Category Archives: Our first year in Panama

Huh? No internet? Whaaaat?

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Now, this is something I’m not at all accustomed to and I gotta tell ya, it’s kinda sucky. This whole week our internet has been down! Yep! Imagine, no internet! It’s just not something I have ever had to deal with and I’ve got a thin grasp on my ‘Tranquilo’ at the moment. I broke down and went to Cable & Wireless to sign up for a data plan for my iPad so It’s a little bit better but fairly slow. But at least I can send and receive email, check Facebook and publish my blog posts over 3G. We also depend on internet connectivity to provide us with our Magic Jack so we can call the U.S. when we need to. So now we can’t even call Scott’s brother to wish him a happy birthday, darn it. But again, thank goodness for 3G, we could send a text to his iPhone. I can’t think of any significant amount of time that I’ve ever been cut off from internet connectivity and nowadays I seem to be quite addicted to it.

I just thought that those of my friends and family that get sick of my gushing about all the things I just love about living here may like to hear about something that isn’t so wonderful. Although the infrastructure here is , for the most part, fairly stable, we do experience way more power outages and internet instability than we ever would in the Sates. We even , a couple of times had our water down for an evening , that’s one thing that I have never experienced. When we lose power for any significant amount of time we usually find out the next day that a tree fell and took out a power pole and they are working to repair the damage, although they are working on it in ‘Panamanian time”. When we do have internet it’s very slow. We pay $116.00 for internet and TV and our internet is 1/2 a meg. Now our neighbors have 5 meg but for some reason we get something totally different. Go figure?

Oh well, I’m just glad to have what we have, it’s better than no connectivity at all, right? Some may be saying, “noooo, living without perfectly stable infrastructure is not an option for me.” And that’s why you’r reading this from the States,(or Canada, or who knows where?) and I’m writing this from Panama and hoping to have enough 3G connectivity to publish it! Ha!. 🙂 Making the decision to live in a different country means giving up some things and being okay with things like wanky internet and occasional random power outages. On the other hand…..living here in Boquete means getting used to waking everyday to the sound of birds chirping (Ok, maybe a rooster or two as well), and the unending sight of lush green mountains, endless trees, flowers everywhere, rushing rivers and fresh clean air,(I have had some readers remind me about the bats, yucky critters, rain, thunder, lightening,and earthquakes, yep lucky me! ) . We all make choices to live our lives our way and wherever and however that is I’m certain you can look around you and list all the wonderfully glorious reasons you look out your window in the morning and say , Ahhhh, aren’t I lucky to be living here. Life is good, and each day is yet another beginning to your own Amazing Adventure (and you probably have really fast and reliable internet, right!)! Here’s to crossing my fingers and hoping to have internet today….Please!! I’m praying to the cyber-gods to bless us this day with that cute little fan that shows me how many bars of internet I have….

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Hummingbird Overload…

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My friend Andrea asked me the other day if I would be interested in visiting a women in Potrerillos who has a web sight called, myhummingbirds.me. Gail is her name, and she and her husband have lived in Panama for seven years. They live in a pretty remote area 7.3 kilometers on a rustic dirt road. She invites bird enthusiasts to visit her home because she has an amazing assortment of hummingbirds who she very lovingly nurtures and she loves to share them with anyone who wants to take advantage of her generosity. She has at least 10 or 12 feeders hanging from an upstairs balcony where she told us she and her husband enjoy their morning coffee everyday. She told me that the reason she has the hummingbird feeders upstairs is because she has cats and it was a much safer location for them, otherwise those hummingbird feeders would more accurately be called Cat Feeders!! Yikes We spent about an hour just mesmerized by, not only the huge quantity of hummers but by the incredible variety of different species of them in one place. And it was so nice that Gail is a wealth of knowledge about all the names of the hummers and would point out the different colors and show us in her book, which birds they were. If your a lover of birds and hummingbirds specifically, you want to visit her house, and bring your camera. Andrea took all these pictures with a simple point and shoot and they are just magnificent pictures. If you do decide to visit her make sure to email or phone(she isnt very good about checking her email) and let her know first, you wouldn’t want to make that drive without knowing she will be available. And she doesn’t ask for any kind of payment but it’s nice to bring a bag of sugar to pitch in on that 5 pound she goes through every day. Every day? Can you believe that? She has to fill the feeders twice a day, what a job.

As I’ve probably said many times before, there are so many things I love about living here in Boquete. But, I must admit, of all the things that make me smile the most, it’s all the natural wonders that surround me. The birds, the plants,the flowers,and the trees, the mountains and the rivers…I could go on and on and on! As my friend and I were driving today she asked me,”Do you still pinch yourself that you actually live here?” I said, “YES!, do you?” and I was pleased to hear her say that, “Yes, after two years of living here I still just marvel at how happy I am to be here!”. It may not be for everyone, but this place is just right for me and meeting a women like Gail today just gave me one more thing to love about being here.

It’s Nice…

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It’s nice when… Scott and I have something to do that we are both excited about and are rushing to get out of the house.
It’s nice when… the morning is beautifully sunny and warm and we have a fun day away from the house planned.
It’s nice when…we decide to take some snacks and our folding chairs because we know we will be someplace where we will want to linger and sit and enjoy the moment.
It’s nice when…we run back into the house a few times because we forgot important little things like sunscreen and bug spray.
SCREEEEEECH! Hold on….. It’s not nice when….We get back from our “nice” little excursion only to realize we don’t have the keys to the pad lock that locks up our house! Yes, that’s what happened yesterday. We got locked out of our house, Grrrrrrr! Don’t ya hate it when something like that happens? And Scott’s completely throwin’ me under the bus just cuz we were driving my car and I (for some dumb reason) didn’t have the key to the lock on my keychain. Why not? I don’t know, there were just too many keys on my keychain, I guess. Had we taken his truck on our little excursion all would have been well, but we took my car instead. So we walked around the house looking for a way to breach the security that keeps us feeling oh so safe when we’re locked “inside”. Here in Panama most houses have bars on the windows as a way to send a signal to anyone who might think your and easy target that nope, this house isn’t easy to get into so move onto the next one. Not like it’s especially ‘dangerous” here or anything like that, it’s just that here, crimes of “Opportunity” are pretty common. So if there’s an easy opportunity to get into a house where they can clearly see there’s a laptop sitting right there or a flat screen TV that they can just carry out, they will take advantage of the fact that you have left your belongings vulnerable and go on in and help themselves. I’m not saying violent crimes don’t occur because that type of thing happens everywhere, but in general, the petty non violent crime is much more common here. So at first, bars on the windows was something that seemed strange to me but now we don’t even notice the bars except when we suddenly find ourselves attempting to break into our house because “someone’ didn’t have the key!! Ugggg! You know what? Our house isnt easy to break into. Good to know.

I’v written about making new friends and connections here in our new home. Before we moved I thought a lot about how nice it was to live in a place where we had such a good community of friends and family who we knew we could always count on if we had any kind of emergency or needed help. I had thought about how alone it was going to feel at first when we got here and didn’t know many people. Ya, that “sooo alone” feeling I thought we would feel here? Not having anyone we could call in an emergency? Well….we’ve only been living here in Boquete for five months and when my mind started thinking about calling for help I had a pretty good list of people I knew we could call. Sooooo, It’s nice when…you are locked out of your house and your house is so burglar-proof that you can’t break in!
It’s nice when…you can think of a long list of friends who would gladly give you a hand,(after laughing their heads off at your stupidity of course!)
It’s nice when…your friends have great big bolt cutters and your man knows how to use em’.
It’s nice when…you realize that you were wrong in thinking you would feel like you were all alone in a new country! Cuz, yesterday, I had a lightbulb moment as I was walking around our house with Scott desperately looking for a way to get into our house , I realized, we already have such a great community of people around us. I’m glad I didn’t have my key to the lock on my keychain, because when I called my friend to ask if her husband might have a bolt cutter, ( after I had to hold the phone away from my ear while she had a good long laugh, at my expense! Hah! Eye roll! ) and she told us to come on over, I couldn’t help but think…How Nice! Life is good and our Adventure is an adventure everyday!

And one more thing..no, not all the houses here have a pad lock on the front door! When we first went to look at this house to rent it, I just loved the house so much and only really focused on the high ceilings and the big windows, the great kitchen and of course the outside living space. When we showed up with all our belongings and cats in tow and the property manager handed us the key to the pad lock I was at first a bit confused, “that’s the lock?” But by then, what was I gonna do, ask her to change the front door? Ha!Ha! The front door is some kind of antique thing that although its really pretty, its just not a normal front door so it has to be locked with a pad lock, oh well. Sometimes on this adventure you just gotta shake your head and adapt to what’s in front of you, it may sometimes be different than what your used to but with a bit of ‘Tranquillo” life goes on!

Zapateria….

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What’s a girl to do when her only cute pair of sandals suddenly break and there’s not a Nordstrom’s to run to??? Well, she can go visit the guy at the Zapateria and , Voila! Her shoes are magically as good as new! You may be wondering what girl I’m talking about? Well, it’s me! You see, on Sunday I got dressed up in my best outfit, and I’ll tell you, I don’t have a Lot of “Outfits” these days (Our container that has yet to be shipped out here contains most of my clothes, I arrived in Panama with two suitcases!) . So my nicest pair of shoes, aside from my Crocs, are my cute little sandals. I really don’t wear them often and , as a matter of fact I don’t think I’ve worn them more than a couple of times since I bought them. And don’t ya know, they broke when I was at a lovely baby shower at my new friends house on Sunday. My knee-jerk reaction was to just throw them away, but then I remembered, hey, when will I find another pair of ‘cute’ sandals? And my friend said, “why don’t you take them to be fixed at the Zapateria?” Huh! What a great Idea! So today Scott and I had some errands to run and I asked my friend, Sarah, who owns one of the produce markets in town if she could tell me where I could get my shoes repaired. She and her husband told me exactly where to go, (in Spanish, and I actually understood, how cool is that !) , after purchasing our produce from her I made my way across town to the Zapateria while Scott went to pick up our mail at the Mailboxes Etc. I must admit that I’m often making a concerted effort to make my way around town alone so I don’t depend on Scott to do everything..It’s really helping me to adapt and providing me with great opportunities to practice my Spanish. When Scott and I are together, I have a tendency to let him do all the talking, I know…whimpy!

The Zapeteria is located on the same block as the Milo, which is kinda like a teeny-tiny Home Depot,(kinda). It’s right next to a Barber shop and across the street from Milly’s, a hair salon. I expected to just drop off my shoes and then pick them up in a week or so, like I would have done in the states,(silly me…I’m not in Los Altos anymore!). The place is pretty small and covered in shoes and purses and broken down small appliances, it’s a total disaster! I walked in and saw this guy with a baseball cap on sitting against the wall with his head down, concentrating on a shoe (shocking, I know) . I asked, in my newly learned Spanish , (which I was practicing in my head the whole time I was walking there) “Puedes reparar mis zapatos?” (with a big smile as I held up my “cute” broken sandal). He never got up, or looked at me, just gestured to me to come in and give him the shoe. I did as I was ‘assuming’ he was telling me, and entered the dark, messy, shop. He took my broken sandal that I hesitantly held out to him and looked at the damage, not another word was spoken as he began to immediately work on my shoe, nor did he ever move from his spot or look up at me as I stood there holding the other shoe that was not broken just in case he needed to see the original shoe.

As I stood there looking around, I was mesmerized by the disorganized mess in his tiny little shop. He quietly worked on fixing my broken shoe .and I was expecting him to tell me to return another time to pick it up, but it was becoming clear to me that he was indeed fixing it right then, while I stood there waiting. Okay….shrug. He was poking and sorta sewing and poking some more and I was slightly afraid to move, there was just so much junk all around, endless shoes,purses, broken tv’s, and stereos. As I looked closer I began to see so many different bits and pieces of broken things filling every inch of this little tiny place. I timidly asked in my Pre-school level spanish,” Tu Reperar otras cosas? no solo Zapatos?” His head nodded, and he answered in the affirmative, apparently he’s a ‘fix-it-guy’! Good to know!

In about 10 minutes he stopped working and handed me my shoe. Good as new! Wow!! “Tu trabajo rapido! I was so surprised at how fast he fixed my shoe! Okay….cuanto cuestan? “$1.50” he said, as he looked up for the first time, with very kind eyes and a smile. I very happily handed him the money, and gave him and extra quarter as I thanked him for fixing my shoe. “Tanga buen dia” I said as I left his tiny repair shop, noting to myself that I was so glad to now know where to go when my fancy Crocs break on me! And hey, when Scott can’t fix a small appliance that suddenly dies on us, I’ve got just the place to take it instead of throwing it in the trash. That was a small adventure and I’m so glad to know that the trash is not the place for broken Cosas! Now I know where to go and who to hand my broken things to, I don’t know his name, yet, but I will find out eventually and when I am able to speak better Spanish I will chat with that quiet ‘fix it’ guy ! Just one more motivation to keep working on Aprender mi espaniol! I know, that probably wasnt right, but, hey…Poco A Poco mi amigos! I’m workin’ on it! 🙂

Life Moves Along….

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Every morning when I get up, after I make my coffee, I go out onto the patio . I’ve told you before about how much I love to sit outside and soak up all this crazy beauty that I now call ‘HOME”(big smile here!) . Well, don’t worry, I wont get into that again, at least not right now. But , one thing that I always seem to do first thing in the morning, as soon as I sit down is turn on my iPad and look to see if anyone from my former life in California has made any type of connection with me. I first check my email, then my Facebook, then my blog comment section, then I go to my favorite game on my iPad,Words With Friends, where I always have at least ten or fifteen friends from California who consistently play a word in the night while I’ve slept. It’s a silly little thing, I know, but my non-stop Scrabble games make me feel as though at least a few people have me on their mind (at least they have kicking my butt at scrabble on their mind!).

When I decided to move away and pursue this adventure, to start over and begin a new life far away from all I knew and loved, I expected to miss all the people. Sigh. It’s been nearly five months and that , “missing everyone”, part of this adventure is sinking in more and more. Of course life goes on, after I’ve left. Obviously, but there are certain times when my heart aches to feel as though in time I will have drifted into such a different life that most of my friends back in California wont really be able to relate to it. I mean, I’ve already begun to sense that my life has changed and I’ve had instances when I’ve been gushing to someone about my happiness and about the changes my life has taken just from not having to work anymore, about how happy and peaceful my life is, carefree and exciting, and as I pause for their response what can they say but,”that’s nice Holly.” What do I expect? I have no idea. It’s such a new sensation to be (for lack of any other word), detached from all that used to connect me to those back home. Our lives are beginning to become so different in so many ways. Well, their lives haven’t changed much but mine is nothing it used to be. As I enthusiastically attempt to share all that I am experiencing, I pause to catch my breath and suddenly feel awkward and almost as though I’m bragging….I’m not, of course but my enthusiasm may come off that way.

While we used to be striving for such similar goals, and sharing in very similar lifestyles, we are now on very different paths. I suppose I’ll have to adapt to the reality that in the past my friendships and the connections we had with one another had in common the “present”, what we were doing “then” and “there”. And now, while we no longer share such a similar life in the ‘moment’ and similar desires for our lives in the ‘moment’, we have a shared history. This shared history will be what keeps us connected and interested in the present lives we are now living apart from one another. This is merely a shift in my connections that , as I’m writing this, is becoming more clear to me. A shift, requires a bit of an adjustment sometimes. An adjustment, for me, in how I think and feel about my connections with my friends and an acceptance of the natural shift that although it’s a change, it’s not an end. Well, when I say it’s not an “end” I should say, the dynamic of our friendships may have shifted and I’m trying to adapt and accept the feelings of a different type of connection with all my friends. So the way we connected ‘before’ I moved may be gone and I’m adjusting to a new dynamic that at times is hard for me, but in time will develop into a new kind of normal.

Whew! While there’s so many things to adapt to and get used to here in this new place I now call home, this is for me, one of the more challenging aspects. Although there are unending cultural things to adapt to, language, food, holidays,behaviors, (that list can go on an on), I must admit that navigating this different level of connectedness with those back in California and figuring out how to maintain my connections isn’t easy. Or I should say, adjusting to the way that those connections are just naturally morphing into less “close” connections, but connections that are no less “important” to me. Just another aspect of this lifestyle change that while at the moment is a bit of a heartache, I have faith will teach me something meaningful about friendships and distance that before this Adventure I never would have learned.

Of course I can’t help but think about Hollyween, it’s that time…..

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It’s October and , of course, I always think about my favorite holiday when this month rolls around. Even though Scott and I haven’t hosted our Hollyween party in two years I always remember fondly, all those years of so much fun this time of year. Now that we live in Panama and Halloween isn’t really very popular, (as a matter of fact it’s hardy even celebrated here at all), I cant help but reminisce about all the good times that took place this time of year on Orange Avenue. For me, the best part was the decorating which began sometime in late August or the beginning of September. Only after every single decoratable(that may not be a word, but I’m goin’ with it!) inch of my home, inside and out was covered in creepy, crawly, spooky goodness, did I stop decorating. From the ceilings inside,(we actually covered the vaulted ceilings with orange ice-sickle lights that we suspended from the recessed cans), to every room of the house, including bathrooms and then every inch of the yard, Hollyween was alive and well at our home. I will admit and proudly embrace that I was that one crazy person in our neighborhood who took the Halloween decorating a bit too far, but, is there really a ‘too far’ when it comes to decorating for Hollyween??

I had a wild collection of Halloween decorations which seemed to somehow grow with each passing year. As preparation for this move to Panama I had yard sales and many of my friends who had enjoyed my parties through the years bought most of my collection and I’m sure those wonderful Hollyween decorations are being enjoyed this time of year. Knowing that my friends are still getting lots of smiles out of my collection is the only thing that eases the sadness of not having it anymore. Although I have no regrets about moving on and letting go of my tradition of being the Hollyween Queen, I can’t help but feel little pangs of missing the parties that were so much fun.

Scott got to cook like a mad man for those parties! I got to let loose with my often ‘sick’ sense of humor while I decorated to my hearts content . Of course We were a team when it came to our ideas to thrill the kids with creepy surprises in our yard. One of my favorite things we did was the leftover bathtub from one of Scotts remodel jobs, he came up with the brilliant idea of ‘repurposing’ that ugly old tub that had been just waiting to be taken to the dump. He rigged it up in the yard so that it had a shower head and we hung a scary skeleton which he had altered to make it look like it was all bloody and standing under the red water coming out of the shower head in the tub. Yikes!! I know…..Creepy! But it was a hit! And I don’t have to remind anyone about the scary clown on the front lawn that was inside the big crate and would suddenly pop out after jiggling the crate around and yelling at the kids to help him from inside the crate! All computerized and programed by Scott and a good friend. Oh…..Such great memories of our tradition of long ago. Our last party was the biggest, we had about 200 people and we were exhausted! But good exhausted, I think the karaoke put me over the top! I would never karaoke in public, but at my house, after just enough rum punch and dressed as a troll or Thing One or a Courtesan , Watch out!! Lot’s of good times at those parties.

Honestly, I”m so glad to have the memories but I’m kinda over the whole Halloween thing and ready to discover what my new traditions will be. The whole month of November is filled with many different holidays here in Panama and I’m thrilled to be able to experience it for the first time this year. I’m told there are endless parades and lots of drumming. Music and crowds and crazy traffic. Most who have lived here for a long time try to steer clear of the craziness but I suspect, this year at least, I’ll want to be out there watching the parades and cheering for the kids who I’ve been hearing practicing for months already. Every school has a drum corp and they seem incredibly passionate about their drumming.

Today,(Saturday) I got to help my new Panamanian friend , Aris, decorate for the baby shower she is hosting for her daughter tomorrow. As I was hanging pink balloons and pink and white crate paper I couldn’t help but think about how different these decorations are from the ones I would normally be decorating with this time of year. 🙂 And I felt so happy to be included in a wonderful celebration of a new life. Because that’s exactly what I’m celebrating each day right now, my new life. A new country, many new traditions and celebrations, a new language, many different people who are becoming my new community , just endless new and different experiences that continually make me smile. I don’t know if I’ll ever be as extravagant as I was for my Hollyween celebrations but I’m so grateful to have had those great experiences to look back on with pleasure. I don’t think I’ll ever go through the month of October without reminiscing fondly about all those Hollyweens of yore, and all the people who enjoyed it with us!

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Yesterday…(well, Monday)

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Yesterday (Monday), after Scott got done with school, we drove down to David to get the inspection done on my car. When we bought the FJ it still had a couple months left on the registration. So this is the month it will expire and it was time to take care of it. For those of you who don’t live here and don’t know, there’s no convenient notice that you receive in the mail reminding you that it’s time to register your vehicle. No, theres no DMV , you cant just get online and give them your credit card number and then wait a week to receive the new registration sticker in the mail. Here in Panama you must take your vehicle to a mechanic or some other place, like a tire store (where Keith recommended we go), and they check your car, I’m not clear on exactly ‘what’ they are ‘checking’ but they put my car up on the ‘lift thingy’ (as you can tell, I’m not exactly in the “know” in terms of car ‘stuff, but I’m doing my best to explain what goes on here so please forgive my girly explanation) and then they look real carefully at ,who knows what, and take a few photos. Then they gave us a paper that we will hand over to Keith, who will kindly be walking us through this next step in the procedure since it’s our first time. I’m sure there will be plenty of other times in the future and I may even figure out exactly what the heck is going on, but until then I’m just observing all the shenanigans and taking notes for when we’re on our own. Keith emailed us the long list of documents he would need for the next step,( 3 copies of passport 3 copies of insurance 3 copies of title
original Revisado plus 6 copies) When we met up with Keith he informed us that the next step of this registration process takes place in Panama City and that it will take about 3-4 weeks. He’s taking care of this part and then we’ll be receiving a shiny, (well probably not too shiny) new license plate. I’m not sure how often this procedure takes place, maybe every year, and next time we’ll be on our own, but I think this next time we will be getting the new registration done in Dolega which is nearby. Because we bought the car from someone who lived in PC the current registration was there, Keith is transferring it to Dolega and next time that’s where we’ll be going for another shiny new license plate. In the states you only get a new little sticker but here, I think they give you a new license plate each time you register your vehicle.

We knew before going to the tire shop that the FJ was in need of new tires,(we bought it used , it’s a 2010 and we had planned on replacing the tires). So we decided to get a quote on the price of replacing all four tires since we were at a tire store, what the heck, right? Well, we were in luck, they were able to replace the tires at the same time as the registration inspection and it turned out that we also needed new front end break pads. So we arrived at the tire store at about 11:00 and finished at about 3:30. While they were working on the car we took a walk to the Hospital where Scott had his surgery because he was suppose to make an appointment for his final check up on his progress after his hernia surgery. Since we hadn’t been able to get through by phone we figured, what the heck, we have time, we’ll just take a walk and make an appointment. Scott was thrilled to feel well enough to take a walk, but I gotta admit, I was farrrr from being ‘thrilled’ to take a walk given the fact that I hadn’t anticipated walking and had on “pretty” shoes, not ‘walking’ shoes (eye roll here!). Here’s where I will commence with the whining and complaining,(ooops, sorry, I had a temporary lapse of “Tranquilo”) It was HOT, and if you haven’t noticed, I have a lot of hair, and I hadn’t put it up, like I do when I’m expecting to go on a long hot walk. And Those darn “pretty” shoes I mentioned……Ouch! They hurt my feet! Grrrrrrrr! And we really should have brought water! Anyways, the only reason I quietly put up with this walk(yes, I kept all that bitching and moaning mostly to myself) is because I knew how happy Scott was to be out walking around instead of sitting on his butt like he’s had to do for the last month. After successfully setting up an appointment for the next day,(Tuesday), we then proceeded to walk to a BBQ restaurant we had walked past on our way to the hospital, we were ready to enjoy a relaxing lunch… ‘someone’, really needed a glass of wine! But of course, the restaurant was not opened(do I get an eye roll here?) . So we saw in the distance, a restaurant that said, Pizzeria. After entering this restaurant we were told that they only serve Pizza after 3:00, it was only 12:00. We were hot and tired and thirsty so we settled for the tipico lunch and nope they had no wine or beer,Grrrrrr. We had ice tea (no ice!). Let me mention here that I noticed the two very pretty Panamanian women who came in after us (the only other customers in the restaurant) got copious amounts of ice in their ice tea! Grrrrr! But, I was begining to reestablish my “Tranquillo” so I just took a deep breath and drank my not so iced, iced tea. 🙂

Following our Almuerzo we hoofed it back to the tire shop and waited about 45 minutes more. All in all, I felt like we had a really productive afternoon, in spite of my sore feet and warm iced tea. Ha!Ha! Now that the car is taken care of the next big thing on our list of important documents to acquire is our residency Visa. We already got our fingerprints back from the FBI background check, and it turns out , we’re both on the up and up. So the next step is to get the State Department in DC to authenticate it and then send it back to us. Of course, the U.S. government is not exactly working at the moment so who knows how long they will be sitting there? And we thought that the Panamanian bureaucracy was bad (eye roll here!). Given the fact that our residency will most likely not be a done deal before this next month, our next three months is coming up and you know what that means…..another border run!! Nooooo! Maybe we should just plan a little vacation? We’ll see. With our School commitment it’s not too easy for us to get away. I think we’ll just keep our fingers crosses that maybe, just maybe a miracle will happen and our visa will suddenly be ready….Insert Crazy Laugh here! Nope, sigh, not gonna happen. Oh well, I think I’ll get back to watching all my hummers fight over the feeder as the rain falls and the mists roll in. The adventure just continues. (P.S. for those of you who are curious, we got Firestone tires for the FJ Cruiser and they cost $160.00 each)

Early Morning…

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We woke up really early this morning for some reason. Could have something to do with having too much fun at our friends Birthday party yesterday and going to bed too early. But it’s just about 5;30a.m. and I am sitting outside. It’s not quite daylight and it’s incredible how peaceful it is. The sounds of the morning are much different than the sounds of daytime . I can actually hear the river. The many roosters crowing, both near and far and the never ending sounds lots of crickets. An occasional dog barking and the early sounds of birds starting their day. I hear strange squeaks and screeches that I don’t remember hearing in the daytime. It almost sounds like someones playing with a squeaky toy. The lights across the valley look as though they are twinkling as the sky begins to lighten up more and more. Did I mention how peaceful it is? A hummingbird has just arrived for his early morning snack and I can hear something scurry around in the bushes below, perhaps a neighbor cat(I’m gonna call it a cat! not some strange , scary critter ready to pounce!)? When I first sat down all but the sky was black and now I can clearly see all the palm trees and banana trees. More and more of the hummers are arriving for their breakfast and a neighbor dog too has just walked onto my patio, ready for me to give him a treat and surprised to find me outside already(yes, he told me he was surprised!) . The sound of birds is becoming more and more like a cacophony of birdsong instead of a single bird here and there. They have officially begun their day. And I suppose , so must I. Have I ever told you how much I love the mornings?

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Finding my purpose…

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One of the things I love about writing this blog is that it often serves as a very helpful way for me to process this profound life-change I’ve chosen to pursue. Most of the posts I publish tend to be expressions of happiness, peacefulness and some may think too often I’m expressing pure bliss as I soak up these new surroundings. I enjoy sharing my experiences for a couple reasons, as a way to pass on information to those of you who enjoy reading my blog as research for your possible future adventure living as an expat. I get comments and questions from so many great people who are in that early stage of researching . I get great pleasure in passing on any info I can share, and hopefully contributing to other peoples research. I know when we were just starting to look into moving to another country other bloggers where so incredibly generous and it feels great to pay it forward. Mostly though, I write this blog as a way for me to maintain my connections with all of my friends and family in California. Our decision to move to Panama has opened up amazing amounts of opportunities for me to grow and change and for me, sharing my journey with all of you makes me feel like you’re all with me in some small way. Does that make sense?

In the course of this journey when I choose to share the challenges that are a natural part of my adjustment, I hope you can appreciate these times as just that, a necessary period of ‘adjustment’. I celebrate these periods of challenge or difficulty because I know that when I travel through a hard situation with my mind focused on growth and transformation I’ll always move forward having gained something of value from the challenge. All this to say, try not to worry about me too much because in my mind, a little stretching isn’t a crisis. I see these times as fine tuning and as I write about it and share my perspective, it’s all part of my process of standing back and taking another look at it from yet another perspective. I get valuable input from so many others who’ve traveled a similar path and many generous people who offer gifts of encouragement which I hold dear to my heart and read and re-read over and over again, smiling each time I read.

I preface this entry with these words because I’m entering into a particularly personal and I suspect , for me, a difficult phase of my Adventure here in Panama. Finding my purpose. I really want to feel safe sharing the hard things about my adventure without feeling like my friends and family fear that I may have made a mistake or that I may regret my move. No, on the contrary, I’m not complaining or whining , or in any way wishing I were anywhere other than where I am right this moment. When I started publishing this blog I did so with the promise to myself and to you, that I would share the good the bad and well…maybe a bit of ugly, but I soooo dislike the ‘ugly’ so I’ll admit to often placing my ‘rose colored’ glasses onto your eyes as well as my own. 🙂 There’ve been a couple of difficult transitional experiences that I’ve shared, like when, early on, I was feeling so “out of my body”, and very uncharacteristically nervous while out in public. And also my tendency to feel great success when accomplishing relatively mundane everyday tasks. These are only two very small examples of instances when I’ve felt myself struggling to adapt to so many different experiences here in Boquete. I don’t even know if the word,”struggle” is even correct in describing my experiences. But If your wondering, I no longer feel that strange sensation that I described when I’m out and about in town, running errands and such has become much more familiar. I very confidently say ‘Lo Siento’ when I bump into someone or do something dumb :). People are always so kind and patient, giving me a smile or a knowing nod that says, in any language, “don’t worry, I understand”.

