On the Bus

Traveling from David to the west coast of the USA is a lengthy business. Thankfully we are retired and nothing has to be done in a hurry.

The flight to the US is an all day thing. There are flights from David to Panama City, but the connections don’t work out unless we are booked on an overnight flight. Being old without the stamina of youth, I would prefer to spend the night in a bed.

So, if we are spending the night in Panama City anyway, the bus is a much less expensive way to get there. It’s a long ride though, giving me lots of time to scribble things to post on the blog😀

a pretty cloud along th way

a pretty cloud along the way

The highway continues to be under construction. There are four lanes but only two are open. Occasionally there are stops to manage traffic where only one lane is open. The paving seems to be pretty much done but they are making curbs, finishing bridges, painting lane markers, etc. I thought maybe by now parts of it would be using all the lanes, but it’s a ton of work with a lot of details and takes time to complete.

I am always surprised by the kids on buses. There were quite a few on this bus and except for a three month old baby who cried for three very short periods in 7 1/2 hours, they were quiet. There are no toys, no snacks, no movies on tablets, just a parents lap. They look out the window, smile at the neighbors, and just generally chill out. Why are all of these kids so calm?

We cross the Panama Canal

We cross the Panama Canal

Our flight leaves at 8am so our plan is to stay at the Express Inn hostal near the airport. They have a shuttle every hour, where our favorite hotel in the city has one at only 5 and 8 am. Our friend, driver, and man useful for a multitude of things Luis Arce will meet us at the bus and take us to the hotel. It’s a $30-35 taxi ride so we may as well pay him rather than a stranger. I did this last time and it was nice to see a friendly face waiting for me.

We arrive at Albrook bus station

We arrive at Albrook bus station

Coming back, Joel is returning before me but it will be the same situation for both of us. We arrive in Panama City around 9:30 pm. Our favorite hotel in the city, the Costa Inn, has a shuttle service that will pick you up from the airport, saving the expensive taxi ride. They serve breakfast and if you don’t mind hanging around for a while, they have an 11am van that takes shoppers to the Albrook mall which is next to the bus terminal. The rooms cost us around $41 with taxes, a very good deal all things considered.

The bus, an older model, but it got us there just fine.

The bus, an older model, but it got us there just fine.

Yes it’s a couple long days but bring stuff to do and enjoy the ride, and it’s all good.

Posted in Panama | 9 Comments

What do you do a Rainy Day?

October and November are the rainiest months of the rainy season in Panama. Usually the mornings are sunny and beautiful. In the afternoon the clouds gather and by late afternoon it is likely to rain, sometimes with a huge downpour. That will soon settle down to a calmer rain though, which will stop sometime in the evening. People worry about the rainy season thinking it is constant rain but this is not the case at all.

But, the weather doesn’t always follow “the rules”. Yesterday morning was overcast and thunder could be heard in the distance. I took advantage of the cool, cloudy day to work in the yard and had a great day. It didn’t actually rain until very late in the afternoon. Today looked the same, cool and overcast so I put on my gardening clothes. I hardly got them on though and it started to rain, and it has been raining steadily ever since.

Rain isn’t cold here, just wet, and the temperature isn’t cold either. (It’s 75 at noon which for us is quite cool.) The gardener is hard at work in the neighbor’s yard (though I see he has a yellow plastic grocery bag over his head😀 ) and I’m sure other outdoor work is going on as well all over town.

The neighbor's gardener wearing a grocery bag hat.

The neighbor’s gardener wearing a grocery bag hat.

But, when it rains and you don’t have to go anywhere, what do you do? It’s a perfect time for relaxing in your hammock with a good book. For me, it’s a good time to catch up on correspondence, surf the net, sort photos, write on the blog, and do computer related things. I’m also getting organized for my upcoming trip to the US, and I can finish my latest painting that needs some final touches.

When I was sorting photos I found these of a parade downtown.

I prefer the rainy season over the dry season. The rains stop in December which is convenient for Christmas. People can shop, visit, and celebrate without worry of getting soaked in the process. Schools are on summer vacation too, and don’t resume classes until early February. People tend to enjoy outdoor activities like swimming in the river and hiking in the countryside, and small temporary swimming pools pop up in people’s yards.

A squirrel checks out our bananas and decides they aren't ready yet.

A squirrel checks out our bananas and decides they aren’t ready yet.

