Above and Beyond and Then Some

If you have been following the blog recently, you know I’m on an epic trip celebrating my 70th birthday. My first stop was in Florida where I saw my old friends. I have just finished my second stop where I saw my birth mother and met three sisters for the first time. It was fabulous!

I have known that my three sisters existed for decades, but thanks to DNA testing and secrets finally being revealed, I had the opportunity to connect with them and finally, to meet them. It’s hard to even explain what it feels like. Such meetings don’t always go well. There may be no interest in meeting. There is even a possibility of hostility. But in my case, it couldn’t be more positive. I have been welcomed with open arms, love, and total acceptance. I am so happy and grateful.

Where so I start? We packed so much into a few days that it’s all a bit of a blur. I’ll try to write it down here so I don’t forget everything 😊

I arrived Monday afternoon and spent the evening at my mother’s house (she had graciously invited me to stay with her). We hadn’t seen each other for a long time, and even when we were together it was with family so having time for just the two of us was really special. We talked, went out to dinner, talked some more, watched a bit of TV, shared some wine, and talked some more.

Tuesday morning at the appointed time, two of my sisters arrived and the third wasn’t far behind them. I have been chatting with the youngest for a year and the others for maybe seven weeks, not long, But, immediately, it felt right with all of them. There were smiles and hugs and happiness all around! My mother had prepared a nice breakfast for everyone so we ate and sat around the table and talked, and talked, and talked. We had a short activity planned in the afternoon with the oldest, and then we were together again for a nice dinner at P F Changs. Someone 😁 spilled the beans about my birthday so there was a birthday card, and special dessert that we all shared, and a huge sparkler. Then we returned to the house were we talked until midnight! The sister who lived farther away stayed over and the others went home.

Wednesday was a day with the two closer sisters. We visited the youngest one’s home, and then the middle one’s home where we had lunch and hung out for the afternoon. They had created a get to know each other game with questions we would pull out and then go around the table with our answers. I was very impressed with that amount of thought they put into the questions. Then, my mother and the youngest sister said they had to go to Dollar Tree (huh??) so I spent the rest of the afternoon talking with my other sister and her husband.

We were planning to meet at a hamburger restaurant and I soon understood the trip to the Dollar Tree. They had a side room all set up for a birthday party with the balloons, streamers, decorations, a “birthday girl” button for me, a pretty tablecloth, plates, forks, an awesome chocolate cake, and really thoughtful presents! There were nieces and nephews and grandkids and we all had a great time. Then, we went back to my mother’s house and talked until late until mom kicked everyone out because we were all exhausted!

Thursday we visited the oldest sister who lived a couple hours away. The other two sisters and my mother talked all the way to and from her house, and we had another great afternoon at the other sister’s house. She had prepared a huge spread of food, and had crafts and games for us on the dining room table. We hung out and talked and ate and played until it was time for a facials appointment. By then it was late afternoon and time to head home for our last evening. We didn’t make it such a late evening since one was leaving the next morning on vacation, the other had to work early in the morning, and I had a flight to catch. My mother and I shared some wine after they left and talked for a couple more hours until we were too tired and headed to bed.

The visit was quite a whirlwind! But, it was no time at all before we felt very comfortable with each other. It was an odd feeling to make the transition from figments in my imagination, to words in an email, and then to real people. And, they are so very real! They are people with all the usual concerns, and families with memories made over the years, and just normal stuff of life. I don’t think we look a lot like each other but there are definite similarities especially in the eyes and nose areas. (I don’t have permission to post pictures yet). We are different in lifestyle and personalities, but we also found many things in common. I usually don’t get jokes, and rarely appreciate comediennes and funny movies. They are the same! We all battle our weight. We are all in long term marriages and have 2-3 children.

I was so impressed and touched by the amount of care they put into planning my visit. They really wanted me to enjoy my time with them. Yes I’ll definitely be back, oh yes for sure! My mother is 88 and more frail than she used to be, so I want to see more of her sooner rather than later as well. You never know what tomorrow will bring for any of us.

My favorite moment – our mother gave each of us a bank envelope with a bit of spending money. Mom no, you don’t need to do this. “Don’t argue with your mother!”

(“Mom” came more easily to my lips each day) I learned I was born in a bathtub. Who knew this was a thing in 1952?

Thanks for following along. This is definitely a “write it down before I forget everything” post. There was just so much packed into a few days in the midst of a lot of emotions and feelings. I left two days ago so I’m settling down a bit now, but it’s still a lot. I’m really happy and looking forward to more time together.

