Funny, but Also True?

Joel saw this funny video posted by a Facebook friend. A “northerner” was terrorizing Londoners by *gasp* saying hello to complete strangers!

But, much of humor has truth behind it. In some places it is not customary to greet strangers and it makes people very uncomfortable. Here in Panama it is quite the opposite. Greetings are customary with strangers on the street, on the bus, in a waiting room, everywhere! After five years here it has become my normal and I really miss it when I’m in the US. It makes you feel good to be aknowledged by everyone but isn’t the custom in many places.

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The Faucet Gives You Water

This is what you expect, right? You turn on the faucet and water comes out. I learned on my first day that this is not always so. I was alone in a new country, new house, half bottle of drinking water on hand, and when I turned the faucet nothing came out.

In the summer when there isn’t any rain water shortages are common. When it rains too much the lines get clogged with mud and the water is off until they can be cleaned. If they are fixing something, the water is off. No one seems to know why the water is off most of the time and no one seems to get very upset about it either. Thankfully the water always seems to come back on later. I can only think of once when it was out for more than a day and a water truck came through the neighborhood to fill any container that you gave them.

Panama is working hard to upgrade infrastructure, including the water systems and we have fewer outages than when we arrived five years ago. But, it still happens. Last Saturday the water slowed to a trickle, and then went out. It was back at night but Sunday was more of the same. Monday was variable, but mostly low water pressure. We are in a lower part of the neighborhood so we often have a trickle where the higher houses have nothing.

We have gallons of water on hand so it’s only inconvient when the water goes out. Laundry and cleaning wait, and hair doesn’t get washed. Many houses have water tanks to see them through outages but with just the two of us in a rented house, we are ok without one. I’m always thankful when the water is back on though, and think about the many people in the world who never have water in their homes or even access to any clean water at all.

If we are without something, I’m glad it’s water. Electricity has been very reliable. It goes out once in a great while but almost never for very long. Internet has been equally reliable.

Life in Panama means some things are different, or you do without some things that you always took for granted. But we think, for us, these things are very minor compared to the many things that are so much better. It’s also good to think about what is really important, and to be thankful for clean water even when it occasionally comes in a gallon jug.

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A Bad Day?

What does having a bad day mean? An annoyance? A cranky boss or client? Losing your job? Losing the fight for your very survival?

I saw a story from National Geographic. This girl was born in Rwanda in 1994, prematurely, as her mother was running to escape the genocide. Her mother died soon after the birth, the baby girl ended up in an orphanage where it was arranged for her to be adopted by a Belgian family. She made it out on the last plane, now suffering from malaria, days before all the other children were massacred. She survived though and has now returned to Rwanda where she works to help people with education and medical care.

The article and video are HERE

People get upset sometimes. There is no water today, and it was off on Monday too. We had to go downtown and the traffic was nuts, and then we had to sit around and wait our turn for a car inspection. They didn’t even look like they were trying to hurry. The ants are eating my moringa tree, again, and the darn frog who croaks at night is so loud. It’s sunny and too hot, or there’s too much rain, and they still don’t have season salt in the supermarket. Why does every conversation have words I don’t understand, and they talk so fast?

Some people aren’t happy with the expat life. It’s too hard to adapt, to tolerate the frustrations. There are for profit companies promoting the expat life in various countries but they won’t tell you of the problems and challenges. This is something each of us must learn for ourselves, and then decide if we can be happy.

But, when I hear about the suffering and challenges confronting so many of the worlds people, I see how fortunate we are. We have clean water and at worst, we have to grab a gallon jug from under the sink. No one is shooting at us or bombing our city. We aren’t suffering from diseases with no available health care. No one even looks down on us for our differing religious, political, or lifestyle views. We have everything we need – food, shelter, affordable medical care, friends and community ties, and freedom from worry.

My worst day would be an incredible gift to so many of the world’s people. My worst day is a good day, and I am very thankful. Continue reading

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African Dance

No, this isn’t about Panama either, but look at this! My neighbor shared a video and I went looking for more to try and figure out what this is.

Here is the video she shared. (A slightly longer version)

And another.

This looks like the first video but it is longer and  explains a little bit about the dance and where they are from.

How do they do that?! I’ve never seen anything like it.

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Classical Music – Debussy plays Debussy

Nothing about Panama here. I happened across this recording from 1913 of Debussy playing his own music and it’s really beautiful. There is something special about hearing music played by the person who created it.

