Monthly Archives: September 2013

Terry & Manzar’s Excellent Adventure!

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When we were staying at Villa Marita, we would occasionally walk into town for our Spanish classes and on our way we would pass a construction site, a beautiful house that was being built. The construction workers were some of the first Panamanians who made us feel so welcomed here. They never failed to say Buenos Dias to us as we walked by, many of the men pausing to wave to us. On a couple of occasions one of the workers even attempted to chat with us, sadly,we weren’t yet able to comprehend what was being said to us. We admired the design of the house and we still continue to take great pleasure in watching the progress everyday as we passed by. I remember thinking that we ought to find out who the contractor is for our future house project. So here’s the funny part of this story, (no it’s not just about us admiring a new house and making friends with the constructions workers!) Last week I introduced myself to Terry, I had seen Terry and Manzar in town on several occasions and I knew I wanted to meet them and add them to my list of new friends. And come to find out….That beautiful new house is theirs! Sometimes I marvel at what a small town this is.

Terry and Manzar are, in the throws of making their dream come true here in Boquete. They began planning and dreaming about opening a B&B here about five years ago when they discovered this area and fell in love with the beauty that they saw. Long story short, they purchased land and began building a beautiful house about 1 1/2 years ago. The house is nearing completion and they are getting very excited. When I met Terry he was so friendly and told me that he and Manzar would love to get together sometime, I , of course thought that was a fantastic idea! After emailing him the next day, he asked if we would like to meet them at the house because they were going to be there waiting for all the appliances to be delivered. We of course, were very excited to get the grand tour and see the inside of the house we had been admiring for so long. Given the fact that we will be building a house down the road (not down the road from their house, down the road as in… soon ),we’re always so curious to hear about the experiences other people have.

I really should have taken more pictures but I’m sure I will have an opportunity to do that down the road when it’s all done. For now I gotta tell ya, It’s magnificent! The house has a very grand entrance with high ceilings and the office is located right off the entrance which will be perfect when they have guests arriving . They have so many great , creative plans and I just loved hearing about the little details that will make this place so special. There is one guest room on the main floor as well as their private area and four guest rooms on the upper level, all with spectacular views and private bathrooms, flatscreen tv’s and most have a private balcony as well. They have chosen really fun, warm and artistic colors for the interior of the house , which I think makes it really feel homey. On the main floor of the house they have a huge kitchen which has professional grade appliances and I just can’t wait to see it when it’s done. The kitchen will be the heartbeat of the B&B , and I can just imagine Manzar & Terry in there cooking and chatting with their guests . Just outside the kitchen is a huge covered patio with beautiful tiled floors and a gigantic fireplace. Terry told me they plan to have several tables out there and a sectional sofa placed in front of the fireplace, I can imagine people milling around enjoying the fire and the beautiful view of the lush green hills off the back off the patio. To top it all off, they also have a lower patio where they plan to have a jacuzzi, as if it could get any better, right? Well, I haven’t even told you about the upstairs bar patio area….I know, it just keeps getting better and better, huh!
One of my favorite features of this B&B is the upstairs Covered Patio. They have a great fireplace and bar where their guests can hang out and relax. They really have thought of it all.

I bet they can’t wait to move all their furniture in and receive their first guests. Those two are going to be so good at running a B&B. They have the perfect personalities for making people feel as though they’re staying with two old friends. Additionally, the location is perfect. They’re right on the main road walking distance to downtown. Here’s a link to their web sight… http://www.casademontana.com

We feel so lucky to have gotten the opportunity to get to know Terry and Manzar . They shared with us a huge amount of very valuable information that will be very helpful to us when we get ready to build our home here. They had a great contractor and architect and have made invaluable connections with so many professionals in the process of building their house. They had a few bumps in the road but with really great attitudes and tons of patience they’ve been able to make the most of each difficult experience that came their way. It’s just amazing what a “Tranquilo” mindset will do!

We’ve met so many great people so far on this adventure and I never tire of hearing all the different stories and seeing all the very different ways people have chosen to live this expat life. Each person we meet here has a different story of why they chose to move to Panama and the way each of these adventurous people choose to live their lives differ vastly. Some have simply retired and are living the life of leisure here because the cost of living suits their budgets. They golf or hike or discover their inner artist. And then others move here to start a business and just have a more laid back lifestyle where they can work and play, they find that here it’s much easier to strike that balance. Then we’ve met other’s who are just exploring different countries, not yet ready to commit to living in one particular place, preferring to spend a few months or even a year in one place and then moving on to experience the next place on their list. We’ve met Men and Women here on their own, families with young children who are raising adventurous children who are so lucky to be experiencing such a different lifestyle. As well as couples who are living their lives their way and having the adventure of a lifetime. Isn’t that what life is all about? Living your life your way and embracing each day with gratitude for the choice you made to be where you are and if your not exactly where you want to be I hope your working towards making your adventure your reality.

The simplest things make me feel so accomplished these days!

