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Treasure Hunt of Sorts - 3/30/14

Posted 3/31/2014

There are a few projects and pseudo hobbies that I’m looking to get into down here in Panama, all of which, require specific tools or supplies. It used to be that I could truck on down to Home Depot and pick up anything I needed. If that failed there was always a Google search that would locate a specialty supplier nearby. Failing that, I could find a link to a supplier’s online catalog, order what I need and get it in a few days delivered right to my door. This is not how it works in Panama. For some reason there are no stores that have an online presence in David. There may be one or two in Panama City but there is no catalog of what they carry. The other problem is that the streets are not named so most of the time the address is not shown. If you want to visit the store call them up and get directions using various landmarks. Of course all of that must be accomplished in Spanish. One trick is to park your car near some big well known store and hail a taxi and tell him where you need to go. A taxi might cost $2 or $3 at the most to get from one side of town to the other and if he can’t find it he will ask someone on the street for directions and he will do it all in perfectly fluent Spanish.

For instance I needed powdered lime. Lime is a kind of cement that is far more carbon friendly as well as a nice base for plaster or whitewash like in Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer novel. After a few coats of whitewash the surface gets smooth and hardens into a nice coating. What happens is that the lime absorbs CO2 and chemically turns back into limestone. In Panama lime is a fruit. Fruit is not suitable for painting on walls.

Another thing that I’m looking for is a few masonry tools for cutting and splitting stone such as shims and feathers and some carbide tipped chisels. Here in Boquete the volcano belched out huge boulders of granite like stone that covers everything. Every farm has a pile of these massive rocks piled in some corner of their fields and the rivers and streams have them piled high along the banks. I reckon it would be fun to shape them into blocks and move them around the yard using a few tricks based on leverage.

So begins my search for some toys. The translation tools online was helpful to a point. I needed to find cal, not fertilizer cal, but the other cal. Boquete is all farming or ranching so everyone has fertilizer. I also needed to find carbide cincels. Cincel is Spanish for chisel and carburo is carbide. Problem is that anything made of carbide is rarely in stock as it is very expensive. Most store persons I spoke to did not know what carburo or carbide was. Several of them showed me that they understood and pulled out a drill bit that was made of cobalt. The search went on.

So a few days ago I grabbed Jim, we jumped in the car and headed for David. The plan was to stop in every industrial looking store we drove past and take a look at what they have. A surprising number of them sold all the same things that any Ace Hardware would have and they were everywhere. I finally found a store that had carbide tipped radial saw blades. The guy at the counter knew what carburo was and he shook his head no when I asked, Cincel? So much for that but at least I knew at that point that if they carried carburo they knew what it was. I also learned that he did not carry lime but he had white paint.

After that we head off the main road and head straight into town. I stop at another likely looking place and still no carburo. But they had lime! He also knew the name of a store that might carry carburo cincels. He even wrote it down for me which was a good thing because what I heard and what he wrote had no relationship to each other. So now I had a lead on the chisels but that still only brought me slightly closer to my goal. This because there are not addresses in David and no GPS will find a location without an address. So the hunt goes on.

Yesterday I was speaking with someone about fishing and he mentioned that there was a fish market in David. I asked him where I could find it. It happens to be down one of the main road heading south. When you get to the big jail turn left und drive till you come to the river. It is just off the marina where the boats come in with their catch. Another is hunt being planned but at least I am sure that the Jail can be GPS’d. I also discovered that a friend knows where there is an Asian market where I could get me some good old fashioned Thai curry paste. They were going to take a bus into town but I offered to drive them if only I could see how to get there myself. This is how things are done in Panama.