A trip to Houston Texas to personally deal with getting documents notarized and authenticated as well as getting our new set of fingerprints for our new FBI background check, was a success. And it was also time for our border run so we got that out of the way at the same time. Mind you, we already went through this whole notarize, authenticate, apostle process once before and we knew from experience that mailing it all would take way too much time. Not to mention we were in serious need of a little shopping spree! (Insert Happy Dance Right Here!) So Flying into Houston and walking over to the Panamanian consulate to deal with it all in person was a much more efficient way to do it. Getting our fingerprints done there was also much easier although the ‘runaround’ that we went through was very reminiscent of Panama. Before we even arrived in Houston we had gone online to Google maps to locate the nearest Police station to go for our fingerprints. When we got there the guy told us we would need to go to the Main Police Station downtown Houston….Okay. Off we went to the Main Police station. After searching for a place to park and paying $10.00 for the precious spot, we went into the building only to be told by the friendly man at the reception desk that we would have to go to the Permit office in a different area of town…..Okay….off we went AGAIN, laughing all the way because it’s not just Panama that makes you pull out your hair! Hah! At least it was all in English so even though we were getting the ‘runaround’, we felt just a tiny bit less clueless just understanding how to get someplace and what we were supposed to do. After finding the permit office we again had a “Panama” moment when we were told to take the elevator down to the basement then the guy down there told us to take the elevator back up to where we had already been to pay at the window and then come back down to the basement! HAh!!! Okay…..down, up , down again… We had to laugh at how similar to Panama some parts of our trip turned out to be. Of course, finding your way around a strange place when they have actual street names and addresses on buildings is an amazing experience! No problem! Oh! And GPS is a dream come true! YEA for GPS!! The smartest thing we did on this trip was to rent a car from the Hertz office in the hotel for a day. We had planned to take taxi’s but Sheesh! The taxi from the airport to the hotel was $45.00! We’re not in Boquete anymore! The rental car was only $65.00 for 24 hours, not bad. We were really glad to have it, especially given the fact that we ended up doing so much running a round. Read the rest of this entry
Many of my friends and family asked me to post photos of my finished pieces so here they are. My first attempts at working in Cement to create figurative sculpture has been quite challenging. The most challenging aspect of using cement has been the fact that it eats up my skin on my poor hands! Sheesh! This aspect of working with cement is nothing like clay! The lime in the cement just soaks up all the moisture in the skin and man, is it painful! I had bought a big box of latex gloves for doing my hair color and tried using them instead of kitchen gloves. The kitchen gloves just get holes in them too easily but if I wear the latex gloves under the kitchen gloves while I’m mixing up the cement it really works well. Also, while I’m sculpting I can wear the latex gloves because the cement doesn’t stick to them like it does to the kitchen gloves. The process of sculpting with cement requires layers and drying in between the layers so there’s really not the same instant gratification that you get when sculpting with clay, which is not fun! But I think as I get a bit more experience and have more than one piece in process I’ll have more to work on and wont have to wait until the next day to work. Another aspect of creating figurative sculpture that I’m going to have to get used to is not having a live model to use as a reference! Hah! They don’t have a lot of people who pose nude here in Boquete! Darn!! LOL! I’ll just have to rely on photos and memory. I really enjoyed making the birdbath and the little leaf plates make fantastic gifts, they are perfect to be used as a soap dish or a place to put your jewelry. I got this tip from Mindy! Thanks so much! As a matter of fact all these are gifts for certain people who will remain secret! If I mentioned your names it wouldn’t be a surprise….but… I’ll be seeing you three friends soon!! Hah! You may know who you are!!! I’m just horrible at keeping ‘secrets’! Sheesh! So, as you can see, I have finally found a medium to play with and I’m looking forward to making lot’s more fun things. Chris McCall, the artist who taught the class, also gives classes in Stained glass! I’ll be learning that next! I’m envisioning a couple of pendent lights for our casita!! I’m excited to learn yet another new art form that looks like lot’s of fun! In my mind, there’s really not much that is more fun and gives me more pleasure than making something beautiful, especially when it’s something useful! This Adventure just get’s better and better! And now, it’s only 16 more day’s until Mariah is here in Panama with me!! I can barely wait!!! Cheers!
