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 | 2 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

Hurricane Eta

Hurricanes don’t come to Panama! After living in Florida for many years, this is a huge relief.

But, hurricanes can pass above us and cause a lot of rain. It’s the height of rainy season right now, but we’ve been getting more than expected amounts of rainfall lately. We have been warned to avoid going to the rivers and places likely to flood, and to not leave people who need care unattended, especially in flood prone areas. News sources have shared pictures and videos of water in streets and houses as some rivers have overrun their banks. Yes it’s really wet here right now.

But, this is nothing compared to what is hitting Nicaragua and Honduras right now! They are facing catastrophic winds and rain from a storm that is one of the strongest in decades.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/weather/topstories/hurricane-eta-gains-historic-strength-could-reach-category-5-status-when-it-hits-central-america-on-tuesday/ar-BB1aCKqA?ocid=msedgntp

This hurricane could cause devastating loss of property and lives, and to people who often don’t have a lot to start with. I am very concerned about our neighbors to the north. And of course, there’s also the pandemic.

In other news, pandemic wise, things continue to be stable as Panama reopens the economy. Daily warnings and advisories continue asking us to be vigilant with safety precautions and biosecurity. Widespread testing and contact tracing continues. This is a week of national holidays when many people usually travel to celebrate with friends and family. Teams have been at the bus station in Panama City giving out packets of safety information, masks, gloves, and sanitizer. There are concerns that infected but asymptomatic people will carry the virus to others, so everyone is being warned to be extra careful during these holidays. This whole situation has been really hard for many people but when I see what is happening in other parts of the world, I’m thankful for everything Panama is doing to keep its people safe.

And, it’s election day in the USA. The world is watching and waiting for the outcome.

Posted in Panama | 8 Comments

Spooky Stuff

Happy Halloween everyone!

But no, I’m not writing about Halloween here, but something much more sinister. I ran across this article here – https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/what-it-s-like-to-get-locked-out-of-google-indefinitely/ar-BB1azb7I?ocid=msedgntp It’s about someone who was locked out of Google, supposedly for violating terms of service. But, he never could find out anything about the violation, or any way to get his account back so he lost tons of very important personal and work related things.

We use email. We store things in our email accounts. We save photos in our Facebook accounts and who knows where else. We buy music, books, and other digital merchandise, and probably keep the details in our email accounts. We log into websites with our google or Facebook accounts. We keep calendars, address books, and other info on line. There is so much of our stuff out there that we probably hardly realize the extent of it all. And, this is just our personal use. It’s possible that many could lose even more critical and expensive work related things.

Just me… a retired person with a blog and the usual other stuff. This blog has 8 years worth of photos and experiences, and I would hate to lose all that. My google account has my mail, calendar, address book, photo storage, and who knows what else. My Facebook account also has years of experiences and is my main way of staying in contact with family and close friends. Heck, I’d even lose Google Keep where I keep my running shopping lists, and the many calendar reminders that keep me on top of things.

What do we do? Do we send copies of anything important to backup accounts? We have so much of our lives on line and with these huge companies that don’t seem to have human beings to go to. How do we protect ourselves?

So, here’s a project to keep us all busy. Figure out what you really don’t want to lose, and then figure out a way to back it all up. After decades of using computers I should know that nothing in technology is fool proof or loss proof, but this article was still a wake up for me.

Any advice? experiences? comments? anything to add? Write it in the comments! We will all thank you.

I hope you all are having a good Halloween weekend. I know there can’t be the usual festivities but hopefully you all can find something enjoyable for the occasion. Here in Panama they don’t officially have Halloween, but every year I see more Halloween decorations, costumes, and festivities so Halloween fun is more and more of a thing here too.

You all take care of yourselves and each other! See you next time.

Posted in Panama | 10 Comments

Buenos Dias!

Good morning. Happy Monday. What’s going on with you all? I don’t read the news much because so little of it is good, but I have a general idea. So many of you are dealing with more virus surges, along with everything else mother nature throws at us and whatever else we do to each other.

Here in Panama thing are changing as they open up more and more of the economy, but other things are not changing, thank goodness. Our virus numbers (knock on wood!) are staying pretty steady. There continue to be strict requirements of businesses and individuals to avoid spreading the virus. Thousands of tests are done every day, and teams go house to house for contact tracing. Hotels are available for those who aren’t sick enough to go to the hospital but need to be separated from others. Care packages are given to people in homes (medicines, vitamins, food, thermometers, etc.) and there is follow up to be sure they have what they need so they don’t go out while quarantined, and to monitor their recovery. Hospital censuses are staying stable, and mortality rates continue to be considerably less than world averages. It’s difficult for everyone, and terribly difficult for many who haven’t been able to earn money but things seem to be working, and people are generally very cooperative.

The borders and airport have opened, but there is only a fraction of the usual flights coming and going. But, it’s a start and it’s going well. People arriving need to have a negative COVID within the last 48 hours, or they will be given a rapid test on arrival (word is it takes about 30 minutes and costs $50). If you test positive you will be quarantined in a hotel for 7 days (paid for by the government). If a second test in 7 days is also positive you will be quarantined for another 7 days. Otherwise you are free to go.

Curfew has been changed from 7pm to 11pm, and now includes weekends (we had been restricted to home all weekend. Yesterday was the first Sunday in many months that people have been allowed out, and the first time in many months that I have been out at all for something other than exercise and necessities. I went with my friends to help them tend their land and fruit trees a bit north of Dolega and it was a beautiful and wonderful day!

But, except for the above we have been home all the time, and the internet has been our main source of information. One great source is Bob Adams, who has been here for years and makes it his business to know what’s going on in the country. Check out his YouTube channel at this link for info on the current situation and a multitude of other subjects. https://www.youtube.com/user/globalist426 ..

It’s interesting… an aside here…. it’s interesting how much people here follow what’s going on in the USA. For the last few weeks, every single person who I’ve had a conversation with has brought up the subject. They are very polite and gently find out my views before saying anything for or against, but once they feel free to share their feelings they let me know that they are very worried about the virus and other issues in the USA, and they are watching the upcoming election closely. I don’t want to start any discussions on politics here, but I have to say I’m very tired of explaining that I cannot explain what’s going on in my home country.

So, that’s about all I have to report at the moment. We continue to be thankful every single day that we are here for a multitude of reasons. I miss my family terribly and look forward to the day when we can be together again, but I know this is best for everyone at this time.

Meanwhile, we live in an absolutely gorgeous place! Here’s a few from my day yesterday.

You all take care of yourselves and each other. I know we are all so tired of all this, but we still have to deal with it so be kind to each other, and help those who are having a hard time. And, remember especially to take care of yourself!

Posted in Panama | 6 Comments

Eight Years in Panama

Today, eight years ago, I arrived in Panama. Has it been good? Oh yes! It has worked out better than I ever imagined it would.

I don’t have that feeling that I’m in a *gasp*… foreign country any more. I know my way around, I know how most things are done, and I have warm relationships with many people here. The language has been the biggest challenge but I can finally understand most of what is said to me, and I can say what I want to say most of the time.

But, there is still always something new and that keeps life endlessly interesting. There are the people, their lives, culture, humor, their ways of thinking. There’s new food, plants, birds, bugs, and new places to explore. And, there are also my non Panama specific interests – learning to play bass, books to read, things to study, biking, blogging, painting, photography, and other interests that I never have enough time to do. I’ve often been asked – now that you are retired, what will you DO all day?? Ha! Not a problem.

I’ve come to look at getting older as a huge blessing. If you are healthy and financially OK, you can be free! You don’t have to work. You don’t have to answer to anybody. You have to do very little that you don’t want to do. Your time is your own. You can sit in the yard all day and watch the birds fly by, or you can study nuclear physics. It doesn’t matter if what you do brings in money. You can do what you like just because you want to do it.

It’s been very interesting to see my home country through the eyes of others. How could some little country in Central America compete with the USA, the best and most powerful country in the world (or so we are raised to believe)? But, what is “best”? The priority here is family, friends, and enjoying life. People work, often for long hours for little pay, but they don’t seem as stressed, as pressured by the “time is money” mentality. Everyone has a hammock and there is no shame in using it, or in just hanging out with family and friends. Those studies that determine that happiest countries in the world, that list is always topped by many Latin countries.

I feel so much kindness, inclusion, respect, and friendliness here. I’m very different in many ways, but the people have welcomed me as one of their own without judgement. I don’t worry about having enough to pay the bills, or worry about affordable, good quality, rapid health care if I need it. I don’t worry about natural disasters. I don’t worry about needing help and not getting it. I don’t worry about loneliness among these friendly people. Even in the middle of this pandemic, I don’t feel like I have much of anything to worry about.

People sometimes ask if I will return to the USA to live at some point. No, not by my choice. Give all this up? for life there and all the stresses that go with that? Are you kidding? No. I think not. We wake up every single morning giving thanks for this life here.

Posted in Panama | 18 Comments

Expat Life in the Internet Age

We are very fortunate to have so much technology at our disposal. I know it can be misused and make you crazy sometimes, but overall it’s really useful. I just discovered on line library features, which got me to thinking about all the things we do on the internet.

Many of us leave important family and friend relationships when we move. For me, internet access was a “must have”. I wasn’t living close to my kids before so that wasn’t a big adjustment, and I actually saw more of them on video chats than I had when we only used phone calls. Now that I have grandkids and can’t visit because of COVID, these video chats are more important than ever. We also have a Facebook messenger family group that we use every day. It’s amazing that you can communicate with anyone, anywhere, instantly, any time you wish.

Internet shopping is another thing. Yes, you can still shop and get things sent here, but it will take longer, cost more, and involve a mailing service if you don’t want to keep going to the post office to see if your package has finally arrived. Gone are the days when you click and expect your package at your door in a couple days, or even a few hours! But this makes you think more seriously about what you buy. Do you really need it? Can you get by without it, or with something available locally? We tried to downsize our life when we came here so for us, this has been a good thing.

Maps and navigation have been a huge help. When we first arrived paper maps were the thing for finding your way around. What a pain! Our first visit was to Panama City and I don’t think we ever, not even once, found our way somewhere without getting lost. The city is confusing! Then, we discovered WAZE which was a huge help. Now google maps works also, and we’re so spoiled by the “map lady” that I never want to go without her, even if I’m only going downtown.

Google translate is also permanently running in my browser and installed in my phone. There is always a new word, something I don’t understand, or something I don’t know how to say. I carried a dictionary for literally years, but now that I’m able to explain my way around most needs, google translate is my go to thing.

We also have information from around the world at our fingertips. My banana has a flower. How long until we should harvest the fruit? What is this snake? Is it dangerous? And news! We can access news sources from anywhere in the world. With the fires in my daughter’s CA city, I log on to her local newspaper 2-3 times/day to see what’s happening (she’s OK, thank goodness, but life is still far from normal)

Groups and forums – Facebook has become the place for so much. There are groups for expats in Panama, for expats in David, Boquete, or whatever location interests you, where you can ask questions of people living there. There are also other websites with similar forums, and other forums on any subject you can imagine can be found out there somewhere.

Panama seems to run on WhatsApp, and groups are also possible there. I’m in a group for our neighborhood. There are prayers, jokes, stories, and news. Is your power out too, and did anyone report it? Or, someone has a question, or needs help with something. If you visit here and nobody knows who you are, a question will probably go to the group to find out if you belong here!

And of course, there are many other things we do on the internet. We can email lawyers, banks, pretty much anyone with a click. You can see movies, videos, museum tours, and a multitude of other things. Now, especially in this time of COVID, many people are working on line and kids are going to school on line. It’s hard to imagine life without the internet!

And, my most recent discovery, libraries!! You can get a library card on line with the Broward County Library (Miami area), and with that you can access countless eBooks, audio books, and movies, all for free! It’s fantastic! I’ve been a huge fan of audible.com for many years, but I’ll be spending less now that I have access to libraries. I find the library movie sections much easier than Netflix to explore and we’ve been watching some great movies. Thank you, Facebook friends, who introduced me to on line libraries!

How is the internet in Panama? That depends a lot on where you are. Internet probably isn’t 100% anywhere but here in David we’ve found it very adequate. It stutters occasionally, especially at high traffic times, but it rarely goes out. We are able to stream movies and do everything we need. We have a mid price plan for about $38/Mo and I think we pay for 7mg, but a speed test just said we’re getting 14+mg at the moment (It’s Sunday morning, 9am right now)

People in more rural areas may have slower internet, and/or need to pay a lot more for it. If you are moving here and internet is important, always ask about the internet in the location and the home you are considering. Things may be different from one block to another depending on equipment and where they have run cables.

We have become so dependent on the internet, and it has become a part of our lives in so many ways! It’s almost hard to imagine life without it. Just think though, what was it like for people in the past? People took off across oceans, never to see their families and friends again, and they were lucky if a ship brought them a letter that had been written months before. Or, what would it be like to watch your kids leave, never to see them again, and maybe not even know if you had grandkids? No… no no. We are SO fortunate! We can talk with our loved ones as much as we want, and video isn’t exactly like being there but it’s pretty close. We have so much to be thankful for.

Posted in Panama | 6 Comments

Living with Mother Nature

There are many things I love about Panama, and right up there is the minimal suffering inflicted on us by mother nature. I puts your head in such a calmer place.

I grew up with New York blizzards that can bring a whole city to a standstill. I didn’t like the miserable cold then and I like it even less now.

I have lived in the Midwest. All spring, the tornado warning symbol is in the corner of your TV screen. You always need to know where you could go in a hurry if a tornado approaches. They come with minimal to no warning and they can be incredibly devastating. There are also blizzards and bitter cold spells in winter, and blistering heat in the summer. I learned to drive in the snow and icy road conditions, no fun.

I lived in Florida. June through December is hurricane season so you spend these months watching and wondering where and how badly the next one will hit. I’ve seen many pictures of what a hurricane can do, but seeing the reality in person is quite another thing.

And now, we have all been worried about my California (Santa Rosa) daughter and her family. They fled the fires in the middle of the night while flames came down the hill in front of them like rivers. They are very fortunate that they are all fine, their house and neighborhood are also ok, and they are some of the few who have been allowed back to their homes. Many are still evacuated, and many have lost homes and business. Thankfully at this point, there are no reported deaths in her area but many fires are still burning and uncontained. Winds are predicted to shift again today and it’s going to be 101F degrees.  And, all this is going on in the middle of a pandemic.

Here we sit in Panama…. Is it going to rain? Wow that was a lot of rain yesterday.  The sun is hot. It’s cloudy and cooler today. That pretty much covers all the weather related topics. Below 70F is very unusual. We’ve never seen 101F either and we’re in hot David. We don’t get tornadoes or hurricanes. We get crazy amounts of rain sometimes so flooding is possible but people generally know to respect potential flood areas. I don’t think I’ve heard anything about mud slides here, except maybe along the Panama Canal where dredges are in constant operation anyway. So the extent of our weather related concerns are rain and sun.

Every day we hear about the problems in the USA and other parts of the world. Every day we give thanks for our good fortune here. You learn to live with the treats of natural disasters, but you don’t fully realize the relief of no threats until you’ve experienced it. Thank you Panama.

There’s a pandemic, It’s fire season in the west, and hurricane season in the east. We must take care of our earth. Climate change is only making natural disasters stronger and more frequent. Please take care of yourselves and each other. Please be safe out there.

 

Posted in Panama | 12 Comments

Nothing to Say

I just realized it’s been about three weeks since I’ve written anything. There just hasn’t been much to say. But, there is news and progress towards returning the country and the economy to a more normal status so that’s definitely something.

