Monday, April 7, 2008


The last two afternoons we've been walking to collect maraƱon (cashew fruit) with our friends next door. It's the strangest fruit we've ever tasted, but it's really growing on us. People in our site claim it's good for head colds because upon the first bite it makes you cough and your eyes water, but then its fresh clean taste hits you and you're sold (or you hate it and never touch it again). But our real interest is not in the fruit but rather in the 'pepita,' or nut! In the States, cashews are expensive so it's a real treat to eat a bunch of them for free in Panama!

I love cashews! We've been heading out to the cow pastures where there are a lot of trees. You have to pull the nut off of the rather stinky fruit and then bring the nuts, which are enclosed in a hard grayish shell, back to your house so that they can dry out in the sun all day. Then you have to either roast them over an open fire on a piece of zinc until they blacken, or boil them for a period of time. Once they're blackened or boiled, you take a rock and crack open the shell to get to the roasted (or boiled) nut inside. A small bag of roasted cashew nuts are sold in our provincial capital for $1 for a small bag (about 30 nuts).

During Holy Week people in our site make what they simply call a dulce. It consists of freshly dried papaya, orange, coconut, cashews, and “miel de cana” or molasses. They're all cooked together over an open fire in a very large pot. The end product has a sticky, dark, fig-like consistency and is just heavenly. We tried dulces at two different homes, and we couldn't believe how good it was.

Terry, our next door neighbors' dog. She's really sweet and full of flees, poor thing. We feed her any leftovers we have--she's pretty skinny. But she's in far better health than 99% of the dogs here. And she never barks!

Lisa standing on a hill in the cow pasture. It looks like a desert now, but in the rainy season it will be green again. Ages ago, this was a jungle. It was probably a lot cooler then, too.
Mateo standing on top of the water tank. The kids here love to climb trees, etc. and the boys next door are expert climbers and really strong. The oldest brother, Arturo, pulled Matt up onto the tank with one hand.

This is one fat pig! The next day she gave birth to 16 piglets (below), one of which died. The farmer, Miguel, tried to revive it. It was a sad scene.

The mama pig's neighbor. This one has a nice smile, but she really stinks! Even though we have pigs in our town, no one ever eats pork. Maybe it's because these pigs are so gross!

The piglets! They came right out, one by one, covered in slime, and went right for their mama's belly. We see plenty of pigs back home, of course, but we couldn't resist photographing these cute little creatures.

No es autopista: This is not a highway! Trucks from the sugar cane plant race through town, raising a lot of dust and annoying the neighbors.

Here are some of the cows near our house. They've got big humps on their backs, and they get a little spooked by The Gringos. None of them wanted their picture taken up close.

Bolivar and Arturo are great tour guides. They told us all about how the town water tank was built and how it works. It's a pretty big tank, but we can't remember the capacity. It serves 2/3 of the 200 homes in town.
The tank opens on top so you can get in there to clean it out once in a while. Matt has no idea if that's happening, but it really should be. Our town has two wells, and water's pumped into PVC pipes that run along the roads. A lot of towns rely on gravity, with a spring up on a hill, but our town's too flat for that.

Three of the nicest kids in Panama: Arturo (Arturito), Bolivar (Boli) and Glenny. They look just like their parents, Arturo and Reina, who's expecting another boy in June. By the way, all the men and boys wear undershirts like Boli's.