I found it on this Open Culture page Here. This site is all about sharing art, literature, and educational material for free so it is accessible to all of us.

The of course when you go to YouTube you find all sorts of other interesting and related things. Ravel plays Ravel

If this interests you I’ll let you take it from here. I hadn’t thought about how many recordings there are from that time. I love this French music and we are lucky to be able to listen to these.

OK, we now return to regular programming…. wait, there hasn’t been much of that either. You get to the point that anywhere you live, it’s just life and what interests you continues to interest you. Thanks to the internet so much is available wherever you happen to be.

And, if you want to know what is going on in Panama, it’s 2:15 PM, 85 degrees on my terrace, clouds are moving in, pleasant light breeze. We went out this morning to buy a new car battery, some flea medicine for the dog, and a new lock to replace the rusted sticky one on the front gate. Now I am blissing out listening to music in the background along with the many birds and other neighborhood sounds. In a while it will be time for practice, bass guitar and rock music. Someone on line asked recently – what do all you retired people do all day? We do whatever we want to! (after the chores and errands are done).

Then my neighbor came over and now it’s almost 3 pm. Just dropping in on people is very normal here, and they think we are quite strange for calling ahead or making an appointment. We started hearing thunder in the distance though and she didn’t want to get caught in the rain so it was a shorter visit, and we’ll continue over the weekend.

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More US Photos

I’ve finally gotten around the downloading and sorting the photos I took of the Washington part of my time in the US. It’s summer there and though it was hot and there hadn’t been rain for some time, it was still green and there were many beautiful flowers around the neighborhood.

Of course the fun at the house was seeing my daughter, son in law, and my other granddaughter. A frequent outing is the neighborhood playground, and a favorite toy at home was a box. My Panamanian neighbors did some eBay shopping and one item was Mexican boots, and the box they arrived in was a big hit.

We took a couple days away to go into the mountains where the kids had rented a cabin (really a very comfortable and well stocked house) on a beautiful river.

One unexpected and exciting thing was the Pacific Crest Trail. I saw the movie “The Way” which is about the Camino De Santiago in Europe, and later read the book and then saw the movie “Wild” about a woman’s experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and found both hugely inspirational, and motivation to get out there and travel on my bicycle. I never thought about encountering the PCT though, and even having a brief chat with a hiker!

Of course all good things end at some point, and it was time for my trip back home to Panama. It’s quite a trip too, an evening flying to San Francisco, then waiting for an early flight from SFO to Panama, a hotel overnight, and a day on the bus to David.

All very tedious things also come to an end though, and I’m happy to say I’ve been back home for a week now. My stomach flu resolved and I feel like myself again, and Joel and I have spent many hours practicing the songs I have learned to play on the bass. That has gone really, really well and I’m super excited about it. All those hours of practice while I was gone really paid off. We plan to get together with the drummer soon and put it all together, and then I should be ready to step in when I’m needed.

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Home Again

Again, it’s been quite a while since I posted anything. I went back to the US to visit my daughters and grandchildren. My time there was spent with family, helping out, and any free time was spent practicing the bass. I bought a cheap bass and had it sent to California. It was a surprisingly good instrument for the price and allowed me to make a lot of progress. The bass I bought on eBay   Check it out!

The grandchildren are growing fast, as kids do. My grandson is four now so he’s way past being a baby, and the granddaughters are 21 months so they are doing and learning more every day. I’ll post some pictures at some point here, and I also have photos of the Seattle area and a weekend trip we made into the mountains.

It’s really beautiful in California and Washington state, and they were having a big summer heat wave. Some days were even above 100F, even in the mountains. I got by in sandals and no sweatshirt on many days! But as soon as the sun went down it cooled off again and with no rain for quite some time, there was little humidity.

I sat next to a French guy on the plane back and it was funny to watch his face as we stepped out of the airport and that warm, moist air hit him. Yeah, this is the Panama climate. After spending two days in air conditioned airports and planes it was heaven! I came down with stomach flu during my trip back and couldn’t get warm, so that night in the hotel in Panama City with the window open and that tropical air wafting in was just heaven.

I’ve been home for a couple days now.  My flu has finally left and I woke up today feeling like myself again. The bass practice has really paid off. Practice with Joel is going really well and I’m much more confident that by next month, I’ll be able to hold my own with the band.

