What is Going on in Chiriqui?

We live in David which is in Chiriqui province. I think Chiriqui is the most beautiful province but I’m sure I have bias because I’m so happy living here.

Chiriqui is in the southwestern part of Panama and borders Costa Rica to the west. We have Volcan Baru, an active (but thankfully sleeping) volcano and the highest point in the country, and we also have some beautiful and barely used beaches. Here is my friend Eduardo at Las Lajas where he appears to have the entire beach almost to himself, which is not unusual.

Panama is a relatively small country but even just in Chiriqui there are a lot of choices from mountain living at whatever elevation works for you (cool vs warm), to sand beaches or tropical islands. There is the bustling city of David, numerous smaller towns, or very rural living where you can barely see a neighbor.

David is the second biggest city and it is exploding with development. A few other places in Chiriqui in no particular order – Puerto Armuelles on the coast near the Costa Rica border, La Concepcion, a traditional feeling town serving many of the needs of the area farmers, Volcan on the west side of Baru, on the way to Cerro Punta and the highlands where most the the produce is grown for the whole country. On the east side of Baru is Boquete, which prompted this post.

Boquete is one of the best known places in the country. It has been heavily promoted by International Living and other publications, and is known for tourist activities and the large expat population. Lately though, the number of tourists and expats has been dropping. Unfortunately there have been a lot of problems with water, electricity, and the streets have been torn up for about two years. They are putting in water and sewer systems but work starts and stops, torn up streets aren’t repaired, and getting around town is a daily headache for the residents. It’s really too bad because the country wants to encourage tourists but this is only driving them away, and I have heard about many businesses that have folded and expats who have moved away. I have heard about these problems from a number of sources and experienced them myself, but the silver lining at the moment – it’s a buyers and renters market. I’m sure things will be put right eventually, so if you want to get a place and wait it out you can probably find a really good deal. And, there still is the amazing beauty of the area and a multitude of expat activities you can join like theater, photography group, hiking group, motorcycle riders, yoga, painting classes, bridge, to name just a few, and there are many restaurants and quite a few venues with live music.

That’s Boquete below

So, don’t give up on Boquete, and definitely remember that there is a lot more to Chiriqui than Boquete! Pretty much anything you want can be found here except snow and hurricanes but who wants those? 😀

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House for Sale in David

There is a very nice house for sale not far from ours. It’s large, 5 bedrooms, 3 1/2 bathrooms, and beautifully maintained. It has had many upgrades and the workmanship is excellent. The owner is selling because she is widowed and would like something smaller now and without all the memories.

The house is on the north edge of David and only minutes from El Torrenal shopping area to the south, and Via Boquete to the west. The neighbors are nice, there is no through traffic so it’s quiet, and there are wooded areas and a river nearby so it’s comfortable with a nice breeze. If you don’t want to drive, there is a bus that comes through the neighborhood every hour. Let me take you on a small picture tour of the property.

The house is on a corner lot, and has a beautiful yard with many flowers in front, on the side, and in the back. My favorite part of the house is the terrace where you can relax and enjoy the flowers.

When you come into the house, the hallway to the left leads you to three of the bedrooms.

The master bedroom has a very large closet and comfortable bathroom. I’m glad they are separated because in this hot, humid climate you don’t want humidity from the shower in your clothes. There is a ceiling fan in the closet and the circulating air will keep mold from growing.

If you go to the right from the entrance, first you will see a light, spacious living room and very nice kitchen.

The kitchen is beautifully done with pull out racks in the cabinets for easy storage. It’s light and attractive, and a nice size so everything is within easy reach without feeling cramped. The owner plans to take the refrigerator and microwave but everything else stays.

The house comes with air conditioning, hot water, an alarm system, and ceiling fans throughout. The furniture is not included but the owner is willing to arrange a separate sale of furniture if needed.

