Cacao Cafe, New Restaurant in Boquete

We had a delightful and unexpected surprise yesterday. We decided to take the day off and explore some of Boquete I hadn’t seen. We ran into Steve and Donna who were talking about their new restaurant, so we decided to check it out on our way home. We were really impressed! The restaurant is called the Cacao Cafe and their website is here. Check it out for a bit of information about Mayan food, the specialty of this restaurant.

We rarely eat out. We make great food at home so it usually isn’t worth it. This wasn’t the case last night though. The food was excellent, inexpensive, and a bit different than our usual fare.

We were the last people there and it was dark when we left. As we got into the car I turned around and saw this pretty scene.

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The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Donna told us that many people come just for the coffee since it is so good. Other friends told us that the breakfast is excellent and a very good value for $5. These are photos of their menu (taken from their website)

I think these people deserve to succeed so if you are in Boquete, stop by and see if you like them as much as we did.

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Cost of Living Report, July 2016

We haven’t tracked our expenses for a long time. Like everywhere, it seems that costs are gradually creeping up so I was curious to see if this was indeed true. It is, but thankfully we are still doing very well.

We live in a Panamanian, middle class neighborhood on the north side of David. The house has three bedrooms and two baths, and I’m guessing it’s almost 1000 sq ft. I’ve planted a lot of things in the yard so I included an old photo where you can actually see the house.

Basic expenses (in dollars) –

  • house – 385
  • cable/internet – 67.44
  • electricity – 34.59
  • car insurance – 48.30 (two cars, one full coverage, other liability only)
  • netflix – 9.99
  • data plans on two iPhones – 22.44
  • TOTAL – 567.76

We rented the house almost four years ago and our rent hasn’t increased. A similar house today could cost a bit more. Water and trash are included in our rent (around $11 month for both) We did a report for July 2013, exactly three years ago, so this is a good basis of comparison. At that time cable/internet cost 59.06 (so today it’s 8.38 more). Electricity has remained pretty much the same. We have AC now but rarely use it. Car insurance is also about the same. I apparently didn’t list Netflix in the old report, and we didn’t have devices with data plans at that time. We also have the phones for talking and add money as needed, but since we use them very little for this we rarely need to add money.

  • Food – 400.90

I thought this might be significantly higher, but according to the old report the average was also around $400/month. We bought three pigs in the last year so we eat a fair amount of pork that was paid for months ago, but otherwise our food buying habits haven’t changed significantly.

  • current TOTAL – 968.66  This covers our basic expenses, the basic necessities of daily living.

The next category is miscellaneous, non essential expenses and those were quite high this last month, mainly because I bought a new camera for $180 (the display went out on my old one, and I was told it’s cheaper to just buy another so I bought a little, basic point and shoot camera for daily use). Then we had other things like beer and liquor (though I see we have four cases of beer on hand at the moment! We went a bit nuts at Pricesmart), my audio book habit, a couple lunches out, art class and supplies, couple OTC reading glasses, cold medicine, few things for the house, and some new ear buds. Total 423.95, or 243.95 without the camera, for a total of 1212.61 without the camera.

There’s always something in the miscellaneous category though – car repairs, something for the house, my books and art habits. etc. so when making a budget allow wiggle room for extras.

I’m really really happy to see that we continue to live well within our budget! This allows us enough extra for a bit of travel, and those very important and expensive trips back to the US to see my family. Since we have no immediate travel plans, however, I think I’ll continue to track expenses for another month just to see if anything in significantly different.

If you are reading this report to get an idea what if might cost you to live in Panama, keep a few things in mind. Panama City is significantly more expensive. Rents can easily be $1000/month and more for what most expats would consider a decent place. In the interior (anywhere outside of Panama City) rents vary widely. You can expect to pay more where there are lots of expats like Coronado or Boquete. You can pay much less in more rural areas. I know someone paying $125 for a decent little house in a small town not far from here.

Food is another significant expense. The advice to save money is always “eat like a Panamanian”. Eat local food. Make friends with the most tight fisted Panamanian you can find and let them teach you where they shop and what they buy. Imported food is available but it will cost more. Eating at restaurants will also raise your costs.

Internet is another expense that can vary a lot depending on area, so be sure to ask about this before you settle on a place to live. The speed and reliability can also vary a lot.

Electricity can vary widely depending on AC use. I know people with less than $10/month and others with more than $400. If you need to be cool, stay out of city centers and try going higher in the mountains.

Ask about water reliability also. Water isn’t expensive, but if your intended area has a lot of problems with keeping it flowing it might not be a comfortable place to live.

I think that’s all the advice I have at the moment. I hope you have found our report helpful.

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Sunday at the Bar

This bar is on the Pan-American highway, not far from the Via Boquete overpass. It’s my favorite place to cross the highway on my bike, so I pass it often. Sometimes on Sunday mornings it’s a rockin place with music blaring and people having fun. Today, it was quieter with only a few guys enjoying their beer. But, it’s unusual to see a horse parked outside.

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I usually feel a bit uncomfortable pointing a camera at someone, but often the Panamanians are delighted that you want a photo of them and they are happy to pose. This guy stood proudly by his horse with his most dignified expression on his face.

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The owner of the horse had been talking to a couple guys seated at a table inside. They each had a number of beer bottles in from of them, and they assured me that the horse also was getting his share.

It’s fun living here. You never know what you will see or who you will end up talking to.

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Miscellaneous Photos

I’ve been sorting through recent photos and found some to share, Most of them are flowers and butterflies, many taken with my macro lens.

Happy Sunday! It looks like it’s going to be another nice day here. I hope it’s a good one for you too.

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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.

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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.

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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.

WarriorsandGhosts

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.

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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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