Well, after learning how to properly mix the cement, what proportions of sand cement and fiber to use, I’m beginning to get the hang of it. I’ve made a beautiful birdbath from a giant leaf I got on my property up in Jaramillo, and I made a bowl using a stainless steel bowl as a form and placing small leaves in the cement to create a leaf pattern. I also made the stand for my birdbath . Yesterday we learned about staining the cement. Chris (the instructor) gave us notes on all the formulas for the tints and dies, thankfully because he already had all the colors all mixed up and Geesh! The guy is like a mad scientist when he’s working and not especially great at teaching how to actually do what he’s doing. I can totally relate to how hard it is to teach, It’s near impossible for me to teach someone how to do a haircut! I don’t really have the words to describe to someone in great detail , exactly what to do, I have to just do it and show someone. Chris is much like that when he’s trying to teach what he already has in his head. It’s all just such second nature to him and I notice he’s best at showing rather than talking. He has provided us with some great notes on all the formulas and all the important procedures for working with concrete. So, as I said, we colored our pieces yesterday and I had a great time watching all the other students pieces come to life as they painted the different colors onto them. We really have a great group of people in our class, which to me has made this experience even more fun! You know how much I love making new friends and I met some great people as well as got to know someone I already knew. Everyone ended up making some great pieces, all very different and all just beautiful! I’m going back today to finish up a few things. I also started trying to create a figure, which was my whole goal in taking this class. I was really hoping to learn how to do my figurative work that I love so much. The torso that I started is not looking so good! Yikes! It seems as though working with cement is not quite as forgiving and its not the same immediate gratification that you get when working with clay. I just hate that I have to work in layers and wait till the next day to add any detail! I’ll work on it some more today and see where it goes. I suspect I just need to get used to this new medium. Another thing that’s not so great about working with cement is “Ouch!” it’s terrible on your hands!! Sheesh! I’m all cut up from bending the chicken wire and my poor fingers have areas with no skin from the lime in the cement drying it out so badly!! Yesterday I experimented with working with my latex gloves that I have for doing my hair color and that seems to have really worked pretty well! I can buy them at Price Mart in bulk and they aren’t too expensive so as they tear I can just dispose of them and get new ones. I’m going to keep trying to acclimate myself with using cement and I may even set up a little space here at the house, under the carport to work on making a few things. It’s really nice that you don’t need a kiln and the pieces just dry up on their own. There are so many cool possibilities, I’m psyched to explore what I can do and what I can create with this new (to me) medium. I just hope my poor hands will forgive me, Yikes! Latex gloves are my new best friend!
Life is GOOD! And it’s even better when it’s shared with good people! And I tell ya, we do have sooooo many great people in our lives! Last night our friends A & S joined us for a Happy hour up at our new Casita. We really had a great time sipping wine and chatting and enjoying the spectacular view from our new place.
Day two of my cement art workshop and I’m hooked!! On the first day we learned all about cement mortar and concrete and how to properly mix it to make different figures and pieces of art. We’ve been mixing a mortar like consistency with sand cement and a little fiber and water. We practiced by making our first project which was a bowl. We simply used a stainless steel bowl placed upside down on the table and added moist sand around the lip to hide that part of the bowl and create a wide rim on our bowl. Then we covered the bowl with wax paper to assure that the cement will easily release from the bowl. We also walked around the yard and collected cool looking little leaves and placed them on the bowl over the wax paper and before adding the concrete which will give a pretty leaf pattern inside the finished piece. Another option , in place of the wax paper some used plastic wrap which gave the piece a shiny surface after it dried. I decided to scrunch up my wax paper and this gave a wonderful texture after it dried. Then we added the mortar and completely covered the bowl and the sand around the lip. I then added more leaves on the cement to give the outside of the bowl the same leaf pattern. We used a trowel to flatten the very bottom of the bowl giving it a level base so it sits nicely. Then we covered it with plastic wrap and let it dry over night. This morning , first thing we unwrapped our bowls and removed all the wax paper and leaves and used a file to smooth out any rough, pokey edges. Then rinsed it off and put a little water inside the bowl, wrapped it in a plastic bag and put it away to finish slowly drying. If it dries too fast it may crack so keeping it a little moist is important. I just love my bowl, its very organic looking, which I love. The next step will be learning to tint and die and all that good stuff. It will be very interesting to learn about all the different dies and tints and chemicals to use to create color on concrete.
Day two (today) we learned about sand casting. We were told to bring a big leaf with us to class. I went up to our property and got some huge leaves to bring. I decided to use one of my giant leaves to make a birdbath. First we placed damp sand down on the surface about the same size as the leaf, the leaf then goes on top of this small form and then on top of the leaf is the mortar. He instructed me to make it about 2-21/2 inches thick and to make the edges a little flatter so the birds would have a place to sit while they drink. This will dry tonight, we shall see tomorrow what happens with that. I also made the base of the birdbath by rolling up some wire mesh and covering it with a scratch coat of mortar to be added to tomorrow. I cant wait to finish this piece. My mind is just racing, thinking about all the different possibilities! One thing I’d really like to consider trying is making concrete countertops for our casita! The most important part will be learning where we can buy all the chemicals for tinting and adding color. Here’s a few photos of the progress so far….. Read the rest of this entry
Today I’m starting a class taught by a local artist who has an art studio in Caldera (a town about 30 minutes from Boquete). He teaches several different classes and I hope to go another time to learn about stained glass. But today is the first of three days of a class to learn about making cement sculpture. Before I left the states I had spent about 3-4 years participating in a figurative sculpture group. This group got together every week to create figurative sculpture and had been doing so for many years before I was invited to join them. There is a local art league in Palo Alto, called the Palo Alto Art League, and through this organization we were able to use a wonderful studio and hire amazing nude models to pose for our classes. So once a week I took off from my busy schedule, as did all the other sculptors , and we spent about 3 hours losing ourselves in our art. We would also have a great time chatting and sharing stories as we worked on our pieces, stories of our lives, our kids, our travels, our work , our spouses, food, whatever happened to bubble out! The group had a core group of about 5-6 of us that consistently attended and there were others who would occasionally join us when they had time or were in town. We liked to call ourselves the “Sculpturistas !” As time went on we grew into a great little social group, gathering for a yearly Holiday extravaganza and attending one another’s art openings as well as just getting together for organizational meetings that were really a nice excuse to get together. I got so much inspiration and support from this group of artists. Before I joined them I had never sculpted and I was looking for an outlet, something other than my own woe’s to focus on. I will never forget the first time I walked into that studio with my bag of clay and my brand new tool box filled with shiny new sculpting tools that I had no idea what to do with. I was filled with such a mix of emotions, I was nervous and excited, but mostly I remember wondering If I would be able to create anything remotely resembling a human figure. I mean, I had never studied anatomy or sculpture. I didn’t know the first thing about what to do or how to do it. But right away these other sculptors encouraged me and helped me and gave me confidence. When the model dropped her robe and stepped up onto the little platform to hold her pose I remember feeling a little shy about looking at her, I mean….She was Naked!! I just followed the lead of all the others and took out my clay, put it on the sculpture stand and began to let my hands accustom themselves to the clay. Almost instantly all my inhibitions melted away. It was as though none of it had ever been there. I began to work and shape the clay and as it warmed under my fingers shape began to emerge. The others were chatting and there was gentle classical music playing in the background , but it all disappeared as I let myself become a sculptor. The feeling I got from my very first introduction to sculpture was one of losing myself while simultaneously finding myself as I created something from the raw clay. To me, there is such a Devine feeling of pleasure in making an ugly lump of clay into something beautiful. Now, I’m not ever going to be a professional sculptor, the other artists in my group were actually selling and showing their work and had reputations in the community of artists as accomplished sculptors and continue to do so. It’s not my desire to do anything but enjoy having my hands in clay and creating shapes and designs and enjoying that wonderful feeling of losing myself in something other than what’s going on around me and in the world, it’s an escape. I have several bags of clay in my container to be shipped out here, although who knows if it will survive the journey. But, sadly, I haven’t been able to find any sculpture clay here in Panama. I’ve asked around and I’ve learned that I will have to have it shipped in from Florida which would be very costly. So when I discovered this cement workshop my heart leapt! My sculpture group in the states had actually done a workshop with a visiting artist who taught them to work in concrete. I was not able to attend this workshop in the states and now I miraculously have the opportunity to learn here! Yea!! So this morning as I type this, I find myself once again feeling that same familiar feeling of trepidation. Will I be able to make something from Concrete? Something beautiful? I hope so. I have printed out a few ideas of some things I might like to try to make but I have no idea what is possible with concrete. I’ll keep you posted on this new adventure. One thing’s for sure, I’ll meet some new people and hopefully make a new friend or two!
Today when I went to Rosemary’s house for our language class we talked about the Easter holiday which is upon us. I must admit I had not even really thought much about the fact that it’s a holiday weekend. Our workers do have two paid days off, Friday and Saturday so Scott will also have a couple days to take it easy. Because of this fact we decided to take advantage of the time off and made plans to go to Boca Chica for one night. Rosemary was telling me that she and her family have given up eating Chicken and Beef for Lent. Not being an especially religious person myself, I’ve of course never participated in this observation and I am very interested in learning how they celebrate this Holy Week here in Panama. It is a very important week for this Catholic country and there are many processions and gatherings to celebrate as a community. It’s during holidays here that I really enjoy observing how all the town comes together to put on huge displays that they seem to all enjoy with great gusto. Rosemary tells me that for three nights they have a long procession that marches all throughout the town and either begins or ends with a service at the church (remember she is telling me all this in Spanish and I’m doing my best to understand but I’m sure I’ve gotten some of the details totally wrong, forgive me for those of you who know all about this holiday). I would love to see this and I may try to go into town on Friday night to see if there is anything going on. Here is where my total ignorance comes out…remember, this is my first year living here so I’m still learning! I had to ask if they had the Easter Bunny and Easter Egg hunts and she shook her head and laughed ,”Noooo! ” “No Bunny!” hah! okay….I had to ask, feeling a little dumb. But now I know! That may be why It hasn’t really occurred to me that it’s actually Easter time, I haven’t seen any Easter egg dies for sale at Romero’s and come to think of it….not one easter basket either. Hmmmm….Okay. Got it! So it’s strictly a religious holiday, as I’m pretty sure it was originally meant to be. As many of the new customs I’m learning about this year, it’s refreshing that it’s not as commercialized as it is in the States. It’s very personal and it brings the entire community together as a big family to observe something that’s holy and a tradition all of the town gathers to participate in. We, heathens will be relaxing in a kayak exploring the coastal town of Boca Chica and likely enjoying a refreshing cocktail. If we happen upon an Easter egg hunt I’ll probably join in, but I suspect that isn’t the most likely thing we’ll see this weekend!
This week the focus on the casita project is building walls. What that means for Scott is that he’s driving back and forth from the supply store with brick, brick, and more brick as well as bags of cement. Luckily the delivery trucks have been managing to get to the entrance to our lot with loads of rock. This has really been a great help to Scott. The delivery trucks can carry about 3-4 times the amount that Scotts little truck can carry which means quite a few trips less for him. We got a big surprise on Monday, it seems that our neighbor who owns the finca right next to our lot has decided to improve the road and he had a tractor and a crew of workers up there clearing trees and brush an leveling out the dirt, maybe they will pour an actual road soon! It’s already so much better and I cant wait to see what they do next. Read the rest of this entry
Not only is it good to be back home, but it’s also great that we feel so ‘at home’ here! After living in this house since Sept 1st, (7 months! wow!) It’s become, “HOME” to us. I felt comfy in this house from the very first time I came to see it with Daniesa. It’s a funny realization, having gone to live in a temporary spot for a week, just how much we were looking forward to being back here. I’ve written about how nice it will be to be in our own home with all our own belongings, and it will indeed be nice. But that’s not to say that this wonderful house is not a perfectly comfy and homey place to live. After all, I’m learning that old saying ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’, happens to be quite true! Oh, I may miss having my own ‘stuff’, but I never realized just how easy it could be and has been, to make a place a ‘home’. It’s really true that it’s a state of mind, and not simply material possessions that make a place a home. In my adult life I can count on one hand the amount of places I’ve lived. I really haven’t moved around all that much. Which may be the reason why I attribute my deep-seeded need to feel as though I have a place to call my home. I’m a ‘nester’, for sure. I love to create an environment where I feel I belong and where I can be myself. It seems as though most of the people I’ve known in my life have moved around and lived in many different places. Not me, I normally like to put down very deep roots and stay put. I lived in my house in Los Altos for 20 years. For me, even though I chose to leave my ‘home’ and start all over again someplace totally different, even ‘foreign’ I still have a deep need to nest That being said, I have to say I’m learning to redefine my notion of what ‘home’ is to me. What that ‘re-defined’ notion is…I’m not exactly sure, but I’m more certain about what it’s not. One thing I’m learning is that my home isn’t defined by my pictures on the wall and furniture that I picked out and purchased nor is it my paint colors on the walls or plush towels in my bathroom. I know these things are not what make me feel as though I’m ‘home’, because I have none of it and here I sit in this house that is merely a temporary stopping point for us and after being gone for a week, I walked in the front door and felt a sigh of relief at being ‘home’ again. Sigh! I’ve always known in my head that material things weren’t what really matters in life but this is one of those times in my life when my head and my heart are actually connecting and a realization is becoming, ‘Truth’. This heart of mine is at “HOME” here! Mind you…..this doesn’t mean I won’t be extremely jubilant to unpack those ‘lush’ towels from our container when they arrive!!! Hah!
What I love about making friends in Spanish…
As you know , I’ve sorta ‘fallen into’ teaching English to four Panamanian women. I’m very uncomfortable thinking of myself as a ‘teacher’, and my so called ‘classes’ are taking on more of a ‘social gathering’ than any sort of structured ‘class’. This is exactly what I enjoy…Social Gathering! I mean, that’s what my hairstyling business often felt like as well. I think anyone who walked into that salon felt as though they were getting together with friends and not only coming to an appointment. Isn’t that the way life should feel? As though we were gathering to connect and not just robotically going through life? I didn’t have this awkward feeling I have now when I’m supposedly ‘teaching’, a feeling of being an imposter , cuz’ I was right at home behind the chair making people feel good. As these wonderful women and I are becoming more comfortable with each other and they have gotten to see that they too are ‘teachers’,( because they help me so much in my Spanish learning) it’s beginning to feel so much more like friends getting together to chat and to laugh and have a good time. I’m much more comfortable with this ‘give and take’ type of learning. They are just as much teaching me as I am supposedly teaching them, which I just love. But what I love the most is the laughing fits that we often get into during our little gatherings. Read the rest of this entry
An Evening Stroll,
It’s actually been pretty nice staying in town this week. And not having a kitchen to cook dinner has meant going out to eat every night, which we don’t usually do. And the added bonus of living in town is having the ability to walk everywhere. Of course my friends Valerie and Mark would beg to differ about some of the benefits, during the many festivals that kept them awake until 3 and 4 a.m. The Boom! Boom! Boom! of the drums and the “Are You Ready!” Blasting from the make shift disco techs that sprout up during these very festive times of the year. We are fortunate to be staying in town while there’s nothing going on. Which is a rarity around these parts, they do love any reason to have a celebration. No, it’s been fairly quiet so far and being able to walk to dinner is something we miss about our home in Los Altos. Read the rest of this entry
When we signed the lease for the house that we’ve been renting we agreed to this one week away at a hotel payed for by the home owners. That was back in June when we did that . So We gladly agreed to this and knew is was coming. You know how it is though….it felt at the time, like March was so far away. And here we are, all packed up, living out of our suitcases again. Hmmmmm….how time does fly by! It sort of feels like a subtle reminder of our semi-homeless state in the beginning of this adventure. That nomad, gypsyish state of living that we so gleefully set off for nearly a year ago. I can’t believe it will be one whole year in May since we arrived in our new home and started an entirely new life. This new home in Boquete, Panama, that we’d dreamed about and planned for for such a long time. It had been seven long years of research and travel and preparing not only us but also preparing all the people around us as well for what would be a major shift in our lifestyle. When we first arrived we spent the first two months living in a temporary apartment, not unpacking all our belongings because it was just a short stay until we secured more permanent lodging, no need to get too comfortable. It was so wonderful to make ourselves comfortable and unpack everything once we moved into the house. Even though it isn’t our house, it was ours for at least 10 months. And ten months back then felt like a long time. We’re nearing the end of our lease on the house, the owners are relocating from the states to begin their retirement in July. So, now what? Well, we don’t know exactly quite yet. Here in Boquete there’s a fairly large amount of people who rent out furnished casitas to snowbirds who love to escape the harsh winters in Canada and other similarly snowed in spots in the States. By July many of those snowbirds have flown back to where they live and there’s a good selection of places available. We shouldn’t have too much of a difficult time finding our next spot to live. Except that we’re a bit limited due to the fact that we have a cat. There’s a lot of landlords who, understandably, prefer not to rent to us poor suckers with pets so it can be a bit tricky. Read the rest of this entry
I was just chatting with my mother in law the other day about the different cultural treatment and feelings of domesticated animals here in Panama. I felt the need to tread gently when talking with her about this subject because she has the biggest heart when it comes to all animals but especially dogs. The last thing I want her to think is that all the Panamanian people are cruel or mean, because they aren’t. There’s just certain ways of life that are unlike our ways such as their perspective on dogs and cats, this happens to differ greatly from what we are accustomed to. This in no way makes them bad or mean or even necessarily wrong, It’s sad to those of us who don’t understand, but just because it’s different doesn’t make it ‘wrong’. I have a strong belief, that something can be ‘wrong’ to me but that doesn’t mean others need agree with what I think is ‘right’. I’m not unlike my mother in law, in my adoration of dogs. They almost all melt my heart no matter what breed, I just love them so much.
Okay…I’m sitting outside on the terrace with a cup of coffee and my iPad while a cleaning lady cleans the house before we leave tomorrow to stay at Isla Verde. Dani, the property management lady arranged for the cleaning lady to come so that the house will be perfect for the home owners when they arrive tomorrow. Of course, I will be paying her, but I don’t mind because I’m certain she will do a much more thorough job than I would ever be able to do. And she’ll probably be here all day long for $20.00! As I’ve established in past posts I’m not the most talented of cleaners. But I must tell you how silly I feel just sitting here while she cleans! I’ve had cleaning ladies in the past, but I never stayed home while they cleaned, I was always at work and just gave them a key to my house and let them do their thing. Even the cleaning people who cleaned my salon had a key and when I returned to work each week I was always pleased to open the door to a sparkly place. I felt justified to have someone else cleaning for me because I was so busy working. But this is just killing me! Sitting out here like I’m some kind of entitled princess! But I’ve read and been told and somehow my gut just tells me that here, I need to be home. Ugg! I just hate being here while someone else is cleaning, I just want to go help her! Isn’t that soooo silly! Ha! And, I’ve already spent the last two days getting the house ready for her to clean! Yes! I moved all the cat stuff out of the way, made sure there were no shoes on the floor, removed everything from the counters in the Bathrooms, made the bed, cleaned the kitchen…and I’m embarrassed to admit that yesterday I even dusted a little! Just a little! Sheesh!! Isn’t that so stupid! I just didn’t want the cleaning lady to see what a messy housekeeper I am! Hah! I don’t know about you, but if and when I do housework I like to have music playing so, I tried to get her to choose what channel she liked on Spotify. She seemed a bit unsure about my question as I held my iPhone up for her to look at the Latin stations I gave her to choose from. Hah! I’m such a dork! I think she may have said “lo que quiere”, what you want. Okay….so I chose a latin love song station and marched outside to let her work in peace, but with some soothing latin tunes. Hah! What must she be thinking of me? Well, at least I didn’t pour her a glass wine or ask her if she wanted a snack! My question is …what the heck am I supposed to do all day? If I end up posting about 10 blog posts today, you’ll know why! I think this is how Scott would feel if he just hired someone to do all that work up at our property! Oh! Laundry ! that’s what I can do! The dryer just buzzed! Whew! Okay, good, now I have something to do! Cheers! Buen Fin De Semana!
Scott and I are both in agreement that we don’t want to cut down any trees on our property if we can help it. The spot where we chose to build the casita on the property is perfectly situated between a bunch of trees and it fits just right without any need to disrupt the trees, who were there way before we showed up. The area up above where we plan to build our house and Scotts workshop was previously cleared and leveled by the person we bought the lot from. There are a few smallish trees up on the flat spot but no large trees, thankfully, that would be in the way of building. The pre-excavated area is surrounded by a horse shoe shaped grove of trees that act as nice protection from the winds that come from the North. It’s a lovely spot, surrounded by endless shades of green, which we just love! And the view of Boquete is just spectacular. This already excavated spot where we plan to build the main house for us is almost the exact same size as our lot in Los Altos. About Ten Thousand square feet. But it’s more roundish and our lot in Los Altos was long and narrow.
I was thinking about this the other day. Do I really miss anything from the States? I’m trying to be honest with myself about what, if anything I miss about my old life.. I have so many wonderful things to say about how much I love living here, and indeed I’m delighted each and every day when I think about all the things I love about this new life in Panama. But I’ve been trying to think about what I miss about living in the States? Well…..I really have to think hard to come up with an answer to that question. I thought I’d really miss my house. My neighborhood. Of course I miss the people that I left, more than anything, but that goes without saying, right? I do miss all my own belongings in my house. It’s strange to live in a furnished rental house where nothing belongs to me. Dishes, furniture, towels, appliances, everything belongs to someone else. At first the novelty of not having so many material possessions was quite liberating. And I do still very much enjoy not having so much clutter. But…It just doesn’t feel as homey as I’d like, living amongst someone else’s things. I’ve always found great joy in expressing myself in my living space. And creating a space that’s a reflection of me is something that makes me very happy. I look forward to opening all our boxes someday and having a space of my own to decorate and to just live again in a space that’s my own. Read the rest of this entry
I do love my new casual lifestyle, this is a wonderful thing about Panama, or is it just me? It could be Me… I’ve spent most of my adult life as well as my childhood, around hairdressers and in Salons. The constant and never ending expectation from those who look to us (stylists) to always be on the cutting edge of fashion can be exhausting. I know the majority of my former colleagues in the beauty business thrive on and love this part of what it means to be a stylist, and I applaud you because that’s as it should be. But the novelty of this aspect of being a hairdresser wore off for me about…oh, I dont’ know…maybe 15 or so years ago? Maybe longer. The expectation to look a certain way and to care so much about that external persona lost it’s appeal for me as I matured and began to find meaning in things that just seemed more important to me. I spent many, many years caring incessantly about how I looked and what clothes I wore. What people thought of me and feeling as though in some important way that my external appearance defined me. I spent hours getting fills on my acrylic nails, panicking when I broke one and rushing into the manicurist to get it repaired, and I never left the house without my make up just right. I lived to shop and never had enough clothes in my closet. I just ‘had’ to have all the latest and most current clothes that were in style. I always had coordinated jewelry and just the right shoes to pull together my look and my hair was of the utmost concern to me each and every moment of every day. Oh man! I remember those days, and the time I spent looking in the mirror! Constantly aware of what others looked like and comparing myself, and putting a ton of energy into caring about what those around me thought of how I looked. It was exhausting when I think back on that period of my life. Of course, I was raised by a hairdresser so this was just the way of the world to me. Read the rest of this entry
There are a few little everyday things that we’ve had to figure out how to make ourselves or do without or find a substitute for. And other things we’ve just had to learn, silly little things ,like metric measurements and temps on the stove. For the most part we are able to find just about everything we need here. But every once in awhile we find it difficult to find little things like for instance buttermilk, we have yet to have found it here, at least in our Romero’s which is Panama’s equivalent to Safeway. So we just learned how to make buttermilk, which is surprisingly simple and fast. You only need two Ingredients…
1 scant cup milk (whole, 2%, or heavy cream)
1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar
Combine the milk and lemon juice. Measure 1 scant cup of milk. Stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar.
Let stand 5-10 minutes. Let the mixture stand at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. When it is ready, the milk will be slightly thickened and you will see small curdled bits. (This substitute will not become as thick as regular buttermilk.)……It’s that simple! Read the rest of this entry
Hoy es muy buen día. Me levanté a la seis en la mañana entonces preparo desayuno para Scott. Después comemos desayuno, Scott fue al trabajo. Luego me llevó a la ciudad para ir a Romero’s y Mailboxes Etc. Regresar mi casa entonces me fui a mi escuela para la práctica de conversación.
Today is a good day. I got up at six in the morning then made breakfast for Scott. After we ate breakfast Scott went to work. Then I went into town to Romero’s and Mailboxes Etc. I went back to the house and then I went to my school for conversation practice. (just in case you didn’t ‘get’ what I said! Hah! (Now you kinda, know how I feel a lot of the time! 🙂 ) I’m really beginning to feel a little improvement in how much I actually understand. But my ability to respond is not very good yet. Poco a poco! I must say, today at conversation practice the instructor was my former professora, Widad, and I felt much better attempting to speak with her than I felt when we had class together. My vocabulary needs a lot of work and just speaking in general is not even what I would call proficient, not even close! But my ability to hear and understand at least most of the words being spoken is getting so much better. It feels incredibly good to be able to get most of what’s being said to me. Even when I’m in town , out and about, I’m really beginning to get most of what’s being said to me. I think one of the most important things I can do while I’m learning is just to expose myself to Spanish as much as possible. And I’m finding that I’m becoming less and less nervous or embarrassed by my inability to speak fluently yet. I notice a huge amount of pleasure from nearly every Panamanian I come into contact with when I attempt to communicate in their language and don’t expect them to speak English. Even when a person speaks English I almost always try to speak Spanish and they’re pleased to help me. Of course I apologize for my Malo Espaniol and explain that Yo aprendo español y ahora es malo pero en la futura me hablo español muco mejor! Es muy importante para me practico mucho! When I try my best I always , without fail, get a kind response and lots of gentle help from anyone I am speaking to. Ahora, es no importante hay perfecto solo para tratar. 🙂 I know…It’s not great! But I’m getting there, and I’m not gonna be fluent for a long long time , but for only having studied Spanish for about ten months, I’m feelin’ great! Muy Feliz!!
My regular meetings with the four Panamanians that I see each week is just great for me. I know I’m supposed to be helping them learn English but I must say, I feel like I’m the one getting the help! And my Zumba class is great too because most of the other people who go to that gym are Panamanians and even the instructor speaks only Spanish! So I mostly have no idea what the heck he’s saying, what with the booming music and the wild lights and my poor, slow brain trying to get my body to do something remotely close to what everyone else is doing (Rhonda, I think of you a lot when I’m trying to get my hips to do those Salsay moves! hah!) . But I know that one of these days I’ll begin to catch on and my ears will begin to hear familiar words. Geesh! Who knows, maybe my hips will loosen up one of these days too!! Hah! All in all, I’m feeling very successful and very pleased with my progress so far….my “Language” learning progress that is….the “Hips” moving like a latina woman…..hmmmmm, that’s gonna take a miracle! :0
Sometimes…I look around and think to myself, “Did I really do this?” I think back to my life before I moved to Panama and what it used to be like and I’m just a little stunned that I’ve made such an enormous life change. I mean, Man! I actually picked up my entire life and let go of all that I had built, all that I had worked so hard to create, and I just got rid of it and walked away. Sheesh! And I did that solely because I wanted to! Not because I had to or needed to for any life shattering reasons. I didn’t leave because I hated my life. No. I made this enormous life change simply because I was ready to do something completely different and I wanted to redefine my life and to do it all a bit differently. I wanted to have a different reason to get up in the morning. I wanted to make different choices about what was important in my day to day life. I had a strong drive to discover different priorities and work towards different goals together with Scott. I had gotten what I wanted and much more from all my hard work and in my mind continuing down the same path wasn’t bringing me anything different. In many ways continuing to do the same things and not making this move to another country to start all over again, would have been a much easier route. And in many ways staying in the life I had created and ignoring my longing for something different and new would have been the hardest thing to do. I sometimes wonder what my life would be like right now if the idea to move to another country and have a big adventure together with Scott hadn’t come into my mind. I have the occasional day when that thought will pop into my head and I begin to reminisce about my day to day life ‘before’. I think about the people and the familiar walk to work ,those are two things that usually bring me a sense of longing for my past life. And other times I remember the heavy burden I felt trying to maintain that life I had worked so hard to create. Yes, I remind myself, I worked tirelessly everyday for 30 years, spending most of my waking hours trying to make enough money to afford that life. The house, which included the insurance, the PG&E, , water bill, the garbage bill, the taxes, the mortgage, the second mortgage, the pest control, maintenance,gas , just to name a few things and leaving out all the other expenses that are required to live in the states….Ugggg! The bills, soooo many bills in that mailbox everyday! The weight of all that financial responsibility was really heavy, much heavier than I could handle for much longer. It was all beginning to make me rethink what I wanted in my life. And one thing I knew I wanted more than anything was to rid myself of that feeling of sacrificing my days and a huge chunk of my ‘life’ simply to ‘have’ a house, and many other material things of which had previously been what I had wanted. I know, I may sound whiny. For the majority of people all that is just ‘life’. It’s what we all work for. And I see nothing wrong with that, after all why else do we work , if not to have a home and to create a life for ourselves and our families? But then, after seeing my daughter all grown up and heading down her own life-path Scott and I both just knew it was time for us to go down a different path.
I grew up in a small town in Northern California, called Morgan Hill. I have such fond memories of growing up in a place where I recognized most of the cars that drove by and neighbors felt like family. Then I spent the largest part of my adult life living and working in a small town called Los Altos. One of the things I just love about small town living is the Familiarity of walking around town and seeing faces that you know. I’ve been living here in Boquete for nearly 10 months now and It just occurred to me the other day when we were driving through town that I’m beginning to recognized faces that I see around town. We slowed down to let a young women cross the street and I said, oh, that’s one of the tellers from Romero’s. This isn’t the first time I’ve begun to experience that familiar feeling of recognizing faces from different places in town. I just love it when I run into someone while running errands or walking into a restaurant or driving to the bank. It’s one of the things I loved most about living and working in Los Altos. I loved being at the grocery store and running into people I knew or walking to work and having people honk and wave hello as they drove by. Some people prefer the anonymity of larger cities where they can walk around and not see one familiar face, but not this gal. There’s nothing I like more than seeing a familiar face and I’m finding as time is passing that this is happening more and more for me.
I just can’t believe it’s been nearly a year that we’ve been living in this wonderful town. Boquete is a bit different than any other small town I’ve lived in, for many reasons but mostly because it’s a place where people visit for vacation. It’s interesting to see so many backpackers and tourists with cameras taking photos of the scenery as they drive around or walk around town. Countless times I have found myself stuck behind a car that’s driving so painfully slow and then I see the camera taking a picture out the window and I smile. When I look around at the tourists visiting this gorgeous mountain town in the highlands of Panama I often say to myself, ” I LIVE here!” I still feel so fortunate every single day when I wake to the sound of the birds chirping and the wind blowing through the banana trees in my yard. And as time is flying by I’m finding myself feeling little by little like this is actually ‘home’, and not a vacation.