But, after weeks of no rain all the vegetation turns brown and crispy, and the days get hotter and hotter. Often water is in short supply and there are rolling water outages and restrictions on power usage (much of the power is hydroelectric) On some days the trade winds blow, and people in the mountains complain that on especially windy days they can barely get out of their houses. With the dry vegetation comes the brush fires. Houses are made of block with tin roofs so they don’t burn, but your plants and trees won’t fare so well. Last year a fire came up from below and went a little into our yard. Our citrus trees lost all their leaves from the heat and didn’t flower this year, so we don’t have fruit. They have recovered well though and should be back to fruiting next year.

By April we have been through a month or two of the hottest days of the year and we are anxiously waiting for the rains to come back. It’s a joy when the clouds come, the rains start, and the vegetation starts to turn green again.

The woods behind my house on a rainy day

The woods behind my house on a rainy day

I will close with a picture of this fantastic spider. Someone on the Panama Expat Facebook group posted a picture of one of these asking for help identifying it. It is an Orchid Mimicking Spider and one of the coolest spiders I’ve seen. I found this photo by google that lead me to a Pinterest link so I’m not sure where it originally came from.

Orchid Mimicking Spider

Orchid Mimicking Spider

Just another day chillin in Panama…

Posted in Panama, photography | 26 Comments

The Mentally Ill Homeless Need Care – has our society lost it’s soul ?

This article about homelessness in Australia was written by one of my blog followers. The USA is not the only country that struggles with these issues. Click the link below to read the whole article, and while you are there check out some of the other articles. I’m glad to know someone who is trying to improve conditions for brothers and sisters in need.

It’s not because we can’t afford to care for the sick, it’s because we don’t want to. We tend to see the sick as weak or unworthy, we are told that health spending is out of…

Source: The Mentally Ill Homeless Need Care – has our society lost it’s soul ?

Posted in Panama | 14 Comments

Four Years in Panama

October 10th, four years ago, I boarded a plane for Panama to start a new life. I was excited and looking forward to the future but I had no idea what a good life this would turn out to be!

It’s interesting that after four years many things are still new. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t see something for the first time, learn about some aspect of life here, learn a new word, see a new bug… it’s always something. But, this has also become my normal life. Daily activities are no longer new. I have friends and relationships here. This is home in every sense and it feels good.

I’m very comfortable here. I feel a strong sense of community and acceptance. I love how people greet and acknowledge you even if they don’t know you. I love how easily people make friends. In the US you are judged by so many things – religion, political affiliation, economic status, race, appearance…. we think we are accepting of everyone but in reality we have a ways to go. Here though, religion and politics are personal choices. No one seems to care if you are light or dark (though the men are fascinated by women with white skin and green eyes). No one cares if you are big or small, or where you are from, or how much money you have. They only care if you are kind, respectful, and friendly and will return your kindness many times over.

Do I plan to stay here? Oh my YES! I would be heartbroken if I had to leave. We came because we can live comfortably on our limited income and it’s great to not worry about money, but the benefits have been so much more than that. On surveys of the happiest countries in the world, Panama is always close to or at the top of the list. Happiness is contagious! If I need a dose of happiness all I have to do is hop on my bike and enjoy the greetings and smiles of everyone I pass.

Everyone has their own experience in Panama and it doesn’t work for everyone. People leave for health reasons, because they miss family, but also because they just haven’t found the happiness they thought they would have here. There are challenges of course, but I have found them so minor compared to the benefits. I am thankful every day for the life I have here.

Posted in Panama | 29 Comments

Tiny Eggs

When I brought the laundry in from the clothesline a few days ago, I noticed some tiny green eggs on one of the socks. There was a bright green beetle with orange edges on another sock so this could be the source of the eggs. The next day Joel found similar but pink eggs on a towel. I have a dish with a gecko egg on my shelf, so I added the little eggs so I could watch and see what happens.

Yesterday I saw that the pink eggs had hatched.


Today, the green eggs had also hatched.

There is always something interesting around here! I put the baby bugs in a quiet part of the yard on a large leaf the is protected by another leaf. I’m still waiting on the gecko. The gecko egg has changed from a translucent pinkish color to gray so I think it’s getting closer.

Posted in insects, Panama | 11 Comments

Boquete Area Land for Sale

My friend Eduardo has a piece of land for sale. If you go on Via Boquete to the Plaza San Francisco, turn west on that road and go about 4 miles, that is where you will find this land.


Eduardo and his wife are Panamanian and local. He is a realtor and she is a lawyer, so I think we can be pretty confident that they bought a good piece of property. It has clear title, electricity, and water so it is ready for building. The family has gotten involved in some new business ventures that are doing well, and they are very motivated to sell this property so they can use the money in other ways.

