Friday, April 29, 2011

A Bonus: Foody Friday

(In honor of my pretend-even-though-she's-a-real-person-friend, Stephanie, who has a fabulous  food blog, I thought it would be fun to talk Panamanian food!)

For those of you who don't know this, my husband is a big fan of produce.  You know how some men get googly-eyes looking at bass boats or sports cars?  Well, that's Tony in a great produce aisle.  If you really want him happy, take him to a Farmer's Market.  Still too afraid to hit a local market, we went to the local upscale American expensive grocery store, Riba Smith.  I was at the produce counter having our items weighed when Tony walked up with the strangest product.  "Can we get this?" he asks like he is 5 and wants a puppy.  I look at the price.  "Sure, dear, what is it?"  He has no idea but is thrilled with his purchase.

We get home and do a google search to find out what it is.  According to google translate, it is an erasure.  ????  After more extensive google searching, we discover "raspadura" is unrefined pure sugar cane.  Tony is quite pleased.   He eats brown sugar with a spoon so this is perfect to him.  He takes a bite.  "Tastes like sugar cane."  Seems reasonable.

Further searching leads us to a recipe for Panamanian Lemonade - which of course is made with limes, but that's for another post.

You'll Need:
5 cups of water
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (we used limes)
1/2 cup raspadura, chopped

1.  Bring a cup of water to a boil.  Add chopped raspadura and dissolve.

Chopped Raspadura

Water and Dissolved Raspadura

2.  While raspadura cools, juice enough limes to get 1 cup of juice.

For the record, it took us 10 limes to get enough juice.

3.  Combine rapsadura mixture, lime juice, and remaining water in lovely pitcher.  (Okay, it doesn't have to be lovely, but I'm into pretty right now.)

How's That for Some Nifty Photography!


4.  Serve chilled.

The Review:  I thought it was pretty good.  Tony really liked it.  I decided to add some passion fruit which made it perfecto!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

the Shoes!

Time for our Friday Funsy (45 minutes early!)

Have you ever had one of those moments when you learn that everybody doesn't do it the way your family does?  I vividly remember in 6th grade finding out everyone doesn't get a toothbrush and toothpaste in his/her Christmas stocking.  I was astounded.

Or have you ever assumed everyone knew something that you know because "it's just something everyone knows!"?  Well, Tony and I have had that experience here.  The same experience.  Separately.  Twice.

We meet new people all the time, and so we have spent the last 6 weeks (it seriously hasn't been 6 weeks?!) making small talk.  A common question is- What brought you to Panama?  We tell people that Tony's job transferred us here.  (I can now say it without an attitude- it's progress people!)  They then ask the obvious next question.  "Whom does he work for?"  (Side note to make my Dad happy:   They usually say Who- I changed it to Whom.  Dad is proud.)  Our even more obvious answer, "Caterpillar."  Their totally and completely obvious next question, "Oh- they make the shoes, right?  "Yes.- what?  The shoes?"

For the record, Caterpillar does, in fact, have a brand of shoes.  This is a itty bitty little tiny part of their livelihood.  The first time someone said this Tony called me completely amused because everyone knows that Caterpillar makes the big earth-moving machines.  It got less amusing the next time.  By the time I called to tell him it happened to me, Mr. Loyal to the Company had lost his cool.  I'm sure the stress of culture shock didn't help the situation.  "Someone tell these people that those machines out there expanding their stupid canal are Caterpillar machines."  Um.  Okay, dear.  Will do!  (and he doesn't really think the canal is stupid.  Just a moment of frustration.) 

So, people.  Caterpillar makes big machines with fun names like "wheel skidder" and "track-type tractor."  The shoes are neat for name recognition, but the accountants get upset when you say it's all about the shoes.  But you already knew that, right?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Praise Him! Praise Him! The "I Know" Edition

Seems to me there are 2 options with God.  You either feel His presence, or you know He's there.  Today, we're settling for the I Know.  I'm not sure if it's culture shock or stress or exhaustion, but I'm not feeling much of anything these days.  I'm numb.  And to be honest, it's not my favorite place to be.  Regardless, there will be 7 praises to report because it is Wednesday.  And I don't need to feel it to know it.

The Weekly 7

~The Bits has gotten very un-bitty.  She's growing great.  I look forward to having her weighed so we can officially call her Tank.  (She'll always be my Bits!)

~The dining room, family room, and kitchen are completely unpacked and usable.

~We have the van title in our name and the insurance process is in the works.

~I discovered last night that they have proper thunder and lightning storms in Panama.  This was a source of great frustration to me in Georgia.  They don't have proper Midwestern thunderstorms in Georgia (even though they get tornadoes and the like).  Apparently, Panama has proper Great Plains thunderstorms without the Plains.  Go figure!!

~My brother and his wife celebrated their 5th wedding anniversary and Grandma celebrated her 83rd birthday.  Special milestones for special people!

~I found American-made Caffeine Free Pepsi.  The Israelites may have had manna from Heaven, but I'll take my c/f Pepsi!

~I finally have clean floors.  My favorite going-away present, the Rubbermaid Reveal mop, was on the sea shipment.  I was thrilled to finally get it so I could clean the 3000sq ft of tile floors we have!!  The Bits no longer looks like she's been crawling on a dirt road!

(and a bonus praise I just discoverd- My spell check is in English instead of Spanish!)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Silver Lining with the Cloud.

I hate bugs.  I mean I really really hate bugs.  I was aware when we moved from urban Illinois to rural Georgia there would be new and different bugs.  Nonetheless, I was ready to pack our bags and return to Illnois when we walked into our bedroom our third night there and saw the world's largest cockroach sitting on the ceiling.  The sucker was huge.  At least 3 inches long and 1/2 thick.  Tony challenged the creature and won.  After that, I learned that the locals call them Palmetto Bugs which makes them sound less horrible, and that they exist because of woods and water- not because of lacking housekeeping skills.  We came to a truce.  Life continued.

Enter Panama.  I knew there would be mosquitos.  Mosquitos love me.  I am their favorite entree so I was quite concerned about the situation.  You can imagine my glee when I met the first creature of our new home- the lizard.  The mosquito-eating lizard.

Much less repulsive than the cockroach, the lizard (or is it a gecko?) is almost cute.  The kids thought they were so cute that they started naming them.  The names were based on the critters' locations.  So we had Shelfy, Cordy, Doory, Fanny, Wally, and Showery. 

I told the kids that the lizards outside where whiney lizards that get aggitated and bite when they hear whining.  That worked great for a while, and Camilla would remind us that the whiney "wizards" would get them so the kids were completely quiet coming off the elevator.  All was love, joy, peace, and harmony.

Until Tony uttered now famous words, "Uh, Lisa, what's all the black stuff on the walls."  I had no idea what he was talking about.  The big kids are big enough to not color on the walls and the littlest is too little to color anywhere.  "I don't know.  It's probably cheap paint."  Sounded like a reasonable response to me.  "Get up and come here.  This isn't cheap paint."  Coming, dear.  Maybe not so reasonable.

Before I even lifted myself from the chair, he had it figured out.  "Lisa, this is lizard poop!!"  Did he just say lizard poop?  Seriously??  Where is my passport???  He spent the next hour or so diligently wiping down walls and shooing lizards out of the house.  (He's still him so there is no killing of the lizards,)

What's the lesson here?  The deep spirtiual truth??  Well, Leviticus 11:29-30 says 
 29 “‘Of the animals that move along the ground, these are unclean for you: the weasel, the rat, any kind of great lizard, 30 the gecko, the monitor lizard, the wall lizard, the skink and the chameleon. 31 Of all those that move along the ground, these are unclean for you. Whoever touches them when they are dead will be unclean till evening.

I'm not sure that's applicable to our little party here. No one was interested in eating them. Howabout this in Proverbs 30:

27 locusts have no king,
   yet they advance together in ranks;
28 a lizard can be caught with the hand,
   yet it is found in kings’ palaces.

That's better.  Living like a King maybe??? 

My take home: In this life, even with your blessings, you have to deal with a little bit of poop.  

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Weekend Review!

Hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend.  Ours was distinctly different, but enjoyable.  Tony had Good Friday off so that was great.  We all like an extra day with Dad.  (To be honest, we are kind of dad junkies.  We fight over who gets to sit next to him, who he has to pay attention to, and who gets to meet him at the door.  For his part, Tony sits back in awe of the love that surrounds him.  Or he tells us to find something else to do.  Just depends on the day.)

So, we decided to head out for my favorite Dad's-got-a-day-off actvity.  Grocery shopping!!  No, seriously.  I love grocery stopping.  (Cue Carson:  Mom, you don't love it.  You really enjoy it.  Love is for people - Like me and God.)  We headed out about 10 and quickly realized something was off.  Not a car anywhere.  I'm naively thinking I've reached grocery-shopper Nirvana: well-stocked shelves and no crowds.  Tony, the astute one of the expedition, has a clearer picture.  "Lisa, I bet they're closed today."  Oh.  That's probably it.  He was right so we came home and took the rental car back instead.  It had a flat tire.  The long-term blog readers are not surprised.

We went to church at 4:00 on Good Friday.  It was a neat service that we all enjoyed.  We sat on the floor to watch the presentation. 

The kids in their Good Friday finery.  Even their eyes match their outfits!

Although I again felt like a criminal, I went ahead and videotaped a few portions of the service.   I'm hoping this gives y'all a touch of the experience of worshipping bilingually. 


Saturday, we finally made it to the grocery store and PriceSmart.  A grand time was had by all.  We cleaned and emptied boxes the rest of the time.  And I made a meal with my groceries and my pots and pans.  Much excitement!  After dinner, we dyed our brown eggs.  I was quite concerned that the eggs wouldn't turn out well, but they were BEAUTIFUL!!  I love (Cue Carson's lecture again) warm-toned colors so they were perfect for me.

Easter Sunday we attended the 7:30 am service.  In my mind, this was a great idea.  Everyone was up and ready to go and looking great!!!

The only problem was that I was so tired I couldn't focus on the service.  From what my family tells me, it was a great service. (Any really, any service focused on the Truth of the Resurrection could not be bad!) We spent the rest of the day napping and swimming.  Could it get any better??? 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Great is Thy Faithfulness...

So, my search for blessings songs has ended.  Instead I've decided to focus my energy on God's faithfulness and the desire to praise Him.  As such, the weekly 7 is going to look a little different today.

I've been amazed the past week and weeks in how God really does have a plan.  Thank you, Captain Obvious.  I know in my head in order to answer the Christianity 101 quiz that God has a plan.  It's something entirely different to believe it down to your toes.  Even more remarkable when He chooses to clean the fog from your eyes so you can see it.  That's what yesterday was.  He let me see the plan.

Now for a bit of a preface.  He didn't let me see the BIG plan.  I still don't have the foggiest idea why I'm sitting in Panama.  Had I been able to see that plan, I definitely would have been making some very expensive calls to the US to let y'all know.  This is simply a portion of His plan in making us ready for Panama.  And more than that.  He IS working at making it smoother for us- even if it means dealing with Panama to make it happen.  Um, ok.  That's why he's God, and I'm just reporting.

Tony and I are frugally conservative people.  We don't live beyond our means.  We've been following Dave Ramsey and Crown Financial before we'd ever heard those terms.  It was just Tony being Tony and me following the lessons I witnessed in my Dad.   BUT  (and it's a big BUT), we've never made the decision to eliminate our use of credit cards.  Even when everyone was preaching to be rid of the things, we never did.  Never knew why since we hate them.  I know now.  (and pay really close attention because God has EVERY detail of this all planned.)

In late February, Tony came down here on a recruiting trip.  During his stay, he purchased a vehicle- a Nissan Patrol.  On credit.  He tried to use the no-transaction-fee American Express card, but the dealership doesn't accept that card.  He had to use the card with the transaction fee.  (God's working- look alert- you'll see.)

The week after we relocated, my mom flew here to stay with the kids and me while Tony was in Illinois.  I was telling her that she needed to make sure her CC companies knew she was coming to Panama so they wouldn't shut down her card.  She mentioned that she had a Capital One Visa.  This is the only non-American-Express card that we know of that doesn't charge the transaction fee.  And Visas are far more readily accepted.  She was able to put us on her card and get cards with our names on them in 3 days.  (God thing #1)

 A week later, we noticed that the vehicle was leaking oil.  Major pain. (Look for God) Took forever to get it fixed.  During that week, Tony got a ride from a guy in the neighborhood.  He showed Tony a different way home.  That little change has saved Tony over 2 hours a week in commuting time!!  (That's God thing #2)  We quickly became aware that the Patrol Tony had purchased wasn't going to work for the family.  I posted a prayer request on a bulletin board that I follow online.  I asked that the ladies would join me in praying that we could find a reliable, newer, vehicle for $15K.   A BIG prayer request, but I knew my Hearts ladies could handle it.

On Tony's new route to work, he drives throgh a neighborhood we know very little about.  In said neighborhood is a car dealership with a maroon Toyota Sienna minivan. (God thing #3)   After 2 weeks of driving past the thing, Tony decides to go and check it out.  It is a 2008 with 15,000 miles.  They are asking $17.9K.  Tony takes it for a test drive, checks the engine, and starts negotiating.   Ya, you know the price, They settled on $15K.  (God thing #4)

Still having no qualms with credit cards (especially good since we still hadn't been able to open a bank account locally and no one would give us a loan), Tony charges the van on Mom's credit card.  It was a huge hassle, but it eventaully went through so we didn't have to pay the transaction fee.  I talk to Mom about it that evening, and she reminds me that she earns skymiles from Delta- the best carrier for her to fly to get here- for every dollar spent on the card.  With Tony's big purchase and all our normal activity, Mom is getting very close to earning enough for a free ticket to Panama.  (God thing #5)

Tony had made an online payment with Bank of America (our CC company) and called this morning to double check the payment went through correctly.  While on the phone, he found out that our cards also earn cash back for purchases.  The car he originally bought in Panama and our other spending earned us several hundred dollars- Far more than the original amount of foreign transaction fee we were out.  (God thing #6)

Isn't it amazing???  He really does have a plan!  He really does care about the little things- and since He can  save our souls, I figure most everything is a little thing for Him!!  None of this knowledge makes living in Panama easier.  It doesn't make the hurt of missing dear friends go away, but it does allow me to trust that I am here because He has me here.  That'll get me out of bed in the morning.  (God thing #7)

Friday, April 15, 2011

We're not in Georgia anymore...

Thought today we were in need of a funny.  So here is Friday's Funsy pic...

I'm having trouble picturing this sign anywhere in the United States.  Even harder to imagine is ladies sitting around at lunch saying, "I have to get to big fashion."  "Me, too.  Big fashion has the best stuff."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

There Shall Be Showers of Blessings..

(yep, I don't like that song, either.  If someone could suggest a blessing song I do like, that would be great!)

Time for this week's Wednesday 7- a weekly reminder of the blessing in the storm!!

~My mom had easy travel back to IL.  Considering the 11-hour adventure she had getting here, this is a true praise!

~ We had a great meeting with the Pastor!!

~Great Sunday morning service!  This church, which I'm sure has many flaws that we just haven't found yet, understands the unity of the body.  No seperate services based on age, language, music preference, Bible translation, dress code, etc.  3 identical services because space doesn't allow for one huge unfiied service.  I can't begin to describe the blessing of singing together one verse in Spanish, one verse in English without a pause in between.  Getting over myself (and ourselves) to worship the Lord together is priceless.

~No ticket written by the police officer!  (see earlier post for info)

~A sweet gesture made to a dear friend by a dear mentor for the benefit of our friendship!!  I am touched beyond measure by the secret generosity of others!

~The gift of having everything comfortable ripped from me.  I have always been a transparent person.  This experience is God openly ripping down my strongholds and replacing them with His righteousness.  It's slow.  It's ugly.  It's painful.  It's eternally rewarding.

~Chloe's sweet LaGrange friendship and for skype allowing it to continue.  Let me tell you, it is something special to listen to a couple of 9yos (well 1- 9yr old and 1- 8 yr old) talk on skype.  It is a verbal example of falling comfortably into your safe place.   It's beautiful and only possible in Christ.

(and an extra because I worked out for over an hour and have all kinds of happy hormones running through my body- I'm blessed by your comments and friendships.  Thank you.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

25 days.

Yes.  25 days.  5 days short of a month.  3 weeks and 4 days.  That is how long it took for me to get into a run-in with the local police agency in Panama.

I hate being a criminal.  Okay, now I'm being dramatic, but I sure felt like a criminal.  The story:

Tony's car has had an oil leak.  Last week, he took it to get fixed.  The car dealership quoted us a price of $2300 to fix it.  Uh no.  So, Tony decided to take it back to the seller, a used car dealership named Patel's Autos.  Today, the car was ready after $600 of repair.

We decided to use the GPS (we call her Mindy) to go to Patel's to test the accuracy of her maps.  Got there no problem.  When we leave, we decide that we will follow Mindy's directions home.  I'll keep her in the car with me, and Tony will follow.  (You can see where this is headed, can't you?)

We've been driving for about 35 minutes, and it appears Mindy wants to see every back street in Panama.  Tony remembers his deep-seeded hatred for Mindy, and pulls up next to me.  He rolls down his window and asks where Mindy is taking us.  Uh, dear, I have no idea.  I don't drive around downtown.  That is your gig.  I tell him that we should just finish up with her and see what happens.  We are driving down Via Espana.  Imagine to yourself a one-way-five-lane highway with cars 8 wide.   I go through an intersection, but Tony gets stopped by the light.

I look for someplace to pull over, but I can't move over enough lanes so I decide to keep driving.  Tony calls me to find out where I am.  (Now everyone can see where this is going)  I explain to him that I'm getting ready to turn toward Corridor Norte -picture I-85 outside of Atlanta.  He tells me that he is going...(I lose the ability to hear.)    I see a policeman waving for me to stop.  I assume that he is directing traffic which is a common enough occurrence.   Look again.  It's me he's stopping.  Just me.

I pull into the gas station that he is motioning me toward.  He says something in Spanish.  I look confused.  I say something in English.  He looks confused.  This is not going well.  He motions for me to pull up farther.  Thank God for the universal language of charades!  I finally figure out he wants to see my passport.  Like every good Christian lady oozing with self control, I violently start throwing things out of my purse in a desperate attempt to find it.  I'm not positive, but I think Chloe may have been struck by a pack of Orbit gum that was thrown into space.

Finally, I find it, and I hand it to him.  I understand the officer telling me that there will be no ticket written,  In the same moment, I see Tony pull in behind me.  I can't decide whether this a good thing or bad thing.  I am definitely glad to have the support, but my Spanish is better, and I don't need this officer getting defensive or aggressive.  Tony walks up and shakes the officer's hand.  (I fight the urge to tell him to stop running for office.  Why must he shake hands with everyone?  If this guy ends up on our Christmas list, I'm not going to be happy.)  I tell the officer, "Mi esposo."  Language training is a gift from above!

Except, now the guard thinks I've been holding back on my Spanish ability.  He starts talking faster, and, in my opinion, with more aggitation.  Now he wants to see my driver's license.  This sets Tony off.  Apparently, Tony has received the gift of tongues and starts firmly explaining to the gentleman- in Spanish- that we have 90 days to obtain Panamanian licenses.  Chloe, at this point, recovers from the gum blow and starts whispering, "Mom, this isn't good.  Mom, this isn't good."  Thank you, dear.

Somehow, the details are fuzzy in my brain, the officer decides to let us go.  We pull onto the road, drive no more than 10 minutes, and are home.  Camilla, who has been sleeping, wakes up as we are pulling into the apartment complex and asks what we are doing.  This provides Chloe with the opportunity to dive into the whole tale complete with praises to God's provision.  I park the car and begin shaking uncontrollably.  Tony gets out of his car and asks if I want dinner.  Um no.  I'm going to bed.  Get me up when we are in Georgia.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Time for the Weekly 7

(a day late- that's pretty good, right?)

~ A dear friend had a healthy baby girl!-- Congrats Pete and Angie

~We finally got our new phones.  We've officially hit 2002- we own Blackberrys!

~Operation Plump Up The Bits is quite successful.  She's looking pudgy!

~Our air shipment arrived with no issues!

~Homeschooling has resumed here.  Yay!!

~We visited a church Sunday that feels like a potential possibility.  Meeting with the Pastor tonight (that's me sneaking a prayer request into the praise list!)

~We've all had a great time with Grandma being here with us!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Panama Canal Day

Let me say up front that I hate tourist activities.  I hate them.  In the United States, I avoid all tourist stuff like the plague.  I have been forced to endure the Hollywood Walk of Fame, The World of Coke Musuem, The Gateway Arch, etc.  I think the hatred comes from my total fear of looking out of place.  Let's be honest, people, you can spot the tourists at 100 feet.  That is not my thing.  Since opposities attract, Tony LOVES toursity stuff.  The man likes nothing more than to visit every tourist trap in every new location.

So it was with my normal level of enthusiasm that I agreed to go to the Panama Canal.  My one condition- we go on a Sunday postchurch so we are well dressed.  Nothing worse than doing tourist activities looking like a tourist. **shudder** So, Sunday, also known as How-Far-Can-Lisa-Step-Out-Of-Her-Comfort-Zone Day, we all went to the Canal.

We had decided that we would have lunch at the restaurant there because church ended at 12 noon.  With all the traffic, we concluded that the time saved by not going to a seperate restaurant would be worth the increased cost of the Canal buffet.  So, we get into the facility and are immediately escorted into the theatre because the English-version of the movie is starting.  Carson immediately bursts into tears convinced that starvation will take him before the movie ends.  After assurances that he has enough fat supply to last an additional 10 minutes, we settle in to watch the film.  Since photography wasn't allowed in the movie, I'll summarize the plot.  French tried to build canal.  It didn't work.  American government decided to do it on the back of people from Barbados.  Mean Americans wouldn't give canal back to (cue deep voice and thundery music) the Republic of Panama.  Eventually, nice Americans agree to give it back.  (cue picture of Jimmy Carter)  End of movie.  (Cue Carson fighting hunger pains.)

We make it up to the restaurant, and it isn't exactly what anyone is pictuing.  White linen table clothes, silver-trayed buffet, servers in suits.  Carson is in full terror that he will never eat again.  Tony talks to the hostess about the price.  $30 a person, BUT Coralynn will be free.  Tony looks nervous, and the hostess is waxing eloquent- in Spanish- about the merits of the buffet.  The manager comes over, takes one look at our pathetic starving selves, and agrees to let Carson and Camilla eat for free which is mighty generous considering they aren't going to eat anything anyway.

The kids after they discovered the dessert table.

Coralynn having a bigtime at the Champagne Buffet!

After eating, and the food was fabulous, we headed to the musuem and to see the locks.  All things being equal, it was pretty cool.  And those ships are HUGE! 

One of the cargo ships.  It is amazing how packed those containers are on the boat!

The lock with the water being held back to move the ships up and down.

The "big" girls in the museum.

The guys out by the Canal.

Coralynn Mae enjoying the musuem.  

As some of you more astute observers may notice, Coralynn is in a different outfit.  Yes, she has on a souvenier t-shirt from the Canal gift shop.  Did my hatred for tourism subside long enough for me to allow the baby a special gift?  No.  She peed all over her dress so she had to wear something! :)