What a Day!

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

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

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

But wait… there’s more!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Panama | 2 Comments

COVID in Panama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Panama | 14 Comments

Scorpions and Friends

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

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

Image may contain: shoes and indoor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Panama | 10 Comments

A New Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Panama | 8 Comments

Life Goes On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Panama | 8 Comments

A Very Different Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Panama | 6 Comments

Out of Control

That’s one of my favorite Rolling Stones songs. This performance was from Havana Cuba, where the people didn’t get to hear rock concerts and they were so excited and appreciative. It must have been quite an experience to have been in that audience.

But, unfortunately that’s not the only thing that’s out of control. Here the virus isn’t exactly out of control but the numbers are up enough to give the authorities a lot of worry. The RT is 1.24% (rate of transmission is higher than one person infecting only one other person, and the goal is less than 1%). Indicadores de la COVID-19 en Panamá denotan que el confinamiento es una opción real (tvn-2.com)

Fatality is 1.8%, below the goal of under 2% so that is good, but hospitalizations and admissions to ICU are up so that is very worrisome. They don’t want the health care system overrun and unable to take care of everyone who needs care, whether from COVID or something else.

30-40% of infected people don’t feel sick so they don’t know they are risking others. And, people are just plain tired of all this virus stuff. We just passed the national holidays, and Mothers Day and Christmas are coming. People want to see the friends and family they haven’t seen for many months. It’s so easy to “just this once” go visit, and let down your guard with people you have known and trusted your whole life.

Because of the increased numbers, the curfew has been extended in areas around Panama City, and liquor sales have been stopped at night to try and decrease the partying. Word is that tighter restrictions may be coming, especially in areas where the virus numbers are increasing. Thousands and thousands of tests are being done every day and contact tracing teams are hard at work. Infected people quarantined at home are they being supported with food and medical care so they don’t need to go out and risk infecting others. I can only imagine the frustration of the authorities who are doing everything they can to control the situation and keep people safe, but the numbers still rise. Now that they have the economy mostly open they don’t want to reverse that, but they don’t want to lose any more lives either.

Our area seems more stable but the virus is definitely still here. My friend said her neighbors are quarantined. He is a policeman, and he had lunch with a coworker who had shrimp to share. The next day she felt sick. Now 4 other police are infected, and my friend’s neighbor’s whole family is infected, thankfully not sick but he, the wife, and the two kids all tested positive so they are quarantined at home with daily support from the health department.

I know it could be worse. I just saw yesterday that California is being shut down again, and my daughter said their area is also under red alert for fire danger. Sheesh. We also see bad news from everywhere in the USA, and around the world.

Here, we’re the same, mostly home. I miss my family but it was a surprisingly good Thanksgiving. I talked quite a bit with both my daughters and all the grandkids. Usually we have a big Thanksgiving get together but this year we did it on zoom, my kids and families, their in-laws, my sister, and both of her kids… it really worked out. We all got to talk and no one was left at the far end of the table. We got to meet the dogs and the cats, and see everyone from the comfort of their homes. Maybe there are some good sides to this situation. It worked so well that we are planning to do more group chats, and the extended family can keep in touch more than we have in the past. And, my grandkids have also gotten really good at video chatting which is great fun.

There is also hope coming in the form of vaccines. Panama has bought millions of doses but I’m not sure when they are coming or how they plan to prioritizes who gets them. But, they are coming! Myself, I don’t think I’ll feel comfortable going out with the band, and certainly not traveling to see my family until I can get vaccinated. We’ve waited this long, I don’t have a problem waiting a few more months if it means not risking myself or anyone close to me.

I know some of you aren’t comfortable with the vaccine. Some of you even think the whole virus thing is a hoax. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but don’t bother me with them. I’m no more likely to change my mind than you are. I’m just reporting what I see from here, from my little spot with an internet connection in western Panama.

So, back to the usual conversations. Is it going to rain? Is it not going to rain? We’re going into summer here and it looks like summer today, blue sky, lots of sun, hardly any clouds. Yesterday though, and the day before, and the day before that we got quite a bit of rain. Yes, life here continues to be pretty chill for us.

Let’s go listen to the Rolling Stones, or any music you enjoy! Take good care of yourselves and each other, and stay safe so we can all enjoy another day.

The banner pictures was taken in Boquete a year ago. We’ll be there again to play more music, not today, but soon.

Posted in Panama | 8 Comments

A Sad Holiday Season

Thanksgiving is this week. Christmas and New Years aren’t far behind. What are the holidays going to be like in this year of COVID-19?

I just saw this article Arizona grandma who sent wrong text has 5th Thanksgiving with stranger (usatoday.com)

You might remember the lady who sent a text to the wrong number inviting who she thought was her grandson to Thanksgiving dinner. When the recipient realized it wasn’t his grandmother, but asked if he could come anyway he was told “yes of course. That’s what grandmas do, we feed everyone”. They have been friends ever since. This year though, they had a very small early Thanksgiving celebration, but without her husband of 43 years because he died of COVID-19.

We see the staggering numbers of the sick and the dead, numbers so big that it’s hard to realize that every single one of those numbers is a person who left a hole in the lives of everyone near them. They have partners, parents, children, friends, coworkers, and more. What is this holiday seasons going to be like for the countless people who have lost loved ones?

I’m sad because I can’t celebrate with my family. I haven’t seen them for a year, and it’s our tradition to have the whole extended family together for Thanksgiving. The whole world is going through this though. Nobody can get together like they want to. It’s hard to whine when I know there are so many other people mourning lost family and friends, and there are so many more living, or dying all alone this year. And we haven’t even mentioned the many who have been hit economically, or who survived the virus but now have crushing medical bills. It’s a bad year all around for way too many people.

I hate to read the news from the US and other parts of the world. It seems like it’s always bad, and then it gets worse. Here in Panama the numbers are up a little, as was expected. The testing is also up. They have been close to or even above the goal of 10,000 tests/day. Contact tracing teams are hard at work every single day. They are caring for the sick at home so they don’t need to go out and infect others, and they are making more use of hotels to isolate the infected. The numbers of recovered people exceeds the numbers of newly infected, and the hospitalization numbers are more or less steady. The 2% death rate has dropped to 1.9% a couple days ago. Of course we wish we were eradicating the virus, but there is a lot to be said for holding steady now that the economy is much more open, and it’s also a time of many Panamanian holidays.

In other news, we had really bad effects from hurricane Eta that came through near here. Then, shortly after, Iota came through on the same path. We were all on high alert but nothing happened here, no rain at all. Unfortunately however, our neighbors in Colombia, Nicaragua, Honduras and neighboring countries suffered a second devastating blow. We certainly hope that this is the end of storms for this season! There’s still so much work to be done to recover from the past storms. Today it was such a pleasure to see blue and sunshine in the sky after what seems like weeks of gray, rain, and drizzle. We reminded ourselves that summer is coming and by March we will be begging for rain.

US politics is also a frequent topic of conversation here. I’m tired of explaining that…. well we all know the topics and concerns of the day. There are also many questions about the virus situation, and why people are so resistant to masks and other safety measures. Here, people question and grumble as much as anywhere, but are very cooperative with masks and other things they need to do. There are also the normal questions about the safety, effectiveness, and distribution of the vaccines that are coming, but everyone I have talked with is hopeful that they will be a big step in keeping people safe and returning our lives to normal. We give thanks every day that we are here. Thank you Panama.

This holiday season may suck but there is hope. A vaccine is coming and hopefully it will make a difference. I hope you all are able to celebrate, even if remotely, with all your loved ones. I hope you and yours are OK. Take good care of yourselves and each other.

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

Travel Tips, Odd and Ends

People are traveling a bit more and sharing their experiences, so I thought I’d relate a few things that I have heard here.

If you travel here to Panama, you need to be COVID-19 negative. You either need test results in hand that are no more than 48 hours old, or you will be tested when you arrive at the airport. From what I have heard, usually there is very little waiting to take the test. The results come in about 1/2 hour and it costs $50.

For much more complete information, check this great website. It will tell you everything you need to know about traveling here! (thank you Tom for this link)

https://www.visitpanama.com/information/travel-guidelines/

Some say it would be nice if you know you are negative before you get on the plane but many people can’t get test results that quickly and it may be more expensive. But, if you want to be tested before you leave, Jackie Lange shared this other option. (Jackie, of Panama Relocation Tours and a great source of tons of info!) This site tells you what airports offer testing. If you leave from one of them you can get your test quickly and know your status before you fly.

https://www.travelandleisure.com/airlines-airports/airport-covid-testing-sites?fbclid=IwAR3AzboMJdW8tQ9pvPpp-zW6m1jV_wG1bC440En3x98wltTDy6k75JFdrL4

If your test on arrival at the Panama City airport is positive, you will be sent to a hotel for quarantine (at Panama’s expense). They will re-test you in 7 days. If that is negative you are free to go. Otherwise you stay for another 7 days.

So, now that you are in Panama, what’s next? I share this link frequently because it has information about some very useful people. https://blog.thepanamaadventure.com/2017/06/05/good-people-to-know-in-panama/

The US embassy in Panama is here to assist US citizens with whatever they need, but since COVID-19, it’s been emergency assistance only. https://pa.usembassy.gov/consular-section-announcement/ It says that passport renewal is still available, but my friend Tom found out that there are no appointments for certification of US drivers licenses, the first step in getting a Panamanian license (a requirement for residents). Now, there is a different procedure that starts with getting a certified copy of your license from the state that issued it, and then get that apostled by the Secretary of State in that state. I know, it sounds like a hassle but I believe getting residency anywhere is a series of hassles and documents, and then a big sigh of relief when it’s finally finished. If you are applying for residency be sure to check with your lawyer about this and all requirements.

That’s all the tips and tricks I have at the moment but as always, do your own homework! Things change. In spite of the best efforts of everyone, myself included, wrong information can get passed around. Airline reservations, especially, can change at a moments notice so be diligent about checking on your flight right up to the time you plan to fly. There is a very reduced number of flights because of the reduced number of travelers, so it’s very possible that your flight time will be changed, or your flight will be canceled. Be sure to check with your airline about requirements and safety measures on your flight. You can count on masks being required everywhere, on the plane, and everywhere in Panama.

There is hopeful news about vaccines in the works, so in the coming months maybe we’ll see the world start to change in regards to COVID-19. That would be wonderful! But right now, today, it’s the reality in our lives and we must live accordingly. As always, take care of yourselves and each other.

Pertinent information is always welcome in the comments.

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

No Hurricanes in Panama?

Technically there are no hurricanes in Panama, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t affected by hurricanes passing above us. Eta came through above us last week and created havoc! It was a slow moving, powerful storm that dumped SO much rain on us as it went by. There has been flooding, mudslides, and destruction. The worst of it seemed to be in the mountains north of Volcan, in the Terras Altas where the produce is grown. According to the latest news, 8 people died, 68 are missing, and 750+ are evacuated from their homes.

A member of the Facebook group – Boquete Community group gathered a lot of photos from various places so I’m posting some of them here. The ones I can identify are from the Volcan, Cerro Punta area, and the couple with the huge road washout is (or was) the road to Bocas del Torro.

There is a big outpouring of support from the people here. There are drop off locations for food, clothes, baby items, and other emergency supplies and this morning a caravan of people went up to deliver supplies. The Red Cross is also helping, and the USA has sent solders and helicopters. Many areas can’t be reached because of washed out roads so this is very helpful.

It can rain like you wouldn’t believe here in the tropics, and these occasional destructive amounts of rain can be from various types of storms. But, this time it was from the large, slow moving hurricane passing through the area. No, Panama won’t suffer a direct hit from a hurricane but I need to modify my “no hurricanes in Panama” statement to say that yes, occasionally we can be affected by one and sometimes in a big way.

This hurricane finally landed in northeast Nicaragua and then the storm moved on into Honduras. They suffered even more because not only did they get the rain, for days, but they also got the wind.

For us, we stayed in since last Sunday because of the constant rain. Wednesday was the worst as band after band of heavy storms came through the area, day and night. But, we are high and away from any threats of flooding. We had a couple banana trees fall over but that’s all. Today, finally, we got a peek at the sun and some patches of blue sky, and we went biking! It felt great to be out, and we just made it home before it started raining again. The last couple days have only been on and off drizzle but very little heavy rain, thank goodness. The storm is finally leaving our area but unfortunately, it’s over open water again where it can gather strength, and now it’s headed to Cuba and then Florida. Good luck to the people now in it’s path.

In other news, the virus testing and contact tracing teams continued to work right through the bad weather! Now they are also taking care of the many people in shelters because of the storm. The national numbers continue to be steady and dropping (except yesterday which I hope is an aberration. Word is that there are some more active pockets in the Panama City area). Here in Chiriqui province the numbers have been dropping steadily for the last couple months. This is especially great news since the economy has opened up so much in the last month. We are very thankful for everything the authorities are doing to try and keep us safe.

The recent USA election has also been decided, finally. The Panamanians are puzzled about why it took so long, so I’ve been explaining about the huge numbers of mailed in votes during this pandemic, and all the counting that had to be done. They have all be watching it closely and it’s been the first topic of conversation with everyone I’ve talked with this week.

Many of you who are in many other parts of the world continue to have a terrible time with the virus. I wish you all well, and hope you and yours stay healthy and are able to get on top of the situation! Take good care of yourselves and each other.

Posted in Panama | 9 Comments