bus into town, so they were still waiting when we arrived at 7:15. We took them to town to pick up the cupcakes then took all 4 into Santa Marta to the school.
Graduation was supposed to start at 9:00 am, but alas at 9:00 even Keyvin was not there. In fact only about 3 students had arrived by that time. It was 10:45 when we actually began. Alicia later told us that this was ‘typical Panamanian time’ in a resignated kind of way, but she herself did not arrive until about 10:15. I had special seating next to Joy, I think mainly because they thought I needed help, which is true. Yari was with us, but she did not get a seat inside the room, as it was full of parents, graduates and the god-parents. A very good lunch was served after the ceremony. We left all the stuff for the children of the church, and for the Gonzales family, and harvested fruit from our fruit trees on our little half-acre of property before heading home. We only had two extra riders on the way out. Normally the back of the truck is full of folks needing a ride out to the highway.
It was a long, difficult, but beautiful drive, and we arrived safely home around 9:00pm Thursday night.
We did not get to see the children open the gifts this year. As has been our custom, we like to let the church give them out on Sundays as if they were from the church, and because of Keyvin’s graduation, we could not be there on a Sunday. Sorry, no pictures this year!
Christmas Eve was Yari’s birthday. We were still wrapping presents in the morning. In the afternoon we delivered presents to our church family and neighbors. In the evening we had a little party and birthday dinner for Yari. Later she went to her grandparents that live near us, to enjoy her other family. The tradition here is to stay up until midnight on Christmas Eve and then open gifts. Also the fireworks go off at midnight. The parrots, apparently scared by all the noise, started flying and talking. It wasn’t easy, but we waited up for Yari to come home.

It is now Saturday, Christmas morning. We, like North Americans, have waited to open our gifts and presents. Yari was not too thrilled about this Gringo tradition, but managed to wait patiently. Pictured is Yari in her new 'Santa' clothes and hat with Santa himself!
We wish you all a joyous Christmas season.
Because of Him,
Lynn & joy

A final note about Keyvin; he will be staying in a dorm room next year so that he can attend high school in the nearest big town. Thanks to your generous support, he will be able to continue his education.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's almost Christmas!

Whew! I almost got hot today! I think it may have hit 82 in the sunshine! But it wasn’t too bad since we had a little breeze while we worked. Oh, wait, I forgot for a moment that it is only going to get to 40 in Gassville this week. Hmmm. Do I feel bad for flaunting it? Nah! You guys get to see each other and laugh and sing Christmas carols and drink hot cocoa, and…. We just got good weather. I don’t feel too bad!
Actually we have a lot more than good weather to be thankful for. God is so good to us. We are healthy, enjoying Yari’s company full time now, and it is a blast to watch her excitement over Christmas. We ask her to make our ‘Nacimiento’ (nativity scene) – our first ever. It is a tradition here to create the manger scene, with all the animals, the shepherd, Mary, Joseph, and the wise men. Using moss from the trees to make the ground, the manger and animals are placed first, then each day someone or something new is added, or moved closer until the 24th when Jesus is placed in his crib. Then throughout the next week the wise men make their way to the baby until finally arriving on January 6th (King’s Day here in Panama). On that day all Christmas trees are set out in the ditches and burned. Not sure of the significance of the tree burning part. Then everything is put away until next year. I love that everyone is focused on the story of Jesus’ birth for at least this few weeks. The family always moves the characters together so that everyone is involved. We three sit each night to enjoy the scene after Joseph and Mary move a little closer to the stable for a few minutes before going to bed. Good time together.

Yari has gotten to go shopping for gifts, plan what we will do on Christmas, and of course put up lights. Last night while watching the lights on the Nacimiento, she asked Lynn just like she was a seven year old, “Can’t we put up a few lights along the roof of the house out front?” He had already told me no emphatically, but when she asked, he thought a moment and said, “I guess we could if you want”. A very sweet, neat moment for this old girl, I’ll tell you!
Not sure why but I am missing my mom a lot right now. It has been 16 years since she left this world for a better one. You would think I would be accustomed to losing her by now, but alas, here I am, crying yet again because I cannot share little things with her, or see her smile. I expect there are many like me out there, missing someone special. I pray that God will give us both comfort, and a satisfaction in knowing that they have completed this journey, with nothing but blue skies (and golden streets) ahead!

This photo is of most of the gifts we have bought for the children of Santa Marta. We will be going in to see them tomorrow. We want to say a special thank you to DeDe Stephens for making the beautiful stockings. All the kids here have raved about them, and as you can see, they are absolutely wonderful! Thanks to all of you for giving to make Christmas a brighter occasion for the children in this remote community!
Have a blessed Christmas!

There's Monte, then there's monte

As Joy told you last time, we are still cleaning up. In the garden we have lots of weeds, one of which is Ageratum. I was reminded of my younger days working my way through four years of high school in Rogers at Larry Eoff’s flower shop. In the spring we sold bedding plants among which was Ageratum, a cute little blue border flower that grew 6 to 12 inches tall. Here Ageratum is a weed (monte), growing up to 5 feet tall. A quick side-note – when I think of weeds I get to think of Monte Manchester. Unlike ageratum which is a weed and never cultivated here, Impatiens which also abound wild here, especially along shady roadways, are cultivated by most everyone. We have some in our flower beds. Side-note to the previous side-note – if you look up monte in a Spanish dictionary, it will define monte as woodland, forest, or wild country, but here in Chiriqui the common meaning is weed or not a good plant. Any of these might be applicable to Monte. By the way I highly recommend your reading of Monte’s book.

Friday, December 17, 2010

To the work!

‘Summer’, or the dry season is trying hard to begin, but like everywhere else, the weather is a bit off this year. Is it just me or does that seem to be happening more and more, so that we really aren’t sure what should be normal anymore?
Today I am reminded of Jesus explaining that only the owner of the sheep takes really good care of them. Okay, this is a stretch, but all of our animals, our garden, and our property just aren’t cared for the same when we are not here. But it did make me think of those verses in John.
We are busy cleaning and repairing, feeding and caring for the animals, searching out the garden amongst the fast-growing weeds, and also enjoying the beauty of this place God has gifted us with. In truth, even the work we are (re)doing is a gift. Lynn loves to stay busy, and it is good for us both.

We have hired on David, a young man from the church who is on summer break from classes, to help with the outside work. He will work 2 days a week, and is doing a great job so far. This is day 2.
As we renew old ties, and catch up on all the happenings, we find ourselves renewed in our hearts toward the folks and see even more surely how much our own stresses and need for renewal with each other influenced our relationship with our family here before we left last August. We still have the same frustrations when a mom is still not providing the care for her children, but we FEEL the love for her in deciding how we can help. I think we had almost lost that to some extent. It is so difficult to see day in and day out someone making the same choices that cause pain to others, and yet feel a need to ‘fix’ it somehow for the sake of the others. As I reflect on the past year, I am not sure which came first the chicken or the egg, but I struggled to see through Jesus’ eyes when Lynn and I were at odds with each other. I think the ministry stresses impacted our relationship, and our relationship impacted the ministry. But God is so good and merciful, and we are both renewed in spirit and love. Praise God!
We are not blind or stupid – we know how hard it is to do this work full time. We feel we are better prepared, and know more surely from Whom our strength comes. Before we had gotten so caught up in the work that there was only a pittance of time to study to know and understand God better. I think we have our priorities straight now, but we also know to be on our guard!
We have written and talked of Yari on and off since our arrival here five years ago. She stole our hearts way back then, and broke them a time or two since then – many bad choices, no good examples of love and commitment – well, she is now back living with us. We are both excited and apprehensive. We ask for your prayers toward this ministry. She so much needs the stability and unconditional love that we can offer through Christ. Again, we are not going into this without a great amount of prayer and consideration, and neither is she. None the less she is still immature and has habits established since her very youngest years that must be overcome.
This is longer than I intended (you are surprised, right?). Blessings to all. We love you!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Caña Blanca Trip

We went to Caña Blanca this morning. For you that don’t remember, Caña Blanca is a small community with no electricity, a one- room school, and a Catholic Church. The school and church are where Joy teaches English one day a week. Caña Blanca is about 10 km. from our house on a very rough road that takes nearly an hour to travel. Today the road was the worst I have ever seen it, but the views are still great. We delivered chicken feed, coffee, sugar, and rice to José and Marlenis who are living close to Caña Blanca on a farm. Our primary purpose was to take Christmas presents to the kids at school and the kindergarten kids at the Catholic Church. The school kids were there for their last day but the teacher was not. There were about 14 school kids some of which we had not seen before. The nine kindergarten kids were having their graduation. We also had presents for Senora Élvia, some of the mothers and a few of the younger sisters and brothers. We loaded 3 of the school kids into the back of the truck to take them about 2 miles closer to their home. We stopped at the top of the hill to pick up José’s mom who had become sick. Instead of one there were nine members of the family plus bedding and sacks waiting for a ride to Volcan. Fred (our truck) was full, but we made it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Shopping day at Frontera (the frontier)

