Locked Down, Again

Chiriqui (the province where we live) has been having problems with the virus, so we have curfews again at night and all day Sunday. So, since I’m sitting on the terrace watching it rain, I figured I’d take a moment to write a word or two.

I don’t mind so much. We weren’t planning to go anywhere anyway, but it’s frustrating to see control of the virus going well, and then have things go backwards again. We’re blaming some of it on Costa Rica which is right next door to us. They have required insurance (to cover all your expenses in case you get COVID) but they haven’t required any testing to enter. Opinion is that this hasn’t been good for their virus situation. And the border is a big shopping area where Costa Ricans and Panamanians mingle, so this can’t be helping either.

The recent news has said that the the hospital beds for COVID here in David are full and they are having to rearrange and juggle resources to make space for new cases. Testing is now required to go in or out of Chiriqui, and there are various testing locations within the province as well. The statistics aren’t terrible, nothing like they were at the height months ago, but there is a definite upward trend and before this was hardly noticeable the authorities got right on it, hoping it wouldn’t get any worse.

Curfew was at 8 pm, but the businesses protested so much that they changed it to 10 pm. This whole pandemic has been so hard on the businesses so I can understand why they hated this new curfew. Restaurants and bars are just starting to recover and get busy again, so the last thing they want it to be closed during their busiest times. But, more virus cases mean more deaths. Very recently there were two days with no deaths, the first death free days since the pandemic started. Yesterday there were 7 (in the nation). You can see the May numbers for Chiriqui below. New cases (purple) are outpacing recovered people (blue) and the number of active cases (red) has been steadily rising all month.

No photo description available.

In a province of 450,000 people those aren’t huge numbers, thank goodness, but the upward trend and the stress on the hospitals aren’t good. We generally feel safe doing what we need to do, but we are still super happy to have our first vaccine on board. And, the numbers may not be huge but as we all know, if a death is your family member or good friend, that’s a huge loss.

So, enough COVID! Some day we will look back on this and say – remember when all we could talk about was COVID?

It’s a rainy day here today. I think it started about 12:30 which is pretty early for afternoon rain but we’re happy. There was no rain the last few days and the sun was heating up everything. Right now the rain has stopped but it’s very cloudy and 82 degrees on the terrace at about 3pm. That probably sounds hot to many of you, but for me that’s perfect. I don’t know if the birds are celebrating but they seem to have a lot to sing about this afternoon, and some sound like they are having conversations with others in the neighboring yards.

Now that our vaccination process is under way, I’ve been in touch with our travel agent to book tickets back to the US to see my family! It’s going to be awesome. I wonder how I will feel in the US though. It’s been 1 1/2 years so I’m expecting a bit more culture shock. And, most of all, the kids are 1 1/2 years older and have changed so much, especially the youngest who was only 1 when I saw her last. But thankfully we have kept in close touch with video chats so it should be fine. The other grandmother is with the Seattle family right now, her first visit since the pandemic and my daughter said the kids were fine, as if they just saw her last week.

Well the breeze is picking up and sky is getting darker, so there must be more rain moving in. The paisanos (gray-headed chachalacas, I believe) visited my yard and usually they quietly cheep like baby chicks, but when they get wound up they can get very loud. I don’t know what wound them up today but they seem over it now. The brown birds (thrushes?) continue to have conversations between yards, and other birds, maybe wrens, are chattering next door. There is a bird with a beautiful song that I love, but I’ve only heard it from a distance in the woods so I don’t know what it is. Ooh, now I hear thunder in the distance. Maybe it’s time for kitchen chores and I’ll enjoy the rain out here later.

Well the lights just went out in half the house, and the same has happened to the neighbors. I don’t understand how things are wired and how this can be, but it has happened before. It’s better than losing the whole house, and I’m glad for the neighborhood chat group because I know it’s not just me and it’s being reported. It’s also started to rain again. OK, now, about those kitchen chores… and then I talked with the neighbors, and since I was up I tackled the kitchen chores, and my daughter called, and I had a great chat with the other grandmother too. What do you DO all day?? Sometimes I don’t know but I’m never without things to do.

What I’m going to do next is close this post. You all take good care of yourselves and each other! Hasta la promixa (until next time)

Posted in Panama | 5 Comments

Vaccination Day

The day finally got here! It’s been a process and a waiting game, and I can hardly believe we got our shots.

Panama has done the vaccination process in a very systematic way starting with the people most in need, and going from province to province depending on where the most cases have been.

We are in phase 2, people over 60 and people with chronic health problems. They have also added teachers (they want to get the kids back to school soon), and pregnant women (with doctor’s OK).

They started vaccinations in Panama and Panama West (Panama City area). This started in early March, which made us very excited, but it’s taken all this time to get to Chiriqui. We are in district 4-1 (David) and they are also vaccinating in district 4-2 (Puerta Armuelles area). Unfortunately Panama hasn’t gotten the supplies they expected. It’s frustrating because they have certainly done their part to be ready to vaccinate large numbers of people, but without the vaccine the virus continues to spread, sicken, and kill. In the graphic above, desfunciones means deaths. This is the number they have used to prioritize provinces and districts.

