Happy New Year

Another year, another trip around the sun! The older I get the faster they seem to go.

Panama celebrates Christmas with parties and many fireworks on Christmas Eve, climaxing at midnight. Then, greetings are exchanged, gifts are opened, and Christmas dinner is served.

New Year’s Eve is similar but with even more fireworks! People who want to seriously celebrate will have parties and fireworks culminating at midnight, then go clubbing and dancing all night, followed by New Years Day at the beach. Some people also make muñecas or effigies filled with fireworks that are burned at midnight. All the bad things from last year and the wishes for the coming year are blown away in the smoke. I think it’s a cool tradition. A muñeca in our neighborhood gets carried around on the back of a truck with much honking and hollering before it gets burned.

We are not the as serious about celebrating as some, so the neighborhood fireworks and greetings were enough for us. But I could hear the music from the club across the river until well past 2 AM. Today we walked a bit, visited the neighbors, and will spend the rest of the day chillin at home. Our dog is sure glad the fireworks have calmed down, and she still refuses to go outside without a lot of coaxing. It must have been miserable for her when she was a street dog.

On other matters, I am happy to report the band gig went very well on Sunday night. Joel’s rewiring job worked and the bass sounded wonderful all night (remember the Saturday night challenges with the dead bass guitar?). Our substitute drummer was great, there was a large, happy crowd of locals, vacationing Panamanians, and tourists, and we all had a great time.

Other than that, summer continues with hot, sunny and breezy weather. Life in Panama is good. We wake up every day thanking our good fortune for this life.

Here’s wishing all of you a great year ahead! Feliz y Prospero Año Nuevo

Advertisements
Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

Band Equipment Issues

What a crazy night last night with the band! When you hear a band, you don’t think of everything that is involved with making that sound, and all the potential failure points in the equipment.

My bass rig alone…. the sound goes from the bass guitar to my wireless unit. There is a wireless receiver on my rig that sends the sound to my effects/preamp pedal, then to the amplifier, and then to my speaker. If the wireless fails, I have a cable to connect the bass to the rig. If the pedal fails I can bypass it and go directly to the amplifier. If the amplifier fails there is another in the car. If the speaker fails, I can play through the P.A. system. If one of the many cables fail, we have backup cables.

If the bass fails though…. oh my. I have another but it’s useless when it’s back at home. But, my new bass is new, and it’s doing great! What could go wrong? Ha!

<technical stuff coming> Mine is an active bass, which means it has electronics which allow me to adjust the bass and treble levels with knobs on the bass itself. This requires a 9 volt battery which is connected to the works by two tiny wires, one of which broke last night. When the connection is broken, no sounds come out of the bass, none at all. A passive bass, on the other hand, passes the signal only to a volume control, and the knob that allows you to switch back and forth between the two pickups, the electronic bars that pick up the vibrations from the strings. No battery is required, and there is less chance of mechanical failure <end technical stuff>

The picture above is the back of my bass with the wiring exposed. You can see the battery connection above with a red wire attached, and the silver end of the black wire dangling in the air. What a weak point with those tiny wires, since you will be pulling it out and changing the battery before every gig!

We have a small travel guitar in the car as an emergency solution, which we used since we were unable to get a last minute loaner bass. I played “bass” on Joel’s guitar, while he played the little emergency guitar. And, to add to the excitement, we were all set up to use a drum machine since our drummer and both backup drummers were unavailable. This would have been fine and we practiced with it all week, but we were expecting our usual bass and guitar sounds to go with it.

I am not a guitar player! It has six thin little strings all close together and feels very small and strange in my hands. I was so proud of myself that I was able to figure it out on the fly, and after a few songs I was getting the hang on it and doing ok. It plays an octave higher than a bass though and lacks that rich, full sound, but we were still able to make music! Whew, what a crazy night. Thank goodness we were where most of our gringo fans hang out and everyone was very understanding and seemed to have a great time dancing anyway.

