What? Write Something?

I know I have a blog, and the point of a blog is to write things or post pictures or do something with it. I’ve been terribly lax for weeks. But at the moment I’m sitting on the terrace watching it rain and enjoying some free time, so why not check in.

I’ve said before, I don’t know how I had time to work. I seem to keep busy every day and never get to the end of my “to do” list. But I don’t set my alarm clock in the morning, and I often enjoy laying around a while before I get out of bed. I don’t do much work in the evenings. I don’t carefully schedule every hour of every day like I used to when I was working. I’m retired now and enjoying the benefits.

The band always keeps me busy, and this week has been busier than usual. Our drummer is in Florida with his sick mother, and we are pretty concerned about her and him. They both had the flu and he’s better, but she doesn’t seem to be improving. He can’t leave her alone there in this condition so there is no way of knowing when he will be back. We consulted with the owner of our venue and it was decided that we will play as a duo for the foreseeable future.

No big deal, right? Turn on the drum machine and go. We also have midi files we can use as backup, but which songs are going to use which? Who is going to run what? How do we be sure we are all starting at the same time when we are working with a midi file that may or may not have a count in? How does it end? We need to connect these drums to the mixing board and have the appropriate speakers. We need to be sure one song isn’t super loud and the next one is too quiet. What is that instrument in the background that sounds like a strangled goose? But if we use the drum machine it does exactly the same thing until we hit the stop button, no breaks, no changes for different parts of the song, not a shred of humanity. But some songs are straightforward throughout and this works well.

This is what we have been working on all this week and today, finally, dress rehearsal went well. We’ll do it again tomorrow and then we should be ready to take it out. Thank goodness our neighbors don’t mind the music. They have listened to the same 30 songs every day since Tuesday! Unless you are a musician, when you go to hear music, you have no idea of all the work and preparation that goes on behind the scenes. And we are only doing it on a tiny scale in a bar, not some big venue with tons of people and equipment to make it all happen. And, these are all songs we already know well.

It’s rainy season and it seems like we have been getting rain every day, sometimes really heavy downpours. I don’t mind the rain and the plants sure are happy. Everything is growing and the weeds are having a great time. I like to work in the yard in the late afternoon when it’s cooler but that doesn’t work out if it’s raining. So, excuse the weeds in my yard. I’ll get to them eventually.

And, I decided to paint the house. It was yellow but the landlord had the fence and wall out front painted this really nice, mellow, kind of mango or peach or coral color which I like a lot better. We painted some of the house quite a few years ago, and the rest that you can’t see from the street was done who knows how long ago so a fresh coat of paint is a big improvement. But this is morning work. My idea is to work until noon or 1pm until it’s too hot outside. Then the paint can dry before the rains come later in the day, and the sweating that happens at night. Yes, I said sweating. When it cools down at night the metal roof sweats and the water trickles down the outside walls. Weird huh? Occasionally when it really sweats I can hear the drops of water falling on the upper side of our drop ceilings. Such is life in the tropics and the land of high humidity.

New color and old color. I’ll have to paint over my artwork and redo it at some point.

Sometimes there are also the sad moments. I learned today that an old friend died, someone I’ve known for at least 50 years. We were close friends in college and lived a few blocks from each other in NYC. We spent a lot of time together and weathered many ups and downs in each other’s lives. We drifted apart when I left the city but we always kept in touch, and we got together on my visits back if he was in town. None of us get out of here alive and as we get older, we are likely to lose more of our friends. Live for today and appreciate the people in your life today because you just never know what tomorrow will bring.

So, that’s what is happening around here. We’re off to the Boston area soon to visit my sister in her new retirement home and she’s looking forward to sharing a lot of what the area has to offer, and it will be fun to have some time together.

Posted in Panama | 10 Comments

Help my Friend

Richard Philbrick has been a friend of ours for many years. He’s a very interesting guy. He’s worked in journalism and publishing. He’s written books. He’s been a boat captain, sometimes delivering boats for people across the Atlantic. He’s lived in France and on a boat in New Orleans. I’m sure I don’t know the half of the adventures and interesting experiences he’s had!

https://www.gofundme.com/f/62bc7b-help-me-breathe

We met here in Panama when he was selling his motorcycle. It sounded like a good idea but he was smart enough to know it wasn’t practical at his age. We were smart enough not to buy it at our age. But we’re been friends ever since. He lived in a town down the road, probably the only gringo there. He spoke Spanish, made friends, and was welcomed into the life of the town by the locals. He lived a low key life, took the bus around, adopted and cared for an injured dog, and wrote books and a blog. https://onemoregoodadventure.com/

Richard has always been super nice to me, supporting me in whatever crazy ideas I have come up with. I remember when I went biking through Costa Rica, when we passed his town he was in the street waiting for us because he wanted to cheer us on. He reads my blog and comments, and shares helpful ideas. He applauded my endeavor to learn to play bass. It’s really nice to have a friend like that in your corner.

