A Panamanian House

Coming from the US, we are used to a certain style of construction. In Panama things are often done differently. This house came up for rent in our neighborhood so we stopped by to look in the windows.

Houses here are usually made from cement block with cement floors and metal roofs. Most of the houses I have visited have drop ceilings, and many have tile floors. This house, however, has neither. The walls go up to the roof, and the metal roof is visible from inside.

I think I would be concerned about heat in this house. If the sun is beating down on the roof and heating it up, would it be hot inside, or would the heat be trapped above while cooling breezes flow through the windows? Roofs are usually painted a brick red color. Many thought we were odd for painting our roof white but it helped to keep the house cooler.

Single overhead lights are very common here, but I’m not a big fan. Of course you could put in lamps for a softer look, with extension cords, another thing. Usually there is only one electrical outlet per room. I wondered why the hardware store has tons of extension cords for sale until I started setting up our house and quickly figured that out.

This house may look very basic to most of us, but one could certainly be comfortable there if the roof didn’t transfer too much heat to the inside. You would have a sturdy, functional house in a very comfortable neighborhood.

There is a lot to be said for Panamanian style construction, especially in this rainy humid climate.  A friend in the US just had a water heater disaster that filled her house with water and caused all kinds of destruction. Here, there is nothing water can destroy, only cement. Our house has no wood trim, no sheet rock, just a tiled cement floor, block walls finished with a smooth coating of cement, and metal door frames. The interior doors are wood so if the bottoms got wet that could be a problem. The kitchen has lower cabinet doors of wood but they are part of a cement structure and a few inches off the floor, so I think the water would run out under the doors before it would ever get to that height. Maybe our sofa and easy chair could get wet, but the rest of our tables, chairs, shelves, etc and mostly plastic, done to save costs when we arrived but they sure have worked out great in this climate and our lifestyle.

This is another good reason to live here for a while before you buy or build. When we arrived we would have built a US style home because that’s all we knew. Now that we have seen how they do it in Panama, we have totally changed our opinions. Joel’s work in the US was home repairs and remodeling, and he made a lot of his money from wet sheet rock and water damaged wood.  It sure makes life easier when you don’t have to worry about water in the house, termites in the walls, or wood and shingles on the roof.

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A Nighttime Visitor

I was sitting at my table on the terrace the other night, and this beautiful moth landed on my mosquito candle (it wasn’t lit). It just stayed there for the rest of the night until I went to bed, but the next morning it was gone.

I believe it is a sphinx moth, sometimes called a hawk moth, hummingbird moth, or hornworm, scientific name sphingidae. There are many types of sphinx moths. Click this google search link if you want to see some amazing and beautiful moths! I believe this one is the pluto sphinx moth, or Xylophanes pluto.

I often get visitors at night and some of them are really beautiful.

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The Psychological Benefits of Writing

I ran across this article on writing about the benefits of writing. I don’t write this blog as a mental health thing for myself, but rather to record and remember various things that interest me, and to keep friends and family up to date if they want to check in. I do enjoy writing though, and I enjoy the people I have met through this blog. I like being able to express myself, to communicate, and connect with others.

According to the article –

  • Writing can help improve your mood and make you happier
  • Writing helps you communicate by helping to organize and clarify your thoughts
  • Writing helps you work through hard times
  • Writing about good things in your life increases your gratitude
  • Writing things down help you get them out of your head and clears space in your mind
  • Writing helps you learn because you often need to look for new information, inspiration, and insight
  • Writing can be leadership. Your words can influence others. Even criticism can help you grow.

So, if you are inclined to write here are some good reasons to encourage you. For more detail on the above points, click the link at the beginning of this post.

Maybe writing has helped me more than I thought. I know it definitely helps me organize my thoughts and sometimes helps me clear my mind. I have learned a lot through researching various topics and seeking out experiences. And, best of all, I have met a lot of great people and made many good friends.

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First you Whine, then you Celebrate

Not long ago, I was complaining about the papaya that lost its top. We found the top with all the leaves and green fruit lying on the ground.

The top of the papaya tree is laying on the ground

The top of the papaya tree is laying on the ground

But, I also mentioned another tree that was growing on the corner of the house. A couple days ago Joel noticed that it had a ripening fruit. And even better, this tree is short enough that we can reach the fruit, so Joel picked it and brought it inside.

By the back corner of the house

The papaya tree by the back corner of the house

Yesterday I cut open the fruit. I was good! It didn’t have any seeds, not a one. I’m not sure what’s up with that but the fruit was sure good. It’s a real beauty too. What a lovely color.


My first yummy home grown papaya

I also posted yesterday about our three day water outage. I had barely put up the post when the water came back on. Yeah!! It’s great to have water again.


When you haven’t had water for three days, this is a really beautiful sight

The shower felt absolutely wonderful.  I also washed all the dishes with running water, cleaned up the kitchen, put in a load of laundry, did some cooking, and refilled all our water containers.

