It has been awhile…

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April 13, 2013

Dear Friends and Family,

It has been awhile since I last wrote.  I guess without company, our lives take on a slower pace.  After Terri and Jon left, we celebrated Easter.  I had called for a pot luck and we had a pretty good turn out.  We had some of the best food ever.  Many of my bread baking students attended so I didn’t want to do a sandwich loaf which I usually make for these events but I did do two batches of cinnamon rolls.  That went over!

P1080563I also did some hard boiled eggs.  The ones we got last time were very little, the smallest I have ever seen.  They always come brown here but we had some crayons and decorated them for the occasion.  P1080562

You can see that we had a good selection and people were eager to enjoy.  Note in the picture the other tray of cinnamon rolls that was round and on the other side of the egg basket.


Two of my other students made focaccia bread and pizza.  We stayed until it was quite dark.  We were joined late by some families from South Africa.  It is a brother and sister, each on their own catamaran with their own families.  They are sailing together and so interesting.  They liked the cinnamon rolls too!  I am hoping they will come join us in Gerti before they leave and I told them I would show them how to bake bread.

We returned to Gerti to teach the following week but found out that they would be doing a Congresso there over the following weekend in to Tuesday.  This is a large gathering of the Silas from each of the villages.  These are like the chief or mayor of the village and surrounding islands.  Many visitors came to the island and they were fixing up the place.  Rob was recruited to help install or fix some of the lights.  Sometimes it just required changing a light bulb.  He is tall enough to reach many of them.  More on this subject at a later time.

The problem they have is that some of them don’t have regulators on the batteries and we have had a lot of cloudy weather, including during the Congresso.  There is only so much power and they keep adding lights to the system.

I made 8 loaves of banana bread that they shared with the Congresso leaders.  They had turned the large Chicha hut into a large dormitory filled with hammocks.  It is a very large building.  One can only imagine the sound of snoring coming from there.  Many people took others in to their huts.  The guests brought their own hammock to hang and have a place to sleep.  They also needed more food for all the people as well.  No hotel or restaurant means it all has to be taken care of by the village.

Because the Congresso was going on Monday and Tuesday, there was not school those days.  They had school on Wednesday but not on Thursday or Friday because of a teacher’s meeting.  We chose not to stay that week for only one day of class and have been spending the time enjoying the western portion of this area again, meeting up with boater friends and getting in some good snorkeling.  Not conditions quite like with Terri and Jon at the end of their visit, but some good places and interesting experiences.

Probably the best was right after we dropped the anchor of the dinghy and swam over to check it.  There we saw a large tight ball of thousands of moving fish.  We had been watching the Discovery Channel’s Blue Planet series and had seen this photographed in the open sea.  The ball was about 14 feet long, about 4 feet deep and maybe 4 or 5 feet wide.  The fish were silver and about 4 to 6 inches long.   Rob and I separated and came at them from different directions which sort of herded the ball.  We were close to shore so they couldn’t go that way.  It was amazing to watch their behavior.  I am afraid we distressed them quite a bit but they were zooming all around us and we were right in the center of the mass of fish.  After bothering them for awhile, we left them alone.  They were gone when we returned.  It was an experience we won’t forget.

We were back in the place called the Swimming Pool.  The water is so clear there.  You may be able to get an idea from the picture I am sending of the boats anchored behind us.

P1080623The shadow you see off the bottom step is not on the water but on the sand about 12 feet below.  We were in the dinghy heading out to snorkel and I saw a turtle come up for air close by.  We came over in the dinghy and were able to see it clearly swimming in the 12 foot water with the sand bottom.  Amazing!  We watched another large southern ray swimming around the bottom of the boat.  I was on the deck.  What a place!

We just got back from a great snorkel.  It was difficult to show in the pictures what we saw but we found the elusive drum fish again.  Rob went down to look inside a hollow coral head to find a drum and baby drum inside.


I want you to know he is not going bald but the water was washing his hair up.  We went snorkeling with a couple who showed us the location and can find things really well.  They have a spear gun and go after lion fish when they find them because they destroy a reef’s fish population.    He speared one as we watched.


We swam along the reef and continued past where we left the dinghy to see another part of the reef.  We turned to return to our boat and there was a nurse shark swimming freely right toward us.  It was about the size of Rob or maybe a little smaller.


It was pretty neat to see it up close and personal.  They are pretty tame and won’t bother you unless you are holding a dead fish or threaten it.  It was a great ending to a wonderful snorkel.

On one snorkel,  Rob picked up what I thought was an empty shell.  I reached inside and looked as far in as I could and thought it was empty.  Unfortunately a day or so later after the shell had been out of the water, I smelled something.  I shook it and out came the dead hermit crab that had taken up the shell as a home.  I felt terrible to have killed the critter.


It was dead already though so we pulled it out of the shell.  It is interesting to see what we usually don’t get a chance to see when we spot a hermit crab.


We will make the 4 or 5 hour sail back to Gerti tomorrow and teach again Monday through Thursday.  I only teach an hour a day but what I also enjoy is meeting with the teachers in the evening.  We practice conversation in English.  The woman teacher I like so well is with her husband and he understands and speaks some English too.  The man teacher is very weak in English but enjoys the process.  He is hopefully bringing back produce for me from Panama City tomorrow evening.  I have actually been doing pretty well in keeping some supply of fresh produce on the boat.

On Friday, we plan to go to the immigration office so we can check out of the country.  Hopefully the officials will be there.  You never know!  We hope to check out and top off with fuel at a near by island and then spend the weekend out on the reef islands where the pot lucks have been.  We probably won’t leave for the U.S. right away but we will be looking for weather after that.  We are checking out early because they don’t seem to mind here and that way we won’t miss a window trying to check out later.

Can’t believe that we are mid way through April already!  I will send a log out soon about school and village life with the Kuna people next.

One last point.  If you remember last year about this time, I wrote to ask your opinion about the condition of Rob’s work shorts which he wore most of the time.  I learned my lesson because most of you supported Rob’s desire to wear those ratty old things.  Well, this year his shorts are in good enough shape but he doesn’t wear a belt and consequently, he looks like those kids who have their pants half way down their back side.  I told him that if his underwear was going to show all the time, that at least he should buy some ELLEN underwear so it would be more cool.   One of my favorite shows in the day time when I can watch TV is the Ellen Show.  She gives guests her brand of underwear with her name prominently on the label.  Rob’s now reads “Ellen’s Fruit Of the Loom.”  This was his effort to pacify me.


Not the same but hey, he is trying to make me happy and indeed, he did!   Oh the fun of still negotiating the marriage after almost 41 years!

Fair Winds,
Sue and Rob
Aboard Catalyst
San Blas Islands, Panama

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