Panama is about to get out of control for about a week. If you ever want to party, this is the place to come. It is Carnival time and the whole country actively participates. For our little project, and us Carnival means a week of work lost! Next week everything shuts down until Thursday but it is common in the construction industry for workers to get the whole week off.
Our plans had included completing the main floor slab by the start of Carnival, which would give us a week for the concrete to cure before work resumed on it. A week ago, it looked like that would never happen. Caterina, our builder, had a talk with the workers and made a deal with them that if they worked the extra time to complete the slab before leaving for Carnival, they could have the Thursday and Friday off, otherwise they would have to return to the job on Thursday. She said she gave them “homework” and they rose to the challenge immediately. We found them working at sunset on more than one day. Lester, one of the workers gestured with his index finger circling his watch communicating that they were working around the clock.
Work time in Panama for construction normally runs from seven to three and seven to noon on Saturday. Our crew lives on the property and so do not have to worry about travel time. They work an extra hour each day and get all day Saturday off. They also work an extra hour per day for food that we provide them.
Weather the last couple of days up here has been miserable! It is as if the rainy season is back. The wind is up, the sun is gone, fog and mist hides views of the next ridge on the mountain and all of this is interspersed with heavy bouts of torrential rain. It is great for the plants and flowers, which were starting to dry out as is common in the dry season, and the ducks seem to like it. It does make outside construction extremely uncomfortable, though.
Today, the critter count increased by one small Scorpion. This makes a total of two Scorpions and one Coral Snake that have been located and destroyed by the workers.
The main floor deck across the front of the house was completed a few days ago but the rest of the floor on the main level remained outstanding. Cement cannot be poured until the electrical contractor and the plumbing contractor visit the site to run water, sewer, and electrical conduit on the ground, which will be poured into the floor. Our builders have worked a few hours a day extra to get ready for the main floor slab pour. Sunset here runs about 6:30PM and it gets dark quickly after that.
The status yesterday morning was that all the foundation walls were up and the interior was back filled with earth and compacted. The electrician had come and gone and the plumber was due to complete the balance of his work. A quick check of the site revealed that the electrical had not been run in the master suite and the plumber had not arrived by ten AM. They were ready to mix and pour the cement but could not until the other trades had completed their work. You could tell the team was getting anxious.
The job superintendent decided to complete the electrical conduit in the master bedroom and so the concrete mixing, delivery and pouring began in an area away from the missing plumbing work. The plumber eventually arrived and completed his work by around four PM. The concrete work continued.
It is customary to have a celebration to mark the completion of the main floor slab so we had planned a late lunch, some junk food, and a cooler full of beer and pop. We had asked what the workers wanted for food and we had arranged with a local restaurant to prepare the food, which we picked up around noon. We were ready to go about two in the afternoon but the concrete work continued in the wind and rain. The word “frio”, which means “cold”, was used often but the work continued.
Sunset came and went but the work continued. Cars had to be moved into place to light the concrete mixing area and the corner of the slab where they were working. Eventually, the work completed at around seven-thirty, in the dark and in the rain.
Everyone adjourned to the “deposito”, the room where tools and cement is stored, for our little slab party of food and drinks. Everything was consumed, food, cake, junk food, and a cooler full of beverages. Now, we were warned that there would be nothing left after the party and true to form, what they did not eat or drink; they asked if they could take home to their families. The pantry was empty. Of course we said yes!
Panamanian workers have a bit of a reputation for being clock-watchers and lazy. Our experience has been just the opposite. Our workers start early, finish late and are always willing to go the extra mile. We give lots of credit to our builder, Caterina and the job supervisor, Dario for their motivational skills and working effectively with this group of guys. Great job!