Tag Archives: expat

Happy Thanksgiving..

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Happy Thanksgiving…

This is our first big Holiday away from all our friends and family, and as I’m sitting here in my home in Panama looking out my window at the view of the mountains covered in coffee plants and the banana trees swaying in the breeze I find myself hoping everyone in California has a wonderful day planned, doing whatever makes you happy. Spending time with all the people you care about and who care about you. We’ve been invited to join our friends Don & Andrea for the Thanksgiving celebration today. Andrea’s parents also live here in Boquete and her father is in charge of the Turkey, I hear he’s quite the pro so we are in for a treat!. Scott’s contribution is homemade Parker house rolls, Mocha Pecan Pie and Smoked gouda and garlic mashed potatoes. We also have our good friends from David, Joel & Kris, coming up to join us , and they’re staying with us for the weekend. I’m sure it will be a feast and all will leave feeling happy and full! I know Andrea is especially ready to start the holidays , she’s already put up her Christmas tree! That girl is in the mood! πŸ™‚

This weekend is also a big one for the Panamanians, they celebrate their second Independence Day this month! The first one earlier this month was their celebration of their independence from Columbia and this weekend they celebrate their independence from Spain. From what I hear this particular celebration is very big here in Boquete. Apparently schools from all over Panama converge on this little mountain town to participate in band competitions and a huge parade. Our friends Kris & Joel, who live in David, which is about 40-45 minutes away from here, were planning to take the bus up here to see all the festivities because we hear the traffic is just horrible. But I suggested they just spend the weekend with us and avoid all the hassles of getting here and then back home. They happily took me up on it and I’m soooo excited to spend time with them. I must admit, being immobile at the moment, I’m looking forward to having the company. Sadly, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get to the parade myself, but hey, there’s always next year.

This Thanksgiving is very very different for us, not to say it’s a bad thing, just sayin’. I can’t help but think back to our Thanksgivings of the past and reminisce about good memories. I also can’t help but dream about our Thanksgivings to come, in our new home that we’re having so much fun dreaming and planning. But mostly I’m just grateful for today! The Thanksgiving of here and now. Of knowing all my friends and family in California are thinking of us fondly, and sending us such kind and thoughtful wishes of happiness. And I’m so grateful to know firsthand, that no matter where in this great big world we live, there are great friendships to be made! We’ve been sooooo lucky and blessed to come into contact with so many incredible people who open their lives to us and welcome us! It warms my heart when we walk or drive through town and run into so many people who wave and smile and greet us wherever we may be. Yes, I’m Thankful for all the people I’ve met here that have become my friends and all the ones who have been my friends for many years, you are my family!

I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving. Sending lot’s of Hugs ! Cheers!

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Okay, This Sucks…

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Can I be honest with you? I think you’d want me to be honest,right? Sooo, here goes….I know I always try to find the positive in almost everything , that’s just my way. But today I’m feeling a bit down. Humph. Prepare yourself for a bit of venting… Besides the constant pain from both the sprained ankle and the cuts and scrapes, I’m seriously bummed to be so immobile at the moment. Each day will get better but I have a feeling it will be awhile until I can do all the things I’m used to being able to do. It’s a very unfamiliar sensation to me, being unable to do what I want to do…Grrrrr. I was sooo looking forward to celebrating our newly official purchase of land here to build our home. We had planned to go up there with a special bottle of wine that we brought with us from California , and bringing our lawn chairs, a couple of glasses and celebrating the beauty of the spot we are about to call our “home”. That’s not happening for quite awhile, I would never be able to make it up there at the moment, it’s a bit of a hike. I promise, I wont keep moaning about this, I just had to get it out. I’m amongst friends so I figured You wouldn’t mind.

Another sucky thing that’s on my mind, while I’m talking about “sucky” things…some people really suck. The people I’m thinking about are the ones we ran into at the border on Sunday. When we got to the Panamanian side of the border crossing , after getting stamped out of Costa Rica, we were very disappointed to find that there was a long, long line of people waiting . So, of course, we just went to the end of the line and prepared for a long, long wait. All the people in front of us were indigenous Indians , and they all seemed to have papers in their hands and were dressed in their Sunday best. Nicely pressed pants, many with buttoned down shirts and nice black shoes. All looking very hot and not happy, but determined to do whatever it was that they were standing in that long long line to do. These determined, well dressed indigenous are not the ‘sucky’ people I speak of. The “sucky” people I speak of were , sadly, Gringos! Yes, I’m so sorry to say, and quite embarrassed by, the behavior of these people who walked up after we had been patiently waiting our turn in this line behind these determined indigenous people. Ugggg…As these Gringo’s walked up to the line we clearly heard the women say, (there were two men, a women and what we assume was a guide, possibly Costa Rican), “Oh thank God, White people!” (meaning us!) Then one of the men said, with a very unkind face “This line is this long because they don’t know how to write and the papers have to be completed for them!” With a scowl on his face, as though he hated each and every one of those people who were standing in the line……They proceeded to march up to the front of the line to inquire if they were required to wait with the riff-raff. (Big eye roll!) At this moment, I began to understand why many of these indigenous people harbor a dislike of my kind. Humph! I felt so embarrassed. In the end, we learned that all these locals were in line for some sort of work permits and there was indeed a second line for immigration. Well, given the fact that I was on crutches and not doing well, and that we were indeed meant to be in an altogether different line, we very apologetically and humbly made our way to the front of the long long line…I gotta tell you , all four of us felt so bad. Even though we didn’t have that same “better than thou” attitude as those “ugly Americans” who went before us, and we made our way to the place we needed to be with as much humility and kindness we could muster, all four of us felt pretty bad. In a perfect world ( I know Valerie agrees), we would love to have had not only the time, but the knowledge of their language, to stay there and help each and every one of those people fill out the necessary papers they held in their hands.

