A Bit of my World

I recently reconnected with a very dear friend from my college years. He’s curious about my world down here in Panama so I figured rather than overload his mailbox, I’d just write a post.

I woke up to a beautiful, partly cloudy breezy morning, 80 degrees. The first photo is my “outside office” this morning, looking towards the back yard and the banana trees. The second is the front of the house which you can’t see very well because I’ve planted too many things.

Then, this is our kitchen, not big but definitely workable for two people. The stove is gas, and it is fed by a gas can outside that is similar to what feeds your BBQ. When we have an empty gas can we take it to the chino (convenience store) and exchange it for a full one for $5.12. One lasts us about a month. The counter and structure under it is cement covered with tile so we wouldn’t have the problem with soggy wood if the sink would leak. If you stand at the sink there are storage shelves behind you and an opening into the dining room. The fridge is around the corner in the dining room which works for us because the kitchen is small.

The other picture is the living room. Typical construction is a cement slab floor, cement block walls, and a metal roof. We are a bit fancier because we have tile on the cement floor, and a drop ceiling. Above the ceiling is a large opening that looks up to the underside of the roof. The walls do not go all the way up to the roof, which isn’t important except sound tends to travel within the house more than you would expect. The metal roof is very noisy during a hard rain, but after reroofing the Florida house and replacing lots of wood, tar paper, and shingles this metal roof is a lot simpler and more practical. We painted ours white to cut down on the heat in the house, which the neighbors thought was quite strange until we explained the concept to them. Roofs are typically brick red color.

Our living room is our music studio. Visitors are traditionally entertained in an outdoor space and it’s better use of the space for us. Our house is larger than many, probably 900 sq ft. It has 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, and we have a wall air conditioner in the living room for those hot summer afternoons. We also have a reserve water tank because the water here isn’t reliable. But, it is drinkable and clean.

So, moving on… today’s errand was to go to our mailing service and visit the friendly bilingual employee Luis. We have found this mailing service fast, efficient, and friendly and it’s affordable at $2.50/lb + $.50 handling per package. They will deliver for free but it’s on our bike route it’s a good excuse to get some exercise. And, now I have new bike shorts! Thank you eBay.

Next, I went a couple minutes farther down to the shopping center. In the first picture, El Rey is on the left, a very nice, upscale, large supermarket. Next to it is the DoIt Center, similar to Home Depot. The shopping center goes behind these stores and farther down to the right and contains multiple stores, – furniture, electronics, home appliances, light fixtures, a Subway, a couple pharmacies, a phone service, a couple banks… you might be able to live your entire life without going much farther afield than here. The second picture is from the same spot but looking south to the Panamerican highway. You can just barely see Super 99 on the other side of the street, another very large supermarket and there is also a third smaller one across the street down there. All this is just 3 km from our house!

Then, heading back north we passed this Delta gas station. The prices are per liter.

The guy standing by the street in the photo below is selling langostinos – they look like very large shrimp or maybe little lobsters. They are really good but twice the price of shrimp which I like just as much. Street vendors are very common all over town. You’ll see them selling fish, produce, bottles of drinks, sunglasses, cell phone cases, paintings… all kinds of things! I like buying from street vendors, the guys who are out there working hard to make a living. The Texaco station beyond him is very new. We see a lot of familiar names and brands here.

The other photo is one of the two produce markets at this intersection. I buy most of our produce from our guy who comes around every week with his truck, but anything else I’ll buy from these markets or a street vendor. I almost never buy produce from a supermarket.

Continuing up the street towards home… The mangoes on this tree looks like they are getting fairly large.

The blue building is our nearby chino, or convenience store. They are called chinos because they are almost always run by Chinese people. Here, that is not considered a rude, politicly incorrect thing, but only a description. The other photo is from the same spot but looking north.

The next photo is my favorite vantage points for seeing Volcan Baru. Volcan Baru is an active volcano and at 11,000+ feet, the highest point in Panama. It’s so high that the temperature up there gets to freezing, and on a clear day you can see both the Caribbean and Pacific oceans. All the volcanoes throughout central America are monitored, and thankfully this one is sleeping. The last eruption was back in the 16th century. I must have seen Baru hundreds of times by now but I never get tired of it.

The last picture is an open field on the way home, and there’s a huge mango tree there. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 100+ years old. It’s only fruited once since we’ve been here but it makes small, yellow, and really good mangoes which I would be happy to peel, cut, and store in my freezer to enjoy all year.

Are your eyes glazing over by now? Don’t worry, we are almost home.

