Music – The Couch Monkeys – Take Two

Sometimes ideas don’t work out as intended. Facebook live can be great fun. We could see messages from people listening and respond to them, so it felt like we were together even in the virtual space. But, unfortunately the plan didn’t work out well overall.

Joel went live on his own page instead of the band page so you all probably couldn’t find it. And, if you found it, you didn’t get to listen to a lot because the internet was very uncooperative. Neither the connection in the house nor the data on the phone worked out for more than a song or two.

So, we are trying plan B.

Today, we recorded the whole set again. Now you can listen to a decent version anytime it’s convenient, and you can still dance like nobody’s watching!

On Facebook, on The Couch Monkeys page –

On YouTube, on my channel –

Feedback is always welcome. Could you find us? Did the video look and sound OK? This process has been really good for us. We don’t usually record ourselves, and never video so it’s been very helpful to do practice recordings all week. We critiqued and improved our performances every day so by the end of the week we felt like we had our act much more together.

We’re pretty happy with this experience so we’re starting to work on our next video. Since this is a new thing for us, we chose older songs we know well, songs that have always been crowd favorites. Next time we’re going to bring out some newer songs along with some other old favorites. If we keep this up, by the time we get out of quarantine and away from the couch, we’re going to be so ready to play live.

Thank you all for your support, and for your patience and understanding. We’ll get er done one way or another!

Posted in Panama | 6 Comments

Couch Monkeys – Music this Sunday evening

Musicians are quarantined. Audiences are quarantined. The growing thing is live music on line so people can still play, and you all can still enjoy the music.  So, we decided to give it a try!  Our plan is…

Grand inaugural event – Dance Like Nobody’s Watching! on Facebook Live
brought to you by the Couch Monkeys, from our quarantine couch to yours.

Sunday evening, 5/31, 8PM Panama time (9pm EDT, 6m PDT, or GMT -05:00)
We’re playing old favorites, guaranteed to be fun and danceable.

Internet willing, our tech expertise willing, and whatever forces are at play willing, we will see you Sunday evening. If you have trouble finding us, look for our Facebook page The Couch Monkeys (which you can like/follow to be notified of future events). We’re learning as we go so feedback is welcome. It’s exciting to think we can reach everyone wherever they are, so this might be even more fun that before! We’re excited and looking forward to seeing everyone this Sunday evening 🙂

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What’s Going On?

Not much! Well nothing has changed a lot, but we are looking forward and working on new things at home.

Of course, the big news is still the virus and the quarantine. We are in phase 1 of the plan to reopen the country. Phase 2 should start any day but the exact date still hasn’t been announced.

Quarantine at the moment is about the same, but a few more people are able to do business in this phase.  Our time out of the house is still only a couple hours determined by the cedula (ID) or passport number, and alternate days by gender. The guys got their Saturdays back though. And, exercise is now allowed, during your allowed time out, within 1 km of home, and with a mask if you are going to be within 2 meters of another person. This has made a world of difference in how I feel both mentally and physically!

I figure if exercise is allowed and it’s also my only time to shop, what if I’m shopping on my bike? There are a lot more people selling fruits, vegetables, and seafood to make a bit of money, so I’ve been picking up a few things on my outings. Yesterday I tried langostinos (like super size shrimp). I bought a pound but ended up giving them to a neighbor, so I had to go all the way down again and buy another pound. I can’t believe how much better and stronger I feel in even a week. The langostinos are good but I find the shrimp just as good at half the price, so I’ll probably stick to shrimp.

We’ve been very busy with the music because we’re getting ready to do some live music on line.  Musicians all over the world are in the same quarantine situation, as are their audiences, so this seems to be the growing thing. We have been working on making a space in the living room, getting the camera setup right, adjusting the sound, deciding on a set of songs, and practicing with the drum machine. (our drummer is quarantined in Boquete, so near yet so far).

Our goal is to do a Facebook live broadcast this Sunday evening, so we’ll see how it goes. This may not be like playing in front of a live audience but on the other hand, we can reach anyone in the world. We don’t have to move equipment, and our audience can listen from the comfort of their own homes (and dance like no one is looking!)  I figure the most optimistic estimate is 2 more months before there is live music again, but realistically it could be much longer. So, why not give this a try?