But, our band equipment, I have my rig, and Joel has a similar one that is even more complicated. We have a microphone on the bass drum, and all three of us have vocal microphones. All these sounds, the vocals, guitar, bass, and bass drum are all sent to a mixing board. From there they are adjusted for levels and various other adjustments and then sent to three systems, the main P.A. speakers that the audience hears, a system of monitor speakers that we use to hear ourselves, and then the bass system that supports the bass and the bass drum. I also have a guitar monitor speaker on my side of the stage since with drums between us, sometimes I can’t hear what the guitar is doing over there.

Many bands play only through their own guitar and bass rigs, and the vocals are sent to a house P.A. system, but you are at the mercy of only what you can hear from where you are standing and minimal adjustments are possible. A lot of thought and equipment has gone into our system and it works great, and sounds clear and strong at any volume, no matter how loud we crank it up. We play for you all, but we also play for ourselves and when it sounds awesome we get really happy. This is why we haul all that equipment and spend hours every day practicing. If you are going to do something, IMO, you may as well make it as good as you possibly can!

I am SO SO SO thankful for Joel who has now rewired my bass to turn it into a passive bass, no battery required, and for all his expertise, and experience, and knowledge, and the countless hours he has spent with me practicing and teaching and keeping our standards high. A year ago I never could have pulled off what I did last night.

Oh, and I can’t forget to include my speaker. The cabinet is a bit beat up from countless trips to gigs, but that Faitel speaker inside is amazing!

When everything works I am very proud of what we can do! And from now on, the other bass will be in the car just in case.

This is retirement?! 😁

Posted in Panama | 7 Comments

Summer is Here

Panama seasons are a bit upside down from what we are used to in the north. Summer starts in December and ends in April. It’s the time for hot dry weather, sometimes accompanied by strong winds. Schools are on vacation, people tend to take family vacations, enjoy leisure time swimming in the rivers, and tackle home improvement projects.

We woke up about a week ago to summer. The sky was blue, the air was breezy and dry, and the sun was clear and strong. It’s hard to describe but the overnight change was unmistakable.

Sometimes the trade winds also blow a lot. We woke up during the night to strong winds, trees blowing, and debris clattering across the metal roof. Winds tend to be stronger at higher elevations, and I saw that Volcan Barú is closed entirely because of weather.

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/access-to-baru-volcano-suspended

Yahoo weather says we have winds of 5-7 mph, but this one looks more like it, reporting gusts up to 50mph. Yes, the wind is still blowing like crazy this afternoon.

I like summer, for a while. You don’t have to worry about rain on Christmas or New Years which is nice because the eve of both are celebrated by many nighttime fireworks and parties with families and friends. I prefer riding my bike in the afternoon and coming home into a strong headwind is a definite workout. You don’t get rained out of late afternoon yard time.

January is OK, but by February the dry season is getting old. You’d better have been watering any sensitive plants because the hot, dry weather is starting to turn everything else brown and crispy. By March it is very hot and brush fires are more and more common as winds easily push flames through the dry vegetation. Thankfully this happens enough that there isn’t an abundance of fuel for fires, and the cement block and metal roof houses won’t burn but it’s still scary if one heads for your property and the smoke is unpleasant. I have learned the reason for keeping your yard clean of leaves and burnable debris! (I hate to even say anything though after the yearly devastation from fires in the western US and Canada).

The rains should start again sometime in mid April and I’m always thankful! I prefer the rainy season when everything is lush and green. People have the impression that we live in gray, gloomy rain throughout the rainy season but this isn’t the case at all. Mornings are sunny and beautiful. Clouds move in in the afternoon. It may rain in the late afternoon and/or early evening, but it stops sometime in the mid to late evening, usually. Some days it doesn’t rain at all, and we may get a heck of a soaking on other days. Occasionally we may be affected by a weather system that causes rain all day but that is very unusual. If you are retired and don’t have to be anywhere at any particular time, the rainy season is excellent. Do your errands and activities in the morning, and then enjoy time at home while watching it rain.

