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Studios, Slums and Happy People

by Helen
(Bocas del Toro, Panama)

San Cristobal 60 Acre Farm For Sale

San Cristobal 60 Acre Farm For Sale

New Home in Bocas

With 100 more scars on my legs from no-see-um bites that I got at a pig roast on Carenera island last week we have decided against the house on the water. Carenera is full of these bugs for some reason but the other islands are fine. Apparently, according to my sister it is bad Feng Shui to live over water anyway! What seemed romantic at the time would I think have turned into a bit of a nightmare so we have opted for a practical apartment in town with no sea view but no bugs either.

So here I am, sitting here in the Banana Inn, our new home for the next few months, listening to some reggae music coming from a large pair of speakers on the porch of shack with a rusty tin roof and patched wonky walls opposite our secure concrete apartment building.

It is a weird juxtaposition, as our studio is clean, modern and spacious with a delightful bathroom with twin stainless steel sinks set in a mahogany top as well as kitchen with large silver American fridge and flat electric hob. We have wifi and cable tv and a huge amount of storage space so that everything can be put away. We have an i-pod player, a toaster and coffee maker. We have washers and dryers downstairs as well as a gas powered barbeque.

From the window, however, the scene is rather different.

Our neighbours (at least on our side of the building) are living in wood, plastic sheeting and corrugated tin hovels on stilts over mangrove swamp filled with rubbish. They have a tv, a camping gas stove, a fridge that does not work that they use as a wardrobe and huge stereo systems with cracked bass speakers. I am not sure about the toilet facilities?.. but there is a bit of a funny smell that wafts in occasionally so?..

This is a side of Bocas that most tourists do not see when they come to Bocas even though it is right in town, which is probably no bad thing I guess. However, it is not all as you might think. The minute I step onto the street (I use that term loosely as it is a muddy lane actually round here) people smile at me and say hello (well they say ?buenos? actually) and they seem happy. I had a guy who stopped me in the street the other day and told me he loved me before walking on to sell his incense sticks door to door and then another told me I had sparkly eyes and that my husband should take good care of me! A boy yesterday asked me if I wanted to buy a tiger! They make me laugh and feel good.

We have been in Bocas now 10 days and feel most at home. I did a little work for the Hotel Angela when we first arrived but it soon became clear that there was no real desire to make any changes as in reality the owner just wants to sell the hotel and go and grow bananas and cocoa and listen to monkeys and toucans out at his farm on the sea at Terra Oscura on the mainland. If anyone is interested, he wants $900,000 for it. Eleven bedrooms and a large restaurant right on the sea in need of modernisation.

On the other hand, if, like Claudio, a farm is what floats your boat I saw a wonderful 60 acre farm with a teak plantation on San Cristobal island last week for just $299,000 and he would go even lower on the price. One could be totally self sufficient in such a place and had we had the money right now I would have jumped at it. It is beautiful.

We have found out something about the weather here in Bocas del Toro. Whereas there is a wet and dry season on the Pacific coast (with no rain to speak of and a cool breeze between December and May) it is different here in the Caribbean. There is no dry season and it is wettest between November and February although no one tells anyone that because it is the best season to attract people from cold climates. It means some days are gorgeous, some days are cloudy and it rains at some point in the day or night most days. It is always warm however and it just means you have to get a pair of rubber boots to match your bikini!

Joel is now working in real estate and already has a couple of prospects. I help out a bit scanning the internet for owners looking to sell. Sales are of course not what they were a year ago but people are still buying here. Rather than holiday homes they are now looking to buy a home to live or retire in or buy land and build a small community and opt out completely from watching the US and European economies evaporate like an illusion before their eyes.

I watched a few minutes of Obama?s inauguration last week and wished him well. The turn out for him was moving to say the least. I don?t hold out much hope for him though in the sense that he seems to be continuing Bush?s policy of printing more dollars to save the skins of the big institutions that created a lot of the problem to begin with and this will only create a much worse scenario down the road. However, I do think that the hope that people feel having him in power will have a positive effect on the collective consciousness? intention for what happens next.

I was reading the book ?What the bleep do we know? yesterday and it was explaining about a machine that they made that randomly tossed a coin over and over (creating 1 and 0) and of course it averages out a 50/50. However on certain days like OJ getting sentenced (the fist time) and on 09/11 the odds changed quite significantly. When a group of people get together and focus on something happening it actually does change potential of it happening in their favour. We are such creative little quantum creatures you see! Anyway, all this to say, I have stopped watching the news for a few years now and feel much better for it and I try to focus my mind on positive things as much as possible. All this attention going onto doom and gloom is just creating more of the same I am sure.

Anyway with any luck all the happy smiley people in Bocas are helping sway the ?coin flipping? machine?s results back the other way!

January 31 2009

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