I’ll keep you all posted on the exact date, time, and how to find us. We’re usually Monkey Nerve but since it’s only two monkeys right now playing from our couch, look for posts about “The Couch Monkeys”, coming soon.

This is still a very stressful time for everyone, it’s hard to see the future, and it often feels like there is no end in sight. Hopefully we can send a bit of music your way to brighten an evening. Hopefully all of us can continue to take care of each other and be kind to each other. Hang in there! Some day this will be a story we tell our kids and grandkids, and that someday will come eventually.


Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

a Great Day

There is nothing like a pandemic and strict quarantine to make you appreciate a lot of things you usually don’t even think about.

A bit of quick background – we’ve been quarantined since our return on March 1st. We no sooner got off our 14 day quarantine than the whole country was shut down. We’ve been allowed out for very limited hours, and only for food, pharmacy, bank, gas, and health care.

Women are allowed out M-W-F, and men Tu-Th-Sa for one hour, according to the number of your cedula

Now the country is taking the first steps toward reopening the country and returning to normal. Today, the big thing that made me so happy was exercise!! We are allowed out to run, walk, skate, and bike, still only during our very limited hours, and only within 1 kilometer of home, and with a mask if you think you will get close to any other people, but hey. I’ll take it!

It was never clear to me if I could bike to shopping, but I know I can’t get in the bank, and probably not the supermarket with biking clothes. I don’t want to bike in street clothes, so it had been 3 months since I’d been on the bike. That’s a long time!

Today, I decided to risk “shopping” so I got on the bike (oh my did that feel wonderful!!) and biked to the vegetable market and bought 3 cucumbers. That’s shopping, right? It’s 3 kilometers from home, but I don’t know what a kilometer is. It’s 2.2 miles, right? and I hardly speak any Spanish, right? As it turns out I had no problems, saw no police, and came home with more goodies in my pannier.

Across from the veggie market was a guy selling seafood. I got shrimp ($4.25/lb) and tuna ($3.50/lb)! Both are treats and look wonderful. The shrimp is big too, and really yummy. We’ll have tuna for supper tonight, with beer. I also went to the chino (convenience store) and got a 6-pack of beer. (The alcohol ban has been lifted but we are only allowed to buy one 6 pack or one bottle of something for home consumption. It’s not worth it to me to wait in line at the supermarket but the chino is really fast and easy.)

The country is starting a 6 phase process of opening up, and this is phase 1.  The next phases will come 10-14 days apart, depending on how things go, so it will take at least 2-3 months before everything gets back to anything resembling normal. Many people have suffered greatly, so the country is trying to restore essential services and get as many people back to work as possible, without jeopardizing health and safety.


We’ve been fine so I hardly have cause to complain. But, I’ve really missed biking. I can go out M-W-F from 11-1pm (over 60’s get 2 hours instead of 1!). I’m glad it’s not later in the day or I would either be really hot or really wet, but I’d go out anytime if necessary. I’m a believer in exercise, fresh air, and community for health and sanity, so I also enjoyed saying hello to some people along the way, and catching up a bit with some I hadn’t seen in quite a while.

I don’t know if the band will be out in phase 5 or 6, but that will be a while. I don’t know if I’ll see my family at all in 2020, so I’m very thankful for the internet and video chat. I see the grandkids adapting quickly to video as their main means of communication, so I’m enjoying more and more conversations and activities with them. Today two of them read to us in the group chat, and another showed me all the cake mixes in the cupboard that she is looking forward to making with me when I finally get there. The little one says HI a hundred times, but she’s learning more words every week so she’s getting more interesting too.

Crazy times, huh? I hope you all are staying safe, sane, and healthy, as much as possible under the circumstances. Be kind to each other.


Posted in Panama | 13 Comments

Friends Helping Friends

Many people have lost their livelihood in this pandemic. Many other people are unable to do the things they need to do, especially here in Panama with the very restrictive quarantine. Maybe we can be creative and help each other out?

