It’s been an interesting, and quite revealing three weeks for us city people here at Finca Luz. In Espanol, Finca Luz means ‘Farm of Light,’ and this little spread on the side of Jaramillo Mountain in Western Panama has certainly enlightened us. While there are numerous charms, attractions and benefits to living in such a bucolic setting, we’ve learned that some of what makes it charming, attractive and beneficial does not fit the style we’ve become accustomed to. It’s not sad, negative, good or bad. It’s just true.
We came up the mountain as house sitters for friends away in the States, and were happy to help them. Our presence here at Finca Luz allowed them to focus on the important family matters that had drawn them to North Carolina. They needed to know that the coffee, casas and critters back in Panama were well attended. On our end, the opportunity allowed us to focus on what mattered most to us in our exploration of Panama as a retirement spot. If our friends’ experience away from Finca Luz provided comfort to them, our experience on the farm provided a revelation to us. Our time here became a metaphor for our overall experience in Panama, the rawness, difference, beauty and exhilaration of living close to the earth, and absorbing its crude and visceral lessons. And, like Holly says in Let the Adventure Begin, to explore a casual, uncluttered life.
Pre-Wrapped Farm Fresh Chicken
The main product here at Finca Luz is Mariposa Azul Coffee, a wake-up beverage from some of the finest beans in Panama. And they certainly woke us to a few things.
Here’s an example: During our short stay at the farm we lost two chickens. I shouldn’t say ‘lost’ lost, I should tell the rough and grisly truth of it. You see, when Senor Coyote is hungry, Senor Coyote is going to eat, and hens were available. Good god there were feathers everywhere! It was ghastly. Gruesome. Like real life, in other words. It looked like the aftermath of a six-year-old’s pillow fight. I’m afraid we’ll always be city folks, people who reach for our fresh meat wrapped carefully in its pristine, sanitized package, never once thinking about the violent, blood-spattered path that shrink-wrapped ‘Prime Choice’ selection followed to its hygienic shelf. Not to put too fine a point on things, nor to inject a political stain into this post, but for those of us in the good old U.S. of A, the luxury of that antiseptic meat shelf is something we take for granted. It behooves us to give more thought to other, similar offerings and the carnal system we’re shielded from. These so called externalities, the sub-surface gristle and grit of our food infrastructure system are kept from public view lest the Dow take a major plunge.
All in a day’s work
1-Gathering eggs; 2-Feeding Critters; 3-Fetching bananas
Here’s another example: While our little casita is warm, comfy, safe and adequate, it’s not quite the standard we’re used to. There are insects aplenty. Creepy, crawly, fuzzy fellows that explore the bedding each night and aviate across the room at all hours. There are wild, wooly, animalistic groans and moans just beyond our flimsy doorway, and things that go bang and whimper in the ink-black night. When the rains come it is biblical, gushing, flooding. This we expected. What we didn’t anticipate was the racket. The roof of the little house is tin, one layer, with zero insulation. We’ve never actually been frightened by a deluge of water before, but this torrential freshet is like the Anvil Chorus, Verdi’s gypsies from Trovatore celebrating their deafening work directly above our heads.
All these are ‘first world problems’ as a friend labels them. We’re aware of that. We’re spoiled rotten gringos, we’re aware of that, too. But it’s been good to learn of those personal quirks and expectations on a gut level, and to be forced to deal with our need for such creature comforts. Cindy & David mention this in Loving Retirement in Panama. No electric? Candles are good. No pressure or hot water? Showers are overrated.
It’s easy to dismiss feelings of unease and wariness when confronted with difference and oddity. But we must listen to those visceral feelings. We’re planning to live in Panama, not to vacation here, so we must address these fundamental issues and either work to live with them, or realize we cannot. Like John & Susan in Latitude Adjustment, we look forward to several anniversaries in our adopted home.
Snakes, beetles and beasties, oh my!
Something else Finca Luz has taught us is that the beauty atop this green studded mountain is all the more luxurious & elegant because it’s ferociously, blatantly feral. Like Rousseaun art, The Equatorial Jungle, or Tropical Forest, this is life at its fundament. No protective wrapper has been applied; the viscera and gore are in your face and nostrils and it sticks to your skin; no shielding exists for our delicate, over-civilized eyes and sensibilities. Farm life is nothing if not aromatic.
We’re grateful for the opportunity to help our friends in their time of need, and we gained a great deal of respect for what they do every day, indeed, what folks who toil like this do day after day. It’s shown us how easy we have it, partly at their expense. The word pampered comes to mind. And we’ve been grateful to learn these lessons about our pampered selves, to have Finca Luz, the Farm of Light enlighten us.
Onward. We depart Panama soon, back to Ohio to close that chapter, to liquidate holdings, settle affairs, say goodbyes to dear friends and then make our way back to Boquete. Next blog: The expanded version of what we’ve learned, and some in-depth advice about becoming expats. Gracias por leendo nuestro blog!