Scorpion? Again?

We were told that scorpions tend to come in houses during the dry season because they are looking for water. We have found this to be true so far. We are now in the height of rainy season though and yesterday, when we were showering, I happened to look over at the shower curtain and there he was!

1014scorpion

What is it about the shower curtain that they seem to like?

This is the second time we have found one near the top of the shower curtain. It was probably hiding in the folds and when we pulled the curtain closed, he was revealed. I think these are pretty cool critters, but not in the house please. Joel got it into a bucket and I tossed it over the fence into the woods where, hopefully, it will make its way somewhere else.

In the bucket, ready for it flight over the fence.

In the bucket, ready for its flight over the fence.

We share our environment with a lot of various critters so it’s always good to shake out clothes, shoes, towels, and anything else where something might be hiding. And, never put your bare hands in leaf piles or other likely hiding places outdoors either. These are good things to do anywhere you live, just in case.

I love living next to the woods because of all the birds and wildlife! If one gets a bit closer than I’d like, at least I can grab a camera and share a photo before it gets “relocated” over the back fence.

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A Rant on The State of the Middle Class and Retirement

I think it is common knowledge that many people are going to have a hard time affording a comfortable retirement, and we all know people who plan to work until they drop because they feel they have no other choice. Joel came across an article recently – Middle-Class Americans Living With Regret About Retirement Savings  One line jumped out at me

In a new survey question added this year, 22 percent said they would rather “die early” than live without enough money for a comfortable retirement. 

More than one in five people are afraid they will be so poor that the time will come when life isn’t worth living. What a sad statement.

I can quote more statistics and link to more articles but I don’t think we need convincing that many people are going to retire with less than they think they need, or won’t retire at all. What does this mean in terms of quality of life?

Quality of life is much more than a financial thing, and I’m afraid that in the US we are going about it all wrong. It wasn’t until I left that I fully realized how much we are brainwashed to buy more, to have better stuff, a better job, house, spouse, car, clothes, jewelry… on and on and all this will make you happy. Work hard, get an education, get the great job, work very hard, and you too can succeed. But, succeed at what? Being happy? Not necessarily.

Then, I come to Central America and meet a lot of very happy people. Many of them live in conditions we would find totally unacceptable. There are financially poor people here in David, and even more in the more rural areas. There are terribly poor people in Nicaragua with dirt floor houses. But, if you define success as happiness they are very successful and very rich.

The Gallup Poll on happiness that came out recently that says Panama is #1! The US didn’t make the top 10. The article states “Panama had the highest scores in the world in four of the five well-being elements — purpose, social, community, and physical well-being. Sixty-one percent of Panamanians were thriving in three or more elements, the survey found.” Notice they didn’t score well in the 5th element – feeling financially secure.

What does this have to do with all of us? I’m not sure, but it is pretty clear that most of us at or near retirement aren’t going to increase our financial net worth enough to make a bit of difference.  Besides working until we drop, it seems there are two things we can do though – decrease expenses and lower expectations.

Many of us are looking at other countries as a way to decrease expenses. For some of us it is working wonderfully. For others it doesn’t work, especially those who don’t love the experience but feel forced into it by finances. There are also ways to cut expenses in the US – live in a cheaper place, give up various things, etc. But, does this help if we are filled with resentment?

I think the biggest thing we can do is change expectations. Of course this is terribly difficult to do in the US where we are bombarded with expectations every day on all fronts, from TV to newspapers and other media to the attitudes of those around us. But when you think about it, we experience our world and our happiness in our heads, in our minds. If you want to change your world, change your mind (so say the Buddhist teachers). Turn off the TV. Throw away the magazines. Cultivate friends who are happy. Be grateful for what you have. Try to help others. Get outdoors and enjoy what nature provides.

I know we are very lucky to be surrounded by happy people who generally have their priorities straight. If you ask a Panamanian what is most important you will probably hear – family, friends, enjoying life. They work hard but they are less driven and more relaxed about work. There isn’t the constant striving and stress that is so familiar in the US. Days off are for enjoying family and friends and having fun. There is no stigma about lying around in a hammock, even if you don’t have money to put paint on your house.

