Our time in Panama was a photographic treat. The country was lush, we were living in the middle of a growth of coffee trees, there was an animal rescue center in town that was about the size of a small zoo. They had everything there from large cats to parrots to monkeys. We went there a number of times and one of my finest photographs was taken there. The picture is a beautifully curved orange lily leaf and it probably took me 45 minutes to figure out how in the world to photograph it correctly.
Photography is my art-form: when I decide to photograph an object it generally takes me from 20 to 40 minutes to work out the correct distance, angle, light, and lens. I also have to check depth of field every time I change lenses. As I mentioned above, photography lets me see things differently. But, it takes a while.
slave mindi and I could not take very many side trips, because of the nature of her job. She is what is called a “utilization review” nurse and needs a notebook computer that drives two different video screens because she is concurrently working in two databases. This means that if we want to take a trip that involves more than a weekend, we need to take the entire set-up with us — and then she has to work during normal working hours. It's hard to take side trips under those conditions. We only made a few excursions, but those we took were extraordinary.
With Moty Hen as our guide, we made two weekend trips: a tour of a one-man sugarcane processing facility, and the tour of a very small cigar manufacturing company.
While the cigar manufacturing company had only six people rolling cigars from the tobacco leaves, you could see in one building the entire process from the arrival of newly dried tobacco leaves, through the drying and storage of those leaves, to cutting them up and distributing them to the people who are rolling the cigars, to the presses that compacted the leaves that resulted in the final product. You also saw the process of putting each cigar into cellophane and depositing them in cigar boxes. From there the boxes ended up in a substantial room that was carefully controlled for humidity.
Before leaving this section, I’d like to put a plug in for Moty Hen. He is a really amazing/interesting man. He’s Israeli, but he came to Panama in 1984. Over his years traveling around Panama, he’s become something of a private guide. It’s not his primary line of work, but he’s amazing at it. If you can explain the kinds of experiences you’d like, he’ll arrange it. Deep-sea fishing? Visiting an indigenous tribe? Bird watching? He and his wife (Rita) were working on creating a bed-and-breakfast at the end of our time, there. Here’s a link to it. Should you ever find yourself in Panama, you’ll do well to contact him and let him be your guide. Oh—he caters to Israeli’s. He’s undoubtedly the only Hebrew-speaking Panamanian tour guide in the world.