The first photo is the entrance to our neighborhood and the others are some of the streets in our little neighborhood. It’s trash day so sometimes the guys take all the trash from the little enclosures and lay it out in the street, which isn’t a problem unless the neighborhood dogs decide to make a mess. But, it makes it easier for the trash truck to zip through the neighborhood and sure enough, as you see in the last photos, there they were.

Trash pickup here is twice a week. They haven’t been as consistent since the pandemic but they always show up at least once a week. Trash men aren’t always given respect but here, earlier in the pandemic, the authorities put together a really nice video thanking them for doing this job during this dangerous time.

Now it’s 5pm, 86 degrees (though it was 90 earlier) and super windy! We get the trade winds in the summer and sometimes they really blow. We don’t expect to get rain in the summer (but for some odd reason, we’ve had quite a bit in the last few weeks). All those leaves I raked up and left in a pile a couple days ago… ha! Oh well, I enjoy working outdoors so it’s fine. And the wind creates a strong head wind coming home so we get a good workout on the bikes.

Well I think that’s it. I sure managed to talk a lot about a simple outing and an ordinary day! Thank you for hanging in there until the end. As always, take care of yourselves and each other.

Posted in Panama | 13 Comments

Random Photos

I’ve accumulated a lot of random photos over the last few weeks, so I figure I’ll just put them out here in no particular order.

First group – fruits. The mangoes and avocadoes bloomed, but we also had a few really windy days so I hope the flowers didn’t all get blown off. That would thwart our plans to enjoy the fruit later.

<complaint>I do not know why the text is on top of the photos here, but nowhere to be seen when you scroll through the individual photos. It’s never done that before and I can’t see how to change it. All too often people “fix” and “improve” things, and only make them more aggravating and complicated. I’m still figuring out the new, improved (ha!) blog editor, so please don’t “improve” anything else! </complaint>

I checked on my favorite mango tree yesterday and it has a lot less fruit than expected. I’m afraid the winds did blow off too many flowers. But there’s still enough fruit on that tree and others so later, I’ll be able to pick up some good mangoes.

You know there has to be pictures of bugs! I read somewhere that Panama has more kinds of bugs than the entire North America. I believe it, and if you like bugs it’s really fun here. Even if you don’t like bugs, be reassured that the vast majority of them are harmless and don’t bother you, so it’s good if you can learn to share your space a bit. I’m not a fan of putting poisons in my environment unless absolutely necessary.

We have surprisingly few mosquitoes which I really appreciate. Who would think, living in the tropics, that this would be so. But we have lots of birds, bats, lizards, and other mosquito eating bugs which must keep the population down. And, speaking of sharing space, there are always little lizards in the house which we appreciate because they eat bugs.

Next group of photos – Shopping. The Apple store moved to Chiriqui Mall so we went by to check it out. The big City Mall store moved to Chiriqui Mall and now the whole mall has been upgraded and it’s looking really nice. We were surprised though to find hardly any people there on a Wednesday morning. The Apple store was open and had an attractive display, but if you want to buy something you have to order it and they will send away for it. We didn’t ask if they do repairs and service.

On that outing, we also tried the Pricesmart Click and Go option. You place your order on their website, pay with your credit card, and pick a time you plan to pick up your order. We chose 12-1pm, and showed up just before 12. Someone came up to the car fairly soon, checked our membership card and wrote down our name. Then we waited about a half hour and our order was delivered to our car. Later I found an email sent at 12:35 saying our order was ready, so I’m not sure if it would have been faster if we had waited for the email. But, we got our order, and it looks like they checked out our order with a cashier so a couple missing, out of stock items weren’t charged. Since I don’t enjoy shopping even when there isn’t COVID around, and it wasn’t any longer than shopping ourselves even with the wait, this seems like a good option. They also offer home delivery so maybe next time we’ll try that out. Before you ask, I didn’t compare receipts to see if click and go is more expensive than shopping yourself, and I don’t know what it costs for home delivery.

And now, here’s everything else – the rest of the pictures. My usual routine is I go biking, do computer stuff on the terrace, or whatever else I want to do outside in the morning. When it gets too warm in the afternoon I go to my room and practice my bass. The dog comes with me and sleeps in the corner behind the door, usually in some silly position on her back. She stays with me like my shadow and if she doesn’t make it in the room before I close the door, she’ll be waiting right outside the door.

I’ve also been seeing a lot of iguanas lately when I’m out biking. I don’t know if they are looking for mates, or water, or what but I like seeing them. They can run amazingly fast, and hide really well in a tree.

The guyacans, the spectacular trees with yellow flowers are also blooming right now. I thought the summer winds blow off the flowers quickly, but it hasn’t been windy lately but my neighbor’s tree still lost its flowers in just a couple days. Enjoy them while you can.

