Christmas Shopping

It’s that time again. Black Friday is tomorrow. It’s time to go shopping and get all those presents for everyone on your list. It’s the same in Panama. Christmas is a big deal and there is lots of shopping, and they have even started Black Friday here. Rather than going nuts with the shopping, I hope we can all be very thoughtful about where we spend our money and use it to do the most possible good.

I ran across this today, a possible good gift idea. These beautiful earrings are hand made by Syrian refugees and can be yours for $15, or less if you buy a quantity. You would be helping these refugees earn money and rebuild their lives for themselves and their families. Here is the website. This is a screen shot from their website to entice you.

earrings

And here is a video telling a bit about the business.

I have other ideas also. Make a donation rather than buying something.

HEIFER INTERNATIONAL  These people are working to end hunger and poverty around the world. You can buy a goat, a pig, chicken, beehive, or a share of a cow or water buffalo to help lift up a family who can use it for breeding, for income, for work, and/or for food. It looks like they are also getting much more involved in the US because there is a lot of need and poverty at home as well as abroad.

MICRO LOANS  You have an idea to make sandwiches, to raise chickens, or cut hair. It could be anything but you are poor and you don’t have the money for the supplies you need to get started, so you are stuck. This is where a micro loan can make a huge difference. I especially love micro loans that support women because when you help lift up a woman, you help her whole family and her community. There are a number of organizations so rather than post links, use google to research and choose one that feels right to you.

Speaking of women, I remember Half the Sky, a book about women beaten down and abused, but also rising up and building lives. It’s a very powerful book and it has started a movement to help women and girls. Their website is HERE, and they also have shopping ideas that will support women.

halfthesky

Myself? I don’t do Christmas. I stopped sending cards 40 years ago and didn’t lose any friends because of it. I don’t remember when I stopped with the gifts, but that also has been many years and I haven’t lost any friends because of that either. In my opinion holidays are for people. Get together with people you care about, or call on the phone, or send an email, however you can connect. I certainly don’t need any more “stuff”, and I’m not going shopping just because someone else’s religion marked a date on a calendar. Bah humbug.

It’s still raining here so I’m not able to do some of my usual activities. This gives me more time for writing and blogging. I’ll get away from my desk and stop bothering you all so much soon😀

Posted in Panama | 8 Comments

Otto – Thursday 11/24

Happy Thanksgiving! It’s a wet one here and a dangerous one for our neighbors. Here are a couple images from the Weather Underground.

1124otto

Otto is now a category 2 hurricane with winds of 110 MPH, and the track looks a bit north of where it was yesterday making landfall in Nicaragua just above the Costa Rica border. As I mentioned yesterday, this is an area of nature preserves so hopefully there are less people there so less danger to life and property.

1124otto3

Yikes! I lived in Florida too long and studied too many of these maps. I know what this means.

La Prensa, one of our Panamanian news sources, is saying that weather is now returning to normal in Panama. There are still four people missing though and lots of storm damage to clean up. Things are hardly normal for our neighbors however, and many people have been evacuated from the coastal areas. Many people also refused to leave, wanting to stay and protect their property. I remember this was sometimes a problem in Florida also, and very discouraged because if you got in trouble nobody could make it out to help you.

I love the windy tv site! As you can see, we are still getting rain here (the other purple spot). It rained like crazy yesterday afternoon and evening. It continued off an on through the night and is still lightly raining now. A friend pointed out that if you go to this site, choose “wind” and then “surface” in the very lower right, it brings up a menu where you can see the winds at different elevations. Check out the first one, 150, and you can see the hurricane spitting out all the wind above itself.  How interesting!

1124otto2

So, that is the latest on the storm from soggy Panama. Our rain is moving west so we’ll be out of it soon, and there shouldn’t be any more unusual weather to report from here. I’ll keep an eye on our neighbors though, and hope for the best for them.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Posted in Panama | 8 Comments

Otto – Wednesday 11/23

It’s cool, cloudy, and very still here this morning in western Panama. Otto is moving WNW at 5 MPH and after reaching hurricane strength yesterday, is now back to a tropical storm (which is really only a difference of a few MPH in wind strength).

