Casitas for Rent in Cuesta de Piedra

Recently there have been some people looking for short term rentals, so I posted about a house sharing possibility #1, and the house sharing possibility #2, and here are a couple casitas for short term or long term rental.

Cuesta de Piedra is a small town between Concepción and Volcan. A Google Map will help you find it. It is at a higher elevation and cooler than David and the towns along the highway. The area is mostly farms and a lot of dairy cattle, and it’s really beautiful. The casitas are on Cedo’s property, and behind them is her farm. The farm has dairy cattle, pigs, chickens, and some plant crops for personal use. There is a caretaker and his family who live on the farm and do the daily work.

The bigger casita was a restaurant in the past. Now it has been turned back in to a casita but it is easy to imagine it full of tables of happy people eating Cedo’s good food. This casita has a large room in the front which is the living room on the left, and the kitchen on the right. Towards the back are two bedrooms and the bathroom.

The smaller casita has one bedroom and a loft. The living room is in front, the kitchen and bath are in the middle, and the bedroom is in the back.

There are buses that run north and south on the road in front of the casita. There is a small store, a small restaurant and a few other things within walking distance in Cuesta de Piedra. For supermarkets and other shopping, much more is available in both Volcan and Concepción, and of course in David.

The larger casita is $250/month, and the smaller is $200/mo. This includes water and trash. You pay for electricity and internet. If you have questions you can write me at info@thePanamaAdventure.com and I will do what I can to get answers and facilitate communication with Cedo.

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House Sharing in David #2

This home is in Villa del Carmen, a quiet middle class Panamanian neighborhood on the north side of David, just within the city limits. The neighborhood is surrounded by woods and a beautiful river runs along the east side. There is only one way in and out so it is quiet and safe, and the neighbors are friendly and welcoming.

My good friend Cedo has an extra room in her charming little house. There is also a recently arrived expat lady from the US staying there, so you would get a mix of Spanish immersion (Cedo speaks no English), and a gringa friend having a similar experience.

Cedo is easy going and not fussy about little things, and will do anything she can to take care of you and make you comfortable. There is internet in the house, and use of a washing machine.

There is a neighborhood bus that comes around every hour or so which can take you to shopping or the downtown terminal, or if you prefer there are inexpensive taxi’s everywhere in town.

Both this and the previous house would be suitable for a well behaved, non smoking single person who would enjoy the experience of living in a nice, very Panamanian household.

For questions or more info email me at info@thePanamaadventure.com

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House Sharing in David #1

Some people have popped up recently looking for short term rental possibilities in this area, so I am putting together a couple things that I know about. Here in David short term rentals are probably a bit difficult to find. Even long term furnished rentals are harder to find than unfurnished (and unfurnished means no stove or fridge or washing machine). But, I know of a couple house sharing possibilities and a couple casitas for rent in Cuesta de Piedra, so I’ll put together some photos and some information in case it is helpful to anyone.

This house is on Ave Tomas Herrera close to Colegio Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles. (A google map should bring it up – look for the school on the north side of David, north of the Pan-American highway) This is a very nice neighborhood with some beautiful homes. It is close to a bus route and if you like walking, probably a 15 minute walk to shopping.

I stopped by today to chat with the owner of the house. She was just finishing lunch and her housekeeper was there, so they weren’t expecting company. But, in typical Panamanian style, she welcomed me warmly and gave me the house tour so I could take a few photos. She is 92 and very proud that she can pretty much take care of herself with a bit of help with the heavier work. She has a son living next door and a granddaughter on the other side if she needs anything. She is charming and delightful, and the few times I have stopped to talk with her have been a real pleasure.

Panamanian homes typically have small bedrooms and may be lacking some comforts we are accustomed to in the US (like hot water), but I think this is offset by the beautiful plants and the lovely homeowner. I think she would be a pleasure, and it would be Spanish immersion as well (she speaks no English). As far as I know there isn’t internet in the home but if you have an iPad, iPhone or similar device you can get a data plan for $11-12/month which will do for basics, but not if you work on line or need a lot of internet.

Another possibility is coming in the next post, and I am visiting Cuesta de Piedra tomorrow so I will have photos of the casitas there soon.

