Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from a warm tropical 94 degrees in Panama City, Panama. He and She just returned from a nice Christmas brunch at the Intercontinental Hotel. Naturally, dogs were not allowed, so I slept. (On their bed, but don’t tell them that.) Today is hot, so we all slept in this morning. Then, enjoyed a nice long walk in the park next door, though because it was so late, we kept to the shade as much as possible on the way back. Took all of us a long time to cool down upon our return. When we got back, they kept saying how hot the apartment is during the day, and I just looked at them, because yes, it is this hot everyday which is why all we pets do is…… lay around all day until the sun goes down! So, we were treated to the AC in the living room which is a rare treat for the four-legged members of the family.

Now that the summer season has started, the days have really started getting hot. 90 degrees F is the norm now, and though a breeze blows most of the days from the South and the West, it is still really hot. Happily, the humidity has fallen a bit, more around 50-60 percent instead of 80-90 percent during the rainy/green season. So, we are all feeling good about the change in the weather.

In preparation for today, though it did not make much sense to me, I was sent to the vet twice this week to be bathed and have my nails trimmed. On Monday, happily, I was the 47th dog to arrive (though we got there by 9 AM) and they were only taking 45 that day, so I was saved. On Tuesday, however, no such luck, I was #41 and spent several hours there undergoing the usual humiliation. I came home smelling and looking really nice, and our houseman Joel even called me a lady. The things I have to do to keep the peace around here! I am not sure why I was the one that had to get cleaned up, when I never really go out. She said it was because they were going to be home more, and wanted me to smell good for them.

It does not feel like Christmas to us, in this heat and without family, though we cranked the satellite music on Sky TV last night to some classical holiday tunes. He said it does not feel like Christmas to him at all, as he is really missing the boys. This is the first time we have all been fully separated from them by such a distance (lasting greater than a week), and we have all had our moments of nostalgia and missing their presence.

We did not get a Christmas tree this year, as the firs and pines have to be shipped in to Panama, and do not last long, once you take them home (or so we have been told). So, we opted instead for a festive Christmas Palm and decorated it with lights. Unfortunately, because this decision was not made until the weekend before Christmas, the only lights to be found at the closest hardware store were orange. Well, the box said red, but they turned out to be orange. (No such thing as truth in advertising here.) So, in some ways, our festivity feels like an odd mix of Halloween and Christmas but without any scary masks.

They also bought some other plants during the Palm run last weekend, so now, our patio feels homey and comfortable, with multi-colored leaves, big pots and the orange lights even add a nice glow at night. She enjoyed getting into all the repotting of the plants last Sunday, though I did not get what was so fun about it with a bunch of dirt and water and a lot of clean-up.
They roped Elphaba and I into posing with them for a Christmas card photo last night on Christmas eve. We were, of course, minding our own business and suddenly, I found myself with a goofy green bow (borrowed from a gift of wine they received) around my neck and Her holding Elphaba on the hammock, which is never a smart idea. This went on for several takes and finally, they appeared to get what they were looking for, and then, it became a big production to get the photos on the computer and sent out to all of our friends via email. Meanwhile, so that you can appreciate the moments we shared in this holiday experience, we’ve attached some for your viewing pleasure with this posting. You may notice that Blossom, our older sister (and white feline) is not present in these photos. She escaped from the apartment on the Wednesday before last, and failed to notify the rest of us she had planned a vacation. No one has seen her since, and so we hope she is enjoying her time away, and that she will return soon. He and She have been a little worried since she took off, as there are a number of large owls that live in the park next door, and they certainly might enjoy some well-fed American feline for dinner. (We know that Blossom was not kidnapped, as Panamanians seem very confused by the idea of having a cat for a pet. Most cats in Panama run wild and hunt for a living.) So, we miss her and, of course, will open the door with open arms when she decides to rejoin us, if she does. Elphaba has had a very hard time adjusting, and has been sharing her anguish with us all night long the past few nights, which has been annoying but understandable.

Well, we are off to watch some movies in the cool AC, so hope that you and yours have shared some parvo (turkey), sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes and enjoyed it. They mentioned when they came home that their spread at the hotel that their dinner did not include any vegetables, except for tomatoes (which is really a fruit), so these are the things we are missing. And, of course, none of the usual pies or cakes either. So, enjoy those savory bites of tradition for all of us here in Panama, and Merry, merry, merry Christmas! We miss all of you and are thinking of you fondly on this tropical day in Panama.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

We are thankful this holiday season

It seems really funny to be home already. Granted, we traveled all day and it took a good 11 hours to get back to Panama. But something around the fact that we were in Breckenridge, CO and four degrees Farenheit on Thursday night and back in 80 degrees less than 48 hours later! We actually enjoyed seeing, tasting, smelling and feeling the snow. It felt clean. Nice. And, yes, very cold to our thin skins too.

But in a strangely familiar way, this time as we came back to Panama, it feels more like home than Colorado does. Now, it is still really nice when the immigration officials tell us ‘Welcome Home’ when we re-enter the U.S. each time. I love that. And while we were back in Denver over the last week, a good friend greeted us with ‘Welcome home!’ and that felt really nice too. But he told me over the last two days in Denver that he was really ready to come home. To Panama. Where Lily and the cats were waiting for us. Where our new lives have taken shape. It has now been nine months. Enough time to grow a baby from start to finish and perhaps that is a good analogy. We have formed and shaped and hacked out even through some very uncomfortable days here, a new life together. With our mutt and the kitties and each other. And, it feels pretty good. So, we are thankful for that and especially thankful this warm December night – to be home.

Thanksgiving Abroad
We were invited by one of our American friends to join their family and some other expat ‘orphans’ for a potluck Thanksgiving. So, she cooked her grandmother’s famous yellow squash casserole. Except that there was no yellow squash to be found in Panama, so the substitute of zucchini did just great! And, also, some creative sweet potato casserole. Again, a family recipe from down South Arkansas. Both were great hits, mind you and complimented by many guests.
Meanwhile, we partook in real Butterball turkey ( no organic turkeys to be found here; we have become oh-so-spoiled with our Colorado natural pastimes like this in previous holidays). But, no matter, the Butterball tasted great to our carne-starved tongues, as well as the tons of other great food – stuffing, Italian casserole, great tasting green salads with cranberries and oranges, cranberry jello salad, and pumpkin pie and cheesecake. Oh, yes, and lots of wine. Lots and lots of wine.

The best part was the company. New friends and colleagues. All with something in common. Our first shared Thanksgiving in Panama with each other. We heard stories from other expats about other holidays abroad and what had made them special and difficult too. We laughed and ate and were thankful. And, it was very, very good. We are thankful for new friends in a new country and the time to share an old tradition in a new way.

Naturally, we miss our friends and family. Very much. This year here has taught us so much. Patience. Letting go. How to enjoy and have fun, even when it is frustrating. New experiences to be tasted and savored. The challenges of new cultures, a new language, a new environment. The beauty of friendships and relationships from afar. The specialness of clinging to each other for comfort and friendship in all the new experiences. Learning. Laughing.

All this to say, we are grateful for the chance to share some words now and then with you. And, for your interest in sharing these tidbits with us, along the way. This is a special time in our lives. We cherish it (at least on most days) and we cherish your friendships and your love that we feel very much this holiday season.

Our thoughts, prayers and love are with each of you. Our very best.
He, She, Lily, Blossom and Elphaba