Books for a Better World

We all know what a difference a book can make to our own lives. Imagine if you didn’t have easy access to good quality books for yourself. Would you be willing to do something about it? The local island schools down here have very limited access to books.

We have a container scheduled to deliver some goods to us in Panama in July. We know how difficult it is to acquire good quality children’s literature in Spanish at reasonable prices here in Bocas del Toro. So, I contacted Books for a Better World to see about how we might be able to sponsor a library for one of the local public schools. Fortunately, Alice Finn Gartell, President of Books for a Better World thought it was a great opportunity to send books down to Panama.

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We have worked out a sponsorship rate for a small 50 – 60 book library for these schools. Normally, Books for a Better World requires a $350 donation to support this size library. We were able to get a reduced amount because Tranquilo Bay will be providing the transportation from the USA and out to the individual locations to deliver the books.

You can make any contribution toward sponsoring one or more of these libraries. We will group the donations together until we reach the reduced sponsorship amount. Tranquilo Bay will be donating the transportation of up to ten of these libraries from the USA to Panama. We will work with a variety of people to deliver the books out to the individual communities. Please contact me at info @ tranquilobay (dot) com if you are interested in sponsoring one of these school libraries and I will give you the details on how to move forward.

Old Bank Field Trip

The Bocas Garden Club had a session in Old Bank with two guys who have a really neat project with both STRI and USAID. The project is putting in an anaerobic sludge blanket waste management system for a large number of the houses on Old Bank. We took the kids as a field trip to learn more about it. It is a very interesting project.


A completed system.


A system under construction.

Ice Boats

The boys have been working with Gina in school about water and its cycles. They made some ice boats in school to see how the ice would float on the salt water. They were kind enough to make one for Boty and Victoria so that they could join in on the fun. They timed how long they lasted in the water. I believe Boty’s boat made it the longest. Cool experiment.


Preschool begins in earnest

Boty began preschool in earnest last week. She has been going to school with Scott and Tres for about thirty minutes on Saturday mornings for about six months now. She basically informed us that she was going to go to school all those months ago. Now that the boys have moved onto first grade, Gina decided it was time to begin working with Boty a few times a week on her own. Boty loves it. Tres and Scott are each getting one individual session a week as well. The dogs are missing Gina in the afternoons, but the kids are thrilled to get the individual attention. As if only two kids in the classroom wasn’t attention enough. Here are some photos that Gina snapped of Boty in school.


ETA: [ Supplies: Ali Edwards from the kit: Bloom and Grow at Songbird Avenue. All proceeds from this kit go to benefit Autism Speaks. Paper by M Terasawa from Shutterfly Digiscrap Blog. ]

Kindergarden Graduation

Tres and Scott graduated from Kindergarden today. They had an open house in the classroom for all of the employees to stop in and see what all they have done over the last year. It was impressive. Here is the puppet show that they put together as their graduation project. Pretty cool.

Dirty dogs


Well, let’s just say that this Tranquilo Bay teacher is spending most of her time gettin’ dirty…either with two rowdy boys or with two rowdy pups! In addition to working with the boys, I have taken on training Tranquilo Bay’s 7-month-old Labrador pups, Tex and Fula. Almost every afternoon, I a don my “let’s get dirty” uniform and off I go with two lively pups and a chacara full of training treats.

To burn off some energy first we head to the trail so the pups can run, jump, swim in the creek, spar, and roll in the mud. All actions repeatedly enjoyed in random order. I do have to give the pups credit for never running off. If they have rambled too far ahead and can no longer see me, they pause until I catch up or turn back to see where I am. For this, they receive one of many treats. After our hike, we romp around the TB grounds to burn off even more energy. This is where the pups are practicing the “Leave It!” command for when they are tempted to munch on their favorite fruit, pifa, a type of palm fruit. If they eat too much of these goodies, the digestive results are not pretty!

When my 3-year-old Lab is in the mood to tolerate the pups, she tags along for some treats as well. Luna has been very helpful in teaching the pups “Down”. When Tex and Fula saw me giving Luna treats for lying down, Tex picked up on this quickly and went down for a treat too. Fula reluctantly obeys the command for “Down” and with all her hyper energy she cannot hold it down for too long.

The pups will be heading to David to be spayed and neutered sometime in the near future, so I have been training them to walk on the leash. Tex, the more calm of the two, heels very well and Fula is following along much better than expected. So, at this point the pups are practicing to follow the commands: Come, Sit, Down, Off, Leave It, Stay, Heel, This Way, Wait, and Kennel Up.