Oh, and for questions or more info email me at info@thePanamaadventure.com

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la Feria Internacional de David

La Feria Internacional de David (the International Fair of David) is a yearly event in March. People come from a number of other countries to participate, and the fairgrounds come alive with activity. There are things for sale, things to look at, businesses sharing information, plenty of food, and fun things for children and adults.

We went on a Wednesday afternoon hoping to avoid the crowds that can descend in the night and on the weekend.

There were multiple buildings full of vendors selling all sorts of things, mainly clothes, shoes, purses, backpacks, and other personal / decorative items. I didn’t need anything and was very good about just window shopping until I saw an observation bee hive where I ended up talking and then buying a bottle of honey. (I was a backyard beekeeper in the US so this interests me) I was too busy chatting though and didn’t even think to snap a photo.

I believe the vast majority of the merchandise for sale is hand made. There were a lot of really beautiful things and I admire the skills of the people who make them. Haydeé was looking for some patio furniture so we spent quite a bit of time looking at the various furniture vendors from Nicaragua. This is all hand made and so gorgeous!

I talked with a few of the furniture folks, and they said they travel a lot selling their furniture. Next they are going to Los Santos area, then to Panama City. It must take a lot to haul all the merchandise around so I hope they are able to make a decent living at it.

There were many businesses represented who sell real estate, appliances and other things for homes, various services and equipment… I don’t have much info on this since none of us were looking for this sort of thing, so we just breezed through these buildings to enjoy a bit of air conditioning and then were on our way.

There were a lot of animals! There was a very large barn full of cattle, mostly bulls, and some of them very large. There was also a sort of zoo area with other animals and birds in cages but somehow we missed that this year.

I was looking forward to the plants area. There were also plants for sale and I was very good and only looked. There were a lot of gorgeous ornamental plants and flowers, and some orchids that I looked at more than once though.  I am most interested in plants that produce food and I didn’t see any of them to tempt me, so that helped.

By now the sun was getting low in the sky and the roads were starting to fill up with more people. On our way out we bumped into a musician friend of Haydeé who was setting up, so we hung around a while to see if they would start playing. We watched some kids doing traditional dances on that stage but eventually decided that we had all the excitement we needed for one day and headed home.

The lighting was very bad with bright advertising signs behind and no light on the dancers so apologizes for the poor photo. It was a lot of fun to see them dance though, and they had obviously worked hard to learn their routines because they performed flawlessly.

The lighting was very bad with bright advertising signs behind and no light on the dancers so apologizes for the poor photo. It was a lot of fun to see them dance though, and they had obviously worked hard to learn their routines because they performed flawlessly.

The feria is a much anticipated event every year so if you are in the area it’s definitely worth a few hours to check it out. It’s $3 to park, $2 entrance, but only $1 if you are retired. That’s not much when you consider how much time and work go into putting this together.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Rule of Thirds

Weekly Photo Challenge: Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is a photography concept that puts the subject of the photograph off-center, which usually results in blank space in the rest of the image. If you focus closely on your subject and use a wide aperture, your photograph’s background will also be beautifully blurred in that blank space. The blurred area behind your focal point is referred to as bokeh, and when executed well, it adds depth and artistry to an otherwise simplistic photograph.

There are more bugs….

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Symmetry

Weekly Photo Challenge: Symmetry

I am also way behind on photo challenges. I have been sorting through a couple years worth of photos and backing them up in case this old laptop bites the dust. In the process, I have come across some I want to use in these photo challenges. Warning – there are bugs!

For symmetry, I find some of the many representations we find in nature more interesting than a symmetrical composition of a photograph.

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What Happened?

I looked at the calendar and realized it has been over two weeks since I have posted something. I don’t know what happened. A day goes by and I don’t write something, and then another goes by, and then another.

Maybe life is too normal. I have been here almost 2 1/2 years, and it’s easy to forget that daily life in Panama might be interesting to people reading about it from afar. But, mostly, I have been too busy living life and haven’t taken the time to write about it.

My usual view at my outside "office". The flowers are a gift from one of my neighbors, and the big green thing is a guanabana (soursap) that Joel managed to get before it fell.

