The River, Revisited

The river behind our neighborhood is one of my favorite places, but sometimes I don’t go there as often as I should. That’s the nice thing about house guests. As you show them interesting things you get to visit your favorite places yourself!

The river is always beautiful but it changes with the seasons, and with who is there at the moment, the time of day, the weather conditions….  that is my excuse for taking a million photos. Yesterday’s photos don’t work for today because it is different in this moment.

I have to post river photos once in a while even though you all have already seen it quite a few times. We are so fortunate to have this literally in our backyard. It is only a short walk down there, and so close that we can hear the water from the house.

Posted in Exploring the Area, Panama, photography | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Cyclists and Warmshowers

Warmshowers.org is a website that helps people traveling on bicycles connect with people willing to give them a place to sleep and a warm shower (and other amenities that you are able to provide like a kitchen or washing machine).

It started with the two young women who cycled from Mexico City to Panama City. They stayed with us for a couple days and it was fun and very inspirational. (Their story is HERE) Ever since, I have been thinking about bicycle traveling myself.

We got to bike together! (just into town, but it was still really cool). If they had been biking on from here, I probably would have gone an hour or two down the road with them.

We got to bike together! (just into town, but it was still really cool). If they had been biking on from here, I probably would have gone an hour or two down the road with them.

Then, recently, I just happened to bump into three other cyclists traveling through the area, and their story is HERE. I became even more inspired! I figure if I am seriously interested it would be helpful to meet others doing similar travels, there are hardly any warmshowers hosts in Panama, so I signed up.

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A couple days ago I got a call from Bala who needed a place to stay. He is from India, lives in the UK, and started his travels in June in Alaska. His goal is to bike all the way down to the tip of Argentina. He spent Saturday and Sunday night here which gave us time to talk quite a bit, and he makes some fantastic curry! He said he has been staying with Warmshowers people all along his journey. He has met a variety of interesting people and never has had a problem with anyone he has stayed with.

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Jeremy is expected in on Thursday. He was here while I was gone so he stayed with my friend Cedo. It sounds like they had a good time and she is looking forward to his return. He went to New York for a while and is snowed in at the moment, but hopes to make it out tomorrow  night and return here to pick up his bike and continue his travels. He is from France and is biking around the world.

Tomorrow, Guillermo is expected to arrive here. He is from Argentina and is biking north to Alaska.

It is very interesting to learn about the community of bikers on the road. Jeremy spent Christmas in El Salvador with Bala. Bala knows the three who I ran into and has been talking with them on line. He says you meet other travelers all the time. Everyone talks to each other, shares information, and sometimes travels together for a while. That’s how the other three met, just out there on the road and they continued to travel together until Mike stayed in Panama City, and then Alain headed south in Colombia and Elif went east.

Who would have thought that there are so many people out there traveling on their bikes, or bicycle touring?! It is only a matter of time before I join them. I am working on getting stronger and getting my gear together every day. Meanwhile we sure are meeting some interesting people! I’m sure this will continue since there are only a few hosts in Panama, and only one other in Chiriqui.

If you want to meet some really interesting travelers, sign up for warmshowers.org.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Express Yourself

Children are so expressive. They wear their emotions on their faces, and when they are delighted it is impossible not to smile. My grandson loves bubbles, and he was playing outdoors with his dad one afternoon.

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xx

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This is the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Express Yourself. Click on the link to learn more, or on the thumbnails below to see other excellent entries.

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Traveling Back to the USA

We’ve been here over two years now, and it’s interesting the different thoughts that come to mind when I return to the USA. It’s the same trip back to the same country, but different things seem to strike me as noteworthy.

Of course there is the main thing that never changes. It’s wonderful to see my daughters and families in person. Email, Facebook, and video chats are great and keep us in touch but there is no substitute for actually being there. We all enjoy each others company and have a wonderful time anytime we are together. Now that they are in the workforce, and becoming homeowners and parents, it is even more exciting to see where their lives are going.

But, as for being in the country, I notice the transition takes a little longer every time. Everyone is still very tall. I am so used to walking out into a Spanish speaking world that I had to remind myself for the first 2-3 days to speak English. It’s cold! (duh, it is winter up there). I was better prepared this time though with layers, fuzzy socks, hiking boots, and my winter coat so I was much more comfortable.

This time I was especially struck by stuff. There are big stores everywhere, and they are all so full of things to buy. How many people does it take to buy all this stuff, and how much does each person or household buy? The stores are all new and shiny and clean and everything is labeled and beautifully displayed. Even the potatoes are scrubbed before they are put on the shelf, and the greens get misted regularily.

The cost of things is always a shock, and this time was no exception.. We have seen prices rising here, but I was surprised to see many things that we consider expensive and imported here are just as much there, and sometimes more. An ordinary trip to the supermarket for 2-3 days worth of food for 4 can easily run over $100. I have now had my reality shock and will not complain about the price of anything here! (at least until I forget prices there and have to go back for a refresher shock treatment).

The above are Safeway prices. The more upscale stores are even farther out of reach.

Everything is very clean and orderly. Grass is manicured. Streets are clean. There are road signs, cross walks, bike lanes, and smooth streets. With this, however, go all the rules. If you are building something, you can’t dump the pile of sand and block in the street in front of the house. If the neighbors are running an auto body shop in the front yard, someone will be over PDQ to shut that down. I know we give up a lot of that orderly life to live here, but I have come to love the free attitude. You do what you need to do and nobody fusses. And, in truth, very little of what your neighbors do is actually a bother.

One of the more main streets near my daughter's home. No one is out. We did see a number of people at the nearby park though on a sunny weekend afternoon, and the kids were enjoying the playground.

One of the more main streets near my daughter’s home. No one is out. We did see a number of people at the nearby park though on a sunny weekend afternoon, and the kids were enjoying the playground. Most of the time though, you are the only ones out and about except for the cars. 

People are IN their houses. There are some people out for exercise or walking dogs, but in general there aren’t people on the streets and front doors are closed. Here, always, there are people walking, biking, chatting, and playing in the streets. People often have their front doors open or are socializing on the front terrace or in the yard under a tree. So much of life is lived outdoors here, and dropping in to visit someone any old time is perfectly normal. In the USA everyone is so busy it can take days to arrange a time to visit a friend.

I did see some birds and flowers that we don’t usually see.

It definitely isn’t spring in much of the US, but since California has a more temperate climate it was nice to see some of the things I associated with spring as a kid.

I also have a shopping list every time I return, and it’s always something different. Often it is shoes or clothes (hard for a big gringa to buy in this land of smaller people), or some spice or little thing I don’t find here. This time it was bike gear (I want to go traveling, so a rack, panniers, tent, sleeping mattress, gloves, a solar charger for my iPad, and a new pair of shorts). My MP3 player bit the dust, so I bought another. I must have two on hand because I can’t live without my audio books. Oh, and fabric dye for my badly faded biking shirts, and another new shirt. Most of this was ebay or other on line purchases bought ahead of time for pickup at my daughter’s house.

My husband bought guitar strings because his spares had rusted through in the tropical humidity, and some other miscellaneous music related things. He bought a number of LED lights to cut down on our electricity use, and the light they put out is also much softer and more pleasant than our former florescent bulbs. We bought a timer for the fridge so it won’t be using power during the night, a new cable for an iPad charger… I think that’s about it.

There are things you just can’t predict. Everyone has stuff they ended up not using, and other things they wished they had brought. Everyone seems to have some thought about the transition to and from the USA that they weren’t expecting. It’s all part of the experience and certainly keeps life interesting!