(an aside – Panama has been giving Pfizer vaccines. Recently, they got some AstraZeneca but that’s a different thing, different sign up and different clinics, and it’s available for men over 30 and women over 50. But otherwise, the main vaccination efforts are all Pfizer. There has been talk that they are negotiating for a couple other brands but nothing has happened yet)

But, our time finally came! Months ago we were told to go to the government website and sign up for vaccines. And then… we waited…. and waited…. Then, a few weeks ago we heard about a David website so we signed up there too, and waited some more until news came around that May 10th was the day to check for appointments. I was anxious and up early, logged on to the website, and there it was, my appointment! Mine was on Sunday afternoon, and Joel had one too on Saturday afternoon in a different location.

That was Monday, and the appointments were in the system as promised. Then, Tuesday the vaccines arrived in Chriqui. Wednesday was preparation day for all the locations and staff (I saw news that 1000+ people came from Panama City area who had worked in the clinics there. They came to work in our clinics). Thursday my neighbors started getting their vaccines. Friday I got a phone call, I think from the local David offices because we’d signed up on that other website. A very nice women had to repeat things (she just couldn’t slow down!) but I finally understood that she was calling to be sure we had appointments if we wanted them, and she told me I could just go with Joel on Saturday.

Then, Saturday morning I stopped by to see a friend and was told there that we should probably go much earlier than our 4pm appointment because there were rumors they closed down the lines at 4pm. So, we went about 1:30, figuring the worst that could happen would be we would have to wait for our appointed time. I gathered up our rental agreement to prove that we do indeed live in this district, and an electric bill (another method of verifying our location), and our cedulas (ID cards), and passports just in case, and I had a print out of my appointment, and Joel’s appointment was saved in both of our phones, and the location was saved in my google maps. I did NOT want any problems! Little did we know how easy it was going to be…

Somehow I ended up in a WhatsApp group of people working at the clinics, maybe because I considered volunteering? They were up and getting ready at 5:30 am! By 7am everything was in order (photo below), and by 8 am people were waiting for their vaccines. (these are photos that were shared in the group)

I think we arrived at the designated school about 1:45. There were quite a few cars out front, and more around the back where we were told to go to start the process.

We had our temperatures taken, alcohol squirted on our hands, and we were directed to the outdoor gym area to sit in chairs. I think there were only two other people there waiting. Joel is smiling under his mask in the first picture, and it was only a few minutes before we were called to the table in the next picture. There they asked for our cedulas (ID’s) and phone numbers so they could fill out our vaccination cards.

From there, we were sent to sit in the next line of chairs that you can see in the distance of the second picture above. We found out that we were waiting to be sent to one of a number of vaccinations stations. So, below in the first picture is the line of chairs, and the chairs in front of one of the vaccination rooms are in the second picture. That’s where I ended up next.

Again, it was barely a couple minutes before we (in a group of 6) were moved to the chairs in front of the vaccination room. The nurses there asked for our cedulas and vaccination cards to make entries in their logs, which we were asked to sign. Below are a couple photos I took while we were waiting in this area. The first is another vaccination room with staff at the table, and chairs for clients to wait. The second picture is towards the entrance. I saw that anyone who looked like they had trouble walking or waiting was immediately taken to a chair in front of the closest vaccination room.

Our longest wait was in front of the vaccination room, maybe 5 minutes. Then we were ushered into the vaccination room. We were asked if we were all over 60, our cedulas and vaccination cards were gathered again and info was written on another log. And then, one of the two staff members gave us our shots! We were instructed that our next shot would be in 30 days, and after that we need to wait 15 days before we get a flu shot.

Oh happy day!! It was true. It really happened. We got our shots. They gave us back our cards and cedulas and waited a few minutes, and then we were ushered into another room where we had to wait for 15 minutes to be sure we didn’t have any bad reaction. We were also instructed about possible side effects and how to treat them, when to seek medical help, and who to contact for any questions or concerns.

And then we were finished! I think we got lucky and came in at a slow time, and the whole process took less than an hour. I was impressed by how organized they were. Social distancing was maintained at all times and masks were worn by everyone (including the medical staff who were vaccinated a couple months ago in phase 1). There were people at every step to direct you to your next place. Nobody seemed rushed or stressed, and everything just flowed along smoothly. I felt like we were cared for very well, and we were given all the information we needed to know.

I know that we will be getting the second shot in one month, and two weeks after that we will have the highest level of immunity. But even one dose provides a significant amount of immunity, and it sure puts my head in a better place. As I said in my last post, we are having problems in Chirqui and curfews are back. Even with all the biosecurity measures that are second nature to us by now, the virus is still infecting people. I’m very happy that we, and all the more vulnerable people in our city will have a higher level of protection. There was a time when I considered going back to the US, but until recently it was very difficult to get an appointment. And, there were the dangers of travel, and then what? Quarantine somewhere away from my family? This took a bit longer but we felt safe and comfortable while we waited, and it all worked out very well.