And, speaking of weather, it’s been a strange summer so far. Usually it’s hot, dry, and windy but we’ve had quite a bit of rain. This last week has felt a lot more like rainy season, and we appreciate the rain! But, today it feels like summer again, sunny, hot, and windy.

So, that’s it for my photo collection of the moment. We’ll get back to our favorite subject soon – COVID – ha! But sometimes it’s just nice to enjoy more normal things, like the beauty and the fun things that surround us every day. And, as always we are thankful every day to be here, where we’re not freezing without power and water, or suffering the many other problems we hear about in the news. I hope you all out there are doing OK!

Take good care of yourselves and each other!

Posted in Panama | 12 Comments

Yes, Still Here

I am still alive. I’ve been using this phrase a lot lately because I’ve ignored correspondence, the blog, and whatever else I usually do. There hasn’t been much to say and I’ve been occupied with other things, so writing has taken a back seat.

We’re still fine down here in Panama, nothing much new with us personally. In the country, it’s Carnavales time, party time! Traditionally it’s a big holiday with parades, gorgeous traditional costumes, music well into the night, and tons of people out having a good time. If you want to know more about this, check out this very interesting and informative article. Carnival in Panama – The What, Where & Whys (livinginpanama.com)

This year Carnavales festivities are cancelled because of COVID, but people still have the time off from work., What I’m seeing on line isn’t encouraging. The main highway was almost at a standstill with so many people leaving Panama City to spend this holiday in the interior. The virus numbers have been dropping so I really hope this holiday time doesn’t turn that around like it did after the November holidays. I guess we will see. But, right now the numbers of new cases are down, the number of people in the hospital has dropped a lot, and the number of deaths has also dropped. And, more vaccine is expected to arrive this week.

Here at our house, we are hopeful! Maybe one day the band can play again so we’re gearing up. We had a fantastic practice yesterday and just blew through 2 sets (a normal evening is 3 sets of 10 songs each). I’ve had to do a lot of relearning of songs we haven’t played in ages, and we’re not used to being on our feet and on point for extended time, but we’re coming back. I feel SO much better now knowing that we could probably go out tomorrow and do well if we had to. And, we have probably 4 more sets of material to rehearse, including even more new songs, so with more time we’ll be even better. And, I’m also having discussions with my family about visiting, when will we all feel safe, when could this happen. After all this time it’s almost hard to believe there is real hope! Please please don’t mess it all up and do a super spreader holiday. But whatever happens, the vaccine is coming and it should be our turn soon, which will make us feel much better about traveling.

There have been some good things that have come from this crazy time. Many of us have learned to use ZOOM! I’ve had some wonderful family chats, and last week a bunch of my friends from Florida got together on zoom. Most of us hadn’t talked since I left eight years ago (except maybe Facebook which some of us use more than others). It was great seeing everyone and we hope to do this again every month of so. I hope so, because I still have lots of questions and want to hear a lot more about what has been happening! You know those friends who are friends if you talk, or if you don’t talk, or if you are apart for literally years, and they are still friends just as much as ever? Yeah… those are my friends. I know you all read this blog so I want you to know that this really means a whole lot to me! Thank you.

What else? Rain! We’ve been getting a fair amount of rain. It’s summer and usually very dry from December to April so this is very odd, but thank you. It’s much appreciated. It cools us off and the plants can thrive.

And mail… we have a new mailing service and they seem to be working out very well. There are some things we can’t get here, mostly clothes (I’m big, and even more so by Panamanian standards), music related stuff (available but with very limited selection and higher prices), and assorted odds and ends (always an odd list – spices, colored duct tape, etc). Usually we pick up stuff on visits to the US, but since we haven’t visited in so long we’re happy we can have things sent. PGT Logistics | Envíos de Miami a Panamá – Compras por Internet en Panamá This company is half the price of the one we were using, nothing has been lost in transit for weeks, and it’s right down the road so no going downtown and fighting traffic. It’s interesting though. I see these “buy on the internet” mailing services popping up all over town. Apparently people are discovering the advantages of internet shopping and it’s becoming quite a thing.

People are also discovering the advantages of curbside pickup and delivery services, as people try to avoid in person shopping and possible exposure to the virus. We tried curbside pickup at Pricesmart (our version of Costco) and it worked out well. You can see motorcycles all over town delivering food from various restaurants, and deliveries from hardware and other stores is becoming more and more common. I have a feeling that both here and in the US, this will persist after the pandemic is resolved. Many people here work long hours and keep very busy, so if this kind of shopping is faster and easier they probably won’t want to give that up.

That’s about it for news from here. One of these days I need to post some photos I’ve taken over the last few weeks (includes bugs – you have been warned. ha) But, for now I’ve gone on quite enough. You all take care, and stay warm!! I see all the news of frigid winter weather and remember how miserable that can be if you don’t like the cold. Take good care of yourselves and each others.

Posted in Panama | 6 Comments

Vaccinations in Panama

The vaccine arrived in Panama in the early hours of Jan 20th. Unfortunately only 12,840 doses were delivered instead of the 40,000 that were ordered, but as soon as they arrived MINSA (health department) started vaccinating front line health care workers, and distributing vaccine to the various provinces so their front line health care workers could be protected.

COMUNICADO No.335 | Ministerio de Salud de la República de Panamá (minsa.gob.pa)

The article also mentions a more virulent strain of the virus in the UK and South Africa. Now, any arrivals from those countries are automatically quarantined for five days and then tested. One person infected with this strain was identified and continued in quarantine until he was no longer infectious, which prevented this strain from getting out into the general population. The Gorgas Memorial Institute is also testing random samples to track any mutated forms of the virus that may be in the country.

The first person vaccinated was Violeta Edith Gaona de Cocherán, a nurse for 37 years who is working in an ICU in Panama City. She was chosen for this honor because of her many years of service and dedication, and her current work with ICU COVID patients.

Miss Gaona: una vida dedicada a la enfermería | Ministerio de Salud de la República de Panamá (minsa.gob.pa),

In general virus news, the number of new cases in Panama has been dropping. The number of people hospitalized lags behind because it takes a while before people recover enough to leave the hospital, but there seems to be some progress here as well. We are definitely not out of the woods yet but there are hopeful signs. We continue to get daily communications from the president, the health department and other authorities, and daily reminders to be diligent with infection control measures.

Panama is waiting for news from Pfizer about a delivery date for more vaccines. When the rest of this order is filled, they can complete phase 1 of their plans and look forward to phase 2. (A New Year – a post about the phases) So, progress isn’t as fast as they planned but it will happen. I don’t know if Moderna vaccines or others that are becoming available are also being considered.

The general feel in the world seems to be that we will get through this before the end of the year, and in six months things should be much better as people get immunized and as the virus has less people to infect.

Right now though, it feels like this has been going on FOREVER! We are all so tired of it. So many have suffered in so many ways, and so many have died. Let’s all keep hope in our minds and look forward, and continue to take good care of ourselves and each other.

Posted in Panama | 9 Comments

What a Day!

Yesterday was Wednesday, January 20, 2021. A lot of very good things happened yesterday!

First, of course, is the inauguration of a new president in the USA. I know many wished for a different outcome, but this is a new beginning and I hope better times are ahead for all of us. The pandemic and the recent violence made for a very different inauguration ceremony, but I don’t think it lessened the impact. Lady Gaga sang an incredibly beautiful performance of the national anthem, and she was only the first of a number of amazing participants. I thought Biden gave an excellent speech stressing unity and healing. It felt honest, heartfelt, and very hopeful, which I think is what we all need right now.

A woman of color is now the vice president! What a momentous thing that is. I saw the whole ceremony was full of women and people of color, but to have this woman, to have her in this position, it’s an awesome thing.

But wait… there’s more!

Yesterday, in the early hours of the morning, the first doses of the vaccine arrived in Panama.

COMUNICADO N° 330 | Ministerio de Salud de la República de Panamá (minsa.gob.pa)

The first people were vaccinated in a happy ceremony attended by the president and other officials. The first people to get the vaccine were ICU nurses, respiratory therapists, and other front line workers.

We only got about a third of the vaccine that was ordered, but Pfizer said that when they get caught up they’ll sent the rest (“in the first quarter of 2021”). Since supply is limited, they are going to vaccinate people in the Panama and Panama West districts where the virus has been the biggest problem. So, it’s going to take time to get to everyone, but what a hopeful thing to see the first doses finally arriving here in Panama!

My friend in California got her second dose of the vaccine yesterday. She’s an ultrasound person at the local hospital, and her husband, the radiology guy, should get his this week also. We all hear the stories about the disorganized and inadequate vaccine distribution, but it feels great to hear that some people are getting protected, especially those in the front lines of patient care.

What else? We had electricity yesterday. We got a notice that the power was to be shut off yesterday while they did some repairs. But, they shut off the power about 10PM and it was back on in the early hours of the morning, so we had power all day. It was an especially good day to have electricity since we wanted to watch the inauguration ceremony.

I got my teeth cleaned and got a clean bill of health from our dentist. My life long battle with dental problems came to an abrupt halt when I arrived in Panama. I’m not sure why, but thank you!

My daughter sent me pictures and art of my grandchildren, and the package seemed to have gotten lost in transport and was in the never never land for two weeks. But, now I have notification from the mailing service that it arrived in Miami and is on its way to David. And, my husband’s repaired hearing aids are also arriving.

The virus numbers in Panama seem to be improving. I don’t want to say anything too quickly, but the statistics of the last few days seem to be a bit better. Maybe all the restrictions made a difference? Hospitalizations are still high, but since someone usually needs a few weeks rather than a few days to improve enough to leave the hospital, maybe those numbers just need more time.

Did I share this already? It’s a recent Bob Adams video where he talks about COVID in Panama and the plans for the vaccine. He says the country is generally doing well, and that eventually everyone will get the vaccine, citizens, residents, and even tourists. Jump to about 5:55 in the video if you want to go directly to that part.

Summer has definitely arrived in Panama now. We haven’t had rain in quite a few days, and the trade winds have been blowing. Mangoes and avocadoes are flowering, along with other ornamental and fruit trees.

We are still in a very difficult period with this coronavirus, but it feels so good to see good things happening, and these signs of progress that reassure us that this won’t last forever. It probably won’t even last through this new year.

Hang in there everyone! And, as always, take very good care of yourselves and each other. I want to see all of you still here when we come out the other side.

Posted in Panama | 2 Comments

COVID in Panama

The world is fighting this pandemic, and various countries have various ideas of how best to manage it. I’ve written a number of posts about how things are going here in Panama because, what else is there to talk about? We stay right here in our small little world watching the plants grow and the birds fly around.

Panama has said from the start that their primary goal is keeping people alive and healthy, and they shut down everything for quite a while and kept everyone home. There was government help for those who lost jobs and income, of course never big or fast enough but they tried. As things stabilized they opened the economy back up little by little. Things continued to go fairly well until the November and December holidays. People traveled too much and had too many get togethers where the virus was spread around. By December case numbers were climbing to new heights. They shut things down again in the areas most affected, and reinstituted curfews and some restrictions throughout the country. Now that things appear to be stabilizing again, they are slowly opening things up again in the affected areas.

As I understand it, they look at transmission rate, death rate, and availability of space in the hospitals. When these numbers go above the limits they set, it’s likely that we’ll see more restrictions and limitations. They have been doing thousands of tests, and contact tracing teams are hard at work but the large numbers make that difficult, and a large amount of socializing can make contact tracing almost impossible. But, there is still hospital space, even with these high numbers, which is good news.

Panamá entre los países que más pruebas diagnósticas aplica a su población, según la OPS (tvn-2.com) Nationally, 58% of the hospital beds are occupied, 76% full in ICUs, and 41% of the ventilators are in use.

I saw that they brought in some doctors from Cuba to ease the strain on the health care personnel. I thought this article was also interesting. Comunicado No. 326 | Ministerio de Salud de la República de Panamá (minsa.gob.pa) MINSA (health department) has trained 150 mental health professionals to support the health care professionals working in the front lines, and to help them manage the stress and burnout of the job. If a worker is struggling they can contact one of these professionals in or outside work, or call the hotline set up for this purpose. MINSA has also published guidelines and recommendations for managing and alleviating stress.

A good friend here got COVID. Her husband and his cousin live next door to each other, two families who are like one, except in separate houses. Both husbands, after all these months of struggle, are finally back to work. All four adults got COVID. They are super conservative and careful, so I’m guessing that one of the guys must have brought the virus home from work. Interesting enough, and thankfully, all of the 3 kids tested negative. And, thankfully, everyone is recovered now, feeling well, and they should be off quarantine this coming week.

But, when they got sick. MINSA was at their house, testing and supporting. They were brought food, not enough for 14 days, but enough for a while so they wouldn’t have to go shopping, and they had time to make some arrangements. MINSA also brought them basic medications for pain, fever, cough, etc. so they wouldn’t go out to the pharmacy. Someone from MINSA has called them every day to see how they have been doing. A few days in the cousin was feeling worse, so he was sent to the hospital for oxygen and assessment. He was found to be OK enough that he didn’t need to stay, so he’s spending the rest of his quarantine in a hotel/hospital with his whole family. I was told they have a large, comfortable room with 2 double beds, good meals delivered to their room, and staff nearby to keep an eye on their health. And, it’s all free.

This is a picture my friends sent me of the food that was given to them when they got sick. This would make a few meals for a family of 3.

The vaccine is coming very soon, and it will be interesting to see how this goes. I wrote earlier about the four phases in the plan A New Year | The Panama Adventure

Bob Adams has also talked about the vaccine plans in a recent video. According to him, everyone will be eligible for a free vaccine. Everyone – citizens, residents, and tourists! https://youtu.be/B5wEu8NvyaM?t=359

Needless to say, I am looking forward to this very much. Not only will I feel much safer, I’ll feel confident that I can travel safely and not bring back anything to my family in the US.

Speaking of the US, the news seems to go from bad to worse and then, worse and worse! The virus seems out of control everywhere, hospitals are overflowing, and personnel are stretched to the limits. A friend in Sarasota FL, where I lived before here, said their hospital is at 100.4% capacity. Her husband is over 65 and eligible for a vaccine at this time, but it’s been impossible to get an appointment. Now, they have run out of vaccine. I don’t know what this means for people who need a second dose. It seems like everywhere health departments are underfunded, understaffed, distribution and administration of vaccine is disorganized, and it’s just not working out. Daily counts of infections and deaths only climb and climb. We can’t wrap our heads around the big numbers, or think about how every single one of those numbers is a person who left a big hole in the lives of their families and friends.

And, is this ever going to end?? Sometimes it sees like we’re trapped in an endless nightmare of sickness, death, and stress, and I’m only talking about COVID here. I know one day we will look back on this crazy time! But, not for a while yet.

So, maybe rather than cry, we can laugh a little. I saw these here People Are Already Getting Disappointed In The Year 2021, And Here’s 50 Of The Funniest Jokes They Made | Bored Panda

2021-Funny-Jokes

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2021-Funny-Jokes

Posted in Panama | 15 Comments

Scorpions and Friends

You may not realize how many caring friends you have until you have a problem!

We went shopping on Tuesday, and my “going out clothes” were hanging on a hook in the bedroom. When I put on my pants I felt a sharp burning sensation in my leg, so I ripped the pants off. I thought it was a wasp or ant or some biting insect, but I never though I’d see all the baby scorpions that fell out of my pant leg! Yes, I know the picture is bad but under the circumstances….

Image may contain: shoes and indoor

Those little devils were running everywhere! Where was mom??? We never saw an adult. Usually the mother carries the babies on her back, which I have seen, but maybe these were bigger and didn’t need mom any more? (here’s a mom we saw in the past)

It took me a moment to realize this was a mother scorpion covered with babies!

So anyway, pants off, leg burning like fire, 4 bites that I could see…. the Panamanian remedy is to squash the scorpion and rub the insides on the sting. If that’s not possible, I have dead squashed scorpions in alcohol, which is to be used to treat a sting. But, unfortunately, I didn’t even think of it until hours later. The leg burned all day and another effect of the neurotoxin, your lips and fingers get numb and tingly, very weird.

The shopping at least distracted me from my hurting leg and other effects. We got lucky at Pricesmart, a very short line that moved quickly, and not too much waiting to check out. They only let in one person per family though so I was on my own. When we left the line extended the length of the building and around the corner! We got lucky. Then, we went to Super Baru for a few more things. There was no line or one person only restriction, but the store was uncomfortably crowded and there were lines at the checkouts. Everyone wears masks and follows social distancing but it’s still uncomfortable to be in a store with too many people so you can’t help but get too close to some of them. But, we got the shopping done and shouldn’t have to go out for a few more weeks.

But, back to the point of this post… I shared the story and picture of the scorpions on Facebook, and got dozens and dozens of caring comments! People I hadn’t talked to in weeks or months came forward to wish me well. We all complain about social media and the negativity, with good reason, but it also connects us with friends and lets us know that there are people out there who care about us. That’s important for our mental and even physical health, and it just feels good to know you have good friends. I really appreciated everyone who took the time to respond to my post.

And, by evening I was all good again! The symptoms went away, and you can’t even see where the bites were. And, we haven’t seen any more scorpions, big or small, since that morning.

I know the drill…. shake out everything before you put it on! Don’t put your hands where you can’t see in case something is lurking. Be aware that we share the world with wildlife, which may not be friendly. My clothes were hanging on a hook in the open so I didn’t think to shake them out. I won’t make that mistake again.

But we really don’t have much dangerous wildlife here. You would think, living in the tropics, right next to a woods and a river, that we would have problems but we really don’t. There are few mosquitoes here, way less than anywhere I’ve been in the US. We have a bad snake, the fer-de-lance pit viper, and I’ve seen a few but they don’t want to see you any more than you want to see them. There are dozens of varieties of ants and bees, some of which will sting if you bother them, but if you leave them alone there is no problem. I’ve heard about and seen a few furry caterpillars which are said to be very bad if you touch them. In 8+ years though, this is the first serious problem I’ve had.

The banner photo is a typical scorpion for this area. We saw this one in the past living in the wood pile out back. Like everything, if you don’t bother them they won’t bother you. They don’t know that hanging out in your clothes is a bad idea for both of you!

Posted in Panama | 14 Comments

A New Year

Happy New Year everyone! This year is going to be better, not right away, but by the time we celebrate the next New Year I think we will be living much more “normal” lives.

But, right now, it feels like the whole world is…. well… handbaskets come to mind. (Para aquellos de ustedes que leen en español, “irse al infierno en una canasta” es una expresión para que las cosas vayan muy mal.) The virus is raging out of control everywhere. Panama is also dealing with a surge in cases, hospitals are reaching capacity, and field hospitals and other options have been made available. One can create more beds but one can’t just create more health care personnel, which is an even bigger concern. Doctors have been brought in from Cuba, and any available nurses and other health care people have been put on the job of caring for the rising number of sick people.

We won’t even talk about the insanity that has been going on in the USA. Are we living in some kind of altered reality where such a thing is even conceivable? I’m already tired of explaining to Panamanians that I don’t understand what is going on in my home country, but this?? Panamanians have opinions and may argue strongly for their points of view. There are protests that may block travel and inconvenience a lot of people. But violence, threats to people’s safety and property? No, that is not done, ever.

But there is hope. Things are changing in the USA. We will continue to have huge problems but I hope we will be going in a better direction both in the pandemic and in the political/social climate. Here in Panama also, the vaccine is coming later this month. The have storage ready, a plan for the phases of administering the vaccine with the most critical people first, and they are already accessing the number of people in need so the health department can be ready to get to work. Of course time will tell how everything works out but they seem to be increasingly organized every day.

This is the latest article I’ve seen outlining the plans for administering the vaccine, and some information about how the vaccine works. (If you have google translate and a smart phone, you can point it at text and it will translate for you. Cool huh?)

Vacunación iniciaría en Panamá y Panamá Oeste, provincias con más número de casos (tvn-2.com)

So, that’s pretty much the news around here. For us, we’re just home, sometimes a bike ride for exercise and some conversation with friends in the area (at a distance, outside, with masks), and maybe….. now that town has calmed down a bit from the holidays and lockdowns, we might tackle the supermarket next week. We rode by this morning and there don’t seem to be the lines that there were in the last few weeks. But overall we are contented at home and so lucky to have everything we need here.

Summer in Panama starts in December but we continued to have some rain off and on. The weather reports say there continues to be a chance of rain but they are wrong more than they are right. By March, the height of the hot, dry summer, we’ll be complaining and praying for rain but right now, it’s sunny, breezy, and just gorgeous.

When you’re mostly home there isn’t much else to talk about. The mangoes are flowering everywhere, and the avocado I grew from a pit is flowing for the first time. I dug out some yucca I planted months ago and got some really good roots that are now in the freezer or my soup.

I just finished “Artic Dreams” by Barry Lopez. It’s not so much that things happen, but it’s more like art in the pictures it paints in your head about life in Alaska. Before that – “Where I Come From: Life Lessons from a Latino Chef” by Aarón Sánchez which I really enjoyed. I can’t imagine being a cook though, all that really hard work and long hours, but if that’s your passion and food is love, that’s what you’ve got to do.

I’m working on Interstate Love Song by Stone Temple Pilots. It has a really challenging bass part, but it’s going to be very cool when we put it all together. And then also, In Bloom by Nirvana. I wasn’t such a Nirvana fan but it’s growing on me, and our audience really loves them. We thought maybe we’d be playing again by now but with this recent virus surge, that’s probably still months away. But, there’s an endless supply of music to keep us busy at home while we wait.

What do you DO all day when you’re retired, and stuck at home? Thankfully that’s not a problem for us. It may not sound exciting but we’re very content.

As always, take care of yourselves and each other! We need kindness and caring more than ever.

Posted in Panama | 8 Comments

Life Goes On

Life as we know it has been upended for many months as the whole world fights this pandemic. Yet, nature knows nothing about any pandemic. Birds still sing, plants still grow, and squirrels still look for ripe bananas. I thought today, for a change, I’d write more about “normal life” here in the neighborhood.

So, when you’re retired and home all day, what do you DO with yourself??

Ha! Not a problem. I told someone today that if I have a yard, internet, a bass guitar, and the usual house chores I have no trouble keeping busy. The yard is always a pleasure since we have so many interesting critters, plants, and bugs. I have spared you all the bug pictures for entirely too long, so maybe it’s time to get out the close up lens again.

As for the pandemic, we are not doing that great here, unfortunately. There were lots of holidays in November, and then even more traveling and gathering for mothers day (Dec 8). We are paying the price now with much higher virus numbers, and a many more people in the hospital. The authorities are pleading with people every day to be very careful, to consider anyone outside your household as a possible threat, and to avoid being out and visiting others as much as possible. But, you know how it is everywhere. People have been separated from friends and family for so long, and everyone looks fine, so why not?

I have a feeling the aftermath of Christmas and New Years will be even worse. We were locked down from Christmas eve to the following Monday morning, but it seemed like everyone in the world was out on the 24th. I only biked in our area because the heavy traffic made crossing main roads very unappealing all week. Traditionally here, Christmas eve is the big celebration with parties, fireworks, and festivities culminating at midnight with tons of fireworks, then presents, dinner, and greetings for everyone near and far. (It was funny. About 12:15 the internet had slowed down to a crawl!) But, this year, judging by what I saw on our neighborhood, it seemed like everyone just moved up the festivities and gatherings and got together in the afternoon.

Now, we are allowed out 5am-7pm, and men and women are allowed to shop on alternate days. I thought shopping was super crowded last week but I’ve seen pictures on line of stores with lines of shoppers around the block. Maybe if you only have two days this week, you have to go out when you can? This weekend we are locked down again Friday evening – Monday morning, and after that it’s 5am-7pm until the 14th, with alternate shopping days. Panama and Panama Oeste (in the Panama City area where there are especially high virus numbers) are back to the old restrictions of only 2 hours a day out, and alternating days of men and women.

I’ve heard conflicting information about the arrival of the vaccine. Last night there was news that said it’s coming in the next 90 days. Last week there was other news that they are trying to hurry it up, and it will be here late Jan/early Feb. Then there are rumors that it’s already arrived and will begin distribution in a matter of days. So basically we don’t know anything. We only know that at the moment we have a growing problem, and that is likely to get worse when we feel the effects of all the recent holiday activity.

But, enough of that. Right now I’m at my “outside office” looking at blooming ti plants, gingers, bougainvillea, ripening bananas, and all sorts of other plants, flowers, and trees. Birds are singing everywhere, parrots are flying overhead, and the neighbors are working on their various home projects. It’s 5:30 pm and a cool 78 degrees. I’m SO thankful that we are able to stay home in such a good environment.

It’s hard not knowing when things will get better and when we can resume more normal lives but it will happen. It will happen this coming year! Keep the faith and as always, take good care of yourselves and each other.

Posted in Panama | 11 Comments

A Very Different Christmas

This holiday season is definitely not the same. This pandemic is affecting the entire world. It’s a very difficult year for everyone, especially in places where hospitals are overflowing and people are dying at alarming rates. People who usually spend holidays together are separated, or they get together anyway and risk spreading the virus. The vaccines are arriving, but it’s going to take a while before enough people are immunized to turn this pandemic around.

Panama has not escaped the problems of the pandemic. They opened most of the economy and got people back to work. Then there were all the holidays in November, and Mother’s Day in early December. Now we are paying for all that with the highest ever numbers of people infected, hospitalized, and dead. The virus is just too contagious and when people travel and gather, it gets spread around.

Here in Panama, there will be no gathering or traveling this holiday season. There is a curfew 7pm-5am and traveling around the country is restricted. Women are allowed to shop on Monday and Wednesday, and men on Tuesday and Thursday. Then Friday, Saturday, and Sunday everyone is home and everything is shut down except essential services. Next week will be the same.

After that, who knows? But hopefully this will make a difference. They have been super diligent with testing and contact tracing, and people generally are very cooperative with masks, social distancing, and infection control measures. But, obviously, this hasn’t been enough. The daily number of new infections is alarmingly high, and number of people in the hospitals has also been rising to critical levels. They have made new spaces for more hospital beds but of course they need personnel to care for these patients, and that is a challenge.

This year, families and friends who usually spend the holidays together are separated. Those who have internet are keeping in touch on line, but it will be especially hard for those who don’t have as much technology.

It is very encouraging to see the vaccines arriving. Here in Panama, all we know for sure is “the first quarter of 2021”, but most rumors say February. It will be so wonderful, here and around the world, to see this situation turning around. Right now though, we’re still in this pandemic reality and we will be for at least a few more months. We’ve come this far though and we can do it a little while longer.

Holidays next year will be different!! We will have to celebrate even more to make up for this year, and we will have new appreciation for the time together that we usually took for granted. We’ll also have more appreciation for the people we have, especially now that so many will be mourning people we have lost. Tough times everywhere and we’re all so tired of it all.

Someday we will be looking back and remembering this crazy time. Meanwhile though I also see good things, and people going out of their way to be caring and thoughtful with each other. This is definitely needed now more than ever. Hang in there and keep up the good work. Take care of yourselves and each other.

Posted in Panama | 6 Comments