Paraiso Miramar (San Blas area), Jan. 26 - Feb. 15



        Social pleasures rivaled birding pleasures in our caravan.  Shared interest in birds opened us to the diverse life experiences of fellow caravaners -- businessmen, teachers or professors, pilots, scientists, a Protestant minister, an Olympic athlete,  The idyllic pause at Las Cascabeles fostered bonding, and three weeks at Paraiso Miramar made us a community, people who really liked and enjoyed each other.

        Much sociability developed around informal meals, whether periodic communal potlucks or going out to eat with others.

Potluck in the ramada
Dinner at La Familia, San Blas, with Pat and Jim Coe
Lunch at La Familia with Joanne and John Powles

        Almost anything might occasion a gathering.  One enjoyable event was the hot-dog birthday party that Jim and Gwen Woodhouse threw for their much indulged dog Penny.

       Twice the whole group repaired to the nearby Casa Manana hotel for the excellent pizza served there on Saturdays.
Pizza oven
Shirley Sutton, Pat Yoder, Carolyn, Bob Jenkins
Walt & Margot Borden, Ann Jenkins, Charlie

        We all got dressed to the nines (by caravan standards) for our most elegant meal at the Hotel Garza Canela.  This San Blas jewel has long been celebrated among birders -- its name is the Spanish name for the Cinnamon or Boat-billed Heron -- and its restaurant is truly distinguished for both cuisine and service.
Charlie and Carolyn
The diners
The cuisine

        Our social life at Paraiso Miramar peaked on Super Bowl Sunday, February 1.  This memorable day opened with a lavish pancake breakfast laid on by our leaders, the Stouts and Whittens.
Our hosts
Jim & Ruth Stout, Duane & June Whitten
Bloody Marys
Noel Gravelle, John Powles, Charlie
Pancakes by Jim Stout
Breakfast meats by Shirley Sutton
Eggs by Pat Yoder
Gurgles and bravos by Ann & Bob Jenkins

        Breakfast climaxed with a stirring rendition of the North Carolina state anthem.  The scorned Carolina Panthers, from Charlie's birthplace Charlotte, were about to play the New England Patriots for the football championship of the universe.  To the five Tar Heels present (one a Tennessee native of putative North State descent), the words of "Carolina, Carolina" were telling it like it was.  Their state, isolated and impoverished in its early days by a shoaled-in coastline, had been derided as "the Rip Van Winkle of the republic,"  and Tar Heels still think of their homeland as "a valley of humility between two mountains of conceit," aristocratic Virginia and South Carolina.  Therefore our North Carolina contingent sang out with feeling the defiant lines composed by Judge William Gaston in 1835.

Carolina, Carolina, Heaven's blessings attend her.
While we live we will cherish, protect, and defend her.
Though scorners may sneer at, and witlings defame her,
Yet our hearts swell with gladness, whenever we name her.

Hurrah!  Hurrah!  The Old North State forever!
Hurrah!  Hurrah!  The good old North State!

Tar Heels Lee and Pat Yoder, Charlie, Walt Borden, honorary Tar Heel Linda Dunnam

        By the time the Super Bowl telecast flickered to life on El Eden's little screen, a betting pool had spread keen anticipation across Paraiso Miramar.  Everybody was betting on numbers drawn from a hat to predict the point spread between the teams at the end of each quarter.
Warbler neck is bad enough
As usual, even with the best optics, Charlie
has trouble identifying the players
Fans and gamblers (from left) Duane Whitten, Charlie, Coen Dexter, Kent Dunnam, Chris Tenney, Linda Dunnam, Jim Stout, Ann Jenkins, Margot Borden, Bob Jenkins
The betting pool managers
Joanne Powles, Brenda Wright
Carolyn wins the first quarter!
Linda wins both the second and third quarters!!
Gals sweep as Brenda wins the fourth quarter!!!

        For male Tar Heels, the ladies' sweep was a double whammy.  Despite our gambling acumen and our Panthers' grit and derring-do, we ended up -- as we knew in our North Carolina hearts we would -- in a valley of humiliation between betting women and battling-back Patriots.


Photographs copyrighted 2004 by Carolyn Merchant