Asking price is $240,000. If you want to know more, contact the owner by email – Mirta  mirrob47@gmail.com  She is a lovely lady who speaks Spanish, English, German, French, and Italian. If you want a high quality house and this is in your price range, I recommend it for the location and neighborhood, as well as the light, spacious beauty of the house. Of course photos cannot do the house justice so if you are seriously interested contact Mirta to see it in person.

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What is Weird?

It’s natural that when you move to a different country, there will be things that seem weird. Maybe the language isn’t quite what you learned in your textbook, or the food has unfamiliar ingredients. There are birds and bugs you never saw before, and the locals  go about doing things in ways that make no sense.

But, now that I’ve been here almost six years, I’m find things more and more weird when I go back to the US. I’ve become accustomed to Panama and I’ve never lived in Seattle or northern California, the places I visit now to see family.

There are bike lanes everywhere, clearly marked. There are traffic lights everywhere too, and buttons to push to trigger the pedestrian crossing signals. If there are no signals and you look like you want to cross, any car that comes along will come to a complete stop. That always startles me! I wouldn’t mind bike lanes here, but drivers are generally considerate so riding with traffic and crossing streets on foot works out fine. I think we could use a lot more traffic lights though.

I also notice how neat and orderly everything is. It must look like a mess here in comparison. We have weeds by the road, potholes, dogs and chickens running loose, and sometimes larger animals. I’ve written about this not too long ago. It’s very much a “don’t sweat the small stuff “ feeling which may not look as pretty but I find easier to live with.

I play bass and often practice with YouTube videos. In the US there is an ad before almost every video. Sometimes you have to wait for the “skip this ad” thing to come up, or sometimes the ad is short and you just wait it out. I can never tell which it is without glasses, so I’m always missing a start of the song because I’m pulling off my glasses. *sigh* When you spend hours playing and replaying videos it adds up.

There are hundreds of channels on the TV, but very little that’s interesting to watch. And the ads, they are relentless! There are so many for prescription medications. Do people go to their doctors “I want that from the TV!” It must happen or they wouldn’t keep running the ads. I can’t compare US TV to Panama though because we don’t have ours hooked up here.

Shopping still feels easier in the US. I feel like I have everything I need here, but sometimes you have to hunt and things are found in places you wouldn’t expect. In the US every Safeway is pretty much the same, and every Target, Walmart, and CVS, and displays are always attractive and orderly. I notice it especially in the produce department. Everything looks perfect and there are little thunderstorms with sprayers to keep the produce moist. There is a huge variety of choices! Here we have carrots, and sometimes they are funny shaped or have other oddities even though they taste great. In the US, there are carrots, all perfect in bags, or individually, or would you like the little bitty ones for snacks, or a variety of orange, white, and purple ones, full size or snack size, organic or not? Would you like cow milk, skim, low fat, whole, or soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, pea milk? I’m not kidding, there was pea milk! I always see new products I’ve never known about before.

There is also on line shopping. You can buy anything you can imagine and in a couple days it will be at your door. Or, you can even get Amazon items hand delivered in a few hours. Here in Panama, shipping costs and takes time. It really makes you think before you order something which may not be such a bad thing.

Speaking of shopping, I did quite a bit for things to bring back, and for family dinners and odds and ends. I used a credit card and never once was I asked for a signature or ID. Here we are always asked to sign, and we often need to show ID. It felt weird in the US, like I could be anybody with anyone’s credit card and go shopping all day long.

I’m still always bothered by the sense of isolation though. I went walking most days and the only people who talked with me or even made eye contact were the homeless people. (There are a lot of homeless, a subject for another day). If I greeted someone the reaction usually told me that they thought I was strange and intrusive.  Unfortunately I think the political climate in the US now is only making this worse and we are less inclined to talk to “strangers”, especially if they look different from us.

And planes…. there always seem to be planes in the sky. Here in Chiriqui  a contrail is so unusual that one sparked a huge discussion on Facebook!

Either place though, life goes on and things get done. I just find it interesting to think back on what caught my attention this time.