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Please don’t laugh at me! πŸ™‚ As I was thinking about this today I just had to share it with you because it made me laugh at myself so… I’ve been laughed at enough for one day! Geesh!
As I’ve been adjusting to my new adopted country and learning how things are done here, which in many cases are not hugely different, but different enough nonetheless, I find myself feeling so unlike “myself”. Does that sound strange? I wonder if I can articulate what I mean by that…

Today I drove to the Cable & Wireless office to pay our cell phone bills. Now this sounds like a pretty ordinary errand. One that everyone does without even thinking twice about it, right? Well, I agree, paying one’s cell phone bill is a no-brainer. But the first time I walked up to that little window, (a few months ago) where the nice lady sits to collect money, I made a fool of myself by walking up to the window with a big smile on my face and very proudly saying, “Adios!” (EYE ROLL HERE!) Yep! Now… I know what Adios means, everyone knows what Adios means( I didn’t have to go to Spanish School for that!) ! I don’t know why that came out of my mouth! But it did, and for my friends who don’t live in Boquete , let me tell you, the Cable & Wireless office is quite small and very quiet and everyone got a kick out of the “Tonto” (stupid) Gringa. Now, today I walked up to the same window with the very same nice lady sitting back there and I proudly said, with a smile on my face, ” Necesito Pagar Por favor”. πŸ™‚ I then handed her a piece of paper with both Scott and my numbers written on it and she told me how much I owed, ( $22.00) and I paid, said, “muchos Gracias” and happily walked out. See what I mean? A seemingly simple errand and I was feelin’ like a million bucks! πŸ™‚

Another example of a seemingly simple, everyday activity giving me an unusual feeling of success ,happened at the local grocery store. Now… Everyone who knows Scott and I are aware that he’s the boss of the kitchen and I simply do what I’m told about matters of food, like for instance for now, ( only while he’s recuperating) I’ve been doing the grocery shopping,( not my favorite chore! eye roll). I’m not proud to admit that I’m terribly intimidated when dealing with the guys at the meat counter at Romero’s. I know…what a wimp, right? So I had to ask for sliced meat and cheese for sandwiches, noooo problema, I got this,(especially given the fact that I had in my possession a stick-it note with the proper terminology, una Libra!) Not to be confused with Libro which is a book, okay, got it! Again, with that smile on my face, I requested,” Una Libra Jamon Ahumada”. Oh, I nailed that one! Feelin’ good I proceed to request one last thing from the guy behind the deli-meat counter ( feelin’ less intimidated every minute) ,”Media Libra” provolone,”Por favor”. At least that was what I thought I said……but……the huge pile of Provolone the guy handed me didn’t look so “Media”! !@#$ Gracias,(big smile)…. ooops, I think that might be 1 1/2 not 1/2 libra! Oh well! Far be it from me to attempt to explain , nope, I like Provolone! I’m still gonna call this one a Success! Somehow just doing the grocery shopping all by myself gives me an unusual feeling of success! Weird, huh? I never had this feeling at Safeway in Los Altos! I never felt especially accomplished while walking to my car after buying groceries like I did the other day here.

I have countless other similar example of small successes that I’m beginning to experience in my day to day life living here in Boquete . As these seemingly small accomplishments begin to pile up, I begin to feel a little bit more like myself, maybe not the exact same “self” that I was before this adventure, (who wants to stay the same ?). Hopefully I’m growing and becoming mucho mejor as a result of escaping my comfort zone and choosing to march right into uncomfortable situations, no matter how small, and figuring out how to make the unfamiliar more familiar.

Stages and phases of adjusting to life in a new country…

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One of my fellow bloggers wrote a piece the other day that really touched my heart , you can read her blog post here if you haven’t already read it… http://retirenicaragua.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/the-honeymoon-is-over/

Naturally, my posts thus far in my Adventure have , for lack of a more appropriate word been, “Gushy”, I’m absolutely in the “Honeymoon” phase of my new life here in Panama. Everything is new and exciting and, as it should be when your at the beginning of something new , I’m full of optimism and wonder at my blissful new existence. I’ve yet to experience some of the difficulties that frustrate even the seasoned expats who have come before me. Oh, I’ve experienced “frustrations”, don’t get me wrong, but given the newness of my grasp on the so called , “Tranquilo” state of mind , It’s easy to hang onto it when these moments of frustration creep into my life. I’ve been spending a lot of time just “being”. Yes, just “Being”. Trying to soak up the luxury that is this new and glorious life of… NOT WORKING! No longer feeling the slave to bills and the heavy burden of maintaining the lifestyle I had created in the Silicon Valley, the non-stop drudgery that every single day was beginning to feel like for me. There seemed to be no end to the treadmill of life…where was I going? Everyday had begun to feel the same as the last. And for what? Mostly for the privilege of living in California. I don’t mean to sound as though I didn’t love living there, no, I love California. There’s not anyplace like it! The weather is perfect all year long, there are unending outdoor activities , beaches, mountains, deserts, forests, lakes, it goes on and on ! But there was a price to pay and that price was becoming too high for me.