I’ll never understand why some individuals think they are better than other people, the way these people clearly felt they were better than those indigenous people who’s country we are visiting . It’s disturbing, to say the least, to witness such behavior and to feel so directly associated to it simply because of our appearance. Ugggg! I have no answer to this dilemma, but since I was in a venting mood, there it is. So, my ankle hurts and some people suck! Blah! I promise to resume my normal optimistic outlook tomorrow….:)

A Very Different Border Run This Time…

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We just got back home from San Vito, Costa Rica and I have to say, all in all, it was a wonderful little mini vacation, in spite of a little unexpected glitch, (otherwise known as me falling down!). Our last border run we went through a different border, there are two borders to choose from, Paso Canoas and Rio Sereno. Last time we went through at the Paso Canoas border and it was a totally different experience (Yuck!). Paso Canoas is a bit closer and easier to get to, but it’s not a pleasant place, in my opinon. Rio Sereno, on the other hand is a fairly pleasant little crossing, much quieter and not crowded at all! The only sort of bad thing is , if you’re prone to motion sickness , the twisting, curving road through the mountains may not be your cup of tea. I don’t happen to suffer from motion sickness so I found the drive delightful. It’s quite lovely, meandering through a lush green, picturesque area.

When we arrived in the little town of Rio Serano we then had to figure out exactly where the border was. It wasn’t especially evident at first, so we just sort of drove around until we saw an official-ish looking building then Valerie hopped out to investigate. Sure enough, that was the spot. Our friends learned many things about us on this trip but I think the first thing they learned was that we don’t do a lot of planning before we go on a trip. We like to think we’re being spontaneous and adventurous but really , there are times when we’re not always especially smart! This was one such instance when we may have been wise to figure out one tiny detail…. We hadn’t looked into where we should leave our car for the weekend. Ooops! Well, Scott simply found a “good enough” looking spot on the side of the road and pulled over. We had no idea how safe or un-safe it was to just leave a nice car parked on the side of the road for the weekend, but (shrug) what else could we do? We walked away from the car just hoping it would still be there, in one piece, when we returned on Sunday. And given the fact that this post isn’t titled “Car-less in Rio Serano” or “Keith, what do we dooooo!”, you doubtless know the car survived the weekend. Whew!

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And…The Obsession Begins…

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It’s time to start planning, strategizing ,designing,shopping,researching,brainstorming, dreaming, and planning some more. Wait a minute….I’ve been here before!! Remember? We did this in our past life in Los Altos! Yes, I remember this stage of the game. We were so excited (just like now!) about all the possibilities and we had such a great time dreaming together about all the things we could do. The only catch was, the only way we could possibly afford to attempt such an endeavor as designing and building our own house was to do it all ourselves. We just didn’t have the budget to hire professionals to design and build a custom home. We could do the building and heck, we ended up really enjoying the designing part of the project as well. We hired an architect to draw all the details and submit it to the city for all the permits but in the end, we both agreed that if we ever did it again we would feel comfortable not spending the money for the architect. “Screeeeech!” That was before we realized that our next house project would be in a different country! Yea, we’re gonna need to utilize an architect. We already hired one and we’re looking forward to working with him.

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Yippee…My iPad will live to see another day!!

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It’s a happy day! I took my precious iPad to the computer fix-it guy here and….You probably guessed it, he can fix it!! Whoot! Whoot! I’m doing a “happy dance” And “jumping for joy!” They said we would first have to pay before they begin any work, no problem. Then he said they charge $110.00 for the replacement screen that they will have to order, (about a week) and then the guy who actually does the replacement work charges $25.00 per hour , and it would take about 3 hours. Hmmmmm? Sooo that didn’t sound too bad! We didn’t have any cash on us and therefore told him we would return tomorrow.

After we got home Scott got online to check about what it costs to buy the replacement screen. Hmmmm… From Amazon.com it’s $ 33.00, including all the necessary tools. Wow! That’s a pretty big price difference. Now we’re considering plan B. You know Scott! He wants to go ahead and order two replacement screens and then give it a try. I agree we should go ahead and order the screen but I think we ought to take it to the guy with the experience and see if he would be willing to install it. There are videos on youtube that demonstrate how to replace a broken iPad screen and it doesn’t look too bad. I’m just thrilled beyond belief to know that it’s repairable. Jumping for joy!! πŸ™‚

Craving Chinese Food!

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Okay.. so we knew that one thing we would really miss about living in the Silicon Valley was gonna be the variety of food. There are many good restaurants here in Boquete. We love George’s Grill, Big Daddy’s, Sugar & spice and Baru’s just to name a few. But we have yet to have found any Chinese food…not to mention Thai food or caribbean food or Greek food , but I digress. We’ve been craving Chinese food lately. We know of only one Chinese restaurant and tonight we had the opportunity to give it a try. Well, it wasn’t Chef Chu’s, But it wasn’t bad. Even though we were the only people in the restaurant we didn’t let that stop us from having a good dinner. We mostly cook at home but when we feel like going out to eat we really love that here in Boquete there’s many good restaurants to choose from. Read the rest of this entry

A (sad) Day In The Life…

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Today was “mostly” a really great day! It was a great day of connecting with good girlfriends, which is ALWAYS my favorite kind of day. I would have had such great things to say about this day had I not had a tragedy with my iPad… Sad Face! I dropped it!! Whaaaaaaaa!! It is still working but the screen cracked!!! I am devastated! If I haven’t mentioned it before…I am very in love with my iPad. I don’t use a computer so I am very dependent on the iPad . It’s really my most treasured possession. I use it for everything, I Facetime my friends and family, I write and publish my blog, I read magazines, I read the news, I Facebook, I take photos, I search the web, I practice my Spanish, I use the translator and let’s not forget Words With Friends!……nuf said! I just love this silly thing, it’s like an appendage to me! So I’ve put out feelers to see if I may be able to find someone who can repair it, but I don’t know….. Grrrrr! It was my darn cat’s fault….He was sitting on my lap and suddenly jumped and my iPad just went flying onto the hard tile floor. I hate to admit it but I did shed a few tears and Scott was very sweet, he told me not to worry. I just hate to sound so materialistic! But that’s just the way it is. I don’t need a lot of “things” but I really love my iPad. So this is a post filled with not so happy feelings , I’ll be better tomorrow, and I’m very glad that it’s still working. I do feel a bit at a loss without a convenient Apple store to run to. If I were in California I’d already have it on the way to whoever fixes this kind of thing! But I bet there has to be someone here who can help and Damsel in Distress! This makes my silly worries about going to an unknown hairdresser seem like nothing!! The universe always has a way to give me perspective!

