Out of Touch

We are in Cuba with limited internet. Apologies to you all who have contacted me and not heard back. We will be home and catching up this weekend, and blog posts about our adventure will follow soon.

As for the tornado that came through Havana Sunday night, we are fine. We are north of the affected area in Old Havana, not far from a Chinatown. It was a very destructive tornado though and really bad for the people affected.

More soon…

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No Guest Posts

I receive numerous requests for guest posts for this blog. Sometimes they even arrive daily. I made the decision to only publish my own writing quite a long time ago. I feel bad ignoring requests but I also don’t want to take the time to explain individually, so I’m writing this post instead.

I am not interested in guest posts, and all requests will be ignored. Please don’t waste your valuable time and energy contracting me.

The purpose of a guest post is usually to grow the readership for both blogs. I wish you all success in your blogs, but I am busy enough with this one and don’t feel the need to grow it more. A large majority of requests are also not a good fit for this blog. So… dang cranky gringa…. but that’s how it is.

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Love or Fear

My friend Elsa is launching this project. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/love-or-fear-a-memoir/#/

I have met many, many people in my life. I have friends, coworkers, acquaintances, clients and patients throughout the years. Many I have forgotten, but some have stayed with me.

Elsa is one who has really stayed with me. We only spent about a week together in 2015, a few days at my house and then a few days biking together through Costa Rica. https://blog.thepanamaadventure.com/2015/06/24/on-the-road-day-1/

Elsa is a unique and remarkable person. She approaches life with such openness and loving generosity, and the universe gives back to her in kind. All this time later, something will pop up every few days that makes me think of her. We didn’t talk much about fear or love but she lived it, and from being with her for even a short time, I found that I too was approaching life with less fear and more love.

(From her indegogo page)

I don’t know what her book will be. I only know a bit of who she is, and that is enough to make me believe it needs to be written. Maybe it will be something ordinary. Maybe it will be something amazing. Usually though, amazing people create amazing work. I want to find out.


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Cost of Living, Retirement, Etc.

I’ve come across a few articles lately…


Places where it’s so cheap to live you up might not need to work! Well…. maybe you won’t need to work as much (unless you have another source of income).

It’s interesting that Panama is #1 on their list. Their main source seems to be International Living which we all know, as a for profit business, doesn’t tend to take off the rose colored glasses. Their definition of wonderful might not be yours. But our lives here cost about 1/3 of what they did in Florida and we are probably 3x happier.

This one is very sad!  https://www.biznews.com/thought-leaders/2013/09/10/retire-at-55-and-live-to-80-work-till-youre-65-and-die-at-67-startling-new-data-shows-how-work-pounds-older-bodies

Their statistics say if you retire at 55, you are likely to live to be 80, but if you retire at 65 you are likely to die at age 67. Yikes! I have had some anecdotal evidence of this – too many patients and stories of others who fell apart before they could realize their retirement dreams. A good friend had a heart attack the evening of his last day at work, and is only alive today because he got to the hospital in time to be rescued from a total cardiac arrest.

Myself, I was so fried at 60 when I retired! I don’t think there would have been much left of me if I had worked another 10 years, which would have been necessary to financially survive retirement in the US. We wake up every morning and give thanks for this affordable Panamanian life!

Then, there is this cost comparison between the USA and Panama. https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_countries_result.jsp?country1=Panama&country2=United+States

Of course the USA is a huge country, and there are differences in costs depending on where you are. It’s the same in little Panama. You can expect a lot of things to be much more expensive in Panama City than they would be in the interior in a small town or rural area. But, here are some numbers which you all may find useful.

Don’t believe none of what you hear and half of what you see (from the song “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” by CCR, and many others). These articles are interesting, but no substitute for doing your own homework. This expat life doesn’t work for everybody for a variety of reasons, but it also can be better than you ever imagined.

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Critters in the Trees

I don’t post as many bugs and critters as I used to, but occasionally one still catches my eye. We have a plumeria tree that has gotten quite large and drops fragrant flowers for us. Yesterday I noticed a number of colorful caterpillars eating it.

Can you spot them? They are yellow and black striped with red heads and tails. Look in the shadows on the undersides of the branches.

That was yesterday, a fairly cloudy day. Today is  bright sunshine and it’s much easier to see them. The red flowers are the neighbor’s beautiful bougainvillea that hangs over our fence.

I know they are working hard to eat all the leaves off our plumeria, but it’s a large tree and I think it will survive. These are caterpillars of the tetrio sphinx moth, which I think is a really cool moth. One landed on me when we were playing our last gig in Boquete and stayed nearby for the rest of the set. Maybe it was telling me to be kind to its little brothers and sisters. We rescued branches of this plumeria when it was cut down nearby, and now we have three others flowering and thriving, just in case.

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Cost of Living Report, December 2018

We haven’t done this in ages, so I thought it might be interesting to track expenses for a month. Maybe this will be useful if you are considering living in Panama, but keep in mind costs can vary widely depending on where and how you live.

We live in David, in a Panamanian upper middle class neighborhood. We don’t eat out, preferring home cooked food from scratch. We don’t shop much or drink much. We live a pretty simple life by some standards but don’t feel like we lack for anything or deny ourselves anything, and we buy whatever we want at the supermarket including some imported treats.

There are other reports and more information on the Cost of Living Page  I’m happy to say that even though prices seem to be rising everywhere, including in Panama, our costs don’t seem to be terribly different.

—fixed expenses
rent 385
cable/internet 43.69
phone 25 (2 $11/mo data plans and some pay as you go talk time)
gas 5.12 (replacement can for the kitchen)
car insurance 34 (liability only, includes the car that is for sale)
car gas 104.20

total 597.20

the produce guy 128
supermarket 322.23
pricesmart 244.77

total 695

grand total 1292.20

We also spent 103.29 at DoIt (like Home Depot) for paint and some odds and ends to repair band equipment.
We spent 200 on biannual car maintenance

Electricity usually runs about $35 but we are having problems with the meter at the moment. We don’t have health insurance, preferring to pay as we go with an emergency fund in reserve if needed.

The total might be a bit high since we bought enough at Pricesmart to see us through January (we have a deep freezer which is a great help). We also went to the supermarket (91.32) and filled up the car (50.39) on the last day of the month. Usually once a month for the car is enough but we have been to Boquete a lot for band gigs and rehearsals.

So, there ya go! Some say that Panama costs as much as the US but of course that depends on what you compare to what. Panama City vs a rural area in the Midwest? New York City vs rural Panama? For us, it has been a huge benefit to live so well for so little.

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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

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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?! 😁

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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.


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!

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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.


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