I’ve been officially ‘retired’ ,(Yikes! I still can’t really believe I’m actually RETIRED!) for nearly 5 months now. So far I’ve taken the time to just take a lot of deep breaths and say to myself…”Ahhhhh”. I’ve been reading a lot, which everyone who knows me, knows how much I enjoy reading. I’ve also taken the time to write a lot as well, which has become a very new passion for me. Another thing I’ve spent a ton of time doing is relaxing, (of course) and enjoying the freedom of ‘owning’ every hour of my day. Sitting outside and playing games on my iPad, just looking out at the view and soaking up the vast, incredible beauty of nature that surrounds me . Words just cant even express my great love of nature and how much I appreciate every moment I have to be so close to it here in this place of unending beauty. I love walking and I’ve had the time to take hikes with Scott and to simply walk into town. Yesterday,(I gotta tell you about this experience cuz it made me so happy) I walked into town for the first time since we’ve lived in this house. It was a little under two hours of walking and It was just great! (Scott had spanish class and I decided to walk to the school and meet him when he was done) I had an audio book which I love to lose myself in as I walk, but about half way through my walk I met a young Indigenous kid who was also walking into town, he was 20 years old and very friendly. We started to walk together and I , of course began to attempt to talk with him. I wish I could remember his name but darn it! It started with an A but after that, I lost it. Well, as you know, the indians here are very poor and he of course asked for money, (very politely and humbly, I wasn’t surprised.) so I gave him two dollars and told him that he would be working for his money by practicing Espaniol con Mi. Nosotros hablamos mucho caminábamos. We talked about food and about where he lives, (in Bocas Chica) and about Estados Unidos , about mi Hija and el harmonos y el padres y harmonas. I had such a great time on that last half of my walk with this adorable kid. That was the best $2.00 Ive spent in a long time.

So, as you can see, I’ve been enjoying this period of early retirement. Soaking up my newfound freedom. And here’s where my newest challenge comes in. I’ve had five months of relaxing and doing not much of anything especially productive. Well, okay, I suppose starting to learn Spanish is productive and getting settled in a new country, buying cars renting a home, getting car insurance and health insurance, making new friends and accompanying Scott for his hernia surgery……ya, ya, I have been productive, I take it back. But….I have recently begun to feel as though it may be time for me to explore… what will be my purpose in this new life? I loved my career as a stylist, it was most certainly a “Passion” for me. I found great reward in many aspects of my life as a result of my career. Unending amounts of personal satisfaction including socially, artistically, professionally and monetarily. I loved making people happy and helping them to walk out of my salon feeling good about themselves. If someone sat down in my chair and I sensed that they had something bad or unhappy hovering in their lives, I took it upon myself to make them smile or give them a bit of peace if only for that brief time they were with me. I also benefitted greatly from every single person I came into contact with throughout my thirty years behind the chair. During times of personal tragedy, as well as great happiness my clients (who became my community) gifted me with never ending support. I am very artistic and creating beauty for others was something that kept me feeling successful and energized. I feel as though I achieved a level of success in my career that I can be proud of and look back on and know that I worked hard and deserve to feel pride in myself. Sooooo now what? That’s where I’m at now. I’ve begun a new life and I’m at the beginning of something so exciting and at the same time kinda scary. I get to re-define myself and start anew. And for me, I need to determine how I’ll find my new “Purpose”. I mean, one can only relax and do nothing for only so long! Before I made this move, many people asked me, “what will you do with your time?” I didn’t have an answer then and the answer to that question still hasn’t revealed itself to me quite yet. I have no idea what my next ‘passion’ will be in this new chapter of my life , but I do know that it’s a mystery I will solve in time. I may fret about it at times but, luckily I’ve found other kindred spirits here who’ve been through this transition themselves and they assure me that my feelings are normal. My new friends here have gone through this period of renewed self- reflection and in time have come to find a path and a purpose that gives them the sense of belonging that I know I’ll eventually find for myself. In the meantime, I’ll write!!! Ha!Ha! Well, I suppose I’ll also continue to relax and soak up all this beauty around me which I’ll never tire of doing. When the timing is right I’m certain the right thing will come to me and before I know it I’ll be busy again with something I find great reward in and a new ‘passion’ will have begun! Isn’t it often hard to remember to just be in the moment! So often, I am so busy trying to see where I’ll be in the future that the moment I’m in doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves! I’m glad I’ve reminded myself, (the sound of screeetching breaks!)….Oh, look at that hummingbird! And those clouds seems to be moving so fast over those mountains…..Ahhhh, the breeze feels so fresh and cool….hmmmm I do believe it’s happy hour…

Missing my girl…

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Staying connected is so important…

I just got off the phone with my Hija, (daughter). Sigh…I miss her 😦 The other day, when I was walking out of my spanish class I received a text message from her , it said, “I really, really miss you!” Again…Sigh. Many people have asked me how my daughter feels about my moving to Panama and I always tell them ,the truth is that she’s fiercely independent and very supportive of my relocation to Panama. It’s very true that my daughter has never been especially clingy or needy. Since she was very very young she’s wanted nothing more than to live her life her way and on her terms. This made her adolescent years extremely painful for us both. Now that she’s been on her own and has tasted the reality of the independent life that she always fought so hard to embrace , she has begun to appreciate her old mom. It’s a new sensation, to have my sweet daughter miss me so. While part of me feels happy to hear that she thinks about me and wishes I were nearby, there is another part of me, that realizes that if I were nearby we would likely spend very little time together. This is not an uncommon reality in the normal mother-daughter relationship. The natural progression with parents and children is for the child to move on and live their life. In our case , instead of the child moving on to start her life, the parents left the kid to start their new life. I know for a fact that Mariah is a very busy young lady, working two jobs and trying to balance that with having a social life at the same time. Really, she has very little time on her plate to spend time with her mom. While we both realize the reality of that fact, there’s just something different about being so far away. We don’t have the convenience of just hoping in the car and driving to see each other. Yes, we can FaceTime, Skype and talk on the phone, but it never replaces a hug or doing a little retail therapy together. This is one of the hard things about this big Adventure I’m having. Missing Mariah often hurts my heart. When those times sneak up on me I have to remind myself that she’s on her path and I’m on mine. Although we are far away from each other, modern technology can really help us to stay connected. Last time we spoke we promised each other that we would talk once a week. I think just connecting like that on a regular basis may help us to feel better about the physical distance. Many of my new expat friends here in Boquete have grown children back in the States as well, and I always ask them how that is for them. Without exception they all say they talk to them often on Magic Jack or on Skype or FaceTime. Some have said that they connect to their kids more this way then they ever did when they lived nearby. It just doesn’t seem to matter where we choose to make our home, life gets busy and everyone has to make an effort to stay connected. So when those moments of heartache sneak up on me I just try to remember that missing my daughter is not necessarily a bad thing. Even when I lived close to her I had the same moments of missing her except it was a tiny bit more of a bummer because she was so close and yet we still couldn’t manage to make time for each other. Again, I remind myself over and over again…..this is the natural progression of the child/parent relationship. And we know we did a good job raising our children when they are independent, self sufficient, and living their life their way. We all have a path and aren’t we all fortunate to have the ability to follow our path and live our lives our way. I know my mom is reading this and saying to herself,”HUH! Now you know how I feel!” LOL!

Planning our first Boquete dinner party…

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We love to entertain and prepare nice meals for friends. It’s something we’ve always enjoyed and it feels like it’s been a really long time since we’ve had the opportunity to do it. Between preparing our home in Los Altos for selling and preparing our lives for relocating to an entirely new country, we had not had the opportunity to entertain for awhile before we moved. We’ve been living here in Boquete for about four months and although we’ve been invited to other peoples houses for great get togethers we have yet to have had a place and an opportunity to have people over to our home. Until last night…

Last week, Scott, after sitting on his butt for weeks in order to allow himself to heal from hernia surgery, was going stir-crazy. He said,”we should invite some people over for dinner.” I gotta admit, I was feeling a little apprehensive because it’s been such a long time since we’ve hosted a dinner party and I felt a little nervous about who we should invite, will anyone ‘want’ to come over for dinner? What will we make? Do we even have serving dishes in this ‘furnished’ rental house? Oh, so many silly , insecure thoughts crept into my head, I don’t know why! In our former life in California, entertaining was kind of a hobby for us as a couple. We’ve always found great pleasure in sharing our home with friends and preparing special meals that we hoped made our friends feel special. Scott would spend lot’s of time coming up with just the right menu and then the hunt for the recipes and ingredients would begin. As Scott was searching for the perfect menu I always found great pleasure in getting our house ready for guests. I just love to set the table and make it look festive, many times ordering a beautiful arrangement from my good friend Brian Davino who’s an amazing floral designer in town. As the evening of our dinner party would arrive Scott and I would go through the menu together and we would determine what serving dishes we would need to use and get them all out. On the day of the dinner we often spent the better part of the day in preparation for our evening. Scott would be cooking away, music blasting, while I cleaned the house and set the table and continually stopped off in the kitchen to clean up after him as he cooked. I gotta say, my man can cook, but boy oh boy does he make a mess!!! :0 To some, this may sound like work, but to us, it’s fun and rewarding.

In our 13 years together we’ve hosted many such fun, dinner parties and I’m so pleased that our first one here in Boquete went off without a hitch. I’m not sure what kind of ‘hitch’ I was expecting , I think I just felt a little out of practice and our new friends here are so ‘new’ I was just hoping they would enjoy spending time with us. I know, that sounds kinda dorky, huh? It’s also a little strange entertaining in a house that isn’t ours, and with ‘things’ that aren’t ours. But in the end, we managed to pull it off and enjoy the evening. Although, Scott may have gone a little overboard with his menu! Not that this is anything new…. he really likes to feed people and I think our friends left feeling as though they had been thoroughly fed! He prepared Tapas for our friends here’s the menu : Mexican Layered dip as an appetizer, Chicken Empanadas , (filled with roasted chicken, Chili verde sauce and cheese), Crab cakes, roasted potatoes, braised pork in a sauce made with five different peppers served with a local cheese filled tortilla thingy, Mango chicken Sopa’s (Scott’s version of Sopa, not a soup, closer to a taco), Yucatan fish wrapped in Banana leaves,(he just wanted to go chop down banana leaves from our yard!) Also several sauces to be used in whatever combo you choose: Chipotle aioli , Tzatziki sauce, Al’s mango salsa, and guacamole. We also prepared a black bean concoction which We discovered in the morning, we forgot to serve!! LOL! For desert, we had an apple berry crumble with vanilla ice cream. Ahhhh, I feel full again just reading this menu!

As you can tell, we had a fun-filled day cooking together just like always. My apprehension began to dissipate as the day wore on and as I walked around the yard cutting flowers to make arrangements (missing Brian Davino, and Merlyn but attempting to channel their flower arranging talent! ), I found myself feeling more and more like my normal self again, looking forward to spending the evening with nice people and sharing our new home. There’s been so many unfamiliar and different things about this new life we’ve begun here in Panama, it felt so good to do something familiar with new friends. It didn’t matter at all that we didn’t have our fancy kitchen and all the high end pots and pans and gadgets like before (eye roll here), and even though we had to hunt for some ingredients and settle for a few substitutes everything ended up working out just fine. We so enjoyed the adventure together, doing something that , to us, brings us great satisfaction. The part I especially enjoyed about our Boquete dinner party was eating outside with the thunder and lightening lighting up the sky! I have a suspicion this wont be our last Boquete dinner party! We’ll be doing this again, I’m sure.

Horseback Riding in Caldera…

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Last week my friend Andrea asked me if I would be interested in going horseback riding with her. Of Course! Who could say no to an invitation to see more of this beautiful area and on horseback to boot! She found a guy in Caldera named Franklin who runs a small horseback riding business on his families property (100 hectares) . Andrea has a fantastic web sight called Boquete Travel Guide http://www.boquetetravelguide.com She wanted to add his business to her web sight so this was an exploratory trip for us to check it out. And I gotta tell you , we both totally fell for Franklin! He is a very sweet man who is passionate about Panama, nature and his horses. He has about 25 horses and treats them with such love and respect. Andrea and I were both very touched by how much he cares for the animals and his passion for nature is contagious. The property where we rode is owned by his cousin and has been in his family for many many years. When we got to the plateau we all got off our horses and let them have a break while we enjoyed the spectacular view all around us. It really is a beautiful area. Chatting with Franklin we learned that he has a vast knowledge of philosophy and enjoys conversing about any number of topics. If he were a bit younger I was ready to introduce him to my daughter, Darn! Andrea and I both agreed that he must be one of the most sought after bachelors in Boquete, the Panamanian women must be banging down his door! 🙂 As you can see by the pictures, it was a gorgeous day, but I’m beginning to think that “everyday” is a beautiful day here! After our horseback riding adventure we were ready for an ice cold beer and lunch. Andrea had recommended a ‘typico’ restaurant called Melissa’s in Caldera so off we went in search of food! She was right, it was a great lunch. We had Pollo con arroz y sopa, and a beer all for $6.00. This was a great day and I can’t wait to take friends there to see that beautiful view.

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Amazing critters…

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I know…..I said I would never like the critters here but you gotta admit, they are often just sooooo pretty! I am very frequently stunned and amazed that some of these little creatures are “real”! They are such amazing colors and I just have to stop to look and admire the beauty that they are… but only when they are “OUTSIDE”! I feel quite different about them when I find them crawling around in the house. But I must admit that I try to catch them under a glass and take them outside instead of smooshing them under my shoe. You may be wondering about our progress with the bats in our house….well…..we are still dealing with that one. Just two nights ago we were awoken to the “whoosh-whoosh-whoosh” sound of wings flapping above our heads in our bedroom! Ugggg! Not a sound one wishes to hear while in bed! We both jumped up and began the hunt for the location of the intruder. I was quick to shut the bedroom door as soon as I realized it had flown out of the room! The ceilings in this house are vaulted and they are made of a dark brown wood which makes it very difficult to see a black bat. Given the fact that it was just past midnight, I suggested we just grab the cats and shut ourselves in to our room and finish sleeping and then deal with Mr. Bat in the morning. Scott was happy with that plan so back to bed we went. In the morning we hunted high and low and there was no bat to be found. But this was the third one who had mysteriously found passage into our living quarters and we were determined to figure out how the heck they were getting in! We had already looked around and could not see any source of entry but they were getting in ‘somehow’ so we searched some more, low and behold, we found an opening in the kitchen above in an area we could only see by standing on a step stool. It is a very small opening but those pesky critters can get in through the tiniest places so we know how to stop the midnight visits! My new best friend Rudolfo, the exterminator, has been spraying some sort of chemical that is meant to repel them from the area under the roof where we can hear them crawling during the dusk hours when they are preparing to exit for the night. We don’t want to kill them, just make them go away long enough to close up the entrance to the comfy spot they have claimed as their home. It does seem to be working because we are hearing much less scurrying and we went out the other evening just around the time they usually come out to hunt and didn’t see any exiting. This is very good news. So the saga of the bats will hopefully come to an end soon. Today I am going horseback riding with my friend Andrea . She has arranged the day and I’m really exited. She tells me we will be riding up to a place where you can view both the Caribbean and Pacific oceans ! I will be sure to get lots of pictures, don’t you worry! So Cheers for now!

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! 🙂 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”. 🙂 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! 🙂

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! 🙂 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. 🙂 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 don´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.

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! 🙂 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!! 🙂 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! 🙂 Cheers!

Let’s Talk Shampoo….I know, exciting !

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This is a trivial post about a seemingly trivial subject but a subject that is near and dear to my heart, my hair. I found humor in this new experience and just thought to share it with you. Sometimes, it’s the trivial things that make me laugh the most…

First let me warn all my hairdresser friends who might be reading this…..you may want to stop reading right about…NOW! What I’m about to divulge will shock and appall you and if you do decide to continue reading,well… you may want to sit down first….

All my life I’ve only ever used professional products on my hair. Growing up in a household of two hairdressers , (my parents actually met in Cosmetology school!), nothing but the Best was ever allowed in our showers! If you called us “product snobs” I would have to concede to the title. Deciding on what shampoo and conditioner to use on my hair has never been a subject of great worry to me. My parents would keep us stocked up on whatever they were selling in their salon (they were also salon owners, but you probably already knew that). And being a salon owner myself for the past twenty years, I never had to worry myself with such mundane issues as what Shampoo and Conditioner to buy! I just grabbed whatever I was selling to my clients in my salon and that was that, no thinking, no deciding. While we were packing for our move we were only allowed to bring four bags and we had to keep the weight to 50 pounds each. I really had to prioritize the contents of those bags. It turned out, shampoo and conditioner didn’t make the cut. (Now, my “very special” styling gel on the other hand, was something I brought a good supply of! I’ll have to address that in a few more months , for now, my issue has been shampoo & conditioner.) So I arrived here in Panama needing quickly, to find something to wash my hair with, no problem, right?

I’ve written posts in the past about several different “firsts”. Well, this was the “first” time I can ever remember going into a grocery store and looking at the haircare shelf! And what a strange feeling it was to not recognize anything on that shelf. What? No Paul Mitchell Or Alterna, Aveda, Biolage, or Logics? HuH? Well, to be honest I wasn’t really expecting to find any familiar professional products but I thought maybe I would find at least Prell, Pert or Herbal Essence, or some other such product that I had seen advertised in magazines or on tv (products that I had always thought of as sub-par, crap, not to be used on “MY” hair! NOOOOO!) Ha! . I will admit to suddenly wishing I had brought my own familiar shampoo, but hey I signed up for a “change” of lifestyle, right? Well Holly, Just pick one and go with it! “How bad can it be? right?” Soooooo I continued to stare at the shelf of foreign shampoos and conditioners with an unfamiliar feeling of bewilderment. Who knew this much thought would go into choosing something so simple as a bottle of soap to wash my hair, Geesh! I did finally spy a bottle with a semi-familiar brand name, Schwarzkoph. I had never actually used the products myself but they make a professional hair color,and I know many stylist who use it . So that is what I bought.

For the past thirty years I’ve been hawking professional shampoos and conditioners and looking down on those “poor souls” who used “grocery store” crap on their hair( I know….Not nice, sorry!) . And I’m sure that all those expensive professional haircare products are indeed very high quality and very good for your hair. But , and here’s where my former colleagues will cringe, my hair feel great! No difference really. And I’m humbled as I recall my snobby,brainwashed attitude of my former life. Granted, it’s only been about three months worth of using my new “grocery store” shampoo (cue the snobby- nose in- the- air!) and any day now my hair may begin to show signs of abuse and neglect. It may start to break and become brittle and listless or Gasp! Dull and flat! FLAT? my hair? Not likely! As a matter of fact, I did finally find a familiar brand of product at Price Mart (similar to Costco) , Herbal Essentials, which , now that I’m typing I’m realizing that I had originally thought it said , Herbal Essence, oops! Ha!Ha! Ok, well, it’s not bad and it’s English on the packaging so it says it’s made from “essential herbs and flowers from the earth”! So that must be good, right? HUMPH!

I’m no scientist and I don’t really have any legitimate scientific proof about the superiority of professional hair care products over grocery store products. I cant quote research or studies done to prove that expensive professional products sold only in salons are exclusively the absolute best , healthiest way to wash you hair. All I can say without a doubt is, my hair feels just fine after subjecting it to inexpensive shampoo and conditioner. Could it be the crisp clean air here in Boquete? Or the healthy lifestyle I’m living as a retired gal? Possibly less stress,lot’s more fun? Or is shampoo just shampoo after all? I don’t know, but my hair is happy and that;s all that matters. I’m learning many things not only about hair care products but about myself. Learning to think differently about many things and to be open to trying to do things a little differently at times. One things for sure, there’s not just “one” way to do things in life and there’s definitely not just “one” good shampoo to buy!!

Rockin’ & Rollin’

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Well I’ll be darned! It feels like we’re back in good ol’ California again! We just had a pretty good earthquake here in Boquete. It’s been awhile since you guys have had one there, in California as a matter of fact the last real big one was way back in like what….1989? Was that the last big one, when the bridge collapsed? Well, this was nothing so dramatic but they do have them here occasionally and this was our first significant one since we’ve been living here. We’ve felt a few little tremors but this was a good roller! Whew! Glad it wasn’t anything serious.

Today is kind of a dreary, rainy day with some good lightening and a few massive thunders! That part of living here is very different for us and I really love it. I can’t say the same for the cat’s ! They are currently hiding , Midnight under the bed and Copper under the sheets on the bed, poor guys. Scott’s coming down with what looks like it’s going to be a nasty cold! So today is a stay at home and relax kinda day. We are bummed that he’s getting sick because we’ve been really looking forward to a gathering we were invited to on Thursday at some friends house. Scott was going to make Chili and I was looking forward to socializing and meeting new people. I still have my fingers crossed that he suddenly and miraculously gets well, like tomorrow.

We also have a fun outing for Saturday. Jere,( the hiking lady) has organized a trip to Nancito which is about two hours outside of Boquete. Nancito is an archaeological park area located in the district of Remedios and is the home of a series of petroglyphs. Jere has a friend named Dr. Luz Joly, who is a professor at UNACHI in David and she will accompany us on this trip. Dr Joly is an Anthropologist and has done much research in the study of Panama’s petroglyphs, she has written books on the topic and has traveled around the world giving lectures on the subject. We are so lucky to have such a guide to provide us with a presentation about the history of these ancient rock engravings. I’m really looking forward to learning about this area.

Yesterday, My new friend Aris and I met at her house to practice our language learning. It’s so fun to get to know her and her husband, they’re such nice people. Her husband made us some delicious snacks to munch on while we were chatting, (another man who likes to cook!! Yippee!) I’m obviously not a teacher and I know Aris is interested in trying to learn English just exactly like me , trying to learn Spanish , but I’m good at talking and that is exactly what we both want to do! It’s helping me so much to have a native speaker to practice with and I really hope she feels the same. I decided to see if she would be interested in looking through my People magazine together and I thought it was pretty fun to try to talk about fashion and makeup and read recipes together, me attempting Spanish and her using English as best as we could. We spent two hours chatting and giggling at ourselves and the two hours flies by soooo fast! All of a sudden it’s 5:00 and time for me to leave. So, we must be enjoying ourselves if it’s flying by so fast, right? Next week she said her 26 year old daughter might join us, I am looking forward to meeting her too, the more the merrier!! I’m so grateful to my Friend Valerie for introducing me to Aris and for inviting me to their Monday afternoon practice sessions. Valerie has gone on a vacation to the States so I’ve been going on my own and even though I was nervous at first, now I’m just looking forward to my Monday afternoons.

I only have two more days left in my Spanish classes and I’m kinda relieved to have a break and also kinda nervous about not having the daily dose of learning. The school has announced a special discount they will be offering for residents , 50% off of classes starting in September. Scott and I are planning to sign up. I will do the three days a week, two hours a day, private residence class. It’s my understanding that the residence class focuses more on just day to day phrases and things to get by as a new spanish speaker, which I will really benefit from. I think we will likely start those classes around mid september and go for about 6 weeks or so.. Scott and Valerie are about the same level so they are planning to be in a group class with just the two of them for ten weeks. We are really focused on learning and even though its time consuming and a bit frustrating at times, we have all the time in the world, and it’s so rewarding when I say something and am actually understood. This is sooooo worth every minute we have put into it. I just dream of the day when I can have a coherent conversation with Aris, although she’ll probably be speaking English by then!! Ha! Ha!

The other thing that is happening this week is that we are moving into our new furnished rental house. We’re soooo excited to get settled someplace for awhile. We were able to go over to the house last week to meet with the current tenants who have lived there for the last year. They are moving back to the states and selling off much of their things so we bought a few things from them and were able to find out some of the nitty gritty’s of the house. I was glad to hear that the landlord recently installed a new security system and we had only seen the house very briefly one time so I we couldn’t remember much about the yard and I didn’t know if there was a washer/dryer, (there is!!! Yea!) The property is beautiful, there are so many banana trees and coffee plants we will never have to buy Bananas while we’re living there. I’ll post pictures after we get all settled in. We did have to go buy a few things from the mall in David. The “furnished” house doesn’t include linens so we went and bought some queen size sheets and a bedspread. I bought a couple sets of towel from the former tenants, we have brand new ones in our container so I didn’t want to buy new ones. I think we are going to be really comfy there. That’s about it for this week.

Mr. Talkative, who is that man?

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20130825-130457.jpgThis is a post that only those who know Scott well, will find as much humor in as I do. All who know him are well aware that he is a man of few words. Scott has never been accused of being a “chatty” guy. Nooooo on the contrary, Scott is rather quiet. Am I right? I can hear all the collective nods of agreement. Yes, Scott is not shy or even especially reserved, no , he is simply just more of an observer and will easily contribute to a conversation but is not one to waste a lot of time chatting. It’s not his way…..Until now!

I don’t know this man who has begun to chat with anyone who will listen!! HUH? The other day after class as I was returning to the area where Scott and I usually meet up and as I was walking towards him I saw him just chatting away with a fellow student, deeply involved in a conversation , in spanish mind you! I had to smile. This is beginning to be a common occurrence, this new “chatty” behavior that my quiet husband has recently begun to engage in of late. I know, it’s hard to imagine, but I kid you not…..I’m finding more and more that I have been much more the one lately who is observing rather than participating in these “chat-sessions”. I can hardly get a word in edgewise! But not for want of something to say, noooo I always have something to say! But he is so intent to learn Spanish that he , probably for the first time in his life, has a really good reason to chat!! It’s so funny, and soooo great! He really tries hard to practice speaking every chance he gets. And He’s doing a great job. But I have to tease him because when he’s talking he’s concentrating so hard on recalling what he has so recently learned that he’s using his hands (as though he were an Italian) to describe much of what he’s saying. As he talks he is sort of looking off to the side and searching through his mind for the correct verb or conjugation or what have you, to express correctly , what he wants to say. The Animated conversations that I’m witnessing are inspiring! 🙂

For those of you who have ever learned a language , you know first-hand, the only way to actually learn it and retain what you learn is to use it. Scott is doing just that and he’s really determined. In classic Scott style, he will master Spanish in no time because when he’s determined to learn something it is a sure thing that he will learn it and learn it well. That’s just the way he rolls! This adventure is surely providing many new learning experiences for both of us. And I am also very determined to learn the language , but my process will be much slower and don’t’ you worry, I’m finding my own ways of practicing to speak. I’ve made some new Panamanian girlfriends who I’m getting together with every Monday for a few hours to chat with! They want to practice English and I get to Practice Spanish too, it’s just great! But I just thought you would all enjoy hearing about this new guy who I just can’t shut up!! 🙂 Who ever thought Scott would morph into Mr. Chatty??? Well, he has!! And I just love it!!

And here’s the story of our first border crossing….

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This is a story that, not unlike life itself, differs for each person . If you, like us, are living in Panama on a tourist visa, then this is an experience that is not new to you( and if you want to be legal to drive you must endure it every 90 days). Some , like us, are relatively new here and others are old hats at this border run routine. But, its seems, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been living here , you just can’t predict how it will go for you when it’s time to renew that precious little stamp in your passport. Sure, we can all read certain forums and blogs and hear first hand experiences from others who are telling us all what happened for them, but it just doesn’t seem to matter, the only thing that is certain is it won’t be the same for you. It’s the luck of the draw. One thing is certain, if you don’t embrace a “Tranquillo” state of mind, you will be grumpy and maybe angry and definitely frustrated beyond belief, I should know, I’m embarrassed to admit, I lost my grip on my Tranquillo state of mind for much of my time in the mystery land that is the “Frontera”! If not for the incredibly calm, relaxed countenance of my hubby, I would have had a crying, screaming meltdown on a couple of occasions during our border run experience. I actually did have my own silent meltdowns but worked hard to keep them to myself and maintain as calm of an exterior as I possibly could. Scott would probably report to you if he were writing (thank god he’s not!) that my face told it all!! Maybe it was the tears just begging to burst forth or the frequent scowl on my face, (maybe the steam coming out of my ears?) , he could see that a meltdown seemed inevitable. I tried so hard to remain calm, and for the most part I did an ok job faking it, but sadly I can’t claim to have maintained a constant stream of calm like my sidekick! So here’s what happened for us, but remember, it doesn’t really matter because it likely wont be the same for you….

Our plan and hope(dream, really) was to get to Paso Canoas at about 12:30-1:00, Park our car someplace safe, walk to the immigration window where you get your passport stamped “out” of Panama, walk to the Costa Rica side, stamp “in” to Costa Rica, wait a few minutes or go grab a bite to eat then stamp “out” of Costa Rica , walk back to the Panama side, and get stamped back “in” to Panama and then, la de dah, back we go to Boquete. Sound like a great plan right? ya, nope…. we didn’t actually expect this dream to be a reality, but it sounded good, huh! We actually had a bag packed just in case the we had to go find a beach in Costa Rica to hang out for two or three days. If we had been prepared to have a little mini vacation it would have been ideal, but we don’t have anyone who can cat sit for us yet and we have made a commitment at our school and just didn’t feel good about bailing on them. The timing just wasn’t right for us to be gone .We’ve all been reading many conflicting accounts of people being told the requirement was two or three days spent out of Panama before being stamped back “in”. There’ve also been accounts of some people seemingly doing exactly what we had dreamed we would do, even today, the same day we were there!! But , it would not be so for this brave, although not so “tranquillo”(one of us) Duo !

Here’s what happened for us. After finding a place we felt was reasonably “safe-ish” to park our car and possibly leave it unattended for a few days, we made our way to where we thought we needed to go. As we walked up to the immigration area and were looking for the right place to go, a very helpful( for a price :)) Panamanian guy pointed us in the right direction. This “Panamanian guy’s” name was Hamilton (as he said, like the guy on the ten dollar bill) and he guided us through the day, this private guide was well worth the $20. We stood in line, got up to the window and got the “exit” stamp on our passports, then Hamilton very kindly directed us to the other side of the Frontera where we needed to go stamp “in” to Costa Rica. Done, we were half way there, then we took our time , went to get a drink and sit down for a bit before going back to get stamped “out” of Costa Rica, then wait a bit more to go to Panama immigration to get stamped back in . This was our first rejection, nope you must be out of Panama for 24 hours. Ok….We decided to wait for a shift change and give it one more try….No go! Again, you must be out of Panama for 24 hours! GRRRRRR! They were consistent on the 24 hour rule! By this time(it was about 3:30) I was tired, frustrated and sweating like crazy, I needed to be done for the day with this particular adventure. Ok so we noticed there was a tourism office there and we went to see if they could direct us to a hotel nearby where we could stay for the night. There was a place not far, we could easily walk to and it was clean and cost $50.00 for one night and they had a secure place to park our car for the night.

After a good nights sleep we got up this morning (Saturday) and were the first in line at the Panama immigration window when they opened at 7:00a.m. Sadly, we were again rejected (here is where my ‘tranquillo” began to crumble this was rejection #3). The problem was that we had checked out of Costa Rica the day before and we needed to go back to the CR immigration and get a new date on our passports…..UGGGGG! Back at the CR Window there was much discussion behind the glass and I think I heard the word Malo( BAD),( here is when the tears began to form), “we need a copy of these passports” huh? Ok, deep breath, walk across the street to the little place that does copies, no problema! Back again, then they canceled the exit stamp from the day before and re-stamped an exit stamp with todays date! Whew, not so bad! We then walked back to Panama and now there was a looooong line of people from a tour bus! Ok, we waited and then BOOM!! Stamped back IN TO PANAMA! YES! We were on the road headed back to Boquete at 8:30am!!! Whew!!!

Three rejections and a long, hot, frustrating day but Scott still managed to say,”that wasn’t so bad!” Well, Ok…. I just love his positive outlook on our experience . But He’s not wrong, it really was only frustrating because we were so inexperienced with the procedure and with the area. All the immigration agents were actually quite friendly and almost seemed sorry to send us away . They were consistent as well, which is surprising given all the conflicting stories we see on the forums. But the story remained the same with each agent all four times we marched up to the window,”you must stay out of Panama for 24 hours”. They did want to see some form of proof that we had money, we had the $500 each on us just in case, but we also brought the receipt from the withdrawal that had the balance of our account on it. Whipping out a thousand dollars there with all those people around us just didn’t seem like a good plan, so we were glad the bank receipt was adequate. They also wanted to see our airline tickets showing how we would be going back to our country of origin, which we had as well. So, now we’re hoping our residency visa get done before the next 90 days so that we don’t have to do that again. But if we do have to go through it again, I’m sure my “Tranquillo” will be ready to stay in place and my scowl will stay at home. Next time we’ll at least be familiar with what to do, I’m sure it will be totally different next time but not so unfamiliar. And hey, now we have a “buddy”, Hamilton there at the Frontera, I’m sure he’ll be glad to see us next time! 🙂

So Many Different Stories…What will our story be?

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Boy oh Boy! Tomorrow we’ve been planning to do our Costa Rica border run to renew our tourist visa, and I gotta tell ya there are so many different stories going around about many different experiences! These are first hand stories from people who have just today and yesterday, gone through the border to renew their tourist visa. On friend kept us posted via FaceBook today and I was so sad to hear that it didn’t go smoothly for her. There are two different borders to choose from . One is called Paso Canoas and it is the bigger of the two, located just about 1 1/2 hours from us on the main road that goes through David. Paso Canoas has multiple gates to choose from and is a much busier place, so Ive heard, I have obviously never been there so I’m just repeating what I’ve heard. The other border is about 2 hours from here in Vocan and it’s called Rio Sereno. This crossing is a much smaller, quieter area. Not as many big tourist busses go this way and there is only one gate ( I think). We had planned to go to the quieter one but are now reconsidering. Like I said , our friend went there today and turned around to come back home because they were enforcing the 48 hour out of Panama thing and they weren’t prepared to be gone for the whole weekend (I wont say “Law” because it is unclear if this is just a recent whimsy of the officers or an actual law) . Yet another person says that he went through Paso Canoas yesterday and it only took him one hour! Sheesh! Our biggest concern isn’t the possibility of a weekend in Costa Rica, it’s what do we do about our car? Shoot, a weekend adventure is right up our alley, that’s no problem at all, pack a backpack with our swimsuits and our toothbrushes and we’re good to go! But our car sitting for two or three days is a bit disconcerting to us. We’ve decided to go ahead and go to the busier crossing because we think that if we stamp out of Panama and then into Costa Rica and just go have lunch somewhere and then attempt to stamp back in at a different gate with hordes of other tourists, they may not remember us and it could possibly be smooth sailing. So the latest decision , after a bit of wine….screw it…let’s just drive, park the car in as good a place as we can and walk on through. We know we could take the bus early from Boquete, but we are just not willing to miss school. I know, crazy, but if we were going to miss class we would have needed to notify them today and we didn’t. We’re probably a little crazy to leave the car but , what the hell! There is a slim possibility that this could be no big deal. Stay tuned!!

Our first border run is this weekend…

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It’s about time for us to do our first border run. We arrived here on May 28 and as I’ve written before, everyone who arrives in Panama automatically gets a 180 days tourist visa stamped on their passport. This would normally be more than enough time for most actual “tourists” to be in Panama. But if you decide to stay and make this place your home then there’s a bit of a complication If you decide not only to stay, but to buy a car and enjoy the privilege of driving that car. You see, the brilliant folks who make the rules here decided to allow a foreign drivers license to be legal for only 90 days of those 180 days. So, even though our actual “tourist” visa is still valid, our drivers licenses are about to expire. As soon as our paperwork is in process for our permanent residency visa we will no longer have this issue. But for now, we are off to the border of Costa Rica to stamp out of Panama and hopefully, turn around and stamp right back in. It should be that easy but…

Unfortunately, there is a very recent rumor going around the local forums about a change, not in the law exactly, but in the immigration officers and what they are lately requiring for foreigners to re-enter Panama. We’ve taken notes from many different people who live here and have had lots of first hand experience. It seems that the same thread that we hear is that the requirements all depend upon how the particular guy at the particular gate at that particular moment feels and what he/she decides to require on the day you are passing through. The requirements seem to vary. But basically we should need a valid Passport with at least six months remaining on it, all the proper documents filled out (the ones we get there) they want to see either a bank statement showing you have at least $500.00 (or cash of that amount on your person, we aren’t clear if we each need to have this amount or only one of us?), some sort of proof of how we will be returning to our country of origin, since we are supposed to be on a “tourist” visa. (a bus ticket or proof of an airline ticket out of the country) . The latest rumor we are hearing about is that they are requiring that when you leave Panama you must stay two or three nights in Costa Rica before being allowed back into Panama! HUH? This is a very new rumor, this week and we are watching the comments on the forums closely, no one has actually “confirmed” this to be true. As a matter of fact there is a U.S. attorney who lives in Bocas and hosts her own forum dedicated to laws for expats in Panama, she just posted a comment today about this and says she has not found any such new laws requiring tourists to stay out of the country for a period before being let back in.

Our plan is to go this Friday, after school to the Rio Serrano boarder outside of Vocan, which is not the main border. The one that most people seem to go to is called Paso Canoas , just outside of David. The one we’re planning to try is about thirty minutes further than the one in David but we hear it is much less crowded with busses and much faster. We think It will be about a two hour drive. We figured we would go on Friday then if indeed we end up being forced to stay in Costa Rica for a couple of nights we wont miss any School on Monday. So we will pack a change of clothes and our swim suits and make the most of whatever happens! We will arm ourselves with all the possible requirements, copies of our passports (as well as our actual passports), our registration for our cars (another document we have been told they might accept instead of an airline ticket) We will take along $500.00 (taking $500.00 each just doesn’t feel too safe!) and we may just take the advice of a friend and just book a flight online and bring a copy of the itinerary and confirmation number and cancel the flight after we get back home. Many times you can just reserve a flight that you then never confirm and the airline will not hold it for you.

It should be an interesting experience and we cant say that we will know what to expect next time because you just never know what new requirements they made come up with! But if all goes well with our application for permanent residency, this should be our first and last time that we need to do this. Who knows, its an Adventure, that’s for sure!

A Saturday Hike…The Pipeline Trail

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This weekend we decided to take a hike on the Pipeline trail. Scott had gone on this hike with a group earlier in the week while I was in class. We just love being out in nature and this trail was so beautiful. We spent about three hours hiking and enjoyed every minute of it. After we got up to the waterfall we enjoyed a nice picnic but wondered why we didn’t bring a bottle of wine to enjoy!! What were we thinking? Oh well, it was such a nice spot to just sit and chill and we soaked up all the natural beauty around us. I took lots of photos of interesting leaves and a few wildflowers to share with you. Next time we will have to take the good camera and see if we can get some better pictures than I can get with my iPhone. We passed a couple who had hired a guide to take them on this hike and they said that they had spotted a sloth and a small viper but we didn’t see much more than lot’s of birds. Those guides probably know exactly where to look for all the critters but we were just too busy soaking up all the flora and Fauna to spot any wildlife, maybe next time. There are so many trails to explore and we are really looking forward to seeing many more magical places as time goes by. We are still pinching ourselves and saying, “we live here!” What a wonderful Adventure we are on….

Cooking, Panama Style…

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Okay, those who know us from California are well aware of Scott’s talent in the kitchen. Now that he’s officially retired and doesn’t have any houses to work on or woodworking to do (closets to build or cabinets to make!), he has much more time to experiment and learn to cook new things as well as how to cook some things a bit differently. Now, we may not have the big fancy kitchen anymore. No professional Viking stove or top quality cookware to make life easy for him. We have about two inches of counter space and an oven with no temperature settings, only 1,2 or3! Scary! Who knows what temperature it actually is,( we realize an oven thermometer would solve this mystery but we just haven’t gotten to that quite yet) . In our past life we had a few dishes that he would rotate through during our work-week ,which were easy to do and didn’t require a whole lot of work. Some of our standards were, Chicken or beef fajitas, lasagna, shrimp pasta, beef stroganoff, veggie pita pizzas, fish tacos, burgers with baked fries, and the occasional steak and baked potato (just to name a few). Most nights we tried to eat at home and Scott would occasionally branch out and experiment with something new but mostly we were just too brain dead and tired to spend a whole lot of time trying out new dishes . Read the rest of this entry

Dos experiencias más divertidas…

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It’s a possibility that not everyone has the same sense of humor as I do , so if stories about dead chickens and children urinating offends your sensibilities you may want to skip this post. Occasionally, when walking around town or strolling to work (HAH! did I just say WORK?, I meant SCHOOL!) in the morning, I witness little “everyday occurrences” that often strike me as funny. Nothing earth shattering, just funny (to me) little things that I think to myself,” now, that’s something I never saw while walking into town in Los Altos!” Then I chuckle to myself and must turn around and share these silly sightings with you. Because that’s just the kind of generous gal I am. Ja!Ja!Ja!

So, the most recent sight happened this morning on my stroll into town. As I was just peacefully strolling along, listening to my podcast on my iPhone I was , as usual, soaking up all the many beautiful sights that continue to delight my eyes. When I suddenly noticed that a pack of dogs ( actually 3 dogs, but that constitutes a pack, right?) in the distance running towards me at full speed. They were really in a hurry which is different because most of the dogs around here just very peacefully wonder around not really looking as though they have a care in the world. But these three, they were bookin’ right towards me! As they got closer to me I began to notice that the big dog who was seemingly being chased by the others had something really big in his mouth. It quickly became apparent to me that that “really big thing” in his mouth was, yes you guessed it, A CHICKEN! A whole, I think dead, chicken!! Feathers flying as he ran like the wind to enjoy his morning treat. I couldn’t help but smile at the sight because It just isn’t especially common for this Gringa to see a dog gleefully racing down the street, with feathers flying and little chicken legs hanging out either side of his happy little doggy face. Maybe I have a warped sense of humor, but you had to see it, seriously, it was kinda funny. But the next part that was also humorous was when I was attempting to describe this sight to my Spanish teacher. She was laughing hysterically ,not because “she” thought it was funny but because “I” thought it was funny! She said, “This is not common for you to see such a thing in Estados Unidos?” “Noooooo!” I said. My telling of this story to Araliz started a long discussion between the two of us,(In Spanish, of course, and I’m pleased to tell you that I’m beginning to understand about 75% of what she says, she speaks no English!) about the cultural differences between here and the U.S. It was very fun to laugh with her, She must think I’m crazy! Oh well, it wouldn’t be a first for me.

The second story is not mine but Scott’s , he just told me this today . One day when He was walking to work( did I say WORK again!!!! you know what I mean, School!, man, I gotta stop that!) he noticed a man outside his house washing his taxi. The man was inside the car cleaning the dash and listening to music while he was intently cleaning away. The car was immaculately cared for and Scott said he could tell the man took great pride in his taxi. Here’s the funny part…. As Scott was walking by he noticed a young kid, maybe four or five years old , (he assumed it must be the taxi owners son) Peeing on the tire!! OMG!! Too funny, right? I suspect he learned that either from his dad or the family dog! At any rate, just another funny little sight that, in our past life, was not a common thing to see while walking down Orange Ave.

Ahhhh, the joys of living as a fresh new expat in a country that is not your own. Experiencing sights and sounds that are unfamiliar, sometimes strange, but never boring. This first year for us is surly going to be full of many such stories and in time these things that seem so foreign to me will begin to be just ordinary everyday occurrences . But I assure you I’ll never stop appreciating the humor in all the differences and being grateful for having the opportunity to learn about a different way of life. Who say’s there’s only one “right” way to live life? Sometimes a kids just gotta pee and the tire just happens to be conveniently located and If Colonel Sanders isn’t around to serve up a little chicken to a hungry pooch then A dog’s gotta do what a dog’s gotta do…. right? Ja!Ja!Ja! Everyday’s and Adventure!

Smiling…

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20130814-115837.jpgToday as I walked out of my Spanish lesson I was smiling. I had a great lesson with Araliz. Some day’s I walk out not smiling but instead looking rather stoic. Not sad, not mad, but feeling kinda dumb. And on those not so good days, when I just don’t have a smile after my lesson I remember that tomorrow may be better. The thing I thought about today, as I walked to my car, was that I felt grateful for those un-smiling-feeling-kinda-dumb days. I wont call them “bad” because without them I would not have the very clear perspective when I have a smiling-feeling-kinda-smart day! On those days when I walk away feeling dumb and a little defeated I try to remember that tomorrow I just might be smart again!!! (laughing!) Ahhh, it’s a challenging process and aren’t I the lucky one to have chosen to embrace the opportunity to very consciously and deliberately dive in “head-first” into all these new experiences. I know from lot’s of past experiences that the most difficult and challenging life experience have always been the best opportunities for growth, spiritually,mentally,intellectually,as well as physically . I’ve read a quote that I just love..

“Our biggest regrets are not for the things we have done but for the things we haven’t done”
― Chad Michael Murray

Yes, I see the wisdom in that quote and I feel that way myself. Just because an experience is a challenge, I don’t think to myself that I should not have done something but that I’m doing something which , although difficult, is worthy of the hard work it takes to persevere and learn and grow from the hard work. I am where I should be in my life and even with all the difficulties and challenges I face in my new and often disorienting new life I have no regrets only joy in being in this very spot at this very moment….

Is it just me?

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I’m going to try my best to articulate an experience I’ve been having since I’ve been living here in Panama. I am going to assume that this is all a part of adjusting and I wonder if this feeling is one that other expats have also experienced , or am I the only nutty one,(which I’m happy to embrace, I got no problem with being “NUTTY”) I’m not one to complain and I hope this post doesn’t come across as whining, but… Since I arrived in my new home just about three months ago, I’ve been experiencing, at times, a rather odd sense of total disorientation. I hope I can accurately describe what I mean by that. I seem to have lost any and all sense of direction when I’m in a store or just generally walking around town . It’s not just that I don’t know where I am, that’s nothing strange , I just moved to a new town in an entirely new country , I expect to feel this type of “lost”. But what I’m talking about is hard for me to put into words, possibly , “spacial awareness”? Is that what it is? I don’t know. All I know is for example, when we are in Romero’s shopping for groceries I am constantly in peoples way, I never seem to realize when someone is trying to get past me or which way I should push my cart to avoid an oncoming shopper. I feel such a strange , unfamiliar sense of confusion when I’m out in public, which for me is just crazy. I’ve never felt such a sense of feeling as though I need to be very careful with each and every step I make as I am walking around. Maybe it has to do with my inability to culturally pick up on social cues? I usually think of myself as a very intuitive person, I like to be courteous and thoughtful and I admit to almost feeling a sense of pride in myself for being able to intuitively pick up on the needs of those around me. I seem to have lost that ability and this, in part makes me feel rather lost in public. In addition to feeling so inept and a bit confused, I cant’ even express to the people around me how sorry I am. “No, really, this isn’t how I am!,” “I’m not usually so stupid!” “I didn’t mean to roll my cart over your foot! I’m soooo sorry!” GEESH! And they all seem so kind and mostly patient with this strange gringo who can hardly push a shopping cart through the store. I wonder what I must look like to them?

Scott thinks I’m just overwhelmed. There’s just too much to process so I’m just a little bit out of it. Every single thing about this new place has me feeling as though I’m upside down most of the time when I’m in town. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the people, how they behave, How I’m supposed to behave to be polite, Just about every aspect of life for me is entirely unknown and new. I was surprised today , when Scott and I were in Romero’s and unbeknownst to me, a man was coming up behind me, Scott said, very calmly,”look out!”, I just kinda froze, with a terrified look on my face, I didn’t know which way to move and felt so nervous. My response was inappropriate, He didn’t say it in an urgent manner or in a mean way at all, my reaction was just kinda strange. I’m so unaccustomed to this feeling of constant and long-term disorientation everywhere I go. Today was the first time I actually talked about it with Scott and I felt somewhat relieved to hear him say that he has noticed my apparent disorientation. I’ve been thinking it for some time but have been thinking that it would soon pass, as I’m sure it will.

In a much earlier post, before we moved, I promised to write about not only the good things about becoming an Expat, but to also share the challenges. Well, I seem to have come up with one (although this one may be just “me”) . I’m sooooo damn confused and disoriented by everything around me. Given the fact that I’ve never, in my 47 years, moved out of California I’m out of my element in more ways than one. Yes, I moved from Morgan Hill to Mountain View, Los Altos area in my twenties, but now, having moved to an entirely different country it’s proving to be an overwhelming experience for me. Almost nothing is recognizable. Even the simple fact that I’m not a familiar person here, no one knows anything about who I am. So that sense of knowing that comes from seeing familiar faces and familiar places and knowing that people around me know the type of person I am is not a “given” here. Lucky for me, Scott seems unaffected by this dilemma. As usual , the guy just glides through such an enormous life transition without seeming to be one bit disoriented. He constantly amazes me with his ability to overcome new experiences and to adapt so , seemingly easily, to all this newness that surrounds us. I honestly think he is in his element.

I’m really learning a lot about myself and about my perception of myself. I like to think of myself as a pretty easy going, relaxed kinda gal, going through life with my rose colored glasses at times, to make everything just a little prettier, a natural optimist, is how I like to see myself. But my “rose colored” glasses are only confusing me at the moment, nothing looks familiar even with the “rose color”! So the realist in me is poking it’s head out, (not a common occurrence for me). I realize I will adapt and this life will become more familiar and I will eventually learn how things work here. Surly I’ll soon find myself feeling as though this is where I belong. Soon? I look forward to coming to the realization , one day, that I no longer feel so disoriented. Because I know this must be , for me, just part of my adjusting period. I’m certain each person, no matter where they move, has a period of time when they must familiarize themselves to the new world around them. It’s exciting and I am not fretting too much. I love so many things about this choice to move and to embrace a new life which will naturally include many new and different experiences . I knew that there would be challenges and maybe I would face certain aspects of this new beginning that would be hard, but this isn’t too bad. I’m not one to wallow in negativity or let a difficulty cause me to feel defeated, noooo, not this girl! I plan to adapt and to grow and to change because anything less is just not acceptable,not to mention no fun at all! I may be a tiny bit disoriented and at times kinda confused and always a tad nutty, but I’m soooo happy to be living my adventure my way I’m fine with my temporary confusion, it’ll pass. Everyday is an Adventure and with each new day it begins again…

Plan B for the day…Las Lajas (Beach)

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As I mentioned earlier today, we decided to take a drive to the beach , not the same one we checked out in David a week or so ago. This beach is about 1 1/2-2 hours away , East of David. We first stopped in at the Do it store ( Like Home Depot) and picked up a couple of beach towels . Then we headed on down the road for a little Sunday drive. We’ve been doing this type of thing on the weekends. It’s fun to get the lay of the land , so to speak. And since we have been told by many that Las Lajas is the nicest beach around here we wanted to check it out for ourselves. We were not disappointed, it was a very pretty beach. We were a little surprised at how far out the tide was it was a pretty good walk to actually get to the water. Then Wow! the water is soooo warm, it’s like bath water! I didn’t remember it being quite so warm but boy, it’s so warm that it doesn’t even feel especially refreshing. And the waves were small , even though we didn’t actually swim, it didn’t look like there was much undertow at all. It looked like a great beach for swimming and that’s just what many people ware doing. There were many families all gathered together enjoying the beach and swimming with their little ones. We walked down towards the little resort we had seen before parking out car. Las Lajas beach resort. They had exactly what we were looking for, a place to enjoy lunch and a drink (or two) while enjoying the view of the palm trees and the sound of the ocean. It was such a beautiful day, not too hot, a nice little breeze, ahhh “This is the life!”. After a nice relaxing meal and some good Pina colada’s we were ready to stroll on the sand some more and leisurely make our way back to the truck to get back home. As we began to walk down the beach guess what happened? It started to sprinkle!! What timing! Just light sprinkles, nothing to rush us or anything so we managed to enjoy our stroll and reached the truck just as a real downpour began in earnest. Here in Panama you just never really know when a huge storm may blow in and suddenly it seems like a hurricane, I find it quite exciting but not when we have a two hour drive.

Our drive home felt pretty treacherous to me but of course when I look over at Scott he’s just as happy as can be. Yes, there are BIG puddles for him to drive through and he’s just pleased as punch to hit every single puddle he can hit. Of course he was very careful driving down the Pan American Highway in that rain (don’t worry Pat ) but I was a bit of a nervous nelly and he finds humor in this. HUMPH! Seriously, you can hardly see out the windshield in front of you!! It’s really dangerous. But of course as you can see, we made it back to Boquete without any problems whatsoever. Whew! And as we drove up the hill and got into Boquete it didn’t even look as if they got any of the storm up here. David, was practically flooded and then up here it’s a bit foggy but not rainy at all. I’m constantly amazed at all the little Micro-climates we see up and around all these places. Even up here , I love it. That was our Sunday, not too exciting but now we know how to get to the beach if we suddenly get the urge to swim in the ocean and drink a Pina Colada, this is important stuff you guys!! A girls gotta know where she can get her Pina Colada on, I got the Margarita spot narrowed down, Big Daddy’s is a no brainer, and now my Pina Colada spot is locked in! The important things are certainly beginning to get established for us, I’m sure your all glad to know this. Next up….. Finding a decent pedicure! I may have this one figured out as well, with the help of mi Amiga, Andrea. But this is a whole subject for later! Cheers! Stay tuned…

This is kinda funny…

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We were thinking about catching a movie today down in David. Given the fact that we had a couple of things we wanted to go shopping for we figured, what the heck, we haven’t seen a movie in a long time. So we got online to check out what movies the Chiriqui Mall offers today. They have six movies playing , we picked one, “Now you see me” and then looked at the times. Here’s the funny thing…they show all six movies all starting at the same time! Can you imagine how crowded it will be with people standing in line to buy tickets for six movies all at the same time!! And then, being a fan of movie theatre popcorn, the lines for goodies would be out of control!! You would think they could stagger the movie times just a bit to avoid such a cluster !@#$ Well folks , welcome to Panama, the land of the “just not quite right”. LOL! We gotta chuckle as we work on plan B for our Sunday. We’re thinkin’ maybe Los Lajas? Yep, a little drive and maybe a little beach time doesn’t sound half bad, standing in a crowded line to sit in a crowded theatre, no, not today. Maybe we will wait for that movie to hit Netflix. Just thought I’d share, a little something we found humor in.

I have a confession to make…

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Ok, I hope your sitting down ,because what I’m about to divulge about myself may shock and appall those sensitive souls who thought they knew me…..Ok, here it goes….I Hate to clean the kitchen immediately after eating dinner!! There! I’ve said it, now you know my dirty little secret!! Aside from the glorious year that my mother in Law lived with us,( a year of immediate post dinner kitchen cleanliness), I am naturally inclined to enjoy my dinner,( lovingly prepared for me by by adoring hubby), and then just toss all the dishes into the sink to sit until a much later time( I will admit…sometimes when I was working ten or twelve hour days, most of the week they waited, yikes!) . Yes, I have been known (only to myself, of course) to occasionally (Only occasionally mind you!) find mysterious things growing in the patiently waiting tableware sitting in the sink when I eventually get around to cleaning it. But come on, Really? Who enjoys getting up from a scrumptious meal ( son several glasses of red wine) and clean??? Not me! NOOOOOO I much prefer to procrastinate as long as possible, like until someone may come over and discover that I am a total slob! Or until we have run out of clean silverware or glasses. Then and only then would I clean it up. I know, shocking, huh?

You may be wondering why I’ve made this dirty little secret public? Well, because all that is behind me now. Yes, I do mourn those days of lounging about after dinner and putting off what I could do much much later. Why? you may ask, have I morphed into an “immediately cleaning the kitchen after dinner” gal? Well, it’s simple really….ANTS!!! Not your ordinary “city ants”, no! These ants come in HORDES!! And they somehow mysteriously know to come IMMEDIATELY!!!! Geesh!! And my hatred of all things “BUGS” overrides my love of lazing about right after dinner. I swear!!@#$? Those damn ants don’t even give me time to sit and finish my wine!!!( How RUDE!) And the worst thing is …..I have no dishwasher here!! man Oh man, am I screwed! And not even a garbage disposal either…..HUMPH! And Scott and I have an agreement that Is to me very fair, he cooks and I clean (this works for me). But when we lived in Los Altos and had a regular pest control company who faithfully kept our house bug free, I could just be as sloppy as I liked without being attacked by ten Bazillion little ants! Where do they come from??? I just don’t’ get it. One second they are not there and ( I do not exaggerate) the next second any teeny tiny morsel of any kind of food is totally COVERED in a multitude of ants!!! I’ve just never seen anything like it!!

Well, I felt as though I could share this little tid-bit with you because I am a transformed women. No longer am I guilty of being such a sloppy gal after dinner. I have those pesky ants to thank for providing me a reason for transforming into a grown up. Not only that, but did I mention I’m retired now?? yep…No more ten or twelve hour workdays, no more getting home totally drained and barely able to move. Nooooo I don’t suddenly love cleaning my kitchen…but I don’t mind nearly as much as before. Yes, I bet if it weren’t for those damn ants I would very likely still enjoy kicking back after dinner and ignoring all those dirty dishes in the sink for a few days or even all week, that’s honestly just me. I have never been , nor will I ever be much of a neat-freak. I love things to be clean but man, I just don’t’ love being the one to make it that way consistently. I used to be one to let it all pile up and then get to it later. Not now, no, now my tiny little kitchen sparkles immediately after dinner every single night. I know, you are just relieved beyond belief to know this… and your glad I told you to sit down before I broke the news to you, right? Shocking, I know. Mostly, I’m happy to report that our kitchen is ANT FREE!! THere will be no attacking my kitchen!!

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A good day of espaniol practicar…

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Some day´s I feel like crap about my progress in spanish aprendar, and then suddently I have a bueno dia and I feel mucho mejor. Hoy is a bueno mejor dia! If there’s one thing I’m learning, it is, that learning a new language is a process. A process that is vastly different for each and every person. It just so happens I’m one of those especially slow learners but most of my friends here tell me that they struggle just the same, that , of course, is a comforting bit of information for me. Because misery loves company, right? Well, okay, they would not all call it misery exactly but to me it is , many days, a misery indeed. I often wonder how my teacher can continue to show me such unending patience, but she never wavers as I repeatedly ask the same preguntas over and over and over again.

Today mi tarea was to walk around to many of the tiendas in town and ask them the same questions, “A que hora abren?” y “A que hora cierran?” y “Cierran al mediodia?” What time do you open , what time to you close, and do you close for lunch? Sounds easy , right? Yep! And I usually , in normal circumstances love talking to people more than almost anything! But , for some crazy, reason the first store I wandered in to by myself, (because I was alone, Scott was in his classes so it was solo yo) as I began to ask my questions I could feel myself fighting hard to hold back the tears from welling up in my eyes!! Geesh!! What has happened to me!! She who loves to meet new people and chat with anyone who will listen! It’s so amazing to me how such a seemingly simple question can cause me so much distress. But, the truth is, it did today. After my third attempt, and Almacen La Reina (the local clothing store on the Main Street) I began to feel less weepy and a bit more calm. The lady who I spoke with was soooooo kind and patient and soooo very happy to help me. I even managed to explain,” Yo necesito practicar hablo espaniol”!!! yep! Not perfect but she got the idea and I slowly began to feel a bit mejor!

After my tienda wandering episode I decided I would take a stroll down to the biblioteca. I had not visited the library and today was a great day to do it. It’s such a pretty place , quiet and organized and not crowded, although this is a place I would not mind seeing crowded . I just love to read and it’s great to have a nice quiet place to relax with a book. I quickly located the children’s section and located Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs. It was both Spanish & English and I found a comfy chair and settled in with my book. After successfully making it through the book in spanish I walked over to the little refreshment area and managed to ask, in espaniol if ,”Puedo comprar Agua por favor?” She, of course understood me and I bought a bottle of water. Ahhh, sweet success!! And no tears! Progress people!!

After spending a couple of hours studying at the library It was time to take a nice walk ,( a little over a mile!) to my friend Valarie’s house. We had gotten together on Sunday for lunch and I mentioned that I really needed to get more practice speaking spanish!! It turns out that she’s been tutoring her Panamanian neighbors in English and she invited me over because it’s a very informal gathering and I would get to also speak and hear spanish. What a great time I had with she and her neighbor! And , I made a new friend too! I’m just thrilled to have been included in this gathering , and hope to continue spending time with these charming and friendly women. And ,in case you were wandering, no tears!! As my day progressed I really began to feel much better about mi practicar en espaniol!! I have a long way to go, and I’m pathetically slow, but I’m learning and making progress everyday! And what’s even better, I’m making new friends while I learn, my favorita cosa!! Yo estoy muy Feliz!!!! Hoy es a bueno dia!!

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Yes, I miss you all terribly,

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I recently had a good friend in California tell me ,( tongue in cheek ) ” I’m tired of hearing about how much fun your having, and all the new friends your making, I want to hear about how lonely you are, and how much you miss US!” Awww….sigh.. Well, I have been very outspoken about all my new and exciting experiences and about all the new friends I’m making and interesting people I meet all the time here. I’m experiencing so many new sights, sounds and flavors with each new day. Although I’m very excited to share all that with all of you back home, I never really thought about the fact that some may like to know that I’m missing them. And that I think about them and sometimes I wish I were there with you, like you wish I were there with you. Soooo without getting too mushy and sounding like a total sap, here is where I tell everyone back in California who I left …. I miss you. I do, really miss everyone, terribly.

I know all the people who care about me most only wish me happiness in whatever form and whatever location calls to me. I have had nothing but well wishes from near and far and I’m well aware of how much all my peeps support me as I follow my path. So , here’s an interesting observation I have just kind of silently been thinking about and now I’m just putting it out there for all to see. If I had to pinpoint one aspect of this path that I have chosen that is the hardest for me, I think it would be the rebuilding of familiarity. I really thrive on familiarity and feeling as though I “belong”. Even though I’m meeting lot’s of really great people who I look forward to building friendships with, It will be a really long time before I have “old friends” here. I have no history with all these new people. Nobody knows me like you all do and sometimes thats kinda hard.

I spent some time this week catching up with a few friends in California and it was great to be able to use FaceTime to feel as though I were there with them. But It’s also a bit of a pull at my heart-strings when the call is over and the screen goes black. It’s been 68 days since I left California to make a new home in Panama. I’m still in the “Honeymoon” stage of this new and wondrous adventure. When I chat with Elisabeth we talk about each an every one of my friends who she now see’s as her clients. I ask her what she thinks of you (yes, I go through my list and ask her about every single person) and she is of course just head over heals overjoyed to be your new stylist and she feels so blessed to have inherited such an incredibly kind, genuine, friendly, and pleasant clientele.( I have pointed out the fact that we attract “like” people to our lives, so I must be pretty Damn awesome!) LOL! I know she’s looking forward to building the types of close relationships with all of you that I had the pleasure to have had and still hold onto from afar. I miss our regular interactions every 3 weeks or 4 weeks or 6 weeks and some every 8 weeks. Many for nearly 30 years!!!

I have to admit that after all those years of styling hair, I was beginning to feel pretty burnt out. (I know, it’s not something you want to know about the person cutting your hair!) I felt as though I had somehow “peaked” in my profession and had lost the passion I once had as a young stylist , just starting out. I was feeling as though I had lost my creative edge and had pretty much done all I could do . Don’t get me wrong, I loved my career until the very end but It was time for me to move on to my next chapter. The aspect of my career as a stylist that I never tired of and that I miss terribly( It was a huge part of “who” I am) was connecting with all the people every day. Talking and sharing and catching up on what went on in one another’s lives since the last time you sat in my chair. This part of what I did for 30 years was the part that was rewarding beyond words and the part I never got tired of. And that is the part of my life in Los ALtos that I miss terribly. Some days my heart aches when I think of all the people that I miss. So, yes, I am making lot’s of new friends and meeting so many interesting and wonderful new people here in Boquete, but alas, it doesn’t stop the ache of missing all those who know me so well.

It’s hard to stay in touch and the sad reality is that although many will make the effort , there will be some who will , naturally , just kind of fade away. Sad, but true. I hope my blog helps to keep me, at least somehow, connected to all my friends. And FaceTime and Skype are a magnificent means of communicating from afar(Hint Hint, to those of you who have neglected to venture into Skyping or Facetiming!) . So, for those of you who are wondering if I’m missing all my friends there in California, YES, I miss you terribly. Sigh! But, you all know that I’ve never been one to focus on the negative, I much prefer to continue telling you all about all the great, wonderful, new people and experiences I’m having here in my new home. Besides, It’s way more fun to read about and this is , after all, a blog about an Adventure, right?! So, now that we have established that we all miss each other, let’s get this Adventure goin’ again shall we?!!

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A little of this and that…

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Today(Thursday) we had a couple of noteworthy “firsts” that I found amusing. Early this morning on our drive to school we saw a sight that gave us a little chuckle…A man walking down the sidewalk with his big cow on a leash. Now, this cow on a leash had a pretty good sized pair of horns and even though we are in a small town this is not a sight that has so far been especially common here on our short drive to School. Not to say that there are not farmers and cows here and there, yes, we are sort of in the country but to our knowledge there is no “leash law” for cows. Now, had we been in Los Altos and we had spotted a man walking his cow on a leash down the sidewalk, we would have also assumed that he had also brought his poop-bag along like all responsible pet owners aught to do. Yes, this sight was indeed a first for us here in Panama. A normal sighting of a cow just doesn’t typically occur in combination with a sidewalk and a leash. It was just so ‘civilized’ in a rather ‘uncivilized’ kind of way. I’m certain the cow would agree. If his cow buddies had witnessed his morning stroll he would surly have been mortified. We had to laugh!

The second first today was one that made my heart nearly jump out of my throat…We took a drive down to David to run a few errands and decided to see if we could find the beach given the fact that we had not done that since living here. I’m pretty sure this particular first is one that we never experienced while driving around Los ALtos…Scott suddenly slammed on his breaks to avoid running over a GIGANTIC IGUANA that was running across the street! It was practically a small dinosaur! (Ok, a bit of a fabrication!) But I immediately started to laugh because , come on! When is the last time you almost ran over an huge iguana while driving?? I found humor in that first! And our first little visit to the beach in David was rather uneventful. It was a very pretty beach although totally deserted! The sand was black, which i didn’t expect. I talked to my spanish teacher this morning about it and she told me that the undertow is really dangerous at that beach. So there is another beach much further away that is suppose to be very nice, maybe one day we will have to check it out, but hopefully we wont have to dodge the dinosaurs on our way! LOL!

The last first of our day was the play we attended here in Boquete. I may or may not have told you about the BCP, (Boquete Community Players) . The local community theatre is so great. It’s a very nice little theatre and the play was well performed. It was a production of “Proof”. The cast was tiny, only four people. The story was very touching and the entire production was a pleasant surprise. We didn’t really know what to expect and ended up really enjoying the play. Scott and I aren’t usually big fans of Drama’s, usually much preferring a good comedy, but found ourselves drawn into the story and walked away feeling as though we had been thoroughly entertained. Yep, these folks up here in these mountains, they got culture!! We look forward to many more thoroughly entertaining evenings at the local community theatre.

There often seem to be firsts living here in Panama, some make me laugh and others make me smile in wonder but all of the firsts that I am experiencing here make me so grateful . I’m exceedingly grateful to be living my life my way and to know that each day I may experience something new . I’m learning and growing and having a great time and loving every minute of this Adventure!

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A Coffee Tour…A waterfall…and New Friends…Oh my!

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Once again my blog has enabled us to become acquainted with more great people. Dan and Janet arrived in Boquete a couple days ago. They had somehow found my blog while researching Panama as a destination for their retirement. They live in Canada and are planning to relocate in the Spring, likely to Panama. They are fed up with the cold in Alberta and ready to find a place where they can enjoy the outdoors year around. When Janet called me to let me know they were in town, I suggested we meet them at Big Daddy’s for dinner. When Scott and I were waiting for them I had no idea who we were waiting for because I neglected to ask them what they looked like. But I noticed a couple walking to the back patio and the husband was looking at his watch as though he were checking to see if they were on time, I knew this must be who we were meeting because ,who looks at their watch here in Boquete?LOL! We ended up really hitting it off with these two. We have much in common with them including the all important similarity, Dan is the guy in charge of cooking in their family! Scott and Dan both bemoaned the fact that leaving the kitchens that they love hurts their hearts just a little. ( ok, that’s my take on the conversation..Ja!Ja!Ja!) They both agreed that the ovens they are accustomed to cooking on are far superior to what they have so far experienced here. Yep, Stove-snob kindred spirits, for sure! (Jim Varsamis, are you feeling their pain?) Read the rest of this entry

A Do Nothing, Kind of Day…Well, maybe not “Nothing” …

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We are having a much needed do-nothing weekend. It seems as though our days come and go so fast and we often get that oh so familiar feeling of being on a “treadmill”. The
difference between our Panama treadmill and our California treadmill is that in California our treadmill was leading us nowhere but in circles, make more money pay taxes, pay bills, work more to buy more then pay more and on and on and on with no end in sight not really going anywhere. Here, although our days seem to often fly by we are actually doing things that are giving us so much more pleasure and benefiting our future in a profound way. We are investing our time into learning the local language as a way to open our lives up to the ability to develop relationships, and to really experience a new culture.

We’ve spent much time also establishing ourselves here with the basic necessities like purchasing vehicles, establishing car insurance and health insurance, finding a place to live and adapting to the available foods here in the markets. It’s taking time to adapt our lives to the very different ways that things are done here. This often requires very different expectations or oftentimes doing away with expectations altogether. Last week we jumped through the final hoop that was required in order for us to buy health insurance at the Hospital Chiriqui in David. We had already had our chest ex-ray, our EKG’s, and our blood tests done , all that was left was to have our interview with the doctor . This went fairly well, he simply went through a bunch of questions regarding our health history then he looked at our blood tests and we were shocked to hear that we both had very high Cholesterol. It was interesting to see how personally the doctor is involved in the care of his patients. In his office he actually had an examination table . So he sorts through all the paperwork “and” does the physical examinations in the same room. He has not got an army of nurses or administrators dealing with tons of paperwork. We never talked to a nurse, he actually took our blood pressure and took his time getting to know our histories. It was refreshing. It was very nice that he spoke English too.

Back to the Cholesterol issue that we discovered we currently have. After leaving our doctors appointment we began to take a look at our new lifestyle and trying to come up with a game plan to get ourselves on a more healthy routine. We realized that our issue likely began “before” we moved here. For many months, while we were preparing to sell the house, we began eating out at restaurants every single night! This has been going on for like six months! Prior to that we had a pretty good diet, we tried to eat at home more than eating out and Scott was doing a good job cooking healthy meals and we were very diligent about portion sizes and about trying to stay physically active. We figure our diet has changed drastically since January of this year. Even since arriving here in Boquete we have been just kickin’ up our heels and enjoying exploring all the local cuisine . We are also not nearly as physically active as we were before we moved. I was not only walking to work every day but I was on my feet all day at work. And Scott’s work was extremely physical, working on finishing all the construction on the house. Being in School and then spending so much time studying is making us very sedentary! We are gonna need to make some serious changes if we plan to have a long and happy Adventure!

The apartment we have been renting since arriving in Boquete has a kitchen that is just not really conducive to cooking . The stove is crappy, the pots and pans are….how do I put this nicely? Worse than “Crappy”! We will be moving into our furnished rental house September 1and it has a much better set up for enabling us to cook the way we are accustomed to cooking. One really important, basic thing that we need is a BBQ and an outdoor space for grilling. The new house has that, a lovely covered area and a BBQ for grilling like we are much more accustomed to doing for most of our meals. In our house in CA we actually had and indoor grill built into our stove so Scott grilled almost everything year around. Veggies, Chicken, fish, It was great for the ol’ diet. This apartment does not even have a patio at all, making it impossible to grill. Also, we started to join Jere in her hiking group on Saturdays. We will also get back to walking down to town at least on the mornings when it’s not raining ,which is about a 45 minute walk. If we begin feeling really energetic we may even attempt walking back “up” to our home! And it’s very “UP”! We got this!! We will be nipping that darn high cholesterol in the but asap! This life was supposed to be healthier!! But it still takes a bit of planning and Strategizing and then determination to stick to it.

In other news, we managed to arrange for our attorney in Panama City to retrieve our fingerprints from the Department of Justice and then to have them Apostiled before mailing them to us . We need to go to her bank tomorrow and deposit $500.00 into her account. She emailed us her account number so we will get that done right away. Then we need to send our precious fingerprints off to the FBI and cross our fingers that they are accepted. We actually had them do two sets of prints for each of us, just in case one set is not good, maybe the other set will be acceptable. (eye roll here) What a relief that we didn’t have to go back to PC to pick them up and then have them Apostiled ourselves. Whew! But if the FBI tells us that they don’t like our prints…. off we will go back to try it again! GRRRR! This is all so that we can satisfy the requirement of a background check for Panama so they will give us the permanent Jubliado (Pensionado) visa.

Another interesting adventure we are looking forward to having (well maybe not looking forward to?) is our upcoming “Border Run” into Costa Rica. This is necessary for those of us who are here in Panama under a “Tourist” visa. Everyone who arrives in Panama gets a “tourist” visa which allows you to be here for six months. The problem is that our drivers license from the U.S. is only valid here for ninety days!! Yikes! I know, it doesn’t make sense! And remember those silly random road blocks the polica like to do? Well, that’s when they like to earn a bit of extra cash from us Gringos! Or who knows what other issue we may have to deal with if we were to be found with an expired drivers license. Sooooooo for us, the end of August will be our “border run”. We have been asking other expats about their experience and getting many stories of it being no problem or sometimes little issues crop up issues like sometimes they want you to show them that you have at least $500.00 cash on your person, or proof of how you will be leaving the country,(a flight confirmation or bus ticket). It would be great if there were another experienced expat who needed to do this at the same time as us, then we would feel much more prepared. But I’m sure we will figure it all out and you will have something interesting to read. Stay tuned!

These are a few of the uneventful things we’ve been up to lately. I know, not too exciting but all a part of starting a new life in a new country. Today someone asked me if there have so far been any cultural things or problems that have really bothered me and I , so far, can´t think of anything that Ive faced that has been especially troubling to me. Maybe something will crop up that I will eventually feel bothered by, but honestly I never expected to move to a place that had no annoying differences . I can think of many things about living in the U.S. that were less than perfect so maybe the little annoyances that occasionally crop up are just too new to drive me too crazy yet. Plus Scott and I did such a good job thoroughly researching this move we feel pretty prepared to face this big transition to a very new and different way of living our life. If we had expected to move to Central America and have the same experience, how much of an Adventure would that have been?

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Hiking in Boquete…

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This morning , bright and early , we met Jere McCormick for our first hike with her group. She runs a local hiking group called Boquete Nature Hikes. I had found her web sight (http://www.boquetenaturehike.weebly.com/) before we even moved here . I remember sitting in the salon, dreaming of finally being in Boquete and coming upon her wonderful web sight. I immediately sent her an email introducing myself and telling her how I was looking forward to exploring the trails around Boquete with her and her group. I was thrilled when she got back to me and told me to contact her when I got moved. As soon as we were somewhat settled I looked in to contacting Jere but my timing was just a bit off, she was in the States on a vacation and would not be back for about a month. So we then dove headfirst into our Spanish school. When She finally returned from her journey we discovered that her hiking group does a Thursday morning hike and a Saturday morning hike. Given our school schedule, we couldn’t join her until this weekend. So like I said, we got ourselves to the meeting spot at 8:00 this morning and off we went. I was so happy to finally meet her.
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Our Spanish learning experience so far……

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Talk about “Immersion”….We decided to make our home in Boquete Panama

I wrote this post as a submission for a little contest at our school. They are giving away 30 free hours of Spanish lessons so I thought, what the heck! I love to write so I gave it a shot! Plus, I have been having such a great experience at the school so I was happy to have the opportunity to express that pleasure with other people who may be considering coming here to learn the language. Two of my blogging friends also submitted wonderful posts and It was fun to read them on the Habla ya blog. So I thought I would share my post with you…..
When my husband and I began our research on where we would expatriate ,( about 7 years ago), one of the many things we considered was language. We both agreed that wherever we decided to make our new home we would learn the native language. We feel very strongly about this for many reasons. One reason that learning the language in our new home is an absolute necessity, in our minds, is simply out of respect to the native people who we will be interacting with on a daily basis. The official language in Panama is Spanish, not English . So we see no reason why we would expect our new neighbors or all the other people we come into contact with on a daily basis to know how to speak English. Of course It’s a huge help at this stage of our very limited ability to communicate , when a taxi driver or cashier at the market just happens to possess a tiny bit more English knowledge than our pathetic Spanish. But We certainly never “expect” English to come out of their mouths. When we arrived here in Boquete eight weeks ago I had virtually no ability to communicate in Spanish and my husband arrived with a fair amount of “construction” spanish given his former vocation as a contractor. So if for any reason we needed a escalera (ladder) or a martillo(hammer), we were in good shape! Although, given the fact that we are both native Californians, and there is a large population of hispanic transplants there, our ears are fairly familiar with many basic words or common phrases. Of course my husband is fluent in most any sentence that has the word “Cerveza” in it. And I arrived ready to use the phrase, “Un coppa de Vino Tinto,Por Favor”. We felt pretty confident we would not suffer any withdrawals with our natural grasp on our “bar” vocabulary, Whew! Well that’s a relief! LOL!

In addition to learning Spanish in our chosen home here in Panama out of a general respect to our new country and it’s people, we believe having the ability to communicate will provide us with a much richer and deeply authentic experience. We hope to someday feel as though we have immersed ourself in this culture and in the community. Having the ability to express ourselves is essential in order to really connect with those around us. It is our desire to build relationships with not only other expats , but also with native Panamanians . As I said, we have only been living here in Boquete for eight weeks but in the eight weeks we have been here we have felt very welcomed by the locals. I am incredibly motivated to learn Spanish so that I can talk to these warm, kind people who I see everyday . I’m a “people” person and not being able to chat with people I come into contact with is a painful torture! I have so many things I want to say to people all the time, but I just don’t have the vocabulary quite yet! But don’t you worry, I’m working hard on learning and there’s no doubt in my mind that I will eventually be conversant!

Before our move we began researching Spanish schools on line and came across Habla Ya. We learned that they have two campuses, one in Boquete and another in Bocas del Toro. So we knew one of the first things we would do after arriving in our new home was to enroll in classes. ( I should tell you, as of this writing we are about six weeks into our lessons.) Even though I was determined and committed to learning Spanish, I was terribly nervous because I had never studied a language before. As a matter of fact, I had a feeling I would be “re-learning” much of my English grammar that had long ago escaped my old brain! Verbs? Conjugating Verbs? HuH??? Oh boy, I was not wrong! We signed up for ten weeks of lessons. Our first two weeks we did a group class together that was Four hours a day, five days a week! Oh, my goodness! Talk about “Diving in head first”! Our first instructor was a very fun young man named Yubal. I think he quickly realized that I would be a very “SLOW” learner! Even though I felt like I was in over my head, I soldiered on and Yubal never made me feel dumb and I never felt like he was impatient with my lack of comprehension. He was very kind and patient and told me that I was doing fine and gave me just the right kind of gentle encouragement that I needed. And I gotta tell ya, I REALLY needed encouragement! Geesh! Talk about a humbling experience. My husband , on the other hand, is a natural learner! His comprehension is, in my mind, incredible. We all learn differently and some have an easier ability with language than others. At least that’s what I keep hearing from many other very kind and encouraging people ,and I’m buying it!

After our first week in the group class it was glaringly obvious that I was not ready to move on. I really felt I needed to review the first week all over again. We went to talk to the administration about this and here is where I begin to really gush about my pleasure with this school and the people in charge. They were so accommodating, understanding and helpful. No problem! They obviously have a lot of experience dealing with many many different people from all walks of life and from many different places in the world. They didn’t bat an eye, just figured out a solution that would work for us . The next week Scott moved on to another group class and I remained with Yubal and one other classmate who also felt the need to review the prior weeks lessons. It was so good for me and I began to feel my brain comprehending at least some of the beginning concepts. My favorite phrase that I have learned and love to use is , ” Poco a Poco”! Little by little I am learning, not only am I learning Spanish but I’m also learning what I need in order to feel successful in my own personal learning style. After my second week in a group class I decided I would like to try a private, one on one , two hour daily class .

I was sad to leave Yubal because I felt like I had gotten to know him and had developed a fondness for his great , fun personality. This is another aspect of Habla ya that I must mention. The entire staff is very friendly and welcoming and we have thoroughly enjoyed every person we have met at the school. When I went to speak with the administration again about my desire to try a different situation they were again very happy to do whatever would work best for me. My new professora is Araliz and she is a beautiful, intelligent young lady who I have come to adore! I have been working with her for almost four weeks now. She is very intuitive about what I need and has shown unending capacity for patience. As she has gotten to know me she has customized my lessons to suit my particular learning style, which is “muy despacio” ! Everyday I feel better and better with my progress and at the end of each lesson I’m always shocked that it’s already over! Time flies so fast in Araliz’s classroom. I’m beginning to really enjoy our attempt at conversation. I can really feel my progress when I am able to have a conversation with her and walk away feeling as though she understood me and I her. What a great feeling to finally be able to chat and connect the way I love to do.

After my ten weeks at Habla Ya I know it will not be the end of my lessons. Given the wonderful fact that Boquete is now my home, I have plenty of time to “slowly” become proficient in learning this beautiful language. I’m hoping to begin to find opportunities where I can be surrounded by more native speakers so I can practice what I’m learning at school. On HablaYa’s web sight I see that they have many volunteer opportunities that they can help me get involved with, and that will be my next adventure. Not only have we made some really great connections with the teachers at the school but also with some of the other students as well. It’s so great to see and meet so many young people who are doing home-stays and who are immersing themselves in the culture while studying the language. I wish I had had such an opportunity when I was their age. I really admire their adventurous spirit at such a young age. We have made friends with many of these people and I know they will be back to visit us here in this beautiful place. The School has endless activities that they organize and although we haven’t had time to join them, we hear that there is tons of fun to be had! So far, this old brain has been too busy having tons of “fun” studying our Spanish! (insert eye roll here?) All this hard work will pay off in the end when I get to sit down with Araliz or Yubal and actually have a “fluent” conversation in their language!

Good people

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As soon as we got on our bus for our journey home from Panama City, I realized I had left Scott’s kindle cover and my money belt (empty , thank goodness) in the safe at the hotel! Darn it!! I had taken the cover off Scott’s Kindle because it was too heavy in my purse when we were exploring the city. We usually bring our Kindles because one never knows when a peaceful spot summons you to sit and read for a bit, right? When I went to give him his Kindle on the bus the light bulb went on! @#!#$ . I was sure we would never see the two forgotten items again. Not that they were expensive or irreplaceable but it’s just a bummer to lose something. We quickly looked up the phone number of the hotel and tried calling, hoping someone answered who Habla’s English! No luck on the Habla English but I was able to comprende that the manager, Ana, speaks English and would be there the next day. I called the next day only to be informed that she would return at 4:30. When finally I was able to talk with Ana, I was pleasantly surprised to talk with a very helpful and exceedingly friendly woman who assured me there was no problem, she would gladly mail the items to me . I offered to reimburse the hotel for any expense for the mailing but she refused to let me do that. She said she was happy to help and not to worry about anything but to please come visit again when we are in Panama City. That I will certainly do! The hotel was in a very nice area near many good restaurants and was clean and comfortable. We will be staying at the Hotel Milan again. It’s just so nice when people are nice and helpful and honest. I wanted to share, thought everyone might appreciate this sweet email I just received…

” Good evening Mr. and Mrs. Carter:

I took this afternoon your money belt and your kindle cover to the Mail Boxes Etc. that is closest to the hotel, that is, in Vía Argentina, El Cangrejo . Attached you will find the receipt for the delivery. It will be sent to your Mail Box in Boquete. If there is any trouble, please let me know, so I can contact the girl that receive the items (her name is on the receipt: “Chantal Avila”.)

Best regards,
HOTEL MILÁN”

Nice people rule!!!

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This one´s for Mariah & Elisabeth…(Yes, you too Jesse!)

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Ok guys! We finally did a little driving around this morning and look what I found!! Yep! It’s really close to my house! You can see some girls climbing and they were having a hard time. I didn’t get the feeling they really knew what they were doing like you guys do. It’s not a huge area but looks like plenty of climbing to do . Here’s a couple pictures that I took just for you…

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The Canal De Panama…(and our Fingerprint adventure!)

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As you know, we spent the weekend in Panama City attempting to get our fingerprints done in order to begin the process of applying for our Permeant residency visa. We have heard various stories, (most bad) of other expats attempting to do this very same thing to differing successes. Without exception each telling has required multiple attempts to attain fingerprints that the FBI will accept (apparently the panamanians don’t know how to do them the way our FBI likes !) . Many such stories tell of as many as 7 or 8 different tries! Yikes!! We had read on one of the expat forums here in Panama that it’s also a very good idea to go directly to the FBI web-site and actually print out the fingerprint form that they use because many people got to the DIJ (the official place for this process) only to find that they are all out of the form!! We printed out multiple copies of this form ,”just in Case”! Good thing we did that because the lovely young lady at this office asked if she could make copies herself because she indeed had none!! Ha! So armed with every single piece of paper and copies of everything we could think of , including copies of our passports, we felt prepared,(NOT!). Of course we requested that she do both our prints two times, “just in case”. It was a very time consuming ordeal but we remained “Tranquilo” throughout! I was sadly disappointed when she told us we would need to return the following week to pick them up!!!NOOOOO!! We really did not want to go back to Panama City AGAIN next week!! UGGG!! But we asked if our attorney could come get them and she said yes. Whew!! But she needed us to provide her with a passport picture when the prints were picked up. “Ok, we can figure out how to do that”. I’m thinking to myself,”@!#$! What!! Where are we suppose to get passport pictures?” We said our good-byes to the very helpful,(albeit, quite frustrated with my inexperience in the proper fingerprinting procedure?) and off we went to try to figure out if our attorney would be able to arrange to pick up the prints next week. Mind you, we have never actually met our attorney, we have only corresponded with her via email so far. We immediately sent her an email explaining what we needed and hoped to hear back from her asap. I did also try to phone her at both her office and her cell phone with no luck. We figured this was a good time to start DRINKING! We remembered seeing a Brew Pub just across from our hotel!! WHoot! WHoot!! We hailed a taxi and made a Beeline to said Brew Pub and wait to hear back from our attorney. Oh, I almost forgot to tell you about how we succeeded in acquiring the additional passport photos… after exiting the very crowded DIJ, there were the usual venders outside selling food and who knows what else and Scott saw one little kiosk that said “photos”!! Yep! Right there we stepped inside and the guy took our pictures with his little camera and Voila! We had our additional passport photos. It’s impossible to ever predict what will be difficult to do here and what will be strangely simple!

Of course Friday came to a close with no word from our attorney so we decided we would go ahead and make arrangements to go see the Canal the next morning (Saturday). We figured we would be able to contact the attorney after we got back home to Boquete. Worse case scenario we schlep back to the city again and just get done what we need to get done, (Big Eye Roll here!). We made a reservation and paid for tickets to go on a small boat tour through all the locks in the canal (an all day event). Then , Of course , who do we finally hear from? Yep, you guessed it, our attorney! Telling us to meet her at 10:00a.m. on Saturday! UGGG!! We told her that because we had not heard from her we made arrangements to go on a tour and we could not cancel it. She said she could indeed arrange to go pick up our prints and deliver the passport photos but we would need to provide her with a deposit to retain her services as well as a signed document to authorize her to pick it up for us. No problem. Whew, disaster diverted! Now it is monday and we are trying to get ahold of her to learn how we make arrangements to both send her the photos and our authorization and how we will get her the money for her retainer? All will work out, not without a bit of hair pulling and nail biting at times but as I am constantly reminding myself about many things, “Poco a Poco”. And Breeeeeathe! Ahhhh….There we go, Tranquilo!!

When I began to write this post I was intending to tell about the canal tour. Needless to say, it was spectacular! It wasn’t the most “Exciting” thing we have ever done but we really enjoyed it. We were especially glad we chose to do the whole canal. They had an option to do a partial crossing and I’m sure that would have been fine as well but we really wanted to experience the entire crossing at least once and we figured, what the heck! Most people I know who have been through the Panama Canal have been on huge cruise ships. Being in a (relatively) tiny little vessel going through the canal really made us feel as though we were actually “in” the action! We could see every aspect of the process and the narrated tour really added a lot of information that made it even more enjoyable. I am dumbfounded by all the work and engineering that went into the building and designing of the Canal! Especially given the period that it was done! Wow! What a marvel of human endurance and ingenuity! I just cant say enough about how impressed I was to see such a magnificent thing up close and personal. I will include some of my pictures to share with those who have not had the pleasure of seeing it in real life yet. One other thing that was pretty cool , they have a live web-cam and so I quickly texted my mom and Scotts mom so they could go on line and actually see us going through the canal! I don’t think either one was able to figure it out but had I known beforehand It would have been fun for them to be able to see it.

All in all, our impromptu weekend away was pretty successful. We feel good about accomplishing our first attempt at acquiring our fingerprints , I will keep my fingers crossed that I will be able to tell people, someday , that it wasn’t that bad . (I know, I know, wishful thinking! ) . And seeing the canal is one more thing I can cross of my list of things I wanted to see in the world. We also had never really had the time to do a little exploring of Panama City so we are glad to have that done as well. The Journey on the bus from the city was a bit harrowing because there was quite a good size storm the entire drive. On the Pan American Highway there were many fallen trees partially blocking the road which added about an hour to our already 7 hour ride! I was glad to have my trusty kindle so I could lose myself in a good story during the whole bus ride! (By The Way, for those of you who miss my book recommendations, I was reading The Physician by Noah Gordon, I really enjoyed it) We both agreed that we were overjoyed to return to our new home here in the highlands of Boquete!! It’s much more our style, not so hot, crowded and busy. This morning it was good to be awakened once again by the sound of the roosters crowing in the distance and the birdsong outside my window. Ahhhh, good to be “HOME”!

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