It’s a Hairy situation….

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What’s the Freakin’ problem!!! Well, ya see, I’ve been living here in Panama for nearly six months now and about two weeks before I got on that airplane with my kitties and my two suitcases, my dear friend Natalie gave me a haircut. Sooooo it’s been nearly six months since I’ve had my haircut! I know, I can get away with going a pretty long time in between haircuts with this wild, curly hair, but this is getting a bit ridiculous, even for me. Why? you say,is this such a big deal? Well….”Big deal?” Shrug…I don’t know that I’d call it a “Big deal”, per say. It’s just that ,well, I’ve never in my life walked into a hair salon , where I didnt know anyone, and sat down in a styling chair in front of a complete stranger, to have my hair cut ! I know, all my clients who are reading this right now are probably laughing! “Now she knows how we feel!”. And I will say, “yes, and it’s not fun!”

Even before my thirty years as a stylist I grew up in a household with two hairdressers so I’ve ‘never ‘had a haircut by someone I didn’t know. Both my parents were licensed stylists, as a matter of fact they met while they were in cosmetology school! I know, that’s a whole other story! But My Father was the one who ended up pursuing it as his career and he, like me,( or should I say , Me , like him) was a salon owner. As a matter of fact, his salon, where I grew up spending a lot of time, was located in the same small town where I also owned my salon. His salon was very large with about fifteen stylists who worked for him. But I never worked in my Dad’s salon. No, I liked him too much and besides that, I never wanted to be “the owners daughter”. Read the rest of this entry

Daily Prompt: Come Fly with Me

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Share a story about the furthest you’ve ever traveled from home….

Well that’s an easy one, New Zealand! This was my “Maiden Voyage” all by myself. I was about 31 years old and had just experienced a bunch of crazy tragedies in my life. I was about two years in to being a single mother after having gone through a divorce. Two years prior to this was what I like to refer to as my “Oprah” year! Yes, in one year I went though losing my father( who I loved dearly), my husband decided to fall hopelessly in love with our nanny(insert big eye roll here!), I had just opened a business and purchased a home, whew!. My father had helped me buy the house before his death and my ex-husband had no claims to it so I unexpectedly found myself alone with a huge mortgage, not exactly what I had planned for. Whew! I was holding myself together by a thread. You may be wondering what all this personal drama has to do with traveling solo to New Zealand?

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A little art today…

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This day started with a very familiar activity…art. I had the pleasure of assisting a friend with her art show installation at a restaurant in town, Mango’s. Her art will be on display at the restaurant during the holidays and it was so fun to be able to help her as she strategically placed all her beautiful pieces all over the restaurant. I’ve been involved in many other good friends art shows and will never tire of watching a transformation such as adding art to a space will create. It made me think about all my incredibly talented friends who make a living with the art that they create. Weather it be sculpture, painting, jewelry designs, textiles, amazing quilted kimonos, floral designs, ceramics, photography, I’ve had the pleasure of being exposed to so many unbelievable artists. I have so many great memories of attending art exhibits as well as participating in a few of my own. I’m fortunate to have been involved in more art show installations than I can even remember and today brought back so many memories of all my talented artist friends who I miss so much. I get so much pleasure in being around kindred spirits who let the beauty inside manifest in some sort of art that they so generously share with others. It’s no easy thing to create something from your soul and put it out there for all to see . Those who have never gone outside their box to explore what can happen when you let go of your inhibitions and allow yourself to create something outside of yourself, something that is an outward expression of “you”, are missing out on an indescribable experience. You may not think your an “artist” per say. And it may be true that you will never pursue art as a means of making an income, but I firmly believe that the only thing stopping you from creating something beautiful is Your own inner “self-talk” that constantly tells you…”Oh, I could NEVER do that”. The moment you listen to that voice… you have made it so. Only when you can get past that “self-limiting”, knee jerk self-talk, will you allow yourself to experience what it’s like to actually create something with your two hands. There’s a magical thing that happens when your in the process of creating art, it’s a simultaneous feeling of both losing yourself and finding yourself at the same time. At least that’s been my experience . When an artist decides to display a body of work in a public place it takes an amazing amount of courage and generosity to expose themselves in such a way. I admire all my friends who have done just that and I’m so grateful to have been able to lend a hand today and to help a new friend to display the beauty from her heart for this small community in the highlands of Panama to enjoy. I hope all who get to see it will appreciate it. Sound familiar…Judith,Shelly,Julia,Maria,Karen,Brian,Merlin, Pam,Nancy,Marty,Susan,Oh, the names of all my artist friends could go on and on and on…Miss you all, thought of you while I was helping today.

There was a day…

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There was a day when getting up before the sun would be a dreaded thing. There was a day when I’d never even seen a machete much less kept one in my car. There was a day when I only bought my coffee from Costco and I didn’t have the coffee plantations to go to just down the street, and purchase directly from the people who grow it. There was a day when I didn’t have dozens of banana trees growing in my yard. There was a day when I never heard a rooster in the morning or drums in the distance. There was a day when I didn’t understand anything when a spanish speaking person tried to speak to me. There was a day when we drove 70 miles per hour on a crowded freeway rushing to wherever I was going. Rushing? I vaguely remember rushing all the time.
There is a day…today, when I got up before 6:00 and made a pot of coffee and went to sit outside to watch the sky begin to light up. It’s a different show every morning. Today it began with a small patch of light but most of the sky was black. Then I began to see small areas of pink with tiny patches of blue behind the clouds. Now the sun is shining behind the clouds and there are grey clouds mixed with pink ones and the blue patches in the foreground are slowly growing. I’m enjoying the sounds of the morning and wishing I could record it to share with you. There are so many different birdsongs and always the roosters in the distance, as well as crickets and dogs parking. Today there’s no wind rustling the banana leaves, it’s still and peaceful as I type this post. The sky is an ever-changing show of color and texture as it slowly lights up and the day officially begins. Who knew I would love the early morning so? There was a day when I wanted only to sleep until the morning was no more. Now I awake hoping I haven’t missed it……

