Friday, October 31, 2008

Arroz con Pollo

Lisita (above) and Mateito are spending most of their time outdoors, wandering around in search of bugs and worms. They also eat feed (alimentos) to get fat. They eat all day, but Lisita the hen is a lot smaller than the gallo Mateito.

Here's their plastic washing machine house. The roof is made of a hood from a Toyota pickup truck. This area is in a roofless addition next to our house. When it's raining like crazy the machine gets moved to our kitchen because everyone says these birds will get sick and die if they get too wet. The pollitos are too dumb to take shelter on their own, but we're trying to train them to go in their washing machine.

Lisa led work on our 100-square-foot vegetable garden, which includes the raised beds you see in the backround. After just a few days, the squash (zapallo) is really taking off. The garden also has yucca, corn, peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Note that Lisa now has rubber boots, a must-have in the rainy season.

Matt and Bolivar helped make the raised beds, which ensure the crops don't drown in all the rain. The beds also give plants more air and allow you to use only the best topsoil and compost. We made compost of dirt, plantain leaves, kitchen scraps, sawdust, egg shells, coffee, tea, and whatever else we had on hand. It made a nice black mezcla. The palm tree fencing behind Matt and Boli is there because we didn't have enough chicken wire to enclose the whole space. This garden's a good project because kids are helping out. Hopefully, they'll get their families to start their own gardens. Everyone here needs more veggies in their diet because the focus out on the fincas is on starches or sugarcane that gets sold to the sugar company.

This is a typical evangelical church in the countryside. This one's in Cacao, Los Santos, where we went on a field trip with our co-op to see a rice operation. The message in red letters on the rear wall of the church says, "Jesucristo es el mismo ayer, hoy, y por los siglos."

Here's Lisa out in the rice. This valley north of Tonosi is very beautiful, with miles of green rice fields surrounded by knobby mountains. Rice in this area is cut by big tractors. The grains get broken off the stalks and taken to a plant where they're husked. In smaller operations, people cut each stalk by hand. After the harvest in our town last month, individual growers put big tarps on their lawns to dry the rice. When it's dry, they remove the husks by beating the rice with mallets in wooden basins. Sometimes 2 people will work the rice at once, like 2 drummers taking turns beating the same drum.

This is Edgardo, president of our co-op's education committee. He's a cool guy who cracks a lot of jokes. We went on the field trip to see this irrigation system, which is on wheels and extends for a few hundred yards. It allows this farm to grow a lot of rice in usually dry fields. Our co-op needs something like this if it wants to dramatically increase rice production. But these irrigators are really expensive, and there's only 3 in Panama. The co-op, which makes its money with sugar, wants to grow more rice because the country is experiencing a big rice shortage right now.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


The kids in our town held a parade recently to celebrate the many ethnic groups of Panama. Our friend Jaime (above) dressed up like a hunter or warrior from one of the country's many indigenous tribes. In the background you can see our neighbor's dog Teri, who likes to follow us everywhere.

Many of the girls wore the traditional dress of central Panama, the pollera. The boys in the background are wearing real Panama hats, which are round and usually worn with the front turned up.

This is our pal Catalino. He's seen here at an environmental seminar hosted by our branch of Ecoclub, the international youth group. We were very pleased he was there because he's never been to a meeting or anything else official that we've been involved in.

Here's Lisa laughing during a game, or dinamica, at the Ecoclub seminar. We held the event in the 6th grade classroom of our town's primary school. Note the nice tile floor. Several local men installed it during a recent school vacation. All the upkeep on the building and grounds is done by parents and good citizens. Behind the school, the kids have a 2-acre farm with corn, rice, onions, peppers, and tons of other stuff. They also study agriculture, and each class goes out to work on the farm (finca) once a week. On those days the kids show up wearing rubber boots and carrying machetes. Cool!

The participants gathered for a group photo outside the school. Missing from the photo are the 3 young people from another club (Luis, Luis, and Carolina) who came to lead the seminar. They brought a laptop and we used our co-op's projector for the presentation, which covered things like deforestation and dengue fever. We also had cookies (4 kinds!) and Tang because you can't have a meeting without treats. Our neighbor Reina made chicken, rice, and red beans (porotos) for Luis, Luis, and Carolina. It was pollo guisado, which is chicken stewed in a red sauce with peppers and onions. Delicious!

Speaking of chicken: Meet our new pets, Mateito and Lisita! The other day Boli from next door came by and said some guy was giving away pollitos, so we asked for 2. They arrived 15 minutes later in a cardboard box, where they lived for a few days until Matt built them a new house in the shell of an old washing machine. A student of ours gave the birds their names. The neighbors say this type of chicken doesn't lay eggs, so we'll probably eat them, even though they're really cute. Like Teri the dog, they follow us everywhere. Right after Lisa snapped this photo one of them pooped on Matt's shirt.

Here's another shot from the parade as it passed by our house. The sign says, "We respect our historic legacy." The sign announcing the parade said students would pay tribute to each ethnic group in Panama, including the gringos. We were honored!

Thanks for visiting our blog! We send our love and good wishes to Lisa's dad, who broke his leg and had to have surgery yesterday. Get well soon, Don!