To get to the land you will go on a good paved road most of the way, and then 300 meters on well maintained gravel road.


The property is 1000 mts, and at an altitude of 1028 mts so the climate is very nice. The area is quiet and private, great for someone who wants a natural environment with many trees. But, it’s not far from a paved road so it’s easy to get to Boquete or David for shopping or other needs. Asking price is $28,000 or best offer.

This is an example of a beautiful and affordable piece of land for someone who wants a lovely mountain retreat. If you are interested or know someone who might be, you can contact Eduardo Horna at riochiriqui@gmail.com 


Posted in Panama | 7 Comments

Managing your Money

I went to the ATM yesterday and asked for $200, and got it all in $5 bills! Usually the ATM gives $20 bills but sometimes you run into someone who doesn’t have that much change, so I’m not unhappy about the $5 bills or the wallet that is too fat to close.

But, this got me to thinking about how to manage money if you live here. There are many ways and you will certainly get different opinions from different people, but this is what has worked well for us.

We have found it very helpful to maintain a US address for banking and other business (We live in California with my daughter and travel a lot😉 ).  If there is something important she can click a photo of it and email it to me. It is very rare that she has to physically send something down here. Keep in mind that if you have stock market investments, it is possible that your bank or investment company won’t even allow you to continue to do business if you have a foreign address. We like Schwab because they refund our ATM fees, and I have been happy with their service overall for many years.

Supermarkets and large stores take credit cards (If you are not a resident, your passport serves as your ID when needed). Roadside markets and smaller shops need cash. Our social security payments are deposited in our US Schwab account. We pay credit cards and other bills on line and get cash as needed from an ATM. You can operate this way indefinitely without a Panamanian bank account.

Joel and I have separate accounts and three active credit cards each. I have known people who come here with only one or two credit cards and then if there is a problem, it can be a huge problem! We have things set up so we can move money between accounts and between banks, so hopefully we will never be left without access to our money. There is Western Union here though in case someone is really stuck and needs money sent to them.

We were considering buying a bit of property in the past and wanted to establish a relationship with a Panamanian bank. We were introduced to someone at Scotia bank by a Panamanian friend, and went through the process of collecting all the necessary documents (letter from our US bank, proof if income and/or tax returns, letters of recommendation both professional and personal, filling out lengthy forms… it was a while ago so I probably forgot something but you get the idea). It was a process but we were successful in getting Panamanian bank accounts, so we each now have a savings and checking account at Scotia Bank. We were not residents at the time, and I have heard the process is easier after you get residency.

Having a Panamanian account has been convenient at times. I can refill my phone time on line, rather than going to the office or buying a card somewhere. I have had to pay a few people and I can transfer money from my Panamanian account to theirs. Some bills are even paid this way, by transferring money from your account to the company account. One thing was different though. I discovered my debit/credit card was using the money in my savings account, not the checking account. This isn’t a problem as long as I know, but I was a bit confused at first when my card said I was about out of money.

We have not financed a car, property, or other large purchase in Panama so I can’t say anything about how that would work. But, for our daily lives this arrangement has worked well for us.

Posted in Panama | 23 Comments

Bugs and Creepy Crawlers

I love the large variety of interesting and beautiful insects and critters in Panama. I try to keep a camera nearby just in case.

I spend a lot of time outside on the terrace, and I am frequently visited by various bugs.

This little beauty was on the wall in the kitchen as I was washing dishes

And now for the creepy crawlers! Joel has some sheets of plywood behind the house and we know the scorpions like to hide out there. Today he found this!

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

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


We don’t mind a scorpion or two in the plywood. We know they will probably be there and we know to watch out for them. This though? No, we don’t need a hundred babies growing up back there. Joel got his picker upper thing on a stick, I got a bucket, and he tossed the scorpions in the bucket for relocation in the woods.

When she hit the bucket though, many of the babies fell off. Here she is at the bottom of the bucket collecting some of the babies back.

When she hit the bucket though, many of the babies fell off. Here she is at the bottom of the bucket collecting some of the babies back.

If that isn’t enough scorpions, I also got a short video of her picking up babies on her pinchers so they can crawl back up on her back.

I took the bucket to the woods and let them all go. I know scorpions aren’t the most popular things but I can’t bring myself to kill something unless it’s really necessary. Hopefully they can carry on their lives out in the woods and they won’t find their way back to our place.

