Gettin it done in Panama (aka technology we love, don´t love, and are amazed by)

Greetings from the tropics! Ian and I continue to stay in Bocas, where we go to Spanish class daily, work dilligently not only our verb conjugation but also on perfecting the siesta, honing our skills in the surf, and dining on the freshest and most exotic fruit. Not a bad way to spend two months, is it?!

So far, we are also amazed fairly regularly by the little things, things that are striking in their contrast from what we are used to seeing, things that are far removed from our Austin norm, things that are rich and interesting and new to us here. -hence, this post: Gettin´it done in Panama.

First off, an example of something that is so NOT getting it done. Before our excursion, Ian and I got an incredibly generous gift certificate to REI (Thanks, Charlie!!). We bought this little sucker. It is called a SteriPen, and it is a water sterilizer that uses UV light. Awesome, right? A couple of AA batteries, and small, simple, elegant device, and we are good to go, right? Great solution, right?

I don´t know if the text will show up clearly on this picture, but the device says below the brand name, ¨Safe drinking water anywhere.¨ It should say, ¨Safe drinking water anywhere you buy it already bottled or the municipal water is already potable.¨

It doesn´t work. We´ve gotten the little light to turn on only 3x, after much jiggling and praying and cussing and fussing with it. File this under ¨Things to be returned to REI upon our return to the States.¨ This also could be filed under ¨technology with which we are deeply, deeply disappointed¨. So much potential and such a crappy yield. Alas.

On to technology that wows us! Check out this ingenious/terrifying shower head! In place of a hot water tank, lots of the showers here have heaters right in the shower head. That is sort of like a potentially electrocuting version of ¨your peanut butter got in in my chocolate!¨Two great things together at last. It is sort of like a toaster on the inside, where electricity goes through heating coils that heat up the water. Sort of like putting a toaster in the bathtub, really. Unlike the other heaters that populate much of Latin America, the wires on our unit are not bare, and it seems to work fine. Note please the connections, where there are little plastic clips that we hope don´t get wet while we´re electrically grounded in municipal water and brass pipe fittings.

Ian has said that if his shower is not hot, he jiggles the wire. I tried that once, and the wire was hot to the touch, so I jumped back in horror, knowing that my immediate death via a gazillion volts was half a heart beat away. It wasn´t. I´m fine. I live to blog on about deeply meaningful things like monkeys and shower heads. (Ian is also still not dead.)

Just think of how much more efficient this is, though! You heat only the water you need heated for your shower. No extra.

Here is another totally rad thing we saw here. This is a Harley Davidson motorcyle with a little truck bed welded/machined/affixed to the back. It has a second chain engineered to run the back axle. The front has the all important registration sticker, and a big light held on with wire. This little beast is obviously a work horse. Amazing, no? I don´t think safety inspection is an issue here.

As an aside, there is a helmet law here for motorized vehicles (excluding motor boats). You see folks on motorbikes and scooters in all sorts of helmets, including bicycle, construction, and football helmets. And WWII German-type helmets! We guess that is to avoid the shelling on the island. There would never be any reason for WWII German military periphernalia to be in Central America.

Another fabulous example of how things get done here that is so drastically different from how things get done back home is basic transit. We are on an island that is a few hundred yards from another little island, that is a few hundred yards from a few other little islands. To commute, you take a water taxi. It costs a buck to get from here to the next island, $2 to get to the next one after that. If we go surfing at a break at one of the other islands, or go to visit our friend who runs an organic fruit plantation the next island (more on him and his whole undertaking later), we take a boat. Rather than waiting in the street for hours for a water taxi, throngs of dudes in baseball hats harass you into taking a trip. They are generally errand boys for the taxis; their buddy drives the boat while they go into town and scare up business. It is not really like catching a regular taxi, like, say, in New York, which courteously reminds you to pick up your luggage in some celebrity´s voice.

Besitos to you all! All 2 of you who read this blog!

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