Wet Weather

It’s the height of rainy season so we expect a lot of rain, but the weather has outdone itself the last few days. Wednesday afternoon the rain came in full force. There is a video in the last post of buckets of rain pouring down on us. Usually this doesn’t last long though, the rain settles down and ends sometime in the evening. That didn’t happen this time though. It rained through the night, into the next morning and throughout the day.

This was last night, Friday night, when it had been raining almost continuously since Wednesday afternoon. There was a lot of red (rain) overhead and plenty more of it headed this way.

The weather forecast last night. The break expected this morning, I don’t think it happened. I can’t say for sure though since it was dark, cool, and wet and what does a retired person do on such a morning? Sleep! We were totally lazy and didn’t get up until almost noon. Ahh retirement. I think after more than 6 years I’m finally learning to be ok with being lazy.

There was a hint this afternoon that the sky was getting lighter and maybe we would see sun but no, back to light rain and drizzle. It’s now late Saturday night and I haven’t heard rain for a while, but everything outside is wet and dripping. Hopefully it will be clear tomorrow. I miss my bike and working in the yard. But, I have been spending afternoons on the terrace practicing bass. We are going to add a couple disco tunes to our lineup and see how that goes over.

It’s been chilly out here though. That was taken in middle of the afternoon when it’s suposed to be hot. Ok you can stop laughing now, but for someone acclimated to 80’s who wears shorts and flip flops, it felt good to go in and curl up under my fuzzy blanket.

”Mi vida difícil” (my difficult life) palm to forehead…. our neighborhood joke. I’m complaining about rain when I’ve seen what happened in Florida, and Indonesian. We really have minimal worries here when it comes to Mother Nature.

We just finished watching City of Joy on Netflix about this place that helps women in the Congo who have been victims of sexual rape and violence. To see their spirits and energy return when they get some healing help is uplifting and inspiring. That this goes on and on year after year though and nobody cares enough to do anything, that’s totally discouraging. We have also been watching the series Dancing Queen and it’s excellent. Talk about spirit and energy! We also watched Follow This, Buzzfeed reporters researching various topics, really interesting stuff.

OK, there’s the rain report and the Netflix report. Other than the extra rain it’s just another normal week in the neighborhood.

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Six Years in Panama

Six years ago today I landed in Panama with my suitcase and computer bag, ready to start my new life. I don’t have much different to say from last year, or the year before. It’s been a happy report every year.

Of course I had a lot of help. There were expat friends who answered countless questions and put me up for a couple weeks. There was their mechanic who sold me his wife’s car, and my realtor friend who found me the perfect house for us. It wasn’t furnished so there was Myrla at the DoIt Center who helped me get everything from the fridge to dishes and beds. There were the neighbors who welcomed me with open arms, and many taxi drivers and people on the street who helped me find things and get what I needed. And, very important, there was Yaira who patiently and persistently pounded Spanish into my thick head so I could talk with taxi drivers, people on the street, neighbors, and Myrla. (https://blog.thepanamaadventure.com/2017/06/05/good-people-to-know-in-panama/)

On a side note, it sure can rain at this time of year!

It started mid afternoon and has been raining ever since, mostly continuing to pour down. (though word from friends in Boquete is that there hasn’t been any rain and they are out doing yard work. Go figure) I like the rain though and by the end of summer I will be really missing it. Panama is always beautiful but especially when everything is lush and green.

Many thanks to Panama and her lovely people for our happy lives here.

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El Puerco

Puerco means pig, but here it also means a large bag of assorted vegetables. You see them being sold in the street and in some produce markets.

Friends we met through the blog are exploring Panama, and they are currently in Chiriqui. Today they went up to Cerro Punta (in the mountains where most of the produce is grown) and brought me this gift! Since all this is grown up there it cost only $5. Down here it would be more, maybe $8-10 but it’s still a great deal. So, what is in the bag?

Three heads of cabbage, an onion, two tomatoes, a chayote, a small broccoli, some celery stalks, a leek, 9 carrots, 3 heads of lettuce, a bunch of leaf lettuce, a little green pepper, and a lot of potatoes. Some people say they tend to put the less attractive produce in these bags but not this one. Everything looked fresh and beautiful.