THANK YOU Panama for taking such good care of us! Add this to the very long list of reasons for why we are thankful to be here.

I hope you all are safe too, and taking good care of yourselves and each other.

Posted in Panama | 7 Comments

Steps Forward, Steps Backwards

There’s been quite a lot going on here lately! We were starting to feel alive and it was great. Numbers were stable, not dropping as much as one would hope, but stable is good.

Starting May 3rd, live music was permitted for a performing group of 6 or less as long as biosecurity measures were followed. We went to the Boquete Brewery to celebrate the first live music in 14 months, not quieter acoustic music but real rock music, real drums, real volume and it was fantastic. Hashtag was playing, friends of ours and one of our favorite bands. We saw friends that we hadn’t seen since before the Pandemic. The Brewery was being very careful, reservations only, spaces between tables, masks required when not in your seat, etc. and the terrace is outdoors with a good breeze, so we felt safe.

And, we know our vaccines were coming this week, so we made a start date for our band – June 4th. That would give us 2-3 weeks after our first dose of vaccine, not full protection but considering the safety measures at the Brewery, we felt good about this plan. So, we came home very happy and excited, and we started putting set lists together for our first couple gigs and planning practices.

Then… there were steps backwards. Within a few days numbers were going up, and the worst of it was in Chiriqui. https://www.prensa.com/sociedad/mayoria-de-casos-activos-de-la-covid-19-se-registran-en-la-provincia-de-chiriqui/ The article says 42% of the cases are in Chiriqui, a province of 450K+ in a country of about 4 million, or a province with maybe +/- 12% of the population. A friend said our proximity to Costa Rica isn’t helping because they have a lot of cases and there is so much travel back and forth. The border is a very strange one with no barrier between the two countries, and there is a very popular shopping area there. One can very easily wander from one country to another as you wander from store to store, so the two populations mix a lot. No one would even know you crossed a border without going through customs and immigration until you were caught at the checkpoints well down the road. So there’s that, and people are just plain tired of all the hassles, and not seeing their friends and family as they wish, and with everything opening up it feels almost like old times.

So, when statistics and numbers change, the authorities make changes.

This says that starting tomorrow, we have a curfew from 8PM – 4AM every day, and all day Sunday. So much for live music. But when we went to Boquete we saw that every restaurant had business, parking spots were full, and the town was very active with people out enjoying themselves. And most Panamanians work Mon-Sat so Sunday is for getting together with family and friends, and generally having fun in ways that may not be advisable right now. So, as difficult as it is, especially for bars, restaurants, and businesses with a lot of evening activities, I understand the reasoning. Word is that the situation will be reevaluated in 2 weeks but moving the numbers is not a fast process, so I’m not counting on anything changing right away.

But, it’s not all bad news. Vaccinations started today in Chiriqui for people over 60, pregnant women and teachers! I’m not too excited… ha! ~~hopping up and down~~ The system worked as expected. We registered weeks and weeks ago, and were told that we could look for our appointments on Monday. Sure enough, I was up early, logged on to the website, and there it was! Tuesday, I also got an email with my appointment time and place, and instructions.

On Tuesday, our vaccines arrived. I also read that 1000+ people came here from the Panama City area, people who were working in the vaccination clinics over there who will be now working in the clinics here.

There doesn’t seem to be rhyme and reason for why you get sent to one site instead of another, but who cares. We are happy! Joel is at one place on Saturday, I’m going to another on Sunday (allowed even during curfew). My neighbors are also scattered in different places and days, but we’re all going to get our shots! Word is the clinics all started today and will run through Sunday, and they expect to give around 3oK shots in that time. Of course I will report on how it goes.

We are really happy, especially now with the more worrisome situation in our province. But, the biggest thing of all is that my family and I will feel ok with me traveling, and by late June I expect to be in the USA with my family.

So, that’s the main news around here. Otherwise life is going on. The city is active. We’re getting lots of rain. We’re thankful to be here, and very sorry to hear about the terrible problems in other parts of the world. We feel very fortunate!

As always, take care of yourselves and each other.

Posted in Panama | 6 Comments

Poco a Poco (Little by Little)

The days still go by, one very much like another, but there are also signs of forward progress, definite signs!

The first big step forward is the vaccine. We are scheduled to start vaccinations here in David on May 10th. These vaccines will be for people over 60, pregnant women, and teachers. They are planning to get the teachers back to work on May 31st, and the students back in school part time soon after that so they want teachers protected. We have heard “the vaccines are coming, they are coming” for so long that I almost don’t dare get excited until it actually happens. But, I am excited, I will admit.