Now we are celebrating! Life is good in Panama:)

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What it’s Really Like to Be Homeless: From an Educated Woman’s Point of View

I’m whining about water, and then I read this. How far are any of us from being homeless if we lose our income? I saw so many homeless people on my cycling trip in the northwest USA, and those I talked to were a lot like this. Circumstances had knocked them down, and when they were this far down they couldn’t figure out how to get up again. I felt what it was like to be shunned and feared by people you approach. Even worse, this woman talks about also being abandoned by people she thought were friends. The US may be the place to follow your dreams but if your dreams don’t work out, you are on your own.


We’ve all been exposed the seemingly growing population of homeless people, wherever we go. From small towns to big cities, they seem to be everywhere now. As we rush off to our jobs or appointments, we see them sleeping on bus benches, wandering around aimlessly on the streets, and panhandling in front of what seems to be every establishment we enter. We’re amazed (and sometimes amused) by how dirty and disheveled a human being can allow themselves to get. We might even be humored by watching someone carry on a lively conversation with themselves, although we are not completely oblivious to the fact that they suffer from a serious mental illness. It’s also not difficult to reason that some of them have an obvious substance abuse problem. They come in all different ages and colors; some are teenagers with purple hair and tattoos, some are old men with decades of…

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Water Woes

Panama has a lot going on, but in some ways it is still a developing country. It’s also growing at a rapid rate and the infrastructure sometimes struggles to keep up.

We are used to being without water for short periods (up to now, never more than a day), and we learned to keep water on hand. Many people have water storage tanks. Sometimes the water would be off because they are fixing something but it would come back on in the evening. Sometimes during the dry season the water would run low so we’d have rolling water outages, kind of like rolling blackouts. At other times we would have so much rain that the inlets that take water from the river would get clogged with mud and debris, and they would have to shut off the water while they cleared them. We could always tell that because the water would come back muddy at first.

The country has been working hard on the water systems. Millions of dollars have been allocated for improvements and to bring safe water as many people as possible. Things have improved here and we went through the last dry season with the water flowing almost all the time. But, Friday evening we noticed the water pressure was dropping, and then the flow stopped entirely.

It is now Monday afternoon and the water is still off. The whole neighborhood is out as well as some of the houses outside our neighborhood. Nobody knows what is going on. Yesterday a water truck came through and people came out with buckets, pails, gallon jugs, anything that would hold water and the truck filled them all.


It’s interesting to see the reactions of the people. They are grumbling a bit now because it’s going on for so long, but no one seems to be seriously upset. People are going to friends for water to bring home for themselves and neighbors in need. Neighbors went out ahead of the truck to alert other neighbors so everyone could get resupplied. Jokes are made about going to the river, but people do use the river if necessary. I myself have bathed in the river, and also in the rainwater pouring off the roof.

This sure makes you think of the millions of people who have no water in their homes, and who have to carry it home from some outside source. We take it so much for granted and I’m sure we use more than we really need.

I have learned that you can wash an entire day of dishes in a gallon of water. You can also bathe two people, including hair, in a gallon of water. You can flush the toilet with a gallon. I don’t know what it takes to wash clothes though. That can wait until we have water again.

If you are considering living in another country, especially one less developed than your home country, keep in mind that you may have to be flexible about some things. This is inconvenient but in the big picture, we still are very well off. And, meanwhile, they are considerate enough to send a water truck to help us out.

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How Retired Are You? (and a baby lizard)

My nursing license is due for renewal. Should one leave past bridges open? Should you hang on to the possibility of working again?

I am having trouble getting past the feeling that I should maintain my license. I’ve been a nurse since 1979 and though there were a few years when I did other things, it was always my safety net. I could always find work anywhere with that nursing license. But now, this is the first renewal time when I have had another steady source of income thanks to that social security money that arrives every month. What would force me back to work now?

And, if the unimaginable did happen, could I go back to nursing? I don’t think so. It’s been four years and I still feel too fried to consider the possibility. I imagine putting on my scrubs, hoisting my supply bag over my shoulder, picking up my box of paperwork, checking the phone in my pocket, heading out to visit my various patients….. noooooo! Even my former friends and colleagues are often hanging on my their fingernails. It’s very hard to work in the deteriorating US health care system especially in home health where the nurses are responsible for the financial decisions as well as the medical ones.

Maybe you aren’t really retired until you close the door on that past working life. For some it seems to be a fast process – the last day, the farewell party, and that’s it, don’t look back. For me it was a gradual process. I took less cases to give me more time to prepare for the move. Finally I got tired of my phone ringing when I was covered in paint, so I stopped seeing patients entirely. Later, I gave away my scrubs and supplies. But, I still kept the license.

