Wrapping It Up In Panama

My morpho!!
My morpho!!

Well, my time has come to a close here and I’ve spent the past few weeks seeing as much as I can.  My one accomplishment was being able to see my morphos I’ve raised from eggs to the butterfly stage.  The first one hatched from its pupae on April 3rd, but I wasn’t there to see it.  The next day, another emerged and I felt the desire to set it free, so I did.  There are a lot more on the way!  I’ve counted around 100 that have either already pupated, emerged or are still in the caterpillar stage from my first batch.

My morpho pupae
My morpho pupae

Oh, I forgot to share this photo of some brand new bananas forming in the yard.  If you’ve ever wondered why the bottom of a banana has that black part on it, it’s because that’s where the flower was!

P1050027

One weekend, Jackie, Linda and I went into the city to visit the Smithsonian’s research station on Barro Colorado Island.

P1050242 I got to ride on the Panama Canal and see those huge container ships right next to us!  The island itself was underwhelming and I was a bit disappointed with what little we saw.  There were a few troops of monkeys, a few birds, a poison dart frog and lots of ants.  We did come across some huge trees.

P1050236

We also HEARD the red capped manakin.  If only we could have seen the mating ritual.  This is that bird that moonwalks like Michael Jackson.  The footage was even taken at this research station.  We were told that the clicking sounds it made weren’t coming from its mouth, but from its wings!  They were able to slow down the footage enough to see that the wings moved so quickly together, they made that noise.

P1050212

P1050225

 

 

P1050267
Panama City

We spent the night in the city and ate a great dinner at the Spaghetteria called Pomodoro’s downtown which was awesome.  We hung out in the hot tub after that to soothe our sore bodies from the hike earlier and got in some shopping.  On the way back we stopped at this place that had a smoking pit going.  I had some pork and a thick corn tortilla made into a quesadilla. P1050270

P1050271

A few days later, I hiked India Dormida here in town.  I wasn’t sure what I was in for when Carlitos said, ‘This is the most demanding hike in El Valle.”  Well, NOW I KNOW!  Had I known what it was like before hand, I probably wouldn’t have gone.  Although, I’m glad I did.  India Dormida is called the Sleeping Girl because the mountains look like a woman lying down.

P1050298
On top of India Dormida overlooking El Valle

 

P1050282

If you recall, this is the top of the crater that comprises the only inhabited extinct volcano in the world.   It was pretty neat looking down on the town in which I’ve been living and overwhelming to me that I even hiked up that far!  It was a rough path with rocks and dirt.  We came back down into the park where I had been to before which has the petroglyphs.  This particular area we hiked was in the same section of mountain ranges that made up the Isthmus of Panama.  That’s some really interesting reading.  In a nutshell, when the continents of North and South America came together to form the land bridge, it changed the world as we know it.  It closed off the Atlantic from the Pacific (they used to flow freely together) and it created the gulf stream which in turn caused an ice age.  It was just a small section of land that caused all of this to happen.  It made the Atlantic saltier than the Pacific and it changed weather patterns all over the world.  In the big scheme of things it also influenced animals and how they adapted to the weather which means it’s also why humans are here today!  It made me feel so insignificant, yet amazed at how one little thing like closing off a section of ocean was responsible for me standing on this volcano!  Wow.

P1050300

I’ve also managed to get in a few good BBQ’s.  Jackie and I are a dangerous pair when it comes to food.  She’s a great cook!   I coaxed her into bringing over the two frozen steaks she had brought back from Florida.  She also made up a beautiful shrimp cocktail with homemade sauce.  She said, “I have real live horseradish at home!”  Boy…that stuff cleared our sinuses quickly!  AND she even made a key lime pie.  Wow.  I was super spoiled.  The next week, she bought a tenderloin at PriceSmart for all of $13 and I made a peach cobbler for dessert.  She sort of can’t wait for me to leave so she can lose some weight.

P1050182

We also threw a couple of parties at Candis’ place.  She’s a good ol Texas Girl too so we got along great!  She’s an Austinite as you may be able to tell and she’s keepin’ it weird which we all love about her.  She’s got a dog named Lila who gets her hair colored as well.  I absolutely love the photo over the fireplace!

P1050323

P1050319 P1050317_1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A trip into Penonome the other day had me laughing more than usual.  I was waiting in the car outside of the fire station for Jackie and I was watching these guys unload some cartons of milk out of this big truck.  I look on the side of the truck and a street name caught my eye.  I thought, ‘That’s a road in Virginia!?” and sure enough, the truck was from Woodbridge.  Had to take a picture or nobody would’ve believed me.  Truth is stranger than fiction.

P1050335

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Beach Days and Around El Valle

"I lived my life to the fullest"
“I have lived my life to the fullest.”  My newest motto!

My friends and I took a little road trip down to the beaches and found some cool trees along the back roads.  Nothin’ like getting your toes in the (black) sand and kicking back on a weekday.  It’s a tough life.  Yeah…I hear the violins playing.  And since this draft is a week old, we went back again today.  This time stopping in San Carlos and Penonome to have an awesome lunch there in what felt like a mansion.

I won’t bore you with details and will put some shots of El Valle in as well.  I live in a pretty nice neighborhood with a lot of large houses on big lots.  The back streets are grassy or gravel.  The main road is good but side roads that are paved are sometimes not in the best shape.  But it has a funky feel to it…not TOO perfect but still upscale.  I like seeing all of the trees and flowers and manicured yards when cruising the neighborhood.

P1040258

P1040307_2 P1040294 P1040289 P1040311

Strange fruit(?) on a bare tree
Strange fruit(?) on a bare tree
Bark of tree with strange fruit
Bark of tree with strange fruit

P1040319

Selfie!
Selfie!
Playa Blanca
Playa Blanca

P1040421

Fishermen with their catch of the day
Fishermen with their catch of the day

P1040447

Razor wire and seashells...which cuts worse!?
Barbed wire and seashells…which cuts worse!?
Heckle and Jeckle
Heckle and Jeckle
Beautiful tree in San Carlos
Beautiful tree in San Carlos

P1040364

They're not so scary when you can eat THEM!
They’re not so scary when you can eat THEM!
Awe, fresh bread fish
Awe, fresh bread fish
I'm kicking myself for not buying all three kinds
I’m kicking myself for not buying all three kinds
Restaurante Mezon Santa Cruz in Penonome
Restaurante Mezon Santa Cruz in Penonome
Mangoes ripening over the patio
Mangoes ripening over the patio
Beautiful patio that spanned a block!
Beautiful patio that spanned a block!
Shrimp ceviche
Shrimp ceviche
Sea bass and fresh veggies
Sea bass and fresh veggies
Spanish tortilla (half serving!)
Spanish tortilla (half serving!)
The beer logos on walls always catch my attention
The beer logos on walls always catch my attention
Our favorite tree that they are going to keep standing while they develop around it.
Our favorite tree that they are going to keep standing while they develop around it.
Another beer wall
Another beer wall
Ugliest dude I've ever SEEN
Ugliest dude I’ve ever SEEN
Pretty hedges
Pretty hedges
Back 'street' in El Valle
Back ‘street’ in El Valle

P1040210 P1040209

Main street  in El Valle
Main street in El Valle
Sunset coming back to El Valle
Sunset coming back to El Valle

P1040205

Pollen dropped from water apple tree
Pollen dropped from water apple tree
Bridge going into Panama City
Bridge going into Panama City
Bridge going into Panama City
Bridge going into Panama City

Growing Like Weeds!

Baby blue morpho larvae
Baby blue morpho larvae

Last I left you, we had morpho eggs…that’s turned into a LOT these past couple of weeks.  Over 800 of them!  Those butterflies have been keeping busy, if you know what I mean!  So above is one of the little kids with a neat haircut and striped candy cane looking body.   This guy is itsy bitsy!  I have to scoop them up with a paintbrush and transfer them to a box with leaves in it and let them grow for a few days.  It takes quite a while to do when you have about 45-50 hatching per day.  Here’s a video I did on one of the babies emerging from its egg:

They grow almost right before your eyes each time I look at them!  These were from a couple of days later:

P1030947

We moved them outside onto the host plant growing on the side of the house and put a big net around them to keep them safe.  Today, when I went to go add more to one of the bags, I noticed this one with a big red fluffy head and little tufts of hair appearing on its back.  How cute!!!

P1030961They apparently take 11 weeks to feed before turning into a pupae.  Hope we have enough plants!

Another species we have a lot of lately are battus polydamas.  These I find very interesting because unlike the other caterpillars, these guys don’t fight with each other.  They actually like to hang out all the time and stay very close together as they grow.  They turn into gold rim swallowtail butterflies.  Their eggs are laid in bunches, which is also unlike others I’ve seen where eggs are laid apart from one another.  I guess this is why they like to stick together.

Battus polydamas eggs and larvae
Battus polydamas eggs and larvae

In this photo, the eggs are yellow and those little brown things are the larvae.  Notice how the two are hanging out together by the dime then further to the left, you see seven or eight hanging out also.  You can click on the photo to enlarge it. These guys kind of creep us out because honestly, they’re not that attractive.  When they get big and we pick them up to get them to a new plant, they’re soft and squishy and they stick onto you pretty good.  As Woody Allen would say, ‘It’s like something you’d find in a live bait shop’.

Battus brothers and sisters
Battus brothers and sisters

Speaking of not being attractive, this is a newly formed pupae that looks like another piece of bait.  I call them the shrimpy guys.

P1030958At this stage, I wait for them to ‘cure’ a bit.  They turn darker and get a really neat gold/green metallic stripe on part of it.  Using a dental tool, I carefully peel up the silk that is attached to the top of it, then hot glue that part to a piece of cardboard to let hang in its box until it emerges.

Butterfly Haven Panama will be open to the public this Thursday, February 13, 2014!  Hopefully things go smoothly and we get a lot of great responses from visitors!

Now, on to some comic relief from the local grocery store.  We were literally laughing out loud in the aisle today after seeing this on the shelf:

IMG-20140210-01390A whole row of insane prices followed like this Sushi rice:

IMG-20140210-01391I can’t imagine anyone would pay that much for these things.  So that led to me, once again, pointing out how much things cost.  Typically, Panama is WAY cheaper than Costa Rica in terms of grocery items, but some things will never change:

IMG-20140210-01392

Frosted Flakes
Frosted Flakes
52 processed cheese slices
52 processed cheese slices
Imported cream
Imported cream
No more than 6 or 7 slices inside
No more than 6 or 7 slices inside

Hey, I’m just happy to have a really nice cheese selection here.  It’s not super cheap, but it’s affordable enough.

Here’s a nice sunset view from the hills of El Valle.

Sunset in El Valle de Anton, Panama
Sunset in El Valle de Anton, Panama

Babysitting Butterflies (to be)

Goodbye Costa Rica
Goodbye Costa Rica
Hello Panama City
Hello Panama City

I’ve arrived at my new destination as of yesterday and started becoming acquainted with the folks that have so generously given me a place to live and their soon to be butterfly farm!

But first, a little backtracking on my last days in Costa Rica.  Yes, I was sad to leave and to have to ‘give the house back’ to the owners who came in a day before I left.  We had a nice lasagna dinner and conversation.  I walked the property with Paul so he could see how it changed and grew!  They are a lovely couple and I was so glad to have helped them as much as they helped me.  It was hard to say goodbye but like a shark, I must keep moving!

So I took the bus from Turri to San Jose and almost threw up a couple of times due to the fact I was seated by the window with only a view out the side which is never a good thing for me.  It was curvy, muggy, rainy and warm which is a bad combination for someone who battles motion sickness.  I’d never had a problem until that day.  The guy I was sitting next to spoke English and I asked if we could switch seats so I could see out the front.  The bus driver kept eyeing me, obviously he’d seen this look before.  I got out in Cartago (after the windy road and an hour into the trip) to get some air.  I hoped not to lose it in the trash can in front of the people on the street and in the bus.  I managed to hold it down.  Got some air and re-boarded.  Thankfully, I arrived to the bus station in half way decent condition where my friends came to pick me up.

Chalo and Hannia
Chalo and Hannia

I thought we’d have lunch but I was still full from breakfast and not in the mood for food.  So we went to a food court and Chalo ate, but Hanni and I didn’t.  It was a good way to kill time.  They’re a wonderful couple and the nicest people I met there.  I’m really going to miss them and hope to see them again sometime.

So the good news was that I realized I had bought a first class ticket to Panama!  YES!!!!  Love it when that happens.  Seat 1A baybeeee…my favorite.  Got a fairly decent meal, wine and before I knew it, we had landed.  Of course the luggage took FOREVER to get to us, and by that time the customs line was outrageous.  Anyway, after that all went well.  My ride was there, I got a nice historic tour on the way to Tryp Wyndham at Albrook mall from Thomas so that was nice.  And no, my caps lock is not stuck on…THE HOTEL ROCKED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Wow…I wish I could have stayed there for a MONTH.

Upstairs cafe at Tryp Wyndham Panama City. CHEAP!!! $2 coffee, best I've had in a LONG time.
Upstairs cafe at Tryp Wyndham Panama City. CHEAP!!! $2 coffee, best I’ve had in a LONG time.
Bathroom at Tryp
Bathroom at Tryp
Big ol TV at Tryp
Big ol TV at Tryp
Unbelievably comfy bed with blackout curtains.  I could have slept three months.
Unbelievably comfy bed with blackout curtains. I could have slept three months.
PC at night
PC at night

I hit it at the right time, after all the tourists had gone back home and I literally had the dining room at dinner to myself for crab cakes, the cafe for breakfast to myself and the tapas bar for dinner to myself (shrimp ceviche).  I love that.  Had a good conversation with the bar tender for over an hour in Spanish so yeah…I’m gettin’ there.  I had  a freaky coincidence of seeing my old friend in the mall whom I have NOT seen in at least 25 years now (he lives in Panama) so we caught up and then we met for breakfast the next morning in the mall as well.  Good to see him and catch up in person. IMG-20140106-01361

Then, before I knew it, I had to leave.  I met Jon and Linda nearby at a cafe after shopping extensively at the mall (which was attached to the hotel).  We did MORE mall shopping (wheeeeee!) but wasn’t able to find me a bike.  No worries…I’ll get one eventually.  It’s nice and flat in El Valle so I’m looking forward to getting one.  I got to do some grocery shopping which always makes me happy, especially HERE.  Food is cheap, more of a selection and I even got SHRIMP!!!!!!!  Wow.  I ate crab cakes and shrimp at the hotel (oh and two filet mignon’s for LUNCH).   Can’t leave out that Cinnabon for breakfast the last day because it’s been years since I’ve had one.  In food heaven.

So there was a wild rush trying to find things they need for the business and we didn’t get home until after dark.  I get this big house all to myself (pictures to come later) so for that I’m happy.  I went and bought some things today to make it a little more comfortable and fell back on my pasta dinner.  I went around town a bit today and got some knick knacks seeing that I don’t have to pay for rent or utilities.  I can splurge to try and make my living space more homey and comfortable.  Had lunch in town and bought some fruit.

I came back and Jon and I went into the flight room to collect eggs or caterpillars and Linda came back from the city with a box of pupae!

See those little specs? Those are butterfly eggs!
See those little specs? Those are butterfly eggs!
Whole mass of caterpillars workin' that life cycle
Whole mass of caterpillars workin’ that life cycle

Three kinds.  Some had already emerged and were not looking good.  For the rest, we had to pin or hot glue them on cardboard and put them in their little boxes.  I get the joy of being the babysitter for them, as they’re in my house tonight!

It got creepy when they’d wiggle around inside there as we tried to pin or glue them…just odd.  Some look like dead leaves (those are the cool big owl butterflies) and some that look like Christmas lights or what I called little jalapeno’s.  They’re like little body snatcher pods but at the moment all are hanging out quite calmly.  But they will emerge into big beautiful butterflies and make us all happy!

Box 'o Butterflies-to-be
Box ‘o Butterflies-to-be
Pupae of the jalepeno and leaf kind.  haha!
Pupae of the jalepeno and leaf kind. haha!
Butterflies awaiting to emerge
Butterflies awaiting to emerge

Tomorrow we will work on many different things in order to get things up and running, so stay tuned, LOTS more to come 😉

Here are some more photos:

Passion Fruit with weird hair over them
Passion Fruit with weird hair over them
Bagged up caterpillars munching to their delight
Bagged up caterpillars munching to their delight