The second step forward is live music. The news came out a couple days ago – “Sucre also reported that since the figures remain below 5% positivity, as of May 3, the presentation of musical groups or orchestras, made up of up to 6 members, will be authorized so that they can perform with the objective of entertain, without dance activities in places such as restaurants and outdoor bars, this with the established capacity of 25% and respecting biosecurity measures.” (MINSA communication #427)

This means live music is finally allowed! There has been some going on already, but low key, dinner music rather than party music. We heard about something going on at Rincon Espanol, a restaurant right down the street from us so we went last Thursday, It was fantastic! What a pleasure to hear live music from a couple excellent musicians. We also talked with some musician friends, had a very nice dinner in a beautiful outdoor setting on a perfect evening, and really enjoyed ourselves.

But wait, there’s more! The same singer said she was performing with Hashtag, other friends of ours, at the Brewery. So, we went up to Boquete and had another great evening. It was so wonderful to see friends we hadn’t seen in ages, and hear more excellent music. It felt like we were finally starting to come back to life!

The Brewery (our usual band venue) has a lot of outdoor space with seating spaced well apart. Everyone was wearing masks except when they were in their seats, so it felt very safe. It made us feel a lot better about getting out there ourselves. With the vaccines coming so soon we’ll probably wait until after May 10th until we have at least one dose on board, but I think we’ll be playing before the end of May.

So, vaccines are coming, live music is coming, and once vaccinated we’ll feel a lot better about me going to visit family in the US. For me, these are all huge steps toward the things I have been missing.

Everything else around here feels fairly normal, as normal as can be while still in a pandemic. There is lots of traffic and activity around town. People are out and about, but always with masks and social distancing has become such a routine that people remark on it when it isn’t followed. You still get the temperature and alcohol treatment when you go into any place of business, but everything is open there aren’t the long lines or complications we experienced months ago. When we went out at night, restaurant parking lots were full and many people were out enjoying themselves, with the necessary precautions of course, but people are definitely out.

Virus statistics are stable, not going down as quickly as one would hope, but stable and improving slowly is definitely a wonderful thing. Even holy week and Easter, and the related traveling didn’t seem to cause any spikes. And more vaccine is coming into the country every week and more people are being vaccinated. When I see the news from other places I’m thankful that Panama has been so conservative and cautious. Yes of course it’s been hard, terribly hard for so many, but we haven’t suffered the terrible hospital overruns and deaths that have happened in some other places, and that tragically are still happening.

In other news, we are definitely into rainy season again, which I enjoy. Most mornings are gorgeous with sun and blue skies, and most afternoons bring cooling and refreshing rain. I know it’s harder for people working outdoors, but when you can sit on your terrace and enjoy the rain it’s pretty nice.

“In other news…” and then I talk about the weather, but that’s pretty much how it is here. You can check the world and USA news and there’s so many bad things happening every day. Here though, conversation is mostly – how are you? how is your family? do you think it’s going to rain? The sun is/isn’t hot today. There’s a lot to be said for this.

As always, take good care of yourselves and each other!

Posted in Panama | 8 Comments

Some Shopping, Some Flowers

Our veggie guy has been out for a couple weeks, so we went to one of the markets down the street for some fruits and veggies. The bigger market is closed to prevent crowding, so you have to stand at the doorway and ask for what you want. The smaller market, however, is open air and you can go in and pick out your own items. Both have a drive up option so you don’t even need to get out of your car if you don’t want to.

The smaller market has everything we need, and the owner and her staff are super friendly so it’s a pleasure to shop there. She seemed really pleased that I wanted some pictures to share with you all in the US and other countries around the world. I told her that she will be a little bit famous! She was only embarrassed that it was Sunday and the market wasn’t as well stocked as it would have been during the week, but it still looked good to us.

Sometimes WordPress drives me nuts! I’ve finally gotten the descriptions to post with the photos, but on my computer I have to click the down arrow to see them. Oh my tablet it seems to work to scroll down a bit. Anyway…

We are very fortunate to live in Chiriqui province where most of the produce is grown, so we have fresh fruits and veggies all the time. I included a price list in the pictures. I don’t know how this compares to your prices, but we find produce here very affordable. And, it’s picked ready to eat, shipped to the markets the same day, and it may not look beautiful and perfect all the time but it sure is delicious. I don’t mind an occasional worm or bruise if it means less chemicals were used in growing, and less goes to waste because it didn’t look absolutely perfect. We eat this fresh produce every day, produce that is grown in this rich volcanic soil, and I think this is a big part of why we feel better and healthier here.

On the way to the market, we passed maybe flowering and fruiting trees. The dry season is interesting because it is the time when many beautiful flowers appear, and many of my favorite fruits are available.

I have also collected some miscellaneous pictures, which I’ll share here…

So, that’s what we did Sunday in the morning. In the afternoon we had band practice with our drummer which went really, really well. We are excited to get out there and play some music when it’s finally allowed. The virus statistics continue to do very well, and they continue to vaccinate people as quickly as they can with the limited supplies that are arriving. So for now we continue to be as patient as we can, and give thanks that we are safe and comfortable here with everything we need. But, we, and you, and the whole world continue to look forward to the day when things are more “normal”, whatever that will be on the other side of all this.

