Catching a Domestic Flight at Tocumen Airport, Panama City Airport

The last few times I went to the USA, I flew on Copa from David to Panama City rather than take the bus. This, however, involves changing from a domestic flight to an international one, and the reverse on the way back. I have always booked the tickets separately so it might be different if you book from David to your USA destination on the same itinerary, but I think it would be basically the same, except I think your baggage can be checked through.

Keep in mind that Air Panama flies into Albrook, Marcos Gelabert airport. This might be a good option if you are only going to Panama City since this airport is on the west side of the city by the canal. Copa, however, flies into Tocumen airport which is a ways (and a $30-35 taxi ride) east of the city. This is the departure airport for international flights and the one you want if you are flying onward.

Leaving David to fly out of Panama

So, starting in David, check in for your flight, go through security, and hang out in the waiting room until you are called to board (in both Spanish and English). You will go outside, walk along beside the back of the airport building, and then up the ramp into the plane.

When you land in Panama City (after a 45-50 minute fight) you will get on a bus which will take you to what seems like the other end of the airport. Be prepared to be bounced around while hanging on to a strap. When you arrive and enter the building, if you need to pick up luggage stop by the area to your left where a worker will be unloading the luggage (one piece at a time). Find yours and follow the crowd out.

You will be on the ground floor to the far left of the building (when facing the building). You need to go outside and walk to your left along the building until you find another entrance back into the building. Enter and keep walking in the same direction until you find the stairs and escalator that will take you upstairs. Upstairs, you will find all the check in areas for the international flights. The airport staff are bilingual so if you need help, ask any of the people stationed at various points to direct you to the correct line. From here, it’s the usual airport thing, check in, clear security, and find your gate. You can expect another security check at the gate, complete with pat down and confiscation of your water bottle, even if it’s empty. Whew! You made it. Well done. Bien viaje.

Coming back into Panama and on to David

Arrival in Panama City is the usual routine of landing in a big airport, getting off the plane, and usually going for a good long walk until you find yourself in the older part of the airport. Look for stairs leading to the lower level and yellow signs saying “migration”. Downstairs you will find the customs area so get in line and have your passport in hand. (If you don’t have your customs form, you can find more on the counter at the bottom of the stairs). As far as I know these agents are bilingual, and will probably ask where you are going and how long you plan to stay. You will need to press your fingers on the glass for fingerprints and face the camera for a photo.

Next, follow the hallway around to baggage claim. Chances are your luggage will be waiting. Pick it up and with passport and the customs form in hand, get in line for the next thing. When it’s your turn, hand the agent your passport and form, put your luggage and carry on’s on the conveyor belt, and pass through. You are through customs!

When we went to check in for our domestic flight early on a Friday morning, the check in area was rather insane! Thankfully our check in line was short.

Now, go out to the lobby where you will find yourself facing a crowd of people  looking for arriving passengers. You are on the ground floor, so look for the stairs and escalator that will take you upstairs to the check in area. Turn left up there, pass the lines of people at the Copa check ins and look for the sign that says “domestic flights”, almost to the end where there are signs for gates 1-20.  Ask any employee “David?” (“Daveed”) if you are confused. The line should be reasonably short.

Look for these signs to check in for your flight

Once checked in, go back downstairs, go outside and turn right. Go to the end of the building (right before a sign advertising a restaurant and chicken/pollo, if I remember), and look for a door back in. Again “David?” (”Daveed”) should get some help from pretty much anyone you see. When you enter you are likely to see an unoccupied desk, another desk beyond where an employee will check your boarding pass and passport, and then the security checkpoint. After this you will find yourself in a waiting area.

When you are called to board, it’s the bouncy bus again to the other end of the airport. But, when you get out you will get on the plane which will take you to David! Yay, almost there.

David is easy – follow the crowd, wait around at baggage claim until the luggage is unloaded, and then proceed to the main area of the airport where you’ll find people waiting for arriving passengers. If you need a taxi you will find drivers just outside the door outside. They aren’t allowed to clog the area though so you’ll have to wait a moment while your driver goes to get his vehicle.

I should have taken more pictures. If any of you have done this and have information to add or correct, please leave a comment. Gracias y bien viaje!

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November Holidays, and visiting the USA

I was going to write about many November holidays in Panama. The joke is nothing gets done in November because of them, but fun things do get done. There are parades and festivities, and time off from work. There’s a lot of Panamanian pride and flags can be seen everywhere. Now we have just entered December which has Mother’s Day, a most important holiday, and then Christmas and New Years. We are also getting close to the start of the dry season. It will be Christmas/summer break for schools until early February so it’s a good time for family vacations. Maybe getting business done is a slower process this time of year, but time for family and fun is always enjoyed.