December also has the shortest days of the year. It’s getting dark here now around 6:20 instead of 6:40. 😁 It took me a while to get use to the minimal variation of day length throughout the year. I definitely don’t mind the lack of snow, ice, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other weather related problems that affect so many others. We have an occasional earthquake that does little but shake us and give us something to talk about for a day or two, and the rainy season heavy rains can cause flooding in some areas. Building is forbidden near the river below us for this reason.

I like living in the tropics, the warm weather all year, never a fear of frost. Many find it too hot down here at sea level but there are plenty of other options at higher elevations where it’s cooler, to downright cold in my opinion. And, it’s really beautiful wherever you go!

Posted in Panama | 5 Comments

Bully the Plant

IKEA has an ad that shows two plants in identical growing conditions. One is told nice things for 30 days, and the other is told bad things. At the end of 30 days the difference is very obvious. The complimented plant is thriving and the bullied plant is drooping.

I found the article about this HERE. Will this make bullies stop and think? Do they care about the effect of their behavior on others? I don’t know, but it seems to me that this can’t hurt and may help.

In the interest of showing all sides, I found this article HERE  in Psychology Today. It says the experiment is a hoax. They did another experiment with multiple plants exposed to silence, speech (both negative and positive), and various kinds of music. They concluded that plants like sound but it doesn’t matter what kind of sound. Heavy Metal music had the most positive effect. (Should we consider this when deciding on band material? 😁)

But, is the point scientific accuracy, or raising awareness of the harmful effects of bullying? (Or is it making IKEA look like the good guys?). Either way I thought it was a very “in your face”  picture of how words can hurt and hurt deeply, a fact I think we all can support.

Be kind to one another. This is more important today than ever.

 

Posted in Panama | 10 Comments

Suicide

All of us have probably been touched by suicide – someone close, someone we know who lost someone, someone we have heard about, someone in the news, or even a battle of our own. The pain is heartbreaking and those left behind suffer from not only the loss, but the guilt – Why didn’t I see it coming? Why didn’t I do something? If only I had called that day. If only I had listened more. If only I had …. (fill in the blank with an endless list of “if only’s”).

I saw this article recently – The Best Way To Save People From Suicide  it says basically that reaching out, letting the person know you care, you are thinking about them, even with something as mundane as a short form letter from a clinic, can make a difference.

One would think, or hope, that a person would have someone staying in touch but unfortunately it’s isn’t always the case. Or, even when there is such a person, even by their side giving daily care, suicide can’t always be prevented. But, I’ll toss this out here as food for thought.

Expats are hardly immune to mental health challenges. Whatever challenges you faced in the home country will come along with you, and may be made worse by the unfamiliar environment, culture, language, lifestyle, etc. and with less support from family and friends who were left behind. Keep in mind that it might be good to reach out to someone, especially someone alone and just say Hey, I care if you are OK. A smiling face on the outside doesn’t mean everything is OK on the inside.

If you want something that will haunt you, look for the documentary The Bridge.  I can’t help but think of it every time I cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and think of the lives that ended there.

Be thankful every day you wake up and you are OK. This is not the case for everyone.

Posted in Panama | 12 Comments

Deal at Las Olas (La Barqueta beach)

La Barqueta is the closest beach to David and it’s beautiful. Sometimes there is a deal on Oferta Simple like THIS ONE   $50 for one night, two people, good if you want a little beach getaway.

We have been to the resort but it’s been a while. Check here for previous posts and photos. https://blog.thepanamaadventure.com/?s=Barqueta

There is a nice pool area, large recreation area under roof, a good restaurant on site, and it’s right on the beach. We have never seen it crowded though. In fact, every time we have seen it there are so few people we wonder how they stay in business.

The beach is also used very little unless it’s a holiday or something. There is the Las Olas resort out there, a condo area, a couple local eateries, a new high rise condo building, a pubic beach area with benches and thatched roof area to protect from the sun, and then a gated community of beach houses that are mostly used for only a small part of the year.

Do NOT swim at this beach! 26 people have drowned this year alone in the dangerous undertows and riptides. The latest in the news was a lawyer from the US. Article in Newsroom Panama  There are people who know the waves and water conditions well enough to risk it but in general, in my opinion, stay out of the water.

Panama beaches are beautiful. I’ve seen the mountains in the distance, the clouds reflected in the water and wet sand, gorgeous sunsets, and the feeling of having the beach all to yourself (very different from our experiences in crowded Florida). The area is also well liked by bird watchers. I wouldn’t live there myself, being a city gal – too isolated, hot, and too much maintenance in the salt air but to visit, to get away from it all for a day or two, oh yes.

Other water areas in Chiriqui are Boca Chica, a tranquil island area great for swimming, boating, kayaking, fishing, etc and Las Lajas, an equally beautiful beach, father from David but without the dangerous undertows. Puerto Armuelles area is west near the Costa Rica border and there are beaches there as well. It has been a depressed area since Chiquita Banana (United Fruit Company) pulled out in 2003, but there is talk about development in the area, and there are some happy gringos living there currently.

On an entirely different subject, how to you get your calves home? In a taxi, of course! Farm animals in trucks are a common sight in this agcultural area, as are trucks laden with produce. Taxis are also seen with all sorts of things but I’ve never seen this. https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/video-of-the-week-only-in-chiriqui?fbclid=IwAR3hrWikhF1eUzmuxpxsaEdu5zHMfMCTRh701CfJrxL8eFUalKXAIpaxM7c

Look very closely at the end of the video and you’ll see that there are two calves in the trunk. 😁

Life in Panama. Even after more than 6 years there is always something new and interesting.

Posted in Panama | 7 Comments

Catching a Domestic Flight at Tocumen Airport, Panama City Airport

The last few times I went to the USA, I flew on Copa from David to Panama City rather than take the bus. This, however, involves changing from a domestic flight to an international one, and the reverse on the way back. I have always booked the tickets separately so it might be different if you book from David to your USA destination on the same itinerary, but I think it would be basically the same, except I think your baggage can be checked through.

Keep in mind that Air Panama flies into Albrook, Marcos Gelabert airport. This might be a good option if you are only going to Panama City since this airport is on the west side of the city by the canal. Copa, however, flies into Tocumen airport which is a ways (and a $30-35 taxi ride) east of the city. This is the departure airport for international flights and the one you want if you are flying onward.

Leaving David to fly out of Panama

So, starting in David, check in for your flight, go through security, and hang out in the waiting room until you are called to board (in both Spanish and English). You will go outside, walk along beside the back of the airport building, and then up the ramp into the plane.

When you land in Panama City (after a 45-50 minute fight) you will get on a bus which will take you to what seems like the other end of the airport. Be prepared to be bounced around while hanging on to a strap. When you arrive and enter the building, if you need to pick up luggage stop by the area to your left where a worker will be unloading the luggage (one piece at a time). Find yours and follow the crowd out.

You will be on the ground floor to the far left of the building (when facing the building). You need to go outside and walk to your left along the building until you find another entrance back into the building. Enter and keep walking in the same direction until you find the stairs and escalator that will take you upstairs. Upstairs, you will find all the check in areas for the international flights. The airport staff are bilingual so if you need help, ask any of the people stationed at various points to direct you to the correct line. From here, it’s the usual airport thing, check in, clear security, and find your gate. You can expect another security check at the gate, complete with pat down and confiscation of your water bottle, even if it’s empty. Whew! You made it. Well done. Bien viaje.

Coming back into Panama and on to David

Arrival in Panama City is the usual routine of landing in a big airport, getting off the plane, and usually going for a good long walk until you find yourself in the older part of the airport. Look for stairs leading to the lower level and yellow signs saying “migration”. Downstairs you will find the customs area so get in line and have your passport in hand. (If you don’t have your customs form, you can find more on the counter at the bottom of the stairs). As far as I know these agents are bilingual, and will probably ask where you are going and how long you plan to stay. You will need to press your fingers on the glass for fingerprints and face the camera for a photo.

Next, follow the hallway around to baggage claim. Chances are your luggage will be waiting. Pick it up and with passport and the customs form in hand, get in line for the next thing. When it’s your turn, hand the agent your passport and form, put your luggage and carry on’s on the conveyor belt, and pass through. You are through customs!

When we went to check in for our domestic flight early on a Friday morning, the check in area was rather insane! Thankfully our check in line was short.

Now, go out to the lobby where you will find yourself facing a crowd of people  looking for arriving passengers. You are on the ground floor, so look for the stairs and escalator that will take you upstairs to the check in area. Turn left up there, pass the lines of people at the Copa check ins and look for the sign that says “domestic flights”, almost to the end where there are signs for gates 1-20.  Ask any employee “David?” (“Daveed”) if you are confused. The line should be reasonably short.

Look for these signs to check in for your flight

Once checked in, go back downstairs, go outside and turn right. Go to the end of the building (right before a sign advertising a restaurant and chicken/pollo, if I remember), and look for a door back in. Again “David?” (”Daveed”) should get some help from pretty much anyone you see. When you enter you are likely to see an unoccupied desk, another desk beyond where an employee will check your boarding pass and passport, and then the security checkpoint. After this you will find yourself in a waiting area.

When you are called to board, it’s the bouncy bus again to the other end of the airport. But, when you get out you will get on the plane which will take you to David! Yay, almost there.

David is easy – follow the crowd, wait around at baggage claim until the luggage is unloaded, and then proceed to the main area of the airport where you’ll find people waiting for arriving passengers. If you need a taxi you will find drivers just outside the door outside. They aren’t allowed to clog the area though so you’ll have to wait a moment while your driver goes to get his vehicle.

I should have taken more pictures. If any of you have done this and have information to add or correct, please leave a comment. Gracias y bien viaje!

Posted in Panama | 12 Comments

November Holidays, and visiting the USA

I was going to write about many November holidays in Panama. The joke is nothing gets done in November because of them, but fun things do get done. There are parades and festivities, and time off from work. There’s a lot of Panamanian pride and flags can be seen everywhere. Now we have just entered December which has Mother’s Day, a most important holiday, and then Christmas and New Years. We are also getting close to the start of the dry season. It will be Christmas/summer break for schools until early February so it’s a good time for family vacations. Maybe getting business done is a slower process this time of year, but time for family and fun is always enjoyed.

But, I have been in the US visiting family and all that free time I thought I would spend writing was spent with kids and grandkids. There is a baby who smiles at me every time I talk to her, which is enough to make a grandma melt. There are two 3 year old girls who talk and play and climb on my lap for cuddles. There is a 5 year old boy who tells me about his Spider-Man games and a multitude of other things that interest him, and likes to play card and board games with grandma. For Thanksgiving weekend the whole family was together and that was awesome! We even managed to see my sister and her whole family, some of whom I haven’t seen in years. Panamanians are right on, IMO, in prioritizing family and friends, and as I get older and have grandkids it’s more and more important to me too.

It’s a problem for many expats to leave their home country and extended family. I am so thankful for technology which allows me to stay more connected with family than ever before. But this is definitely something to consider if you are thinking of moving. Will you be satisfied with on line connections? How much will you want to go back for visits? Will this work with your budget? I have a hard time imagining people from the past who moved across oceans, lucky to get a letter from loved ones and likely to never see them in person again. I am so thankful for technology and airplanes.

Anyway… some have asked me my thoughts on going back to the US after 6 years of living here. It’s not much different than what I have written about in the past. I was in Seattle and  northern California wine country so my experiences may be different than other parts of the country, of course. But, I find everything SO expensive! A trip to the produce department looks nice, all the perfect produce beautifully displayed, but I always have sticker shock and I don’t think a lot of it tastes as good. But, I did enjoy apples, raspberries, sweet potatoes, and other things aren’t local here.

Streets are smooth, everything is landscaped and manicured, and people actually stop at stop signs. There are tons of stores and they all have SO much stuff to buy. Many people are thriving. You see nice homes and expensive cars on the roads. But, many people are suffering right next to them. I didn’t see my homeless friends in Seattle and I hope they have succeeded in getting themselves off the street. But, there were many others. My daughters and husbands thankfully have good jobs because expenses are high and child care is super expensive. Life seems more stressful in general and loss of a job, a major illness, or other bad event can be devastating. There is an unspoken need to keep up certain appearances that I don’t feel here. And, as usual, I miss the friendliness of people greeting each other on the street. Everyone seems so busy and in their own worlds. Oh, and I had to remind myself to speak English when I was out.

There is also eBay and on line shopping. Here in Panama it can be done, but it’s costly to ship things in and it takes a while for things to arrive. In the US you click a button and the item shows up at the door within a day or two. We always have a list of things we either buy on line or on shopping excursions, and now the neighbors have discovered eBay and they are having a wonderful time buying mostly name brand clothes and shoes for a fraction of the cost. We notice that China has a growing presence on eBay. You can get very inexpensive things but you have to allow a few weeks for shipping. My neighbor bought Converse shoes from China a few months ago though and says the quality is fine and the price is a huge savings.

Now I am back and immediately into our life here and our busy band schedule. I took my new bass out last night and we had a fabulous time at the gig, even had two saxophone players sitting in for the second set and it was crazy fun. I have come back from a break with renewed energy and enjoyment and it feels good to be playing again. Retirement, it’s a beautiful thing and I’m going to enjoy every day that I have!

PS I forgot to mention that the banner photo is an electric charging station at WalMart, something I haven’t seen before but electric vehicles are more and more common now.

 

 

Posted in Panama | 2 Comments

Bugs and Birds

I have some photos here that I’ve taken around our home. I’m more accustomed now to the large variety of insects that we usually see so I don’t take as many photos as I used to, but there are still some remarkable new visitors who stop by now and then. This very large stick bug was behind the washing machine. It fell back down when it tried to climb the wall so I took pity on it and put it out on a ginger flower.

The morning we were headed to the airport I saw this really big, colorful caterpillar. My search turned up its name, tetrio sphinx. I’ve seen these moths but I didn’t realize this was their caterpillar, or that it was so big because the moth is not unusually big.

There are tons of birds too. I spend a lot of time on the terrace and many visit the birdbath. I took most of these photos from the other side of my bookshelf so they aren’t great but I didn’t disturb or frighten the birds from my spot.

I don’t have my bird book to identify these birds accurately but they are all frequent visitors to the birdbath. It’s a pleasure to be outside, especially in the late afternoon when many seem to visit. Panama is said to have more species of both bugs and birds than the entire North America so it’s a pretty cool place to be.

Posted in Panama | 2 Comments

MIA

That’s me, missing in action. I have photos and ideas to share but I just haven’t written anything in ages.

The band has been busy with what seems weeks of either playing or practicing almost every other day so I’m always either getting ready for something or recovering from something. There are the usual chores and errands and for my mental health, I’ve been spending more time on my bike and in the yard.

These are my excuses. Good ones huh? But I also just haven’t felt like writing. I only have so much time and energy to put out there, and it hasn’t gone in the blogging direction lately. But, I’m in the US now and maybe I’ll do some catching up if I’m not too busy spending time with family and playing with little ones.

Speaking of catching up with things, if you have contacted me and I didn’t answer, please poke me and remind me! Correspondence gets buried in my mailbox and unintentionally forgotten. But, if you have contacted me about guests posts, website promotion, advertising, or other commercial endeavors I’m not interested. That’s not what this is about.

Anyway… onward. It’s chilly, sunny, and pretty here in the Seattle area. My granddaughter and I talked a blue streak over breakfast and the baby is smiling and cooing at me. Life is good! It’s hard to believe we left David Panama yesterday morning and landed in Seattle last night, three flights later, in almost another world. I’m thankful to be here with my family.

 

Posted in Panama