Monday, January 24, 2011


A few days ago I decided I'd rather have a gardener than a cleaning lady.  (Yes, I know this is sexist, but that's how it goes here.)  As it turns out, the process of getting a gardener here in Boquete is quite different from that in the States.

In the U.S.:
  • Look up Landscapers in Yellow Pages.
  • Select several possible candidates.
  • Call them, make appointments for them to come over.
  • Select one, negotiate price and sign written contract.

In Boquete:
  • Tell my landlord I'd like to have a gardener.
  • He finds one who is the cousin of my next door neighbor.
  • The cousin, Alfredo (not his real name), shows up at my door unannounced after a few days.
  • We walk around the yard, I ask him to take out the poisonous Angel's Trumpets and trim the dead branches off the banana trees behind the back fence.  (No, I didn't know how to do this in Spanish, but consulted Google Translate for every sentence.)
  • I tell him I'd like him to come once a week and ask him how much he charges.
  • He answers $10.
  • I give him a cold Coke in mid-morning and feed him lunch.
  • He works most of the day and does a beautiful job.
  • Then we start talking about possible plants for the new flower beds next to the fence.
  • He says he has a lot of plants at his house.
  • We go in my car to his house, which turns out to be the next one up the road, about a hundred yards away.
  • He lives in a large family compound consisting of two or three actual houses and numerous shacks of corrugated zinc sheets arranged in a seemingly random pattern up and down the hill.  
  • He proudly shows me his house from the outside. It is one of the newer corrugated ones.
  • I ask him if he has television. He replies "Una chiquita."  (And I thought Chiquita was bananas.)
  • I pick out about a dozen plants, including a fabulous red amaryllis.
  • We shake hands and he agrees to come next Monday.
I'm glad my next-door neighbor has a cousin.

And I wonder how many children were able to have dinner on that $10.


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