Next, Seattle, time with my younger daughter and family, 4th birthday for the youngest granddaughter, and fun times. Then California, Dallas, and home. I’m taking it one step at a time.

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I’m on my epic birthday trip of many stops, and I just finished my first stop (Florida). At the moment I’m in the Tampa airport thinking about my time here. It was great, better than I imagined it would be.

I’ve been gone for almost 10 years. I’ve moved before and the friendships I made in various places faded over time. It’s hard when there is distance and no plans to return. I have kept in touch with a few close friends from New York, but that’s about it. I contacted one of my FL friends a while back to ask about various people, which led to some zoom calls to catch up with everyone. I never thought they would all still consider me a friend after all these years and no plans to return, but they did, and do. It made my heart feel really good.

These last days were spent seeing my friends and we all had such a great time. It’s as if no time at all has passed! My friends look just the same. Maybe there is a new hair color (gray 🙂) but the person is the same. One thing I did notice though, that almost everyone has had major health challenges, heart attacks, strokes, pain issues, cancer, bone/joint problems, some serious stuff. People are still very much living their lives but there have been very challenging times along the way, and some are still dealing with daily issues impacting their lives in a big way.

Now that I’m in a better position to travel more, I’m definitely not letting 10 years pass before I go back to Florida. You never know what tomorrow will bring and especially at our age, you need to do things today! Two of my Florida friends, people quite a bit younger than I, have already gone.

My Florida experiences makes me think about real friendship, that kind that lasts. It feels the same if you saw each other last week or ten years ago. My friends may not be blood related but we are family in every sense of the word, and any of us would be there for each other at any time.

I also don’t think this blog is such a big deal, but I learned that my Florida friends read everything I write. Maybe I should write more! I also learned that they are still watching the music videos we made at the beginning of COVID because we were trying to keep our skills sharp. Maybe we should make more videos. You just never know when something you think is no big deal makes a difference to someone else.

The banner photo is from yesterday when we all got together for brunch in a popular restaurant. There was a balloon guy making the rounds and when he learned that there was a birthday girl in our group, he had to make her a tiara.

Now, Joel is headed to Portland, Maine where he will meet up with his son and visit his mother. I’m going the other direction, to Tulsa where I will see my mother who I haven’t seen for a long time, and where I will meet my sisters for the first time. Yeah, I’m pinching myself that this is really happening.

Then, we will meet up in Seattle for the littlest granddaughter’s 4th birthday and a visit with family there, before we head to California to see the rest of the family. And then, just one more stop before returning home. (story to follow at some point)

When you get to the end of the road do you wish you had spent more time at the office? Do you wish you had accumulated more stuff? Nah, it’s the people, the relationships, the connections you made that are important. I’m going to use my remaining time, health, and resources to enjoy the relationships that are important to me. “The future’s uncertain and the end is always near” (the Doors, Roadside Blues) I’m very thankful for this time and this opportunity to see the people who are important to me.

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70 what? you ask…. 70 YEARS! I have officially been alive on this earth for 70 years, as of Sunday. I should be upset. Who wants to get old, after all? I don’t look cute any more, my hair is turning silver, my width has only increased over the years, my feet get farther away every year….. you know, all that aging stuff. But, I’m actually very happy to be this age and very pleased with myself for making it this far. I’ve not only made it, I’m still healthy. I feel good and though I don’t have the stamina I used to, I still have enough energy to do things. I’m happy and extremely thankful.

I was asked – what are you doing for your birthday? HA! 😁 I’m having the biggest, most epic, month long celebration ever!

It sort of started last week. The band was asked to play for a birthday celebration of two of our friends and fellow musicians. It was so much fun! It was at El Rincon Español, a restaurant close to home with a very attractive, mostly outdoor space, and lots of fun friends, and new friends, and fellow musicians. The guys know all the musicians in the area so we were really honored to be asked to play for their party. Even the rain couldn’t keep us down. It poured like crazy in the afternoon and slowed down enough and just in time to bring in our equipment, and stopped altogether for the party.

We played again on my birthday at our usual venue, the Boquete Brewing Company. Again, rain (what is up with all this rain we are getting lately?!) but again it slowed down for the evening. There weren’t a lot of people. Most were probably recovering from all the Father’s Day festivities all weekend. But, there were enough happy people to have a really good evening.

And now, at this moment I’m at the Riande Hotel by the Panama City Airport. We flew from David this morning, and tomorrow we fly to Florida. I haven’t seen my friends there since we left almost 10 years ago. It all started with one friend who is turning 60, and decided to have a birthday bash which a number of other friends will be attending. I thought, why not? It’s a plane ride. So, I’m going to spend a few days catching up with friends in FL and attending a fun party.