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Daily Challenge…

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Hmmm

Sometimes I just cant figure out how to use the daily prompt that word press supplies. This is one such day. So then I need to come up with my own subject and there are days when I just don’t know what to talk about…..Let’s see….. Last night we went to a fantastic gathering where we met a whole bunch of our neighbors who we had never had the pleasure of meeting before. Who knew we had so many nice people living practically right next door. One couple who were at the gathering I had met last week while I was waiting at the deli meat counter at Romero’s. They were a really friendly couple who told me they were visiting Boquete for the 5th or 6th time and trying to decide if they wanted to move here permenantly. They are from Northern California , like us, Berkley, I think. But they told me they lived in Alto Lino, which is where we live but I didn’t realize they live right next door! And we met several other couples who also live in Alto Lino, very nearby. Two of the ladies that I met like to go walking for exercise three days a week and I think after my school is over, in four more weeks, I may start to join them, that sounds fun to me. This gathering we went to was a potluck at our friends Manzar and Terry’s new house. Terry’s family was visiting and it was great to meet them. I can only imagine how Manzar and Terry must have enjoyed opening their home up to all their new friends and having a full house. I bet there were around twenty five or thirty people and the house accommodated all those people without even feeling crowded. And THE FOOD!! Holy cow…there was so much food! And GOOD food too! I don’t think I’ve ever attended a Potluck with so many really good dishes to choose from! No one left that party hungry, that’s for sure. Read the rest of this entry

Daily Prompt:” About” Page of the Future

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Write the” About ” page for your blog in 10 years.

Todays challenge is interesting….I had to go back and re-read my “About” page on my blog. I wrote that a little over a year ago and it’s fun to think back to where I was, not only physically but emotionally as well. Todays challenge asks me to imagine what that “About” page on my blog would say ten years from now. Hmmmmmm…. That’s an interesting thing to consider. Let’s see…Here is what I wrote on my “About” page a little over a year ago…

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Lucky Dogs…

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We were craving a good juicy steak for dinner tonight. Scott bought a beef tenderloin at Ray, the grocery store in David for $3.50lb. We baked a couple of potatoes, poured the wine and Scott seasoned the meat and threw it on the BBQ. MMMMMM. It looked pretty good and we were starving! Then before he even took them off of the grill he said, “I don’t know…they might be terrible” Huh? my response…”did you just say they might be terrible?” I thought he was joking, although that ‘s nothing to joke around about when the taters are bakin’ and the wine is poured! And truth be told, Scott doesn’t joke around when it comes to Steak! Well, you might have already figured out the sad, sad ending to this tale just based on the title…yep…It was terrible! RATS!!!! As Scott said, it was very flavorful (because he heavily seasoned it) shoe leather! As a matter of fact we’ve been debating weather or not it was actually STEAK??? Looked a bit like pork after it had been cooked but the pork here is actually pretty good and this was nothing remotely close to “Good”. Soooo as the title says….there are two very happy dogs at our house tonight! And we had delicious baked potatoes and wine!! What’s for desert????

Daily Prompt: Cheering Section

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Do you have a mentor? Tell us about him or her. Are you a mentor to someone else? Tell us what that relationship has added to your life.

Todays Prompt has got me thinking about all the people who I admire and who mentor me without even knowing they’re doing it.( side note…I know, I know, mentors are not usually mentoring without their knowledge, but I have a slightly different perspective which I happen to like ) I’m an observer of people. I really love to people-watch. And I learn so much from just observing others. Does that sound strange? Well, I suppose I may be a tiny bit strange so let’s just accept that and move on, shall we…. what was I saying? Oh, yes, Mentors…Hmmmmm. In my life I’ve quietly watched and learned many lessons from many people and many of them had no idea they were teaching me . From some of my mentors I’ve learned lessons of what I wanted to do in my life and from others I’ve learned important things about what I wanted to avoid doing in my life. I guess you could say that I’ve often learned from others mistakes ( not to say that I haven’t made tons of my own mistakes to learn from! Hmmm I wonder if anyone learned anything from watching my epic fails? That would have made them worth it! ) . At the same time I’ve often seen a path that I admired and tweaked that path a bit to suit me as I set a goal and went in that direction. Is it just me? Or is this what many people do? Maybe you don’t necessarily realize it, but have people in your life influenced a particular path you went down? I don’t know about you , but to me, people who’ve entered my life almost always seem to have been sent to me for a reason and when my eyes are wide open and I’m paying attention (which isn’t always!) there can often be invaluable gifts to receive. Read the rest of this entry

Daily Challenge….

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The daily prompt from WordPress is : what’s the last thing you googled and why?

Well, that’s an easy one, Hummingbirds was my last search. And I wanted to tell you about this anyways so hey, good timing. Yesterday, like many days, I was sitting on my porch enjoying an especially glorious bird show. There’s a great tree right in front of my porch, where I put ripe bananas in a little basket attached to a low limb, and the birds just show up from every direction to eat the bananas. Birds of every color! Lately we’ve noticed a new (to us) bird that’s a crazy bright Orange on his chest and black on his back. He’s not the same as the bright Orange one who has Orange on his back and black on his chest. And the Orange is much more of a true orange not as red as the other one who we’ve seen l lot. Anyways, as I was saying.. the little basket of bananas was being visited by such a beautiful array of colorful birds and I was enjoying the show immensely when I began to notice that my little troupe of hummers was also quite active. They always swoop around, seemingly fighting over the feeder and I just love to watch them. But yesterday they were especially vocal, one would sit on top of the feeder and just chirp, and chirp, and chirp , seriously, non-stop ( almost to an annoying degree)! And there just seemed to be a kind of frantic sort of feeling about them, I can’t really put into words what I mean but suffice it to say, something was definitely up with my little guys. Low and behold, something was up alright….There was a new hummer in the hood trying to hone in on their territory! A different variety of hummer that I’ve never seen around here. I wish I had my bird book, I tried to look him up on Google and didn’t see him. He was at least twice as big as my regular hummers and he looked mostly black but when the light hit him just right he had a bluish tinge to him and he has a very big fan-like tail with white along the bottom of the feathers. When this intruder would feed from the feeder he looked like he had on a big skirt, that fanned out. I think he may have been one of the varieties that we saw at that ladies house last week, but those seemed so much more purplish-blue, so I’m not sure. The only thing I was sure of was that my little regular hummers were not having any of this guys swooping in on their territory and they were putting up a major huff over the whole situation. They were very lucky that there was only one of these big hummers because he was massive compared to them. I know what your thinking…”Boy Holly, you are easily entertained!”. And you would indeed be correct about that! (Big smile here!). I have spent many a live long day , me and my iPad, just sitting out here listening to the birdsong and the wind rustling through the banana trees while I watch the ever changing clouds roll across the view of the mountains in the not so far distance. Some days as I look up from playing a word on WWF’s, it seems as though the evening is upon me and before I realize it, I am sitting in the dark. I write, I read, I play, I read some more, and I watch my birds, pet the dogs, give the dogs a little treat, read some more, and stop to Google an uncommon hummer that’s causing my familiar hummers to behave differently than normal, because yes, I know what “normal” is when it comes to how my little hummers behave….that’s just my life! And did I mention…..It’s Good πŸ™‚

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Daily Prompt…Googled

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Describe the last time you were surprised by the intensity of a feeling you had about something, or were surprised at how strongly you reacted to something you thought wouldn’t be a big deal.

Intense…Hmmmm. what is something that made me feel an intense emotion? I’ve had a lot of those this last year. There were a lot of intense feelings about selling my house and about leaving my salon. Intense feelings were just rattling around at every corner. I was about to leave everything and everyone that had until then, made up what was my life as I knew it. I was preparing to make a move that we had been planning for and preparing for and dreaming about for seven years. Moving to Panama was something I wanted to do . I had hoped and dreamed and researched and planned to do it. I was filled with such a huge mix of emotions from excited,sad,scared,nervous,happy, to sad,anxious,frustrated,and more emotions than I can even describe . I had a good life. I wasn’t escaping some terrible life of turmoil or strife. I loved my neighborhood, my salon, my house, my colleagues at work, my neighbors, all the things that made life comfortable I was preparing to walk away from. Emotions were running high! Not just my own emotions but the emotions of everyone around me seemed to be at a boiling point. One small thing that I can remember being surprised by had to do with preparing my house to sell. We had hired professional stagers to stage our house and make it look perfect in order to list it for sale. On this particular day the painters were to begin painting the interior of the house. I should tell you, I love to decorate and to express myself in my living environment. One of my favorite ways to express myself in my home has always been to have a lot of colors on my walls. Colors always seems to add warmth to my life and I just always feel happy when I am surrounded by a lot of color. The thing about color is that we all have very different opinions about it. I’m certain that not everyone who visited my home would agree with my personal choices in terms of colors. With this in mind, I understood that the stagers felt it was necessary to tone down the colors in my house in an effort to make it more appealing to more people. This made perfect sense to me and then the day came for the painters to begin to paint….

I had been at work all day and when I walked into my house, my warm , inviting house that was a reflection of me, GASP! It was WHITE! Gasp again! Oh my! Not all white, they kept some of my colors on a few ‘accent’ walls but much of my color was now muted and toned down as I had agreed it needed to be. But even though my head had intellectually agreed with the designers, my heart sank when I saw it. I don’t know why , but tears began to well up in my eyes and I felt an instant knot in my stomach. Holy crap! Why was I feeling so gosh darn emotional over white paint? Looking back, it seems so silly to have had such an intense feeling about this. After all, I WANTED to sell my house, no one was twisting my arm and making me leave. It was my decision to change my life and move to Panama. But the fact remains, I was having a little meltdown because I was beginning to see the actual physical manifestations of my plan actually coming to life in the form of white paint on the walls of my house.

Sometimes, even when we take a step towards something good , and new, and exciting, we must also face some things that challenge our resolve. In my experience there’s always a balance and it’s true that we must take the good with the bad, or if not ‘bad’ per-say, then, not so ‘good’. They say, “Good things come to those who wait”, but I think’ “Good things also come to those who accept that with difficulty comes great reward!” Preparing to make this move to another country and begin again was one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my life. Leaving so many people and so many things that I love and was proud of, forced me to have a tremendous amount of Intense emotions. I must say though, that as I was going through those intense moments of occasional ‘Gasps’ and ‘knots’ in my stomach, tears welling up and falling down my cheeks, and watching tears fall down the cheeks of so many people who were sad to see me go, I never once doubted that those intense emotions were going to be worth it. I had already enjoyed the colors on those walls and there will be other walls and bright, warm colors to express myself with. It’s not the end but a new beginning. And who knows, maybe I’ll have a new appreciation for white….Naaaaay..I’ll always be a color girl, no matter where my home is.

After publishing this post my friend emailed me with the answer to what this hummer is…Its got a great name..A Violet Sabrewing

Rebar is our enemy…

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20131104-175433.jpgI didn’t need to depend on WordPress for inspiration on a subject to write about today because in the dark of the night it came to me. We were invited to meet a group of friends for dinner last night at a great little Italian restaurant nearby called, Pianista. We got in the car and proceeded to drive down our driveway and at the bottom of the drive it becomes a communal driveway that is kinda narrow, not really meant for two cars. So one must pull over and let the other car pass. We politely moved to the side as an oncoming car went on past us, as we have done numerous times in the past, but this time as we pulled over and began to go again we heard an awful noise coming from under our car. Yikes! We looked at each other quizzically, shook our heads and continued on down the drive onto the main road. We were on a mission to get to that Italian restaurant so we shrugged our shoulders and hoped for the best. But the “Best” was not to be. About a mile or so down the road it quickly became apparent that there was a problem in the form of a flat tire! HUMPH! No, amount of shoulder shrugging was gonna let us continue on down the road to our destination. RATS!

Those who know my husband will know that he is ‘Mr. Calm, Cool, and Collected”. And yes, in situations such as flat tires, on the side of Dark, narrow, windy roads , at night, he remains just as calm as usual. This is something that I am very grateful for given the fact that I am not so calm. I try to keep my head and just silently panic without causing too much commotion but being inside my head is not a picnic. I’m instantly terrified about the someone coming along around the corner (did I mention it’s DARK!) and not seeing us, which is absurd, because it’s pitch black, and practically deserted, hardly any cars on the road, so how could anyone miss the only brightly flashing hazard lights in sight? Scott immediately assess the situation, goes to the back of the car and begins to find the little tire changing kit that comes with the car, removes the spare tire from the back of the car and proceeds to begin quietly and calming changing the tire. And of course it begins to become apparent that the jack isn’t going to work. This doesn’t stop him from attempting to use it . This is when I begin to point out that we do have roadside assistance included in our car insurance and we can just call for help. Hah! Call for help? My husband? Not gonna happen. Ugga!Ugga! He will fix this himself, no matter how much time it takes. Besides, he points out that it is a Sunday Night of a Holiday weekend, and I agree, it could quite possibly take just as long to wait for help.

After attempting to make the jack work it became apparent that it was a great big FAIL. So on to plan B! I would stay with the car while he walked back the mile or so to get his truck which would hopefully have a functioning jack. I could not sit inside the car on the side of the dark road because he already had it partially jacked up and it was unstable. So I had to stand by the car, alone, on the dark quiet road! Gulp! I should tell you that the area where we were pulled over was very near the housing for some indigenous Indian laborers. For those of you who don’t live here I should explain that here in Boquete there’s a large community of indigenous Indians who make up a large part of the workforce for the Coffee plantations here. The owners of the plantations usually provide housing for these laborers and they tend to be pretty rustic dorm-like buildings that you see all over the place. Outside many of these dwellings you will see women washing clothes or bathing their babies. Many times driving by we see the kids playing soccer or baseball in the street. These people seem very humble and quiet, private and reserved. Last night I was standing outside one of these places and I must say, I felt pretty safe. they seemed curious about what we were doing but I never felt afraid. I was very touched by the kindness of passing vehicles who stopped to ask us if we were okay and needed help. We also knew we needed only ask and our friends who we were meant to be sharing dinner with would have been there in a minute. But we were fine, only a bit frustrated , luckily it wasn’t raining. I had my iPhone and began texting my mom in Texas in an effort to feel less alone. She , of course was up to the task of keeping me company during my moment of solitude.

It didn’t seem to take Scott long to return with a working jack. We were soon able to jack the car up enough and replace that poor sad flat tire. Our flat tire adventure had a happy ending and even though we missed an Italian dinner with our friends we triumphed over a nasty piece of rebar. I’m so grateful for such a calm husband who responds calmly during times of stress. We’ve many more adventures that await us, of this I’m certain. And Pianista will still be there next time we decide to go grab some good Italian food. Let’s just hope that nasty piece of rebar stays far away from my sparkly new tires next time! And we’ll be going down to David to shop for a good car tool kit with a functioning jack.

Daily Prompt: Conflicted

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Again: I’m challenging myself to write a blog post every day this month based on the prompt from WordPress. So I may be veering a bit from my usual subject matter, which is my new life in Panama. I think, my new love of writing is something that I’m embracing now that my life has changed and I get to redefine who I am and what I do with my time . Who knows what I’ll decide to do when i grow up, but right now I will write…

You’re in the middle of a terrible argument, and everyone turns to you to help resolve it. How do you respond? How do you react to conflict?

Wow! This is a hard one for me. In my life I have strived to be a great avoider of conflict! Conflict and me are newly acquainted, we haven’t known one another for long. For most of my life I’ve tried my best to avoid conflict. Have you ever heard of a personality study called, The Enneagram? The Enneagram (pronounced ANY-a-gram) system is represented by a circle containing a nine-pointed starlike shape. Ennea is Greek for the number nine, and gram means β€œa drawing.” Enneagram means β€œa drawing with nine points.”
The Enneagram teaches that early in life we learned to feel safe and to cope with our family situations and personal circumstances by developing a strategy based on our natural talents and abilities.( The Nine personalities are
1. the perfectionist 2. the Helper 3. the Achiever 4. the Romantic 5. the Observer 6. the Worrier 7. the Adventurer 8. the Asserter 9. the Peacemaker.)

Well, I am The Peacemaker. Yes, I like nothing more than keeping the Peace! In spite of this fact the universe has been known to send conflict my way and I’ve come to learn that If I face conflict with authenticity and integrity It doesn’t feel so scary. As a matter of fact, I’ve slowly begun to see my relationship with “conflict” at times, as an opportunity to grow and become a better person. But when conflict arrises, my knee-jerk response is just to make peace, at any cost, I’m not proud to admit that I’ve been known to lose myself and simply please the person, or people, who are manifesting the conflict. This ‘knee-jerk’ response is one I somehow naturally learned as a child and although it was a behavior that may have served me well as a child, as an adult I’ve slowly come to learn that being an “Un evolved Peacemaker” has a tendency to create a very “unauthentic” person.