Tex and Fula are super smart, playful and sweet. Both should have their good doggie manners in place soon so that our guests can enjoy them too! They are special additions to our Tranquilo Bay Yellow Labrador team.


I asked Gina, our wonderful teacher, to share some of her experiences here at Tranquilo Bay with us. Here is one of her stories.

So, here goes the first entry of the life and times of the Tranquilo Bay teacher, the best job I have ever had the pleasure of holding…sorry the position is taken!

When I began teaching at Tranquilo Bay in March of 2008, we started working on Kindergarten material since Tres was 4 and Scott 5 years old. In August, we were studying parts of the plant. Tranquilo Bay is blessed with a beautiful and vivacious jungle setting, so we just naturally began to learn about our surroundings. I remember in elementary school an “experiment” of sorts where I placed a few popcorn seeds in a dampened paper towel and then shoved the towel into a clear plastic container to watch the roots grow. It was fascinating to see the roots do their thing. I thought Tres and Scott might enjoy this too, but with a twist to the original experiment.


As we wandered around TB grounds during recess we chose a few blue seeds from a heliconia plant and then other seeds from a mystery fruit found decomposing. We created a comparison experiment to see which seeds would grow best: by planting some in soil and others in a dampened paper towel. We put these samples in recycled clear plastic peanut butter containers. TB is great about reduce, reuse, and recycle. All the vegetable scraps from the kitchen are processed to create super rich beautiful black compost, so we put this to good use. As the smart boys predicted, the lovely composted soil produced the healthiest little seedlings.

Nevertheless, Tres and Scott were enamored with these plants. I never expected such a response. Each morning on our arrival to school it was the first thing to do: check on the plants! So Tres and Scott bonded quickly with their seedlings and became very attached to them. We nurtured our seedlings and transplanted them into larger containers. While they did their growing we practiced many scientific skills such as measuring their weekly doses of water in milliliters, measuring their heights in centimeters and creating a table to chart their growth, making observations on their happiness and changes, and finally creating a bar graph showing their progress.

It was November and time for me to take my birthday vacation. I would be away from TB for 5 weeks. (Gosh, I love teacher perks!) I felt the plants would suffer without me around to regulate watering and they were sufficiently big enough for transplanting to the big world of Tranquilo Bay grounds. During our recess, Tres and Scott carefully scouted out their planting sites. The next day we returned with fresh compost for enriching the plants’ new homes, a shovel, our plants and a couple of large straight tree limbs to mark their location. I did most of the sweating by digging the holes and for some reason the boys did not feel like getting dirty that day, so my nails took a bit of punishment as I showed them how to mix the compost in with the existing soil, remove the plants from their plastic containers, place them in the soil (but not too deep) and cover up their roots just right. I was planning on Scott and Tres doing all the dirty work, so I hadn’t brought any gloves. Next time!

So, every once in a while during “recreo” we wander over to see how our first transplants are faring….and above the banter between Tres and Scott debating over which plant is whose, we all agree that our plants are very happy and healthy. A lovely addition to the beautiful gardens of Tranquilo Bay.

Needless to say, these little seedlings have led to something much bigger than I expected. Now, we are growing all kind of things….any seed we spot, which is a lot around here, the boys want to plant. We have a lovely avocado sapling sprouting new leaves and reaching higher every day. Since the boys are so into growing things and I am craving a larger variety of veggies in my life, I bought a bunch of vegetable seeds on my way back form my birthday vacation. Through some sort of inspiration in having my own garden, about two years ago I purchased a book about organic gardening. Now, I believe I may have a real reason to crack its spine.

I myself grew up on a small farm in Tennessee and spent much of my time outdoors wandering around, so I suppose this is one of the reasons I love it here so much and enjoy spending time in nature with Scott and Tres. While growing up, we had a nice sized garden. At Tranquilo Bay, due to our somewhat isolated spot on Bastimentos Island, our supply of vegetables is carted a long way over the mountains, the variety a bit on the low side with some chemicals used in helping them do their thing. So….just last week, the boys and I scooped up some rich composted TB soil and planted seeds for spinach, mustard greens, and chives. For watering, Tres and Scott used curled up banana flowers that made perfect bowls for giving our veggie seeds their first drink. Now the anticipation of our newest seedlings has begun…. I’ll keep you posted.

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