1123otto

You can see that there is now more distance between the storm and Panama though of course we are still affected. Rain is predicted off and on today though with the storm now farther west, I think Costa Rica is where the main soaking is going to be. It looks like the storm will hit just over the border in Nicaragua. I think that is an area with more nature preserves and less people, and I really hope the storm weakens as it goes west towards the populated areas on the west side. But, if it must pass across I suppose this is about as good a path as we could hope for.

1123otto2

La Prensa continues to report on the storm. The main headline says there are 10 people missing, and most of them were out on boats. There are a number of articles on storm damage in various locations around the country.

Of course people have been discussing the storm on blogs and social media, and some interesting links have been shared. Here is an article in English with photos. This is a very cool site that shows you the winds and where it is raining.  Yep, it looks like Costa Rica is getting good and wet, and it’s coming down hard just east of us as well.

We are still at risk for heavy rains, but it won’t be much longer until the storm is too far away and our normal weather will return. Meanwhile it is really quiet in the neighborhood. I don’t hear the usual activity of people coming and going, but I do hear the children because the schools remain closed. I’ll post another update tomorrow but after that, the main news will be how it went for our neighbors in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

And, here comes the rain again. Hasta mañana….

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

Tropical Storm Otto – Tuesday Update 11/22

It is Tuesday morning and this is what it looks like in my yard! Yes, that is SUN, and BLUE sky. It is still mostly cloudy though and I would have missed that glimpse of sun if I hadn’t been sitting outside.

The storm continues to be a cause for major concern. According to Weather Underground, it is right above Panama City, Colon, and the canal. It is barely moving but gaining strength, and is expected to become a category 1 hurricane very soon. It is still expected to make landfall near the Costa Rica / Nicaragua border sometime Thursday night.

at201616_5day

I was watching the local news at my neighbor’s house yesterday evening, and they were showing a lot of flooding and damage. People have been evacuated from the areas of Alaje (a short ways west of us) and Barú (closer to Costa Rica) and the towns are closed off because of flooding and storm damage to roads and bridges. Two teenagers decided to bathe in a river and got swept away and drowned. One has been found and they are looking for the body of the other one.

Trafico Panama, a website that monitors traffic flow posted a number of photos of flooded streets in Panama City on their Facebook page. La Prensa, one of our news sources is posting stories of flooding, land slides, and country wide problems, though as one would expect the Caribbean side of the country has been hit the worst. (Nice to see Trump also made the front page because he canceled a meeting with the New York Times. Yes the whole world watches the US). They also report that Costa Rica is evacuating people from their Caribbean coast. I hope Nicaragua is taking similar precautions.

The Red Cross is asking for donations of water, milk, and diapers.

15094246_10155502267289535_665184071184527735_n

Thank you all for your concern about us here. We are just fine. We are high enough above the river that there is no way it could flood up here. We have a good sturdy house and we don’t have to go anywhere if we don’t want to. But, I continue to be very concerned for our neighbors. There are many people here, in Costa Rica, and especially in Nicaragua who are poor and don’t have sturdy houses, and could suffer greatly in this storm. I’m glad to hear that evacuations are under way and efforts are being made to keep everyone alive and safe.

Since there has been so much interest in my last post I’ll write an update daily until the storm is gone.

Posted in Panama | 10 Comments

Tropical Storm Otto is Soaking Us

We don’t get hurricanes in Panama! We don’t get tropical storms either. Well… never say never. We haven’t seen the sun for six days. It has been raining for most of that time and it is becoming a real problem. Rivers are flooding and hillsides of mud are falling on to roads. People are being flooded out of their homes, areas are closed, and two teenagers were washed away and drowned in a river.

Tropical Storm Otto has been slowly making its way towards us, and is expected to become a category 1 hurricane before it makes landfall. Thankfully for us it is heading west and will probably land in Costa Rica or Nicaragua, but of course this is very bad for our neighbors. We are definitely feeling the effects in Panama though with tons of rain and more expected. The president and the media are warning everyone to stay out of rivers and streams, and out of flooded areas for safety.

otto4

We live about where the little red arrow points so you can see we are definitely being affected by the storm. There are purple outlines for the countries. Costa Rica is next door to the northwest, and Nicaragua is above it.

It sure has been a lot cooler also. Temperatures have been pretty much low 70’s, day and night. Everything feels so wet because of the high humidity. A bit of water on my outside table sits there unchanged day after day. We usually have the sun in the first half of the day to warm and dry everything, but not lately.

otto3

Here is a more colorful and dramatic picture for you. I remember in 2012 when I first arrived we had four days of rain as a hurricane passed above us. Who would have thought that one would actually land this close to us? Thankfully it is a rare thing. I worry about our neighbors though, and all the people who have very little and could be devastated by a bad storm.

 

Posted in Panama | 21 Comments

A Deal on Seagullcove Lodge

We have Oferta Simple here, a thing like Groupon that offers discounts on restaurants, hotels, and many other things. Usually the deals are in Panama City but once in a while something comes up in our area. Today there is a deal for the Seagullcove Lodge which in my opinion is a very special place so I wanted to bring it to everyone’s attention.

The deal is HERE. $109 for a bungalow for two people, comes with a welcome drink and use of a kayak for 2 hours. There is a restaurant on site and a tiki bar, and the food is very good. There are only 5 bungalows so it is a very intimate feeling place. It’s on the side of a hill though and you need to climb up and down stairs to get to the bungalows so don’t book this if you can’t manage that.

This area is a bay with many islands so it is calm and beautiful. It is fun to hire a water taxi to take you on a tour (probably at least $50 so a group works well). Or, for just a few dollars you can get a taxi to take you over to Boca Brava where you can walk, look for howler monkeys, and visit the restaurant which also has great views.

The view from the resort, from the top of the hill.

The view from the resort, from the top of the hill.

I have been there and blogged about it HERE. Click the link to see more pictures. We have stopped by a few times since and as far as I know, Marcelo, the smiling guy in the red shirt is still working there. He speaks excellent English and is a great host. The whole staff is excellent but he’s the one you will see the most.

I think this is a very special place so I figured a deal that makes it more affordable is good news worth sharing.

Posted in Panama | 6 Comments

Cold and Wet

This is the height of rainy season and oh my goodness, has it been raining! Usually mornings are clear and it doesn’t rain until late in the day, and it stops by mid evening. It can rain incredibly hard sometimes but it doesn’t last long.

This week though we woke up to rain on Wednesday morning. It rained all day, sometimes quite hard. It continued through the night and into Thursday, not as hard but pretty much steady all day. There have been warnings about flooding and possible land slides, so this is definitely not a good time to go swimming in the rivers and streams.

This morning it was cool and cloudy but not raining. It sure is wet out there though! I put a pitcher of iced tea on the terrace table Wednesday morning where it sweat and made a bit of a puddle. This morning, Friday, the puddle was still there, unchanged. I guess this is not a good time to hang out laundry😀

This afternoon, the rain has come back, not hard, but just a steady light rain. The weather prediction says it is supposed to stop this evening but they are wrong as much as they are right, so we shall see.

Along with the rain has come some very cool weather. I have been in long pants most of the time, and even fuzzy socks and a sweatshirt.

Mid afternoon when it is supposed to be the warmest.

Mid afternoon when it is supposed to be the warmest.

Ok, you can stop laughing now. But now you also understand why we don’t live in the mountains. I’m most comfortable with temperatures in the 80’s. I am going to store this in my memory so I can pull it out in March, the height of the dry and hot season. It will feel good then.

Posted in Panama | 16 Comments

New Products at El Rey

El Rey is one of three large supermarkets on the Pan-American highway. It’s in a very nice shopping area that also includes a number of other upscale stores. We usually go to El Rey because it is on our side of the highway and there is plenty of parking, so it is easy to get in and out.

You learn what is in which stores and plan your shopping trips accordingly. If you want “health food” type things, your best bet is Super Baru which is a slightly smaller supermarket across the street. They tend to have the best variety of interesting imported things of all types. You can’t find everything you would expect in the US but more and more things seem to be coming available, I imagine because of the large expat population up the road who come down to David to shop.

Today we were making a quick run through El Rey and landed in Aisle 7 where Joel was studying the cereal selection, and some chia seeds on the other side of the aisle caught my eye. Since when were these available here?? (only place so far I’ve seen them is Pricesmart) Then I noticed sesame seeds, which before I only found at Baru. Then, organic coconut, quinoa products, gluten free things… where did all this stuff come from?!

newproducts4

Then I noticed the greatly expanded selection of soy milks that now includes more flavors, a whole lot of almond milks, some rice milk, and quite a few other products I haven’t even seen in the US! Hazelnut? Oat?

newproducts1

Down the aisle was a whole display of Red Mill products. They have these at Baru but El Rey now has twice the selection! (excuse the blurry photo. I was using my cell phone and trying not to look obvious to the employee stocking shelves nearby).

newproducts2

I also saw coconut oil! A while back our veggie market, our usual source, wasn’t able to get coconut oil and I ran all over town looking. I finally found it in Romero in San Mateo next to the old McDonald’s. But, it was imported, expensive, and not nearly as aromatic and flavorful as the home made stuff from the veggie market. But, if the veggie market guy has a problem in the future now I have another source right down the street. And, I see agave and other products, and maple syrup! (I can’t see the price but if you just must have some, here you go). Many of the prices looked high to me but I live in Panama. I just had a rude awakening, as usual, when I went shopping in the US so in the big picture maybe these prices aren’t too bad for imported things.

newproducts3

I have heard good things about a health food store in Boquete called Organica, but since I’m not up there much I only vaguely remember it from a visit a long time ago. Many Boquete folks come down here to shop though and El Rey is convenient. I always see other gringos there, so I imagine these new products are here for the expat shoppers. The Panamanians I know tend to eat their traditional dishes but being generally very health conscious, maybe they will be interested in trying some of these things too.

We do not suffer here, and we do not lack for things we need every day. Sometimes we don’t lack for things we never even knew we needed😀 If you are looking for health food store types of products be sure to check out Aisle 7 in El Rey. I’m sure there are more things there than I noticed and/or photographed and you might be happy with what you find.

Posted in Panama | 9 Comments

La Barqueta Beach

One good thing about having visitors is that you tend to go out and enjoy the things in your area and get out of your routine a bit. My nephew was visiting last weekend and we had a day to run around, so we thought a trip to the beach was in order.

The beach isn’t that far but weeks can go by when we don’t go visit. It was as beautiful as ever this afternoon though the waves were bigger and stronger. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people out having a good time.  The parking area was quite full, and many people were on the beach and more were relaxing in the shade.  Many times we have been there and only seen a handful of people, and sometimes nobody at all but not on this beautiful day.

There isn’t a lot going on at the beach. There is Las Olas resort/hotel, a building of condos, and down the other direction there is a community of beach homes but I understand most of them are only used seasonally. In the middle area this new white condo building has arisen, and past it are a couple little local restaurants, both of which were open. In my previous experience only one is usually open and they usually only have fried fish, but it’s very good fish.

I love the mountains way in the distance

I love the mountains way in the distance

If you go to this beach though, use extreme caution in the water. It is known for dangerous rip currents and undertows and people have drowned. I noticed there was a caution flag and emergency floating devices on the beach, something I hadn’t seen before. I don’t think there is a lifeguard though.

The view from the restaurant

The view from the restaurant

To get to the beach it is a pretty drive through the countryside past cow pastures, sugar cane fields, rice fields, and some small towns. I bike out there quite a bit but it’s a 2 hour ride each way so I usually only go part way. Near the beach you can see storks, egrets, and other water birds and there is a caiman that is known to live in one of the waterways.

I hope everything here makes sense. I’m listening to my daughter at the same time. She is doing a Planning Commission Meeting for Sonoma County CA and it is live on line. I’m sure this is totally boring to most people but I think it’s really cool to be able to watch her at work. They are in the very complicated and lengthy process of making policy for marijuana, and since they are the among the first who are making policy for growing, distribution, sales and all aspects of the industry, a lot of eyes are on them.

 

Posted in Panama | 14 Comments

Traveling out of Panama City

I took a few pictures in Panama City, and then as the bus left the city.

Everything went smoothly at the bus station and before long we were on our way.

It was one of the many November holidays so many buildings were decorated in flags and red, white, and blue.

I snapped this photo as the bus crossed the canal on the Bridge of th Americas. Out there, just to the right of the three left most crane. Are those the new locks?

img_6729

One of the pleasures of taking the bus is the beautiful scenery. There are wind turbines in one of the photos. I was on the wrong side of the bus but managed to get this photo as the bus went around a bend. I remember when there were only a few, and now there are a lot more all the way up to the road. Someone told me they weren’t working when he saw them but they were all turning on this day.

It’s been busy between travels, a great time with a visiting nephew, and getting settled back in but things seem to be getting somewhat back to normal again.

Posted in Panama | 7 Comments