Being a Peacemaker at the cost of my authenticity was a price I began to realize I just wasn’t willing to pay. I needed to learn to be in the same room with “Conflict” and face it with courage and integrity. Thus began my relationship with “conflict”. I’ve come to accept that when I’m In the middle of a conflict and it’s up to me to resolve it, I try hard to practice being okay with the possibility that it may get ugly. I may end up not necessarily being “liked”…..Yikes! Someone may even be mad at me….Gasp! But in the end, I have to live with “me”, with who I am,( As soon as I figured out just “who” I was) . I began to realize that Conflict had been a huge distraction for me. Conflict caused me to avoid facing my authenticity. All to keep the PEACE! Well, I still like to keep the peace, but I now have the presence of mind to realize that it’s not always my job and when I am involved in a conflict, I need not sacrifice my own needs in order to make everything okay . There are times when I disagree or when I’m angry, or when I have to give my title of “Peacemaker” to someone else. While I’ll always feel most comfortable with conflict far away from me, I’ve learned and am ever learning that conflict isn’t necessarily my enemy. Nowadays I’m usually pretty good at finding a peaceful way to deal with conflict and when me or someone in my life has a conflict I’m up to the challenge of facing it, instead of my past reaction of exiting stage right. Mind you, I’m still learning and growing and those tendencies to avoid conflict will likely always be a part of who I am. The Peacemaker in me , although, hopefully becoming more evolved as I grow older, will always be a big part of what makes me who I am. Where would the world be without us Peacemakers after all? The important thing , to me, is to identify and understand, those personality traits that hinder my ability to live my life authentically.

Daily Prompt..Eat, Drink, and Be Merry… …for tomorrow we die. The world is ending tomorrow! Tell us about your last dinner β€” the food, your dining companions, the setting, the conversation.

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( WordPress, the blog hosting sight that I use to publish my blog, is hosting a “Daily blogging” challenge and I’m thinking I just may give this a try. I’m challenging myself to write a post a day. Not necessarily a long post, just ‘something’ every day this month, starting today. They offer a prompt and on days when I just don’t know what to write about I may take advantage of the ideas, like today….)

Boy do we love to host dinners! A big part of what we, as a couple enjoy about hosting dinners is, believe it or not, all the planning and Strategizing about what to serve, we enjoy the debate about what entree to prepare with what side dishes, and what appetizer to serve and then what to prepare for desert. Then Scott starts to research online for new and interesting recipes (not that he’s ever followed a recipe!, they serve as inspiration for him) One of our favorite ways to share a meal is to enjoy an array of Tapa’s, a variety of small dishes. We think It’s just good fun to experience several different small dishes instead of the traditional plate full of food. A Protein, a starch a vegetable, blah, blah, blah, how boring. Not boring to eat mind you because I’m most certainly a fan of all those ingredients that define a traditional dinner. But it’s not always, in our opinion, so fun to prepare the same thing, meal after meal. When we prepare a meal for our friends, it’s a gift really, and we like it to be special. In addition to finding and trying to prepare new and different foods.

My husband is the cook in our house and I’m the lowly sous chef. Well, not “lowly” just not at all interested in the actual ‘preparation’ of the food. We make a great team because my forte is in the table-scape! I love to set the table. Picking out the dishes, doing a centerpiece and creating a beautiful place to gather with people we like to spend time with. I get great pleasure in setting the stage, candles, flowers, you get the idea. Given the fact that my table is always ready for the meal way before the meal is ready to consume, I naturally make myself useful by doing any prep work the cook assigns to me while simultaneously cleaning up after him, of course. (eye roll here!) And may I add here….my man, while he CAN COOK, he’s exceedingly messy while he’s doing it! He leaves no pot or pan unused! As I roll my eyes during this part of my narrative I should add that, I jest, the entire process from menu planning to shopping, prepping, cooking and yes, even cleaning, when we’re working along side one another we’re enjoying our time together. Some couples enjoy jogging together or hiking or reading the paper in the morning over their coffee, but we cherish, cherish? Well, that sounds slightly dorky, okay, how bout, “thoroughly enjoy” preparing special meals for friends and creating a gathering and sharing our home. To us, this is good fun.

When a gathering at our dinner table is in the making we begin with the guest list. How many should we invite? We’ve found that, in our opinion, 6 to 8, people is a perfect sized gathering. Of course, if you are a reader who has known us from our Los Altos days then you may be familiar with our gigantic, blow out! Hollyween parties! Yea, that may have been a few more than 6 to 8 people. Believe it or not, they started out smaller and then through the years grew until the last one was close to 200 people! Whew!! While we enjoyed throwing those parties, I never really got to socialize with anyone as I would have liked to. That’s just wayyyyy too many people to actually sit down and enjoy entertaining, a different form of entertaining for certain. The more intimate gatherings are my cup of tea these days.

Given the fact that we’ve just made a major move to Panama and are just now, five months into it, getting settled, we’re only just getting back into the swing of entertaining. It’s a little different for us, given the fact that all the people we know so far are very new friends. And this house we’re renting isn’t exactly stocked with all the kitchen equipment we’re used to cooking with, so it’s an adventure preparing meals like we enjoy preparing. We’re slowly beginning to host small gatherings and have done it about three times so far. In order to continue hosting these small gatherings that we so enjoy, we’ve had to search out certain ingredients and even had to purchase a couple basic things like a cheesecake pan, measuring cups,mixing bowls, a hand mixer (Scott is jonesing for his Viking Mix-master!!) . It’s funny, you don’t realize how much you depend on certain little conveniences until you don’t have it. I don’t think I ever remember cutting up a boiled egg with a knife instead of using that handy little egg chopper! Ha! Most of the silly little gadgets and kitchen conveniences are easily found here in Panama, but we have a 40 foot container that we plan to ship out here and we already own all that good stuff and are trying to live without it now. It seems frivolous, and unnecessary to buy things that we know we already have.

I see, as I’m winding up my little essay, that I’ve veered terribly from the prompt! Oh well! That’s just too bad…hah! I just started writing and here’s what I ended up with. Writing about dinner and hosting a dinner , naturally lead me to talk about how and why we, as a couple , enjoy entertaining. I’m going with it! I soooo enjoy writing, it’s fun, therapeutic and just a new way for me to express myself. Please forgive any grammatical errors and limited vocabulary, I’m not a “writer”, I just enjoy writing.

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!. πŸ™‚ 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….

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! πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ 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 caminΓ‘bamos. 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…

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! πŸ™‚ 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!

The simplest things make me feel so accomplished these days!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love the mornings

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

Commercialism is everywhere…

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

Mi Nuevo Vecino…

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

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Hydroponic Lettuce ….

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

A Panamanian Cold…

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

Ahhh, Finally A Place To Call Home…

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

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

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

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

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

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.

A good day of espaniol practicar…

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Some dayΒ΄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 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, canΒ΄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!

It’s Alive! My iPhone, that is!

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. This is Giovanni, busy activating my new data plan!!

I finally got a data plan for my iPhone. Yippee! I had to wait until At&t received my early termination payment in order to request the unlock of the phone. That just finally happened this week so , now that the phone is unlocked I was able to go down to the “Cable & Wireless” place and initiate my cell phone and data plan and get a Panama phone number! It’s great to finally have my own phone number and not just Scott’s . He didn’t have any of that early termination junk to deal with and since we really needed to have at least one cell phone functional we just paid someone here to unlock his phone the week we arrived.
But when we are both out and about and not together it has been a bit of a pain not having the ability to reach each other. So at the Movil office there is a lovely woman who speaks perfect English who is extremely helpful and she got me all set up. For a one year contract (which I can terminate anytime I like, no pesky early termination fee!), it costs $9.99 per month just for the data then I bought $ 40.00 of minutes which I suspect will last more than a month. They will send me a text message when I need to go into the office to pay my bill, very handy and easy breezy!

I did have a tiny brain-fart at the cable and wireless office that I must share so we can all laugh at my over taxed brain!! The process at the office is that you sit at the dest and sign all the paperwork and she installs the new SIM card and all that good stuff, then you walk over to the other side of the room to a little window where there is a lady sitting behind a glass window where you do all the paying of minutes and data plans . Well I stood up from the dest and very happily walked over to the pay-window across the room and with a big smile on my face my brain said,”Hola!” except that my mouth said,”Adios!” Ja!Ja!Ja! Somehow there was a disconnect between what I thought and what I said!!! Scott and Giovana (the lovely employee who helps us ) and the lady behind the class got a good chuckle out of that one!! Oh boy! I also had to laugh! Try to imagine someone walking up to you and saying, with a big grin,”Good-bye!” . Too funny. Yep, my poor brain has much too much new information! And I’ve only just begun, there’s a lot more to take in!

Well,I need to send some emails to my new friends and let them know that they can call me now. Now when Scott’s phone rings he can stop saying.”it’s for you” before he even looks at it . All I have to say is , ” Gracias a Dios es Viernes!” Cheers!

A Weekend in The Jungle…

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Since moving here to Boquete I’ve told you about all the really great people we have met and are becoming friends with. I know I’ve mentioned our realtor, Lyn. She is the one who , in my mind , is a renaissance woman! I’m certain she will humbly deny this description of herself but too bad ,That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Lyn and her Husband Eric started a Jungle lodge in Bocas Mainland, (the Caribbean side of Panama). They bought the land about six years ago and have been slowly working on developing it into a self-sustaining eco tourism destination for about the last three years. We were invited to be their guests this past weekend and I want to tell you about out experience there. Read the rest of this entry

Welcome to a Latin country…

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I don’t know how to express what a strange feeling it is to me to have professionals just ignore me. Ok, please don’t get me wrong, not always , but very frequently so far I have had the experience of being in an office and having the person direct all their conversation towards Scott while I am sitting right next to him and not even make eye contact with me. Now, I have never thought of myself as a hardcore feminist kinda gal, but come on! I think I’m a pretty independent woman . I have been a successful entrepreneur and business person for twenty years, Ive been a single mother I’ve purchased property and vehicles all by myself and supported myself without a man by my side and feel that I am a very competent human being, I have never had the experience of feeling like I don’t matter. I realize that this is simply a cultural thing and that they do not intend to offend. I’m certain it’s just the way things are done here and will likely always be done here and have always been done here. I am merely saying, that I have never had this experience and it bugs me . It gives me such a vivid perspective on what women in the states fought for in the past in order to be treated as equals in our lives. I’m too young to have felt the inequality that existed in the States and even though I have visited places where the culture treats women differently , being there for a short visit never gave me the opportunity to notice it first hand.

I will, of course adapt to this cultural difference in time, of this I am certain. When one chooses to adopt a new country as their home it means you enter into it knowing that much will be different. Some things will feel so much better and other things take some time to get used to. I am merely taking a moment to express my initial discomfort with this particular Latin way of doing things. It’s actually quite funny to try to think differently. What brought this all up for me was our visit to the Car insurance lady today. We are in the process of purchasing a car for me. Sitting at this very nice women’s desk she directs her conversation directly to Scott and fills out all the paperwork in Scotts name. When we inquire as to putting the insurance in my name she says its not necessary! The exact same thing happened at the Toyota dealership! We wanted to have the title in both our names, “No, it’s not necessary”. HUH? So I understand the laws here are very different. The insurance lady (who spoke perfect english) explained to us that in Panama if anything happens to one of the spouses the property automatically goes to the other spouse, “no problema”. Also the insurance will cover anyone who you give permission to drive your car. Sooooooo does that mean Scott is giving me “permission” to drive my car? Hmmm! The title to the Truck is in Scott’s name and when we met with Keith and filled out the title transfer documents for the used car he is picking up for us we told him we wanted that one in my name. I’m sure this is all just pretty trivial stuff and believe me, it’s not a huge deal, but it’s just something I have noticed and maybe it’s just me , but I’ll get over it. It just seems so strange to be in a position where all our big financial investments would be solely in Scotts name. I know, I am such a Gringo! Uggg! Sooooo Does my discomfort on this different , very traditionally LATIN way of doing things , make me a hard-core Feminist? I don’t know, all I know is , I’m just very accustomed to being treated equal to those around me and to having my own gosh darn car insurance! Is that too much to ask? Well, apparently here in Panama I will have to get used to having ‘permission’ to drive my car. (insert eye roll here!)