Errands and Renewing the Driver’s License

It’s December, just a few days before Christmas. They take Christmas very seriously around here so the city, and especially the shopping areas, tend to be super busy. But, we had things to do. And somehow, we were super lucky with everything!

We needed to renew the car insurance. The office is downtown at Cervantes Park, and there is never any parking down there. So, Joel waited in the car while I went upstairs to the office. The very sweet ladies had my papers waiting for me and I was ready to go in no time. Chatting and catching up on how everyone has been doing took most of the time!

Then, I came home and took my Fender bass apart. I bought new pickups (the electronic parts that send the signal to the amplifier), new strings, and a new pickguard (the plastic part of the front of the guitar). I was really pleased with the ease of installation, and also happy that Joel was with me. It didn’t work – maybe try switching those two wires – that did it! until I put everything back together… but Joel realized that the metal shielding on the back of the pickguard was transmitting a signal from one knob to another. We scraped off the shielding behind one of the knobs so it wasn’t touching, and I was back in business. It looks and sounds wonderful and I’m very happy! I found out that the grounding wire is necessary to prevent a constant low buzz, so Joel soldered that in today. Tomorrow if all is well, I’ll put everything in place and put all the screws back in.

Then we had a zoom meeting with an estate planning lawyer. We’re not getting any younger and I’m relieved to be getting organized. I didn’t know you can hire people to manage your finances, your health care decisions, and serve as executor of your estate as these needs arise. Hopefully our kids won’t have to worry about a thing down the road. My neighbor and good friend was not happy to hear we are doing this because like her, we are going to live forever, but when your family has parents living in another country I think it’s even more important to be realistic.

That was yesterday. Today, we decided to tackle Pricesmart. We’ve been gone for a while and the shopping list was growing. We were prepared to deal with holiday crowds, but there was nothing! Maybe it’s because it’s the day before payday for most people. and they are waiting for their money? Traffic was very reasonable, there were police helping with traffic at busy intersections, and Pricesmart was pretty calm. Yay!

So, next project, get Joel’s driver’s license renewed. He’s over 70 so it needs to be done every 2 years, and he needs a document from a doctor stating he is in good enough health to drive. We headed to Chiriqui Hospital where you can usually get a doctor on the spot. The first guy they recommended was out for the day, but his secretary took us down the hall to another office. We had to wait about 20 minutes for the doctor and his secretary to come back from lunch, and then we were seen…. well I don’t know if we could even go as far as to say Joel was seen. ha! The doctor asked for ID, printed the document, had Joel check that the info was correct, and done. Pay the secretary $40 on your way out. He didn’t ask Joel as much as an “how are you”. But we had what was needed, so were happy.

Then, off to the Sertracen office where they issued licenses. Traffic again was very reasonable, and there was a policeman directing traffic in front of Chiriqui Mall (thank you, because it’s usually a mess there!). We found a parking spot quickly and went into the office, and there was nobody! No line, no wait, no crowd, wonderful! They took Joel’s info, sent him to talk with a gal who verified all his info, took his picture, and gave him the vision test. The test was so funny! Here is a circle missing a bit, kind of like the letter C. Now tell us where the missing spot is pointing, to this side, to that corner, etc. Thank goodness there was a guy who could explain it in English because I had no idea what she was trying to tell us. Is that circle a car? and it wants to go that way? Or is it me wanting to go there? I had NO idea! And, she was explaining it with a card and the actual test was on the computer.

Next was the hearing test. Joel wears hearing aids, and the higher frequencies are especially troublesome. He said he guessed at a lot. If the last sound was in my right ear, maybe I’ll say I heard something in my left ear next. But whatever he did worked, and they passed him on to the cashier. It usually costs $40 but with all his discounts for his age, it was $16. Then, go over there and get your new license. Again, he was asked to verify that everything was correct, and we were done. Whew!

You really shouldn’t drive without a license, ID, and paperwork in the car (title, insurance, and the paper that says you paid for your license place if you weren’t able to get one). There are police checkpoints here and there and if they ask and you don’t have, you could get your car towed which is an expensive hassle. Legally you are also supposed to carry a driver’s manual, accident form, fire extinguisher, and a reflector in case you are stopped on the side of the road.

After all that, we realized we didn’t get any milk at Pricesmart, which was at the top of the list. *sigh*. So, we stopped at El Rey supermarkets on our way home. It wasn’t crowded either and we had no problems.

