Ah the frustrations of life in a foreign country where the national anthem is "There's Always Tomorrow." No not really, but the mañana syndrome is alive and well here and evident around every corner. Last week for instance we made the ninety minute trek into Panama City and spent 30-minutes stuck in grid-lock traffic before we even crossed the Bridge Of The Americas. What that means to those of you not familiar with Panama is that the traffic tie ups began even before we crossed the bridge into the city. But we made our way to the large, bright blue building to solve an ongoing problem with our property taxes. We found a parking spot and took our lives into our hands crossing the street while four lanes of traffic attempted to run down the gringos all in the pouring rain. Our bags and pockets were searched by the security guard at the door as we made our way inside the building. We stopped to speak with the lady at the desk in front of the elevator and explained that we needed to go to "piso siete." She said "no" and explained back to us in Spanish that the seventh floor office was closed today.
You see three weeks ago when we began the process of solving the mess with our taxes we found a clerk in the tax office that spoke English. He told us what forms we needed to bring back to the office on the 7th floor that was only open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We asked to speak to him again on Friday and he apologized and said that the hours of that office just changed last week, and now they're only open on Tuesday and Thursday. He went on to shake his head and roll his eyes saying that no one knows why they changed the hours of the office on floor seven. From there we had to go to another office which was already closed for the day, making our trip a total waste of time. Clyde and I looked at each other laughing and said, "oh well that's Panama, we'll just have to come back next week."
Our Canadians friends celebrate their Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October, but family get-together's are usually held on the Sunday before the holiday. Some friends invited us over to help them celebrate and I wanted to bring along a decadent dessert to share. I especially thought it would be nice to make something out of pumpkin since it's one of those things associated with the festive, fall holiday. I searched online through countless numbers of recipes before settling on a streusel topped pumpkin cheesecake made with Cool Whip and instant pudding mix. Since I've never seen canned pumpkin here in Panama I'd substitute "camote" the local version of sweet potato. Last week at Price Smart, the large warehouse type of store in the city, we did see whole pumpkins for sale at the ridiculous price of $10. So I had the pumpkin, well sort of.....found a small section of instant pudding and pie filling and even found the cheesecake flavored one that the recipe called for too. Already had everything else needed except for the Cool Whip which I was sure I'd seen here but never bought. Looked at one store but no Cool Whip, then another, then another and by this time I was frustrated. Since I'd never used heavy cream to make whipped cream I didn't want to learn at this point and just ditched the whole pie project and made pumpkin cookies.
The cookies came out soft and fluffy, lightly sweetened, and the recipe called for a glaze to be dribbled over them making them look pretty. Frostings and glazes in the tropical heat don't go too well together so I had to do more research. I found a recipe for marshmallow frosting that's designed to hold up in hot temperatures which seems to be what the local bakeries use here. But it too used whipping cream so I ditched that idea. Then I found a glaze that used powdered sugar and corn syrup which is the same one I used last year for the Canadian Thanksgiving so I went with that. Although this glaze doesn't melt and run off the cookies it still doesn't harden for stacking. So after making and decorating over 100 cookies I froze them on individual cookie sheets before stacking them in the pan I'd deliver them in. Since I didn't want them around tempting me to eat them I brought most of them to the party and refused to bring any back with us. And my cookie loving hubby helped by eating many of the left behind cookies the next day so I didn't have to indulge in too many myself. Perhaps that's why the bakeries here don't have anything rich and delectable because it would melt into a pile of sugar that only the ants would enjoy.
When we first moved to Panama I was impressed to discover they actually have trash pick up here. For a mere $6 a month they come pick up our garbage twice a week. Usually they come in the middle of the night causing all of the dogs in the neighborhood to bark in unison as the noisy truck drives slowly through the streets. But lately that's changed and garbage pick up has not been reliable, so again we just need to wait. Sometimes they come once a week, sometimes every two weeks or maybe even once a month if at all. Right now we're going on week three that the trash is piled high in front of everyone's house just waiting. Eventually the locals drag it off and throw it out in the woods. Maybe if everyone brought it to the office of the trash collection company and dropped it in front of their door things would change? Probably not since things are done differently here, and no one understands why. So we'll just continue to hurry up and wait for other things here in Panama....along the gringo trail.