Then, the epic-ness only increases. Next stop, Tulsa.

*long story to follow… * I was adopted as a newborn. My birth mother was an unmarried high school student and back in 1952, that was a very shameful thing. Fast forward 28 years and I tracked her down, we met, and we have had a very warm and happy relationship ever since. She went on to get married and have three more daughters, but, per her husband’s request I remained a secret. Even after he passed, she wouldn’t break her promise. Then came DNA testing. You know where this is leading

First I connected with a cousin, the daughter of my mother’s sister. The secret wasn’t so secret there (even though my mother wishes it was and didn’t want me talking with her – sorry, already talking). She had known about me for a long time but didn’t think it was possible to find each other. Now we’re both really happy and like each other a lot. Then, I came home from a band gig exactly a year ago to a message on 23andme. “Could you be my sister”? OMG! YES! I am your sister! But, what about mom? We decided since she was very firm that she didn’t want me talking to anyone, we would just keep our news to ourselves.

My cousin let is slip accidentally (on purpose) to my mother that I have been talking with my sister, so it was becoming increasingly obvious that the lid on the secret was cracking open, When everyone was together last February for my mother’s birthday, she opened up and told them her story. From what I heard it was kind of a non event. My oldest sister said she heard it from her dad many years ago. The middle sister said she had overheard some things and suspected but she never knew for sure. The youngest knew nothing but she was my DNA connection so of course by this time, she knew. I talked with my mother a bit later and she said she was doing ok, and even felt better to have the burden of this secret lifted off her shoulders.

So, this is why I am going to Tulsa. Of course there are regrets for the lost years, but there is mostly overwhelming happiness that we are in touch, and we are going to meet in only a few days! My sisters have been beyond wonderful. They have been so welcoming and loving and happy to know me. I hoped they would be open to meeting me, but they have gone way beyond anything I dared hope. And, of course I’m very happy to see my mother. It’s been a long time. She’s 88 and even before COVID I was wanting to plan a visit, and now it’s even more important. I’ll fly in Monday and we will have a nice quiet evening together, and then the next day and the rest of the week is family time!! If I think too hard about my heart feels like it will explode.

This is getting long so I’ll stop here. But, there will be more stops and more news to come. I am using this celebration to see all the people who are the most important to me. And, with any luck, another trip will be planned very soon to meet my cousin in NY and to see my sister. Wait… Now this needs clarification. My other sister who I grew up with, that sister. I want to visit her in her new home in the Boston area.

Yeah, I’m pretty darn happy. Forget being upset with the passage of time. For me, every decade has been better than that last.

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Email not Working

If you write to me here, it is supposed to forward to my personal email account. But I need to log on to the blog account occasionally and clean out the mailbox before it gets too full to accept more mail.

This site is hosted with GoDaddy and they have been fine. But, of course, from time to time there have to be “improvements” 🙄 Now they are using Outlook for mail. I can’t see the size of the messages any more so I can’t be sure to delete the ones that are taking up a lot of space. I also saw a number of messages from the last couple months that looked unfamiliar to me. I don’t think they came to my personal account like they were supposed to.

Apologies to any of you who have been ignored! I don’t respond to spam or requests to be a “guest blogger” (that just hasn’t worked out in the past) but I do respond to questions even if it’s only to say “I don’t know”. I feel bad about the people who wrote and got no response at all. I know I’m not obligated but that doesn’t feel right to me.

I hesitate to put out my personal email address here. I’m thinking about it but I don’t want a lot of spam or unwelcome messages. So, for now you can always leave a comment and I’ll get back with you, or the blog is on Facebook where you can also contact me.

Other than that, a lot is going on here and I’ll have tons to say in a month or so! I am going on an epic trip soon to see friends I haven’t seen since I left, and to meet sisters for the first time (thank you DNA testing!), and to see my family (now it’s the rest of the family since “my family” has grown considerably), and I’m turning 70. I’m supposed to be upset about getting so old but I’m actually pretty happy about it. As you can imagine my head is spinning!

Meanwhile I’m here in Panama for a bit longer, just living the normal life. We’ve been getting tons of rain and everything is growing and green. There are construction projects going on across the street so the neighborhood has been more active. Getting electricity hooked up to new houses seems to take forever though! The band continues to play in Boquete every Sunday evening, and we have a birthday party coming up in David in a few days. It’s for a couple musician friends so all the local musicians will probably be there and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. Since they know everyone we’re honored that they chose us for their party.

It’s only 11AM and I hear the rain starting again. But, unless we can get a walk in at some point, we have no plans to go anywhere. I have chores to do at home and practice for the gig tomorrow. And, I really enjoy sitting on the terrace and watching it rain. Retirement is a very nice thing.

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More Random USA Pictures

I’m here two days in a row! (This is a continuation of yesterday though) I started in California with my older daughter and her family, and then went on to Seattle to see my younger daughter and her family. And for even more fun, my older daughter came up for the weekend so we had a couple days all together.

Spring in the Pacific Northwest is very pretty with all the flowers, flowering trees, and greenery everywhere. We walked every day in the neighborhood so I had chances to enjoy all the beauty.

We also took a walk in a wooded park. The kids were very excited to find slugs on the ground, and they even found a snail! There were various wildflowers blooming and with the frequent rain and high humidity, many of the trees were covered with moss. The kids are experienced hikers and we all had a good time exploring.

Later we went to the mall for lunch and heard Chris LeVaughn performing. He’s a good singer and I enjoyed talking with him a bit after his gig. It’s interesting that instead of a tip jar he had various QR codes to apps where you could support him. Times have changed.

And speaking of changing times we went to the Amazon Fresh grocery store. You scan a QR code on your phone as you enter, put whatever you want in your basket or shopping bag, scan your code again as you leave, and you’re done. No check out needed. The dozens and dozens of cameras hanging from the ceiling make note of what you take (or put back), tally it all up, and charge your account accordingly. To us old folks it seems like sort of crazy magic! I like the human interaction with a cashier at checkout though, so I think I’m fine with the traditional shopping experience. We had to try the Amazon thing at least once though.

The granddaughters both take dance class and they were preparing for a performance. The younger one had dress rehearsal while I was there but unfortunately they were in the big room with the windows covered and we couldn’t see anything. But, a video is supposed to be coming out at some point. the kids were super cute in their costumes though. I have to include this awesome sky we saw as we left the studio!

There is a heated pool in a nearby park so the kids have been swimming fairly often. The older granddaughter put her face in the water and decided that wasn’t so bad. I felt like we witnessed a big breakthrough because within a day she was paddling around everywhere with her face in the water and she was jumping off the side of the pool. It was cool to see her confidence and sense of accomplishment.

Housing in the USA is crazy, and we got to see a bit of that. I am so thankful that both of my daughters have houses because I don’t think they could afford anything today. The house across the street from my Seattle daughter sold a few weeks ago. It’s single family home, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, walk out basement just like hers. It was owned by an elderly couple who both died, and it was vacant for a few years while the family sorted out what they wanted to do. It was terribly outdated and probably needed everything redone. My daughter said the street was overflowing all weekend with shoppers, and the house sold in one day for $1.1 million.

My sister and her husband are moving from Dallas to the Boston area for retirement, and just bought a condo about 30 minutes outside of Boston. They were really frustrated that they couldn’t get an offer accepted on anything they were interested in buying. They finally found a condo, offered $110K over asking price and got accepted. I think it ended up costing a bit under $800K. There’s no way they could afford anything close to the city.

We looked at a townhouse around the corner from my Seattle daughter listed for $675K. It’s townhouse so you share a wall with your neighbor, and if you sit on your back terrace you could almost touch your neighbor’s terrace. There is a steep set of stairs going up in the home, and a small kitchen and living room on the first floor. There are two bedrooms and two bathrooms on the upper floor, and another set of stairs to get up there.

This is one more but very important reason we’re so thankful to be here in Panama. We have a comfortable house, 3 bedrooms, two baths, fenced yard with fruit trees, nice neighbors mostly professionals, teachers, blue collar workers and their families, minutes from shopping and everything we need. $385/month. No, I did not leave out any zeros.

So now I’m back home and back to our usual life. It’s strange. I feel like I have three different worlds and I’m comfortable in all of them, and I can instantly (well with quite a few travel hours) move from one to the another. Now I’m in Panama, rainy season, daytime temperatures in the 80’s, rain expected most afternoons, everything super lush and green, bird singing everywhere, dogs doing their jobs (barking at anything remotely noteworthy), and the things we worry about – is the trash truck coming today? Should we go walking now before it rains? What’s for dinner? This is a good world for me.

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Random Pictures from the USA

Wow, it’s been a month since I’ve been here. Life goes on, the days go by, nothing outstanding happens, and I do other things. But I did go back to the USA recently to see my family, so that was definitely outstanding. The grandkids are getting bigger and more interesting all the time, and we had so much fun together.

I will skip all my usual observations about the USA. It feels like any changes have been for the worse, and I’d rather stay out of all of it and focus on my family. It took me a while to be comfortable going out with a naked face (no masks). I learned the value of thermal underwear! I no longer take red eye flights and I appreciate the layover along the way, but the travel is still tiring. But, it’s so worth it and my family takes good care of me when I’m there.

I have a lot of random pictures, starting in California.

My grandson turned nine, and there was celebrating with friends, neighbors, and the other grandparents (and tons of Lego toys) School was in session so we walked the kids to and from school every day. And, there was a field trip! My kindergarten age granddaughter was beyond excited. They went in a BUS, to the BEACH, and looked for critters and life forms in the rocks. They were well prepared about what they might find, and how to keep everything safe and undisturbed (apparently holding a crab in your hand is OK and long as you gently put it back where you found it). Then there was a picnic lunch and playtime in the sand.

I met the new cats, both sweet and gentle cats. We went to the farmer’s market where things looked wonderful, but expensive. We went to my grandson’s baseball game (they won, yay). Those little kids are surprisingly good, at least to me who knows nothing about baseball. I had a tarot card reading. Did I give him too many hints, or did the cards actually give him information to share? He thinks there are a lot of good things coming in my future. I already know that!

One evening there were awesome clouds. My granddaughter has become enamored by Irish dance, so we watched one of her classes. I think she’s good with nice grace and style. I found these odd rolls at the supermarket and had to try them. They taste like ordinary rolls, soft, slightly sweet, and they had a bit of firm jelly in the middle. The color sure is pretty though. And, then, one crazy evening, thunder, rain and hail!! That is very unusual. It rarely even thunders there. Some other areas of town got enough hail to turn everything white. I don’t think the kids had ever seen hail before. I showed my granddaughter a piece of ice that fell from the sky, and she popped it into her mouth!

So, that’s the highlights of my first stop. I’ll leave the next batch of pictures for the next post.

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A New Kitchen

We’ve lived here for almost 10 years, and the house is probably about 20 years old now. The kitchen wasn’t fancy to start with and the years have taken a toll. Then, as it seems to happen quite a bit, a series of coincidences happened and now I have a story to tell about a new kitchen.

There is a brand new house across the street from us. We went out to do errands one morning and a guy was in the street with his broken down truck. Thankfully there was enough space for us to get out so no problem. When we came back he was still there waiting for a tow truck. It was a hot, sunny, summer day and I felt bad for him, so I brought him a big glass of ice water and we started talking a bit.

It turns out that he was the guy who did the kitchen in the new house, and he asked me in to see it. The house is attractive with open space, big windows and lots of light. The kitchen is really nice too! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could have a kitchen as nice as that? There’s no harm is asking, so he comes over to look at my kitchen and discuss some ideas. We decide on a basic design of cabinets, a granite countertop, and tile backsplash, for a price of about $2500.

My old kitchen –

It works. We’ve been using it for 9 1/2 years but the cabinets never look good no matter how much you scrub them. The countertop is tile but the tiles aren’t flat so everything you put down rocks a bit. The grout is funky and ants like to take pieces of whatever we use to repair it and carry them off. (yeah I know. I never heard of such a thing either). There isn’t nearly enough storage space for us either. And, don’t even look at the drop ceiling with Styrofoam panels.

We talk more. He sends design plans he made on his computer. I think of more things. Could we replace those Styrofoam panels? Of course yes, but cielo raso would be even better. I don’t know how to translate that, but it’s long panels of a plastic like material that seems to be all the thing now. It’s attractive, durable, and not affected by moisture and insects. Could I also have…. gasp…. a DISHWASHER?? Sure, no problem! OK then, LETS DO IT! We share the dishwashing chores and do all right, but it feels like a lot of time that could be spent on more enjoyable things. And speaking of materials, the cabinets are a laminate composite that is impervious to moisture and insects. He also works with wood but this is rental and probably overkill in this simple house.

So, first we go shopping to pick out materials. First stop, the dishwasher! We also pick out granite for the countertop, and material for the ceiling (a pale gray, almost white material), and a range hood. Miguel already had samples of material for the cabinets for me to choose from. He comes back and carefully measures everything so he can custom make the cabinets to the exact sizes we want.

Then the work began. That is not the fun part. Everything was put in boxes in the laundry room, the living room, Joel’s music room and wherever we could find a spot so we were constantly running around looking for things. But… now get this…. talk about service. He knew our kitchen would be unusable while they tore it apart, so his wife made food for us!