That was a lot of stuff in a couple days! We do have many relaxed days but it’s also regular life, and there are things you have to get done. We still have to go down the street and pay the electric bill, and the veggie guy comes tomorrow. But nothing else major is planned for this week, not until Sunday when the band resumes our Sunday evening gigs.

I hope all your errands and activities are also going smoothly. Best wishes for a happy and fun holiday season! And as always, take care of yourselves and each other. Too many of us are dealing with too many challenges so check on your friends and neighbors, and help where you can.

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Back from the USA

We had a wonderful time! The hardest thing for me with Covid was not being able to see my family, and especially the grandchildren. Video chats are OK but definitely not the same, especially with young children. Travel is more of a hassle with the covid concerns but I’m so thankful that it is possible.

We started in California. My grandson and I played lots of Minecraft, and my granddaughter (with the rainbow cast on her broken leg) amazed me with her ability to hop everywhere on one leg when she didn’t feel like using her walker. She doesn’t read and write much yet, but that didn’t stop her from finding lots of videos of other kids with broken legs. She had tips on how to manage mobility, how to dress, and what to expect at the doctor when the cast comes off. Nobody told her to look for videos. She did that all on her own!

And, good news, the cast was removed while I was there and she was given a walking boot. She was hesitant to walk on the leg at first but every day she did a bit more, and today I got a video of her running down the sidewalk on both legs, and without the boot!

Next, we went to Seattle to see my other daughter and her family. Again, we had so much fun reading books, making arts and crafts things, working in the kitchen, and I can hardly remember everything but we were busy and having fun all the time. It was cold though. Seattle is cloudy and damp in the winter and the days are short. We are such delicate hothouse flowers after decades of living in warm climates. But I was with the people most important to me so I was super happy.

Travel is more of a hassle with covid. Every country has different requirements so the poor airlines have to keep up with it all and make sure everyone has what they need to enter their destination country. I flew on United and they did their best. They encouraged social distancing (impossible IN the plane though), handed out disinfecting wipes as you got on the plane, and made announcements that masks were to be ON and only removed for sips and bites, not the whole time you had a drink or snack in front of you. But still, there are no testing requirements to travel within the US, and none to enter Panama if you are fully vaccinated so you have no idea of the status of your fellow passengers. But on the positive side, I had some really fun and interesting seat neighbors which made the hours on the plane much nicer.

It always strikes me as strange. You wake up in one world, spend some hours on planes, and are landed in a very different world all in the same day. After Panama has become my “normal”, the US looks so neat and orderly. There are road signs everywhere and no potholes in the streets, and no weeds and overgrown areas anywhere. There is SO much stuff!! There are stores and more stores and more stores, all full of things to buy. There aren’t just carrots, but sliced carrots, baby carrots, orange or white or purple carrots, organic or not, carrots with tops or without…. same with onions, multiple varieties, and yogurt, and 94 different kinds of beer, and so on. There are restaurants everywhere you look, and delivery is available for everything, and quickly.

Yet, there are still people living in the street, or in cars and vans. There are still people suffering from lack of basic health care and basic necessities. Living in the US is super expensive!! Anytime I think something is expensive here in Panama I am given a reality slap in the face when I go shopping in the US. And housing? Crazy expensive. I know California and Seattle are expensive areas but sheesh. Nice but fairly ordinary single-family houses in my Seattle daughter’s neighborhood were selling for over $1 million, and hundreds of thousands over asking price. How do the people working in the supermarket or serving coffee afford to live? And, there are a lot of them serving coffee. There seems to be a Starbucks on everything other corner. I’m very thankful that both of my daughters have good jobs and good partners so they are doing very well. Unfortunately this is not so for too many other people.

We wake up every day and give thanks for our lives here. We have enough to cover all our expenses. We have a comfortable house, everything we need, good friends and neighbors, and health care if we need it. I’m blessed with four amazing grandkids, and I can visit whenever I want but I can’t see ever wanting to live in the US again. It just works so much better for us here, for a long list of reasons. But, I’m also thankful for the time I can spend with my family.

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Where in the World….

Where in the world is the blogger on this site?

I don’t know what happens. I keep busy every day and the days fly by. We may be retired in a beautiful place but we aren’t tourists. It’s regular life with chores and errands and routine stuff that needs to get done.