Tuesday the 7th

Still no internet. I’m sitting in the City Mall in Paso Canoas on the Costa Rican border. The seating is provided for us of the male persuasion and is right next to McDonalds in the store. I had a cup of coffee at McDonalds and was reading “Decision Making and the Word of God” while Joy, Yari, Ingrid, and Giselle shopped for the Santa Marta Christmas. I quickly finished my café con leche (coffee with milk) and reading and went to my favorite past time of people watching. City Mall is a new store much like a Walmart Supercenter. From here I can see a cross-section of Panama and Costa Rica. Of course babies are still the best. The store is huge, two floors that I can see from here. The escalators are really busy. There are probably more than twice as many people here as you would normally see at Walmart, but it is the Christmas season here just as in the U.S.
I have not seen anyone I know except the manager at McDonalds. He used to be at the one at David. I’m going to quit writing for a while. I’m missing watching a lot of people.
I’m back. I must tell you that most stores here in Frontera (Paso Canoas) straddle the border, that is, one side opens to Panama and the other side opens to Costa Rica. When I took bags out to the truck, a boy wanted me to move so they could unload a truck into McDonalds. So I did. Unknowingly I drove into Costa Rica and could not find an easy way to get back to Panama. After several minutes of driving in Costa Rica (illegally, don’t ya know), I found a place to turn around and get back. Finally found a place to park. Parking space is at a premium all over Panama. Now I’m back to watching and writing.
A very nice gentleman came up and asked me a question. He had no English and my Spanish wasn’t good enough to understand, so we exchanged big smiles.
Most Panamanian kids are spoiled rotten, by my U.S. standards. Of course, come to think of it so are U.S. kids.
I’m sitting near the sundries and notions section watching the sales clerk. Her job, apparently, is to dust the items on the shelves and move them forward as soon as a customer removes one. The shelves are immaculate.
This store is different from most here in Panama in that most put a clerk on you when you enter. They follow you till you check out. As I see it this serves two purposes: one is to prevent shoplifting and two is to help you find things.
Another innovation of this store is their little baskets on wheels similar to pulling a small suitcase. It is the third choice; the other two being the conventional hand basket and the regular shopping cart.
I just saw a young woman breast feeding her baby while walking through the store. This is a lovely sight to me, which I have probably mentioned before. It is not as common as it once was.
I am amazed at how busy this store is. Things are flying off the shelves. Boys are continually bringing in boxes to restock. People here are usually paid on the 1st and 15th of the month and this is Tuesday the 7th, but it is the season. Where do they get the money?
We are home safely, Gracias a Dios. Still no internet. Transcribing this anyway. Joy is walking down our road visiting. Till next time.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Coming Home

Thanks to God we are home in Volcan again. Our trip back went really well until we tried to leave Panama City. Because we were traveling with Tas, our poodle, we could not take the bus back to Volcan, which is our normal means of travel. Instead we chose to fly with Aeroperlas, a Central American company that flies to several locations here in Panama.
A week before we left Arkansas we received an email from them to say that our 10 am flight on November 30th had been cancelled. They booked us on the afternoon flight, leaving at 4 pm instead. We took that in stride, and changed our lodging accommodations so that we could stay later in the day. We went to the airport at 3:00 for the flight and sat until 5:30 when we were told that this flight too had been cancelled because of heavy rains in David. We hurriedly called the hotel back, as there are only a couple that will allow pets, and asked if they had a room for that night. Fortunately they did, and our tickets were changed to 10 am the next day.
We were given a choice of 6:30 am or 10, and I (poor choice) took the latter. When we arrived back at the airport minus about $120, we were told that the flight had been cancelled again. No explanation, no weather in David, just cancelled. The other airline in the airport was not only open, but had a flight leaving at 10 for David. I rushed to see if we could get tickets, and found that we could but needed to hurry. I explained that Aeroperlas still had all of our bags. They said they could wait a few minutes so I hurried to recover the bags, the money for the tickets, Lynn and Tas for the flight. Aeroperlas was offering to take us on the 4 pm flight again, but Tas would have to stay in the tiny crate all day, and who knew if it would really happen on the fourth try!
So, you know what happened next – they refused to refund our money. They said they were not responsible for the weather so did not need to return the money. I tried to argue, but had no time if we were to catch the other flight. We bought new tickets. The flight was delayed about an hour because the mechanic needed to go out and bang on something under the hood – seriously! After that they refueled and we were allowed to board. Tas had to ride as cargo, but she made the trip fine. Finally at about 3:30 pm on December 1rst we arrived at the house.
The moral of this woeful tale – and yes there is a moral for all you travelers who might come to see us – do not use Aeroperlas!!!! Bad! Bad! Bad! Air Panama was wonderful – even served us a soda and crackers on the flight!
It is good to be home. Of course, no-one takes care of your place like you do, so we have tons of work to get things back in order. We do not yet have internet in the house, but hope to see a technician here tomorrow (Tuesday). Our dalmatians, Saly and Patch, had babies while we were gone. There are two left, one for us and one for Magdiel. They are adorable, but also very messy! Nothing is sacred to them, but all is fair game for chewing, ripping, tearing, and eating. ALL. It has been awhile since we had pups around. I think Lynn is thinking that was a good thing!
We are well. Busy, but well, and appreciate so much all of our family back home (the other home) for your prayers and support of our work here.
Last I heard there were still 5 children needing sponsors for the upcoming school year. Please search your heart to see if you can help out just one child so that they can attend school this year. Talk to Rogena or Holly to get set up with a great opportunity to help one of God’s less fortunate!
We love you all!
Richest blessings, Joy