My usual view at my outside “office”. The flowers are a gift from one of my neighbors, and the green spiny thing is a guanabana (soursop) that Joel managed to climb up and get before it fell.

Days seem to fly by and I never get everything done. How did I ever manage to find time to work and do everything else I used to do? Every moment was scheduled and I felt guilty for any moments of “doing nothing”. I still have trouble with doing nothing. This time seems like such a gift and I don’t want to waste it. Now though I have so much more choice about how I spend my time.

But, ask me what I do all day and I have to think about it. We have had more cyclists and guests here, and of course I want to spend some time with these interesting people.  I go biking myself most days. I have a new friend who plays tennis so we have gone out a couple times to hit some balls. I went to the Feria with some friends. My neighbor showed me her favorite produce market. Of course there are the usual household chores too.

The back yard - the bananas look pretty shredded after weeks of windy summer weather. The ground cover looks pretty good for not having rain for a long time. The squash plant has been watered daily and seems to be thriving.

The back yard – the bananas look pretty shredded after weeks of windy summer weather. The ground cover looks good for late in the dry season. The squash plant in front has been watered daily and seems to be thriving.

Today is mostly a quiet Sunday at home. This morning I checked email while eating breakfast and then went bike riding, visiting some friends along the way. Then I showered and made a smoothie for lunch – banana, mango, strawberry, and guanabana (soursop). Guanabana has a bit of a strange taste but maybe I am getting used to it, and in a smoothie it’s fine. It is supposed to be really good for you so I have frozen cubes of it for later use. The mangoes (picked up from a tree in the neighborhood) are still mostly green but a friend said you can cook them like green apples, adding sugar or sweetener as needed. She is right! Strawberries are a treat usually only found in the highlands but I got lucky at my neighbor’s produce market – 5 pounds for $6.25. I have enough in the freezer to last a while. The bananas are a gift from Cedo’s farm.

Laundry is under way and drying quickly in the hot sun. A little house maintenance and floor washing is in order today also. Dinner only needs to be warmed up. We bought a used BBQ a couple days ago so we have some BBQ pork and chicken in the fridge. We have some veggies that only need to be warmed up and I’ll make a cucumber and tomato salad. We’re watching Episodes on TV/on line, the Showtime comedy series with Matt LeBlanc, so that’s this evening’s dinner entertainment.

The terrace roof is now insulated with a blue tarp, and the light installation is under way.

The terrace roof is now insulated with a blue tarp, and the light installation is under way.

The rest of my time today will probably be spent catching up on my blog, reading others, and maybe a bit of yard time with my audio book. Joel has put a tarp under the terrace ceiling which looks kind of cool, and is also insulating us from the roof which gets warmed up by the afternoon sun. Now he is moving a light to the other side of the terrace so he can BBQ after dark more easily.

The BBQ waits to be put back in place while one of our frequent visitors gets a drink from the not fancy, but much appreciated bird bath.

The BBQ waits to be put back in place while one of our frequent visitors gets a drink from the not fancy, but much used bird bath.

So, there you go, a little slice of our life in David, Panama. It’s pretty sweet!

 

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Albrook, the Panama City Bus Station

Panama has a great bus system but it can be a bit intimidating especially at Albrook, the big bus terminal in Panama City. Maybe a few photos and tips will help.

It is a large, busy, but attractive bus station.

Albrook is a large, busy, but attractive bus station.

When you arrive at the bus station, probably the first thing you want to do is buy a ticket to your destination. We were going to David so we needed to find the window selling tickets to David.

The easiest thing is to hand the your passport(s) to the agent and request your tickets – dos para David, por favor (two for David, please). They need your name and passport number, and its easier to let the agent read the information than try to tell them through the window in a noisy place.

Your ticket will have some important information.

315Allbrook16

I have circled the most important parts. Bus 63, means you will be on bus #63, and this number will be painted on the outside of the bus. Asiento 50 means you will be in seat #50. As you go down the aisle look for seat numbers. If I remember they may also say Vent (window) and Pasa (aisle). Hora 10:00 AM means you are leaving at 10:00 O’Clock. Destino (destination) is Panama, and Salida (departure) is David. Monto is price. The words above mean – esteemed passenger, present yourself 30 minutes before your departure.

Now you need one more thing, the card to get you through the turnstile so you can get to the boarding area. This seems to be unique to Panama City, so you won’t need this in other bus terminals. (This card is also good for buses and the metro)

315Allbrook4

This place isn’t far from where you buy the bus ticket, just a bit down to the left from the David window. Again, give the agent your passport and tell her how much money you want to put on the card (I’m afraid I don’t remember costs but it isn’t much, maybe a dollar for the card and $.25 to get through the turnstyle?) One card can be used for multiple people so you only need one.  Keep your card because it can be used again, and you can also have it recharged here. You will find bathrooms on either side of this window also, and this card is used to get through the turnstyles to the bathrooms. Any time you use the card, your balance will be shown in the turnstyle window where you swipe your card.

Yeah! Now you are ready for the bus. The next thing is to find the waiting room, which is between the David ticket window and the place that sells the 3 in 1 cards.

If you have baggage, go to the side of the bus. There will be someone there loading baggage underneath. He will stick a ticket on your baggage and give you the other half. Hang on to this ticket because you will need to present it at the other end to claim your baggage. (They unload baggage one piece at a time and call out the number for the owner to come forward and claim their item. When you claim yours you have to present your half of the ticket. It’s a bit chaotic but somehow it always works out).

Then, finally, you are on the bus, in your assigned seat, and ready to get on your way! One more suggestion though – bring a sweater or jacket. Sometimes they get the air conditioning cranked up to freeze level.

Every bus has an assistant who takes tickets, loads the movies, answers questions, reminds you of your stop if you are getting off somewhere along the way, and does anything else he can to make things run smoothly and keep everyone comfortable.

Every bus has an assistant who takes tickets, loads the movies, answers questions, reminds you of your stop if you are getting off somewhere along the way, and does anything else he can to make things run smoothly and keep everyone comfortable.

If you are arriving at the bus station, things are much less complicated.

The mall also has a big food court of you are hungry. It’s at the very end of the hall past all the ticket windows.

Hopefully this will give you some idea of what to expect at the Albrook Bus Terminal. Everyone is helpful and used to confused travelers, but I think you feel better when you are armed with a bit of information beforehand.

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Residency! (and a good lawyer)

It’s official, we are now legal residents of Panama! We went to Panama City last Wednesday, spent a bit of time at immigration, and left with our official residency cards.

I wrote a post about our application process HERE, which we did in December 16th. On February 15th our lawyer told us that our residency was ready (two months – very fast).

It can happen that there is actually some problem so rather than call us to Panama City for nothing, our lawyer requested that we send our passports and temporary cards to him by Uno Express. He took them to immigration to verify that there were no problems to be ironed out and everything was good to go.

On the 25th (after I returned from a short trip) we touched base and he told me that yes, everything was ready and we only needed to come to Panama City. We met on Wednesday morning, March 4th, at immigration. When we arrived there was a line around the building. We waited for maybe 30-45 minutes, and then waited in another long line inside where you request a number for the department you need. It worked out that our lawyer made it through the outside line just before we got to the desk at the head of the inside line, so when we got our number we were all together and ready to proceed to the next step.

There was almost no waiting for photos. I was asked to sign an electronic pad and then look at the camera, and then it was Joel’s turn to do the same. After his photo was taken my card was put in my hand, and then his was handed to him. That was it. We were done! Except for waiting in lines the process took only a few minutes. It is still sinking in that we are legal now. We have our permanent cards which are good “indefinitely” (it says so right on the cards!)

I cannot thank our lawyer, Marcos Kraemer, enough. The whole process went smoothly and he gave us all the information we needed at every step of the way. So many of our friends have been tripped up because they didn’t know or have some important thing. This can cause delays, increased costs, and of course a lot of frustration. I feel so fortunate that everything went smoothly and we were so well taken care of.

If you need a lawyer, I highly recommend Marcos. His website is HERE. He may look like a young guy but he is very competent and experienced. He may show up in jeans and a polo shirt, but he doesn’t want to look like a lawyer with a briefcase who may have computers and documents worth stealing. He carries files in plain folders. If he has passports they are kept elsewhere apart from folders and documents to keep them extra safe. He has done this enough times to know where any possible hiccup may happen and he works hard to make everything go smoothly.

An aside, about the short trip I mentioned. Marcos recommended that I not travel since at that time I had only copies of my passport and temporary residency card. I went to Santiago on the bus which meant I had to pass through the check point at Guabala where they always check your ID’s. This time though, both ways, the officials didn’t even get on the bus. On our way to Panama City it was the same, but on the way back the officials were not only carefully checking documents, they were looking in backpacks and personal belongings! But, we had our brand new residency cards to show them. They looked, smiled, nodded, and went on. Yeah! It feels really good to be legal. And, it also felt good to pay $10.60 for the bus ticket, instead of the usual $15.25.

Soy Chiricana (my friends say that now I am Chiricana – a person from Chiriqui Province). Esto es bueno :)

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Travel Ideas

One of the good people from RelayRides are looking for inspiration about travel like tips, tricks, things I must have, or helpful comments. (By the way, if you are traveling in the US check out RelayRides. They pair people needing to rent a car with people willing to rent out their personal cars. What an interesting idea. And, if you have a car you can make some extra money by renting it out. Their website explains it all.)

I have traveled mainly by air and bus, and have recently started to travel a bit by bicycle. There are others with far more experience, and many others who also share their ideas and tips, but maybe this post can pull together a few important points.

It seems to me if you have your passport and credit cards, a sense of humor and some patience,  anything else can be solved. But, I also try to be prepared for the “what if’s” so hiccups along the way won’t be so difficult.

I carry a copy of my passport, residency card, drivers license, important phone numbers, airline and hotel reservations, and any other important cards and documents. I also have scanned copies in my tablet, and in my email so I could pull them up from any computer with an internet connection. If something would happen at least I have these copies to show officials, and the important numbers and other information to help me get the documents replaced.

I also have a number of credit cards. It is no fun to go to the store or ATM and find there is a problem with your credit card. If you don’t have another card to use you could be really stuck. I also have scans of my credit cards in my tablet and my email, fronts and backs. If something happens I have my numbers, and also the phone numbers to call and report a card lost or stolen. Also, if you are traveling to another country don’t forget to tell your credit card company so their fraud control measures don’t shut you down.

If there is anything you cannot do without like medicine, contact lenses, any critical item, be sure to keep it with you and not in your checked luggage. I keep a ziplock bag with enough contacts and solution for 4-5 days, my toothbrush and few other toiletries and toss it in my backpack / carry on. With travel size bottles you can have a “survival kit” that doesn’t take up much room, and you can survive lost or diverted checked luggage. I keep anything expensive like a small stash of cash, my iPad, and camera (with chargers and connectors) with me and not in checked luggage. I also carry an empty plastic water bottle (fill it up after you get through security) and some snacks. It never hurts to have a couple plastic bags and cloth or paper napkins, just because, and a pen, a bit of paper, and some business cards for the fellow traveler who wants to check out your blog or share email addresses.

Beyond that, most of the details are personal choice. I prefer to travel as light as possible but have plenty to do to occupy myself. I would rather wear the same 2-3 outfits for a month than struggle with lots of luggage. My iPad (a much appreciated gift from Joel) allows me to bring plenty to do in one compact package. I can work in my blog, listen to or read books and articles, sort and edit photos, play games, and do even more if there is an internet connection. Clothing in layers is good too, with a sweater or light blanket so you don’t get too cold in the air conditioning. We are so acclimated to a hot climate that this is especially important for us. I also like comfortable shoes for hiking through airports and bus stations.

Above all, have fun! Take good care of yourself with enough rest, good food and fluids. Go exploring – talk with the locals, eat local food, experience new places off the beaten paths. Leave time and flexibility in your schedule for new experiences, and a bit of room in your luggage for a new treasure or two.

Any of you who have traveled much probably already know these things, but a bit of review is sometimes good. Now it’s YOUR turn! What good travel tips do you all have to share? What have you found is important to have or do when you travel?

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