International Living?

Why do I have a link to International Living on my sidebar?

Many who know me know that I’m not enthusiastic about a business who’s main purpose is to make money by selling expensive conferences, books, magazines, and other merchandise to potential expats. I don’t think it’s realistic for most of us to “fund our life overseas” using one of their amazingly easy money making ideas. A property recommended as an investment opportunity may not be the right option for you. Panama may not be the inexpensive paradise many are lead to believe, and people could make financially and emotionally costly mistakes.

International Living has many readers. I think most of us started there or at least checked it out at some point. Perhaps if some of these readers find their way to my blog, they will get other perspectives that may help balance their view. When I was first approached by International Living my knee jerk reaction was to decline. But, after much thought and discussion with my husband, I changed my mind and decided to try this for a while. Perhaps the exposure will be good for me and helpful to others.

So, that is why there is a link to Internal Living on my blog.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top

Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top

In a post created specifically for this challenge, share a photo that means On Top!


We have been watching the construction of an overpass for months. Friday was Good Friday-Viernes Santo, so the workmen were on holiday. We took the opportunity to go up on the bridge for the first time. (Shh, don’t tell the security guard below!) It certainly felt like ON TOP from up there.

Joel went up first, while I went around below. When I came to the highway, there he was waving from on top of the bridge!

Joel biked up first, while I went around below. When I came to the highway, there he was waving from on top of the bridge!

I figured since he had no trouble getting up there, I’d go too and snap some photos. This is the Pan-American Highway which, believe it or not, goes from Alaska to Argentina except for the Darien Gap, a wild jungle between eastern Panama and Colombia. This is the highway as it goes through David, Panama. Downtown is to the south but there are many businesses and a shopping area here, and it’s pretty congested. The overpass will allow people coming down on Via Boquete (from north of the city and the mountains) to pass right over the highway and go downtown, which hopefully will relieve a lot of the congestion in this area.

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The photo above is looking west over the highway. You can see KFC, McDonald’s in the distance, and the Ford dealership on the left. Yes there are a lot of US businesses and fast food here, not sure if that is a good thing but that’s a subject for another day.

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This is looking south towards the center of town. The lights on the left are a sports stadium where they have popular baseball and soccer games. This road has a lot of smaller, more local type businesses. From here, it takes maybe 5-7 minutes on my bike to get downtown.

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This is looking east, and the area ahead is one of the biggest and most upscale shopping areas. You can see Blockbuster and Pizza Hut directly below on the left. The Hyundai dealership is on the right.  Farther on the right are a couple banks, and the taller gray building is a Super 99 supermarket that is under construction. In front of that with the white corner and red roof is Super Baru, another good supermarket.

On the left you can see the Toyota dealership. Beyond that but not visible is a TGI Fridays. Conway is part of the shopping center and a high quality store selling everything from clothes to housewares to furniture. Arrocha is a pharmacy and then some, selling a large variety of things from cosmetics to office supplies, kitchen supplies, clothes, toys, and medicines. El Rey is also there, a very large 24 hr supermarket, and DoIt Center (like Home Depot or Lowes), Novey (another Home Depot sort of store), Panafoto (electronics, appliances and more), a furniture store, and a variety of other stores – phones, lighting, wine, pets, electronics, Subway, etc. As you can see, we are not suffering in Panama! This is one reason we like being here. Everything we need is very close by.

So anyway, I took this photo challenge and ran off with it to give you a little look at our city. Zemanta.com doesn’t seem to be finding things today, but I wanted to share a few other good entries in this photo challenge so check these links below.

http://cardinalguzman.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/on-top-in-jerusalem/

https://solaner.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/the-daily-post-on-top/

http://esengasvoice.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/weekly-photo-challenge-on-top/

http://ambitiousdrifter.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/weekly-photo-challenge-whats-on-top/

http://inkhammer.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/weekly-photo-challenge-on-the-top/

http://follygirlsphotoworld.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/weekly-photo-challenge-on-top/

http://maraeastern.com/2014/04/18/weekly-photo-challenge-on-top/

http://words4jp.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/weekly-photo-challenge-on-top/

http://empireoflights.com/2014/04/18/let-me-take-you-on-top/

 

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument

Weekly Photo Challenge: Monument

In this week’s challenge, show us your take on a monument (broadly defined). It could be a fresh angle on a well-known tourist site, or a place nobody knows outside your community. It doesn’t even have to be an official monument. A legendary coffeehouse, a churchyard cemetery, the remains of a treehouse you’d built as a kid — anything can be monumental as long as it’s imbued with a shared sense of importance.

