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Installing the Beetle

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Written by Matt   
Tuesday, 20 April 2010 00:18
In my Bougainvillea-maintenance book, here the author says that in order to promote “spectacular blooming” in the tropics, you must use a fertilizer high in nutrients, most particularly iron. He says this something like ten times, repeating it over and over again like a hypnotist, so I assume that it is the secret I have been lacking.
On my way home, I stopped at the Novey which is to Calidonia, what a pearl is to an oyster: this spectacular thing set within a bunch of muck. Inside, a young man named Elvis showed me to the garden section and when I asked him if he had a dedo verde (my closest guess at a green thumb which more accurately translates to “green finger”) he said, “not that I’m aware of.”

“A skill for the garden,” I clarified. Again, he said he didn’t think so but if I wanted, he could ask his manager.

Elvis convinced me to buy a bag of Nutrex: Abono Foliar for $8.95. It was, he said, much better than Miracle Grow and less than half the price. I did not question the fact that “abono,” at least as I know it, means season ticket with the assumption that it also meant something like fertilizer. This is something I do quite often in Panama: accept words that seem completely out of place with the false confidence that they have alternate meanings. It is a daring and vulnerable thing to do, but I like it.

Returning to Casco Viejo with my Nutrex, I was asked by a man at a stoplight why there was so much traffic. It might be different for an actual Panamanian person, but as a visitor, I’m always extremely happy when someone asks me a question.

“Ah yes, well, tomorrow the church is having a large event to install a new…” I knew this much because I had just read about it in La Prensa. A new bishop was going to be taking over and this was cause for giant celebration. I had forgotten, however, the word for bishop.

“To install a new…beeshop,” I said, which is a useful technique in Panama: pretend every word is a cognate. The man laughed and I drove past him wondering, as I so often do, what it was exactly that just came out of my mouth.

Following today’s activities, the process of feeding my Nutrex to my bougainvilleas was as relaxing as it was possessive. I got the sense the plants really liked it too. As they were slurping up the food, I used my new Blackberry dictionary, a thrilling and accessible application, to learn the word for bishop (obispo). I also discovered that the word bicho, the word I had used to represent bishop, means beetle. The church was installing a new beetle. It was the first time that's happened for sure!
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Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 April 2010 14:29