The Buddhist realtor of Volcan.
Last week heads were turning in this mountain community as two robed Buddhist monks strolled down the main street. They were accompanying local realtor Laura Pedreschi to the site of her new realty office. There, in the warm sunlight of a fresh mountain morning, they sprinkled water and cast rice grains in a symbolic "blessing of her new location."
Previous to this the monks-Dawa Ghangbo from Nepal and Jampa Namgyal from India had performed a 45-minute chanting ceremony in Laura's old office. Outside the storefront office I saw the startled look of a workman as he was preparing his chainsaw. People are used to seeing both Mormon's and Jehovah's Witnesses on the streets of Volcan, but the sight of a traditionally robed monk spreading holy water had this particular workman slack-jawed in disbelief.
I asked this mother of three how she became a Buddhist, particularly as Laura revealed she was raised in a Catholic family and then educated in a Jewish High school. She said the peaceful philosophy was the main attraction. In the cutthroat world of real estate this has prevented her from becoming angry and vengeful. She credits Buddhist practice, in particular compassion for others, for her peaceful and calm attitude.
Laura had been a Buddhist since 2000 and last year her training in tranquility may have saved her life. On the 21st of June 2005, Laura was walking with some friends on a road near the Baru Volcano when she felt a sharp, almost bee-sting-like pain in her foot. She jumped back just in time to see a snake, a deadly eye lash viper, slither away. . Although there are many snakes in the region, bites occur infrequently, and as with Laura, usually the snake is surprised by intruders.
It took ten minutes for her friends to carry her back to the car and then a further fifteen minutes to reach Volcan. Laura was now in considerable pain and the thought of dying came to mind. She told her friends that she was prepared to die but gave clear instructions that after her death they were to hold a big party and there was to be lots of food and music. This Buddhist wake or bash became a distinct possibility as Laura was advised that the necessary life-saving treatment was 45 minutes away in the city of David.
Fortunately the timely use of anti-venom serum and anti-histamine helped save Laura's life. And true to her spiritual perspective, at the time of her attack, she was never fearful and she never wished the snake any harm.
Laura's vision for Volcan
Today, more than a year after the incident, Laura outlined her vision for Volcan, the town she loves so dearly. "I don't want this town to develop without regard for the local people and nature. The newest residents are supporting a relaxed, tranquil, ecologically sound environment. Development should continue to be oriented to those who want to strengthen the best attributes of our community. Sadly there a few who believe that giant advertising billboards and gated communities are the only way to serve potential buyers, but something else is happening here.
Volcan is a unique town, nestled like some small Swiss village high in the fresh spring-like air of the Chiriqui Mountains.
A town where diversity is not only tolerated but welcomed.
Laura Pedreschi, Buddhist realtor extraordinaire is a clear testimony to that fact.