BBQ ribs cooked over a wood fire, rice, sweet fried plantains, delicious beans, and a very nice salad. His wife is an excellent cook and it was all wonderful!

Destruction time. What a mess! The old kitchen was mostly concrete and tile, with wood doors for lower cabinets and then a standard cabinet above. We hung sheets to try and keep the dust in the kitchen but it was still messy.

Miguel works with his son Joel a lot. The last picture is them cutting the granite in the front yard. Those guys are strong! We have a small piece left over and it’s all I can do to pick it up. But they move it around like it’s no big deal.

The kitchen starts to take shape!!

We test out the dishwasher. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. First he had to install the kitchen faucet. You know if there is plumbing there will be problems! It’s just Murphy’s law. There are two water inlets below the sink and something goes wrong with one of them, so we decide to connect everything to the other one (we have a water heater but it hasn’t worked for years, so we don’t have hot water in the kitchen). Then…. that connection breaks IN the wall. Sheesh! By now we have water everywhere, we have to shut off the whole house, and he’s off to the store, again, for more plumbing parts. AND, it’s Sunday and we have a band gig in Boquete so we are really getting anxious. Our neighbor comes over to see if he can be of any help but decides Migel is doing fine on his own. Miguel chips out the concrete around the pipe, replaces the part that is in the wall, connects up the faucet, and all is well. WHEW!

Then, the next day he comes back with more parts and connects the dishwasher. Yay! The first trial run goes very well. The dishwasher gets the water nice and hot, so it can clean better than we ever could by hand. That was a great surprise we didn’t expect. Our glassware looks like it’s brand new.

Of course everything takes longer than planned. Miguel had to fix his truck which set him back a couple days. There were the plumbing complications. But the work progressed to where we could use the kitchen and start putting things away, which is a great feeling. The dusty work was done so we could clean up the house. We were getting more excited every day. We got lights for under the upper cabinets so there is plenty of light. The granite is so easy to clean, and there’s enough space that we can both work in the kitchen at the same time. The sink is deeper and the faucet is higher which make using that easier, and there is better water pressure. Miguel said that the pipe in the wall was partially blocked so in the end it was a good thing that it cracked.

Remember the “before” pictures? Look at it now!

It’s lacking in color so Joel took one of my paintings and put it over the sink. We need to decide on a color to paint the walls. The range hood has very weak lighting so we plan to put a light on the wall that we can point at the stove top. But the kitchen is essentially done and we are really enjoying it a lot.

I mentioned earlier that this is a rental house. I planned to pay for the kitchen since we will benefit from it every day, and we plan to stay in this house indefinitely. The landlords are really good to us and they are working folks with kids, but he surprised me big time when he said they’d pay for all of it. I don’t feel quite right about that since they have done their part and provided a workable kitchen, so we are negotiating a half and half plan. And, the cost – there was the basic $2500, about $200 for the fancy ceiling, $550 for the dishwasher, and miscellaneous lights, plumbing parts, light switches, etc. for maybe another $100. That’s a total of $3350. I know what kitchens cost in the US!

And, I feel good about giving Miguel the work. He suffered terribly during COVID and is still trying to dig himself out of that hole. Panamanians tend to have more relaxed standards so I’m sure we drove him nuts with our pickiness. But he did everything he could to make us happy with no whining. And we’re loving the kitchen every time we use it and very appreciative of all his hard work.

Next, the laundry room! 😁

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The Comarca

A large part of Panama to the north of us is Comarca, or land of the indigenous Ngäbe Buglé people. Most of it is difficult to access, or impossible in the rainy season except by foot or horseback. The green areas on this map are indigenous areas, and the big one to the west of the word “Panama” is the subject of this post.

What got me thinking about the comarca today was a video. I love these young people who are making a life on a piece of land above Boquete. They have also been selling coffee, and they went to the Comarca to buy organic coffee from the indigenous people there. Jordan, the guy, talked about how incredibly beautiful it is in the Comarca and how special it was to be allowed in there, a place that few get to see. You can see a little of the scenery in the video, and that was enough to make me curious to see more. (No, he’s not leaving his family in Panama, only leaving the wife and baby home for the day).

So, I went searching on YouTube for more comarca and found this video. It’s in Spanish but you can follow the guy as he walks for hours and hours to get to his destination, passing through the beautiful countryside, and you see some of the locals, their homes and towns. Even without understanding him you can get a feel for what it’s like there.

