Visiting Boquette and taking the bus


What a day!! Lots of things happened today. I should be catching up on past events but it was such a good day I want to write about it right now. So, things are out of order? This is Panama. Things aren’t always in order (by our USA standards) and that is OK.

It’s Tuesday, 10/16/12 or as they do it here in Panama, 16/10/12. Today was the day of the market in Boquette so I decided to tag along with my friends. It turned out to be an excellent day!

First, I met the guy who manages my house. We did the contract and necessary business, and now I have keys to the house! I’m looking forward to arranging the necessities and getting settled in. Property management here is more than good. He translated the contract line by line to be sure it was all clear. He does all the communicating with the owners, and stops by the house every month to pick up the rent. He even offered to take me to where one can buy good fresh fish! He also gave me all sorts of advice on setting up utilities and necessities. I’m glad I got connected with this good man.


The market in Boquette was also very interesting and I met and talked with a lot of people. Oh dear, can I even remember everyone I met? I connected with Chris the fish guy, Juan Linares, the Argentian chef with the delicious quiche, Lyn with the heavenly soap. Eric ( about life in Panama, and an invitation to enjoy it at his resort. There was a lady with quilts, people with food. I can’t even remember how many people I talked with… the young people with the hand made jewelry, the man with home made bread, produce people….

I was also very excited to talk with two mola sellers at the market. Molas are a very interesting native Panamanian craft. I have seen them on line, read about them, but hadn’t seen them in person. One guy has molas made by his mother and sister. He told me it takes at least a week to make just one of them. The other has molas made by his mother, and a variety of other similar items. I bought hot pads/gloves for the kitchen but I doubt I will be able to actually use them. They are far too beautiful. But, I know the man now so I suppose if I mess them up I can get some more from him. I also plan to get some authentic molas after I get more settled.

I was also happy to meet Elizabeth Whorley. I’ve read her book, and I’ve also read about her coffee farm (I bought a pound) and her quest to learn about natural healing and traditional remedies, which is becoming another successful business because of her excellent results.

Most of all though, in Boquette, I was so happy to meet my teacher! We have met on line almost daily for months, and she has worked and worked and worked with me, trying to get Spanish into my thick head. I am hardly fluent but finally I can get by and understand some of what is said to me. We have also become good friends so it was a great pleasure to finally meet in person without headsets and webcams. This, more than anything, made my day! I met her through Habla Ya. Check out this school for lessons as well as all kinds of field trips and activities. I am looking forward to getting more involved now that I am in the area.


My friends were finished with the market before my teacher was free, so they left me to visit the school and make my own way back home using the buses. This also turned out to be a much better experience than I expected.

My teacher directed me to the bus stop for the first leg of the journey and I boarded the old US school bus that serves as one of the buses on this route. We all know school buses aren’t the height of comfort but it wasn’t bad, just a bit bumpy. It wasn’t totally the bus’s fault though since the road is under construction. The bus became more and more crowded as it stopped for more people, but all was very orderly. Many young people boarded in front of a school but there was no rowdy behavior. All the youngsters and teenagers were very quiet, just taking whatever seats were available and riding silently as the bus proceeded on. In the US things probably would have been a bit different, and much noisier.
The bus’s final stop is at the bus depot in town. You pay as you get off the bus. There is a driver, and an assistant who collects the money and does whatever else is needed to assist the passengers.

I had a bit of trouble finding the bus to San Pablo Viejo where my friends live. There are a number of buses that come through that neighborhood, and a whole lot of buses at the depot! I found the ones that go from city to city, was directed elsewhere and went too far so I was in the section for the buses to Panama City. I was directed back and found the smaller white buses that are the local buses. I asked a man for help and he called another man who took me to a correct bus and handed me off to the helper on that bus.

Again, I was very impressed. The bus filled up until there was standing room only. The helper jumped out at every stop, took bags out of hands, helped people into the bus, stowed the bags and packages at the front if people didn’t have room at their seats. He helped people over puddles (very rainy day here and everything is wet), helped people up and down the steps, took the money (again, you pay as you get off), and alerted the driver when passengers wanted to get off the bus. If someone in the back needed to get off, everyone standing up got off the bus, let the passenger out, and then got back on the bus without the slightest hint of bother. Someone had baby chicks. I could hear them peeping through the whole ride. People had children. There were a number of school kids. Everyone was quiet and polite. If a woman got on and there were no seats, the nearest man immediately got out of his seat and gave it to her. I am very impressed with the bus service here and the people who use it.

Why did I buy a car??! There will be times when I’m glad to have a car, but I expect to be riding the bus frequently also. Why drive when you can relax, read, nap, or whatever you wish while someone else drives.


That is my adventures for today. Tomorrow I pick up my car. Then I need to set up internet and other services at the house. After that it’s time for some serious shopping for necessities so I can start staying at the house!

It will be interesting to see what tomorrow holds.

About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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2 Responses to Visiting Boquette and taking the bus

  1. oldsalt1942 says:

    Since your blog is new, and I’m interested in other expats initial impressions of our adopted country, I’ve started reading your blog from beginning to end.
    Re: buses. The public transportation system here in Panama is simply amazing, Of course it’s a small country, but you can pretty much get to anywhere on public transport. And it’s CHEAP. I saw where you paid $15 and change for the bus from PC to David. With the “Pensiondo” discount it’s $12 something.
    My favorite place in David is the bus terminal. It’s the REAL Panama. There are very few of what people would label “chicken buses.” converted U.S. school buses. Most are 30 seat Toyota Coasters and most are air conditioned. When I first came to Panama I house sat up in Potrerillos Arriba. The a/c would be on from the terminal until we reached Dolega. Then it was shut off and the windows were opened. Potrerillos is nearly 3,000 feet up and running the a/c would be redundant.
    The terminal is filled with color. The kiosks selling cold drinks, snacks and ice cream on the departure side and stores selling everything from hammocks to saddles for horses on the arrival side. The local Ngabe Bugle Indian women in their traditional dress are everywhere. School kids on their way to and from wherever and many of them waiting for a bus are glued to their free, government-supplied, small notebook computers working on their Facebook pages.
    Being carless (by choice) I, like almost all of my neighbors, use the buses all the time. When I want to go shopping at the El Rey supermarket (as good as any in the States) I take the bus from my house into the terminal. With the old-fart discount it’s 60 cents for the 40 minute trip. Then I get on the Dolega bus, one leaves every 10 minutes, and get off by El Rey. That costs me 35 cents. So, for less than two bucks I make the round trip. You’ve been to my house so you know the distance involved and you know, with the price of gas here you couldn’t make it three quarters of the way TO David for that price.
    One of my favorite things to do is to go to the terminal and just get on a bus and see where it goes. Cheap sightseeing.
    Last thing. The Panamanians are among the friendliest anywhere. (They’re also the friendliest in the world according to a recent survey.) Almost every time someone gets on the bus along the route they say, quite loudly, “Buenos dias,” and most of the people, complete strangers to the new rider, will respond in kind. I absolutely LOVE that.


    • kristc99 says:

      Oh yes, I agree! Later on I wrote a post about the bus terminal, and I feel like I’ve only begun to experience the area. I love the whole neighborhood around the bus terminal too, all the local color, shops, people, kiosks on the street – you know what I’m talking about. I’m also totally impressed by the bus service here.


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