So our first stop in the Azuero Peninsula was La Hacienda San Isidro, a distillery/brewery/sugar cane farm all in one. This place makes the name brands Seco and Abuelo, both of which have been described to me as "burning paint-thinner" by more than one person.
Outside of the cellars was beautiful. I wished I had my nice camera and more time to take some pictures. I felt like I was at some Cady and Cady set or something. It doesn't look like it, but it was dripping a bit and was about to start raining.
So this was neat. In a town called La Arena (literally, the sand) right next to Chitre, it turned into a pottery factory city, except without what we would think of as factories. I watched a guy throw bowl after bowl after bowl. All of them came out identical and it took him about 30-60 seconds per bowl, depending on sign and ornamentation. It was beyond what I imagined when I read "Handmade" on a piece of pottery. They also use old-fashioned firing methods. There are kilns like the above all over the city, and firewood piled everywhere.
This was outside of one of the shops. These "Half-Vases" as I called them are to hang on a wall. They will be fired, painted/glazed, and fired again before they are sold. There were just shelves and shelves of things drying, waiting to be fired, or waiting to be painted.
There's Carolyn trying her hand at the wheel. Not electric powered. There's a big circle piece of wood at the bottom attached to the wheel. You have to kick the wood to spend the wheel. Hard to keep your hands steady while kicking to keep the wheel spinning. It was fun trying though :)
So, this was step one in making a mud house. I only have a picture of step one because the next steps required me to become way too muddy to touch my camera. Wish I had a picture of the finished product, but you can see the frame of the wall we will be making in the background of the shot. It was fun for a while, but then it started raining, and eventually it just got wet, muddy, hot, and buggy. I think this is a brilliant business plan. We were making a house people actually lived in. Business plan: Get gringos to pay you to be allowed to build your house. Sounds good to me. Seriously though, the whole neighborhood came out to watch the gringo idiots playing in the mud. There were about people there at one point.
Everyone posing for a picture, unaware that Gary (program assistant) is about to coat them in mud.
And finally, Gary. I believe there is already a pic of him on this blog, but I think he has a white tee-shirt over his face. He's an amazing program assistant. A spanish to english dictionary/tour guide/handy man/friend all in one. There's a running joke around here. Whenever anything goes wrong, the first thing to come out of our mouths (in a whining tone) is "Gary, fix it!" Example: When there was a bomb threat at immigration and we were stuck outside sweating buckets, the first thing we said was, "Gary, Fix it" even though Gary wasn't with us. We still maintain that if he were there, he could have fixed it.
I'm doing well and having fun. This trip had some bumps, but looking back I still had a great time. I was sick for the week after this, missed class, slept all day, went to a Panamanian doctor, etc. It wasn't fun. They haven't heard of Nyquil or anything similar in this country, and apparently they like to start Z-packs off with two shots of antibiotics. No fun.