I applied for an inactive license but it will cost $65. Why should I pay it? If I remain inactive for two more years I can’t practice anyway without going back for remedial training. I think it’s time to put the whole nursing thing to rest once and for all. It is time to be really retired and not look back! It is obvious now that Panama is working out, and so is retirement.

On a totally unrelated note, as I was writing this I happened to glance at the dish of lizard eggs and saw that the 3rd one had hatched! I had the phone handy so I was able to get a couple photos.


I put it down in a quiet place on the terrace so hopefully it can start it’s lizard life safely and find a bug or two to eat.

Yeah, I am retired:)

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Who Can You Trust?

Bob Adams has made a number of videos about living and getting things done in Panama. He does a lot of research, and I think he is sensible, honest, and intelligent. He’s not trying to sell anything either, just share helpful information about Panama.

I thought his latest video is worth sharing. Who wants to come to Panama and get involved in a bad real estate or business deal? This country, like anywhere, is not immune to opportunists who will take advantage of someone if they can.

Bob Adams also has a website called Retirement Wave that is well worth a visit. You can find it HERE. You can learn more about the man, and if you sign up for the free update service you’ll gain access to tons of articles on a variety of subjects. He knows a lot and does a lot of careful research so he can bring you the most accurate information. Check it out.

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Problems with Papayas

If I was in charge of papayas around here, nobody would have any papayas. I have been growing them since I’ve been here, but I’ve only had a couple fairly bad fruits in all this time.

They are easy to plant. Drop seeds on the ground and they sprout. Don’t drop seeds on the ground and papayas will still sprout everywhere in places you don’t expect, like the ones I have now. But, in my experience, most of these trees will never reach maturity. The few that do get big and start making fruit seem to want to fall over. We had one very promising tree loaded with fruit and one night I heard this crashing sound, and there it was on the ground with the fruit scattered everywhere (these were the couple bad fruits that I tried to salvage and ripen. Apparently they were too green). The trunk tried to grow again but after a while, it also died.

A couple days ago, Joel went to the window and saw this outside.

What the heck?? The top of the tree just fell off like someone had whacked it off with a machete. The tree has a couple sprouts so it might grow again, but this fruit is certainly lost. I picked out a few of the most promising looking ones and we will see what happens, but I’m not holding out for anything remarkable.

I have a couple other promising trees at the moment, one at the back corner of the house and the other just outside the front fence.

I have another small papaya also just outside the front fence that has male flowers, something you don’t see as often.

Maybe I need some instruction on papayas. I haven’t noticed any other trees getting special care, and I’ve seen others loaded with fruit that seem to be doing OK. Maybe I need to lighten the load on mine and remove some of the fruit so they can support the rest of the fruit? I don’t know. The one that just fell was super tall, but the others have been short enough that removing fruit would be possible. I’ll have to do some asking around.

Meanwhile, thank goodness, other people know how to manage papayas. They are available in the markets year around and they are delicious.

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Hunting for Mangoes

Some of the mango trees are still fruiting and dropping fruit on the ground. One advantage of riding a bike around town is knowing where these trees can be found. There is one near the entrance to our neighborhood, and another just a bit south of us that are my current targets.


The mango tree near the entrance to our neighborhood

The mangoes from this tree are really good! They are flavorful, tender, and without the strings that you find in some mangoes. The other tree is dropping smaller mangoes but they bruise less when they hit the ground, and they are also very good.

One day's findings

One day’s findings

There are hundreds of mango trees around town, and some of them look huge and very old. They don’t all produce fruit every year but with that many trees there is always fruit somewhere. I thought mango season usually winds down when the rains come back in April but for some reason, some trees have fruit now in July.

Frozen mangoes ready to put in bags

Frozen mangoes ready to put in bags

Mangoes freeze well and we have a deep freeze, so I have been picking up mangoes almost every day. I peel them, cut up the fruit, lay them out to freeze and then package the pieces in bags. This works better for me than having one big hunk of frozen mango in a bag. Frozen mango makes a great treat, sort of like ice cream, or it can be used in smoothies or probably any recipe that calls for mango.

ready for storage in the deep freezer

ready for storage in the freezer

We also have frozen bananas. When one of our trees fruits it makes a bunch big enough to share and still have a lot left over. I like bits of banana in my oatmeal pancakes, or it’s good for smoothies or for just a frozen treat. There are also other fruits around town, lemons and other citrus, star fruit, cashew apples, and the other fruit that looks like a cashew apple but has a seed in the middle, and is a lot like an apple when cooked. I wouldn’t take anything growing that could belong to someone, but if the fruit is falling on the ground and not being used, why let it go to waste?

This reminds me of a Florida joke – Why do you have to lock your car in Florida? Because if you don’t, you’ll come back and find it full of citrus😀  Here it’s mangoes because if you have big mango trees, you will have a lot of mangoes.


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