So what does one do with all this?!

Soup! We had some leftover pork roast that wasn’t as tender as we hoped. I figured it was a perfect candidate for soup, along with the celery, leek, chayote, a cabbage, most of the carrots, and some of the potatoes. It’s delicious! I’m sitting here with a very happy tummy.

Joel has boiled more of the potatoes for hash browns in the morning.

My friends, if you are reading this, come back tomorrow and we will have soup, or hash browns, or both, with salad! 😁

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Organ Donation

I strongly believe in organ donation. If your brain has ceased to function and you have healthy organs that can give the gift of life and health to others, why not? And, your family and friends can also appreciate that something good came out of a tragic death.

I hadn’t thought much about organ donation in Panama, but it happens here also according to some information I’ve found on line. http://www.irodat.org/?p=database&c=PA 

Panama’s first heart transplant in 2016. Transplants haven’t been done as much or for as long as some other countries, but Panaman is coming along.

What got me thinking about this today is an article and video I saw this morning. http://www.trendingly.com/walk-of-respect   When a donor is wheeled from ICU to the operating room, the hospital staff lines the halls in a silent show of respect for the donor and his family. It’s one of the most touching things I’ve seen in a long time. Here’s the video and if you are like me, grab a tissue first.

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Water Woes

I’m very happy here, but there are still the occasional annoying issues. Last March we put in a water tank. March is the end of the dry season and we had many days without water. It would come back on at night, but who wants to wait until midnight to wash dishes, shower, and wash clothes? Life with a water tank is wonderful! We have water all the time and better water pressure than we had before as well.

But, they have been putting in sewer lines in our neighborhood. Lately they have also been putting in manholes for a mile or more south of our neighborhood. Word is this is what disrupted the water for four days! We didn’t know anything until day 3 when our neighbor was washing dishes outside. They have a hose faucet close to the ground and when there is no water in the house, there can be enough water in the pipes to get water from a low faucet. Sure enough, our tank was half empty but we have enough to share so we put the garden hose over the fence.

Later on Sunday, day 3, a water truck came through the neighborhood to fill any containers people put out. They told me the disruption was because of the work in the area, they didn’t know when water would be back on,  but we could call 311, the number for the water company.

Monday, day 4, I was sitting on the terrace when I heard water flowing in to the tank. This was really good to hear since by now the tank was getting really low. I opened the tank to check and saw that mud was flowing into the tank! 😡 oh NO! What a mess! I shut off the valve for the water line that goes to the tank and told our neighbor who has a tank, and was now very sorry that he had forgotten to shut off his valve.

I  suppose the silver lining is we now know how to clean a water tank. Lucho came over and helped after we drained most of the water out of the tank. He disconnected everything, he and Joel turned the tank up on end. I ran water in the house to try and clear the mud (there are two lines, one to fill the tank and another to send water from the street directly to the house) and then they used the hose, a broom, and a bit of bleach to clean the tank. But, Lucho forgot which wires went where to reconnect the pump so he had to call another neighbor, the guy who installed the system, who thankfully was home and came over to rewire the pump.

Lucho and Joel reconnecting everything

Unfortunately we also drained the tank on the pump, so Lucho had to help us again when the pump wouldn’t make any pressure. He used the hose to refill it and then all was well. Except…. the water was still cloudy and dirty. We ended up draining the tank twice more until we finally got clean water.

This is one way to get a much better understanding of your water system! 😁 And, I’m definitely thankful to have it. I no longer take water for granted and I’m thankful to have it all the time.

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The Federal Mall

They are building a HUGE mall not far from where we live, so I bike over there now and then to see how it is progressing.

At first they spent what seemed like months moving dirt around, clearing boulders, and preparing the site. A year and a half ago, I wrote this post, when construction was starting and tons of people were hard at work. The post includes a video of the vision for the completed mall.

About three months later it looked like this. I’ve gone by a number of times since but never got around to posting pictures.  But, a few days ago I took some more photos and actually got them ready to share.

It is really coming along! They guys on site said it will be another year though. When you think of getting 400 stores and whatever else will be there from block walls to finished spaces, that’s understandable. It’s a huge job.

I have heard conflicting stories about the bus terminal. At first it was planned to be there too, and then I heard it was going to remain downtown so I’m not sure what is going on with that. There would be more space and it would be easier for busses to get in and out at the mall, but many like the busses going downtown where they can easily walk to many places.

However that goes, it will be interesting to see how the mall works out. Who is going to shop and support all those stores? How many people in nearby and more expensive Costa Rica will be happy? How will it affect traffic in the area? How will it affect water and power use in a city that already has problems, especially with the water supply in the dry season? Traffic though… the Panamerican Highway is already bogged down with heavy traffic much of the time and could really really use a lot more traffic lights. Now there will be hundreds and hundreds of shoppers and employees trying to get to the mall? It’s a good thing I don’t like to shop 😁 Of course I’ll have to check it out though when it’s open.

I feel like we live in such a happening place! This is only one of many commercial and residential projects underway or recently completed. It’s exciting to watch, especially when we can retreat to our quiet little neighborhood at the end of the day.

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A Year Playing Bass in the Band

It feels like a milestone. September 18 of last year was my very first gig. By June of last year it was obvious that band was losing their bass player. He was spending more and more time in Colombia, and other bass players in the area were busy with their own bands and unavailable. Joel had a bass. I played piano when I was young so I have a basic understanding of music. Could I learn to play that big thing with four strings and keep the band going?

it was a lot of time and work and I didn’t have a life for quite a while. And, as I announced Saturday night, I didn’t do it alone. My husband Joel spent endless hours working with me, helping me learn songs, helping me understand equipment and sound, and practicing with me.  Chris, our drummer, has been super supportive and also practiced with me for hours and hours. The venues where we play and their staffs have been wonderful, welcoming, and supportive. And, most important, the people come out to hear us! Our fans have been wonderful to both the band and to me personally, and without them none of this would be happening. I am very grateful to everyone who has made our success possible.

Now, after a year of gigging it’s quite different. I actually feel like a musician, a bassist, not someone just doing a job and hoping to not screw up anything. The power to actually create the music, and the power of the low end, the bass with that huge sound that lays down the groove, the foundation, it’s pretty cool! After a year of playing together the three of us have become a tight unit and we really sound like we have our act together. We have a larger variety of music and styles now, and enough songs to fill more than two evenings of music. This has allowed us, and especially me to slow down the pace and bring other aspects of my life back like friends, biking, painting, yard work (it looks like work but is mainly enjoyment), and other hobbies.

Maybe this is a fitting time to bring out this song that we haven’t listened to for ages. We are working on it and it should be ready by this coming weekend. When I met Joel in 1990 he was in a band and would sing this song so beautifully it would just melt me. One night we were out with friends and the song came on the juke box, and we danced. It was the beginning…. I never would have believed anyone if they said that 28 years later we would be married, happily retired in Panama, and playing in a rock band together!

This retired life in Panama, it’s a wonderful thing. When the need to make money is taken off the table it changes everything. You do what you choose to do, not what you have to do. Your head is in such a different place, a much less stressful place. Then this beautiful country with these lovely people, that is just icing on the cake. Why me? How have I been so fortunate? I wake up filled with gratitude every day.

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Fat People

What do you think when you see those words? Do you think about someone you know, and wonder how they let themself get that way? Do you think about yourself, your struggles and frustrations, and how you think the rest of the world sees you?

”For decades, the medical community has ignored mountains of evidence to wage a cruel and futile war on fat people, poisoning public perception and ruining millions of lives. It’s time for a new paradigm.” (From the Huffington Post article linked below)

It’s quite obvious that we don’t know how to solve the obesity problem. I know people who have dieted off and on their whole lives. I know many people who have had bypass surgery or lap band surgery but only a couple were successful in keeping their weight off long term. The Greatest Loser TV program –  researches learned that the contestants has markedly decreased metabolisms even years after the contest. (NY Times article HERE)

Today I saw this article HERE in the Huffington Post. It’s a bit long but well worth reading if the subject interests you. “Losing 3% of your body weight results in a 17% slow down of your metabolism until you get back up to your former weight”. Sheesh. It points out that doctors only compound the problem by their attitudes towards fat people. “Chances of a woman classified as obese achieving a ‘normal weight’ .008% “. And – “Keeping weight off means fighting your body’s energy-regulation system and battling hunger all day, every day, for the rest of your life.”  Almost no one can sustain that long term.

The article also points out that fat and unhealthy don’t necessarily go together. It is possible for fat people to be fit, strong, and healthy. Look at Fat Girl Running, who runs ultra marathons, and I think weighs about 235.

I like this photo from the article. She looks like a FORCE!

“There is so much agency taken from marginalized groups to mute their voices and mask their existence. Being depicted as a female CEO—one who is also black and fat—means so much to me. It is a representation of the reclamation of power in the boardroom, classroom and living room of my body. I own all of this.”— JOY COX

I think my first diet was when I was 12. I was maybe 8 or 10 when a doctor asked me if I ever allowed myself to get hungry, or did I just eat all the time. Yes, decades later I remember that, the first of many doctors who blamed and shamed me. I’ve done Atkins, Weight Watchers, lo carb, raw, you name it multiple times over the decades with less and less success. I’ve gone to the gym, walked, played tennis, biked, all with no effect on my weight. HCG finally worked but keeping that weight off, not so much. I’m very careful what I eat and I’ve biked literally thousands of miles, but every year the weight creeps up a bit more no matter what I do. I feel like further dieting will only compound my metabolic slowdown and dieting has been proven to not work. I think all I can do is continue to eat healthy and exercise, and try to learn to accept myself as I am.

At least here in Panama, I don’t feel the same stigma. People don’t seem to care what size you are. My life is really good except for this one frustrating thing that I have failed to control my whole life. As my (tall and slim) daughter points out, I’m healthy and able to do everything I want to, and she is right. I am thankful for that. But still….

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A Very Cool Bird

This Helmeted Hornbill is in Southeast Asia. It’s nothing to do with Panama but I saw it in a National Geographic article and thought it was interesting and gorgeous. There is a great video in the article which I can’t seem to share here, so go there to check it out.

Unfortunately these birds are endangered from overhunting because their casques, that hump part on their heads that are in demand for carving and ornaments.

I know Panama has so many interesting birds too but this one is so cool I wanted to share it. Not many people get to see one so thank you National Geographic!

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AIDS in Panama

I love Panama but it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. There are problems here too, as there are anywhere. One problem that is getting increasing attention is AIDS. According to USAIDS there were 21,000 people in Panama living with AIDS in 2016 (http://www.unaids.org/en/regionscountries/countries/panama) Of these a bit over half of them are getting antiretroviral therapy.

According to this article HERE, there is worry that thousands of young people are becoming infected. It’s in Spanish but roughly translated, it says 17 people between the ages of 15 and 19 were found to be infected in 2016, and 1175 between the ages of 10 and 19 have been found since the first case was identified in 1984. Young people aren’t being careful about taking precautions, and if they get infected they don’t want to tell their families because of the stigma. Half of the infected kids are in the Ngabe Bugle Comarca, the area belonging to the indigenous people. In that part of the country, getting people to treatment can be very challenging because much of it is inaccessible much of the time.

This article from NPR (in English) is much more alarming. San Felix is a town close to the edge of the Comarca and many indigenous come for the clinic there. The doctor in the clinic said in 2010 he had 30 people being treated for AIDS. By the end of last year he had 550. This article also talks about the stigma, and the very challenging problems of getting people care in such a remote and inaccessible area. Even getting condoms to the Comarca is difficult.

This article from News Room Panama from three years ago, said it was estimated that 20,000 people were living with AIDS. Efforts were just beginning to take the disease more seriously, find infected people and get them treatment (which is free). But, since many of the infected are LGBT, there is a lot of stigma to overcome for this and for the disease in general, along with the challenges of treating people in remote locations.

AIDS is a horrible disease. Growing up in the music and arts world in New York, I know many people who died from it. If I hadn’t left the city in 1979 just before the disease starting spreading, who knows how it could have affected me too. As a nurse it caught up with me later in the Midwest as I started seeing infected patients. In Florida for a time, one of my jobs was to visit infected people and teach them how to inject a new medication that was having really promising results. Thankfully today, AIDS doesn’t have to be the death sentence it was in the past, but infected people have to be identified and treated, and everyone needs to be taught prevention.

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