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This monument is in El Parque de Madres (the park of mothers). It’s a small park in an ordinary urban setting that you could easily drive by every day and not notice. The background isn’t remarkable, and the sun tends to shine on everything but the front so it’s not photogenic. But, the other day I decided to bike over and take a closer look, and I was very touched by the words on the monument.

Panama and the Latin cultures have a very high respect for mothers. Mother’s Day here is more important than Christmas, and not just to sell cards and gifts. It is to honor the mothers in your family and among your friends. I also see the respect and support given to mothers on a daily basis.

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The immortal vibration in you is the voice of the supreme creator. You complete your exalted mission perpetuating humanity. Mother: In your work there is always the divine impulse, the breath of eternity.

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Last Stop, Aruba

The last stop on the cruise was Aruba, and we were told this is the best of all. We decided to spring for a tour this time, and got on a bus that took us around the north end of the island and then dropped us on a beach for a couple hours. We took some of the beach time to also visit a bird sanctuary and walk around the area.

Aruba is  a Dutch island like the others, but it seemed even dryer and there was cactus everywhere. I suppose this is good for tourism because your day at the beach will rarely be rained out. I wasn’t surprised to read that 75% of the business in Aruba is tourism. There were tour buses everywhere, a happy party atmosphere, and tons of huge resorts. It felt almost like Las Vegas with a beach and not as much glitter.

This was the last stop on our cruise. The next day was a day at sea while we made our way back to Panama.

I must say, if you have a choice on a cruise take one with a lot of Latin American people. There was music and dancing every night by young and old. There was hardly a quiet place on the boat because groups were always laughing and having lots of fun. There was the friendly attitude we love from both the staff and passengers. It’s too bad that this particular cruise route is going to end soon, but I’m sure other opportunities will come along.

For now though, we are back in Panama and the blog will go back to news and experiences of our life in Panama. Retirement is a wonderful thing, and so is living inexpensively so you have a bit of money to do some fun things.

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Next Stop – Bonaire

Bonaire looked similar to Curaçao – beautiful water, dry land, desert type plants, wind, and pretty pastel buildings. It is also a Dutch territory and also has multilingual people. Tourism is a big industry because of the wonderful diving and snorkeling. We were told that you can go in the water from anywhere on shore and find wonderful things to see.

By now the water was really calling to us, so we set out with the intention of finding someplace to snorkel. I figured with all the tourists who come to enjoy the water we’d find someone willing to rent us snorkels. Sure enough, we found a resort who was happy to fix us up for $5 each, and let us swim around in their water. Oh the things we saw! The fish were amazing. I wish I had an underwater camera. There were so many different kinds of fish of all sizes. The most striking were probably the big blue parrot fish and some others I think were surgeonfish, who were very curious and followed us around. One even startled me by nipping my leg when I was just floating.  The water was cooler than I expected but a very pleasant temperature for swimming, and so clear that it was easy to see everything. Our time in the water was definitely a highlight of our trip. 

After snorkeling, we returned to the ship for a shower, dry clothes, and a bit of lunch. Then went back to town to walk around a bit. We spent most of the time walking along the waterfront, as you will see from the photos of crabs and other critters.

 

 

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First Island Stop – Curaçao

Curaçao is an island in the southern Caribbean, north of the coast of Venezuela. You can find it on Google maps and there is a lot of background information on Wikipedia. I knew very little about any of the islands we visited before we arrived, so it was all a new experience for me. 