But, I have been in the US visiting family and all that free time I thought I would spend writing was spent with kids and grandkids. There is a baby who smiles at me every time I talk to her, which is enough to make a grandma melt. There are two 3 year old girls who talk and play and climb on my lap for cuddles. There is a 5 year old boy who tells me about his Spider-Man games and a multitude of other things that interest him, and likes to play card and board games with grandma. For Thanksgiving weekend the whole family was together and that was awesome! We even managed to see my sister and her whole family, some of whom I haven’t seen in years. Panamanians are right on, IMO, in prioritizing family and friends, and as I get older and have grandkids it’s more and more important to me too.

It’s a problem for many expats to leave their home country and extended family. I am so thankful for technology which allows me to stay more connected with family than ever before. But this is definitely something to consider if you are thinking of moving. Will you be satisfied with on line connections? How much will you want to go back for visits? Will this work with your budget? I have a hard time imagining people from the past who moved across oceans, lucky to get a letter from loved ones and likely to never see them in person again. I am so thankful for technology and airplanes.

Anyway… some have asked me my thoughts on going back to the US after 6 years of living here. It’s not much different than what I have written about in the past. I was in Seattle and  northern California wine country so my experiences may be different than other parts of the country, of course. But, I find everything SO expensive! A trip to the produce department looks nice, all the perfect produce beautifully displayed, but I always have sticker shock and I don’t think a lot of it tastes as good. But, I did enjoy apples, raspberries, sweet potatoes, and other things aren’t local here.

Streets are smooth, everything is landscaped and manicured, and people actually stop at stop signs. There are tons of stores and they all have SO much stuff to buy. Many people are thriving. You see nice homes and expensive cars on the roads. But, many people are suffering right next to them. I didn’t see my homeless friends in Seattle and I hope they have succeeded in getting themselves off the street. But, there were many others. My daughters and husbands thankfully have good jobs because expenses are high and child care is super expensive. Life seems more stressful in general and loss of a job, a major illness, or other bad event can be devastating. There is an unspoken need to keep up certain appearances that I don’t feel here. And, as usual, I miss the friendliness of people greeting each other on the street. Everyone seems so busy and in their own worlds. Oh, and I had to remind myself to speak English when I was out.

There is also eBay and on line shopping. Here in Panama it can be done, but it’s costly to ship things in and it takes a while for things to arrive. In the US you click a button and the item shows up at the door within a day or two. We always have a list of things we either buy on line or on shopping excursions, and now the neighbors have discovered eBay and they are having a wonderful time buying mostly name brand clothes and shoes for a fraction of the cost. We notice that China has a growing presence on eBay. You can get very inexpensive things but you have to allow a few weeks for shipping. My neighbor bought Converse shoes from China a few months ago though and says the quality is fine and the price is a huge savings.

Now I am back and immediately into our life here and our busy band schedule. I took my new bass out last night and we had a fabulous time at the gig, even had two saxophone players sitting in for the second set and it was crazy fun. I have come back from a break with renewed energy and enjoyment and it feels good to be playing again. Retirement, it’s a beautiful thing and I’m going to enjoy every day that I have!

PS I forgot to mention that the banner photo is an electric charging station at WalMart, something I haven’t seen before but electric vehicles are more and more common now.



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Bugs and Birds

I have some photos here that I’ve taken around our home. I’m more accustomed now to the large variety of insects that we usually see so I don’t take as many photos as I used to, but there are still some remarkable new visitors who stop by now and then. This very large stick bug was behind the washing machine. It fell back down when it tried to climb the wall so I took pity on it and put it out on a ginger flower.

The morning we were headed to the airport I saw this really big, colorful caterpillar. My search turned up its name, tetrio sphinx. I’ve seen these moths but I didn’t realize this was their caterpillar, or that it was so big because the moth is not unusually big.

There are tons of birds too. I spend a lot of time on the terrace and many visit the birdbath. I took most of these photos from the other side of my bookshelf so they aren’t great but I didn’t disturb or frighten the birds from my spot.

I don’t have my bird book to identify these birds accurately but they are all frequent visitors to the birdbath. It’s a pleasure to be outside, especially in the late afternoon when many seem to visit. Panama is said to have more species of both bugs and birds than the entire North America so it’s a pretty cool place to be.

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That’s me, missing in action. I have photos and ideas to share but I just haven’t written anything in ages.

The band has been busy with what seems weeks of either playing or practicing almost every other day so I’m always either getting ready for something or recovering from something. There are the usual chores and errands and for my mental health, I’ve been spending more time on my bike and in the yard.

These are my excuses. Good ones huh? But I also just haven’t felt like writing. I only have so much time and energy to put out there, and it hasn’t gone in the blogging direction lately. But, I’m in the US now and maybe I’ll do some catching up if I’m not too busy spending time with family and playing with little ones.

Speaking of catching up with things, if you have contacted me and I didn’t answer, please poke me and remind me! Correspondence gets buried in my mailbox and unintentionally forgotten. But, if you have contacted me about guests posts, website promotion, advertising, or other commercial endeavors I’m not interested. That’s not what this is about.

