Temas Especiales

22 de Jan de 2021


A gardening experiment

PANAMA. Art Buchwald said: “Ever since my grandfather immigrated to this country, we’ve sometimes wonder how well I am fitting into my ...

PANAMA. Art Buchwald said: “Ever since my grandfather immigrated to this country, we’ve sometimes wonder how well I am fitting into my adopted home.

When we first settled in Panama two years ago, I decided to build a composting bin.


To that end, I carefully set aside eggshells, coffee grounds and vegetable peelings, and placed them on the ground behind my garage along with composting enzymes I’d smuggled through customs in my underwear, thus beginning the composting process.

Part two of my plan involved building a concrete composting pit with my bare hands.

I am a man. I have tools. I’ve watched construction workers mix cement.

How hard can it be? I once made a cake, though admittedly, from a mix.

Theoretically, I should be able to mix some cement.


I assembled my tools and made my way out to my compost heap.

The dumping ground behind the garage was spotless, completely devoid of festering household detritus.

My gardener, it turned out, had cleaned it up.

What, I began to fret, must our gardener think of us?

What kind of people come to a new country, move into a stunningly beautiful home then stash garbage behind the garage for their gardener to clean?

I tried to explain myself. He smiled and nodded his head, but I knew he didn’t understand a word.


A few weeks later, I decided to show my gardener —and anyone else who might judge me otherwise — that I was a down-to-earth man of the people, not too proud or lazy to do a good day’s work.

I wanted to show, not tell, that I was not the kind of man to ask anyone to do anything that I would not be prepared to do myself.

That principle in my heart and mind, I marched to my front gate with my trusty, brand new weed-whacker in hand.

I pulled and I primed and I tugged. Nothing. I choked the thing and checked the fuel gauge. It was full. I pulled again and again.

Red-faced and sweating, I retaliated like a man, tossing the weed whacker to the ground in punishing fashion.

Seconds later, my neighbor’s gardener appeared, picked up the offending apparatus and flipped the on switch for me.

That’s when I looked up a gaggle of neighborhood gardeners, roaring with laughter — not with me but at me.


It turned out that everything up to that point was just a preview. Within seconds I was attacked by a hungry hoard of fire ants.

I tore off screaming across the lawn, hundreds of tiny red tormentors swarming my lower extremities.

I dove right into the swimming pool with my clothes on.


I have a new gardener now, the previous choosing to leave my employ to save face among his peers.

She’s taught me a thing or two, including that, when it comes to gardening and other household tasks, the best thing a guy like me can do is to share the load — and the household operating budget — with people who are ready, willing and much more able that me to do the actual work involved in maintaining my Panamanian paradise.

This, I discover, is the respectable Panamanian way.