Posted in insects, Panama | 20 Comments

Homeless in the USA

A third of the homeless people in America are over 50. I’m one of them.

I ran across this interesting article today, an interview with a 66 year old homeless woman.  She talks about how it happened, the fear, the sleeplessness, the medical ramifications, the social isolation, and the importance of her dog.

Homelessness is something that touched my heart when I went on my bike trip a few months ago. (I wrote about it here.) I was biking and camping so I got a feel for what it is like to be living outdoors and even more, I got to see how the homeless are treated. People didn’t want to talk with me and when I approached them, I saw the fear in their eyes. How sad!

I talked with anyone I could and I also found that almost everyone was a bit older, maybe 40’s or more, and the over 60 age group was well represented. I didn’t meet anyone who seemed to have a mental illness. I did hear many heartbreaking stories though. When you are that far down I think it’s almost impossible to get up again without help.

On a related subject, I recently read a book $2 a Day, about people living on only $2 a day. I remember one woman who applied for 100 jobs and didn’t even get an interview. These people live in very bad conditions, often don’t have enough to eat, and how do you get a job when you have little education, no decent clothes, bad teeth, and skin of the wrong color?

We are so fortunate if we have a roof over our heads, food in the kitchen, and people who care about us!

Posted in Panama | 19 Comments

Shopping in Panama

People not familiar with Panama have expressed concern that we wouldn’t have everything we need here. So, I decided to take some pictures in a few of the stores near us. We have some very nice shopping options near us.

We live in David, the second largest city in Panama. There is a large expat community in Boquete and many of those people come down here to shop. We are also close to the Costa Rica border so many people from there come here to take advantage of lower prices. David itself is a fast growing city with construction and growth everywhere you look.

We live on the north side of the city not far from the Pan-American Highway and the El Terronal shopping area where these photos were taken. Stores don’t usually allow photos (not sure why) so I couldn’t pull out my camera everywhere I wanted to but at least you can get a little idea.

First, lets go visit Arrocha. The main floor has a good pharmacy, personal care items, lots of makeup and beauty items, and kitchen and housewares. The second floor has office and craft supplies, tons of toys and baby related things, some more housewares and bath related things, phone and electronic accessories, some luggage, DVD’s, and a place to get photos printed and get passport and other ID photos taken.


After Arrocha, we headed to another big store in the complex – Conway. The first floor has a lot of women’s clothes and accessories. The second floor has men’s and children’s clothes. The third floor has furniture, housewares, and a whole lot of kitchen things. There is also a little restaurant with a beautiful view of the hills beyond.

There are three large supermarkets within a block of each other in this shopping area. I visited two of them with my camera. The first one is Super 99. There is an older Super 99 on the south side of town, but this one here is very new and very large. We don’t go there very often because there is limited parking unless you go up to the parking garage above the store, and it’s a bit congested in the street you need to use to get there. We also established a bit of a routine before it was opened and rarely need to go there for something we can’t find elsewhere.

Next, we paid a visit to Super Baru. This is a smaller store with narrower aisles and no high ceilings, but it is one of our favorites. They tend to offer more unusual items and imported things that you can’t find in other stores. We generally don’t buy produce in supermarkets, preferring the road side vegetable stands, but if we do Baru has the best selection and price.


The third supermarket is El Rey (no photos, maybe next time). This is where we do most of our shopping since it’s on our side of the highway, has plenty of parking, and we know our way around it the best.

I suppose it’s like anywhere you live. You know this store has the best deals on chicken, but that one has that particular spice you need. You develop your favorite stores and pick one of them depending on what is on your list. You may not be able to find exactly the same item or brand here that you got used to in the US, but chances are you can find something similar or something new to suit your needs.

If there is something you really want to have on hand and you see it, buy a whole lot of it because it may not be there next time. We thought this was a joke but it is really true! Sometimes random things just disappear not to be seen again for a week, a few months, or ever and no one can explain why this is. We like Morton’s Nature’s Seasons seasoning blend. It disappeared  for well over a year. As soon as I brought a few bottles back from the US, it reappeared. Pricesmart was out of Joel’s favorite bacon for quite a while (it is back now and we have a lot in the freezer).

But, in general, I can’t say we lack for a thing. There is a lot of your familiar US brand food available here, and you can find whatever you need for your household. Maybe everything isn’t exactly like you are used to, but the Panamanians have been getting by for many generations so I figure we can too.

Posted in Panama | 19 Comments