Anyway… onward. It’s chilly, sunny, and pretty here in the Seattle area. My granddaughter and I talked a blue streak over breakfast and the baby is smiling and cooing at me. Life is good! It’s hard to believe we left David Panama yesterday morning and landed in Seattle last night, three flights later, in almost another world. I’m thankful to be here with my family.


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Panama Hats

A Panama Hat is a straw brimmed hat made from fibers of the toquilla palm. It’s great for the tropics because it’s light weight, breathable, and protects from the sun.

But, the Panama hat is actually made in Ecuador!  Panama was (and is) a hub of travel, transportation, and commerce. The enterprising Ecuadorians realized that they could sell a lot more hats in Panama, and when the hats were carried far and wide by people who had bought them in Panama, they became known as Panama Hats.

An Ecuadorian Panama hat is an art form that is very labor intensive, taking even eight months to make, and the best ones can cost thousands of dollars.

Panama also has straw hats that I think are even more beautiful. They aren’t as finely woven but they have interesting patterns. They are commonly worn by working people, usually in more rural areas.

Also, since these hats are part of the traditional Panamanian clothing, you will see them in parades and events that also feature women in polleras, the gorgeous traditional dresses and accessories of the beautiful Panamanian women.

Now you know. The next time you see a “Panama Hat”, you’ll know if it comes from Ecuador or Panama.

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An immigrant refugee story

The immigration issue has been a big deal, especially lately. On one side, we can’t take care of the whole world when we have our own people to care for. On the other, we have enough resources to care for those who are suffering and often in fear for their lives, so we should. I have no answers. But, I was inspired by this story about a Syrian refugee who opened a falafel shop that was voted “the nicest place in America”. You can see the video by clicking on the link, or find it in the article.

The whole article is HERE  When you see this one family who needed help and support when they arrived, but now has gone on to be such a positive force in their adopted community, it makes you think.

Then, I happened across this concept, the Human Library. The idea is that if you meet face to face with someone and see them as a real person, you will have a much better understanding of what it means to be in their situation. The library presents a group of people – refugees, abuse survivors, gay or transgendered people, anyone who is not “mainstream” and participants can ask them anything and get candid answers. Again, the idea is that we are much more able to relate to individual people instead of a crowd of “them”.

The Human Library seems to be mostly in Europe and the Mid East at this point, though I noticed there is an event in Panama City next month. That’s very expensive ($250) so maybe out of the price range of those who need it most? But hopefully it’s a concept that will grow and reach more and more people.

I’m sure my experiences have colored my thinking. As a home health nurse I was in everybody’s homes from the richest to the poorest, and I worked with people of all colors and situations. Now, in Panama, in this “foreign” country I find people just like us. Of course there are differences but basically they want to be happy and they want their family and friends to be happy, to be safe, and to have what they need. Is it US vs THEM? Or is the whole world US? like I said there are issues far beyone my ability to tackle, but I’d rather see less division and more compassion.

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Expat? Immigrant? Refugee?

I never gave the terminology much thought until a friend send me this article here. “Expat” (short for expatriate) seems to be the most commonly used term I have heard. There are Facebook groups like Expats in Panama and websites like and the term is commonly used in conversation and seems to apply to any foreigners, most of whom intend to make the move permanent.

But according to the article an expat is someone who lives in another country temporarily and plans to return to their home county at some point. Often, in the past, they were relocated for work and it wasn’t  always their choice. Now the term expats implies more wealthy and mobile people who have the option to live in another country if they wish.

Someone who plans to stay in the other country indefinitely and make it their permanent home is an immigrant. That would be me. People move to other countries for various reasons, economics, greater opportunities, different lifestyle, etc. But to qualify as an immigrant according to the defininitions presented, the move is permanent.

Then there are refugees and asylum seekers. We have seen plenty of them recently in the Mid East, and now the huge caravan making their way north into Mexico. Many people feel they have no economic opportunities to support themselves and their families, and other fear for their very survival. We can joke that we are refugees escaping things we don’t like in our home country but it’s nothing like people leaving everything they have known, often to make dangerous and difficult journeys into the unknown just to survive.

Words don’t change your life in your new country. It’s just some terminology that’s interesting to think about.

Other than that, just life in Panama…. it’s height of rainy season so we have been getting a lot of rain, though most mornings are sunny and bright. I like it when everything is lush and green even if I get muddy working in the yard. We are getting over colds. There has been a stomach flu and some bad colds going around in Boquete and we seemed to have picked up the cold, which thankfully doesn’t seem to be the one that comes with weeks of coughing.

Even living in “paradise” you have the challenges you would face anywhere, the occasional illness, chores and errands, etc. We had an earthquake a few days ago. We were both standing in the kitchen when I thought I felt something, and then things started rattling on the shelves. It didn’t seem like a big deal but it got everyone talking. In general, Mother Nature is very easy on us for which we are thankful, and life is good.


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Wet Weather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Six Years in Panama

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

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

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

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

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

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El Puerco

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

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

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

So what does one do with all this?!

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

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

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

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