Yet More Glass Block And Tile…

In the unplanned work department — Cynthia and I returned home from our vacation at 9:00 p.m. on a Tuesday night. At 10:30 p.m. a petty thief climbed over our back fence, I don’t know, perhaps to welcome us home, and was making his way into the yard. Jabo spotted him and gave chase, the man re-vaulting the fence and vanishing into the jungle. Cynthia spotted him too, and yelled at him with such vigor that she lost her voice for two days! All the while I was happily singing in the shower.

This is the umpteenth time this has happened so I decided it was time to raise the ante and install some razor wire on the two jungle-abutting sides of our property. The razor wire is also known as concertina wire, or here in Panama, Alambre (wire) de Gillette. Most times this wire is strung at the top of a fence, but we decided to hang it mid-way on the fence; at the top of the fence the thief could just cut the cyclone fence and slip through. At mid-height, the wire is so low that Sr. Thief can’t get under it and so high that he can’t get over it. At least not without risking being sliced and diced by the razors. With some care he might be able to get over the wire, but in a hurry and in the dark it would provide an impediment to an elegant and bloodless escape. Also, at mid-height it doesn’t look quite so much like a prison wall. We’ll see, ask me in a year if it worked. Eventually, plants will hide the wire from our view on this side of the fence:


You can see the concertina wire on the other side of the fence.

Because of the schedule disruption around our vacation, Hanibal has been trying to juggle two jobs — ours plus another in town — so progress is a bit slow. But he has completed the second glass block wall in the master bathroom — well almost — we still need to form and pour concrete borders around the open edges of the blocks:


The 1/4″ rebar sticking out from the mortar joints will be embedded in the concrete surround to give stability to the wall. A length of this rebar runs in each mortar joint.

And looking in the other direction, Armando is working his way to the top of the stone wall in the shower. When the wall is done, he will wash it with muriatic acid to remove the mortar film from the rocks,then we will use a sealer so it has a “wet look”:   P1010753-001For our next project, Hanibal and I moved into the bathroom off the second bedroom. We tiled the walls and Bolivar grouted:


As in the master bathroom, we planned the tile installation for minimum cutting and a cleaner look at the shower valve and shower head.


Bolivar grouts the wall.

Today, Hanibal and Bolivar set the level of the floor in the second bedroom bath, sloping the floor toward the shower drain:


In my spare time I have been doing a bit of painting. Cynthia decided that the walk-in closet would look better with white walls, so I applied a couple coats of paint. I still need to build a few more shelves and apply some baseboards: P1010751-001


It is nice to have the new tile under foot rather than the rough, dusty concrete. And on the left, check out Cynthia’s Pre-sort Central laundry baskets. So much for a man to learn. 

And I’ve started painting the big wall in the living room. We selected a middle gray that will go well with the stonework and the tile and dark gray wall on the other side of the room:


The wall will look good with some art hanging on it. And Bob finally wandered into a photo…

So far Hanibal and I have used about two pallets of tile, enough so that Cynthia and I could clean up around the remaining materials. It has been a long time since we could use the stairs in front of my shop and there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Before, what a mess:

P1010553We cleaned the area and I took a truckload of cardboard and plastic bottles to the recycle center in town. After:


Jabo practicing his Salutation To The Sun yoga pose. Either that or he is doing a Maori Haka war dance.

And now it is my turn — Cynthia has turned out a slew of slumped glass lampshades for the kitchen lights. Now I need to get busy, drill a hole in the top of each one, install lamp sockets, and hang the lights. It will be good to see them hanging from the kitchen ceiling. Wish me luck…:


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


First, I want to post a couple progress photos. The first one is the last banner photo that I had at the top of this site that I took on April 13th:

Panorama -- 13 April 2014

And here is the photo that I took today, July 20th:


Some difference with everything greened up and that eyesore sand and gravel pile gone!

July is Cynthia and my favorite month here in Panama. Technically it is the rainy season, but there is usually a dry period in July. And there aren’t many tourists and there isn’t a lot of smoke in the air. To take advantage of the lack of rain, Armando and I have been concentrating on the driveway turnaround. This area hasn’t been seen for several years as we have staged piles of sand and gravel here. But now, there aren’t many more jobs requiring big concrete, so we were able to scrape away and find the driveway below.

After clearing the area, we laid a six-inch drainage pipe across the turnaround area. Left as is, the car would crush the pipe in short order. To support the pipe, on either side of the pipe we poured a foundation and then laid a row of concrete blocks. Finally, we poured a slab above the pipe and blocks. Like this:


Soon we’ll buy some more four-inch rocks so that Armando can rock the edging as he did on the other side of the driveway.

Armando spent a day leveling the area. We had been using the area as a dumping ground for extra concrete and mortar, so there was a bit of pickaxe and sledge hammer work to do.