I have learned so much from these happy people and it has made it a lot easier for me to keep my head on straight. I really feel for the people who feel trapped in the US, unable or unwilling to leave, dealing with retirement on little money, feeling forced to continue working, feeling forced to make changes they don’t want, feeling they deserve better after a lifetime of work. I hope that somehow they can manage to make some really nice lemonade from the sour lemons.

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Raquel’s Ark Wildlife Rescue

The next stop in our day with friends was Raquel’s Ark in Volcan. Raquel has a number of interesting animals and birds which she cares for and clearly loves. Most are tame and enjoy visitors so it is a great place to see some of the wildlife of Panama up close.

The first were the sloths! These gentle and slow moving animals are usually seen high in trees where they are sometimes hard to spot. I have been lucky enough to see some on the wild, but only at Raquel’s have I had the chance to touch and hold one.

There were also coatimundi, aka coati who needed attention. One in particular loved to be held.

There were many more animals and birds to see!

This is a wonderful place to visit. We enjoyed seeing all the animals and birds, and it was great to talk with Raquel and learn more about the place, and hear stories of all her animals and birds. Many of them cannot be released because they are unable to manage in the wild or they are too accustomed to people, but she releases those who can safely be returned to the wild.

If any of you have a chance to visit this place I highly recommend it. Admission is free but donations are gratefully accepted to help with the food and upkeep of the animals. It is located right in Volcan and here is a map to help you find it. I think it is the only two story house in the area.

ark

I will close with a video of Raquel giving the viewers a tour. It is a couple years old before the hydroponic garden was completed, but it will give you an introduction to the place in her own words.

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Macho de Monte, revisted

Macho de Monte is an amazing river canyon near Cuesta Piedra, a town between Conception and Volcan.  I met up with a bunch of Boquete expats near Dolega so we could drive to Volcan together, and I was thrilled when they stopped at Macho de Monte because I really wanted to visit it again.

It is rainy season now which helped us. The last time I visited there were steep sand banks and it looked impossible to climb down to the mouth of the canyon. This time however, rains had washed channels into the sand banks exposing some rocks which gave enough footing to climb down.

It takes a bit of climbing down a steep sandy hill and then clambering over a lot of rocks and boulders, getting your feet wet at times, but the reward at the end is so worth it! The river is rushing below these huge walls of rocks while waterfalls fall from the tops of the walls. Since it is rainy season there was a lot of water, and a lot of waterfalls!

Macho de Monte river canyon

Macho de Monte river canyon

It is hard to get a photo that does this place justice, especially with a lot of bright sun which contrasts sharply with the darker shadows deeper in the canyon. A photo cannot convey the roaring of the water either. But, scroll down below for a couple videos made by my friend Ryan, and a wonderful look at the inside of the canyon. A number of us would love to figure out how to get down there, but he actually did it.

Group photo time -

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Ryan’s video, and an amazing look at the canyon from inside!

And, in case you wonder why we hesitate to go down into the river and through the canyon, we know from Ryan it isn’t that easy to get back out again. You would definitely need a lot of strength and ropes to go back up! Or, like Ryan you would have a long journey to go downriver and make your way back to the road.

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Car Trouble in Panama

A little bad luck, a lot of good luck and good people, and an interesting day.

I have a 97 Mazda, not fancy but a sturdy little car. I have had a number of people beg me to sell it to them so I have the feeling I’d better hang on to it. It also holds the bicycle rack, and today my bike needed to go to the shop for a couple repairs.

After we dropped off the bike, I called my friend Cedo who was on the bus coming back from her farm. It was starting to rain, and I thought it would be nice to pick her up so she didn’t have to wait for the local bus to take her back to our neighborhood.

The bus terminal was crazy! It was full of people, buses, taxis, and tons of noise and activity. We finally found each other, got back to the car, made our way out of the area, and headed up the street towards home. Then suddenly, kaput! The clutch went out and we were dead in the street.  But, thankfully we were in front of some stores and there was an open parking space right in front of us. Joel only needed to turn the steering wheel and push it a few feet into the space.