Wherever you are – My Spanish teacher could use extra work. She was teaching at a private school which is no longer paying staff since they are closed. Her husband is also not working at the moment so she’s supporting the family. She’s an excellent, experienced teacher who has helped me enormously. But I still have a lot to learn so I’m back in class again. If you want to learn or improve your Spanish –

If you are local – Eduardo Horna has been a friend for a long time. He works with expats and tourists giving tours, finding housing, translating, and helping them with whatever they need to get set up in their new lives. Of course there are no tourists or expats moving in right now. I mentioned yesterday that our air conditioner bit the dust and we were in the market for a new one. But, most stores are closed. The AC tech couldn’t find a unit through his usual wholesale channels. Let’s put Eduardo on the job! City Mall seemed like a good option. They sell food so they are open, but they also sell about anything else you could imagine at reasonable prices. He returned a couple hours later with a new AC unit, and at a reasonable price!

We didn’t have to go out. We didn’t have to drive to the other side of town. We just put him on the job and he got it done. Now that the quarantine has loosened up for technicians, including AC techs, we should be able to get it installed soon.

If you need errands done in Chiriqui, contact Eduardo. I’m sure he’ll do whatever he can to help you out. We’ve known him for 8 years and can vouch for his honesty and integrity, and he’s just an all around nice and helpful guy.

Also, for local people –

The Boquete Brewing Company, one of our band venues, has been shut down but now you can buy their beer on line They will deliver or you can pick up.  Support them, buy their hand crafted beer, and enjoy their delicious product. You are allowed one 6-pack for home consumption.

Our other friends at Mike’s Global Grill are making food for pickup or delivery.   Check the website for menu options, and to order something yummy to enjoy in your quarantine.

These are only a few people I know personally, but of course there are many many, more businesses and individuals trying to survive this difficult time. Do what you can support them with work, purchases, publicity, donations, or whatever might help them through.

Above all, be kind to each other. I’m feeling better after a couple days of minimal social media, but maybe I should still put this at the bottom of every post for a while.


Posted in Panama | 6 Comments

Flu Shots

I went out again yesterday!  Since we got our US stimulus money we decided to replace our broken air conditioner. We’re doing OK but the warmer afternoons are more comfortable with AC. So, I went to the ATM for some cash. I’ve heard that something funny is going on with all the ATM’s and you can only take out $200. I found this to be true, but you can immediately do another $200 transaction. Rinse and repeat until you have what you need. Thankfully Schwab reimburses ATM fees.

While I was there, I went for a flu shot. They have nurses at stations around the Terronal shopping mall. The one closest to the street had a line of more than a dozen cars waiting for the drive up option. Another in front to DoIt Center had maybe 6-7 people with children waiting. The other three in front of Panafoto had no waiting at all. The nurse gave me a painless shot, took my name and basic info for my card that says I’ve had the shot, and that was all. I saw names with $1 after them on her list, but maybe mine was free because I’m retirement age?

Panama is encouraging everyone to get flu shots. They started with the people at risk because of age or medical condition. Now everyone is asked to get one and they are making it as accessible and easy as possible. They don’t want to care for a lot of people sick with the flu in addition to the pandemic.

Everyone, every single person wore a mask, everyone in cars, everyone walking, children, elderly, everyone. Oh and speaking of children, this yesterday was the first day children were allowed out. They can only go out with a caregiver during the hours allowed for that caregiver, but they can play a bit, and get some fresh air and sunshine.

An aside, Pricesmart on Monday. Everyone had masks. The cashiers now have plastic enclosures to keep them safe. Customer temperatures were checked going on and hands were squirted with hand sanitizer. There wasn’t a crowd or a line so I was lucky to get in and out fairly quickly. Word now is that you won’t be allowed in with open toe sandals.

It’s interesting to see the contrast between attitudes here and in the USA. We are under much tighter restrictions, as I have described in earlier posts. Panamanians, like people everywhere, find the restrictions of the quarantine difficult and tedious, or really stressful if they aren’t earning much needed money. But they are generally very patient. If anything, they worry that Panama is trying to open the country too fast. News from the US says they are hurrying to reopen the country more quickly but many say its too slow, and many others say it shouldn’t have been closed down at all.

I’ve been spending less and less time on Facebook and social media. It seems like everyone has their own opinions and versions of the truth and wants to fight with anyone who has different opinions and versions of the truth. I think this only adds stress and negativity. We are all learning as we go and there is no definitive rule book for managing a pandemic.

Be kind to each other! Arguing with each other doesn’t change minds, make anyone feel better, or change decisions made by government and officials. It’s a stressful time for everyone and we all need to take care of each other.


Posted in Panama | 10 Comments

We’re Still Here

Yes, we are still here! I haven’t written much because nothing new is going on. We are still home under the same strict quarantine rules. Women are allowed out on M-W-F during their designated limited hours, and men on Tu-Th. The men lost their Saturdays because more men are being arrested for breaking quarantine, and more men are becoming infected.

There are a few glimmers of change on the horizon. Tomorrow they are supposed to bring out the three phase plan for reopening the country. The first phase will be hardware stores, car repair shops, and other such businesses with social distancing / infection control measures. They want to give everyone the heads up so the businesses can start preparing, but no date has been set for anything to actually happen. But, they want to get people back to work as soon as possible without jeopardizing safety.

The last phase opens tourism and non-essential air travel. I have a feeling it’s still going to be a long time before I can visit my family, or you all out there can visit here. It looks like it’s going to be a long time before schools are open also. Some families are home schooling but many don’t have the technology to keep in touch with schools so not a lot is happening. I saw a radio station advertising hours for different class levels to help kids keep learning. It’s going to be quite a challenge though to get classes going again and figure out where all the kids are in their various stages of learning.

But, I appreciate that the country is being very cautious, watching the numbers, and proceeding slowly. Of course this is a huge problem for the economy and the government is trying to support those affected (which is never enough, of course) but they are prioritizing health and life above economy.

Other news is the lifting of the dry law. When a state of emergency was declared weeks ago, a dry law (no alcohol sales) went into effect as part of that. It is said that the dry law will decrease the incidence of bad behavior and thus the burden on the police, decrease domestic violence, and save money for essentials like food for the family.

But, Thursday night it was lifted, but NOT in Boquete and some other towns where the mayor said no. (No you can’t bring it in either because you’ll be busted at the checkpoints) There was such an uproar that the Boquete mayor backed down, but not until Friday evening and by then, we were all on weekend quarantine and nobody could go anywhere until Monday.

Don’t break quarantine, because if you get arrested you’ll be put to work – community service aka cleaning up the city.

But, overall we seem to be doing well. There are new cases every day but the number seems to be holding steady, and so is the number of people in the hospital. Hospitals haven’t been stretched beyond their capacity, and there is more news every day of people who have recovered and were sent back to home from either the hospital, or the hotel (where they stay if they aren’t sick enough for the hospital). Here in Chiriqui province the news is ever better. There are many days without new cases or anyone in the hospital, and there have been no deaths since the few that happened at the beginning of the pandemic.

Of course I haven’t been anywhere or talked to many people, but the feeling I get is that the Panamanian people are cooperating with the requirements. There have been some demonstrations by people who need food for their families when government help didn’t come quickly enough, but people wear their masks, wait patiently in lines, and look out for their friends and neighbors even more than ever. I haven’t heard complaints about losing rights and freedoms.

So, this continues to be life here at the moment. It’s very quiet and peaceful.  At night all you hear are the bugs and birds, and daytime is quiet too. We are contented at home but still worry about those who are out there working, or who are struggling to get by.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there! We’re all going through crazy times all over the world, so I hope you all are safe and have everything you need. Take care of yourselves and each other.


Posted in Panama | 14 Comments

I Went OUT!

Ordinarily this wouldn’t be anything remarkable, but these are not ordinary times. We have not left the house since March 23rd, so I only knew what to expect from asking others. My goal was Pricesmart (like Costco), El Rey (supermarket), and the bank.

So, my day, (written yesterday, Wednesday) – Traffic was light around town which made driving much easier. I was alone because only women are allowed out on M-W-F. (Men go out on Tu-Th, and nobody goes out on Sa-Sun.) Most people are allowed an hour (with 30 min travel time on either side) but I’m in the over 60 crowd so I’m allowed 2 hours, 11am-1pm.

I started at the bank. It’s open some mornings and other afternoons, and today was an afternoon day so it wouldn’t open until 1pm. I got what I needed from the ATM in the lobby though.

Next was Pricesmart. It’s usually a hectic drive through the most congested parts of the Panamerican highway, but today it was easy. There was parking available and no waiting to get in. There were guards at the door, however, to make sure it was your legal shopping time. The gal in from of me was obviously young, but she had something on her phone that the guards read and let her in. Apparently my gray hair was enough for me. There were only a few things on my list that weren’t available, but there was definitely plenty to stock a house and a kitchen with a variety of meal options.

Everyone was wearing masks. EVERYONE. I saw some people driving in their cars without masks, but everyone outside had on masks, which I believe is a requirement now. We were squirted with hand sanitizer at the Pricesmart door, and everyone was staying the required distance apart. It’s harder to tell if someone is smiling though when you can only see their eyes. Usually smiles and greetings are normal when passing someone in the aisle, but there was a minimal amount of that yesterday. I hope we don’t lose our social closeness along with our physical closeness.

I drove by the supermarket on the way home but there was a line, so I went home so Joel could unload the car and get the frozen stuff put away. Next – the supermarket. There was a line and though it wasn’t long, it was probably a half hour wait to get in. But, I eventually made it to the door, had my temperature taken, was sprayed up and down with alcohol, and well sprayed on my hands. Again, the store was quite well stocked but it still involved a few phone calls home… they don’t have that, do you want to substitute with this? By the time I was done I was really tired, and it was past 1pm.

Since the bank opened at 1pm, I went over there to make a payment by sending money to another bank account. Unfortunately they wouldn’t send money to another bank, and the only open branch for the other bank was downtown, where I didn’t want to go and I was also out of time. So, I called it a day and headed home to collapse in my chair with a big pitcher of iced tea.

I don’t enjoy shopping on a good day, and this was especially stressful not knowing what to expect, and wanting to get it done within my allowed time, and in the daytime heat and with a mask. You also think a lot more about everything you touch. Who touched that shopping cart before you? Do you want to put your purse in the cart or keep it hanging on your shoulder? Are you touching everything, and then touching your glasses so you can see the shopping list on your phone? You touched your credit card and so did the check out lady, and then do you want to put it back in your wallet? What have the stock boys and bag boys touched before they touched your groceries?

There is just no way to be 100% protected, so you do the best you can and use your hand sanitizer a lot. When I got home the clothes went directly into the washing machine, and I went directly to the shower. I disinfected my glasses, phone, and keys also.

I also forgot how hot it is to wear a mask. I have a lot of hospital experience with masks, but that was years ago and not in the hot Panamanian midday sun. If you want to get a taste of coronavirus shortness of breath, wear a mask in a hot parking lot, and make a quick trip across the parking lot pushing a loaded cart. ha! But, I slowed down and got everything in the car without incident.

But, all in all, it was a successful day and the house is stocked for another month.

In general, nobody knows when things will change. There are hints, like a possible peak of the curve in mid May, and Copa Airlines talking about resuming limited flights on June 1st. But for now, this is life as we know it.

The wildlife is totally oblivious to the recent changes though, except maybe they are enjoying the extra quiet. This dove is sitting on a nest in our orange tree, probably good spot because we are careful not to disturb her, and there is a pan of fresh water out every day for her and all the birds.

Look at the brown spot in the sunlight to the right of the photo. That’s her back, and her head is to the right.

I’m very thankful that we have everything we need, and are happy indefinitely at home. It’s getting harder and harder for other people though, especially those who have lost their income and government help is not enough and too slow in coming. Hopefully we can all help a bit wherever we can so we can all get through this and come out OK.


Posted in Panama | 12 Comments

Can’t Take a Panama Relocation Tour?

The Panama Relocation Tours have become more and more popular as word has spread about their value, and as happy customers have shared their experiences. The tours were sold out for many months in advance, even before coronavirus.

And then, the coronavirus shut down everything! Now, even people who had tours booked are staying home, and those who want to book are having to wait a lot longer for a spot.

So, Jackie Lange and her team, intelligent and resourceful people that they are, came up with an alternative. How can you still get all that information when you can’t take a tour? Read their guide! They have taken everything they know from their years of research and experience, and put it together in a guide so you will have everything you could possibly need to know, and at a fraction of the price of a tour. It’s also updatable so you will have the most current information at all times.

Here’s the link for you –>

Of course it is still recommended that you visit Panama to see how it feels to you before you make any life changing decisions, but the guide should help you decide where you want to focus your time and attention, and should help you proceed with confidence and success if you decide that Panama is for you.

I know I didn’t always recommend these tours, and we didn’t take one ourselves. We were really clear on where we wanted to land, and we were lucky enough to have some valuable contacts and resources before we arrived. But I have changed my mind about the tours over the last few years. So many people have told me how well the tour worked out for them and how glad they were to have taken it. And, I see Jackie Lange on line, on social media, and occasionally in person and I really respect the sensible, accurate, no nonsense advice she shares. She is not selling anything and does not get paid for recommendations. Everyone she recommends has earned it through good work and happy clients.  Jackie only wants people to have everything they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their futures, and to have the smoothest transition to their new life in Panama if that is what they choose.

So, there is my $.02 on the Panama Relocation folks.

Meanwhile, all of us are living this different existence and hoping to come out the other side without too much damage and with luck, having made some good use of our time. I hope you all are staying safe, healthy, and hopefully as calm and happy as possible under the circumstances. Life WILL return to normal, or some new version of normal. It’s going to take a while though. Meanwhile take good care of yourselves and each other.

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

More of the Same

The joke around the neighborhood these days…. what are you going to do tomorrow? I dunno, maybe I’ll stay in and do things at home. Ha!

Things are the same here. We are still allowed out for limited hours for essentials only – food, pharmacy, gas, bank, and health care. But, as authorities are increasingly frustrated with rule breakers, the penalties have increased. You can lose your license for 3 months, have your car impounded, pay heavy fines, and be arrested. Community service is the usual sentence. These folks got to clean the streets.


Daily updates and information continue. The priority is keeping people safe, but more efforts are being made to help needy people with food and money for necessities. Hopefully there is help coming for businesses also, so they will still exist to put people back to work when this is over. That’s not going to be over any time soon though. The few tentative projections I’ve seen think there will be a couple more months of lockdown, and then gradual lifting of the restrictions and a recovery phase extending until the end of the year. Of course though, as conditions change, plans and projections change. Whatever happens though, this is a life altering thing for the whole world.

My daughter shared this really interesting article with me.

What have we learned? What good things do we want to keep in our futures like more time with family, cleaner air, different priorities, more caring for each other? What forces are going to tell us what to think, buy, believe, behave, and how much of that will not be those good things? How will we fight for something different, something better? Sometimes the most growth and change come from the most difficult times.

As for us, we are staying in today. ha! One day runs into another and I can’t remember for sure when we were out last, 3 weeks? more? But, we continue to keep busy and happy. The house has never been cleaner. Daily music practice continues. The rains have come back!! ~happy dance~  It’s the end of the dry season and intense heat, so cooling and healing rains are very welcome. I’m getting back to yard work, getting a head start on the rapid growth that comes with the rain.

Oh, and I’ve learned to make masks too. It is requested that we make fabric masks (and wear them at all times when out) and leave the commercial ones for essential people on the front lines. They even have inmates in the jails making masks. This seems to work –  though 7″ of elastic was almost twice as long as I needed. I sewed the elastic to the back instead of inside so it would be easy to take off if I needed to change the length. I also sewed a piece of large twisty tie material/wire into the edge that goes over the nose so it could be shaped to fit nicely against the nose without gaps.

Speaking essential people, the trash men are making their rounds. The dogs are going NUTS! The dogs have so little to bark at these days that if they hear a dog barking 3 blocks away, it must be SOMETHING so they all get in on it. They usually ignore a neighbor tending their yard but now that is also a time to go crazy.

Generally though, it’s pretty darn quiet around here these days. We were all confined to home for the whole weekend and I heard a car leave the neighborhood on Saturday. What was THAT?! Who is that? where are they going? why? I think that’s the only car or truck or motor I heard all weekend so it was kind of a event. But, mostly its just the sounds of nature, many bird songs, the wind in the trees, maybe a neighbor, oh yes and the dogs LOL. We’re pretty darn fortunate that we can enjoy all this without worry about meeting our daily needs. If only that were true for everyone.

Someday this will be us….

Posted in Panama | 10 Comments