Richard is getting older, like all of us (he recently turned 80!) but he didn’t let that squash his dreams. He loved living on a small boat in the past and wanted to do that again, so he ended up on the gulf coast of Florida living in a sailboat. He’s working on a book for others who live in boats, helping them find quiet spots to anchor their boats and enjoy the area. He met someone with some land in northeast Florida who offered to let him anchor there, so that’s his home base right now. He’s made some road trips, and I’ve heard dreams of making some boat trips to explore the rivers and waterways of the southeast. He spent his birthday in Chicago with a special lady friend.

BUT, it is not all rainbows and unicorns. Richard has heart trouble and has suffered with COPD as long as I’ve known him. It’s gotten to the point where it’s seriously impacting his ability to do any activity, not a good thing for a guy with lots of dreams and more living to do. It’s painfully obvious he needs supplemental oxygen and a portable concentrator. But those machines are really expensive and Richard lives on his social security. Medicare won’t help unless you are on oxygen 24/7 😡 and Richard doesn’t “qualify” because he can keep his oxygen levels up to acceptable numbers when he is sitting still doing nothing. It’s only when he’s doing something, like walking 20 feet, that his levels start dropping into the 80’s (normal is 97 or above) and he starts struggling to breathe.

So… if you have a few dollars to send his way, it would be a great help. If enough of us give even a little, it will make a difference. Lets get this good guy back on his feet again!

https://www.gofundme.com/f/62bc7b-help-me-breathe

Thank you! A big thank you to all of you wonderful people out there.

Posted in Panama | 2 Comments

Strange Things

We’ve been here almost ten years so you would think the newness has worn off. But it seems like there is always something I’ve never seen before.

What is this? We found a total of four of these hard little balls covered with twigs sticking out of them. They are a little bigger than a pencil eraser. Joel knocked one off the gate and said he found a little yellow worm inside. I’m going to leave the others alone to see what happens.

Then recently, we found this critter crawling up the laundry room wall

It looks a lot like something I saw a few years back, and one of my readers identified it as a bagworm. https://blog.thepanamaadventure.com/2014/12/08/strange-creatures/ Is it related to the other strange things? Could it be laying eggs? It carries around its house made of pieces of leaves, so maybe?

I haven’t bothered you all with bug pictures nearly as much as I did in the past, but I have a couple more to share. This is just a pretty little moth that landed on my table one night,

We chased this rather large spider out of the kitchen last night. That’s a water bottle with it for scale. We have so many and such a large variety of spiders, but this one is bigger than what we usually see.

I’ve heard of dung beetles in Africa but never expected anything like that here. We were walking one day and I noticed something rolling around in the street. It was this beetle rolling a ball of what was probably dog poop. It was fairly fast but had no sense of direction. One of the neighbors said oh yes, they have seen them before too.

Then, on a totally unrelated subject, a couple food pictures. The vegetables are $17 worth that we got from the produce guy who visits us every week. You probably recognize everything but the chayote, the green thing between the carrots and potatoes. It’s a mild squash that can be eaten raw or cooked, and is very yummy.

The other picture is chickens that were delivered this morning. We didn’t have any chicken so we bought a bit from Pricesmart (our version of Costco). We won’t do that again. Then we tried the supermarket down the street (El Rey) and that was much better, but dinner tonight? No comparison! These chickens are raised by a neighbor in his yard, and are so fresh that they were running around this morning. They are SO delicious! For $2/pound we get healthy, excellent chicken and we support our neighbor’s business, a win all around. Sure, the supermarket is less money but these are so much better.

Tonight we had one of our favorites, coconut chicken. Legs and thighs are my favorite for this. Put the chicken in a baking dish, pour over some coconut oil (the good stuff with smell and flavor). Sprinkle on seasonings of your choice (I usually use Italian and Morton’s Natures Seasons). If you want to get them going faster microwave for 6-7 minutes at this point. Sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan cheese on top and put in the oven at medium heat. Check every half hour or so, and cover with foil if the top is getting too browned. They should be ready in 1 1/2 – 2 hours, when the meat is falling off the bones.

Yes, those are some chubby chickens, about 7 pounds each. They come cleaned with the feet, necks and organs inside. I have cleaned chickens (what a mess, feathers everywhere!) I appreciate it every time they come over with these delicious, ready to cook chickens.

Other than that, just life here. There were protests blocking the street and bringing the country to a halt, but that’s in the past and life is back to normal. They lowered the price of medicines but haven’t worked out how to cover the costs with the pharmacies, so the pharmacies were closed for a while. I think now they are open again but without discounts until this issue is worked out.

We’ve had a lot of rain, more than I think is expected this time of year. Everything is growing like crazy which means more yard cleanup, which is hard to get to when it’s raining. But, I get out there when I can. One thing here, people are way less fussy about yards which is nice. Of course they like nice looking yards and most have lots of pretty flowers and food producing plants. But, if you have weeds or things are getting overgrown, nobody really cares. There is no HOA to fuss at you. Their main concern is that overgrown areas may have snakes. We have perennial peanut in our yard, a pretty ground cover that needs minimal maintenance. The locals think snakes like it and are concerned, but we see very few snakes and I’ve never seen one hiding in the peanut.

So, that’s the news of the moment, what little there is. It’s after 5 PM now and it’s been raining for about a hour. If you don’t have to go anywhere it’s very nice. It’s cooler and I’m sitting on the terrace watching it rain and listening to the birds.

Posted in Panama | 13 Comments

The Roads are Open

Whew! Life is returning to normal in Panama. There were protests for over three weeks that shut down the Panamerican Highway, the only highway through the country. Panama City was running out of perishables that come from Chiriqui, the western province where we live. We were running out of gasoline, diesel, and cooking gas among other things. Everything came to a halt because nothing and nobody could move through the country. We were fine but it was very hard for many people who couldn’t work, which meant lost pay which they needed to take care of themselves and their families. Many people were stranded and there were pictures of tourists walking miles to the airport. Once in a while a roadblock would open for a few hours for humanitarian reasons and people would line up at gas stations hoping to be one of the lucky ones who could buy $20 worth of gas. But even if trucks could get through one roadblock, they might be stopped at the next one. Produce was rotting in the streets because it spent so long in transit. It was quite the mess!

It seemed like everyone was protesting everything. It started with government corruption and high gas prices, but then teachers, health care professionals, labor unions, indigenous groups, and others all joined in with their various concerns and demands. The government finally decided to gather in a central location and invite representatives from all the groups to sit down and try to reach agreements, and these talks are still ongoing. But, a couple days ago the protesters announced that the population had suffered enough and they were going to reopen all the roads. It seemed like almost overnight, the country woke up again! Things were moving around, people were getting what they needed, and you could almost hear the country breathe a big sigh of relief.

Today we decided to venture out to the gas station and supermarket. Everything looked great! We were able to fill up our gas tank with no waiting. When we passed by on our way home there were maybe three cars in line and a gas tanker arriving with more fuel. That was a wonderful sight.

The supermarket looked good with plenty of eggs, milk, and other supplies. The meat supplies looked low but there was still enough to give a shopper choices. The freezer aisle though… the trucks must have just arrived because the aisle was jammed with piles of boxes and many workers putting things away in the freezers.

We also stopped by PGT, our mailing service. They said they received nothing until yesterday when everything arrived all at once. They were very busy sorting through all the packages and notifying customers that their things had arrived.

I hope everyone is able to get their issues sorted out so everyone can continue to enjoy a more normal life now. You don’t realize how much you rely on things until they aren’t available. If you have no gas in the kitchen, how do you cook? If you have no gas in your car, how do you get to work? Our neighbor who works at the hospital was driving whatever family car had gas so he could make it. It feels really good now to see that people are able to do what they need to do.

Then… I see a news link on Facebook. Protestors have closed the road in Penonome (central Panama) ☹️ Hopefully everyone is where they need to be and fairly well restocked, and any other closures are short and not so troublesome.

But, on a positive note, through all of this hardship and frustration, nobody was killed. A few were hurt one time when some very frustrated farmers tried to push their way through a roadblock. The only property destroyed was a police car by some kids who weren’t even a part of the protests. I can only imagine how much worse it must be to live in a war zone, or even through protests in other places that have turned destructive and violent. We feel very fortunate to be in the good country.

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

Protests and Unrest in Panama

Things are a mess in Panama at the moment. We heard about protests when we were back in the USA and now, after more than two weeks, things don’t seem any better. The Panamerican Highway is the one artery through the country, and protesters have blocked it in multiple locations which has pretty much shut down the country. We live in Chiriqui province where a lot of food is produced for the whole country, but the trucks laden with food are stuck on the highway. Going the other way, trucks of fuel can’t make their way west to our area. Gas stations are closed and if there is even a rumor of a truck making it through, huge lines of cars form immediately.

Panama has suffered through the pandemic like the rest of the world, and now we are seeing high fuel prices which is a hardship for many. This is one factor in the protests. The people want the government to help keep fuel costs down and we thought there was an agreement, but not everyone was involved in the decision so the protests resumed almost immediately.

People are also very angry about government corruption. When people see politicians and officials living large and spending piles of money, and putting their friends and family members on the payroll for doing nonexistent work, people who are struggling to keep their families housed and fed are very angry.

There are also others involved. Health care workers are protesting the high costs of medicines and lack of funds for necessary doctors and other health care workers. Teachers are protesting that they aren’t getting paid. Farmers can’t make it with the high fuel costs. Labor unions are joining the fight for better conditions for their workers. Then, the indigenous joined to protest conditions in their lands. It feels like it’s a free for all, and everyone is protesting everything!

Lately they have been opening the highway for short periods of time to let food and fuel pass, but it’s going to take a lot more than this to resupply the country. There was a humanitarian caravan of food trucks that the government insisted be allowed to go to Panama City, but the police escort had to use tear gas to clear the road so they could pass. Unfortunately a lot of the produce was lost because it spent so much time in the trucks. Some fuel trucks are making their way here, but not nearly enough to fill the need.

People can’t get to work. Farmers are losing money on all the food they can’t sell. Tourists are stranded and others are staying away. This is impacting everyone! There are so many different groups, different demands, and different factors I don’t know how it’s all going to get sorted out. People are able to get some diesel which helps. Our veggie guy was able to work yesterday. But, another friend who needs regular gas spent all afternoon in gas lines with no success. One of the neighbors works at the hospital and I hear his car start in the mornings, but how long can he do that without putting more gas in his tank? Even if you are one of the lucky few who finds gas, you are only allowed $20 worth.

I’m starting to hear from people outside of Panama that we are making the news around the world. A google or YouTube search will bring up a number of news articles and videos.

https://edition.cnn.com/videos/world/2022/07/20/panama-protests-pkg-oppmann-nr-intl-ldn-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/around-the-world/

As for us, personally, we are fine. Our veggie guy came yesterday so we have produce, and the freezer has enough food to last for quite a while. We have some gas in the cars and two bicycles, and we don’t have to go anywhere. We should go down the road and pay the electric bill soon but that’s only 3 km away. The band is on vacation for another 10 days until our drummer gets back, and I certainly hope things are better by then. Even if they aren’t, we have enough diesel in the car for quite a few trips up to Boquete.

But, this sure sucks for a lot of people! Cross your fingers that they get this sorted out so people can get back to work and take care of their families.

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

Travel Complications, and the New Terminal #2 at Tocumen Airport

We were super fortunate on our trip. There are stories everywhere about problems with airline travel, but we took multiple flights with few problems. But our luck was bound to run out at some point. We got to the Dallas airport with plenty of time to make our flight to Houston, but the plane was delayed coming in. By the time we left we were 2 1/2 hours late and our flight to Panama had already left. So, we were stuck in Houston.

We waited at United customer service for an hour while the one lady there helped a large group ahead of us. Finally, 4 more employees arrived but unfortunately the one that helped us wasn’t experienced on how to rebook people. She got us on flights the next morning, but I had to insist and argue that she also rebook our flight from Panama City to David. With the protests going on and roads blocked, planes were filling up and I wasn’t about to take her advice and wait until we arrived in Panama City to take care of that. The more experienced lady stepped in and got us booked on the afternoon flight (the evening flight was full). They refused to give us hotel vouchers (thunderstorms, not the airline’s fault) but they did give us $30 each in food vouchers which was helpful.

HUGE shout out to our travel agent! I have a feeling she is busy enough, but I have to say it’s Andrea Cook. She takes very very good care of her people! Joel posted on Facebook that we were stuck in Houston, so when Andrea saw that she got on her computer to see what was going on with us. She discovered that the customer service people made a reservation on the afternoon flight, but they did not change the ticket from the previously booked morning flight to the afternoon one. This would have cost us a $250 change fee, each! She explained that you can change a ticket for around $30-35 (I forget exactly) but if you wait until the plane you were originally booked on departs, then you get the huge change fee (which is 2 1/2 times the cost of the original ticket. Go figure that one out.

Thankfully our flight out of Houston was perfectly on time because we had a very tight connection in Panama City, and I wasn’t familiar with how this works in the new Terminal #2. Our luggage also wasn’t checked through, so we had to deal with that.

We landed at Terminal #2, and hot footed it off the plane and to immigration (which was back in Terminal #1). No lines, thank goodness. We had to wait a little while for our luggage, and then we exited the area and asked for advice on getting back to terminal #2. There was a big white bus which took a somewhat scenic (ha!) route but landed us back at terminal #2. We probably could have walked faster but it was what it was. So, we go upstairs to check in and of course the kiosk doesn’t work for us (if they ever work it’s a big surprise). But, a nice man got us checked in and told us we will have to run “un poquito” (a little bit). Where? Waaaayyyy down there. Go downstairs, go outside, and turn left, and go to the very end of the terminal and there you’ll find domestic flights. We made it! We were the last ones on the plane but it was probably another 10-15 minutes before they closed the door. I was happy to message Andrea to tell her we were ok and she wouldn’t have to scramble to get us other tickets.

We made it home in the late afternoon instead of morning as planned, but we were home! I was happy we didn’t have to spend a night in Panama City and hope we could get seats on the early morning flight. Oh, but I forgot, it still wasn’t without complications. There was a bad thunderstorm in David so the plane had to circle around for maybe 1/2 hour hoping things would clear and they wouldn’t have to go back to Panama City. They eventually decided it was safe to land, but then we were stuck on the plan for quite a while more. They couldn’t open the door because it was raining so hard that water was gushing into the plane! But eventually the rain slowed, and we got off the plane and picked up our very wet luggage that had been unloaded earlier.

Our last concern – the car was parked at the airport all this time, but it started right up. We were able to back it out and avoid the jam at the front of the terminal. We only ran into one roadblock on the way home but there was an easy detour around it, so it wasn’t long before a very happy dog was greeting us at our front gate.

Roadblock? Yes, there have been protests and upheaval all over the country, but that’s a subject for another post coming soon.

It’s nice to be home. It was a great trip and we have so many happy memories, but it’s always nice to come home again.

Posted in Panama | 2 Comments

Why Dallas?

Dallas was the last stop in our travels. Many asked why we were going there. “To see old friends” is the simple answer. But, how did we become friends? That answer is a lot more complicated.

I gave birth to a baby boy in 1987. There’s a funny story around that – My older daughter (8 years old at the time) and I went to a girl scout camp weekend getaway. I was obviously pregnant. “Oh my, you are going to be a big sister!” Oh no, he’s not ours 😯 You can imagine the strange looks and then the questions. I was a surrogate and I was carrying that child for another family.

I always felt good pregnant, and I felt this was something I could do fairly easily so why not help someone? I went through an agency but it was like the universe made a perfect match. We got along in every way and were in agreement on all the decisions that are made when waiting for a child. His mom and I wrote letters throughout the pregnancy and forged a very nice friendship. After he was born, I didn’t miss him but I missed her!

She never disappeared from my life though. We had been communicating through the agency to protect everyone’s privacy, but after his birth we exchanged last names and addresses. She wrote me with updates and always sent a bunch of pictures on every birthday. They said he was always an easy and happy kid and they loved being his parents. To me, it felt like watching the child of a good friend grow up, and I was happy to see he was doing well and the family was very happy.

I didn’t know his dad as well, but after moving to Panama we started communicating by email instead of paper letters. Since dad is more accustomed to using technology, he and I started talking as much as his mom and I, and I quickly came to like his dad a lot also.

Fast forward to my recent travel plans. Dad learned that I was going to Tulsa so he asked if I was going to have a layover in Dallas. Could we meet for a cup of coffee? Or, if I’m coming to visit my sister, could we get together? (My sister is in the process of moving from Dallas to the Boston area and wasn’t in Dallas when I was there). Or, could you just come and stay with us for a little while? We’d love to see you.

Wow, I had to accept this invitation. We hadn’t seen each other since 1987, but they have always been very kind to me and I’ve always liked them, so yes. I would love to visit.

Keeping in touch with letters and emails is nice, but it’s definitely not the same as visiting someone in person in their home. They were both SO nice and went out of their way to make us comfortable and well taken care of. Dad had Texas BBQ on hand for lunch and made amazing omelets for breakfast. Dad took Joel out riding around to visit his car wash. Mom took me walking in the mall (it was 106 that day!) and we talked and talked. We went out for wonderful TexMex food and margaritas and we talked all evening. They did everything they possibly could to show us a good time and take care of us. They are more successful in business than I realized, but they are humble, down to earth people who give a whole lot of their time and resources to help the disadvantaged people in their community.

When you do something, you never know what effect it may have on others. Dad said this boy was the best thing that happened to them, to their marriage, and to their family! I just about melted on the spot to think I was a small part of that. To me, it was an interesting experience over maybe the space of a year, but for them it was a life changing thing.

These recent travels have really made me think about my priorities. It’s nice to travel and see new places, but for me traveling to see people who mean something in my life, that’s where it’s at for me. Now that I have connected and reconnected with people scattered all over the USA, I’m going to use my energy and resources to spend more time with these people. Next up – the northeast! There is a cousin in NY who I want to meet, and I want to visit my sister after she gets settled in their new Boston area home. And, there’s a couple of old college friends I’d like to see if we can work it out.

Often I have nothing noteworthy to write about in my blog, but right now I have a couple more things on my mind. Coming home was complicated and involved navigating the new terminal at Tocumen airport. And, we returned to a country upended with protests and civil unrest. No, I’m not worried. To my knowledge no property has been destroyed and nobody has been hurt. But, a lot of people have been inconvenienced and put in a difficult financial and emotional state.

So, stand by. I have a lot of emails to write, and spiders in corners to disturb, and dust to sweep out, and weeds to pull, but I’ll keep moving forward with all of it.

Posted in Panama | 2 Comments

The Travels Continue

We are back home, but the rest of our trip was so busy that I never got any more writing done. So, I’ll regress and pick up where I left off – Back to California with my older daughter and her family. Every stop along the way has been wonderful, and this was no exception.

COVID was in the rear view mirror, thank goodness. Nobody else in Seattle was affected, also thank goodness. But, just to be safe we stayed at a hotel, which worked out great. There is a pool which the kids have loved. My daughter’s house isn’t that big so two extra adults underfoot can be stressful, especially with COVID concerns. Now, we just retreated to our hotel space at the end of the day. There was a full kitchen so we stocked it with breakfast items and snacks. When someone was up and ready, they came and get us, but we stayed outside or wore masks inside for the first few days just to be extra safe.

The parties continued! Friday, we tried to put together a surprise party for the boy down the street but his dad had taken him out, so we enjoyed time outdoors with a couple of the neighbors. The party happened the next day though when his dad brought pizza and cookies, and the kids and the adults all had a good time in the back yard. Sunday was a birthday party for another kid in the neighborhood. There is a nice walking park across the street, the family had a slippery slide set up there, invited 20 kids, and served more pizza, drinks, and cake. The kids started playing as soon as they saw the slippery slide being set up so there were many hours of fun that day.

What else did we do in California? We hung out and played/watched Legend of Zelda, and a good movie, Brave. We had to stay after dinner because I couldn’t leave until I found out how it all worked out in the end. We had dinner at the in-laws which is always a pleasure, and they came over to my daughter’s house one evening also. There’s a very good breakfast and lunch restaurant at the hotel so we had breakfast on our first and last days there. Yes, there was a lot of eating on this trip. There was also a fair amount of walking in the nice park across the street and one outing, on foot, to the supermarket nearby.

Oh, and we went to the lawyer’s office for the final signing of all the paperwork, so our estate is planned and official now. You just never know what tomorrow will bring, and this way there should be no loose ends for our families to handle. It’s interesting though. My best friend (Panamanian) was almost angry when I told her we were working on this. She refuses to look at the fact that we won’t be here forever, and I think estate planning makes this reality too close for her comfort. It’s one thing here where families are close, and likely living in the same house as they age, and another thing for us where we have ties, assets, and property in two countries and no family where we live.

So anyway, California was good and we had very nice times with family and friends, as we always do. Then, it was time to head to Dallas but we had a hiccup getting there. We left from the Santa Rosa airport which is under construction, so there is a big barn like building for departures. There were three planes loading passengers and another badly delayed, so lots of passengers trying to change their travel plans. We were the last group to board so we got in the line with the only agent at our gate, and waited, and waited. I got concerned and asked if we could just please get on the plane. Oh no, they just closed the doors 😧

We were booked on an early flight the next day so we would miss one of our two nights in Dallas, but it would still be morning when we arrived so we’d still have time with our friends. And, we were in Santa Rosa where we could stay with my daughter. And, there was a super nice Uber driver who picked us up at 4AM! We have heard so many bad stories of messed up travel plans so we couldn’t complain too much. But still, it’s upsetting when things don’t go as expected.

But, soon we were on our way to Dallas!

Posted in Panama | 6 Comments

A Bump in the Road

I’m on my epic 70th birthday celebration trip. First was Panama, of course, my home. Then, we went to Florida to see good friends who we hadn’t seen in 10 years (Friends). Then, I went to Tulsa to see my birth mother who I hadn’t seen in many years, and to meet my three sisters for the first time. (Above and Beyond and Then Some) Now I’m in Seattle to see my younger daughter and her family.

While I was in Tulsa, Joel went to Maine and Kansas City to see his mother and his kids. He had a wonderful time but somewhere along the way he picked up COVID. We came back together on Friday evening in Seattle and everything seemed fine, as I remember. Saturday he was congested and sniffling so Sunday morning we decided to do a home test. Positive ☹️ Now what? Thankfully everyone else was feeling just fine, and I and my daughter both tested negative. Poor Joel was sent to the basement. Thankfully they have a basement where I sleep on my visits, so he was comfortable down there. I slept on an air bed in the dining room upstairs. It’s very strange to be so close to your husband but so far, social distance at all times, etc. 😓 But, we managed.

Thankfully, except for a rainy Sunday the weather has been warm and pleasant so we could spend time outdoors on the deck, and he could safely spend some time with the family. Joel brought a travel guitar and headphones so between that and an internet connection, he was able to keep himself occupied. He was sniffly Saturday and Sunday, but on Monday his symptoms resolved and he’s been feeling perfectly fine since then. The current CDC recommendations are quarantine for 5 days after a positive test, which makes today the last day but he’ll wear a mask for 5 more days (and I will too when out, just because).

Other than that we are having a wonderful time. There was a great birthday party for the little one’s 4th birthday. We’ve all been hanging out and playing and having fun together. I’m enjoying the kids more on every visit. The little one talks clearly enough that I can understand her well, and the 6 year old can even read to me now! My daughter and her husband are doing a wonderful job as parents, along with all their other good qualities and accomplishments so it’s awesome to be their mom and grandma. It’s a real pleasure to be here with them.

But of course, there are more stops on this trip so how do we manage safely? We leave for California tomorrow. My older daughter’s house is smaller and we would all be in close contact, so we have booked a hotel nearby for our time there. We’ll have our own space and everyone can keep as much distance as makes us all comfortable. She said there is so much covid everywhere that they were worried about picking up something and risking us, and here is it that we are the ones with the risk. Go figure. After California we go to Dallas and our friends there say they are fine with us visiting.

I guess if we had to deal with COVID, it’s the best it could be. Joel did not get very sick, just uncomfortable for two days with a congested nose. There is a comfortable space here where Joel could isolate, and he’s out of quarantine in time for our next stop. I tested negative today and nobody else in the family is showing any symptoms. So we’re all fine, and our travel plans are going forward as planned.

Forward and onward! Let the good times continue.

Posted in Panama | 2 Comments

Above and Beyond and Then Some

If you have been following the blog recently, you know I’m on an epic trip celebrating my 70th birthday. My first stop was in Florida where I saw my old friends. I have just finished my second stop where I saw my birth mother and met three sisters for the first time. It was fabulous!

I have known that my three sisters existed for decades, but thanks to DNA testing and secrets finally being revealed, I had the opportunity to connect with them and finally, to meet them. It’s hard to even explain what it feels like. Such meetings don’t always go well. There may be no interest in meeting. There is even a possibility of hostility. But in my case, it couldn’t be more positive. I have been welcomed with open arms, love, and total acceptance. I am so happy and grateful.

Where so I start? We packed so much into a few days that it’s all a bit of a blur. I’ll try to write it down here so I don’t forget everything 😊

I arrived Monday afternoon and spent the evening at my mother’s house (she had graciously invited me to stay with her). We hadn’t seen each other for a long time, and even when we were together it was with family so having time for just the two of us was really special. We talked, went out to dinner, talked some more, watched a bit of TV, shared some wine, and talked some more.

Tuesday morning at the appointed time, two of my sisters arrived and the third wasn’t far behind them. I have been chatting with the youngest for a year and the others for maybe seven weeks, not long, But, immediately, it felt right with all of them. There were smiles and hugs and happiness all around! My mother had prepared a nice breakfast for everyone so we ate and sat around the table and talked, and talked, and talked. We had a short activity planned in the afternoon with the oldest, and then we were together again for a nice dinner at P F Changs. Someone 😁 spilled the beans about my birthday so there was a birthday card, and special dessert that we all shared, and a huge sparkler. Then we returned to the house were we talked until midnight! The sister who lived farther away stayed over and the others went home.

Wednesday was a day with the two closer sisters. We visited the youngest one’s home, and then the middle one’s home where we had lunch and hung out for the afternoon. They had created a get to know each other game with questions we would pull out and then go around the table with our answers. I was very impressed with that amount of thought they put into the questions. Then, my mother and the youngest sister said they had to go to Dollar Tree (huh??) so I spent the rest of the afternoon talking with my other sister and her husband.

We were planning to meet at a hamburger restaurant and I soon understood the trip to the Dollar Tree. They had a side room all set up for a birthday party with the balloons, streamers, decorations, a “birthday girl” button for me, a pretty tablecloth, plates, forks, an awesome chocolate cake, and really thoughtful presents! There were nieces and nephews and grandkids and we all had a great time. Then, we went back to my mother’s house and talked until late until mom kicked everyone out because we were all exhausted!

Thursday we visited the oldest sister who lived a couple hours away. The other two sisters and my mother talked all the way to and from her house, and we had another great afternoon at the other sister’s house. She had prepared a huge spread of food, and had crafts and games for us on the dining room table. We hung out and talked and ate and played until it was time for a facials appointment. By then it was late afternoon and time to head home for our last evening. We didn’t make it such a late evening since one was leaving the next morning on vacation, the other had to work early in the morning, and I had a flight to catch. My mother and I shared some wine after they left and talked for a couple more hours until we were too tired and headed to bed.

The visit was quite a whirlwind! But, it was no time at all before we felt very comfortable with each other. It was an odd feeling to make the transition from figments in my imagination, to words in an email, and then to real people. And, they are so very real! They are people with all the usual concerns, and families with memories made over the years, and just normal stuff of life. I don’t think we look a lot like each other but there are definite similarities especially in the eyes and nose areas. (I don’t have permission to post pictures yet). We are different in lifestyle and personalities, but we also found many things in common. I usually don’t get jokes, and rarely appreciate comediennes and funny movies. They are the same! We all battle our weight. We are all in long term marriages and have 2-3 children.

I was so impressed and touched by the amount of care they put into planning my visit. They really wanted me to enjoy my time with them. Yes I’ll definitely be back, oh yes for sure! My mother is 88 and more frail than she used to be, so I want to see more of her sooner rather than later as well. You never know what tomorrow will bring for any of us.

My favorite moment – our mother gave each of us a bank envelope with a bit of spending money. Mom no, you don’t need to do this. “Don’t argue with your mother!”

(“Mom” came more easily to my lips each day) I learned I was born in a bathtub. Who knew this was a thing in 1952?

Thanks for following along. This is definitely a “write it down before I forget everything” post. There was just so much packed into a few days in the midst of a lot of emotions and feelings. I left two days ago so I’m settling down a bit now, but it’s still a lot. I’m really happy and looking forward to more time together.

Next, Seattle, time with my younger daughter and family, 4th birthday for the youngest granddaughter, and fun times. Then California, Dallas, and home. I’m taking it one step at a time.

Posted in Panama | 9 Comments