Salma's second birthday is coming up soon. Unfortunately I'm still here in Panama, but I'll be back in the USA in a month and I'll give her another party at my parents' house, Insha'Allah. I have finally begun sorting things for packing, but my first priority is the car. I went to Panama to renew the plates, but I forgot that first I must get an inspection, and also the insurance expired on July 3. Both are requirements, so I will get the inspection, renew the insurance for another year with basic liability coverage only ($150 a year), then renew the plate, get the wiper tank fixed, and put the car up for sale. It's a good car (a great city car), a 2003 Nissan Sentra in excellent condition, and I'm hoping for a good price.
I noticed recently that a leafcutter colony had set up shop in the front yard and was systematically stripping a willow tree. The leafcutters worked only at night, so it took me a few days to realize what was happening and by that time half the willow was bare. I located the leafcutter nests and pointed them out to Listo, and he put some kind of poison in the nests, so they have disappeared.
Rosa's on vacation for a month. Panamanian employees are entitled to a month's paid vacation every year, and this is her second year. The house is gradually getting a bit dirty, though I've managed to keep the dirty dishes from spiraling out of control by using only the same few plates over and over. She'll be back August 3rd, in time to clean the place up for the tenant if I find one. I do miss her cooking. I've been eating cereal for breakfast, tuna fish or peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, and either going to Mar de Plata for dinner or just skipping it altogether. Been eating lots of fruits as well. Between that and my nightly walks (to relieve boredom/loneliness and get out of the house) I've dropped a few pounds. I've become much more regular with my prayers, even waking up at 5am sometimes for the morning prayer then going back to sleep. I feel good about that and I think it's helping me cope with this transition.
I've decided to hire Bill and Adam Brunner to manage the house rental. They have experience with this, they have contracts already prepared, and their fees are reasonable. And it's handy that if anything breaks, Adam himself can fix it and deduct the fee from the rent. He will deposit the rent in my account at Scotiabank and the bank tells me that I can transfer the money by sending them a signed fax request. There's a fee for that of course, but I see no alternative. The Scotiabank ATM card does not work in the USA, and Paypal doesn't work with Panamanian banks.
Chris had to drive her car to Panama last Thursday to get it inspected and get a new plate, and she asked me to accompany her as she has never driven in Panama city before, so I agreed. She also ferried me around for my usual errands. I closed the Mailboxes Etc. box, by the way. We ended up in Calidonia in late afternoon where she got a cheap hotel room at a place called La Cantora, at Avenida Mexico and Calle 32. I was planning to head back to El Valle, but Chris suggested that I get my own room and stay the night so I could go to Jumah prayer next day. So I rented a room for $23, a fairly small room with dingy walls and no blankets. It did have clean sheets, a comfortable bed, cable TV and AC. We went to Multicentro in the evening and ate at the food court and then saw a movie! My first movie in Panama since Salma was born. We saw "The Happening" which turned out to be quite creepy, and it didn't help that the picture was slightly out of focus and washed out, and there was a large white streak in the center of the screen.
Back in the room, I discovered that the AC was neither adjustable nor automatic. There was a switch on the wall to turn it on, and it stayed on until I turned it off. The room quickly got very cold and there were no blankets (yes, that's right, no blankets). So I slept in my clothes and when I got very cold around 3am, I turned it off for the rest of the night. All in all it was acceptable for $23.
The next day after Jumah I accompanied Chris to the auto shop, and we headed back to El Valle around 6pm or so. We stopped at Quesos Chela on the way back - Chris had never been there - and I bought some Lebna with Zatar, which I actually have not tried yet. I had not given Lil' Fishy any extra food before I left and she was practically climbing the walls. It's alright, one day without food did not kill her. Not with that belly of hers. All in all it was a good trip and I got to know Chris a lot better. I discovered that the core of her identity is a dedicated teacher. She's very serious about teaching and making a difference in the lives of the children. I wonder how she will cope when she retires and moves down here full time. Maybe she'll get involved in teaching the local children. The schools could certainly use the help.
I eat out with my friend Cleo about once a week. I pay for his dinner but in exchange I get to practice my Spanish. His cute little daughter Anaidili got burned. Somehow some hot soup spilled on her and she was burned on her shoulder and chest. The hospital bandaged her and gave them some salve to apply daily, and Cleo says Anaidili most likely will not have a permanent scar.
I went to the video store the other day and when I was leaving little Alejandro was walking home from school with his mother. He's a little boy who is five or six years old but tiny. He lives near the video store and whenever I went there he would run around with Salma and teach her games. He looked very cute in his school uniform. I said hello to him and he said to his mother, "That's Salma's papa!"
I'm planning to give many of Salma's baby things to our neighbor Maria for her baby Emily, such as the bouncy seat, the blue bathtub, the boppy, etc. I'll bring some toys with me and the rest I'll distribute among babies Katleen, Anaidili, and Ani's son Antoney. As for the crib, I guess I'll try to sell it, I don't know. Very unlikely that any renters would need it, as most of them are retired couples.