Oh, and it’s summer again. We had a couple days of clouds, rain, and cooler temperatures. Then, yesterday and today, it’s like summer again with blue skies and hot sun. We’re in transition between seasons, but even now it’s not as hot as it was last week so we’re happy.

And, we had water yesterday all day!! Power and internet are pretty reliable here, but water not so much. It’s either too dry and there are rolling outages, or it’s too wet and they shut off the water to clean out the system. Or, like now, they are fixing something. They have been working in the area where the big water main broke, and they are also working on a big project to bring more water to both us and the area on the other side of the river, so the water has been off in the daytime while they work. We are thankful for our reserve tank, and living here sure has made us thankful for clean water! So much of the world has to carry water, and many don’t have any clean water. It’s easy to take so much for granted when it’s always there.

So, that’s about it for today. Keep on keeping on, and keep on taking good care of yourselves and each other.

Posted in Panama | 9 Comments

It’s Rainy Season

It’s like a switch was flipped. One day was summer and the next was not. It was really hot for days, upper 90’s, dry, intense sun, and a lot of the plants were crispy and crunchy. On Wednesday afternoon we had a short but intense downpour. Then, Thursday, we had rain, lots of rain, a steady rain well into the evening and light rain overnight. Friday, yesterday, was cloudy and then rainy in the afternoon, and there was more rain in the evening. It’s suddenly cooler too. I like the warm weather but it was getting to be too much even for me, and these rainy season upper 70’s-low 80’s temperatures are very welcome.

Seasons are a bit different here. Summer starts in mid December. Rain is infrequent and then hardly happens at all until mid April. School summer vacation is December until mid February. A lot of home repairs and improvements go on in summer because they don’t get rained on in the afternoon.

I ran across this interesting website that explains the weather in this area. Apparently, because of the changing tilt of the earth, we are in a tropical, equatorial weather pattern most of the time. But during the summer we get pushed into the subtropical band of weather which is dry and windy. Boquete Weather and Climate (Boquete is the town up the road from us in the mountains, but the weather info applies to the whole area)

So, that’s the weather. In other news, I haven’t written as often here because there still isn’t much going on. What did we do this week? Well… same as last week, and the week before. I forget that just because it’s routine to me, it may still be interesting to people who only see our area and our lives through what I share here.

Some friends were curious about our outings to the fruit and veggie market. Most of the produce is grown in this province up in the mountains, so we are lucky to have a great selection of fresh produce available every day. I was going to go to the market but it’s started to rain, already, and it’s only 10:30 AM. But we sure appreciate the rain. (I know we could take the car, but half the point is to get some exercise) If we go tomorrow, and if I remember to take my phone for some photos, I’ll share more about that tomorrow.

Speaking of friends, there was a group of us in Florida that got together fairly regularly and had lot of fun times together. We have reconnected on Zoom now, and nothing has changed. IMO, that’s real friends, people who care about you through good times and bad, and are still there even if you haven’t talked for literally years. Yes, my friends, you know who you are and I appreciate every one of you!

In COVID news, things here are better. The numbers are getting lower, both the overall number of infected people and the number of people in hospitals, so that’s very good news. They are still aggressively testing, hoping to find the asymptomatic people who can unknowingly spread the virus. People coming from South America are automatically quarantined in a hotel/hospital on arrival for 5 days and then retested, in the effort to keep the variants out of the country. They are also randomly testing infected people for variants, and contact tracing continues as well.

Vaccines are arriving but not at the rate they were expected. But vaccinations have been underway for a month in a very organized fashion for people over 60, teachers, and people with chronic health conditions. They started in Panama Province (Panama City) where there have been the most cases, and they are now working in Panama West (suburbs of Panama City). Chiriqui (where we are) is next so we’re waiting! They have been using Pfizer vaccines, but the news says they are also getting vaccines from Covax, AstraZeneca, and they have been talking with Russia and China about getting more vaccine from there so hopefully at some point soon, the pace of vaccinations can increase.

Everyone is tired and Panama is no exception! People are tired of restrictions, of not seeing friends and family, of worrying, of being isolated. But, we’re glad to be here. People seem much more likely to cooperate with what needs to be done to prevent the spread of the virus, and our statistics show the results. But we are all looking forward to better times! It will happen, not today, but it’s coming. Hang on, and take care of yourselves and each other.

Posted in Panama | 2 Comments

A Mola Workshop

Last week I had the opportunity to do something a bit different. Well, going out for anything other than necessary errands is different, so this was a very nice day. Molas are a fabric art form of the Guna Indians who live in Eastern Panama. Since COVID these people have lost their art sales and tourism dollars, their main income, so they have gotten creative about other ways to earn money to care for their families. I wrote a post in the past about their mola masks. They use their fabric art skills to make masks, something that everyone needs these days. My mola masks are my favorites, comfortable, breathable, and beautiful. Check out this post if you want to see them, or buy them for yourself.

Beautiful Masks! | The Panama Adventure

So, these ladies and their friend Victor had this idea to hold workshops to teach people how molas are made. If you need convincing that this art takes tons of skill and time, you will understand this after a workshop! The teacher put a pieces of white cloth on a piece of black cloth, drew a simple design, secured them together with basting stitches, and then cut along the lines of the design. Our job was to sew the cut edges, and then cut more lines as needed. After maybe 30 minutes of carefully sewing little stitches with a little needle, I had completed maybe three small lines. It’s not easy to make the stitches small and neat, without pricking your fingers. Nor is it something that can be done quickly, even with skill and experience. The teacher at our table said she had been sewing since she was eight years old.

Here’s a few pictures of the class. It was in a private room of a local restaurant in Boquete, and had 2 tables of 6 students each. Victor, the organizer, is in the gray t-shirt. He is also a Guna indian, but fluent in their language, Spanish, and English. He is also a tour guide in Panama CIty and San Blas, offering a different sort of tour to immerse people in the local culture and introduce them to the local people. He also works very hard helping local kids with food, books, education, opportunity, and lots of love to help lift them out of their challenging circumstances. (2) Localinpty KIDS Programme | Facebook

The young lady in jeans and a black shirt is a bilingual US/Panamanian who was there to help with translation and anything else as needed. The teachers were two lovely Guna women. You can see them in their traditional dress in the photos, with the molas worn in the traditional way as part of their clothing on the upper body. The other photo is a hat band I bought for a gift. Along with the traditional molas, they make other useful items that people can buy.

Thank you Kathy Donelson (In the photo above with the two ladies, and her super cool blue skirt) for allowing me to use these beautiful photos! On the left is the two teachers with a table of their work in front of them. The lady with the red head scarf also has the traditional beaded arm and leg decorations. Victor explained that it takes a considerable amount of time to put them on, and they are to protect the skin from the sun. I especially love the smiling photo of her on the right. It really shows the lovely personality of one of these gentle and loving people.

The workshops have gone very well so they are planning to do more of them. If you are in Panama, go to one if you can. Contact Victor and he can get you signed up. WhatsApp is +507 61187621 or email at localinpty@gmail.com or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/victorprez  Or, if you want to arrange a private class, or a workshop in another area, talk with Victor. Maybe he can arrange it.

April 9th, 2021 (Panama City)
April 16th, 2021 (Coronado)
April 23rd, 2021 (Pedasi)
April 30th, 2021 (Boquete)

I’m glad I could make it to the workshop and see some friends, and make some new friends. I’ve talked with Victor on line a lot so it was especially fun to finally meet in person! I hadn’t been to Boquete in a year, so it was also nice to make the drive up there and be reminded of how incredibly beautiful it is here.

Other than that… we are anxiously waiting for the rains to resume and this hot, dry, and windy summer weather to be over. It should happen any day now. The virus numbers continue to slowly drop, and I hope this holiday weekend doesn’t change that. The number of people in the hospital is lower than I’ve seen it in a very long time. Vaccines are coming, but slowly, because supply coming in has been much lower than promised. But this month, more is supposed to be coming from a couple other sources. Meanwhile, we keep on keeping on, and give thanks that we are doing fine.

Happy Easter everyone!

Posted in Panama | 2 Comments

It’s Summer Here

Summer in Panama, also known as the dry season, starts about the middle of December and end about the middle of April. We had an unusual amount of rain earlier in the summer, which was really nice but now it is definitely summer. We haven’t had any rain for weeks, the sky is an intense blue with a hot sun, and the summer trade winds are blowing. Nights tend to be breezy, cool, and just beautiful but you want to avoid going out in the afternoon because it’s hot and the sun feels like it will bake you.

Summer is interesting because a lot of the trees flower and fruit at this time of year. My neighbor had a yellow guyacan, and now it has a lot of bean type seed pods. Now the pink and white trees are blooming and they are beautiful! The bougainvillea are always beautiful in the summer as well. And, mangos are getting ready. I prefer the rainy season but there is a lot to be said for summer.

We also have these noisy beetles. When I first heard them I didn’t know what was happening. Were the neighborhood kids whistling? The neighbors explained what they were and the whistling or singing intensified every day until the rains returned. I took this video in my backyard yesterday afternoon. There’s nothing to see, only the woods next to the house but turn your sound up so you can here the sounds.

Unfortunately, summer is also a time of brush fires. I think people burn their land to clean it but when conditions are dry and windy, things easily get out of control. Maybe some of the fires are also accidental, but nobody seems to know for sure. We only know that the smoke is really unpleasant, and though houses are block with metal roofs, it is still possible to lose things around the house, plants, and trees. We returned from biking one day to see smoke rising from the woods behind the neighborhood. Thankfully it stayed on the other side of the river but the neighborhood was smoked out for two days. Other than the smoke, the sky was sure gorgeous that day.

Continuing with other random photos here – If you see “Pipa Fria” get some! That’s coconut water and it’s really good. Usually they will fish a green coconut out of a chest of ice water, whack the top off with a machete, stick a straw in it and give it to you for $1. Sometimes you can also buy bottles of coconut water to take home. This particular business, if you are local and want to find him, he’s on Via Boquete south of the bridge across from the ball stadium.

I’ve had a few questions about money lately. The currency here is the balboa and the dollar. They have the same value and paper money is always US dollars. Coins however are a mixture of US and Panamanian coins. There is also a $1, or 1 balboa coin which is silver with a gold/brass center and it’s widely used. It’s handy to have dollars here. You don’t have to worry about exchange rates or do math in your head to figure out what things cost.

I think that’s it for the moment. In other news, the virus numbers have been decreasing and stabilizing, and we didn’t seem to suffer the spike I feared after Carnivales (it was cancelled but people still traveled and enjoyed their time off). Vaccinations are in progress but the supply coming in has limited the speed of progress. But I am impressed that they seem super organized and in frequent communication with the population. Right now they are in phase 2 (people over 60 and people with chronic diseases) and they started in the Panama City area where they have had the most problems. They’ll get to everyone but it’s going to take time, and more supplies. But, meanwhile, most things are open and operating again (with restrictions and protocols) and the city feels very alive again. We’re all so tired of the pandemic and we’re not out of it yet, but any encouragement and positive news helps us look forward to better times. And, we’re still alive and healthy enough to complain, and there’s a lot to be said for that

Posted in Panama | 8 Comments

A Good Mailing Service

Is there mail in Panama? No! Well, not mail as we know it in the US. There are no mailmen going door to door delivering letters and packages. So, how do things get to people?

There is a post office downtown. You can get a post office box if there is one available, which from what I hear is rarely the case. Otherwise, you can use general delivery. If you think you have something to pick up, go to the post office with your ID and they will look through the boxes and drawers of things to see if your item is there. The post office isn’t fast but it works, and it’s very economical.

Many people would rather use a mailing service like Mailboxes Etc. In the last year, and even in the last few months, we have seen more and more mailing services pop up. They usually have a “Shop on the Internet!” advertisement out front. More and more people here are discovering, and loving internet shopping with the huge selections and better prices. People are also shopping less in person for safety in this pandemic. So, it makes sense that there is an increasing need for a mailing service.

We usually send our internet purchases to my daughter’s house and pick them up on visits, but since we haven’t visited in 16 months we are feeling the void. It’s been great to discover a service that gets packages here in a timely manner and doesn’t cost a huge amount.

PGT Logistics | Envíos de Miami a Panamá – Compras por Internet en Panamá

It’s usually a week or less for a package to get from Miami to here, and it’s $2.50/lb. and $.50 handling per package. You may be changed more for a larger size package. For example, we have been changed $5 (+$.50) for a small box or package of clothes. But you will see your price in the invoice that comes to your email, and even with shipping costs it can be well worth it to shop on line.

How does it work? You are giving a mailing address (in the Miami/Doral area) and you can take advantage of free shipping offers to there or pay whatever it costs for postage to the Miami address. This address has the necessary information to send the package or letter on to the David office and alert your account. When something arrives you will get an email telling you the weight and cost to pick it up. Then, you stop by the office, pay, and collect your item. We always enjoy a chat with Luis, the bilingual, friendly, efficient, and fun Panamanian who works there. (He took his mask off only for this quick photo)

It gets even better! You can also get your package delivered to David or Boquete. Luis said you can request delivery by either phone or WhatsApp, and you can pay by bank transfer or pay cash on delivery. Contact him for any questions 6150 5434 WhatsApp or 399-4305 / 399-4306 info@pgtlogistics.com

You can find whatever you need locally. Panamanians have been doing it for generations. But it’s really nice to have the option to buy things on line for the better selection, better prices, and convenience. This office is between the car wash and the gas station, and across from Filipe Moto on the old Via Boquete, just above the Terronal shopping center. We appreciate that we don’t have to fight the traffic and congestion to go downtown, and it’s even right on our usual bike route.

Living in Panama can definitely put a damper on your internet shopping habits since it takes more time and money to get things sent here, but it’s great to know there is an option that works well if you do want to order something.

Posted in Panama | 10 Comments

A Bit of my World

I recently reconnected with a very dear friend from my college years. He’s curious about my world down here in Panama so I figured rather than overload his mailbox, I’d just write a post.

I woke up to a beautiful, partly cloudy breezy morning, 80 degrees. The first photo is my “outside office” this morning, looking towards the back yard and the banana trees. The second is the front of the house which you can’t see very well because I’ve planted too many things.

Then, this is our kitchen, not big but definitely workable for two people. The stove is gas, and it is fed by a gas can outside that is similar to what feeds your BBQ. When we have an empty gas can we take it to the chino (convenience store) and exchange it for a full one for $5.12. One lasts us about a month. The counter and structure under it is cement covered with tile so we wouldn’t have the problem with soggy wood if the sink would leak. If you stand at the sink there are storage shelves behind you and an opening into the dining room. The fridge is around the corner in the dining room which works for us because the kitchen is small.

