Super Spanish Teacher!

Yaira, my Spanish teacher and good friend has been teaching privately for over a year now. I studied with her for 6 months before I arrived in Panama, and she helped me SO much! She is patient, kind, professional, capable, and Panamanian so she can talk about the local customs and culture in the local accent.

She has gotten very positive feedback from other students but this one really blew me away. I don’t know this man, but he obviously has studied a lot and speaks a lot of Spanish.

I have had the pleasure of working with Yaíra a few times over the years and  will certainly study with her again in the future. I have studied Spanish for many years, in many different schools with many different professors; I can say Yaíra is easily amongst the best. She creates engaging lessons, excellent materials, and is able to explain the Spanish language in a way that all students can understand. Her online classes are well organized and allow me to study Spanish despite my busy schedule. I personally have worked with Yaíra on different occasions to improve my Spanish for various jobs and job interviews and on each occasion she has prepared me not only to achieve the Spanish required but actually exceed it. I will continue my studies with her again in the future to prepare for my DELE exam.  Yaíra is an amazing person and an excellent teacher. Whether you are a beginning Spanish learner or advanced, she can and will help you achieve your language goals. (from Nick)

I was very excited to get this recommendation! (it was sent to me because I maintain her website http://www.yairatutoria.com/). It isn’t just me and my bias towards a good friend. She really is as good as I think she is!

I thank Yaira and my Panamanian friends every day for my ability to communicate. I know my experience of living here has been much more rewarding because I can speak the language well enough to converse on most topics. It’s difficult. I’m not good at languages, so it took me a long time and I still have a lot to learn. But, it’s so worth it! It’s a whole different experience when your best friends are Panamanian.

OK, I will put that soap box away and stop going on about Yaira. She is trying to take care of her family and go to university, so if she gets overrun with students she will be working overtime. She loves what she does though and seems to have endless energy, and I’m really happy to see her succeeding on all fronts.

Posted in Panama | 3 Comments

More on Health Care in Panama

One of my good blog friends shared a link to a post written by Larry Mathews HERE. Larry had COPD and lived in David for quite a few years, but eventually went back to the USA for more medical care. In the article he talks about the difference in care he got in Panama compared to the care in the USA.

One point I really agree with – your doctors and health care providers may give you various levels of education on how to take care of yourself and manage your medical problems, but it is up to you to educate yourself as well. This was a big aspect of my job as a home health nurse. Patients either weren’t given the information they needed, or had become overwhelmed with trying to grasp it all. I made home visits in a calm environment, and hopefully when I was finished they (with their families) were in a much better position to care for themselves and keep themselves out of the hospital.

Unfortunately Larry died five months after the article was published. I don’t know if his time in the US extended his life by a bit, or made his last months more comfortable. This is something to think about for all of us though. If, or more realistically when you are faced with health issues, what are your options? What would you do?

Myself, I am comfortable with the quality of care here. I enjoy a quality of life here that I don’t want to give up. You can see a doctor quickly without waiting weeks for an appointment. Care is affordable. And, there is a very high level of respect for the elderly. Who knows what we would do until faced with a situation, but I’m inclined to stay here if at all possible.

Posted in health care, Panama | 9 Comments

A Hospital Stay in David, Panama

It wasn’t me! Of course it is an unfortunate thing when anyone has to go to the hospital though. This friend was kind enough to share his story with me, including a photo of the final bill. He’s also doing much better now and feeling like himself again.

(by the way, the banner photo was lifted from the hospital website http://www.hospitalchiriqui.com/  It’s worth a visit if you want to know more about the hospital, their staff, their services, etc.)

First, a bit of background. There are two health care systems here, the public system and the private system. In the public system, word is you can see a doctor for $.50. I’ve heard really low prices for other things too. At the hospital it is said that your family is expected to take care of you as much as possible, but the hospital staff is there for all your medical needs. I haven’t been in a public clinic or hospital so I have no first hand knowledge of anything, but it’s nice to know you can get care even if you don’t have much money.

The other system is private and priced accordingly. A visit to a doctor is $30-50 depending on specialty. My friend’s hospital care was professional and appropriate. The room was larger than some I’ve seen in the US. There was a standard bed with buttons to adjust the head and foot, a call light, a TV, just what you would expect to see in the US. They had modern IV pumps to regulate the IV’s and medications, and a modern oxygen concentrator. The nurses were kind and came promptly when called. They didn’t speak English though so my friend was happy to have his translation app in his smart phone.

It started on Monday afternoon when I took my friend to see a lung doctor recommended by another friend. The doctor saw him almost immediately, was very concerned about his condition and admitted him to the hospital. There was a visit to the admissions clerk to share some standard information and get a deposit of $500 (credit card works). Then he was taken directly to the room and settled in. He was there until Friday afternoon, $1673.55.

The breakdown of the bill – the room was $1572.58. Additional charges – $125.80 respiratory care (probably the oxygen equipment), dietetic $6.25, general chemical $12 (I think laboratory tests), x-rays $45, serology $30 (more lab tests), hematology $7, bacteriology $17.50, and special chemical $150 (all of those lab tests, I believe). These charges include the doctors fees of $600 for his stay. The total was actually $1966.33 but with the retired senior citizen discount of $292.78 his total was 1673.55 for the four days he was hospitalized, for everything.

Thank you my friends for sharing your experience with all my blog readers! A big concern for many people, of course, is the availability, cost, and quality of health care. This is even a huge relief to me. We are healthy and have opted to pay cash rather than get insurance here (we have coverage in the US but we’d have to get there) and this tells me that our savings though miserably inadequate for anything in the US, would cover quite a lot in Panama even in the private system.

I’m a retired nurse so in a better position than some to judge care, and what I saw was very good. The doctor spoke English which was a big help to my friends, and he recognized what needed to be done immediately and got things moving. I didn’t stick around that night, but the next morning my friend was getting oxygen, IV fluids, antibiotics and appropriate treatment for his condition.  When things didn’t move forward as well as hoped, other treatments and medications were prescribed. After what I saw I would feel very confident going to the hospital and my friend says he was very happy with his care there.

My friends were only visiting here in preparation for moving in the future. It is recommended that you check out the health care when you visit to be sure it provides what you might need. I think these people did that and then some!! Best of all though, my friend is feeling ever so much better and now maybe he and his wife can actually enjoy their last week here.

Posted in Panama | 19 Comments

Chilly and Wet in Panama

The rain is back! It came in with a sudden roar. The weekend was sunny and really hot. Even I was complaining about the heat in day after day of upper 90’s temperatures.

Monday started out cloudier. We were out for lunch and when we returned we saw really dark clouds to the north and it looked like heavy rain moving in. By the time we got home it was pouring. I needed to go across to the south side of town so I hoped I could leave the rain behind, but no such luck. I drove in heavy traffic and a blinding rain that was quickly flooding the streets all the way. The rain finally eased up later in the afternoon but it didn’t stop raining completely until late evening, and even through the night and into the morning we had intermittent light rain.

Tuesday was pleasantly cloudy but it didn’t rain until after dark. Then, it was one of those pounding rains that makes so much noise on a tin roof that it’s hard to even hear yourself think.

This morning, Wednesday, I spent the morning in Boquete where it was breezy and chilly. I was happy to get back to David where it was partly sunny and pleasantly warm. Later in the afternoon though, the rain moved in and the air quickly cooled down.

I know you all are laughing, but for those of us accustomed to the really hot summer weather, this feels very chilly.

I am currently sitting on my terrace wrapped in a thick beach towel to keep warm! We haven’t wanted to use the oven because of the heat but today it sounds like a very good idea.

The rain pours off the roof

It is amazing how quickly things get green! I’ve worked at removing the weeds from the front yard so the nice grass could fill in. We’ve watered it some to keep it alive but it still has looked brown as much as green. Now though, in two days it’s almost entirely green. My neighbor’s brown yard that didn’t get watered at all is also totally green.

This the color of Panama in the rainy season – everything lush and green.

I planted perennial peanut  in the back yard, and I have gradually removed the weeds as the peanut took over. Joel has also been working hard to get out clumps of weeds before the rain encourages them so the yard is going to look good. Perennial peanut is a great ground cover, attractive, low growing, and needs minimal care when established. We replaced our grass in Florida with peanut and eventually threw away our lawn mower. Ours here was suffering in the hot, dry Panama summer though. Joel had been watering it a bit and it was looking better, but look at it now! I’m seeing the same thing all over town, patches of very green perennial peanut sprouting yellow flowers where just days ago, it looked baked and pitiful.

Happy perennial peanut and purple gingers.

The purple gingers are also flowering. They die back in the summer, but as soon as they get some rain they put up these beautiful, interesting flowers. This year they seem to be making leaves at the same time instead of later, but we should enjoy the green foliage with purple veins all season.

I can run on! I only wanted to say the rainy season started in a big way, and here we are 600 words later 😀 My friend gave me some slippers for Christmas, so I think this is a good time to close here and go look for them.

Posted in Panama | 24 Comments

Island Beach Day

Friday we went to Isla Seca with friends. This island is a protected wildlife area about 40 minutes by boat from Boca Chica. It is gorgeous, and I took so many photos it was hard to choose which ones to share.

My German friend Steffi had a friend of hers visiting from Germany which was what prompted the outing. Also along were Steffi’s Panamanian roommate, her boyfriend, and a couple of her girlfriends, all Panamanians. It was an interesting mix of communication in Spanish, English, and German and Steffi said even her and her friend don’t always understand each other because they speak different dialects of German.

Anyway, on with the story of the day. We met at the bus terminal and caught a bus that dropped us off at the intersection of the PanAmerican highway, and then caught a busito (little bus/big van) that took us into Boca Chica. From there we had a 40 minute trip by water taxi and we were at the island.

It was a beautiful day with blue sky, minimal wind, perfect temperature, we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day! There is another gallery of just scenery photos below. It looked like something one would advertise in a travel magazine!

There was also a Costa Rican couple on the boat. The boat was $150 for the whole day so with the other couple there were 10 people, $15 each, darn good price for a whole day’s outing.

We stayed on the island until mid afternoon, and then went to Boca Brava, another island very close to Boca Chica. We had a wonderful surprise on the way back – a group of dolphins! The boat slowly circled the area so we were able to see them very well. One even surfaced just a couple feet from the boat!

We all ate at the restaurant on Boca Brava overlooking the water, and Steffi and her friend went looking for howler monkeys. They said they saw a whole troop of them in the trees so between the dolphins and monkeys, they had a very fortunate day indeed.

The trip home was a little complicated. We caught a busito in Boca Chica that took us back to the highway, but there we got stuck. It was Good Friday and many people were traveling for the holiday weekend, and many people also went to Alanje where they do a religious walk or pilgrimage. There was another group of people who had been waiting for a hour and said every bus that passed was full and wouldn’t stop. There was a taxi truck across the street waiting for business so Max from our group went over to talk with the driver. He said he knew someone who for $3 each would bring his busito and take the entire group to David, which sounded like a great idea to all of us. Not long after, here comes a school busito (another small bus/big van, yellow colored with “Colegio” – high school written on the side). The 15 of us along with a couple babies all pile in, the last one sitting on our cooler and off we go to David. There were plenty of taxis at the terminal so from there it was smooth sailing.

Last, but not least, here is a gallery of scenery photos.

The coral was located around and beyond the outcropping of rock to the left of the beach. There were lots of colorful fish and the water was so clear you didn’t realize you were swimming in deep water.

What a great day, and many thanks to my friend Steffi for arranging it all!

Posted in Panama | 29 Comments

Sunday in Boquete

Sunday Joel’s band had a late afternoon gig at the Boquete Brewing Company. It also happened to be the end of the Boquete Orchid Festival, which we hadn’t thought much about as we left and we didn’t know there was also a parade in town that afternoon as well.

We knew there might be something happening when we saw horses in Alto Boquete.

Horses at the bus stop

As we drove down into town we saw more and more horses, and the traffic got slower and slower.

Boquete is a small town and there aren’t that many ways to get through. To make it even more interesting they have been digging up the streets to put in water lines, and most of the streets are rough and bumpy. Thankfully the traffic kept moving even if slowly, and we managed to make our way around on a back road to our destination. After the usual setting up routine, it was time for music and fun!

This young girl was having a great time dancing to the music with her mother.

It was a really fun evening! Some people were already there, others arrived later, people heard the music from the street and came in, and the dance floor had more and more people as the evening went on. Victor, the owner, is a musician with a very successful band in Panama City. He sat in for a song too, which was awesome. He wants this band back as many Sundays as possible which is a great compliment from another musician and business owner.

That was only one of quite a few things I’ve been doing lately. This is another wonderful thing about retirement. If you overextend yourself and get tired, you can take a day off any time you wish. Yesterday was one of those days and I just chilled at home and didn’t do much of anything. Mi vida difícil en Panamá. 😀

Posted in Panama | 11 Comments

Keeping Busy

Now that you are retired, what do you DO all day?? This is a question I’ve heard quite a few times. Believe me, keeping busy has not been a problem. I often wonder how I had time to work.

Lately it seems like I have been even busier than usual. I am taking a weekly painting class in David, and a watercolor class in Boquete and also painting some at home. I try to spend time with my friends and I usually come along when Joel’s band has a gig. I’ve been riding my bike a bit more. I can give me house a fairly decent cleaning in less than an hour, but that’s still an hour that needs to be spent now and then. We make almost all of our food from scratch because it’s healthier, cheaper, and tastes better but that’s also takes time. That doesn’t count shopping, puttering around in the yard, getting lost reading various things on line, and watching Netflix. Keeping busy is definitely not a problem.

My camera is always with me so there are photos to sort and edit periodically. You would think I’d run out of things to point my camera at, but this hasn’t been the case so far.

It seems like I have been seeing more iguanas lately, many of them in our yard. We have been watering a bit to keep our grass and ground cover alive so maybe they are enjoying something green to munch on.

I stopped by the construction site for the new bus terminal and Federal mall a couple days ago. I don’t remember seeing the tall construction cranes before, and it seemed like a lot more concrete had been poured at the mall site.

I often take my bike to do errands instead of the car.  Downtown is really crowded with traffic, taxis, buses, and pedestrians but the bike takes a lot less space on the road, and you don’t need a parking space so it works out better. I’ve gotten much more used to riding in traffic and people are considerate. Errands also give me a reason to get out there.

The photo below was what was on my bike when I returned home. I went to a pharmacy and got some water color paints (TIP – this is Panama and where you find things sometimes doesn’t make sense). As I turned away from downtown I saw some street vendors. The bag of tomatoes weighed about 2 1/2 pounds, $1. The big pineapple was $2 and it was SO good! The other bag is mariñon, or cashew apples picked up for free along the road. One of the veggie markets down the road sells pipa fria (cold coconut water). The guy used his machete to whack off enough to make a hole, fill my water bottle, and gave me the shell to bring home so I could enjoy the coconut meat inside. Thank you daughter for my panniers. I use them a lot!

Then, the big event last Sunday. It rained!! Real rain, get everything good and wet rain. Since then we have had a few sprinkles, some clouds rolling by that looked like they could rain, along with days of intense hot sunshine and some wind. There has been a lot more rain in the mountains but it continues to be very windy up there too. So, the season is changing and none to soon for me. The sunny days have been intensely hot and I’m looking forward to some cooling.

So, just life, doing things that need to be done, doing things I enjoy, and observing the world around me in my little part of Panama. It’s a good life.

 

Posted in Panama | 20 Comments

Earthquakes!

Panama is in the “Ring of Fire“,  a series of volcanoes and plate movements where the majority of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. We have felt a number of earthquakes since we have been in Panama.

By Gringer (talk) 23:52, 10 February 2009 (UTC) – vector data from [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5919729

There are a number of tectonic plates under us in including the Caribbean Plate, and when they shift around we are likely to feel the ground shifting underneath us.

Look, we even have our own Panama Plate!

We were in Boquete Sunday evening. The band was packing up after their afternoon gig, and I was seated and talking when everything started to bump, shake, and roll. I heard glass breaking as something fell off the shelf in the bar. It’s a very strange sensation, like a sudden loss of equilibrium. You expect the ground to be a solid thing under you and when it isn’t, it takes a moment to figure out what’s going on. I can see how it would be frightening because there is no where to go, nothing to do except maybe get out of the way of anything that could fall on you. Thankfully here, in our experience, the quakes cause minimal damage beyond things falling off shelves, like in this David supermarket.

This quake was a 5.3 in Cerro Punta. If you look at Volcan Baru from above, our nearby volcano, Boquete is at about at 3 o’clock, and Cerro Punta is about 12 o’clock so the epicenter wasn’t far. The quake was strong enough that it was felt all the way through central Panama. People said there were two aftershocks following the main quake, but we were probably driving home then and didn’t feel them.

Then Monday, yesterday, we were in Boquete again enjoying an afternoon pot luck. I was again seated and talking with someone when we felt the ground shake. This felt short and mild, but it still registered 4.1 and was again located in Cerro Punta.

Here’s the link to an earthquake tracking site, and as you can see we have quite a few in this area. http://earthquaketrack.com/pa-02-david/recent  We don’t always feel them depending on how strong they are and what we are doing, but if we miss one we definitely hear about it because it’s the talk of the town for a day or two. El tremblor! Lo sentiste? Si si, muy fuerte! Wao. (thankfully not much goes on around here, so an event like this is a big deal)

Since we were in Boquete, I’ll close with a few photos taken yesterday.

It did rain in Boquete but not until after we arrived, and it stopped by the time we left so we got lucky. They got a good soaking but there wasn’t a drop of rain in David. We had quite a bit on Sunday though so we are very happy.

Posted in Panama | 27 Comments

Thank Goodness for Internet and Social Media

A big concern of people moving to another country is staying in touch with family and friends. Internet was on my own “absolutely must have ” list. I actually see more of my family now than I did before because we use Skype and Facetime instead of just the phone. I can see my daughters while we talk and watch the grandkids run around which is totally cool!

Facebook has also added so much to our communication. We have a family group where we share messages, photos, and videos, and I’m notified when new photos and updates are posted on their pages. I communicate much more often with my sister, and have connected with friends who I haven’t seen or talked with in years.

Today though, I woke up to something that had the tears running down my face. My sister was also adopted. She searched for her biological mother a while back (unfortunately deceased), and eventually found an obituary of her mother’s brother that listed 5 children. My sister checked Facebook and sure enough, there were some of these cousins. She sent one a message and as they say, the rest was history.

Word spread among the cousins and the rest of the family, and they were thrilled to welcome her into the family. They all connected on Facebook, and she met one cousin who happened to live close to her. This weekend though she went to Boston to meet a whole lot more cousins and family members. This morning I saw photo after photo of my happy sister with all these new smiling family members! It’s a beautiful thing.

I wrote a post in the past about being adopted, about growing up not related to anyone, not connected with anyone else. Now to see my sister with all this family, all these new wonderful people who are being so welcoming to her, oh yes I needed a tissue.

An aside, in case you wonder, I found my birth mother when I was in my late 20’s and we have shared a very warm and happy relationship over the years. She and I communicate mainly by email but we are also connected on… of course… Facebook!

Posted in Panama | 18 Comments

More Summer Flowers

It’s a hot afternoon so I’m sitting on the terrace with a fan, sipping passionade (like lemonade but with passion fruit juice) and listening to a multitude of bird songs in every direction while I sort photos. Mi vida dificil (my difficult life)

I have just started a series of watercolor classes in Boquete which I think are going to be very interesting and helpful. The first class was held in a beautiful spot with this view of the mountains.

There are a few blooms here at my house. Thankfully I am upwind of the carrion flower while I sit on the terrace, but I still get a whiff of it now and then. I’m facing my neighbor’s orchids so I think I get to enjoy them more than they do. Everyone is enjoying guanabanas (soursop) though! My tree has gone nuts this year, producing so many fruits I can hardly give them all away. Most of them are too high up so we don’t get them until they splat to the ground, but I have managed to pick a few of the lower ones before they fall. We have been getting 4-8 fruits a day for a couple weeks now! The Panamanians think guanabana is an expensive wonderful treat so with fruit either whole or squashed,  they are all happy to see me coming.

Who wanted to see chickens? I saw this hen and her chicks when I stopped for a water break. What is exciting about street signs? This is Panama. There are no street signs and there are no addresses. Thankfully this is starting to change and more street signs are showing up. These are in a residential neighborhood where I wouldn’t think signs are a priority but hey, we’ll take them and appreciate them. The ALTO is a stop sign, often treated as only a suggestion, and the other sign is for the neighborhood watch. Be careful! We are observing you. Thanks to the signs, I now know that we live above Urbanizacion (neighborhood) Anayansi.

Just a few more flowers –

We went to Boquete on Thursday. Joel’s band had a gig in a new place and it was a very fun evening. On the way though we ran into rain, and then as we got further up it was an interesting sight with wisps of clouds on the ground and tucked between hills.

Last but not least, we had rain last night! It wasn’t a huge rain, but enough to drip off the roof and get everything wet. When I came out to relax before bed, the air was heavy and damp with humidity. I hadn’t felt that in a while. There is hope. Things will be cooler and greener soon.

Posted in Panama | 14 Comments