My Shop ~ Part 2

November 5, 2011

This past week Armando and I worked on my shop. We poured five concrete columns and dug and poured the foundations. Here’s how it went:

Here are the columns:

The column on the right is nearly 12-feet tall, and the concrete in the form exerted some serious pressure on the forms. After we poured it, we were just about to walk away when I spotted the beginning of a split the entire length of one of the pine boards. Luckily I had planned ahead and had some straps standing by. Armando and I rushed and got the column strapped up just in time. We strapped a piece of metal against the split to keep it from bulging out. Close call. Like my favorite line in disaster news stories, “It could have been worse.”

After the columns were done, Armando spent two days between raindrops digging the foundation. In the next photo I am laying out the location of the door so that we don’t put rebar sticking up there.

Then while Armando was mixing concrete, I cut rebar to sit in the foundation trench. I also cut more rebar, bent one end in an “L” shape, and wired it to the bottom rebar. Like this:

These upright rebars will fit in some of the holes in the blocks when the wall blocks are laid, and we will fill the holes with concrete.

Cynthia insisted that I include this next photo. I’m not sure why.

Next we ran a string around all the columns and leveled it. The height of the string isn’t important. Now we need to pour the foundations nice and level so laying the blocks will be easy. We took a six-foot piece of 1″x3″ board and nailed a one-foot piece of 1″x3″ on the bottom like a foot. We put the footed stick in the foundation trench at the height that we wanted the top of the foundation to be and drove a nail in the stick where the string met the board. After Armando dumped a wheelbarrow full of concrete in the trench, I used the footed stick to tamp the concrete down until the nail in the board met the string and, tada — level footing.

Here you can see the string more clearly. This part of the foundation is completed. The blocks are holding the vertical rebars in place.

Armando worked really hard today mixing all the concrete. We used a dozen 94-pound sacks of cement and who knows how many wheelbarrows full of sand and gravel from the river. Here he is putting the cement on top of the pile of sand and gravel.

Then he opens the bags and thoroughly mixes the pile by turning everything several times with a shovel. We kept one eye on the sky but despite the ominous clouds, we were free of rain all day. Cynthia forecast no rain for the day. She’s right again! Armando likes to wear his hard hat because it keeps his head cooler.

Then he makes a hole in the pile and fills it with water and mixes it all together again. I try to help, but this is young man’s work for sure.

At the end of a seven hour day, Armando was dog tired.

And that ain’t no joke.

Bonus photo: Sunrise over my hammock

In other news, after several days of heavy rain a tall, very rotted tree in the lot next to our rental house fell across the main road. A tractor trailer rig came to a screeching halt as the tree fell, missing each other by only inches.  Several people stopped to help including John who lives in town. I’m standing with Cedelinda (pronounced Sadie Linda). I tutor her in English.

Cedelinda helps clear the road.

After we had the job almost done and I had dragged the big trunk mostly out of the road with the truck, four firemen showed up with chainsaws and finished the job. It was difficult to know who these men were, as they showed up in a pickup truck with the logo of the Tourist Police, all wearing orange Panama Civil Defense tee shirts.

Yes, Panama has a Tourist Police division. They are stationed in tourist destinations to keep tourists safe. They are also stationed at the airport, checking the paperwork and recording the destination of taxis departing with tourists.

Extra Special Note: Thanks to Cynthia who took all the photos in this post. She made me promise to take pictures of her tomorrow at her sewing machine. She is making me five new shirts. I can’t wait to try them on.

A Final Note Today: I find it curious that I like to write. To the best of my knowledge, no one else in my family wrote much. I don’t know how good a writer I am, but what qualities I do have I owe to my English 101 teacher, simply known as Prokus, at Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan. I liked Prokus. I remember one time a student raised her hand and asked, “Prokus, how come I didn’t get a “A” on my paper?” He answered, “Precisely.” I thought of this today because I noticed the passing of Andy Rooney. He wanted to work until he died, and he missed that goal by only a few weeks. I always enjoyed his essays. Other writers I have enjoyed over the years include Charles Kuralt, Garrison Keillor, John Ciardi, and Studs Terkel.

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

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My Shop ~ Part 1

October 29, 2011

I’ve been making progress on the windows, but it is pretty much a solo affair that I can take care of myself. And now that the yard is in good shape, Armando has run out of work. There is some grinding to do on my welds, but not enough to keep him busy. As he is basically day labor, and I can tell him “that’s all for now,” but I run the risk of him finding other work and not being available when I next need him. Also, it is good to have him around for when I need to lift, tote, and carry.

So I decided to get him started building my shop, and I can go back to window work. After a lot of back and forth on what materials to use, I made my decision. I could use the M2 panels (foam sheets with a wire covering that gets stuccoed) or go with the Panamanian-style concrete block construction. I really like the M2 because it is very fast, very strong, and isn’t prone to cracks like the block work, but Armando isn’t familiar with it and it is more expensive. Also, I would like to turn him loose on the project without much supervision from me.

I decided on block construction. Once the corner columns are accurately placed, I can let Armando take over and run with it. He likes the idea, and it gives him a chance to work without the boss telling him what to do every ten seconds. He even said that he will start at 6:30 a.m. to beat the rain instead of our regular 8:00 a.m. I could immediately see his sense of ownership of the project.

The shop is going to be 20’x24′, and is located where the 20-foot container that we didn’t get was going to go. Here’s an archival photo of the four columns that we placed for the 20-footer:

And here are those columns now, sadly knocked to the ground with a twelve-pound sledge to make room for my new shop. It was a tough decision to make as we had worked so hard on the columns. But progress is progress I guess. Here the corner batter boards are in place, and Armando is digging holes for the footings for the concrete columns.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating; block work here is different than in the States.

In the States, every block is laid perfectly plumb and level. When a block wall is done, it very strong standing on its own. Just stand back and look at all the perfectly straight courses of blocks.

Here, the blocks generally have less cement in them and workers generally have less training. A concrete block wall in Panama isn’t meant to stand on its own. The process is to dig and pour footings for concrete columns, embedding in each footing four vertical pieces of rebar where the columns will go. When the footings have hardened, wooden forms are built around the upwardly protruding rebar and the columns are poured.

After the column form boards are removed, a trench connecting the columns is dug and a concrete footing is poured. As opposed to Stateside block work, this footing can be “kinda level.” The blocks are then laid “kinda” in rows, “kinda” straight and “kinda” level. When you get just shy of the top of the wall, form boards are nailed across the wall from column to column and a strengthening top beam is poured that includes more rebar. The blocks are basically infill and it is the columns and beams that provide integrity for the building. Then, a coat of repello (stucco) is troweled over the entire wall — columns, blocks, and beams. The wall is now pretty much straight and can function seismically.

While Armando was digging the footings, I made two forms for the columns.

These three-sided forms will be put in place around the rebar and then the fourth side will be nailed in place.

In the next two photos, these forms are standing tall and proud, and Armando is making the journey up the ladder five gallons of concrete at a time.

In my next few blog posts I’ll probably seesaw back and forth between the windows and the shop. That is unless another project catches my interest, such as building the metal bending brake that I want to make. The house has lots of opportunities for bent metal trim, and I want to make new, thicker lids (to hold more insulation) for our refrigerator and freezer (see A Really Cool Experiment).

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


Windows ~ Part 1

October 26, 2011

At long last, we are working on windows. We still have a few interior partitions to build and Plycem to hang, but I wanted to use the wide open work space in container 4 a bit longer before building those partitions.

I should insert a note here about a recent change in our plan. Way back when this was to be a two story house, we had plans for two bedrooms — one downstairs where our master bedroom is going to be now, and one upstairs that was going to be the master. When the price of containers went sky high and we changed to a one story house, we were going to make a guest bedroom in a detached 20-foot container. But the 20-footer was the same high price as the 40-footers, so our plan stagnated a bit, and we have been floundering with a new plan to have one bedroom in the house and someday add a second.

Both Cynthia and I were unsettled by this un-plan, but we thought that time would iron out the bugs, and it has. Our newest, new and improved plan is this: we will put two bedrooms, two baths, and the laundry in the space between 3 and 4 and in container 4. My shop has been moved to a detached building (yet to be built) at the end of the driveway.

So now, the two bedrooms and bathrooms need windows. The areas to get windows are:

  1. the big open wall between containers 3 and 4 in the master bedroom. This entire wall will be windows. More on this area later in another post.
  2. the clerestory windows in the high wall over container 4, and
  3. the walls in the two bedrooms

We’re starting with areas 2 and 3 first. Cynthia and I talked about where and what size we wanted the windows, and I made a materials list. I bought some two-inch square, one-sixteenth-inch thick square steel tubing to make window frames from. It comes in 20-foot lengths. Here it is on the material rack in container 1:

I also ordered some jalousie windows to be made to fit the steel frames. Although we are not big fans of the look of jalousies, they make a lot of sense here where the rain and saturated fog can blow sideways. You can have the windows open for air but still have protection from the rain. Most of the older Panamanian houses have jalousies, although the newer houses seem to be going to vinyl sliders.

I used the metal chop saw (the red tool on the floor in the above photo) to cut all the pieces for the steel frames. Here’s a photo of the pieces all cut and the jalousies standing by for installation:

Next, I took a sheet of 3/4″ plywood and cut it to the size of the 4’x6′ pane of glass that will sit above the jalousies. Actually, I cut the plywood 6′-3/16″ so that the glass will have a little wiggle room. I also drove a big-headed nail into the 4-foot width, leaving the nail head sticking out 3/16″, making the height of the opening 4′-3/16″, like this:

With this plywood jig, the frames will be the perfect size for a piece of glass 4’x6′ and absolutely square, ready to receive the glass without problems. Here is the plywood jig with the first window frame being welded together:

By the end of day one, here is what I have welded together:

The two frames on the left are for a window in the north wall in each bedroom. The top rectangle is for the large pane of glass, and the lower part of the frame is for two, 3-foot jalousies. I still have to weld the bottom pieces on these frames, but I need to cut another piece of plywood to use as a jig so the jalousies will fit.

The frame on the right side of the photo above will be for the security bars. We plan to use the same design as the front gate, minus the cat tail seed pods. We think that the seed pods would be too busy looking in the design. This frame will be overlaid and attached to the frame that holds the windows. More on that detail in another post.

After these large frames are done, I will make a narrower frame for the east wall of the guest bedroom, and then frames for the short windows in the clerestory.

In another post I will use my new oxy-acetylene torch to cut holes in the container walls and install the frames. Stay tuned.

Bonus photo: As I welded the corners of the window frames, flaming balls of steel flew off the welding rod and rolled onto the plywood, burning this pattern in the plywood:

Welding calligraphy? But is it art?

Reminds me of the wood-burning iron that I had as a kid. I think I remember making a set of drink coasters for my mom for Mothers’ Day one year. Butterflies, I think.

That’s all for now.


My New Oxy-Acetylene Tank Cart

October 21, 2011

Thanks to everyone who guessed about my latest contraption in my last post. You all guessed correctly. You are a smart bunch. Even you, Charles.

No, actually, as Juan and Rick guessed, it is to hold the oxygen and acetylene tanks that I just got. Charles–Fugetaboutit.

My next task on the house is to make frames for windows, cut holes for windows, and fix the frames in the holes. So far, I’ve been cutting the container walls with a steroidal 9-inch angle grinder with a metal cutting disk. But let’s face it, this is really arduous and dangerous. Arduous because it takes a lot of muscle power, and dangerous because of the propensity for the machine to kick back and sever body parts. I’ve written before about my plasma torch that died an electronic death, not to be revived here in the harsh Panamanian climate of rust, humidity, electrical brown outs and power spikes, and geckos that have the propensity of dying on circuit boards, “melting,” and shorting out the whole mess.

So that leaves two choices:

Choice 1: Hammer and chisel. I remember when I was first investigating Panama as a place for us to live, I stayed at a hotel in Boquete. Early one morning, 6:15 to be exact, I heard a hammer pounding a chisel on metal. It didn’t stop. Finally I got up and got dressed and went to check it out. Two men were cutting strips off of 20-foot lengths of sheet metal roofing. No angle grinder, no plasma torch, no shears, and, bringing me to choice number two, no oxy-acetylene cutting torch.

Choice 2: Oxy-acetylene cutting torch. A torch is really low-tech. No electrical parts, no computer, just a hot flame that slices through metal. The cost had been stopping me, but it was finally time to bite the bullet and buy a rig.

I got a medium duty Victor brand set, complete with welding/cutting torch, hose, and gauges for the oxygen and acetylene. $245 at Pemco in Panama City. Victor is an excellent brand and I like the way the torch balances in my hand. Tools like this are exciting.

Next, I needed to rent the oxygen and acetylene tanks. $300 deposit for the two tanks, plus $75 for the gas in the tanks. I could have bought the tanks, but I would have had to return to the city each time they needed refilling. With the rentals, I can just swap them locally at the hardware store.

But they don’t just deliver out here in the hinterlands. The tanks need to be transported upright and I had no way to accomplish this with the Honda Ridgeline. So I welded up a goalpost rack for the truck. I used the existing tie-down fixtures in the bed of the pickup to affix my rack.

Here are the tanks strapped to the goalpost rack. Jabo is a gas, too.

And here it is in all its painted glory, along with the long-load rack that I made some time ago but just now got around to painting. The traffic police will be happy with the official reflective sticker, $1.

I used the goalpost rack again today to transport two, heavy eight-foot lengths of 4″x6″x1/4″ angle iron that I picked up for my next shop project, a sheet metal bending brake. But I digress.

The point of this post is the cart that I just made to hold the oxygen and acetylene tanks in my shop, and to make it easier to move them around the job. Here are some photos of the cart ready for paint:

I pretty much started the project by holding a length of 1.5″ square tubing in my hands and holding it up to the tanks. The rest just followed element by element. I love the lines, kind of retro, like something that would have been in my grandfather’s shop. I think it has a little Steampunk look about it. I considered clear coating it, but safety yellow won out.


And here it is with the tanks loaded and strapped in with the safety chains across the tanks and an additional anti-theft chain.

So that’s that, I am now ready to cut the window openings in the container walls. I’ve just picked up the windows I had fabricated, so my next post will about windows.

Thanks for all your comments on the Name That Contraption post. That’s all for now.


Paint! ~ We Paint Some Interior Walls And Ceilings

September 26, 2011

We are making progress. With the interior walls framed and ready for Plycem (tilebacker), it is time to paint. I want to paint before hanging the Plycem because the Plycem will have a clear finish and will not be painted. Doing the job in the paint first, Plycem second order will save us from having to do a lot of masking and taping.

I debated on whether or not to paint over a note that someone had written on one of the walls. The paint won, but I did take a picture of the note. I find it endlessly fascinating that our house has been around the world:

F.C. The best from St. Croix U.S. Virgin Islands. 5/14/2008

I wonder what F.C. and his crew were loading or unloading?

Here is a photo of the paints I chose for the interior walls:

The tube of urethane caulk is actually a windshield adhesive. The tube is aluminum and double sealed to prevent the caulk from drying out. Even so, I wore a hole in the palm of my hand trying to pump it out of the tube with a caulking gun. I ran new beads of this caulk where container walls meet the ceilings and at weld joints that I have made.

The Lanco Oil Red Oxide Polyurethane primer is thinned with mineral spirits and sprayed on nice and smooth.

The Lanco Super Dry Enamel (Esmalte) is thinned with lacquer thinner and dried in just a few minutes.

I’ve seen the question asked on the Internet, “Can I use latex paint to paint a shipping container?” The beauty part of latex is the easy cleanup. It is a lot more work to clean the spray gun when using oil based paints, but it doesn’t make sense to me to spray water on metal and expect it not to rust. When I started painting years ago, I don’t think there was such a thing as latex paint. All I remember is cleaning my first boss’s brushes with turpentine. Oil based paint really is not that bad once you get used to the regiment of cleaning up after yourself. I allow a half hour to forty-five minutes at the end of the day to get everything squeaky clean.

Here’s container 3 all primed and ready for the white top coat:

I bought a roll of yellow "caution" tape to use as masking on conduits and on the hardware on the container exterior doors. Jabo awaits further instructions.

There is hardly any over spray with the HVLP spray gun.

After we sprayed the primer, the next day it was ready for the first of two top coats of white:

This is the north wall of container 3. I really savored the moment when I cut out the two doorways. The nearest doorway goes into what will be our dry (dehumidifier) room. The further door goes into the hallway that will connect to the living room. With the doorways cut I don't have to crawl through walls and go out of my way to get where I am going. It feels more like a house now.

Partly painted. I'm standing in what will be my shop, looking toward the master bedroom. The unpainted square area is in the master bath. It will be cut out and the wall pushed out four feet for the shower. We plan to use glass blocks for at least one wall of the shower.

First coat all done. Note that 34 sheets of half-inch Plycem have been delivered. I can't wait to start hanging it on the interior walls.

We still have to cut holes for windows including above in the clerestory wall, but for now I’m happy with the progress.

Here’s a photo from outside (west side) looking in. The big hole in the wall will be wall to wall, floor to roof windows. The view of the night sky from the bed should be spectacular as there is no artificial light for miles around.

The left container (#4) is part of the master bedroom as is the large open area. This end of the right container (#3) is the hallway between the bedroom and the living room (yet to be built).

Rain has been starting by noon most days, but in the mornings Armando has been working on delineating the east side of the driveway. When we built the driveway we put large rocks in the mud then covered the rocks with tosca. At that time we had no design idea of how the driveway edges would meet the rest of the yard. Now, we have stretched a string line and Armando is digging a ditch. We’ll pour a concrete footing in the ditch then lay a course of concrete block as a curb. Here’s Armando working on the ditch:

With the new garden on the left side of the driveway and this curb on the right, the lot is getting more and more defined.

That’s all for now. Thanks for visiting, and feel free to leave a comment below.


Pop Up Garden

September 19, 2011

In this post, we plant a flower garden.

It is a frequent occurrence that neither Cynthia nor I can remember who’s idea it was to do something. There is an organic process that happens between us, a decision is made, and a day later we are oblivious as to how we got from point A to point Z. “Honey, do you remember how we decided to do such and such? Who’s idea was it to get started?” “Um, I dunno.” Well, it just happened again; a huge flower garden just popped up that stretches sixty feet across the the front yard.

Some background: We’ve been living in a nearby rental house for nearly three years. We really wanted to be in this neighborhood and this rental house was the only option at the time. It has a big fenced in yard, big enough for our long-legged, gotta-run dog (I’ve clocked him at 28 mph).

But the house wasn’t love at first site. We saw the outside, figured we could re-assemble our five-man crew from a former project and get the yard cleaned in a week or so. We signed a one-year lease without seeing the inside. When we finally got the keys and opened the front door for the first time, Cynthia cried so hard and so loudly that a neighbor way at the end of our road and up on the hill came down to see if everything was okay.

It wasn’t. The house — how do I say this nicely — had a lot of deferred maintenance “issues.” (Cynthia says this is an understatement.) As I said, the outside was overgrown with weeds and tall grass that we cleared away. Additionally, we spent a couple thousand dollars making vital repairs to the inside of the house to make it habitable. In return we got periods of no-or-reduced rent. Our elderly landlady, who often wears a stylish vintage hat and white gloves, loves us and often says in her broken English, “Oh, you make me new house!”

Here’s a photo of the kitchen as we found it, except we had already removed the termite-ridden upper cabinets. Remember, click a photo to enlarge it, click the back arrow to return here.

Here’s the new kitchen we built:

Some change, huh? Does Cynthia's apron coordinate with the curtains on the cabinets? She's a clever one, I tell you. Oh, and is the chicken coordinated, too? By the way, I made the pendant lamp over the sink, and three others like it, from stainless steel kitchen utensil holders and plumbing supply hoses that we found at a DoIt Center store in the city.

The point I am making here is that this place was a disaster, and relating to this post about our new garden, there were no nice plants in the yard. Here is a photo of part of the yard after the tall grass was cut and a lot of the weeds were hauled away:

And here is exhibit B, a photo of the yard once it was almost cleaned. Note that there were no flowers.

So, for the next few years, Armando would from time to time bring plants from his house, charging us only a small percentage of what we would have paid if we bought the plants “retail.” We ended up with quite a lush yard, and recently with our attention more focused on our new property than on the rental, it was really, really lush. I think I may have said it elsewhere on this blog, but my joke is that you can stick a METAL fence post in the ground here in Panama and a month later you have to come back and prune it. Everything grows so well here in the tropical mountains.

So a few days ago Armando and I dug up a slew of plants and trucked them to our new house. This photo is one of three loads:

Armando and Jabo ready to unload the truck.

With not much to do while all the welding and other infrastructure work has been happening, Cynthia has been chomping at the bit to contribute to the project. So she was on hand and was Project Leader as to the design of the garden and placement of the plants. Nice job, Cynthia! A very productive three days.

Here are some photos. Sorry some are blurry; it was raining fairly hard when I took them.

Overview of the new garden. Later, we will make the stone borders more permanent.

Ornamental ginger, antherium (little boy plant), spider plants, and a blue walking iris make up our new garden.

There is also a tree trunk that we have been debating whether or not to remove. Included in the garden, we think it will look great with orchids and bromeliads covering it. Maybe it will get a bird house on the highest point.

We have these in red, white, and pink. Armando put some rotten tree trunk pieces around each of the antheriums as fertilizer. How does he know this?

All the plants have started out good and healthy. I hope they like their new home.

Not bad for three short (rain by noon) days. We can’t wait to see the garden all filled in a few months from now. I hope that this post has given some enjoyment to those of you heading into winter. The key is under the mat.

To finish the project, Armando and I are getting a few yards of larger rocks and he will construct a more robust border around the garden and the path.

In other progress, when it was raining over the past week or so Armando and I sanded (random orbital sander) the interior container walls and ceiling in the space between 3 and 4 and number 4, and sprayed on a coat of oil red polyurethane primer. Here is the job in progress:

To spray, I am using my Fuji HVLP (High Volume, Low Pressure) spray gun. There is very little paint mist in the air when using an HVLP unit. The gun is powered by the black box which is basically a vacuum cleaner blowing in reverse. HVLP is nothing new — I remember that my parents had one back in the ’50s — it was an attachment to the Electrolux vacuum cleaner that I think they bought from a door-to-door salesman.

Fuji and I met on the world’s largest online tool dating service, Amazon.com, about five years ago. We have been very happy ever since. I quickly clean the gun after every few hours of spraying, and when I am done for the day I clean it within an inch of its life. I recommend this unit if you need to spray a lot of projects.

Bonus photo: Our neighbor cuts the grass early in the morning, kicking up the dew on the grass.

Tomas cutting the grass.

We are getting more and heavier rain of late. Now at mid-September, we are headed toward November, time of the heaviest rain of the year.

That’s all for now.


Sunday Afternoon With A Good Book ~ To Catch A Thief

September 11, 2011

No, we neither read the book nor sat back and watched the movie; this post is about catching a thief in our neighborhood. Sorry, no photos this post.

As part of my Sunday day off, Cynthia and I decided to go to our new house and sit and read for a while. You know, get the feel of being in our new home without construction going on. Cynthia had a new book on the Kindle, and I had my copy of 501 Spanish Verbs and wanted to learn more about the fourteen tenses (English has six).

Cyn was settled in reading, and I was talking over the fence with Abdiel who works for one of our neighbors. I was asking Abdiel about the name of a tree with orange flowers (acacia), and we also chatted about the six break ins in our small neighborhood during the past few weeks. Doors have been ripped off their hinges and security bars on windows have been cut and removed. Most of the take has been small stuff; propane tanks ($70 refundable deposit), cameras, stereos, etc. Cynthia and I haven’t been hit because we now have several layers of security at our rental house, and our shipping containers are locked up frog-butt tight with high security padlocks. But still, I am the president of our local neighborhood watch and want to see our barrio safe and sound.

While Abdiel and I were talking, a man that we didn’t recognize, obviously very drunk, crossed our neighbor’s yard and walked toward us. This was a red flag, because in Panama it is against the law to enter someone’s property without permission. Even when our gate is open, none of our neighbors will cross the property line without our permission. He had a garden hose over his shoulder and a spider plant in his hands. His face and hands were all cut up as if he had lost an argument with a barbed wire fence. He pleaded with us to buy his things, but we figured out what was going on and sent him away. The man went to the next neighbor’s house and while apparently scoping the place out, was chased away by the owner.

The man’s next stop was at another neighbor’s house where the entire family was having a get together. He brazenly walked through the front gate and right into the house. The owner (JR) chased him out.

I was watching and decided that enough was enough. He was a little too familiar with our neighborhood and I wondered if he was indeed the perpetrator of all our thefts. I talked with JR and asked if she wanted to press charges. “Yes!” she replied.

We live on the line between two Panamanian provinces. One police department is about 10 minutes away and the other is about 40 minutes. They like to shuffle the calls from our neighborhood off on each other. I called the closest one and made my report and requested a police cruiser (more likely a pickup truck) to apprehend the guy.

Then I ran home and got our car and headed after him. I found him on a side road, trying to sell his bounty to some locals who were waiting for a bus. I drove right up to him and he again tried to sell the hose to me. $10. I got one of the bystanders aside and told him what was going on. I thought I might string the hose vendor along and tell him I would buy the hose but my money was in town and I would take him there, however actually intending to drive right into the police station.

Although I didn’t know the bystanders, they strongly urged me not to do it by myself. They were obviously concerned for my well being and I was touched. I had to honor their request even though I had my hand on my pepper spray and thought I could handle the guy.

I pulled to the side of the road and called the more distant police and gave a detailed description of the man. “Ten minutes,” the officer assured me. Now the man was on the move again, clearly crossing into the jurisdiction of the closer police. I then called the closer police department and gave them the man’s description. While I was parked there, another neighbor called to tell me that they had seen the guy too, and he looked suspicious. But I didn’t get the call because we lost reception.

The man tried to flag down a bus, but it was full. Another bus came along and I ran across the street, warned the driver of the drunken hose thief (it was the thief, not the hose that was drunk), and the driver refused entry to the man.

As I waited for the police, any police, the man walked out of my view and disappeared. It turned out that the police had sent a patrol unit to the edge of town and simply waited for the man to walk into their dragnet.

I drove to the police station, pointed to the man, and made my statement about what had happened. I also got on the phone and asked JR to come and identify the perp as the one who had entered her house.

By then, police from the neighboring province showed up. I re-stated my statement, as did JR. I told the police about the recent Rash of Break Ins (why is it always a rash? Why not a Flurry? Or a Bevy of Break Ins?). The police asked that we try to identify the owner of the hose (which we have now done) and get them to also make a statement to the police.

One of the cops asked if I was in the military during Vietnam. He said that I looked very official and was brave to deal with this guy who could have become violent. It’s funny, or more like odd to me, that even though I really don’t like conflict, I wasn’t at all afraid to confront this guy. I stood right in his face and told him to never come to my neighborhood again. One of the policemen tapped the man on the head and said, “Listen to the man.”

The upshot of this several hour intrusion on my Spanish verb study is that the man was led off in handcuffs (called esposas, same as esposa, the word for “wife” — go figure) to the other precinct, facing at least three or four charges: attempting to sell goods that he most likely didn’t own, trespassing at JR’s house, being out and about without his national identity card (a really, really big oops), and being drunk and disorderly in public.

So I feel pretty good about all of this. We got a petty thief off the street, and perhaps he is the one who has been doing all the damage in our neighborhood under the cover of darkness. Now he knows that we will take him to task for his habits. I also feel really good that once again our Panamanian neighbors have shown us that this is indeed a village. By the end of three hours, seven households were involved to pull together the pieces to put this man in jail.

That’s all for now. Tomorrow I’m back to work. I’d like to get some paint sprayed on some interior walls.