This honeymoon phase I’m gushing over at the moment here in Boquete is not only a time that I’m embracing to bask in the beauty of this new place I’m living, but also, a time for me to reconnect to me. To redefine who I am in this new life. Where will I go from here? I don’t yet know. Since Scott’s been ordered to stay down as much as possible as he heals from his surgery, I’ve been spending much of my time just hanging around home. I love being “home”, just puttering around and enjoying this newfound ability to own my entire day. I’m enjoying the feeling of freedom that I have to do whatever I feel like doing each day, often doing not much of anything, and being okay with not being productive every moment of every day. But truth be told, there is a part of me that’s thinking….okay, now what? I’m so used to seeing myself as the “Doer”. My whole life I’ve worked so hard, and I always had a plan and a specific ‘direction’ I was working towards and for. At the moment my ‘long term’ plans aren’t especially grand or hugely ambitious, and I’m good with that.

I wonder how long this “honeymoon” phase of my relocation to Boquete will last. Will this blog continue to be filled with my exuberant expressions of bliss? Will I tire of the glorious view from my patio each morning? Will the ways of my adopted country drive me nutty? I suspect, just given the type of personality I have, I’ll always try to see the beauty in this life even after the newness wears off, that’s just how I am. But, I’m expecting to hit a wall now and again and when I hit that wall, I plan to go back and re-read that post from my blogging friend in Nicaragua. She faces frustrations in her life with generosity, grace and honesty. It’s hard sometimes! But guess what….that’s just life! It doesn’t matter where you call home, frustrations and bad days come wherever you live. They help us keep perspective and aide in giving us gratitude for the blissful, honeymoon phases we get to enjoy. I firmly believe that life is what I make it and even when I’m faced with ‘rotten’, frustrating, sad, scary, and yes, shitty , phases, I may embrace those experiences and use them as a way to reflect on the good that will return. It always returns, the honeymoon phase doesn’t have to be just a temporary part of the experience. At least that’s what I’m gonna hold onto. Some will call me delusional, but hey, it’s my delusion so back off! Ha!Ha!

Don’t get me wrong, I am certain I’m in for surprises, and disappointments and yes even maybe bouts of unhappiness, for what would life be without the whole spectrum of emotions and experiences. I’ve faced plenty of those things in the States and I’ll face them here. But for now, I’m just content . I promise to let ya know when I enter into my next transitional phase of reality here in Central America, things are very different and will eventually prove to drive me batty but for now the only thing I can point to that is driving me truly batty is the gosh darn bats in my house and did I mention all the other ‘critters’? Yep, there are critters galore here in the tropics and if I can moan about something I don’t like about living here, it will be the critters! And BIG critters at that!! This will be my one complaint that I will never stop moaning about! I hate them! I can see the wonder and sometimes even beauty in them , but only when they are “OUTSIDE”! When I find them in my house I very nearly lose my cool and that optimistic gal who writes this blog just melts away. EEEEEEEK! πŸ™‚ I have momentary experiences when the honeymoon is over whenever I see a monster spider in my house or a gigantic, cricket jumping across the floor, and people, BATS do not belong in the house!! I’m just lucky not to have found any scorpions or snakes in my house! Holy crap! When that happens I don’t know what kind of crazy woman I may morph into!!! But there will be no way for me to see the beauty in that!!! 😦

I have to tell you that this is my 300th blog post!! Yea! Yippee! I’m still really enjoying sharing this experience with anyone who still wants to hear about it! As you can probably tell, it’s a great way for me to sort through many of the new experiences I am going through. And I just love all the new people who have entered my life as a result of this blog. I learn so much from all the other bloggers and the comments and words of support and encouragement are truly valuable gifts. It’s also been such a valuable tool for keeping my connections with all the people in California who mean so much to me and who I miss everyday. I’ve never been a writer and don’t claim to be a writer but I do enjoy attempting to express myself and hope you will forgive my many mistakes and grammatical errors. I do my best but my best if far from perfect, this is a fact. πŸ™‚ Thanks for joining me on this Amazing Adventure! Cheers!

Did ya every have one of those days that just couldn’t get any better?

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Yesterday was just such a day for me. It was a wonderful day that began with a little art! And I love art!! . I attended my first gathering with the Boquete Art League. It was at the library and I had a great time. We got to make these really neat Artists Trading Cards which we then had the opportunity to trade with one another. This is apparently a worldwide activity where artists create these cards and then trade them. You can read about it here. (http://www.artist-trading-cards.ch/index.html ) My great day then progressed with a pedicure with my Amiga. Our toes are once again soft and sparkly and ready for anything. Last month you may remember we discovered a jewel here in Boquete, a jewel by the name of Rhea. Rhea is a very talented and extremely professional Manicurist who makes house calls! We are now “regulars” with Rhea, every five weeks we plan to treat ourselves to the luxury of a mani/pedi as well as the luxury of a bit of ‘girl time’! . Happy toes equals happy gals! As though the day could get any better… It actually did! The cherry on the top of my great day was a wonderful evening with my new Amiga Aris. We went to see a production at the local Community theatre after enjoying a glass of wine at her house with her husband . The show was a Cabaret, kind of a Vaudevillian style show with small skits, comedy and good music, a truly great way to top off a glorious day of pleasure. It was good fun to get to know Aris a bit more. We both had a great time laughing together and there was no problem chatting even though we are both just beginning to learn one another’s languages! Girls are like that, we can figure out how to chat no matter what! During intermission I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of Aris’s girlfriends who were also enjoying the production. It was really nice to be amongst three warm, friendly women and although we speak different languages and have lived very different lives they made me feel welcomed in the same way a group of women would anywhere in the world. There may be many things that are vastly different about living in another country but kindness and friendship are not so different anywhere you go. You get what you put out, this I’ve found true wherever I go in the world. Yes, I had a grand day filled with all sorts of things that I just love, and I know for a fact that the day could not have been any better! Big smile!