Bob Adams is a good person to follow. He posts useful videos on his YouTube channel on various topics and of course lately, the topics on everyone’s mind are COVID and the economy. https://www.youtuSept 7be.com/user/globalist426

There are also frequent news updates on the health department website. One of the more interesting ones was published on August 26  https://www.yomeinformopma.org/info_detail/185  It presents a schedule for moving forward – Sept 7, restart construction and various retail and commercial businesses, Sept 14th, loosen the mobility restrictions, Sept 21 – sports, but without the public, and Oct 12, the majority of other businesses and activities will reopen and resume.

The country is looking at a RT or transmission rate less than 1%, (meaning that one infected person infects less than one other person), a death rate of less than 3%, the availability of hospital beds over 20%, and the availability of ICU beds over 15%. If numbers start to exceed these thresholds I think we can expect opening to stop or reverse, so wish us luck! But, the country is doing more and more testing and has gotten super serious about contact tracing, and all the health related precautions and restrictions will continue, so maybe we’ll do OK. The next month or two will tell.

The Oct 12 openings include international flights into the country, but with restrictions. They are saying you must present a negative COVID test that is no more than 48 hours old and I just read that if you don’t have one, they will test you (at your expense) on arrival. If you test positive you will be sent to a quarantine hotel or hospital for 14 days. If another test in 7 days is negative you can go free. Otherwise you complete the 14 days. Things change as new plans are published or things are clarified so if you are traveling, please do not take my word for anything! Do your own research and keep up with the news.

I’ve noticed more activity around town in the last couple weeks. We’ve only gone biking and done a few errands nearby, but it seems like there is more traffic, more people out, and construction workers are back on jobs that were stalled. Everyone continues to wear masks. It looks normal to me now and I’d feel naked without mine. You walk through an alcohol cleaning box upon entering any store or establishment, and you get your temperature taken and a generous squirt of alcohol or gel for your hands. We’ve had so much practice with social distancing that it almost doesn’t take any thought now.

Of course people are impatient and frustrated. We have been restricted for months and there have been many many people out of work all this time. Besides the critical needs of food and shelter, people have been separated from family and friends. Kids are all doing school on line which is hard for them, the teachers, and the parents, and more challenging here since internet isn’t ubiquitous. We (and the whole world) continue to live with uncertainty. Who will get sick? When will things return to “normal” and what will that look like? All too often, we seem to take a step forward and then step right back again which is discouraging. But, overall I see very little complaining here. People carry on, help each other wherever they can, and seem to realize that whether we agree or not, this is the reality we are living with and the authorities are doing what they can in a situation that is new and unknown for everyone.

For us, things haven’t really changed. We wake up every day and give thanks that we have everything we need and want. Our area has had more cases than others so we continue to be locked down on the weekends, but since we don’t want to go out anyway it’s not a problem for us personally. During the week try to bike for exercise at least every couple days, and do the few errands we have by bike when it’s possible. I do notice the lack of physical contact though. Some musician friends and others are making tamales and other goodies to earn money. They stop by with deliveries but greetings are elbow bumps at best, and smiles are hidden by masks. Conversations with friends and neighbors are at a distance, and there is no kissing on the cheek in greeting like I’d gotten used to pre-COVID. I notice there isn’t all the chatting while waiting in lines like there used to be. Will the general feel return to the very friendly Panamanian way of life at some point?

But, other things haven’t changed at all. The birds still sing, and the bugs still visit. It’s rainy season now. I woke up to a very cool, still, overcast morning but before long the sun came out and the rest of the morning was just gorgeous. Then, as afternoon wore on, I started hearing thunder in the distance. Sure enough, the thunder and the rain arrived and we had, or are still having a heck of a downpour! This doesn’t happen every day but there are days when the thunder shakes the house and an incredible amount of rain falls from the sky. It’s a great time to be in a comfortable, dry house and enjoy the sound of the rain outside.

Well… I had nothing to say… so 900+ words later I think I’m finished saying it. HA!

Please, take care of yourselves and each other out there. Kindness is more important than ever.

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments