A Little Update…


Our life right now…
Life’s just cruzin’ right along! Of course we’ve been keeping incredibly busy, as I’m sure you could guess. Between building our third and final building and creating a garden in the jungle, getting a new dog, enjoying spending time with friends, doing regular household chores and errands and learning Spanish, I have a really hard time finding moments to just sit and write. Which I regret. I really love writing and sharing our story and I know I’ve become a very bad blogger. So, here’s a little peak into what’s going on in our world… Read the rest of this entry

Our Family Has Grown!


We did it! We adopted a dog! And not just any ol’ dog (not that there is such a thing!) but we think she’s pretty special. Her name is Ruffy, which is short for “Lady Rufina”. I know what your thinking..”I thought she said there was a ‘heart to heart’ about this and they decided the timing was all wrong for a puppy?” And, well, Ahem…you would not be wrong about that recollection. But, shrug, ya know sometimes life just happens. Although, we didn’t get a puppy, we got a very well trained five year old dog who is just right for us and fits into our life like she’s always been here. Read the rest of this entry

A very Rude Dog…


Today was a first for me. I went for a walk with my friend Kat this morning and I was bitten by a dog! Sheesh! I’m still in shock as I write this. In all my life I’ve never been bitten by a dog! I just cant even believe how fast it happened. Ouch! I’m okay, don’t worry. As soon as I got home I washed it really good with soap and water then I sanitized it with peroxide and slathered it with Neosporin. So I feel pretty good about it not getting infected, although I will keep a close eye on it and go see a doctor if it shows any signs of infection. I just had to tell someone cuz’ sheesh Its a crazy thing to have a strange dog just come from nowhere and bite like that! So, maybe there’s a good reason almost every Panamanian I’ve met has a healthy fear of strange dogs. I’ve never felt afraid of dogs. I mean, I don’t make a habit of just walking up to any ol’ dog and petting them, but not because I was fearful, only respectful of animals in general.

I know I’ve read from other expats that one needs to be careful of dogs and many people recommend walking with a walking stick. I think I may just have to heed this recommendation for future walks. Luckily Kat did have her walking stick and she quickly waved it at the dog and his two companion dogs and they all scurried off. It’s a good thing the other two didn’t decide to join in on the fun! I’ve seen this particular dog before, he lives not far from where we live and he’s one of the dogs who frequently chases our car, barking like crazy. Kat and I have decided to go on a short walk everyday to get some much needed excercise. I know I’ll be much more cautious next time we walk past that spot! Lesson learned!

Talking about dogs, I’ve been aching to get a dog of my own. Back in the states I never felt right about having a dog because I was working such long hours and felt like it would be irresponsible to have a pet that needed so much attention. So I got cats, who are much more independent. Even though I’ve never really thought of myself as a “cat person”, I soon grew to love them both so much. But, my heart nearly melts whenever I’m around dogs. I find all dogs adorable and I just want to love them. Scott and I both really look forward to having our own dog, maybe even two one day. Recently we had to sit down and have a heart to heart conversation about this.

It seems as though I’m more ready to dive into finding a dog than Scott is. And this needed to be settled soon because one of my favorite neighborhood dogs is pregnant! ugh! Princessa mated with my other favorite dog, Chumbo….Eye roll! I know they’re gonna be the most adorable puppies and there’s just no way on earth I’ll “NOT” want one or even two! But, there are a couple of very real and valid reasons why its a bad idea to do this right now. As much as I hate to admit it…

Probably the reason that I think this is a bad idea is because I really hate to propagate this habit our neighbors have of finding a female dog and having her mate with the sole purpose of selling the puppies. They don’t even care for the three dogs that they have. They treat them just like most Panamanians treat animals, just as a security system. As much as I adore the dogs I really think its terrible to encourage them to do this. Just today I gave the neighbor a ride up the hill and he told me that Princesa is pregnant. I told him I could not have a puppy because I have a cat. So ….please god , don’t let those kids bring puppies up here! ugh! I already love Chumbo and Princesa and the other dog Sultan and oh, lets not forget about Toby! Eye roll! Sounds to me like I’ve already got a whole gang of dogs!!

The other really good reason for not getting a puppy quite yet is that we don’t yet have a good plan for a pet sitter when we travel. And we really hope to get a lot of traveling in when our project is done. Right now is especially difficult because we have no electricity and asking someone to stay at our house while we’re away requires dealing with the generator. That’s really just too much to ask of someone who’s pet sitting for us. So, yes, right this moment is really not the best time. Not to mention we have an old guy named Copper , our cat! He’s nearly 16 years old and rather cranky when he see’s the dogs outside. Imagine how he’d feel about a puppy. He could do some damage to a sweet little puppy who would want to play with him. That’s just not the best idea to upset our sweet, grumpy kitty.

Some of my friends here in Boquete may be reading this and wondering why I don’t just take my neighbors dogs to the Animales clinic and have them spayed and neutered. Well…I’ve never told this story, but I have a really good reason why Im very hesitant to get involved with their dogs. Oh boy! I hate to tell this sad, sad story. It breaks my heart to even think about it…well…a year or so ago I decided to be a responsible dog lover. My neighbors had this wonderful dog named Mariposa. She was the mother of Chumbo, the male dog that I love so much. Such a sweet, gentle dog I had never met. I wanted to take her to be fixed but the weekend of the clinic landed on the weekend we had made a reservation for a weekend getaway in Boca Chica so I couldnt do it. But my dear friend, kindly offered to take her for me. All I had to do was get her to my friends house the night before the clinic and she would get her there the next morning. So I borrowed a big dog crate and very easily got Mariposa into the crate. She was ever so happy to get into the cozy crate with the raw hide bone and the bowl of food and cozy towel. She didn’t even try to get out after she laid down , happily gnawing on the bone. I shut the door to the crate after putting a collar on her that I had bought. Gently lifted her into my car and drove to my friends house. My friends house is all the way across town, in an area called Volcancito.

After I got to my friends house I decided to open the door to the crate just a tiny bit so I could put a leash on her. My friend said, “Be careful she doesn’t get out”. She had been so happy to be in the crate that I didn’t for one second think that she would try to escape….gulp. Here is where it all goes so terribly wrong. I carefully cracked the door to the crate open so I could reach in and put a leash on her and….BAM! She suddenly and shockingly used all her might to power her way out of the crate! To my horror! I tackled her and she was in fight mode as she fought me with all her might! I could not believe what was happening and I fought right back….Oh no! I could not let her get away…my mind was in total shock! Never had I seen her behave with such aggression…and suddenly it was over…she dashed away so fast! She was just gone…sigh…

I cried and cried. This was one of my worst experiences. I felt so terrible. The neighbors didn’t know I had taken her and I agonized over what to do. In the end I decided there was nothing good that could come of me telling them what I had done. A week or so later the kids were up at my house asking me if I knew where Mariposa was…ugh! I had to say..”Donde es Mariposa? Yo no sabe?” And to this day they mention Mariposa and I say, “Ohhh muy triste”….Oh my gosh! I still feel like such a terrible person for letting that happen. I thought that she might find her way back home, you read stories of dogs doing that all the time. But, sadly to be honest, I don’t think Mariposa was all that smart. :( But…all this to say, I would love to take the dogs to the Clinic to have them sterilized but I’m so afraid to have something tragic happen again. I just want to leave well enough alone.

So, everyday Chumbo and Princesa come to my terrace for breakfast and for lunch. Sometimes Sultan comes up and occasionally Toby comes by for a snack. I love to feed them and they love my attention. Resisting Princesa’s puppies will be really hard for me. I sure hope they find homes for them quickly and I will be ever so happy to never see them. But I’m pretty sure those darn kids will be up here showing them to me one day soon. Or, worse case scenario, Princesa decides to give birth on my terrace! Oh my gosh! ugh! Have I mentioned ….UGH!!!

One of these days I’ll have my very own dog, but right now is not the time. I want to be a responsible dog mom so I’ll wait until the timing is right. In the meantime I will give my neighborhood dogs all the love and attention I can. And I’ll be walking around the neighborhood with a big stick to ward off the nasty dogs who have no idea who they’ve decided to mess with! They coulda had love but now they get the stick! That stupid, mean, rude dog!! Pfffffffft!

This ‘n’ That…


Here’s a bit of what’s on my mind. Our Adventure living here in Panama is feeling less and less like such a huge adventure and more like , just ‘Life’. As the newness of this expat life has begun to fade its really hard to think of things to write about that seem interesting or share worthy, Hah! I know all my friends and family back in California like to keep up on our happenings and I really like the feeling of continued connectivity my blog seems to provide. Its always so great to hear from people and to know that we haven’t been forgotten about. Here are just a few things we’ve been up to and things that just came to me as I typed. Nothing especially earth shattering, but just a bit of this n that!

My registration for my car expired last October so I’ve been attempting to get it registered ever since. Once you know the procedure for this its no big deal, but I’ve had a little ‘glitch’ in my process. The reason for this little ‘glitch’ is because I bought my car used and it was originally registered in Panama City. So It was necessary to have the registration transferred from Panama City to Dolega. Dolega is a small town about twenty minutes down the hill from Boquete and this is where the Office for car registration is located. Having the registration changed seems to have caused a big lag in what is normally a pretty straight forward process. Every year when you re-register your car you get a brand new license plate for your car and Its good for a year. But this year, in my case when I went back in October they didn’t have my plates so they gave me a very official paper that was a three month extension. So, I’ve gone back every three months only to be given another extension , Ugh! Until yesterday! I finally got my new plate! Yeah! I very happily took it, got back into the car and as Scott was backing out of the parking lot I noticed that the date of expiration on the little sticker on this plate was July! What? We decided to go back today to ask if this was a mistake. And apparently it was, so they looked all over for a new sticker but could not find one. They printed out an extension that I can show to the police if they pull me over because they just scraped the sticker off my new plate. eye roll! We shall see what happens when I go back in October to attempt the registration process again. Sigh…

The next thing we need to deal with is to renew our drivers licenses. They expire in July because when we originally got them we only had our temporary residency cards which meant that they used our passport number as our ID. For some reason that only gave us one year for our drivers licenses and so now we’ll go back and have our permanent Cedula numbers linked to the drivers license . I believe this will give us several years until we have to renew them again. Anytime one has to deal with any sort of government process here you just really never know exactly what to expect. It doesn’t matter what your experience was like the last time you did it, or what your friends experience was like last week. It seems to only matter what the particular person on the other side of the counter decides to require at that particular time. You can talk to several people about their experience and try to figure out what you need to do, but things seem to change all the time making it really hard to accomplish any task unscathed. When planning to deal with any such official documentation the one thing that’s certain is that you had better have your ‘Tranquilo’ firmly in place! Just know that whatever you do, don’t ever have expectations at all, and then you’ll be fine.

One must always be prepared to make at least two trips in order to accomplish a simple transaction, not always, it is possible to occasionally experience efficiency , its rare, but it does happen on occasion! Honestly, ya just really never know for sure how it will go. We make sure to bring copies of everything we can possibly think of , like copies of our passports, our cedulas, our drivers licenses, our car insurance, our car title, our registration, blood type, first born… oh, well I’m beginning to over exaggerate just a touch! ….blah, blah, blah. We now have several copies of nearly every document we can think of and take them with us anytime we need to accomplish anything with any official office here. And we never go to any office without cash, checkbook and credit cards, just in case. We prepare ourselves as best we can but there still seems to be times when a seemingly simple errand gets thwarted by a workerbee who’s agenda seems to be to find a way to sabotage our purpose for disturbing their peaceful workday, by trying to make them work, hah! There’s no need to be angry or to let your day be ruined by such happenings, nah, we find humor in learning yet another way in which we can be unsuccessful at accomplishing what should be a simple transaction.

Its almost like a standing joke between the two of us as we set off to get something done. hah! Case in point….Our custom made transformers that we special ordered from the electrical supply store in David. Scott ordered those transformers over six months ago…yep… over six months! They are very expensive and we had to make a large deposit in the bank of the company in Panama City who are fabricating them for us. We were told they would take several months and were not in any hurry at the time because we had yet to have gotten our permit from Union Fenoza (the electric company here in Boquete) for beginning our installation. At this time, as I’m writing this post, we’ve had our permit to begin our electrical run for several months now. Our electrician is waiting for the transformers to begin the job. Scott goes down to David every week to check on the transformers and every week he’s told they will be there next week! hah! Its become a weekly ritual , Scott drives the thirty minutes or so into David, talks with the same guy at Electrista and is told each week to come next week….unbelievable, and quite humorous! Again, I’m so glad Scott doesn’t anger easily and seems to roll with it with grace and kindness. I love that man! I don’t think we could survive here if Scott didn’t have an unending amount of patience in the face of such constant inefficiency .

Meanwhile we continue to live just fine with our generator producing electricity for our house. Its a pain in the butt, but we’ve managed to adjust to needing to take the gas can to the gas station each day for more gas for the generator, and each night Scott puts on his shoes, grabs his flash light and goes outside to turn the generator off, then again in the morning gets out of bed, goes outside and cranks that baby up! So one of these days we will appreciate having actual electricity, and when I say “appreciate”, I mean we will REALLY know and understand, how luxurious it is to have electricity to our house. And I remind myself that we are spoiled.

Our Indigenous neighbors who live just down the road from us have never had any electricity to their shack where they live with six kids and three adults! I’m pretty sure they would love having even a generator providing them with electricity, so I can’t complain or feel sorry for myself….our lifestyle often feels kinda spoiled now that I live near such an extremely different way of life. I must admit that adjusting to living amongst people whose lifestyle is entirely different from mine has required me to try to think differently. At first I used to look at that dirt floor, shack and feel deeply sad for the family. My American way of thinking that everyone wants to live the same way that I live has been deeply engrained in my way of perceiving others. But, I’ve come to believe that Im wrong in thinking that I should want to make their life ‘better’, I mean, those kids are happy and healthy and loved by their family. They have food, water, a shelter that keeps them dry and warm, they have beds and blankets and lots of toys. When I drive by I see them playing outside, laughing and smiling as they happily wave at me and shout “Holly”!

I know they see me as the rich gringa and they like to come over to my house and see what I might give them. I like to give them treats like apples or mangos and then there are times when I just give them a hug and a kiss on the forehead and that makes them just as happy. Of course they have begun to occasionally take advantage of my generosity and I’m learning the importance of establishing boundaries. I don’t feel especially generous or affectionate when I am woken up by the sounds of the kids on my terrace yelling my name, over and over and over again…”Hooooolllly!” “Hooollly!” “Hooooolllly!”…..eye roll! I’m learning how to say “Go Home!” in very clear Spanish….and they are learning not to come over every single day! Grrrrrrr! Of course Scott thinks I need to establish boundaries for all the neighborhood dogs who come for food two times a day, but….I disagree about that! hah!

Yes, we moved to Central America to create a new and different life for ourselves, and that’s exactly what we’ve gotten! New and Different! We often think of our neighborhood in Los Altos and we can’t help but compare our life on Orange Avenue with our life in Jaramillo Centro. Just last night as we were hiking down the hill with a bottle of wine to share with Kat & Allan, we said…”We really hardly ever got to do this with our neighbors in Los Altos”. Heck, we hardly even knew many of our neighbors and very rarely even saw them out and about. Much of the reality of this truth was just a function of everybody needing to work so hard in order to be able to afford the lifestyle that we had there in California. Everyone we knew , including us, were very committed to working hard to maintain the life there. And I don’t mean to say that there’s anything wrong with that life. I only feel glad that we’ve opted to create a different way of living. Like life in California, life here in Panama is not perfect, there really is no such thing as Paradise, but we’re having so much fun here. We’re learning so much and enjoying the freshness of a life that’s different and new. We’re still working hard but managing to maintain a balance with work and fun. And of course the work that we’re doing with each passing day is work that we’ve chosen , not work that we feel bound to out of necessity to do day in and day out.

Where have I been!


Oooooop! Sorry, I´ve really been slacking in my writing. First I went on vacation for three weeks then I just seem to get so caught up in my days that I dont stop to take the time to write.  So, let me get you caught up on what´s happening here.  Well, I´ll begin with our project, the never ending house project!  So, we have two new workers that we hired, bringing our total crew to 9 guys now.  The main house has all the  walls finished and now the roof is just getting started.  It should take maybe a month or a little more to complete.  Its really fun to see it all come together and to wander around imagining what it will be like to live in it.  I´m really excited about how much I like the design and floorplan that we worked so hard to design together.  We really put a lot of focus on outdoor living space because living here makes it so easy to spend a lot of time outdoors.  Our terrace alone which wraps around the entire back side of the house facing the amazing view is about 900 square feet in size.  It will be completly roofed and protected from the elements.  It will be like a room without walls!    We plan to have our dining room out on the terrace  on one side and a living room area on the other end, with an outdoor sofa and some chairs.  In the outdoor living room we are planning to have a gas fire pit.  There will also be a big wood burning fireplace out on the corner of the terrace.  Scott has an outdoor kitchen as well which will be about 200 square feet.  The total size of the house, not including the terrace and outdoor kitchen is about 2400 square feet.  We will have two bedrooms, a living room a laundry room, the kitchen and a recreation room for our pool table.  One aspect that I´m sure I´ve writen about which I´m really excited about is the outdoor shower off the master bedroom.  This will be a treat since we can use it pretty much all year around living here.  The guest bedroom will have an indoor shower so if its especially rainy or chilly we can use that.  

          So, the main house construction is coming along and we have three guys up there prepping to begin the roof structure while the rest of the crew has begun a project that I´ve been so excited to start……the Road! Yeah!  Our drive through our property, past the casita and up to the top of the property  where the workshop and the main house are located is a very primative, muddy path….I would not really call it much of a ´road´.  During the wet, rainy season, which happens to be right now, it’s a muddy mess, not to mention pretty dangerous.  The only four wheel drive delivery truck that will even come up here has gotten pretty seriously stuck on two occasions in the last couple weeks.  So, If Scott wanted to get any more material delivered to the upper most part of our property he really needed to get the darn road in.  And, I havent even mentioned my experiences of getting out of my car only to step in muddy water that goes over my ankles! Ugh!  Good thing I have three pairs of rubber rain boots!  I´m going to be so happy when this part of our project is completed.  I could never in a million years have imagined being so friggin´excited to see a bunch of guys mixing cement and pouring a road! They have already gotten the road installed to the casita. They have a long ways to go to get all the way up to the main house area but little by little they´re getting there.  I have a new found appreciation and love of cement and of roads specifically.   

          Aside from all the construction junk that is pretty all consuming I’ve been continuing my Spanish study.  Luana is just such an incredible teacher and I’m committed to working on learning.   Learning a second language is probaly one of the most challenging things I’ve ever set my sights on doing and even though its slow going I dont care! I feel so good about just working and working slowly and Im confident that one day I’ll actually be able to spit out a complete sentence! The great thing is that Ive gotten fairly good at making myself understood in the most primitive way, but being understood feels so incredible that I just dont care much about the fact that I sound like a child just learning to speak.  My ability to understand what’s being said to me is also improving as time is going by.  The biggest help is my time in the car with my workers twice a day.  Even though I dont get everything they are saying , I at least get the exposure to the Spanish language and everyday I just listen as hard as I can and try to pick out one more word.  I have class three days a week and that comes with pletny of homework and It really makes me feel great to feel myself learning and actually ‘getting’ most of what Luana is teaching.  Every time I talk to a Panamanian and they know what I’ve said, my heart leaps with joy!  

          Remember my little indigenous neighbor kids who live down the hill from me? Well, you may remember that I just adore them. I often buy apples for them or other little treats and they always come running to my car when I drive by. When they see my car the little ones always wave and yell my name.  Theyre sweet but……recently they’ve discovered how to cut through the quebrata to my house.  Now, nearly everyday they show up, at all hours of the day! The other morning before  we even woke up we were awoken to the sound of…”Holly!” “Holly!” “Holly!”   OMG!  (serious eye roll!)  What Have I done!  They just keep coming over all the time and I’m getting pretty annoyed.  Its time for a talk…great spanish practice! Time to explain that they do not have permission to come to my house any time they please.  I need to figure out how to say this in Spanish, nicely. Ugh!  Just one more little lesson for me. 

         The other new development since last I wrote is the dogs….I’ve been feeding at least three dogs.  Chumbo, Sultan and Princessa. They all belong to my indigenous neighbors.  The big problem with this twice daily occurance is that the male dogs have decided to mark their territory on Scotts BBQ and any other spot they find appealing on the terrace. Ugh! So we had to put up some chicken wire all around the terrace to keep them out.  Eventually we will have a railing all around, but at the moment its just not the priority.   One of these days I’ll have my very own dogs but for now because we have our very un-dog-friendly kitty who is pretty scary and mean to dogs we will hold off . In the meantime I feed the neighbor dogs since they look so skinny and hungry and they give me lots of love ….it seems like a win win as long as they dont pee on Scotts BBQ! hah! 

          We’ve had lots of social time with our friends and this keeps us busy.  I always wished our friends in California had more time to hang out and have fun but life is just too busy when everyone is working so hard.  Here, we never seem to run out of reasons to get together and enjoy the company of so many great friends.   This is something that really brings me so much happiness.  We go on hikes, out to dinner, gather at different houses for happy hours and home cooked meals.  We even have a new brewery in town where we can meet up for a beer and order a pizza from the food truck across the street. We watch parades together, and go on garden club outings to see local gardens and even recently went on a tour of a local Honey farm.  It seems there is no end to excuses to do something fun and interesting with friends here.  

          Building our house, installing a road, dealing with 9 employees, learning to have a relationship with boundaries with my indigenous neighbor kids, studying Spanish,  socializing with all our new friends, and trying to set aside time to take advantage of all the incredible hiking and exploring there is to do around here….these are just a few of the things keeping me busy these days. Not to mention just all the boring everyday things like banking, grocery shopping, checking the mail, driving to David for construction crap, registering our cars, getting the cars tuned up, blah, blah, blah…. I really want to keep blogging and to continue keeping you caught up on all the happenings around here. I’m working on that.  When I dont make the time to write I feel like somethings missing. Often I just have a hard time trying to decide what’s worth writing about.  Now that its not all new, this expat life just feels like “LIFE”, ya know?  And most of my days dont feel especially interesting or “share” worthy, hah!  

        But, even though life is busy and full of great happenings, Its an adventure.  I’m learning so much and yet I have so much still to learn.  The day I start thinking that I know it all is the day I need a firm kick in the butt! Pffffft! I’m determined to publish this post tonight so I’m not including any picuteres.  Our internet is still connected to the generator that is up at the workshop….Oh, yea, I didnt mention that we still dont have that electricity junk sorted out quite yet did I? hah! Well….that may have to be another post! Ugh! (Said with a smile, and a deep sigh!) :)  


Our Two Year Anniversary Living In Panama!


20140707-112852-41332107.jpgTwo Year Anniversary…

What? How the heck did two years buzz by so fast?? Sheesh! Tomorrow , May 29th it’ll be two years ago that we got on that plane with four bags and two unhappy cats headed to a new life in Panama. I just cant believe we’ve been living here in Boquete for two years already. Its funny, in some ways it feels as though we’ve always been here and then in other ways it seems like we just got here!

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Back to work…Oh, I know I thought we were retired, but, shrug, there’s work to be done!


And the construction continues at the Carter propiedad! Before our vacation we liquidated all our workers. Which means that we paid them all the required vacation and decimo pay and basically laid them all off. Scott let them know that they could resume work on the first Monday of our return if they wanted to. But, we didn’t know for sure if they would still want to come back to work for us because we couldn’t assume that they wouldn’t go find different work for the three weeks we were gone. So I drove down to pick them up at our regular meeting spot at 7:15 on Monday moring (right at the end of the bridge in town) and….Gulp, no one came! I was sad, I kinda thought in my head that they all really, really liked working for us and that “of course” they’d all be back! The two indigenous guys , Federico and Arquiles both showed up at the job site ready to resume work but no one else on Monday. So Scott very calmly said to me, “No problem, Shrug, we’ll just move on to Plan B”….Gotta love a guy who is calm and adaptable! That vacation really renewed his “Tranquilo”! hah! So Plan B in his mind meant that we would just let the main house sit on the back burner until the next dry season and for now if none of our crew aside from the two guys showed back up we would refocus on finishing up all the details on the casita. There’s still quite a bit to finish up like cabinetry, soffits, all the outside hardscaping, walkways , steps, exterior painting, stone work on retaining walls, just to name a few things. Read the rest of this entry