I love the mornings

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I just have to tell you how much I love the mornings here! It’s always sooo peaceful and its the start of a new beginning everyday. All is fresh and just awakening, all of nature is preparing to go out and embrace the day. I love to make a pot of coffee first thing when I get up. Then I go outside and am greeted by two very happy dogs , tails wagging and I swear they’re smiling! Really! They are so happy to see me each morning, I just love that about dogs. When I lived in California I never had time to have a dog . But here, even though I don’t ‘officially’ have a dog ,( don’t tell these two, they think they’re mine or do they think I’m theirs? Hmmm?) I’m enjoying the presence of their happy doggy faces everyday. Whatever they think, I just adore the enthusiasm that greets me when I open that door in the morning. They’re so stinky and they have tons of little flys all over them,( who knows what they’ve been frolicking in during the night, yuck!), but I don’t care, my hands can be washed! I pet them and scratch their bellies and they just love my attention and I love theirs as well, everyone is happy. After giving them a little food (very little, they are so fat, I think they must make the rounds here in the neighborhood and are fed by multiple people!). I grab my cup of coffee and my iPad and go sit on the patio to read my emails or check out Facebook and play my many turns on Words With Friends. I hardly every get to read my emails or any other such productive things because the view is soooo distracting. The hummers are giving me a show as they dance around the feeder , fighting over who’s food it is. All the colorful birds are having their daily meeting in the Avocado tree in front of me. I’m always sure to place a banana in the little basket in the tree so they have a snack while they are having their meeting. Often I see bright yellow or bright blue butterflies flittering past as I gaze out at the lush green mountains in the distance. All the flowers also serve as distractions from my morning reading. The bright purple colored bougainvillea, the huge Angels trumpets, the vast array of many colored Hibiscus scattered all around this landscape and lets not forget the hydrangea. I just cant pull my eyes away from all the natural beauty I’m surrounded by as I sip on my coffee. I must admit one of my favorite sights is the many banana trees all over this property, you just don’t see that in your everyday life living in the Silicon Valley ! I love the way the gigantic leaves move with the breeze, they sway so gracefully and I never tire of watching them. As the sun rises the landscape changes ever so subtly with the light. The mountain range comes into view as the mist recedes and I can slowly begin to make out the many different layers of mountain that are seemingly ‘stacked’ up behind one another. What appeared to be one big mountain is actually several different mountain ranges all covered in coffee plants and varies species of trees. The many different shades of green mesmerize me. I love to pick out all the green, who knew there existed so many different shades! It’s just impossible to pay attention to my precious iPad with this much beauty surrounding me. Yes, the mornings are my absolute favorite time of day! No need to rush to get ready to go anywhere , I’ll shower whenever I have time. There’s never any feeling of urgency to get anything in particular done or started! Aside from putting that banana in the tree or petting that fat little stinky dog with the smiling face. If there’s such a thing as being too content, I’m in trouble!

Commercialism is everywhere…

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Feliz Navidad?? in Septmember! Geesh! I wasn’t expecting this here in Panama. That goes to show ya, commercialism isn’t only in the U.S., noooooo it’s just a fact of life everywhere. And here they skip right over Halloween too! Man! It seemed like every year the department stores in the States began to promote the excessive consumption of all things Christmas earlier and earlier every year . But I saw things in the little Tienda’s here in Boquete as early as August. Yesterday, while we were in David for Scott’s Dr. appt we needed to pick up a few things at Conway (this is Panama’s version of Target) and when we got off the escalator upstairs in the housewares department I was shocked to see CHRISTMAS EVERYWHERE! Holy crap! What happened to Halloween? Oh well, celebrations are great and I will be needing to re-stock my christmas decoration stash so I’ll be excessively consuming right along with the best of em’! LOL! (Scott says,”NOOOO!”)

Mi Nuevo Vecino…

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I knew this was gonna be a good day this morning when I checked the comments on my blog and found a great surprise.
A neighbor who lives right next door happened across my blog last night and realized we were neighbors when she saw the pictures of the house. What an amazing coincidence! And that’s not even the best part! She’s also a really talented artist who is very involved in the art community here in Boquete!! Ok…all my friends and family in California who know me so well know that I have just met a kindred spirit! She’s been living here in Boquete for about two years and moved from Southern California with her husband. They are loving their life here and have never looked back. Her name is Robyn Child Cole and she works in a type of art called “Encaustic Painting” . It’s a medium that uses melted wax mixed with paint and I’m not completely versed on all the details but there is fire involved as well as resin and lot’s of layers different colors and textures ! It’s a very exciting technique which allows for endless amounts of experimentation and looks like a lot of fun. She, of course has a fabulous art studio right there in here home which looks out at the same amazing view that my patio looks out on. Who couldn’t feel inspired with such a view? She even shares the same hummingbirds in her feeder as I gaze upon all day. Robyn knows all the other neighbors and told me all about this neighborhood including all the animals. In her studio was a very happy, lazy kitty just lounging about on her work table on a comfy towel. As well as a very friendly dog on her front porch who greeted me with tail wagging as I walked up the street. Just like my new dogs, they aren’t really her animals, just neighborhood animals who get lot’s of love, food and affection from anyone who will give it. She knows my two dogs and told me their names, “Big Blue, and Lady”. She introduced me to one of her neighbors, a lovely teenager who’s mother owns a hair salon in town and is also Robyns hairdresser. It was so much fun to hang out in her studio and chat while she worked on her art. I just love learning new things about art and meeting new people so I was in absolute heaven. This Friday she’s hosting a gathering at the library to introduce newcomers to the art league and I will definitely be going. I had gotten an email about the gathering but just hadn’t decided if I would go, now I’m there! I keep using the word ,”coincidence” , but I don’t really think meeting Robyn today was a ‘coincidence’ at all, I think people come into our lives at a particular time for a reason and I really needed to meet someone like her to get a bit of art into my life. I’ve missed my Sculpturistas and my regular gathering of like-minded artistic people. Today I made a connection with not only my first neighbor, but also with an artistic mentor who I look forward to getting to know and hopefully creating art with. Yes, today was a very good day.

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Hydroponic Lettuce ….

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This morning we went to pick up a new supply of lettuce. (I know, exciting, huh?) Here in our little neighborhood there’s a great farm where they grow the most beautiful lettuce inside these greenhouses. They’re grown hydroponically, which means the plants are actually grown in water. They have several different varieties of lettuce but I have to say my favorite is the butter lettuce. It’s so crunchy and also just crazy pretty! I’ve also noticed that it lasts a long time in the fridge after we bring it home as well. I think we’re just so accustomed to buying lettuce in the grocery store and who knows how old that lettuce is? Today we picked up four heads, three butter and one red leaf and paid $4.00. An added bonus of this great little farm is the pets they have…Toucans! They have about six or so in these big cages and wow, are they gorgeous! I donΒ΄t think I’ve ever seen a toucan up close , and they were not only pretty to look at but really friendly as well. They came right up to greet me when I got close to the cage and seemed very curious about this new person who was telling them how beautiful they were. Of course I didn’t dare try to touch them cuz those huge beaks looked pretty sharp and strong, I thought keeping my fingers would be a good idea. One thing I really love about living here in Boquete is all the fresh produce that is so prevalent. And I also get a kick out of the small, private little places where you can go buy things like the egg place and the trout farm and there’s the fish guy in the red truck that you can buy fresh caught fish right out of the back of his truck. Today there were some people selling plants outside Romero’s (the grocery store) and we went to see if we could find a Basil plant. Sure enough, we bought three nice basil plants plus some oregano and mint and something else I don’t remember the name of but they lady said it was good for making tea. As soon as Scott is back to normal we plan to find a spot here in the yard and plant a nice herb garden. Life is good and our adventure is , at the moment, rather relaxing and calm. It feels so good to begin to feel our life taking on a bit of a routine and not to feel so frantic all the time. It’s taken us awhile to find our ‘chill’ but we’ve gotten to the point where we can just let the day’s unfold and not feel any big pressure to get anything in particular done. Now that our Lettuce and herb shopping is out of the way it’s time to do a little reading , ahhhhh!

A Panamanian Cold…

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I don’t get sick very often. I’ve always attributed that fact, in part, to my job and the number of people I was always around all the time. I think my immunity was really strong against all those familiar germs in the States. But not anymore! Nope! I caught a cold and it’s still holding on to me , it’s been about ten days now!! I’m feeling a bit better each day but geesh, usually when I get a cold, which isn’t often it might take about 4 days to go away. Damn, this cold is just taking forever to completely clear up. I have a theory, who knows if I’m right about this, but I think the germs here in Panama are just different from the ones my immunity is used to. So, I’m taking it easy and trying to drink lot’s of water and eat healthy food. I’ll show this cold who’s boss, although I’m not feeling especially bossy at the moment, sniff, sniff…

Our first healthcare experience

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Several months before we made our move to Panama Scott was diagnoses with a hernia. We debated back and forth about weather it would be best to get this taken care of before our move or to have it fixed after we moved to Panama. The hernia wasn’t bothering him at the time, and the doctor said it was not something that needed immediate attention. At first we both had the knee-jerk opinion that it would be best to have surgery in the U.S. Scott made an appointment to have a consultation with a surgeon ($400.00) after a 5 minute consultation where the surgeon confirmed, “yep, you have a hernia” (a 5 min consult and that was that), Scott then began the long and painful process of trying to get someone on the phone who could tell him exactly how much the surgery was going to cost. Gasp! about $8000,00! That is ‘after’ insurance! Well, that wasn’t really gonna work for us. When we talked about it, Scott made the point,” If we don’t trust the healthcare in Panama why are we going?” And he had a point, we had already done our research on the healthcare in Panama and from all the firsthand accounts we had heard nothing but good things. Of course, there were the negative accounts as well, no place is perfect, there’s plenty of bad, scary stories of healthcare in the States as well, but by far, the good out-weighed the bad from what we had been told . So, we decided after much consideration, that we would wait until we got to Panama and dive in to the healthcare system after we got somewhat settled. And that brings us to this post, our first healthcare experience here in Panama.

Originally, I had not planned to publish this post in an effort to respect Scott’s privacy. But from start to finish, we felt so good about our experience and Scott told me he thought I should write about it. So, with his permission I will tell you all about what our firsthand experience of having surgery in a hospital in Panama was like. Hospital Chiriqui to be specific. I had previously written about our experience of getting health insurance here and we were aware that this hernia surgery would not be covered by our new insurance because it was a pre-existing condition. So this surgery would be out of pocket and we were fairly certain the price tag would be significantly lower than the quote we had gotten in the States.

Our consultation with the Surgeon , Dr. Carlos E. Abadia, went very smoothly ( and only cost us $15.00! ). We found him to be very intelligent, professional and caring. His office was very nice and we were glad he spoke very good English. Even though we’re working hard to learn Spanish, we weren’t confident enough to cary on a conversation about something so technical as an operation, who knows what kind of Surgery he would have gotten had we depended on our Spanish! Lol! Well, after a quick exam he confirmed that ,yes, indeed, he agreed that there was a hernia and surgery would be required. He sat back down behind his desk and simply said,”Okay, when would you like to come for surgery? next week?” Ok…..In the states it would have been much, much different. First of all, the doctor wouldn’t have been looking at his own personal calendar , not even the nurse, we would have been standing in a reception area talking to the receptionist about scheduling for maybe one or two months down the road, if we were lucky , or we would have been given a phone number to call to schedule surgery. The Surgeon would have had nothing to do with such mundane things as scheduling our surgery. But Dr. Abadia penciled us in for our surgery and wrote it all down on a prescription type piece of paper with , I’m assuming some sort of directions to the admission office . After choosing a date that we felt would be good for us, he told us to show up at the hospital on that day at “around” 9:00 and take that paper to the admission office. After asking us if we had any other questions that was it! There was no nurse involved at all. From start to finish, our consultation was with the “Surgeon” , he even came to the waiting area to get us and introduced himself with a warm handshake. At first I thought maybe he was the nurse just sent to gather us , but when we entered his office and he took a seat behind the desk, I realized, “oh my, this is actually the Doctor!” So far, this was not bad….

Fast forward to Friday, September 6, at around 9:00am. We made our way to the hospital with our little piece of paper to be delivered to admissions. Scott had fasted the night before as instructed and we were prepared with our “tranquilo” mindset to see what happened. First, the very professional young ladies in the admissions office both spoke English and after complimenting me on my curly hair,( which she just loved, gotta get the “important” stuff out of the way first thing!), she proceeded to pull out about 4-5 official pieces of paper for Scott to sign. She very clearly explained what he was signing and she asked us what type of room we wanted, shared or private (Private, of course! only $75.00 extra), then she very kindly read the papers to us so we would know all the hospital rules and directed us to the cashier down the hall to pay our deposit, ($1,000.00 on our credit card), then she told us to have a seat out in the waiting area and someone would come to get us shortly. So far, so good….

After waiting maybe 5-10 minutes we were greeted by a very friendly young lady, clipboard in hand and led to Scott’s room. The room was very nice, spacious, clean, modern, even a new flat screen tv. The room had a built in cabinet to put your personal belongings , a window, and a very nice private bathroom with a shower. ( I have to tell you about one piece of very valuable advise we got from a good friend who had first hand experience . She told us to be sure to request a “Private” room because if you happened to have a Panamanian room mate the persons entire family would be in the room with them, children and all! She said this had happened to someone she knew and that it was quite a party, food, drinks,music, the works! ) The nurse then directed Scott to undress and put on the customary hospital gown, open in the back, nothing different about that, (which, I may add was very dashing on him!). He got comfy on the bed and there was a nice recliner chair for me to sit and read my book and play on my Ipad while we waited for the fun to begin. It didn’t take long before the nurses began to come to check his blood pressure, weigh him, listen to his heart and take his temperature, all the standard nursey type things one expects . He was soon hooked up to an IV with something , who knows what, filling him up. Then we just watched tv and waited for a few hours until a group of nurses filed in with a rolling bed that they loaded him onto and we said goodbye and they took him away. This was maybe 11:30 . now I wait…..

About 2:30 a very sweet nurse came in to tell me that he was in recovery and doing well. Then at about 3:00 they wheeled him back in and I was pleasantly surprised that he was wide awake and didn’t even seem very groggy or anything. I expected him to be pretty out of it but he looked great, as though nothing had happened at all!! I was suspicious that maybe they decided to just give him a rolling tour of the hospital instead of operating on him, was there a bar in this hospital?? I jest, he had indeed been in surgery and was actually quite groggy but had been in recovery for a while and was feelin’ good with the help of some good drugs. The surgeon soon came by to check on him and told us that the surgery went well. Dr Abadia asked him how he was feeling and told us he would be back in the morning to check on him again. I had originally planned to drive home and return in the morning but decided I wanted to stay with him through the night. The recliner was comfy and I had my Ipad charger and free WiFi so I was good to go, no problema!

It was a bit of a long night but I was glad to have stayed with him . In the morning and all through the night the nursing staff was very attentive, coming in to check all his vitals and generally poke and prod him as you would expect for any hospital stay. He was given a choice of breakfast food and after placing his order enjoyed a good breakfast. He had visits from not only the surgeon but also the anesthesiologist who both wanted to know how he was feeling, gave him the details of his surgery and assured him all had gone well but the double hernia made it a difficult procedure. Scott never does anything part way, of course, he had to have a complicated operation! It was actually very good timing for the surgery because the week prior to the procedure he was in quite a bit of pain. We think that the cold he had the week before must have further aggravated the hernia with all the coughing and sneezing.

In the morning we were under the impression that after the surgeon came to check on Scott we would be released and go home. Now, we had been warned by our friends that the check out procedure from the hospital could be rather time consuming and arduous. After my long night with not much sleep, I was in no mood to put up with inefficiencies . So I had decided to be aggressively on top of whatever I had to do to facilitate a painless check out. When Dr. Abadia came to check on Scott I requested the prescriptions for his meds so that I could do that right away. He said okay, and left the room, quickly returning with his hand written prescription for the meds. Scott was still hooked up to an IV and presumably receiving antibiotics and the Doctor told us we would be good to go as soon as the nurse returned to unhook him. Little did we know that would not be until after lunch, but we were gingerly holding onto our “tranquilo” state of mind so , no problem. I used this time to get all the necessary ducks in a row so when that tube was out of his vein we would be out the door and in the car , heading to Boquete. I walked to the hospital pharmacy and managed to purchase the prescriptions ( $ 39.00) and then stopped in the admissions office to find out what I needed to do for check out. The lovely young lady in the office handed me a bill and told me I could go to the cashier window just around the corner to pay the balance due and then bring her the copy of the receipt. No problema, down the hall and around the corner I marched, handed the lady behind the window my little ticket and my credit cart and BOOM! Balance paid, receipt in hand! Oh, the total cost of everything came to $ 2,500.00. Not nearly as painful as the $ 8,000.00 we would have been charged in the States! After giving the admissions office their copy of the receipt, I was instructed to give the nursing station a different little piece of paper indicating we were all paid and ready to go. Scott had eaten a good lunch and was dressed , and unhooked from the IV and ready to go.

As you can see, we feel as though our first real experience with the health care here in Panama has been very positive. We were treated with impressive professionalism and felt cared for throughout our stay at Hospital Chiriqui. There was, gratefully very little ‘red-tape’ to deal with from start to finish for this procedure . And we thought the charges were very reasonable, especially knowing what we would have been charged in the States for much more frustration and much less personal attention. In the States it would have been an out-patient procedure and Scott may have never even met the surgeon, much less the anesthesiologist. Yes, waiting to have this surgery here was a good decision.

Pizza anyone?

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imageScott gave his pizza making skills a whirl in the new kitchen last night. The stove, while not the same as his fancy one back in California, it’s a jewel compared to what he’s had to suffer through so far! It even has a temperature thermometer inside which is handy given the fact that the controls are all metric. It actually gets pretty hot so it didnt do half bad for making pizza. The women who is our property manager, Dani , has family who live just down the street from us here and they own a plant nursery. We went over there yesterday in search of fresh herbs, mainly basil. We scored some oregano, parsley, rosemary but they had no basil. Then when we got back to the house we found a Thia Basil plant sitting on the porch! The plant had actually been there all along, we just had not paid attention to what it was. We thought that was pretty funny and we used it on the pizza, it was great!

Ahhh, Finally A Place To Call Home…

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On Saturday, August 31, we finally moved into the house that we rented. It was the easiest move I think we’ve ever experienced, easy, because we don’t have much in the way of material possessions. At the moment we’re pleasantly living a very minimalistic lifestyle. Although, I must admit that we have already done a bit of shopping in David and are quickly re-accumulating a few more basic necessities. The “furnished” house didn’t come with any linens or some kitchen utensils that , to us, are necessities. Things like, a cutting board, a bread knife, a cheese grater, a whisk, tongs, a lasagna pan, a lettuce spinner(although, really I question weather or not it’s actually necessary to wash lettuce grown in a greenhouse in a hydro-ponic farm!) . Then of course we decided that it would be good to invest in a juicer because there are just so many great fruits and veggies here and we should start to learn how to make healthy juices. You see where this is going? We ended up having a big list of things we ‘needed’ and are having so much fun ‘nesting’. So much for that ‘minimalistic’ thing! lol! (eye-roll)