The car is misbehaving. The temperature gage randomly says it’s hot when it’s not. The mechanic nearby fixed everything on the list but this was still malfunctioning. So we took it to our regular guy in the next town which means time to take it in, and time to pick it up, and it’s still misbehaving *sigh*.

The dog needed her nails cut. She has black nails and I can’t see the quick so I’m afraid to cut them, so I get the vet to do it.

I got a new bass. It was a great find brought about by a series of lucky coincidences, but it involved a few days of repairs, cleanup, refinishing, and adjustments. And our Sunday gigs need preparation, practice, load up and set up, an evening of playing, tear down, loading …. you get the idea. And we also managed to have a band practice during the week for the first time in a while.

We had 2 1/2 weeks between our Belize trip and our USA trip for all this. No wonder I haven’t had much free time! We also fit in a supermarket run, some socializing, and some exercise. Hopefully things will be a little calmer when we get back.

Now I am in the USA with family, and we’re having a wonderful time! But we are also plenty busy with two active, energetic grandkids in the family. I have a moment here while the little one is at the doctor about her broken leg. She’s amazing though. She can hop all over on one foot, run around with the walker like nobody’s business, and she has looked up YouTube videos on her own by other kids with broken bones, so she has lots of information and tips on how to cope. It’s interesting to see how both kids use the internet extensively to look up information and learn new things.

The family has returned now with good news. my granddaughter has a walking boot and can start resuming normal activity as tolerated! yay! It’s been a tough few weeks.

I think I’ll close now and go back to playing with the kids. Maybe next week I’ll have some time to check in again. I hope all is well with you all out there! Take good care of yourselves and each other.

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Belize, the Party Boat

Yes, more boating, more time on the water! The main purpose of this trip, along with all the other fun stuff, was to celebrate Jane’s birthday. Tuesday was the day and Jane known how to organize a day in style. There’s a TV show called Below Decks about a luxury yacht. Of course there are various dramas and problems that make the show, but the guests who pay to be pampered hopefully know nothing about that and only have a great time. I felt like one of those guests!

It’s a house boat so there’s room to move around easily and it’s stable and smooth in the water. There’s a kitchen, front room area, a space for sitting on the front, and bathrooms and more space in the back. There’s also an upper deck with a covering for just hanging out and relaxing.

There was fresh fruit and juices waiting for us when we arrived. That’s the birthday girl in the second picture, and the upper deck in the third picture. We also had rum fruit punch, or rum pineapple ginger punch (my favorite) to sip on as we cruised along on the water. Gus was our tour guide and captain again, assisted by Leon and two lovely girls who spent most of the day in the kitchen.

We were taken to a swimming spot where they put out floating toys for us to relax on. There were also paddle boards and kayaks for anyone who wanted to use them. Leon, the assistant would walk out with a glass of whatever you wanted to drink, and chips and salsa was served on the water. Talk about feeling spoiled. Your every wish was attended to just for the asking.

Meanwhile, the girls were inside making a delicious lunch for us – tacos, chicken, beans, rice (with lime and cilantro – SO good), coleslaw, and a large assortment of salsas and condiments. I need to research Belizean food. There’s a lot of things I would love to have at home.

They guys were late for lunch because they went off fishing. But, they came back with a number of good sized fish which they cleaned and cooked on the spot. That’s a fresh as fish can possibly be! And of course, it was also delicious.

OH! I forgot! Yesterday on that boat trip when we went snorkeling, after we left the marine park Gene, the assistant, went diving for conch. He found quite a few, and they were cleaned and chopped and made into ceviche on the spot. They had a jar of chopped cucumber, tomato, and onion. They added the conch and lots of lime juice, and served it with corn chips. It was SO good. Our new comment which was used often is “this does not suck!”

So, back to the birthday party, we swam, ate lunch, ate fish, sipped punch, and hung out as the boat made it’s way through the water on a beautiful day. Meanwhile the girls made really yummy banana fritters for all of us. I’m glad I only ate a couple because then it was time for singing, well wishing, and birthday cake! Happy Birthday Jane, and thank you for including us in this wonderful celebration.

