I try to show the good and the bad on this blog. There are many good things that have come out of our relocation to Panama. However, there are also frustrations that we have to learn to deal with too.
For those that are not familiar with the Northwest - USA....
We moved here from Oregon and that part of the world is very into recycling and environmental responsibility. Recycling is part of everyday life there.
It is just not part of the culture here yet. There are recycling containers in the city, but people just put trash in all of them and the barrels all go into the same garbage truck at the end of the week.
There is a group of expats that have started a recycling program. However, you must be able to go down to the fairgrounds on a certain day between certain hours once a week or so, and it changes on what they take from time to time. There is no permanent structures in place that you can put recycling when you go to town yet. Hopefully, the country as a whole will start to make recycling a real thing here.
Today, the school had their Earth Day and they have been teaching the kids about recycling for a few weeks now. However, some of the obvious recycling efforts are not even touched.
This country is a paper society. Everything is paper and more paper....things in triplicate and the system for making payments to agencies is even worse. There is no online payment options for most things and after you drive to the office, you might then have to drive to their bank and bring back a paper receipt and then get another form.....
The one thing they do have going for it as far as recycling or reusing is beer bottles and Coke bottles. These are sanitized and then reused, but only for the few companies that have bottling plants locally.
Below are a couple of pictures from their mandatory, Sunday Earth Day celebration. The first one was a display made by the kids, which was probably fun for them to make assuming they did not cut themselves, but at the end of the celebration, I can only assume that it all is going in the garbage, hopefully not though. The second picture shows how they used plastic ties that will be thrown away instead of reusable rope or something biodegradable.
At least they have started talking about recycling and I just have to remember that even in Oregon, they probably did not recycle in the beginning.....although, they have recycled as long as I can remember. :)
We are not perfect, but we do try to recycle or reuse as much as we can. There is always room for improvement!
Here are a few of the things we currently do.
There have been many posts about shipping here. It is one of the dreaded tasks that we do frequently because of the coffee business.
I am not sure that I could ever truly explain how complicated and painful it really is.
In this last shipment, we had to get a total weight of just the coffee. Instead of weighing the box empty and then again full, Rick had to stack all of the coffee bags on the scale in front of the postal worker. The bags kept falling and some where actually not really on the scale when they took the weight.
The brown box had to be wrapped in brown paper, you cannot just use a plain brown box. The paper has to be glued to the box, so we do this 1 to 2 days before we ship anything, to allow for the glue to dry properly.
But, you have to leave the top open until you get through with all of the postal processes in the office. Then you finish glueing the top while you are there.
We never know the exact price until they give it to us, it changes all of the time and I think some of that is depending on what scale they are using that day. But, you have to come prepared with exact change or very close to it. Sometimes they have required exact change and they only accept cash.
I totally understand why most places here will not do small shipping. Most coffee companies will only do large container orders and go through a shipping broker. Thankfully, some months we are allowed to use the yellow/brownish large envelopes for really small shipments.
The good news is this is the lowest price-per-pound we have ever been charged. No idea why though....
We have both cars working right now. (Although, both cars were at the mechanics this last week.) Here is one of the parts off of Rick's truck. He had to have the clutch assembly replaced....sigh. This is the throw-out bearing. Luckily it did not actually grenade while it was in the car. The clutch was shot also. It was a hassle, but it's hard to complain too much when the total labor bill was $150 and this is a very difficult vehicle to remove the transmission.
Road Ditch Work Round #1
The work to clear the ditches for water runoff is done for now! There are pipes running under the road for the water to drain down the hillside properly. Here is a before and after picture of one of the pipes that Rick and Melvin cleared. If you look closely at the after picture, you will see Melvin's face. :)
One of the farms near the bottom of the road has moved in cattle and started planting fast growing grass for the cattle. The problem is that it has over-taken the runoff ditches too. The crew had to spend hours cleaning that up. I can only hope this does not require cleaning it up every month. :)
Bug and Eggs
This little green guy is smaller than a dime and is a very bright lime green. Grasshopper or cricket??
The bird nest in the workshop has more eggs now. They are very spotted. A few of the nests around the farm already have baby birds in them.
We love getting pictures from customers showing us how they make their coffee at home after coming on a tour here and learning all about how to get the perfect cup of coffee. However, sometimes getting coffee to our customers is a real challenge.
I went to the post office one day to mail out coffee and the post office looked at the packages and said, "No." I was confused and asked what the problem was and was then told no coffee to North America right now. What?!? I could ship to every other place in the world, but nothing to the USA. This went on for over 2 weeks. It turns out they told me no coffee, but it was all mail. No postcards, no letters, no packages of any kind.
I searched the internet, newspapers....no one was talking about it. After the 7th day, I did see a notice on Facebook from another expat that was unable to ship anything. No one is exactly sure why there was a hold on all packages. Now, it seems to have been cleared up at least for the immediate future.
However, there are limits on how many packages you can send in a day. TWO....that is it. So, we are now trying to catch up on shipping out all of the packages that had to wait for 2 weeks. We are doing the 2 packages a day, each day....but wait...this is Holy Week, so there are some closed office days in there. If all goes well, we will eventually get caught up.
The hardest part is telling people, "I am sorry, but Panama is not shipping to your country right now." "No, I do not know why or for how long this will be a problem..." It is just not something North Americans have really had to deal with. I just can't imagine going to the post office in the USA and them giving me a limit on what I can send or to what friendly-countries they are not sending that week.....there are still times here that we have to step back and remember patience and the rules here are not always the rules we expect. :)
To make things even more complicated. There are problems in Miami right now with the USA post office or Customs. Again, I cannot find out what the actual problem is, but when I track all of the packages we have sent, most of them say they are in the US Customs Office. From there they just sit and sit. However, I get pictures from some of our customers that actually have received their coffee, even though the tracking of their order still shows that it is Miami. I am hoping whatever issues Miami has, it clears up soon too!
When I worked in the States, there was a lady that sat at the next desk over that loved her antique typewriter. I could not believe she had one when we had access to computers. :) The lady at the post office here reminds me of her. She has this old typewriter and no computer on her desk at all. They use paper books to tell them the postage fees and use forms in triplicate here....I think my old co-worker, Sharon, would have been in heaven here....haha.
We had our first real rain, so that means that the dumb beetles are back. They run into everything, fall on their backs and then die. In the meantime, they make a ton of noise and their bodies will fill up the window sills and walkways each night.
The first picture is me having a pork chop outside and one of the slow flying black fly/bee came and tore a chunk of it off and flew away!
The second picture is of a spider we have not seen before. Thankfully, it stayed outside and left us alone. :)
Rick worked on balancing the load to our generator this weekend. As he was working, he kept running into nests. They are in the workshop, in our electrical panel...everywhere you go there are nests of some sort right now. We are lucky that there does not seem to be any damage to the wiring at the panel box!
This weekend we also gathered up some of the mangoes that are almost ripe. I am going to try making mango cobbler this week. I have heard it is really good, so I am very hopeful!
Rick has been working on a device to sort the coffee beans. The motor he is using right now needs a little adjustment so that it does not shake the beans so hard that they jump off of the rack. Sorting the beans into different sizes is important for roasting. You want the beans in each batch to roast evening and that will only happen if you have similarly sized beans. :) Last year we had another farm use their sizer on our beans, this year we are doing everything in-house.
Now that the rainy season is about to come, it is time to remove all of the debris in the ditches along the road running up the hill. We are lucky to have 2 Workawayers here to help (Lizzy and Karina.)
As they were working today, a branch from one of the trees above them decided to drop. Melvin barely had enough time to get out of the way before it would have crushed him. No one was hurt, but if it had been a someone walking that road at night, they might not have escaped like Melvin did.
My car is working for today! But we had to trade the mechanic my car for the truck. The truck is worse off than the car right now, but at least we have one working vehicle! Some day we hope to have 2 working vehicles......one can hope!
Leaves and Water
Melvin has been busy mulching all of the leaves from the shade trees and Rick has been busy chasing water problems.
He found roots growing in the pipes, but even after clearing some of those roots, the water pressure was pretty bad. :(
Melvin has been endlessly raking up leaves and throwing them in the chipper/shredder. He thinks he is making progress, but I am pretty sure the pile just keep getting bigger.
I am not sure what is going on with the postal service, but this week there is no shipping to the USA. It appears that all other countries are okay, just cannot send anything to the States right now....hoping this gets resolved soon.
I take my car to the mechanic to fix some bushings or something in the back of the car. They test drive the car and the engine light comes on and the car keeps stalling out. The first 3 computer testers will not communicate with the car, but the 4th diagnostic tester shows that it is the MAF Sensor. Rick drives 45 minutes to the city of David and they want to charge him $190 for the part and they will have it the next day. OR for $100 they will order it online and we could get it in 10 days.
We decide to pick another option and order from the States and pay $30 and have it here in 7 days. I do not understand the ridiculous over-charging that we seem to see here a lot. So, for the next week, I do not have a car and I am really hoping that this part is really the only thing wrong with my car.
End of Last School Year
At the end of each school year, our son gets to burn all of his school stuff from the year. With traveling, work and the weather being too windy to have a fire, we did not get to do the paperwork burning until this week.
There is new life showing up all over the farm. There are nests all over with eggs in them, baby lizards running all around and then there is this bee nest that thankfully is actually not on the farm, but on the road to the farm.
Last of all, the t.v. show that was filmed about us and the farm now has a date to be aired. April 30th :) I will post pictures later....
We have been enjoying all of the Airbnb guests and coffee tourists from around the world. The dogs are happy and healthy and so are we. It is a pretty good week. :)