The only bad thing about our move was that I was sick with a terrible head cold!! I got the darn cold that Scott had the week before and on Saturday I was just at the beginning stages of what has turned into quite a nasty head cold! But, I wasn’t gonna let a silly little thing like a cold stop me from moving ! We really love this new living situation and I must say it’s a very comfortable place to settle down and finally feel as though we have a place to call home. It’s been a long road since we left our previous home and set out for our new adventure. A long road, but a very exhilarating one that we’re both still enjoying every moment of. As I am writing this post we’re sitting outside on the covered patio being entertained by the many brightly colored birds who are happily munching away on bananas. The birds here in Panama just love to eat bananas and so it’s very common to see some sort of basket or even just a piece of metal wire to hang a banana on for them . Here at our new home there’s a big basket attached to one of the larger limbs of the avocado tree right out front. It’s unbelievable how many different colored birds there are here! This morning I said to scott, “This tree is like a Community Center of birds!” They seem to come from all over the place to have their share of the fruit each morning. Bright orange & black ones, yellow, blue, red, green it’s a bird-rainbow in that tree. And have I mentioned the hummingbirds? Well… let me tell you, they are ferocious about their hummingbird feeders! I just bought one and put it out the other day and they are fighting over it like crazy! Dive bombing each other and yelling and fussing like you wouldn’t believe! I love watching the drama unfold. The hummingbirds aren’t like the tiny little dainty ones I’m used to in the States either, these guys are huge! I have a feeling I’ll be refilling that feeder frequently. As I’m sitting here typing, I pause to look at the view of the lush green mountains in the distance and the wind blowing the giant leaves of the dozens of banana trees in my yard, and as vividly colored butterflies flutter by , all feels right and good and peaceful.

One of the really nice things about this house is that it has a Barbecue outside! I know that may sound trivial but we’re used to doing many of our meals on our indoor barbecue in our old house and we’ve been without one for a really long time! We’re accustomed to grilling most of our meats as well as vegetables and it just isn’t the same cooking a burger in a pan, let’s face it. Last night we fired that puppy up and Scott got busy grillin’ up a really yummy burger dinner. I’m sure I’ve mentioned the outdoor fireplace too? Well, we built our first fire in that guy last night too and what a nice dinner we had on our covered patio . I can’t forget to tell you, we had to try out our new juicer last night as well, (we had a very busy night as you can see?) We made juice with watermelon,pineapple ,passionfruit, carrot and lime. Well, it just wasn’t complete without the RUM!! Sooo we had a delicious rum punch to go along with our first barbecue in our new pad! A big fire, a delicious burger and rum punch! Who could ask for anything more?

Oh, I have to tell you one little side-story about last night…we did have one little ‘glitch’ in our perfect evening and I would be remiss if I neglected to share it… It’s about that wonderful, cozy fire….. well, ya see, there is a great big wood pile here and we were told to use all the wood we want for the fireplace. Sweet, right? So we happily gather some wood and pile it next to the fireplace, Scott begins the manly job of preparing the wood and the kindling ,”just-so”, (do all guys take this much pleasure in preparing a fire? LOL!) anyways, after the wood was so expertly arranged just so, he proceeds to light it. So far, so good, right? Well, not so fast….suddenly out of somewhere in the fireplace comes an EXPLOSION of huge, massive ants!! Yep, not those tiny ones we had in the kitchen of our other place, noooooo these are the biting, mean, gigantic variety! And they were apparently nesting either somewhere in the back of the fireplace or inside one of those logs. And now they were clearly unhappy and they wanted out of that fire which meant straight towards us!! DAMN!! As fast as they were scurrying , in mass, we were trying to step on them before they climbed on us or even worse, went into the house!! Have you ever been bitten by one of these guys? Let me tell you, it’s not a good thing!! I really didn’t want to have them in my new house! So we proceeded to stomp and stamp and if there were a hidden camera somewhere I’m sure it would have been a hit on youtube! Although it would have been bleeped because I think there may have been some F-bombs here and there, and possibly there too!!! I gotta tell ya’ I am not pleased about the bugs here! That will be my one consistent gripe and complaint about my new home! I’ll never be happy about that one single aspect of living in the tropics. Good thing there are so many other wonderful things to cancel that one big, bad thing! I just despise bugs and here they seem to be bigger and badder than American bugs! ( although, many times I do admit to seeing the beauty in some of the little beasties! As long as they are outside!) I’ll just keep my mind on the beautiful flowers and birds and lush green mountains and pretend the whole, “bug” thing isn’t happening! πŸ™‚ That works for me!!

I haven’t published a post in a few days because we are having a bit of trouble getting our internet connected here. Today Scott kindly took my iPad down to the Cable & wireless office and signed me up for a data plan for a month! What a guy!! I think he was just tired of my moaning and complaining about not being able to get online!! πŸ™‚ Who knows how long it will take to get the routers settings from the internet provider so that we can configure our router to get it up and running. We apparently need to get a technician out here to help us. I wouldn’t even begin to know how to even tell someone where this house is? I don’t know if there is an address, All I know is that it’s in the area called Alto Lino but aside from that I suppose I would say it’s up the hill from the Hostel, before you get to the dental office on the right? I’m sure sooner or later we will get it figured out, but in the meantime I’m happy to have my iPad up and running again, whew! I was beginning to feel a bit shaky! πŸ™‚ Cheers!