Posted in culture, expat, Miscellaneous, Panama, travel | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

An Outing With the Grandson

We went to Spring Lake (Santa Rosa) for a walk and some scenery suitable for this week’s photo challenge, and of course I couldn’t resist pointing the camera at my grandson as well. It has been a beautiful day and it was so fun watching him enjoy himself.

We are having a great time! We keep in touch a lot on line but there is nothing like being here.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Serenity

Toddlers and Serenity? You wouldn’t think they would go together, but we took the toddler for an outing at Spring Lake in Santa Rosa. It is a beautiful setting where it is possible to take many photos of serene scenes.

Pictures of the toddler will be in another post :D

 

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Grandchildren

Many expats are concerned about being away from family and grandchildren. In a way, I am almost lucky that I didn’t live close to my children before moving to Panama, so this wasn’t a big adjustment. Since we use more video chats now rather than regular phone calls, sometimes I felt like I actually see more of my kids than before.

But, I certainly look forward anxiously to visits and time in person with my family. It is even more important now that I also have a grandson. Children grow and change so fast that he is almost like a new person every time I see him!

Of course no blog post from California would be complete without some pictures of my grandson!

There are more things to photograph and talk about, but at the moment I am keeping busy doing things with the family. Stay tuned. I will get back to posting more soon!

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Washington Mountains

Yesterday we decided to take a drive into the Washington mountains east of Seattle, an area I hadn’t seen before. It was fun going out together and this part of the country is really beautiful. We were lucky that the day was a bit cloudy and foggy but we had almost no rain, and the roads were clear at the higher elevations.

Long awaited visits always seem too short when they finally happen, but today it is time to travel on to California. I am already looking forward to a return visit to Washington this summer!

 

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Traveling to the U.S.

We have returned to the U.S. to visit my daughters. The first part of this trip is the travel to Panama City. There are some options for accomplishing this.

COPA is just about to start flights from Tocumen (the international airport in Panama City) to David (the hub for travel to the mountains and beaches in Chriqui). This is good news because up until now, Air Panama has been the only option. They fly out of Allbrook, the local airport on the other side of Panama City so time, a $30-35 taxi ride, and possibly a night in a hotel are necessary.

If you travel to Panama City by ground, you can drive or take the bus. Right now we wouldn’t consider driving because the road is either under construction or in poor condition between David and Santiago (the half way point), and when you get to the city you have to figure out something to do with your car (there are fees for parking at the airport). The buses are large, comfortable (except for cold air conditioning most of the time), and affordable at $15.25 per person.

The trip in the bus is long, so I appreciate that they stop for a break in Santiago, and show movies (even if they aren’t always ones I would choose).

We finally made it to Panama City! We got a bite to eat at the bus terminal and then caught a taxi to our hotel near the airport in preparation for our flight out the next morning. Our first flight was to Atlanta. We booked with Delta but the second leg from Atlanta to Seattle was an Air Alaska flight. It was a new, comfortable plane with free movies which made the long flight go much faster.

It is really good to be back here with my family! We have Internet and video chats to keep in touch but sometimes you just have to be there, and be together in person.

Posted in bus, expat, Getting Things Done, Panama, travel | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadowed

This week didn’t go as planned. I am at my daughter’s home in Seattle. The cat was sitting on the floor where the ceiling track light was casting a sharp shadow, making a perfect photo for this challenge. Of course, as soon as I grabbed the camera the cat had left to join the others in the anxious wait for breakfast.

Well OK then, if I can’t photograph the cats the way I want, I will play with the shadows of the chair legs.

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Breakfast is finally served, and calm and contentment returns among the household cats. Pumpkin takes up her favorite spot on a barstool, which I thought made for some interesting ideas with the reflections in the countertop.

And then, suddenly, in a flash, the cat jumps to the other barstool and there is a brief but unmistakable cat shadow!

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Enough of chasing the elusive cat shadows. Let’s get on with the day.

This doesn’t exactly meet the photo challenge but it was fun just the same.

 

Posted in Photo Challenge, photography | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments