Nine Years

It’s a week of anniversaries. Both of my daughters celebrated their wedding anniversaries, and yesterday was 9 years since I landed in Panama to live. In a way it seems to have gone very quickly, and in another way I feel so at home it’s like I have been here a very long time. I think about people I know and things I’ve done, and realize I’m remembering things from quite a few years ago. Some of the little kids I first met are now taller than their parents.

They say there is a honeymoon phase when you move. Everything is new and wonderful and you love everything about your new home. Then reality sets in. It’s been quite the opposite for me. It was hard when I first got here. I didn’t know how to get things done or where to find things. My Spanish wasn’t great and I had a hard time understanding people. Now though, I’ve done most things many times, and I know who to ask if I need help with something new. My Spanish is good enough that I can manage almost any situation, and if I’m missing a word I can usually describe the thing well enough to be understood.

But, the novelty hasn’t worn off either. There’s always something new and interesting. Reloj is the word for watch or clock. I learned it’s also the word for the gas and temperature gages in the car. But, at least I had enough words to describe the situation – the gas and temperature are crazy! He replaced the sensor in one and the line in the other, and now they are no longer crazy. My friend brought me a strange dessert with pieces of jello and bits of fruit in some kind of sweet foam. She explained that you freeze milk, then put it in the blender with jello. Then you get a mold, put in fruit and pieces of jello, and then add the milk/jello part and put in the fridge for a few hours. When you are ready to eat you turn it right side up on a plate, and there you go. Milk and jello? That’s a new one but it makes a very nice dessert.

I still find this country incredibly beautiful, even views I’ve seen hundreds of times. Today I set off on my bike to do an errand, and the sky was gorgeous!

Yesterday we went to Boquete for a gig. When we got part way up the light rain cleared and sun peeked out through the clouds, which caused an intense rainbow in the other horizon. This was taken through the window of a moving car but you can still get the general idea.

I could go on and on about all the things I love to see, starting with my own backyard. I’ve planed a lot of flowers and plants, and I enjoy the birds, bugs, and other wildlife that visits here. The weather is pleasant enough that I can spend all the time I want on the terrace. And, best of all life is generally chill. People are super nice, the pace is slower, and nobody stresses out about much of anything.

Oh, and Panama beat the USA in soccer last night. They had the game on TV in the brewery where we played last night, and we got to see the final score on one of our breaks. I was happy to see this little country get their name and success in the news.

When I arrived I didn’t know for sure that this would even work out, so I never though ahead to this many years. Now though, who knows. We have no intention of leaving and I feel like I can look ahead to many more years here. We are so thankful every day.

Posted in Panama | 14 Comments

What’s Up?

Regular life, with a few interesting things thrown in. That’s what’s up around here these days.

One big thing was an article written about me on Marketwatch. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/i-never-expected-to-retire-to-panama-but-we-are-living-very-comfortably-on-1-200-a-month-11633001564 You only get one article before they want you to subscribe, so I’m sorry if you can’t see it. Silvia Ascarelli wrote it and we had a wonderful time talking with each other and found we had a lot of interests in common. The article was factual and well written, and I was very happy with it.

It’s funny though when you have a couple days of fame. I heard from people I hadn’t talked with in ages. A big argument broke out in the Facebook group of expats because someone thought you can’t possibly live here on $1200/month (well no, not in Panama City where it’s much more expensive). I walked into the Brewery to set up for our gig on Sunday. “Hey aren’t you…?” Yeah, that’s me. I had a big uptick in blog visits, followers, requests to promote things, and Facebook friend requests (which I limit to people I actually know)

Speaking of Facebook, what was that yesterday?! Messenger didn’t work either, but I can contact people on WhatsApp. Nope, not that either, or Instagram. We had to use old fashioned phone calls! Panama seems to run on WhatsApp for communication so that must have been a problem for a lot of people. Instagram is also heavily used, especially among the younger people. We don’t realize how much we rely on these things until they don’t work, and when they are based on the same business and it all goes down, then we really see it.

Speaking of Instagram, a notice popped up Friday evening that our friend Arya was live. When I went to check, I saw that he was with his band Hashtag at the brewery. We don’t get up there much to see other bands since we drive up enough for our own band, so this was great. We were able to virtually go to their gig and hear them from our living room on our TV. Technology can do some cool stuff.

Panama is doing well with COVID. The numbers continue to go down and the news said recently that 74% of people are fully vaccinated. It was just announced that people over 55 will be able to get booster shots. Curfews have been lifted, and temperatures are no longer taken in every business you enter. Everyone continues to wear masks though and follow social distancing, and alcohol gel is available at the entrance to every business.

Back to the subject of articles, I came across this good one about a guy who was able to retire earlier by leaving the USA for less expensive places to live. He decided to land in Panama. Our friend Jackie Lange from the Panama Relocation Tours provided a lot of information for the article. https://time.com/nextadvisor/investing/retirement/leaving-the-country-to-retire-early/?fbclid=IwAR3a7dyymM9WzQtp9s35ZgFOaIxQciW36CBwSzZ-06FT7g1LXSpt-f75MFQ

I got a list of things done on my bike – new front wheel, new tubes in both tires, painted the front fork, new chain, new brakes, new gear changers, and adjusted everything so it works great now. Total $78, and they even painted the basket on the front. Now that things aren’t squeaking and rattling and it’s so much more fun to ride, I’ll have to take it out a lot more often. I know it’s not fancy but it’s served me well for many years and we have a lot of history together, so I’m rather attached to my bike.

I think that’s about all that’s going on with us at the moment. We were locked down for so long because of COVID, and I think it’s taking a while to get back to living like we used to. But we’re getting out more now, the band is playing again, and I have tickets to see the family again next month. It feels good!

I hope all is well with you all out there! Take good care of yourselves and each other.

Posted in Panama | 6 Comments

Things that Make You Smile

It’s been a while, I know. But, it’s just been regular daily life around here, nothing out of the ordinary. But there’s lots to smile about every day and we are very thankful.

Today we went for a bike ride, and a cable to my gear changer broke so I couldn’t down shift. We pulled over by the side the road to see if we could figure out the problem. In a few minutes a man walked up to us to ask if we were having a problem with the bike. He said he has tools in his house nearby and maybe he could help.

I’ve talked many times about the sense of community I feel here, the sense that you are never alone. I can’t count the number of times total strangers offered help. I was looking at my tablet one day and a guy pulled over to ask if I was lost and looking for directions. We had a dead battery and it wasn’t 2 minutes before someone pulled over to offer a jump. I could fill pages with stories like this.

Also, there are the greetings. It is customary to exchange a greeting with everyone you pass on the street, in a bus, in a office, anywhere you encounter other people. I don’t know if you can fully understand how this feels until you have experienced it. After living in this culture, I miss it when I’m away.

We have lived in this same house and neighborhood for almost 9 years now, and we have seen increasing prosperity around us. You see fewer old funky cars. So many homes have been upgraded with terraces, extra rooms, covered parking areas, or other improvements. There has also been a lot of new construction. So except for the temporary standstill caused by COVID, it feels like there has been steady upward progress and a middle class that is thriving.

And, speaking of COVID, the country is doing well. The numbers of cases and hospitalizations have been steadily dropping. and the recent news reports that more than 5.3 doses of vaccine have been given (Panama has about 4.4 million people, about 3 million over 18 years old). They also just announced a vaccine tourism program. Anyone over 30 can come and spend two nights in a hotel and get a vaccine (they must follow all the entry and quarantine requirements). Panama thinks this might boost tourism and make vaccines available to neighbors who may be having a hard time getting a vaccine. They think the supply here is good enough that this won’t impact the people here.

Anyway, enough on that subject! We were all beyond tired of it a year ago. Other things – I “redecorated” my room a bit. My grandkids had some art saved for me when I visited, and we did some more together so I recently put it up on the walls of my office or practice room.

Well not really an office since my main office is outdoors on the terrace. How nice to be able to use this outdoor office all the time. Once in a while an afternoon is too hot, or there is some invasion of bugs, but that’s unusual. I can usually enjoy the terrace anytime of day or night. It’s rainy season now and I also enjoy sitting on the terrace and watching the rain. Yesterday though, oh my goodness what a rain that was!

Last night the band played also (thankfully the crazy rain died down before we had to leave). We usually play on Sundays, but the Saturday band was out of town so we covered for them. What a night! There was a good crowd and people were dancing and singing along and having a wonderful time. I feel like we spent so much time practicing when we were locked in the house, and now we have a few weeks of playing out under our belts, and things are really coming together. And then, to be that well received by the audience, it’s great.

So, we have a lot of things to smile about. Right now it’s Sunday, early afternoon, and I’m outside on the terrace. The family next door is chatting on their terrace with grandma who is visiting for the weekend. The neighborhood has it’s usual sounds of birds, a dog barking, a rooster down the street, and a lawn mower. It’s sunny, about 87, so I have a small fan next to me, but the clouds are starting to gather so it will cool off in a while. It’s a good life and we are very thankful!

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Fishing Tournament

No, I didn’t go fishing. I know absolutely nothing about fishing. But, they wanted music in the afternoon for the contestants, so that’s why we were at a fishing tournament.

The day was absolutely gorgeous so we enjoyed the drive down. It was only 30-45 minutes from home on good roads, through pretty little towns and neighborhoods, until we ended up near the water.

First though, before enjoying the scenery, we had to do our thing. A new place is always a bit of a challenge as we figure out where we are going to put everything so it works for us. Then we seem to be plagued with equipment gremlins lately. We were hardly into the first minutes of the first song when we blew the fuses, and they had to run more electric cords to us so share the load. But, that worked. Then part way though one of our PA speakers decided to quit. Thankfully the other one was loud enough to make up for it. (Why does everything work fine at home, and then weird things happen when we are out??)

We were under the red tent and there were some vendors on either side of us. There were also people selling food and drinks on site. The crowd wasn’t big but the people were enthusiastic, and took a lot of photos, selfies, and videos. Many talked with us to say they appreciated the music, told us about some of their favorite songs and bands, and we made some new friends.

I loved seeing the area and I went down to the water on every break to stretch my legs and enjoy the beautiful views.

The clouds were gorgeous in the afternoon! This isn’t open Pacific water so it’s calm and tranquil.

I saw quite a few fishermen with coolers and buckets full of fish. I asked this guy if I could take a photo of his so he spontaneously posed for me. I’ve noticed that Panamanians often love getting their pictures taken, which is fun.

On another break I went back to the dock. The sun was starting to get lower in the sky, and there were quite a few people waiting for fishermen to come in.

On our last break the sky was just beginning to have some color. All the fishermen were in and it was quiet at the dock. I’ve been here quite a few years but I still marvel at the beauty of this country every time I’m out.

Eventually our time was up and it was too dark to play more, even with some lights. It was a fun afternoon though. We packed up happy, hot and sweaty, but glad we had the opportunity to do this gig. I’m lucky that I work outside enough that I’m more acclimated to the heat than the guys, but we all survived. 😁

I know haven’t written much lately. There just hasn’t been much that I’m interested in talking about. But then, we had this great afternoon. Otherwise, it’s just been regular life. We are settling into a bit of a routine with our weekly gig in Boquete, but this was the first week that we’ve had two gigs. Sunday in Boquete was great though, lots of happy people, and lots of dancing people (who didn’t get told to sit down). Is life getting a bit more normal every week? It seems so.

Our virus numbers are slowly going down and they are vaccinating thousands of people every day. Now anyone over 12 years old can get a vaccine (Pfizer), and large amounts of vaccine continue to come into the country to make this possible. It seems like this has been the main topic of conversation for SO long and I don’t want to say a lot, but I’m glad there is good news. And, they have relaxed the curfew again so businesses, restaurants, and our main venue can stay open later. It was nice to play without carefully watching the time.

I’m not expecting much else to go on in the foreseeable future but who knows. Maybe one day we’ll go visit the new stores at the huge new mall hear us, or I’ll see a cool bug I haven’t seen before. My grandson got me hooked on Minecraft so I’ve been having fun figuring out that game. He likes to explore new lands and fight strange creatures, and I’m more interested in exploring the same land and redecorating it. I’ve decided that rollercoasters are a very efficient way to get around, and I made my way all the way to the sea! Yes I know, I am easily amused. ha!

I don’t even want to think about the US and world news, but I am very concerned for you all out there! Please take good care of yourselves and each other.

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

What’s Going On in Panama

Things continue to feel better here. For us personally, the band played Friday evening for the first time since March of last year. It was great. We also went out last night to hear the other band who plays at the Brewery on Saturdays and again, live music, people, friends, and good times. There is traffic in town and restaurants are open and well attended. People continue to wear masks (everyone, everywhere) and do their best with social distancing, and reservations are required for restaurants to keep people from crowding and piling up, but life is definitely happening.

As far as I can tell from news reports, the delta variant has not come into Panama, thank goodness. COVID continues to be a problem, of course, but the numbers have been starting to gradually decrease in the last week or two. And, even better news, a large amount of Pfizer vaccine has been arriving in the country, and they have had the personnel and means to ramp up the pace of vaccinations accordingly. In July, 1.1 million doses of vaccine were given! (this is a country of about 4.4 million people) (Plateau of cases and 1.1 million vaccinated in July | The Panama Press (prensa.com) It wasn’t that long ago that we were lucky to get 40,000 doses a week in the country. Now they have opened vaccines to everyone over 16, and those 12-16 with chronic conditions.

We passed two drive up (or walk in) vaccination clinics on our way to Boquete yesterday. The sign says “Vaccinate yourself. We are together in this”

On non-Covid subjects, life continues to be pretty chill in general. It’s rainy season, and we’ve had a number of days of heavier than expected rains and flooding in some areas. But I still prefer the rain to the summer months when the sun beats down, it gets hotter and hotter, and everything gets dry and crispy.

The birds are still singing, the bugs continue to do their thing in the yard (and sometimes in the house). My friends and neighbors continue to be well, and are very happy that the younger ones among us can now be vaccinated. There really isn’t much more to say which is a very good thing.

I hate to see the news from the US though, with more and more people sick and dying, in addition to draughts, fires, and other bad things. You all be careful out there and take care of yourselves and each other!

Posted in Panama | 5 Comments

Back in the USA

It’s been 1 1/2 years since I was in the USA. It didn’t feel as strange as I expected but it has felt strange in ways I wasn’t expecting.

Of course, first, it’s been beyond fantastic to be with my family again after all this time. I thought my adult children and I were fine with video chats, not wanting to admit to myself how much I missed them. The grandchildren are almost different people now. They have grown and learned new things and I’ve been getting to know them all over again.

So, what is it like in the US in general? I’ve been in Seattle and northern California. As expected, everything is clean, manicured, and orderly. Roads are well paved with road signs and lanes clearly marked. The weather was sunny and warm with beautiful blue skies. There is tons of merchandise to buy in the stores everywhere, all beautifully displayed and easy to find. Some things are cheaper, but food is not and don’t even ask about eating in restaurants. English is the language everywhere, so easy. Social greetings are less common, but I’ve noticed more smiles than usual. Maybe it’s because I have been out in neighborhood parks more than on the streets. But, none of this was unexpected.

But, COVID is a thing! I’ve been in my little bubble at home, knowing in my head that the whole world is dealing with it, but that’s not the same as actually seeing it. The majority of people wear masks where I’ve been, even if it’s not always required of vaccinated people. I’ve gone out without a mask and felt strangely naked, and I prefer a mask especially with kids, since they are unvaccinated and have to wear their masks. I see social distancing marks on floors in stores, and hand sanitizer available in entrances. Even in the house, you can’t ignore the basket of masks by the front door. My little grandkids put on their masks along with their shoes and think nothing of it. I wonder if they even remember when we didn’t wear masks.

It will be interesting to see what changes stick. On line ordering, curbside pickups, and deliveries are so common now and maybe we want to keep those options? Maybe working from home will continue, at least some of the time. I think my kids miss seeing coworkers in person though so they don’t want to work at home all the time. Restaurants have outside dining arrangements which have been popular, and may be here to stay? International travel is a big hassle though, I will be very happy when this isn’t a thing any more!

There isn’t much more to say about the US. I spent the majority of my time playing with the kids and reconnecting with the adults, and I cared much less about what was going on outside the house.

Traveling back wasn’t as nerve racking as going, but COVID still added another layer of stress and complications. I flew United and their travel info said you could fly without a COVID test, but you would need one on arrival in Panama. OK, no problem. But, when I checked in at San Francisco she read and read and read her computer screen before she felt OK with letting me fly. I could have been tested at the airport but it’s crazy expensive, so I was glad I didn’t have to do that.

I had a layover in Houston, and thought everything was just fine until they announced that boarding would begin soon. All passengers need their passport, health affidavit, COVID test, and boarding pass in hand. What?? oh sheesh. Thankfully I had done the health affidavit on line and had the QR code in my phone (I saw other travelers filling out papers for that). I did not have a COVID test though. Another official thought it was ok, but it wasn’t until the announcement came on 15 minutes later than I could breathe. Yes, passengers were allowed to test upon landing in Panama.

Testing in Panama was great. I went to the testing center, no waiting (yes it was the nose probe but not too bad), and waited 30 minutes. As I was going back to check he was coming towards me with my negative test in hand. The first stop at customs was the table with the people in medical protective garb who wanted to see my COVID test. Then, it was customs as usual, and my suitcase was waiting for me at baggage claim. I waited about 5 minutes and the hotel van showed up. Yay, time to collapse in the hotel.

Flying from Panama City to David was a mess at check in. The airport was super crowded and all us David people were confused and anxious that we wouldn’t make our flight. But, an agent helped us by making a special line for us so we could go directly to a check in agent. I don’t think he even looked at my COVID test, and then it was downstairs for the flight. And, then I was HOME!

Whew! That was Thursday (after overnight flights on Tuesday night), 2 days of travel. I’m not getting any younger. Ha! Thursday I went from the sofa to the bed, and Friday I actually did a few productive things. It wasn’t until Saturday that I felt like myself again. I will be really glad when they bring back the San Francisco – Panama direct flights. It’s still an overnight but at least only one day of travel. The agent in San Francisco told me that they are still running very reduced schedules and it may be quite a while before that changes. But, my flights were totally full going and coming, so who knows.

So, that’s my story of the moment. Now I’m getting reoriented at home, and preparing for our first band gig (finally!!) on Friday. With any luck, we won’t be sidelined this time, and we’ll rock the house down! 😁

You all take care! The recent news isn’t good, so keep on being careful and taking care of yourselves and each other.

Posted in Panama | 14 Comments

A Panama – USA Plane Trip

I’m in the USA and beyond happy to finally see my family! But, traveling in COVID times adds another big layer of hassle to travel plans. So, I thought I’d share my experience, and what I’ve heard from a few fellow travelers.

The biggest problem for me was finding correct information. What is correct to one official may not be for another, and one person’s experience may be different from someone else’s in the same situation.

We all know that you need a negative COVID test to board a plane. I planned to fly out of David on Monday morning. I went to the airport the week before and the security people there told me that you can get a free test, but it’s only for people traveling. You need to check in and go through security, and testing is located beyond security. So, if I was going to do that, I would need to show up plenty early for my flight and hope I didn’t get a false positive (I’m healthy and vaccinated but still, you never know). I also saw something from people who were traveling David-Panama City-Miami, and were denied because the David tests are only for domestic travel. They had to go to a lab for testing and travel the next day.

I decided I wanted the peace of mind of having a test already in hand. But, the day before I was to travel was a Sunday. Everything was closed. Even the hospital was only doing tests until Saturday noon. Entry into the USA requires a test less than 72 hours old so this would be cutting it close (flight Tuesday morning, 8:30 am) but I decided to take a Saturday morning test. If I had a problem I had all Monday afternoon to get retested at Tocumen airport.

An aside – If you go to the Mae Lewis Hospital website you immediately get a popup about COVID tests which links you to a page where you can sign up for an appointment. I filled out the form, and then got an email directing me to go to Banco General and pay for the test ($42). I did that, and sent a copy of the receipt and my cedula (ID card) as directed. When I got home from the bank I found another email from the lab asking me when I wanted the appointment, and telling me it was about $30. I requested a Sunday appointment, and was told they were only doing tests until Saturday noon. By now I had already paid, so I decided to take my chances rather than looking for another lab. Don’t expect anything to go as expected! But, they did refund me the $12 difference after the gal in the business office made a number of phone calls and filled out a number of papers.

OK, back to the travels. I arrived at the David airport Monday morning, and as soon as I went in the door I was asked for my test results and passport. I was told to look over at a temperature sensor 6-8 feet away. How does that work?? But it did and I passed that checkpoint. I checked in for my flight and was also asked for my test results there. I was told that my test was fine for onward travel on Tuesday. Then, I went through security where I was again asked for my test results, and then I was in the waiting room ready to board the plane.

Another aside – the waiting room is at one end of the airport, and the plane was parked at the very other end of the airport, waaaaay down there! If you have trouble walking you might want to request a wheelchair (which I did for a fellow traveler who was obviously struggling).

The flight was fine, a nice new plane, maybe 2/3 full. We landed in Panama City, picked up our luggage, and I was going to double check with United that I could fly on with my test results, but I was helping the fellow traveler wrestle a lot of luggage over to the center island where you wait for the busito to the hotel (we were both staying at the Riande). As we crossed, the driver approached us so I figured I’d just get on the bus rather than wait 30+ minutes for his return trip.

I met someone I know from Boquete on the plane, and another friend from Boquete on the bus so along with the fellow traveler I kind of adopted there were four of us. We all got together for lunch after we were settled at the hotel which was really fun. One of the ladies had gone to the David airport on Sunday for her COVID test! She said they were done upstairs, no problem, free, so she had hers in hand for the Monday morning flight. I also found out later that she had no problems with onward travel to Orlando, using the test she had gotten in David. If only I had known this!! It would have saved me a lot of stress, worry, and a bit of money (it was about $30 at the hospital)! Grrrr. But, there’s still the possibility I’d be denied onward travel like the folks who went to Miami. As I said, you can never be sure you are getting correct information and this makes things difficult.

My next possible problem was check in on Tuesday morning. My adopted fellow traveler was taking the same 8:30 am flight to Houston so we headed to the airport at 6am. She had a lot of questions, so by the time the check in agent got to me she didn’t even look at my COVID test! I had a paper sticking out of my passport with a Mae Lewis Hospital Laboratory heading, so she probably figured all was in order and she didn’t have to look any closer. WHEW!!

(The COVID testing center at Tocumen airport, just past gate 115)

After that, I was pretty much worry free, well except for my adopted friend who didn’t want a wheelchair. Of course United check in is at one end of the airport, and our flight left from the other end, down to the end of the hall, and then into the new wing, and then waaaay down to the very far end of that. I finally nabbed a guy with a wheelchair and we made it without a whole lot of time to spare. If you have trouble walking, request a wheelchair! That’s why they have them. There is no shame in asking for help to save wear and tear on your body, and time so you can get to your gate when you need to.

The next thing was a layover in Houston where I had to clear customs and again, go waaay to the opposite end of the airport. What is it with my luck in airports?? But I definitely got some exercise to offset all the hours sitting in planes.

Everyone on the planes wore masks, and we were reminded that it was required and failure to cooperate would result in being tossed of the plane and possible other penalties (what is up what all the insanity we see in the news about passengers causing problems on planes?!) Thankfully I saw no problems with anyone but social distancing, not so much. Both Tuesday flights were full and it’s impossible to keep distance when boarding and putting luggage overhead, or doing the reverse on arrival. And you are seated jammed in with your fellow passengers like it always has been. Customs was no better. People were in lines close together with no distancing, but here again everyone was cooperative about wearing masks. We discussed getting me back to the US to be vaccinated, and then decided it was wiser to wait until I was vaccinated in Panama before I traveled. After experiencing travel I’m glad we did. They did everything they could to keep people safe, but it’s still a lot of people in a small space and my mind is much more peaceful knowing I have the protection of the vaccines.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say later about how it feels to be back in the USA, but for now I’ve just been enjoying family time. I’m so thankful for video chatting. The grandkids, including the one who is turning three (today!), connected with me in person right away, almost seamlessly after all the frequent video chats.

Later, I’ll worry about more COVID testing and how I plan to manage getting back to Panama. Today, we play!

Posted in Panama | 12 Comments

Something

Yesterday there was nothing, nothing going on, nothing changing. Today there is something, and more than one something. It’s interesting how things can change in a short time.

First the curfew on Sunday has been lifted in our province. Apparently things are doing better in Chiriqui so they feel they can relax the restrictions a bit. Businesses still need to be closed by 9 so people can be home by 10, but it’s a step forward and a bit of encouragement.

Then, I went to the David airport today to ask about testing. I was told that there is a testing place inside the airport, after check in and past security so it’s only for departing passengers. They will be there at 7am, so there will be plenty of time to make my 9:50 flight. It takes about 10 minutes and it’s free.

And, last but certainly not least, today is 14 days after our second Pfizer vaccine, so we are officially totally vaccinated.

Thank you Panama for trying to keep us safe in this pandemic. Thank you Panama for the free testing. Thank you Panama for the free vaccines.

Posted in Panama | 8 Comments

Nothing

Nothing going on, nothing new happening, nothing changing. I feel like I’m in an endless holding pattern at the moment with no direction. The virus situation doesn’t seem to be improving and curfews are still in effect. I’m mostly just counting down the days until I go to the US. But where and when should I get a COVID test? What should I pack? What am I going to forget to do, or take? I’m out of practice, not having traveled for 1 1/2 years. I know I’ll feel a lot better once I land in Seattle.

But, tomorrow is 14 days after our second vaccination, and I am so thankful to have that protection! I see in the news, both here and elsewhere, that vaccinated people are rarely getting sick or being hospitalized.

We’ve been getting a lot of rain and it’s been really chilly (low 70’s). Don’t laugh! For us, being accustomed to temperatures in the 80’s and more, it feels pretty chilly. Apparently I slept through an earthquake the other morning, and didn’t realize it until I saw all the chatter on the Facebook forums.

So, when there’s not much to do, and when it’s not raining, I play in the yard and look at bugs! Even after years of looking at Panamanian bugs, there are still so may new ones.

And, there’s a few other miscellaneous photos… One evening the dog ignored her dinner for too long, and one of those huge Brazilian giant cockroaches decided to help himself to a bit.

This photo was shared in a group for vaccine clinic volunteers. Apparently a calf wandered into the clinic one day and had to be escorted out. It’s common to see calves in people’s yards, where they can be cared for and watched closely until they are big enough to be sent to the farm or sold.

We have this cool beehive in a tree, but a while back we noticed that the bees seemed to be abandoning it and taking apart the front side (recycling for a new hive?) Here is is, before, and now.

I’m even bored with biking, so we’ve been walking. We have leaf cutter ants, and sometimes they can build pretty impressive villages of ant hills. We saw this in a nearby yard.

That’s all for now. But, on an up note, I had a fantastic birthday last weekend full of video chats, messages, visitors, family, friends, champagne, and chocolate ice cream. So, all in all, things are pretty darn good! And, life is moving forward even if it feels slow at times.

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Second Vaccine

Thank you Panama! We have felt really well cared for here. A few days ago there was information in our neighborhood group and social media that the second round of vaccines was this week (Pfizer again), a week earlier than I expected it. Then, I got an email with my appointment date, time, and location. I could also find my appointment on the website where people register.

The process was very much like the first time. ( Vaccinations ) We got to the school fairly early on the first day so there were a lot of people waiting, but it was very organized. There were rows of socially distanced chairs, and we moved up row by row until we got to the vaccination room.

We were taken 6 at a time to the vaccination room. Vaccines were give with after care instructions, and our info was entered in their log both outside the room and inside by the staff giving vaccines.

Then a volunteer gave us more instructions as she took us to the room to wait 15 minutes to be sure we were ok, and then we were free to go.

There was about an hour wait to get started, and about half hour to go through the process, so we were done in 1 1/2 hours. As we left we heard people being asked if they needed a ride home, and there were yellow school bus vans waiting outside for anyone who needed them. (you could also request a ride to the vaccination site if you needed one) I also noticed that anyone who arrived in a wheelchair or needed help to walk was immediately taken to the front of the line outside a vaccination room where they could be attended to quickly.

When I got home there was an email waiting for me with info on where and when I got my shot, what was given, what symptoms to expect afterward, how to treat them, and where to find help or answers to questions. I also have my vaccination card that was updated on site.

I am very very thankful to Panama for providing us with vaccines! I know they haven’t gotten the supply they needed to protect everyone, but they are starting with the more vulnerable people in the areas with more COVID deaths. Word is that they have negotiated with Pfizer to get a lot more vaccine, and in July the process will ramp up considerably. If thing go according to plan the whole population should be protected by September. More and more AstraZenica has also been coming in and it’s being given to the younger people, men over 30, and women over 50 but that has just now been changed to women also over 30.

This is happening none too soon as Panama continues to fight another wave of COVID. But now, it’s the 30-50 year old people who seems to be getting it the most. Illness and deaths of the older people has fallen dramatically, a great sign that the vaccines are doing what they are supposed to do. Still though, it’s a struggle as they try to keep people from getting sick and/or spreading the virus.

We’re doing ok, sore shoulders at the injection site and tired, but I think we’ll be ourselves again tomorrow. And, I am SO excited to have the protection I need to visit my family at greatly reduced risk to me and them. I can hardly believe I’ll be with my grandkids in just a little more time. We are going to have SO much fun!

So, that’s the word of the day from here. It’s another of those calmer cooler days so maybe I should go work in the yard and see if I can spot more interesting bugs. As always, take care of yourselves and each other.

Posted in Panama | 10 Comments