Soon I’ll buy some crushed gravel to give the driveway a top coat. But we have to wait at least a month before driving over the concrete that protects the pipe. Here are other views of the turnaround:



In other news, I spent a day installing another section of the kitchen ceiling. This section is a couple of inches lower than the other sections due to the pipes that come down from the sink in the loft. The lower ceiling creates a cozy nook for the TV that will be mounted on the wall:


I still need to trim an edge or two and install a pop-rivet or two.

I also painted the beams white  (I used a four-inch foam roller to get a smooth finish) and installed four LED mini can lights in the four beams. These lights will light the aisle in front of the sliding pantry doors:


One rainy day Armando and I poured the black concrete that we formed and described in my previous post. Here are two of the five pours:


This is the eighteen-foot-long bench in the living/dining room, useful for overflow seating for parties. Colorful cushions will make for warmer seating; even in the tropics the concrete feels cold on one’s backside!

This is the sink counter for the half-bath off the kitchen and under the stairs:


The back garden looks good:

Panorama -- Back Garden -- 19 Jul 2014

For a year now, Armando has been promising that the hydrangeas will bloom…

There are a couple localized riots of purple:


And last but not least, lunch:


My tasty salad (Cyn wouldn’t be caught dead with the cheese) of avocado, carrot, zucchini, celery, and red bell pepper, dressed with herbs, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, complimented by an aged, hard goat cheese.

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

Driving To Macano

It has been a long time since I’ve done anything except work, work, work. But this week I had an opportunity to take a drive in the country.

I received a call from an expat friend. A worker of hers has family in the pueblo of Macano (Macano is the name of a tree, a very dense hardwood, probably Ironwood by the English name). A family member was very, very ill and had no way to get to the hospital. The police wouldn’t do the drive, nor would the ambulance nor the fire department. It appeared that I was the last resort.

If the patient was unable to get to a doctor but instead died at home, there would have to be an autopsy and the family would have to pay for it. But if they could get a letter of terminal illness from a doctor, there would be no autopsy.

Macano is remote by local standards, about a half-hour drive into the mountains from here. With Ambulancia de Fred ready to go, I met up with two family members who would ride with me to the pueblo. Here is a video from our house to Macano: Notice the ‘road block’ at the 4:21 mark. Also, although difficult to discern, there is quite a hill going down at the 17:30 mark. On the return trip it took me six tries to get up the hill without slipping and sliding:

When we drove as far as we could, I parked the car next to an abandoned house. Straw bale and adobe house construction isn’t a yuppie dream here; it is survival. Here are a few pictures of the domicile past-its-prime:

Formerly home to a  family, I tried to place myself in the reality as it must have been.

Formerly home to a family, I tried to place myself in the reality as it must have been.



A very narrow doorway connects the two rooms.

A very narrow doorway connects the two rooms.


This is the larger of the two rooms. I wondered to myself if $300-per-roll French, hand-printed and flocked wallpaper is really a necessity.

The men didn’t want me to have to walk the extra distance down to the house in the valley and suggested that I wait for them. But after taking some pictures and waiting at the car for quite some time, I decided to walk down the hill to the house.

When I got to the house, the men had just returned from cutting a long pole from a Macano tree. I helped them lash a hammock to the pole. After they transferred the patient to the hammock, we carried the woman (with the two smaller men in the front, I carried the back end of the pole) the significant distance uphill to the car. The hard physical labor of building the house must be good for me, because the two younger men were huffing and puffing but I hadn’t broken a sweat.

We carefully transferred the older woman to middle of the back seat and two women sat one on each side of her. I noticed that in this culture that there was no quibbling over the division of labor between the men and the women. The men sat back in the pickup bed.

I told them that I would drive “lento pero seguro” (slow but sure) and we were on our way. The ride back was somewhat difficult. A light rain had made rocks on the hills a slick slip-and-slide experience. I did my best to give an easy ride as the patient in the back seat was crying and screaming in pain. I never did find out what she was suffering from.

Out on the main road it was a quick ride into town to the local Central Salud (health clinic). I dropped them all off and left after it was determined that the patient would be transferred to the hospital.

The family was thoughtful and appreciative, each person thanking me and shaking my hand. My take-away was that if you want to feel good about yourself, do something for someone who has little or nothing.

In other news, Ramiro and I have finished welding and grinding five tables and Armando is all but done with the rock walls. Photos next time.

This past week Cynthia and I watched a TED Talk by Brené  Brown about vulnerability. I Googled her and found a quote that is meaningful to me as I work my way through this never-ending, giant-canvas shipping container house art project:

Fullscreen capture 4282014 101309 AM.bmp

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

My Blog Loads Faster Now

Just a note to let you know that my site is loading a lot faster now. It had been getting terribly slow to load, sometimes timing out, and I fear that some of you gave up. Sorry about that. But friend Zach came to my rescue yet again. We moved the site to a new server (still at DreamHost) and did a clean install of the WordPress software. Now it zooms. Thanks Zach!