Yes, it’s a very hard life! I can see the appeal of living in such natural beauty away from the stress and noise of our typical lives, but they pay a price. Most of the people are so remote that access is difficult, or impossible in the rainy season. They have minimal to no access to medical care or other help, and even basic nutrition can be a challenge. They have schools but I don’t know if they result in a better standards of living or more choices in life for the students.

If you want to explore further, a YouTube search will bring up quite a few more videos https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=panama+comarca

This one shows areas near the water and lots of beautiful scenery

This will give you just a taste. This country has an amazing amount of natural beauty.

Other than that, our lives are going on as usual, more or less. I’m always tired of summer by now so I’m happy to say we got some showers, then a good downpour yesterday and it’s raining hard right now again. It’s amazing how fast you start to see green in the grass and happiness in the mani (perineal peanut) that is our backyard ground cover. The band has had a couple extra gigs recently, and we are getting a new kitchen in the house (story to follow later on that). It’s going to be great but we’re just getting out of the everything-in-boxes-can’t-find-anything stage. And, we had to run and get a new tire to replace a bad one, and a few other unplanned things which I can ‘t even remember at the moment. So the last couple weeks have felt a bit nuts. It reminds me of the past when I used to actually DO stuff all day, like work, take care of home and family, etc. ha!

The virus statistics look quite good now, and I hope they stay that way. The mask mandate has been lifted for outdoors but most people still wear masks everywhere. Maybe after all this time we all feel naked with bare faces. I know I do. But the city is active and bustling, and if we are out at night we notice restaurants with full parking lots. After the economic struggles of so many people during the pandemic it’s great to see people and business thriving.

Myself, I feel so fortunate every day. I’m sitting here on my back terrace watching it rain, enjoying a cool breeze, and listening to one of my favorite birds who likes to serenade me from a nearby tree. I found a dead beetle on the terrace this morning so I gave it to the ants on my shelf. It’s kept them busy all day. Life continues to be interesting and enjoyable.

I hope you all out there are doing well! Take care of yourselves and each other.

Posted in Panama | 7 Comments

Warm Water, Warm Air, Warm Everything!

It’s the height of summer here, and it’s HOT! I know many of you are looking forward to summer, but here we are looking forward to April and the return of the rains. Summer, or dry season here is December – April. December is nice. We got a few rain showers, and things still looked green and happy. It’s pleasant to be out in the evenings during the holiday season because you are unlikely to get rained on. January is very much the same, but rain showers are unlikely. February is getting hotter and dryer, and the trade winds blow more. We had maybe a couple sprinkles of rain, but nothing close to a shower. Plants are drying up, the grass is brown and crispy, and brush fires are possible.

People sometimes clear their land by burning but it’s easy for that to get out of control, especially on a windy day. The authorities are trying to stop the burning but what do you do if the culprits are long gone? We have been lucky so far (knock on wood) that fire hasn’t threatened our neighborhood, but the smoke of a fire nearby is very unpleasant.

Now it is March and I’m ready for summer to be over. I know we have many beautiful summer flowers and spectacular flowering trees which I enjoy, but this is enough summer for me.

I thought these guyacans were finished blooming, but then there were more yellow trees covered with flowers.
I thought these guyacans were finished blooming, but then there were more yellow trees covered with flowers.

Oh yes, I mentioned water also. There are a lot of problems with water here so we put in a reserve tank and a pump. Water problems are even more common in the dry summer, and I think we’ve had maybe two days in the last two months when we have had water all day (it’s usually out by noon and back by dark, give or take a few hours). Nobody knows if it’s water shortages, if they are fixing something, or what’s going on. Panamanians tend to be much more patient than we are, but I also notice almost every house in our neighborhood has a reserve tank now.

Don’t expect a nice cool afternoon shower from the reserve tank though, because the sun hits the tank all afternoon and warms it up well.

One morning I noticed a lot of ants on my outside table, and then I realized they were getting water from a glass I’d left on the table the night before. So, I took pity on them and put a bottle cap of water on the shelf next to my table, and it’s been used a lot. It’s not all the easy for the ants and other wildlife in the dry season either. There’s a river nearby, but it’s way too far away if you are a little ant.

We have so many different kinds of ants here. These particular ants are dark brown/black, on the small side, and it looks like they run around with their butts raised. They aren’t interested at all in sugar or the usual things that attract ants, but protein? oh yes! They hang out under the lamp on my shelf hoping to catch a bug. If there is any dead bug or lizard, they are all over it. I gave them a dead gecko one time and by the next day they had it down to the bones, and by that night the bones were also gone. They’ll also eat any meat or egg I give them, provided it’s soft enough to break up into little ant size pieces.

Yes I know I’m strange but I find them interesting. They don’t bite but they are very clingy. If you try to brush one off your hand, you will find it sticking to your other hand. They don’t go in the house and bother us. Their path goes up the side of the house to the roof, and from there I don’t know. There are also a lot of them in a nearby fruit tree but I don’t know if that is the same colony.

When I first moved here it seemed like things didn’t change much. It was always warm throughout the year. The length of the days is also almost the same all year. But after a while you notice the definite change of season, not only the rain or lack of, but the many different flowers and fruits that come in the dry season. The days are also getting longer. The sun has been setting around 6:40 rather than 6:30 of a few months ago.

But, an update. We had RAIN on Thursday, and more RAIN today! This is a month early but I’m definitely not complaining. I hope we get more, but if not this will at least help the plants and the environment while we wait out the rest of the summer.

Keep in mind what I say about the weather is here in David. In the mountains they get less heat, more wind, and a bit more rain. On the Caribbean side of Panama it can rain anytime in the year, or anytime in the day. (Here in rainy season it usually rains in the late afternoon). It’s interesting to be in such a small country but with so much variety.

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

Refugees in the Darien

I haven’t been on here much lately. It seems I’m always busy but not with things worth writing about. We’ve been going out more to hear and support our musician friends. There always seems to be some errand or thing we have to do. The band keeps us busy and there are the routine chores at home. We’ve been walking most evenings at dusk when it’s cooler and very pleasant out. We’ve been meeting more of our neighbors who are also enjoying the pleasant time of day, and the dog is loving the walks. But, I did run across this interesting thing to talk about…

Refugees have been in the news for a very long time. They risk everything, even their lives, to get to the USA. They manage to get to south America and then make their way north. The hardest part of their journey is the Darien Jungle between Colombia and Panama. It has mountains to climb, mud to slog through, and rivers to cross. There are animals, snakes, insects, and people waiting to rob, rape, and harm. Refugees don’t come prepared with the right shoes, clothes, supplies, and don’t realize what lies ahead. Many of them die in the jungle and the living get to walk past their bodies lying in the mud.

A while back a worried father posted to one of the expat Facebook groups. His son wanted to document the experience of the refugees in the Darien so he joined them in their travels. The son hadn’t been heard from in too long and the dad was very worried. The son was finally located in a refugee camp and being fortunate enough to hold a USA passport, they were able to get him out and moved to Panama City. The son was so moved by what he saw that he gathered supplies and help so he could go back to the refugees. They didn’t have the most basic of supplies and most of them were sick because there was no clean water, and there was no medicine or medical care.

He wrote a book about his experience, and it was definitely something to read! He’s lucky to have made it through, though he was robbed of everything he had and spent frustrating time in a refugee camp before he finally made it out. Later he went to Haiti. He figured if so many were leaving Haiti out of desperation, maybe he could help so people could make it in their own country. Good idea, but the reality… not so good.

There was an article in our media here about the refugee situation. They arrive in eastern Panama after their horrendous journey, and then what is Panama supposed to do? And to further complicate things, people in the drug trade and terrorists can hide themselves among the refugees. From what I understand, Panama has been bussing the refugees to the Costa Rican border, rather than turn them back or let them make their own way through the country. From there, they have many more borders to cross before they reach the USA and a very uncertain future.


I have no opinion on the refugee situation. There are valid points and concerns on both sides. But, I really feel for the people who are in such desperate circumstances that they see this treacherous journey as a better alternative to their current situation. What would one of us do if we were in their shoes? I’m very thankful that this is a decision I don’t have to make.

In other news, it’s summer here which means it’s hot, sunny, dry, and often very windy. We haven’t seen rain in quite a while and you want to avoid going out in the hot afternoons. Nights are usually cooler and beautiful.

We had a surge in the virus along with most of the rest of the world, but the numbers are falling now to much better levels. Except for mask wearing everywhere life feels quite normal and everything is open and busy. The teachers are back to work preparing for in person school which is starting in a couple weeks. Vaccinations continue to be ongoing, and below is a picture of nurses going door-to-door in Boquete.

We’ve been through many summers now but we’re still enjoying the spectacular flowers of this season. Mangoes are also flowering so fruit will be coming. I prefer the rain but anytime is good in Panama and we are happy to be here.

Thank you to all of you who read my blog, and it’s been great meeting a couple of you in person recently. As always, take care of yourselves and each other!

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments