One of the first things I noticed about our rental house in Las Tablas, Panama, was the absence of screens on the windows.
At first this wasn’t a problem. Even with windows and doors open all the time — necessary to allow the cooling breezes through — bugs weren’t a problem. Smugly I thought, “this is great.”
Then the rainy season started.
Suddenly the house was swarming with flying insects — mosquitoes, flies, enormous beetles, crickets, even a mammoth grasshopper or two.
Meal preparation and eating became races to see who could get there first — the flies, or the people. We were slapping at ourselves — and each other — constantly as one droning mosquito after another wanted to sample us for lunch, dinner or, worse, a midnight snack.
Not fun at all.
There Aren’t Any Window Screens Here
Window screens, like central air conditioning, are a rarity here. If you want screens, you pretty much need to make them because you can’t just go to the store and buy them.
We knew we could find the screening material. But the material to make a frame for the screen was a problem. So was securing the screen to the windows — remember, this is a rental house, so we can’t make any permanent alterations.
Then one day, while shopping with friends at the DoIt Center (Panama’s answer to Home Depot), the solution presented itself.
Fired with enthusiasm, we returned to our respective houses with screening, thin strips of wood and a stapler.
It’s called improvising from locally available materials.
The wood is thin and soft enough that a regular office stapler can penetrate. My husband cut the wood to the appropriate lengths. He cleaned and cut up an aluminum can and used it to reinforce the corners.
Then the stapler got a workout, and, voila! A window screen.
The next problem was how to secure the new screen without making any holes.
The solution here was to use silicon caulk.
The end result isn’t pretty, but it’s a serviceable screen that keeps the bugs out. Our friends went one better and painted the wood before they installed the screens.
The morning that I was able to cook and eat breakfast without spotting a single fly was a red-letter day. Call me an uptight gringa, but I just don’t like sharing my eggs with Panama’s local moscas (flies).
We’re still not completely screened. The DoIt Center didn’t have enough wood, and we had to special order some. The other day they called to say it had arrived, so that should give us enough to add screens to the remaining windows.
In the meantime, we’re really enjoying our almost-fly-free living here in Las Tablas.