The first things I noticed were the gorgeous turquoise blue water, and the attractive buildings in many pastel colors. It was also much drier than I expected. I know they are in a drier part of the year right now, but throughout the year there is only about 20 inches of rain. Except where things were watered regularly, things looked pretty brown.

The island has a colorful history involving slave trade and piracy, as well as more conventional forms of commerce. It has been ruled by a number of countries, and is currently a Dutch territory. Most of the people speak multiple languages – Dutch, Papiamentu (the local language), English, and Spanish. The economy is mainly tourism, oil, financial services, international trade and shipping. Prostitution is legal and human trafficking is thought to be a possible problem.

Willemstad is the capital city, and where we walked around. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

OK, enough info – on with the photos!

Oh, that ship that was docked in the waterway, the Freewinds of Panama, it’s owned by the Scientologists! Check out the Wikipedia article here.

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Threshold

Weekly Photo Challenge – Threshold

In a post created specifically for this challenge, share a photo that captures the threshold — that point just before the action happens, that oh-so-sweet moment of anticipation before that new beginning. It could be a door about to open, or something a bit more metaphorical like a flower about to bloom.

This was taken as the cruise ship passed the breakwater in Colon, Panama, leaving all the ships behind who were waiting for their turn in the canal, and heading us out into the Caribbean sea!

This was taken at sunset as the cruise ship passed the breakwater in Colon, Panama. We left behind all the ships waiting for their turns to go through the canal, and we headed east into the Caribbean to start our week long cruise.

 

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Monday, a Day at Sea

We left Cartagena Sunday evening, and Monday was a full day at sea while we made our way to Curacao. We spent the day wandering around the ship, exercising in the gym, enjoying the food,  taking some random photos, sorting through previous photos, and watching a cooking class in the main atrium.

When the waves picked up and the boat started really rocking, it was funny to watch the water in the swimming pools. We were glad to have a room on deck 2 in the center of the boat because we were rocking a lot less there than most people. In the last part of the video, I’m not sure if they drained a lot of water from the pool or if it sloshed out.

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Cartagena, and the Container Port at Night

The ship didn’t leave Cartagena until after dark, so I had fun taking some photos from the deck. Even on Sunday night, the container port was very busy. Containers were taken off the shop next to us, loaded on to trucks, and then moved to wherever they were supposed to go. Another ship farther down was being loaded by the reverse process.

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More Cartagena, Colombia

I was so excited to see Cartagena. It looked gorgeous from the water, and I had read a bit about the city and the interesting historic section which was supposed to be an easy distance from the port.

What a disappointment! Well, not Colombia, or Cartagena, but our experience with the little bit of it that we were able to see. We got off the ship and wound our way through a very interesting park sort of place with flamingos and other birds.

When we emerged into the taxi stand, we were instantly overwhelmed with taxi drivers trying to convince us to ride with them.

We settled on a taxi driver who agreed to take us to the historic section for $5/each, so we and our friends set out. Before the car doors were hardly open at our destination we were accosted by a man selling hats, and another selling sunglasses, and then more selling beer, drinks, cheap jewelry, and so on. This was pretty much how the whole morning went. Unless we were a bit off the beaten path on a side street, we were constantly approached by aggressive people selling things. The area was beautiful but it was very hard to enjoy it. It’s too bad that the museums were all closed too, and even the church was closing its doors as we were leaving. But, I still did manage to get some photos!

The best part of our time was the taxi ride back to the ship. I think the driver sensed our frustration and wanted to show us a little of the city, so he took us on less than a direct route so we could get a sense of what the area was like. Everything was very clean and mostly white, and very attractive. He recommended that we come back again in a plane and stay in a hotel so we could get a better idea of what it is really like in Colombia.

I would love to explore more of Colombia. When you are on a ship full of tourists though, you’re like prey so it’s a whole different scene than an individual walking around the city. We were all so discouraged we just went back to the ship for the last few hours we had at this port. Now I was also apprehensive about our next ports. Were we going to face more of the same everywhere we stopped? (thankfully we didn’t, and we had a good time at the next places)

 

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