As we headed home, we passed quite a few of these fish traps. Gene explained that the fish swim along the shore, then along the fence which leads them into the enclosure through a funnel, and then they can’t find their way out. If there are pelicans on the fence there are fish, since any sensible pelican will appreciate the ease of catching fish in an enclosure. In the other picture you can see a distant island, Blackadore Caye. It belongs to Leonardo de Caprio. He wanted to make an eco friendly resort but they have been working on it for years and it’s still not ready. We also passed quite a few other resorts. They look beautiful but isolated, and some haven’t been finished or realized their investor’s dreams for whatever reason.

So, after a most enjoyable day with all our new friends, we made it back to the hotel for another nice dinner. We’re very happy with the Sunbreeze Hotel, and with the Blue Water Grill that is on site. It’s really nice to have such a comfortable place to land, and such an excellent restaurant. We’ve gotten to know most of the staff too and we’ve had a great time chatting with them and getting to know them.

It’s Thursday afternoon now, and we will head home tomorrow morning. As always, even after a really fun trip, it’s good to get home again. And for more good news, my granddaughter is doing well with her broken leg and probably won’t need any further treatment. Now her biggest problem seems to be boredom, and they are trying to get her back to school and back to whatever other normal activities she can manage.

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More Boating in Belize

It seems like all we have done is go out on boats, but when you’re in a beautiful place known for the clear water, a huge coral reef, and a marine park, why not.

We had an all day trip planned but we weren’t sure when, until I got a message on Monday to be ready to go at 10:30. The boat picked us up at the dock of the hotel where we are all staying, and headed out to the coral reef for some snorkeling while we snacked on fresh fruit. Many thanks to Sharon and her GoPro camera for these photos, and to Gus, our awesome tour guide, who also took some of these photos. There’s a young nurse shark, a barracuda that we found hanging out under the boat, a turtle, a ray, and other various fish we saw along the way.

The water was relatively calm but you still got rolled around a bit, and eventually it made me queasy. The guys on the boat made me coca cola with lime, and I was surprised at how much it helped, and very quickly.

It was interesting that on our way out we were met by an official who handed us arm bands. That said that our tour had paid the fees for going into the marine park. Our tour guide said they are a different color every day and you never know which color is coming next, which makes it hard to cheat the system.

Next stop – Shark Ray Alley where we could swim with sharks. I know it sounds creepy but they are harmless nurse sharks. They are still pretty big though. They have learned to come when they hear the boat because Gus had fish to toss to them. I was still a little queasy so getting back in the water wasn’t appealing, and I probably had a better view from the boat anyway.

Next, we headed off to Caye Caulker, a nearby island, for lunch. Joel drove the boat, I drove the boat, everyone got a chance to drive the boat! It wasn’t exactly hard – just keep it pointed in that general direction. ha! Gene was blowing on a conche shell, and Gus was conferring with Joel at the helm.

Lunch on the island was a traditional meal passed through a window at a little hole in the wall place by a nice lady, and we ate at a picnic table on the beach. Beans and rice, potato salad, chicken, a piece of fried plantain, and it was really really good. Sometimes you just can’t beat street food.

After lunch we set off to explore a few things on the island. The first stop was to feed the tarpon. They are protected so people don’t eat them, but they hang around in an area where people clean their fish and feed them scraps. We were taught to hold the tail of a fish between your thumb and knuckle of your first finger, and hold it over the water. The fish jump out of the water and smack your hand pretty hard when they grab the fish, but with your hand held flat they can’t bite you.

https://www.youtube.com/shorts/3j1_mbhSq0o (I don’t know why this one won’t embed, but the link works)

Here’s a few pictures of the tarpon area. Then, we walked to another area where they had nets in the water to help the vegetation and coral grow. That kind of striped thing in the middle of the 4th picture is a sea horse. I walked to the end of that dock and saw a ray swimming away.

Then it was back on the boat for the ride home, while sipping delicious rum fruit punch.

This was a very good day! There’s still more to come, but I’ll leave that for another post.

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Boating and More in Belize

We’ve been in Belize for a few days now and had quite a few adventures. Most of them have involved boats and water. We have been very lucky with the weather. They had days of heavy downpours and it looked like a swamp in many areas when we arrived in the Belize City area. But, since we have been here the weather has been gorgeous with sunny blue skies. We were caught in a shower on Saturday but it didn’t last long and the weather cleared up soon after.

We arrived Friday evening. Saturday we had breakfast at the hotel, a traditional Belizean breakfast of scrambled eggs, beans, sausage, and fry jack. Fry jack is made of a flour dough that is rolled thin and fried in very hot oil. It puffs up like a pillow and it’s very light and yummy. They served jelly to put on it but my favorite was stuffing it with the eggs and beans, which were also delicious. The other pictures are views from the hotel restaurant, and some Belizean money we were given in change. One Belize dollar is $.50 US money, but US money is readily accepted everywhere.

After breakfast we walked around town a bit to get a feel for the area and the town. Everyone here drives golf carts. The only vehicles are taxis. You have to watch your step because the golf carts come whizzing down the street, sometimes a lot of them. The streets are cobblestone, and there are sidewalks but not many. But, it was interesting walking around town and checking out some of the shops.

We had fun visiting shops and looking around. Everyone was really nice, but it’s obvious that this is a tourist area and they depend a lot on tourists for their livelihood. It’s off season and they are just coming out of the pandemic so I’m sure a lot of them are really hurting, and they really really encouraged us to buy what they were offering.

When we got back to the hotel, it was about time for the sunset cruise. I don’t know why I don’t have pictures of the boat, but I had a couple pictures of the sunset which was very beautiful. There is a huge coral reef out there which keeps the water calm. We were told it can get windy but the reef prevents waves of any size from forming on this side of the reef.

I’d better get busy and post about whatever else we have been doing because it’s starting to become a blur! Maybe that’s what happens when you spend a lot more time having fun than talking about it.

It is now Wednesday, and we’re taking day to chill and catch up with things. News from home is good. My granddaughter is feeling better and having much less pain. I hope they are happy enough with the alignment of the bones that they don’t have to do anything more to her. We shall see. Monday they put on this cast, the prettiest I think I’ve ever seen. She is up in a wheelchair now and is starting to learn how to manage with crutches. And, last night she had a bath, and real bath in the bathtub! Word is that she doesn’t smell like the hamster any more. 😁

So, that’s a bit more of what has been going on around here. More to come….

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Vacation in Belize

We are in Belize, specifically in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, an island off the east coast of Belize on the Caribbean side. We arrived Friday evening and it’s now Monday so we have been here for a couple fun days.

San Pedro is the blue dot. Right above us is the border of Mexico, between Bacalar Chico and Xcalak.

We were supposed to meet my California daughter and her mother in law here for a birthday bash of a friend of my daughter, but my granddaughter broke her leg and my daughter didn’t want to leave under those circumstances. But, since the trip was mostly paid for and for us, very close by, we decided to come anyway. We took a one hour flight from David to Panama City, then a 2 hour flight from Panama City to Belize City, and 1 1/2 hour ferry ride from there to San Pedro, and then a golf cart for a few blocks to our hotel.

It was a beautiful evening for a ferry ride.

The first thing we noticed is that Belize is very serious about their COVID safety measures. You need a negative test to come in even if you are fully vaccinated. Your info is carefully checked on arrival and social distancing is strictly enforced while waiting to clear customs and other activities at the airport. Masks are required everywhere at all times, unless you are seated at your table in a restaurant. There are sinks with soap and water, or disinfecting spray outside of every place which you need to use before you enter. You can be asked to prove your vaccination status at any restaurant before you will be allowed in. There is a curfew in place from 9pm – 4am.

The first picture is waiting to clear immigration at the airport. The second is outside the airport with a few of the many Mennonite people who we learned live in Belize. The others are a couple of the hand washing sinks around town.

We made it to the hotel and found it’s a very nice one! They even scattered flowers on the bed and in the bathroom. There is a restaurant on site that looks out on to the water. I had shrimp ceviche and a fancy rum drink (hey, when in Belize…) The last photo doesn’t do the scene any justice at all, but the full moon shining through the coconut palms and on to the water was gorgeous. The evening was warm and balmy with a light breeze, and you really felt like you were in a paradise resort.

So, not a bad first glimpse of Belize. There will be more to come!

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Nine Years

It’s a week of anniversaries. Both of my daughters celebrated their wedding anniversaries, and yesterday was 9 years since I landed in Panama to live. In a way it seems to have gone very quickly, and in another way I feel so at home it’s like I have been here a very long time. I think about people I know and things I’ve done, and realize I’m remembering things from quite a few years ago. Some of the little kids I first met are now taller than their parents.

They say there is a honeymoon phase when you move. Everything is new and wonderful and you love everything about your new home. Then reality sets in. It’s been quite the opposite for me. It was hard when I first got here. I didn’t know how to get things done or where to find things. My Spanish wasn’t great and I had a hard time understanding people. Now though, I’ve done most things many times, and I know who to ask if I need help with something new. My Spanish is good enough that I can manage almost any situation, and if I’m missing a word I can usually describe the thing well enough to be understood.

But, the novelty hasn’t worn off either. There’s always something new and interesting. Reloj is the word for watch or clock. I learned it’s also the word for the gas and temperature gages in the car. But, at least I had enough words to describe the situation – the gas and temperature are crazy! He replaced the sensor in one and the line in the other, and now they are no longer crazy. My friend brought me a strange dessert with pieces of jello and bits of fruit in some kind of sweet foam. She explained that you freeze milk, then put it in the blender with jello. Then you get a mold, put in fruit and pieces of jello, and then add the milk/jello part and put in the fridge for a few hours. When you are ready to eat you turn it right side up on a plate, and there you go. Milk and jello? That’s a new one but it makes a very nice dessert.

I still find this country incredibly beautiful, even views I’ve seen hundreds of times. Today I set off on my bike to do an errand, and the sky was gorgeous!

Yesterday we went to Boquete for a gig. When we got part way up the light rain cleared and sun peeked out through the clouds, which caused an intense rainbow in the other horizon. This was taken through the window of a moving car but you can still get the general idea.

I could go on and on about all the things I love to see, starting with my own backyard. I’ve planed a lot of flowers and plants, and I enjoy the birds, bugs, and other wildlife that visits here. The weather is pleasant enough that I can spend all the time I want on the terrace. And, best of all life is generally chill. People are super nice, the pace is slower, and nobody stresses out about much of anything.

Oh, and Panama beat the USA in soccer last night. They had the game on TV in the brewery where we played last night, and we got to see the final score on one of our breaks. I was happy to see this little country get their name and success in the news.

When I arrived I didn’t know for sure that this would even work out, so I never though ahead to this many years. Now though, who knows. We have no intention of leaving and I feel like I can look ahead to many more years here. We are so thankful every day.

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What’s Up?

Regular life, with a few interesting things thrown in. That’s what’s up around here these days.

One big thing was an article written about me on Marketwatch. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/i-never-expected-to-retire-to-panama-but-we-are-living-very-comfortably-on-1-200-a-month-11633001564 You only get one article before they want you to subscribe, so I’m sorry if you can’t see it. Silvia Ascarelli wrote it and we had a wonderful time talking with each other and found we had a lot of interests in common. The article was factual and well written, and I was very happy with it.

It’s funny though when you have a couple days of fame. I heard from people I hadn’t talked with in ages. A big argument broke out in the Facebook group of expats because someone thought you can’t possibly live here on $1200/month (well no, not in Panama City where it’s much more expensive). I walked into the Brewery to set up for our gig on Sunday. “Hey aren’t you…?” Yeah, that’s me. I had a big uptick in blog visits, followers, requests to promote things, and Facebook friend requests (which I limit to people I actually know)

Speaking of Facebook, what was that yesterday?! Messenger didn’t work either, but I can contact people on WhatsApp. Nope, not that either, or Instagram. We had to use old fashioned phone calls! Panama seems to run on WhatsApp for communication so that must have been a problem for a lot of people. Instagram is also heavily used, especially among the younger people. We don’t realize how much we rely on these things until they don’t work, and when they are based on the same business and it all goes down, then we really see it.

Speaking of Instagram, a notice popped up Friday evening that our friend Arya was live. When I went to check, I saw that he was with his band Hashtag at the brewery. We don’t get up there much to see other bands since we drive up enough for our own band, so this was great. We were able to virtually go to their gig and hear them from our living room on our TV. Technology can do some cool stuff.

Panama is doing well with COVID. The numbers continue to go down and the news said recently that 74% of people are fully vaccinated. It was just announced that people over 55 will be able to get booster shots. Curfews have been lifted, and temperatures are no longer taken in every business you enter. Everyone continues to wear masks though and follow social distancing, and alcohol gel is available at the entrance to every business.

Back to the subject of articles, I came across this good one about a guy who was able to retire earlier by leaving the USA for less expensive places to live. He decided to land in Panama. Our friend Jackie Lange from the Panama Relocation Tours provided a lot of information for the article. https://time.com/nextadvisor/investing/retirement/leaving-the-country-to-retire-early/?fbclid=IwAR3a7dyymM9WzQtp9s35ZgFOaIxQciW36CBwSzZ-06FT7g1LXSpt-f75MFQ

I got a list of things done on my bike – new front wheel, new tubes in both tires, painted the front fork, new chain, new brakes, new gear changers, and adjusted everything so it works great now. Total $78, and they even painted the basket on the front. Now that things aren’t squeaking and rattling and it’s so much more fun to ride, I’ll have to take it out a lot more often. I know it’s not fancy but it’s served me well for many years and we have a lot of history together, so I’m rather attached to my bike.

I think that’s about all that’s going on with us at the moment. We were locked down for so long because of COVID, and I think it’s taking a while to get back to living like we used to. But we’re getting out more now, the band is playing again, and I have tickets to see the family again next month. It feels good!

I hope all is well with you all out there! Take good care of yourselves and each other.

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Things that Make You Smile

It’s been a while, I know. But, it’s just been regular daily life around here, nothing out of the ordinary. But there’s lots to smile about every day and we are very thankful.

Today we went for a bike ride, and a cable to my gear changer broke so I couldn’t down shift. We pulled over by the side the road to see if we could figure out the problem. In a few minutes a man walked up to us to ask if we were having a problem with the bike. He said he has tools in his house nearby and maybe he could help.

I’ve talked many times about the sense of community I feel here, the sense that you are never alone. I can’t count the number of times total strangers offered help. I was looking at my tablet one day and a guy pulled over to ask if I was lost and looking for directions. We had a dead battery and it wasn’t 2 minutes before someone pulled over to offer a jump. I could fill pages with stories like this.

Also, there are the greetings. It is customary to exchange a greeting with everyone you pass on the street, in a bus, in a office, anywhere you encounter other people. I don’t know if you can fully understand how this feels until you have experienced it. After living in this culture, I miss it when I’m away.

We have lived in this same house and neighborhood for almost 9 years now, and we have seen increasing prosperity around us. You see fewer old funky cars. So many homes have been upgraded with terraces, extra rooms, covered parking areas, or other improvements. There has also been a lot of new construction. So except for the temporary standstill caused by COVID, it feels like there has been steady upward progress and a middle class that is thriving.

And, speaking of COVID, the country is doing well. The numbers of cases and hospitalizations have been steadily dropping. and the recent news reports that more than 5.3 doses of vaccine have been given (Panama has about 4.4 million people, about 3 million over 18 years old). They also just announced a vaccine tourism program. Anyone over 30 can come and spend two nights in a hotel and get a vaccine (they must follow all the entry and quarantine requirements). Panama thinks this might boost tourism and make vaccines available to neighbors who may be having a hard time getting a vaccine. They think the supply here is good enough that this won’t impact the people here.

Anyway, enough on that subject! We were all beyond tired of it a year ago. Other things – I “redecorated” my room a bit. My grandkids had some art saved for me when I visited, and we did some more together so I recently put it up on the walls of my office or practice room.

Well not really an office since my main office is outdoors on the terrace. How nice to be able to use this outdoor office all the time. Once in a while an afternoon is too hot, or there is some invasion of bugs, but that’s unusual. I can usually enjoy the terrace anytime of day or night. It’s rainy season now and I also enjoy sitting on the terrace and watching the rain. Yesterday though, oh my goodness what a rain that was!

Last night the band played also (thankfully the crazy rain died down before we had to leave). We usually play on Sundays, but the Saturday band was out of town so we covered for them. What a night! There was a good crowd and people were dancing and singing along and having a wonderful time. I feel like we spent so much time practicing when we were locked in the house, and now we have a few weeks of playing out under our belts, and things are really coming together. And then, to be that well received by the audience, it’s great.

So, we have a lot of things to smile about. Right now it’s Sunday, early afternoon, and I’m outside on the terrace. The family next door is chatting on their terrace with grandma who is visiting for the weekend. The neighborhood has it’s usual sounds of birds, a dog barking, a rooster down the street, and a lawn mower. It’s sunny, about 87, so I have a small fan next to me, but the clouds are starting to gather so it will cool off in a while. It’s a good life and we are very thankful!

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