I called the mechanic. Side story – when I arrived in Panama my friends knew I needed a car so they put their mechanic on the job. He couldn’t find anything suitable in my price range so he sold me his wife’s car.

The mechanic tells me to call my insurance company. Here in Panama, towing is covered by your car insurance policy and if you have a problem,  your insurance people arrange for a tow truck. This involved a number of phone calls back and forth, and Spanish is more difficult on the phone and we are on a noisy street. But Cedo is with us and I was able to just hand her the phone. What a great help!

Everything is arranged and we are told the tow truck will arrive in 30 minutes, so we sit on the curb to wait. In 20 minutes, here comes the truck! He has to go around the block to get to the correct side of the street. As he is coming back the insurance company is ringing my phone to see if the truck has arrived, and the mechanic shows up! I just wanted to give him the heads up that our car was coming to his shop. I never expected him to come to us. But, he checked that it indeed was nothing he could fix on the spot, and he was also able to help load the car on the truck and explain to the driver where it needed to go.

By now, the rain is barely a sprinkle, the car is loaded up, and a taxi sees what is going on and beeps to see if we need a ride. We gather our things and pile in, and finally all make it home.

The bad luck – a car problem, and I never thought about taking a photo of anything. Sometimes you are busy living life rather than documenting it.

The good luck – we didn’t get stuck in the bus terminal or on a hill or in heavy traffic or some other totally inconvenient place, but rather on a flat and main street right in front of an open parking space. Cedo was with us to help me with the phone calls. Our mechanic went above and beyond for us. Our insurance company took very good care of us, and the tow truck guy was very professional. We are in Panama where it was only sprinkling, not snowing or cold, I am not on a schedule, and everyone was so helpful and things were taken care of faster than expected. All in all, it’s been a very good day.

Here is the offending little car, a photo taken just before I bought it.

Here is the offending little car, a photo taken just before I bought it.

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The Birthday Party

Kris Cunningham:

Los Ramos, Nicaragua is the town most devastated by the recent downpours and mudslides. This post is about Deb’s experiences with these people years ago. It just might be the most beautiful post I’ve ever read, and shows clearly her relationship with these gentle and loving people. We may think they are poor, but reading this show how they are rich in the things that really count. But, right now they are suffering from loss of their homes, crops, livestock, and one of their children. I know I sound like a broken record but these people also touched my heart and I want to do what I can to help and support them. But first, read the post and get to know people who are so different from us, but at the same time have so much in common – caring for family and friends, and wanting to be happy. http://www.youcaring.com/help-a-neighbor/help-los-ramos-rebuild/248011

Originally posted on Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua:

My carrot cake at the birthday party

The Birthday Party

January 22, 2005

          It was at Alba Ligia’s sixth birthday celebration, where I learned the meaning of compassionate immersion, creative ingenuity, and peaceful understanding in our troubled world of terrorist threats, struggles for power, and greed beyond the imagination of ordinary folks.  Francisco invited Ron and I to his cousin’s birthday party in Los Ramos, a remote village on Ometepe Island lacking running water, refrigeration, and in most houses, electricity.  “Oh, by the way,” he stated nonchalantly before leaving, “My mother wants you to make the birthday cake.”  “But, Francisco,” I whined, “Ron and I haven’t made the horno commitment, yet.  We have no oven.” “Don’t worry,” he added, “We have an adobe oven behind our house.”

So began our search for the illusive ingredients such as, powdered sugar, cream cheese, and baking powder to whip up a carrot cake with cream cheese icing for…

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Refraction

Weekly Photo Challenge: Refraction  For this photo challenge, show us what “refraction” means to you. It could be an image taken in a reflective surface, it could be light bent from behind an object, or it could mean remedial math homework: the choice is completely up to you. I’m looking forward to seeing how you interpret “refraction.”

Back in Sarasota, Florida I was out and about a lot, and became fascinated by the many fountains all around the city. I especially loved them in the sunlight when they seemed like exuberance made of water and light. Once in a while I was lucky enough to catch one in just the right light that showed a rainbow, which is just the thing for this photo challenge of refraction.

It’s funny how a photo can take you right back to the moment when you took it, even after years have passed.

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Two Years

It is hard to believe my two year mark passed on the 10th of this month. The time has gone fast and it hardly seems possible. But, it also feels like I have been here long enough that this life is very familiar and my old life is very, very far away.

I haven’t been writing much this month. Besides feeling a bit under the weather, I also don’t think there is much to say. We have done errands, spent time with friends, driven around, done house and yard work, and all the other daily things that now seem so normal. Why would anyone want to hear about such mundane activities?

But, I am so touched to hear from readers and learn that this blog may have a lot of meaning for others. Through this I remember how I felt when we were thinking of moving, dreaming of a different life, and how I read or watched anything I could find. I think there are going to be more and more of us as life continues to be difficult in the US, and as we baby boomers reach retirement age and need options. I will keep in mind that life in Panama is not an ordinary thing. It is a dream and chance at a better and happier life.

An anniversary makes me think about goals for the coming year for the blog and for me personally

  • I want to continue to develop the blog and the website as a source of useful information, and as a place for me to express myself in writing and photos.
  • I hope to travel more and visit more places in Central America
  • I want to continue learning more about the culture, history, and life in Panama, and to continue to nurture relationships with my Panamanian friends and neighbors.
  • Of course, there is the eternal quest to master the language! I will continue the effort.
  • There is a lot more for me to learn about photography.
  • I plan to continue to my health and weight maintenance through healthy eating, exercise, and positive mental attitude.
  • Last, but certainly not least, I want to be a legal resident here! We met with our lawyer recently and all our paperwork is in order. We will get a few more easy things together, get our background checks done in December (here in Panama) and then file the application.

I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to all my blog readers who take their valuable time to visit, to read and view photos, and to leave comments. If there is ever something you want to know, something you want to see, something I can answer or show about our lives here, please leave a comment or email me at info@thePanamaAdventure.com

 

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Goodie Bags for Los Ramos

Kris Cunningham:

If you helped the people affected by the disaster on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua, you need to read this and see what an effect it is having. When it got to the part about all of them going to the church to give thanks, I needed a tissue. For a little over $6/family they not only got desperately needed supplies, they understood that there are many others out here in the world who care about them. If you want to help, go here – http://www.youcaring.com/help-a-neighbor/help-los-ramos-rebuild/248011 Every single penny is going to these loving and gentle people who are having a very hard time right now. Thank you Deb for heading up this effort!

Originally posted on Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua:

It’s not often that one gets to see immediate results of their donations or knows that all of the money received goes directly to those who need it the most. For $800 we bought over 1,000 pounds of food for 125 families. That averages out to be $6 for each goodie bag.  Thanks, Kris, for figuring that one out for me. :-) No overhead costs, no administrative costs…all the money goes directly to these lovely families of Los Ramos.

On Saturday, Ron and I walked…and sometimes climbed, scooted, and tramped over boulders to get into Los Ramos to help distribute the food bags to each family. See my earlier post.

When we arrived, Ever’s family was busy scooping rice, pouring cooking oil into small plastic bags, and packing the bags for 125 families living in Los Ramos. Landslides destroyed their community.

"Say Pizza," I say as I snap a photo. "Pizza? Where's the pizza?" they all laugh. “Say Pizza,” I say as I snap a photo…

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Unwelcome Guests

It is common knowledge that as a traveller, you can pick up something that will give you a tummy upset. Usually these things are caused by unfamiliar bacteria in the water or on fruits or vegetables. Thankfully the problem usually runs its course in 2-3 days and though unpleasant, it is not a big problem for most people.

But, there are also a variety of “bugs” – bacteria, viruses, amoebas, worms, and other parasites that one can encounter, and the results can be more serious than an ordinary travellers bug. All of these things are far more likely in developing countries and/or tropical countries so if you tend to stray off the beaten path, it is good to be aware of precautions and treatments. And, sometimes even with precautions, something can sneak in so thankfully there are medications that can help if necessary.

Disclaimer – I am not a professional anything and I am not responsible for your health. I am only sharing some things I have learned along the way. Consult a health care professional if you have further questions or if you are sick. 

What precautions?

  • Hand washing is always advised. Our hands are on everything so if you can keep them from carrying something to your face and body, this is the first line of defense against this and all germs. The alcohol based gels, liquids, and wipes on the market are also very effective.
  • Watch out for the water. If there is a concern that it might cause problems, drink bottled or boiled water. This includes ice cubes, water for brushing teeth, and any other water that will go in your mouth, and resist that smoothy from the street vendor (learned that one the hard way!)
  • Choose fruits and vegetables that can be washed and peeled. If they can’t be peeled wash them carefully and disinfect. The advice I have read and been told is to wash with (drinkable) water and vinegar, lemon, or salt, and rinse. You can spray it on smooth things, or soak other produce. Vinegar seems to be the most widely recommended. If you want to be even more sure, you can wash with a bleach solution. It kills everything. You will want to rinse carefully afterwards though. Recently I also saw a recommendation for cleaning with hydrogen peroxide, then vinegar, then washing with water. There are also washing solutions that you can buy but everything I have read says they are no more effective than careful washing with one of the above methods.
  • Wash hands, countertops, knives, cutting boards, and any other food prep utensils before and after preparing food.
  • Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Avoid those middle temperatures that “bugs” like so they won’t multiply.
  • Avoid antacids if you can. Your stomach acid can kill most of the “bugs” that may get past your precautions.

What if you get sick?

  • Drink fluids! Diarrhea can quickly cause dehydration. Mineral waters or sodas are especially helpful because the sugars and salts are more effective than plain water. There may be commercially available rehydration drinks like Gatorade and other sports drinks where you are. You can also make your own with a liter of water, 6 teaspoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  • Rest and allow your body to heal itself. Minimizing other stressors on your mind and body will allow you to recover more quickly.
  • Avoid anti-diarrhea medications of you can. Your body is trying to flush out the toxins.
  • If you are very dehydrated, run a fever, have blood in the stools, don’t get better in a week, or have any other symptoms that worry you, find a doctor. There are antibiotics and medications that can help.

Of course children, the elderly, people with immune system problems, or other health concerns needs to be especially careful. It would be good to consult a doctor beforehand on how to manage any potential problems.

Do I have a personal reason for writing all this?

Umm.. yes. I know a number of people and I, myself have also been affected by the ordinary travelers tummy upset. As predicted, it tends to run its course in a few days with no lasting effects. For travelers in Panama, Bocas del Toro is notorious for this. Even with careful precautions, a couple of people in our party got sick the last time we went.

My trip to Nicaragua was a bit more of a problem though. I knew I had a problem a couple of days before we left, and I thought it would run its course like everything else. It didn’t though. Of course I didn’t take my own advice and seek treatment after a week. Two weeks went by, then three – tummy upset, little appetite, queasy, feeling run down and tired all the time, it was a real drag. I tried a few days of Panamanian remedies recommended to me and finally got fed up. I asked a friend for the name of her meds, went to the pharmacy for a consult, and got the recommended medication. I took it on Friday afternoon and on Sunday I woke up feeling like myself again.

I believe I had amoebas, or amoebiasis. My research said it is one of the more common causes of problems in Nicaragua, and my symptoms fit the description. I took Amoebriz and it seems to have done the trick. I am SO thankful that we have these medications available! The only good things about being sick is how wonderful you feel when you are better again, and I lost enough weight that my friends are noticing. From now on though I plan to be more vigilant about precautions, and I’d rather my weight with healthy eating and exercise.

OK, enough about sickness. The next post is also from Nicaragua, from my friend who is helping people affected by the disaster. If you helped and want to see how your money was spent and what effect it had, you need to read this.

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