Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Notes From Panama 5

After weeks of waiting and putting our new place in Panama together piece by

piece, we are finally connected to the internet. Prior to this week we have been

sneaking around town stealing access from unprotected networks. So many

folks in Chitre were doing the same thing that MacDonald’s rendered their

network secure and will only share the password with customers who opt for

the full meal deal rather than single cups of coffee drinkers who occupy tables

forever while they catch up on email. No more of that clandestine signal-

stealing for us – we have joined the world of the legit.

The dry season has commenced in Panama, and is accompanied by a warm

and forceful wind that serves as a natural air conditioner. It also serves as a

dust distributer, especially in a suburb where new home sites are being

prepared through the removal of topsoil. There have been times when the

laundry comes off the clothesline looking grimier than before it was washed.

We like that clotheslines still predominate the landscape down here and

purchase of a dryer is widely regarded as a foolish waste of money and

energy. In many North American neighbourhoods – some of which regard

themselves as leaders in environmental sensitivity, bylaws forbid the stringing

of clotheslines because they are considered unsightly. Better we should look

more prosperous by using dryers that consume electricity by the megawatt!

No such nouveau riche attitude in Panama, and despite our temporary

setback with true grit, we quite approve.

Today we abandoned the seacoast for a trip up a local river for a swim. Our

swimming hole was popular with locals and featured rapids and pools that

made for refreshing fresh-water swimming. Our adventure was led by 

aPanamanian friend playing pied-piper to 15 Canadians who frolicked in the

waters. It was only after jumping in and flailing about that Gus remembered

to think about alligators, caymans and piranhas. Scampering to the shore, he

rediscovered the joys of sunbathing. It was only later that he learned those

flesh-eating creatures did not frequent this swift flowing rio.


The river trip took place after a round of golf which was spiritual on this

Sunday morning. One of the real delights of getting older is participating in

recognizable cycles of life. In the mid 1950,s, along with hoards of other kids

from his hometown of Greenfield Park, Quebec, Gus earned a few dollars by

caddying at the Country Club of Montreal. It was there that a life-long love

affair with golf and all of its trappings commenced, despite what many would

describe as a paucity of talent for the game. In those days the basic fee for a

caddy was $1.75 for 18 holes, but most golfers paid us $2.50 or $3.00 for our

efforts, and on many days we would caddy for 36 holes and go home tired but

feeling wealthy.

That significant generosity did not extend to a senior citizen who, if my

memory serves me right, we referred to as Old Man Corey. He was frugal and

never paid his caddy any more than the $1.75. We would show up in the

morning and, save for the caddies who had regular golfers and bookings, be

put out in order as golfers requested the services of a caddy. We wily

youngsters would dance and jockey position vigorously to avoid having to pick

up Pop Corey’s bag. History is now repeating itself in Panama.

We have joined the local golf club. It’s a rough track that makes the Royal

Rockpile in St Lambert look like Augusta, but the price is right and the

enthusiasm is there. Several youngsters who live close to the course have taken

up caddying and an older American man has trained them in the art. They

charge $2.00 for 9 holes (in this heat we frequently only play 9), and they

wander over to our houses to pick up the clubs. They know how to spot the

balls, tend the pins, keep your equipment clean and avoid stepping in your

line on the green. They brim-over with enthusiasm for the game.

Gus thinks it is wonderful to have come full cycle. His only worry is that he

will be regarded as an Old Man Corey rather than an Eddie Bergeron. At the

same time he doesn’t want to over pay the lads so that their expectations grow

beyond what most people will pay them. Life isn’t always easy for a liberal

living in a developing country. Nevertheless between the golf, the beaches and

the sunshine, we are having a hell of a first winter as snowbirds! We can

highly recommend a southern sojourn to all who experience seasonal affective disorder!


Mavis & Gus

Thanks Mavis & Gus

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