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Back in Panama

I returned to Panama last week after an extended visit to the US. I’ve had thoughts swirling around in my head but haven’t been motivated enough to put anything into words. I also have a slew of photos which I may get around to sharing. Some days you are excited about doing things, and other days not so much. So it goes with the blog lately.

I’m glad to be home! It’s always good to be home, especially when home is where we are so happy. It was a good visit though. I wrote a bit about it in my last post, especially being able to be there with my family when the new baby girl arrived. I left Seattle feeling good. They are experienced parents now and had everything well under control. I spent a week in California with my other daughter and had a great time with the other grandkids. They are more and more fun as they grow and we can do more things together.

I also got my eye checked! (remember https://blog.thepanamaadventure.com/2018/05/19/the-misbehaving-eye/?) My son-in-law works for a group of highly respected eye doctors, and since he counts me as family he brought me in the day I arrived for some tests. It turns out I have a very unusual condition. Your eye is filled with a gel like substance that decreases in volume as you age, and pulls away from the retina in the back of the eye (normal and harmless). In my case though, one bit got stuck to the retina and as it tried to pull away, it pulled on the retina close to the macula (the center part responsible for sharp center vision) kind of like pulling a thread in fabric. This caused the macula to become distorted, swollen, and inflamed. Since my condition has been stable for weeks, we are just going to let it be and see what happens. The thread pulling on the retina may come loose, or stay the same, but if there are any additional symptoms or decrease in vision I will see a retina specialist in Panama City. The California office has already identified them and sent records. While in California though, I started to see something like hair or spider webs in my eye, and I think my vision is slowly starting to improve. I have a feeling the thread came loose and my macula is starting to heal itself. I have less distortion, and don’t reach for my glasses quite as quickly when trying to see something close.

I’m sure that’s way more than you ever wanted to know about my eye situation! 😀 If you really want more info, check this link. https://maculacenter.com/eye-disease/vitreomacular-traction/  I feel comfortable with the wait and see approach, and I can easily check my vision on the lines of the drop ceiling when I wake up in the morning. I am so very very thankful for my son-in-law and the eye doctor who saw me! They usually have a 6 month wait to get in, and I don’t even want to think what that all would have cost.

And I thought I had nothing to say… ha! I have a bit more but I think this is enough for one post. Hasta pronto (until soon)

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Recent News and Catching Up

I’m in the US and the days have been flying by. The main purpose of this trip was to be here for my daughter who was expecting her second child.

We succeeded in getting me here before the baby, but my daughter looked like she should have had the baby already so she wouldn’t burst! But, she didn’t burst, and day after day went by until waiting seemed like normal life and maybe the baby would never come. But then, in the middle of the night her husband woke me to tell me her water broke! The baby was born that afternoon.

Mom is recovering and doing well, dad is there every step of the way, and big sister is taking the whole situation in stride very well. The baby is super chill and rarely cries, and mom and dad have actually been getting some sleep, not a lot but for having a newborn it’s going well.

This has been a really special time for me. For various reasons I was not there when my other grandchildren were born, but this time I have been here for the whole thing including the exciting “time to go to the hospital” moment, and the special coming home with the new baby time. While they were gone it was just my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter and I. We had many days to get to know each other but it’s different when it’s just the two of you. She was great and we had a wonderful time, and this was also very special to me.

I have had a lot of thoughts going around in my head, but writing them down has been a different matter. Family time is precious. Downtime has been spent walking/exercising to the shopping center and practicing some bass. The rest of the time is spent helping out, playing, and just chillin together.

The weather has been just gorgeous! Yesterday a small rainstorm came through and afterward my daughter spotted the rainbow that is in the header photo. It’s been nice for playing outside or just hanging out in the deck.

Oh, and baby was 8 pounds 14 ounces and her name is Penelope (Penny) Jane. It will be interesting to get to know her as she grows. Now she is mostly just a sleeping little angel.

 

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Travel Arrangements

Most of us have family to visit, new places to visit, or other reasons to travel. Joel and I have made a few interesting trips but the majority of my travel is to visit family, especially now that I have grandchildren.

We are in David near the Costa Rica border. There has been talk about flights from a David to the US for as long as I can remember, but there are no signs that this will become a reality in the foreseeable future. So, you have to go to Panama City for an international flight. (Or possibly San Jose, Costa Rica if you find a great deal on tickets). Do you take the bus, fly, or drive?

I have no interest in driving to Panama City, and even less interest in driving IN Panama City. I’ve always taken the bus, gone to the Costa Inn because they have an airport shuttle (affordable hotel with a restaurant on site and breakfast). Sometimes though the timing doesn’t work out and I need something near the airport. (The shuttle only goes at 5 and 8 AM.)

I had been going to the Express Inn (google Express Inn PTY). It’s about $45-50 for a very basic room, but it seems to be going downhill over the last few years. I have more complaints about my last room than I want to list. There are no more takeout menus, and even the guy making less than wonderful sandwiches wasn’t there on my last couple visits. There is nothing in the neighborhood unless you want to walk over to the airport. Breakfast has also become worse and worse. Last time there was only coffee and some little rolls wrapped in cellophane. Check on line or with TripAdvisor for reviews to learn more. My last visit was so uncomfortable that I needed to make a change, but what?

The Riande has a highly recommended hotel near the airport but I thought it cost a lot more than I wanted to pay, usually well over $100. But our travel agent (shout out to Andrea Cook of Viaje Vacations) told me about amoma.com where you can book a room for $70, not much more than the other place but a world above in comfort.

Here’s a few photos:

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. We still need to get to Panama City. There are two airlines. Air Panama lands at Allbrook on the west side if the city, and Copa lands at Tocumen, the international airport east of the city, which makes more sense if you are traveling on.

Keep in mind that a taxi from the city to the airport will run you $30-35 (or get a ride from Luis Arce). The bus is about $15 and takes all day. They make it as comfortable as possible but it’s still a lot of hours. The plane is about $115, but if you can avoid a hotel as well as a taxi ride, the cost is barely more than the bus. Even if you need a hotel, there is still no comparison in comfort. The actual flight is only about 40 minutes! (prices are without the retired people discounts)

I’m afraid I’ve become totally spoiled. I flew to Panama City, stayed at the Riande, and then caught a direct flight to San Francisco which allowed me to travel on to Seattle on the same day and arrive much less tired. I’m all for spending money frugally but sometimes it’s well worth spending a bit more for your comfort.

Check this page to find the people I mentioned, and a few others who are very good to know. https://blog.thepanamaadventure.com/2017/06/05/good-people-to-know-in-panama

I made it to Seattle last week, thankfully before the new granddaughter arrived and now we are just hanging out, playing with my other granddaughter, and waiting. I know no one is pregnant forever but these last days…. if baby doesn’t come soon I think my daughter’s tummy is going to pop! But this is also a very special time to share together and I’m glad to be here.

 

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Avocados

This year hasn’t been a good one for fruit. Word is there were storms with too much wind that blew the flowers off the trees. There were almost no mangoes and no cashew apples. Avocados, however, did well and my neighbor’s tree was loaded with fruit.

These are only a couple small views of a large, tall, 20 year old tree. They sold most of the avocados to some guys who came over to pick them, and left with over 1000 avocados!

What do you do with avocados? Here are a couple of my favorites

breakfast

Corn tortilla, scrambled egg, avocado, and limón.

Lunch

Tuna, tomato, avocado, limón – mix it all together and eat.

I’ve also made chocolate avocado mousse.

Of course there is also guacamole, chopped avocado in salad, and on tacos and other Mexican food, and they can also be added to smoothies and other recipes, to name just a few ideas.

While I’m here, I have a few other photos

We have a banana flower. It isn’t long before the flower opens to reveal the developing bananas, and in 2-3 months we should have a large head of bananas.

There are many birds who visit the bird bath. These are the most frequent visitors. They splash around until they look totally wet and bedraggled, and then go up in the tree to flap and dry off, only to come down and repeat the whole bathing procedure again, and again, and again….

Last week I was inspired to do some cleaning on the terrace. I have some shelves next to my table, and a couple shallow boxes where I throw pencils, paper, and other odds and ends. I pulled one out, put it on the table, removed a couple pads of paper to find a surprise!

It was a tiny snake. For reference, that’s the red lid of a peanut butter jar. But according to my snake identification book, it’s a type of pit viper, not a snake I want living on my shelf. I sent it over the wall into the woods but I can’t help but wonder where it came from. Where is mom?

Thst just a few photos I’ve had sitting around but hadn’t gotten to in a while. It’s been busy with a couple band gigs and then a trip back to the US. I’ll be here in the Seattle area for almost a month since there is a new grandbaby expected any time now. Maybe I’ll have time for more blogging, or maybe I’ll be too busy playing with grandchildren. We shall see. 🙂

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Press 1 for English

It’s not easy to learn a new language, especially when you are older. I’ve heard many people in the US say all immigrants need to learn English and they resent the phone menu, press 1 for English, 2 para español.

Of course it’s good to learn the language of your adopted country. Some do, some may be in the process of learning, and others may struggle to learn just some basic phrases. Moving to Panama has been a huge lesson for me in how challenging it is to learn Spanish, and after all this time I still don’t understand everything, and it’s still like a puzzle – how can I put together the words and phrases I know to express what I want to say? Some people have a talent for languages. I am not one of them.

Today I had to call the bank. (Scotiabank)  I transferred money a week ago and it still hadn’t shown up at its destination. I can talk on a lot of subjects, but I don’t have experience with troubleshooting a banking problem. I was filled with pure joy when the menu said marca 1 para español, press 2 for English. A very nice English speaking gal came on the line, asked me a bunch of security questions, asked the problem, tracked down the transaction, made a investigation ticket, and told me it should be resolved in 3 days and they will email me.

It saved me having to ask her to repeat things, explain words I didn’t know, and it made the whole process so much less stressful. It’s challenging enough to talk in person, but so much harder on the phone when you have no visual cues. I remember how excited I was the first time I made a dentist appointment on the phone, and I had been here for months at that time.

I will never resent a US phone menu with the option for Spanish!  I understand that even for someone who speaks a lot of English, it can be a huge help.

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Empathy

I am saddened and disturbed by some things I’ve seen recently. Anthony Bourdain of course comes to mind. He touched the lives of so many with his books and TV shows. I love how he brought people together over food with so much respect and humanity. How much pain must someone be in to see death as a better option? I hate to think. Unfortunately he is only one of many. According to https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/. 123 people A DAY die from suicide in the US.

I also found some videos that I think are appalling but unfortunately all too believable. I myself have seen steady streams of people walk by homeless people like they aren’t there. I know there are so many and you can’t help them all and you get numb from seeing it every day. But, a CHILD? This was a social experiment. They put a young girl on the street on a cold winter day with a cardboard sign. There was a steady stream of people passing. A few gave her a bit of money but the vast majority walked by without giving her as much as a glance. Who stopped? Who sat down next to her and offered help? Another homeless person.

https://rumble.com/v33wta-would-you-help-a-homeless-child.html?mref=96wp&mc=9b3nm&instant

In another experiment they put a very obviously pregnant woman on the street with a sign. She sat there for TWO HOURS while a steady stream of people passed before anyone stopped to help. Who helped? A previously homeless person.

https://rumble.com/v30mrh-the-pregnant-homeless-woman-social-experiment.html?mref=96wp&mrefc=2

I don’t think this would ever happen in Panama. I’ve seen an occasional beggar at the bus stop in Santiago, and probably 1/3 of the people who pass drop a coin or two in the cup. I’ve fallen off my bike or had flat tires and always, every single time, people have come to help. What has happened in the US? I myself have come across people needing help and have invariably been the only one stopping.

I’ve also talked with a lot of homeless people. If I am close enough to make eye contact I will stop. More than appreciation for any offer of help, what I felt was a sincere appreciation that I SAW them, I noticed them, I recognized that they were people. I have experienced what it’s like not to be seen, and it’s a terrible feeling
https://silverwheelsblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/12/the-homeless-traveler/

It makes me sad to think of what is going on in the US. It looks like we have no empathy. I know there are many good, caring, loving people, but there are so many people suffering alone. If they are outside of our own circle we often don’t know them, don’t see them. Our government who we hope helps our most vulnerable, it seems there is less and less help while the rich get richer and look the other way. We seem to have more and more trouble seeing the sameness in each other instead of the differences, and we seem less willing to give what we have, even if it’s only a little time and conversation.

I don’t have answers. The complexity of the problems and possible solutions are way beyond my pay grade. But, I don’t like feeling ashamed and distressed and frustrated. When I read the news or see videos like these, that is what I feel. No wonder I rarely read the news.

I was in Washington Square (New York) on my way to class one day when I came across the filming of this. There were maybe a couple dozen people watching, and she was less than 15-20 feet from me with speakers on either side of her blasting the music. It’s as powerful today as it was then.

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Giving Back

I saw this pop up on Facebook recently and every red light went off in my brain. Nooooo!

Always here, right? I’d like to see five of my friends post this message (Not share) to show you are always there if someone needs to talk. I think I know who will.

There are a lot of expats here doing wonderful things, supporting charities, giving locals skills so they can raise their standard of living, running spay/neuter clinics which have drastically decreased the stray animal population, helping orphans and the handicapped, shipping in donated medical equipment, cleaning up beaches and other areas…. I’m sure I know only a small fraction of what people are doing.

Thats really wonderful but unfortunately, not for me. I was a nurse for decades, often battling burnout and the stresses of the job. I dropped out twice to recover and regroup. I wanted to be a medical professional all my life. I wanted to be useful, to do something to help others, to make a positive impact in my little corner of the world. I feel I did that and I touched countless people, and hopefully made their journey a bit easier. I also learned a lot, especially the value of health and life itself and how quickly that can all change.

Nurses must walk a very fine line. You can’t connect with people without caring but if you care too much, you crumble under the weight of it all. I’ve been present at many births and many deaths, profound experiences that I’m grateful for. The hardest though, for me, is the suffering of the patient and the family, usually as they make slow progress towards death. You do what you can but you are basically helpless.

Buddhism helped me enormously, not that I’m a great Buddhist by any means but still, it helped me see life as a deep and peaceful thing with waves only on the top. Sometimes the waves knocked me down and my emotions got the better of me, but knowing it’s only surface disturbance helped. I was able to care about my patients better without letting their suffering rattle me as much. I learned that it’s ok to just let things be, to just be there even if you can’t alter the course of their path.

But, even with all that, by the time I retired I was totally drained dry. I haven’t even mentioned the deteriorating US health care system, the tons of documention required to get paid and prove we aren’t commiting fraud, and the constant push to do more with less. Along with the patients and their issues, I got to watch the increasing stress of my fellow nurses and coworkers as they struggled to provide adequate care and keep the office doors open.

I thought when I was away for a while, I’d start to regain my emotional energy but it’s been well over 5 years and it’s not happening. I feel guilty that I can’t contribute much. I can’t be one of those people who is always there when someone needs to talk. I think one of the hardest things for women and for nurses is learning to take care of ourselves first. We are always putting everyone else’s needs ahead of our own and sooner or later we pay a steep price for that. I value my friends and appreciate them in my life. I want to be there for people. I’m just limited in what I can do. I suppose this is something we all need to figure out. What level of involvement is healthy for us?

Ok, I’ve said my piece and I hope I wasn’t too obnoxious to my friend on Facebook 🤭

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