And, most important to me, I am home. I don’t think it’s something that can be explained. You have to feel it, experience it yourself. It’s like there is a happiness and calmness energy in the very air you breathe here. I don’t always think abut it and appreciate it as much as I should, but when I leave I definitely feel the change and I’m reminded of why I wake up every morning filled with gratitude for this life.


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Family Time in California

It has been quite a while since I’ve posted anything.  I’ve been enjoying time in California with my daughter and her family, and practicing bass when they are off to work/school/daycare. But, I pull out the camera now and then so I have collected a few things to share. It’s taken me a long time though to find time and inclination to write anything though. (I’m working hard to learn bass so I can sub in my husband’s band. It’s going well but it’s a lot to learn.)

One evening we went to Paradise Ridge winery. They are open on Wednesday evenings so people can bring or buy food, drink wine, and enjoying a beautiful evening watching the sun get low in the sky. This is where my daughter got married so it was interesting to be back, now with her two children.

On another day we went to the beach. It was hot in town but cooler at the beach, and it felt even colder in the strong winds that tried to blow sand in your face anytime you faced them. Marian was reported to be afraid of the waves but she apparently got over that. She would run straight into the waves at every opportunity and Amy had her hands full chasing her and keeping her from harm.

On another day the in-laws and I visited  Quarry Hills botanical gardens    It is the middle of summer and not many things were blooming but the grounds were beautiful and we really enjoyed walking around and exploring. The nearby vineyards were also beautiful and there are lots of grapes on the vines.

Things seem crazy expensive to me, as usual.

A few other random photos

All good things, however, must come to an end. The time came for me to head back to San Francisco for a flight to Seattle to visit my other daughter, where I just arrived last night.

The flight to Seattle was one of the most beautiful flights I can remember. We had a good view of San Francisco in the evening light with fog softening the edges of the city and making the distant hills purple and gray, and just beautiful. As we flew north the sunset colors only intensified until everything in Washington state had a rosy glow, including a spectacular snow covered Mount Rainier.

Speaking of all good things coming to an end, I just got word of a death. My biological mother has been married for 60+ years and just lost her husband. This has to be a very difficult time for her so please, if you can, send some love.

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Beautiful Boquete

We have been driving up to Boquete a couple times a week for Joel’s band gigs. It’s almost always a very beautiful drive, and yesterday was especially gorgeous. It had rained in the morning which is unusual, but the sun came out in the afternoon and it was a travel magazine worthy scene.

I think I fell in love with Panama when I first saw the lush, green mountains from the airplane window. I still appreciate the beauty that is around us every day from the woods behind our house, to the view of Volcan Baru as we leave our neighborhood, to the many other scenes that we enjoy on a daily basis.

We stopped at the visitors center just above the downhill that takes you into the town of Boquete. This is the most well known view of Boquete from up there.

There was a large family of coati on and just behind the wall. They were very cute and totally unafraid of people. I’m sure visitors had fed them and tamed them, but I felt better keeping a little bit of distance.

Some days the beauty around you overwhelms everything and anything that might be bothering you.

Mi vida dificil!

My life, however, may not allow as much time for blogging. I have a trip back to the US planned in a few days, but maybe when I’m there we’ll have beautiful summer days and of course there will be the grandchildren. And, I have another huge project going on that is taking up all of my time. The bass player in Joel’s band likes to travel, but when he’s gone the band can’t play unless they can find a substitute which isn’t possible most of the time. So, I decided to step up and learn to play the bass. I have a lot of classical piano background in my very distant past but this is something new. My goal is to be ready to go by September which requires a lot of practice. But, so far it’s going well and this could be a huge amount of fun!

You just never know where life might take you! 😀


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The Package Arrives in the US from Panama

On June 6th, I went to the local post office and mailed a small package to my daughter in Seattle. There are details in the post here.

On June 29th my daughter got a notice from the post office that a package had arrived. Apparently the postman tried to deliver it while they were at work and didn’t leave it at the door, not sure why because I didn’t request that on my end.

But, 23 days later, the package was at my daughter’s post office! So, it worked, and in just slightly over the 3 weeks that we expected. I wouldn’t mail anything critical or time sensitive in the Panamanian mail service but if time isn’t a consideration, Panamanian mail is a good option. It cost me $2 to mail a manila envelope with a little Cuban dress for my granddaughter, and now she has it just in time for their warm summer weather.

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