The other picture is the living room. Typical construction is a cement slab floor, cement block walls, and a metal roof. We are a bit fancier because we have tile on the cement floor, and a drop ceiling. Above the ceiling is a large opening that looks up to the underside of the roof. The walls do not go all the way up to the roof, which isn’t important except sound tends to travel within the house more than you would expect. The metal roof is very noisy during a hard rain, but after reroofing the Florida house and replacing lots of wood, tar paper, and shingles this metal roof is a lot simpler and more practical. We painted ours white to cut down on the heat in the house, which the neighbors thought was quite strange until we explained the concept to them. Roofs are typically brick red color.

Our living room is our music studio. Visitors are traditionally entertained in an outdoor space and it’s better use of the space for us. Our house is larger than many, probably 900 sq ft. It has 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, and we have a wall air conditioner in the living room for those hot summer afternoons. We also have a reserve water tank because the water here isn’t reliable. But, it is drinkable and clean.

So, moving on… today’s errand was to go to our mailing service and visit the friendly bilingual employee Luis. We have found this mailing service fast, efficient, and friendly and it’s affordable at $2.50/lb + $.50 handling per package. They will deliver for free but it’s on our bike route it’s a good excuse to get some exercise. And, now I have new bike shorts! Thank you eBay.

Next, I went a couple minutes farther down to the shopping center. In the first picture, El Rey is on the left, a very nice, upscale, large supermarket. Next to it is the DoIt Center, similar to Home Depot. The shopping center goes behind these stores and farther down to the right and contains multiple stores, – furniture, electronics, home appliances, light fixtures, a Subway, a couple pharmacies, a phone service, a couple banks… you might be able to live your entire life without going much farther afield than here. The second picture is from the same spot but looking south to the Panamerican highway. You can just barely see Super 99 on the other side of the street, another very large supermarket and there is also a third smaller one across the street down there. All this is just 3 km from our house!

Then, heading back north we passed this Delta gas station. The prices are per liter.

The guy standing by the street in the photo below is selling langostinos – they look like very large shrimp or maybe little lobsters. They are really good but twice the price of shrimp which I like just as much. Street vendors are very common all over town. You’ll see them selling fish, produce, bottles of drinks, sunglasses, cell phone cases, paintings… all kinds of things! I like buying from street vendors, the guys who are out there working hard to make a living. The Texaco station beyond him is very new. We see a lot of familiar names and brands here.

The other photo is one of the two produce markets at this intersection. I buy most of our produce from our guy who comes around every week with his truck, but anything else I’ll buy from these markets or a street vendor. I almost never buy produce from a supermarket.

Continuing up the street towards home… The mangoes on this tree looks like they are getting fairly large.

The blue building is our nearby chino, or convenience store. They are called chinos because they are almost always run by Chinese people. Here, that is not considered a rude, politicly incorrect thing, but only a description. The other photo is from the same spot but looking north.

The next photo is my favorite vantage points for seeing Volcan Baru. Volcan Baru is an active volcano and at 11,000+ feet, the highest point in Panama. It’s so high that the temperature up there gets to freezing, and on a clear day you can see both the Caribbean and Pacific oceans. All the volcanoes throughout central America are monitored, and thankfully this one is sleeping. The last eruption was back in the 16th century. I must have seen Baru hundreds of times by now but I never get tired of it.

The last picture is an open field on the way home, and there’s a huge mango tree there. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 100+ years old. It’s only fruited once since we’ve been here but it makes small, yellow, and really good mangoes which I would be happy to peel, cut, and store in my freezer to enjoy all year.

Are your eyes glazing over by now? Don’t worry, we are almost home.

The first photo is the entrance to our neighborhood and the others are some of the streets in our little neighborhood. It’s trash day so sometimes the guys take all the trash from the little enclosures and lay it out in the street, which isn’t a problem unless the neighborhood dogs decide to make a mess. But, it makes it easier for the trash truck to zip through the neighborhood and sure enough, as you see in the last photos, there they were.

Trash pickup here is twice a week. They haven’t been as consistent since the pandemic but they always show up at least once a week. Trash men aren’t always given respect but here, earlier in the pandemic, the authorities put together a really nice video thanking them for doing this job during this dangerous time.

Now it’s 5pm, 86 degrees (though it was 90 earlier) and super windy! We get the trade winds in the summer and sometimes they really blow. We don’t expect to get rain in the summer (but for some odd reason, we’ve had quite a bit in the last few weeks). All those leaves I raked up and left in a pile a couple days ago… ha! Oh well, I enjoy working outdoors so it’s fine. And the wind creates a strong head wind coming home so we get a good workout on the bikes.

Well I think that’s it. I sure managed to talk a lot about a simple outing and an ordinary day! Thank you for hanging in there until the end. As always, take care of yourselves and each other.

Posted in Panama | 13 Comments