A Few Finishing Touches

This last month we have attended to a slew of finishing- or almost-finishing touches.

I’ve done a lot of plumbing, including connecting two toilets, two showers, three sinks, and a bunch of faucets. Working under the house is pleasantly cool, if not a bit cramped. Here is some of the new plumbing:


Inside the house, I have nearly completed the bathroom off the second bedroom by installing the toilet, shower trim, sink basin, faucet, mirror, and lights:P1020369The curved shower rod in the photo above created a challenge. The rod came in two pieces but the kit offered no way to connect the curved section to the straight section. Wandering around in my shop, I found a two-foot-long piece of 3/4″ PVC electrical conduit. The diameter of the conduit was too large to fit into the shower rod. But using the table saw, I made a couple slices down the length of the conduit. I could then compress the conduit and push it snugly into the aluminum shower rod, connecting both pieces of rod with this plastic spline. The fix is snug and won’t rust. Here it is, ready to slide the second piece of rod over the spline:


Cynthia and I spent a day pulling wires and connecting switches and receptacles in the second bedroom and bathroom. It’s nice to be done with an extension cord stretched from my shop:


Note to self — Punch list item: Install tile baseboards.

In the master bathroom, I installed the toilet, sinks, faucets, and mirrors. I still have some wiring to do and need to connect some piping to the shower.


In the States, you can get glass block end caps. But I have never seen them here in Panama. Time to get creative again. Armando and I were going to pour plain concrete caps, but at the last moment I thought of using a row of rocks to echo the nearby rock wall. Armando did a good job as it was difficult to keep the stack of rocks from falling over before the mortar set:


The container wall in the background still needs to be painted.

Here is the toilet area, all done except to unwrap the lamp shade and wire in the electrical receptacle. The lamp lends a nice touch to the loo:


When we bought the lamp, the fish was swimming to the right. I disassembled the lamp and headed the fish in the right direction.

I installed a gas, on-demand water heater for the two bathrooms and the laundry. It took me some time as I had to cut and thread gas pipe plus solder the copper tubing.


Cynthia has been busy making some pretty flower arrangements for the house:



I keep trying to water this one but luckily Cynthia stops me in time:


One afternoon Cynthia and I heard and saw a lovely bird on our west fence. I quietly made my way to the roof deck and took this photo:


Reader Patricia (in the comments below) identifies this bird as a Blue Crowned MotMot. Thanks Patricia.


Vacation time — Cynthia’s cousin G. and his wife S. came to visit for a bit more than a week. We spent a day here in El Valle, doing some of the tourist things including a visit to our friend Jon’s Butterfly Haven. He was proudly showing off this beautiful new Starry Night butterfly:


And we stopped to visit friends who rescue orphaned sloths. S. was initially apprehensive, but that quickly subsided when she felt how soft and seemingly affectionate the young sloth is:


Eating a favorite red hibiscus flower (locally known as papos).

Cynthia and I had been wanting to return to Medellin, Colombia, so we enticed G. and S. along with us. Getting to Tocumen Airport in Panama City was quite an ordeal — usually a two-hour trip, that day, the first day of school after the “summer” break, took us more than four-hours. The flight is only an hour-and-twenty-five minutes! We were the last to board the plane and the door was closed rapidly behind us.

One highlight of our trip — In the center of Medellin is a thirteen-plus acre botanical garden aptly named, Jardin Botanico. We spent most of a day there. I hammed it up with a fruit vendor while S. enjoyed some fresh mango with lime and salt. The vendor was anxious to try out his very limited English:

DSCN0496 Here is a lovely bromeliad:


We enjoyed a wonderful lunch at In Situ, a restaurant situated in the botanical garden. Waterfalls and gardens around the restaurant create a tranquil setting. The food and service was outstanding:


Cynthia and I each had Flor de Naranja, a baked chicken dish that was dressed with an orange sauce, almonds, brie cheese, cocoa powder, pennyroyal, and served on a mound of pureed Peruvian potatoes seasoned with coriander. Geez it was tasty. Others at the table had fruit drinks or wine, but I chose the sangria, a pitcher-full that I couldn’t begin to finish. Drinks, an ample main dish, and a decadent dessert, about $30 per person tip included. The garden and In Situ will be our new destination spot in Medellin! By the way, the restaurant is a non-profit and proceeds go to maintaining the park. Entrance to the park is free to all who want an in-city nature retreat:


Here we are enjoying ourselves at In Situ:


Cynthia took this graffiti photo on the side of a hotel:


Lastly, and of special note, I took the next photo on a shop window in Medellin. I am happy to join the cause against sexual trafficking of underage, vulnerable young women. Human trafficking is a global problem. No man, English-speaking or not, should participate in this reprehensible practice for his own gratification. For the young women, it is a completely destroyed life. Here is a graphic (in English no less) that is posted on many shop windows in Medellin:


That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.

10 thoughts on “A Few Finishing Touches

  1. Hi Fred and Cyn,
    Good to read this blog especially after just had the tour. The shower rod fix was excellent. One of many
    “what were they thinking”
    moments in Panama.
    I will have to try In Situ when i return to Medellin. It sounded great. And I also know that sign and completely agree with your sentiments.
    Hope you are feeling better and give a big squeeze to Cyn for me.

    • Hi Charles,

      It was good to see you again. Thanks for your comment.

      We went to both In Situ and Carmen (El Poblado). In our opinion, In Situ took the dining experience hands down over Carmen in service, food, and atmosphere. My chicken at Carmen was sparse, overcooked, and dry. But what I could pick off the bones did have good flavor. In Situ is in the middle of a grand garden. Carmen is in a basement. Carmen seemed much more expensive. Have a nice walk in the gardens after your meal at In Situ. Fred

  2. I love opening your site and seeing what looks like a FINISHED, BEAUTIFUL house, and my husband said it feels almost as if we KNOW you … It has indeed been a marvelous journey/ project, and we are envious every step of the way (except for the sweat and heat…thanks!) Dare we say …thats a HECK of a lot of plumbing under the house!! Love Cynthia’s floral arrangements, and the one beside the bed with the white ‘pom poms’ is pure artistry ..bravo!

  3. Hi Patricia,

    It is becoming bittersweet for us. We want the project DONE, but is has been, as you said, a marvelous journey.

    By the way, it isn’t that hot here as we are in the mountains. There is no way we could tolerate making this project down at the beaches, for example. Mid 80s here is pretty much max in the afternoons, 68 or 66 at night. Year round, not so bad.

    As always, thanks very much for your thoughtful comments. Fred

  4. I wonder how many man hours has gone into this house at this point. It’s so great to see the finishing touches of your vision unfold.

  5. Great work! The whole project is coming together so well… we look forward to visiting before too long and seeing first hand.
    Just in case no one has identified your feathered friend, serious birders we know have identified it as a Blue Crowned MotMot. We had another type of MotMot (a Rufous MotMot) at one house we rented for awhile in Cerro Azul and were delighted with his antics. Put out a banana first thing in the morning or late afternoon and you’ll soon have a regular visitor (with a voracious appetite).

    • Hi Patricia,

      Cool, thanks for identifying the bird. I asked our maid and we decided that it was … a … bird. She didn’t know what type. I’ll try the banana, we saw the bird again yesterday and hear it throughout the neighborhood. I’ll update my post to reflect the name.

      You are always welcome to visit. Just give me a heads up a few days in advance. Thanks again. Fred

  6. We sort of stumbled upon your blog and loved it. This goes as well for the blog as for your awesome project. As a matter of fact we (daugther, son in law and myself), bought a lot near Panama City recently and my daughter came up with the idea of a container project. We thought she was completely nuts and so were our Panamanian friends (never heard of such a crazy idea). Now we all changed our minds. We saw some great ideas for container homes on the internet (many of them in Costa Rica) and of course, your beautiful home in Panama. We have been looking at containers here and found an architect and right now we need to figure out about licenses, paperwork etc. So the crazy idea of my daughter might become reality. Thanks for sharing your ideas !

    • Hi Dolly,

      Thanks very much for your comment and kind compliments. I always like to know who is reading my blog and how it affects their lives. May your project go smoothly and speedily (I know, I know, this is Panama…) and be just what you want. Your architect should be able to jump the hoops for you with minimal problems (I know, I know, this is Panama…). Have fun with your crazy ideas — I certainly have! Fred

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