So…before I knew I was going to have a ‘pet drama’, I had planned to spend some time with some friends, one who was coming to visit Boquete for her vacation ,Emma, a fellow blogger who lives and works in Panama City and Kris and Joel, who live in David also came up for the day. I sent them all a text just letting them know about what was happening with Midnight, because we had planned to meet for breakfast and I wasnt sure what my morning would bring. They all got right back to me with an offer to come with me to the vet if I wanted them to. Awwwww……I was so touched that they’d offer to do such a nice thing for me. I was planning to take them up on the offer, but as it turned out, it all happened so fast I just dashed over alone. But after I was all done with everything, instead of driving back home to spend the day moping around by myself, I called them and they were eating breakfast so I went and joined them. I’m so glad I did that because we had a really great day hanging out together and it turns out, I really needed it!
First stop, a tour of “La propiedad de los Carters¨! The four wheel trek up to Jaramillo Centro to see all the progress Scott and his crew have made so far. And they were very impressed with the amazing retaining wall and the spectacular concrete foundation currently under way. Of course, who wouldn’t love to see a sparkly new retaining wall? 🙂 After getting the grand tour and chatting with Scott for a bit we said our goodbyes and were off to go for a hike at the Pipeline Trail, a wonderful hike to a small waterfall that is one of my favorites up here. Screeeeetch!!! On our way back down the hill from visiting with Scott we passed a place that I’ve been curious about for a long long time. I pass this place everyday, many times, as I bring Scott his lunch. The sign out front reads… El Explorador… this is what Lonely Planet says about it…”This private garden is located in a hilly area about 45 minutes’ walk from the town center. The gardens are designed to look like something out of Alice in Wonderland, with no shortage of quirky eye-catching displays, including fanciful suspension bridges, koi ponds and playful sculptures.” And Frommer’s says ….”One of the more curious attractions in Boquete is El Explorador gardens (tel. 720-1989), which provide visitors with splendid panoramic views enhanced by classical background music. But what’s really the attraction here are the eccentric gardens sprinkled with vernacular, artlike recycled items: old television sets, a sewing machine, boots used as planters, shopping carts, old bottles, and more. For example, there is a bush clipped to resemble a cartoonish animal, and in its mouth is a plastic doll — but what this means is anyone’s guess. The main purpose of the gardens is to offer a place for quiet reflection and “spiritual renewal.” To this end, the gardens feature signs (in Spanish only) with uplifting quotes to boost a visitor’s self-esteem. As hokey as it seems, you do leave El Explorador feeling a little better. The garden park is owned by the Miranda family, who bought this property and began decorating it according to whim until it grew into a public venue. There is a cafe here with snacks, fresh fruit juices, and coffee.” I just had to quote these publications because I couldn’t figure out where to begin to describe this place! We ended up spending our afternoon wondering around this delightful place and even got to chat with the lady who owns it and has been working on this creation for fifty years. She is such a special woman who has really embraced her passion of art and gardening. I just can’t believe I’ve driven past this place so many times! I know Kris will publish a post about it, she took tons of photos and I’ll reblog it when she publishes it. I didn’t have my camera! Shocking, I know!
We had such a good time wondering around El Explorador that when we left we didn’t have time to go do our hike. Oh well, it was off to Big Daddy’s for our lunch and our Margaritas! So Emma will just have to come back another time so we can get our hike in. She already booked her flight to come for a few more days at the start to her summer vacation in June!! She wants to do the Volcano Baru Trek, which we haven’t had the opportunity to do yet, so we have something to look forward to. Volcan Baru is the highest spot in all of Panama and I’ve read and heard from others that the view from the top of the Volcano is a spectacular sight! You can see Two oceans from up there and there’s an adventure company in town that will drive you up in a jeep at the wee hours of the morning so that you arrive at sunrise and hope for a clear morning so you can be blown away by the sight! Kris and Joel will also join us and I’m hoping Scott will be able to get some time off work, (he’s got a demanding boss you know). What a great day I had with these wonderful friends. I could have spent the day mourning and feeling sad but it turned out that even though my heart ached from losing my pet, I was comforted by a wonderful day with three friends . Life is good and Friends……They’re a GOOD THING!!! 🙂
The really ‘bad’ thing about yesterday was that I was trying to deal with a very sick little cat. As you know we brought our two cats with us from the states when we relocated to Boquete. They are litter-mates and they’re 14 years old. I know, not young guys. The transition has gone fairly smoothly for them. The worst part of the whole move for them was the actual day of the move, it was a very long and grueling day. But now we’ve been settled and they seem like their old selves, lounging about all day and running around at night doing who knows what. Taking the occasional break to jump on our bed and make sure we are awake and ready to pet them. They’ve always been very cuddly guys in the evenings when we sit down to watch a little tv. We almost always each have a cat sprawled across our laps. Many nights I’m the Cat lady, and both cats are somehow smothering me in my chair. One on the back of the chair and one on my lap. Yes, so far the cats have been just as happy as can be. But being 14 years old we expected them to start having some sort of health problems sooner than later. It turns out Midnight is the one who has started to show his age. Poor guy. He’s really sick.
I won’t go into all the symptoms, I’ll just say I suspected that his Kidneys or liver have begun to shut down. So I decided it was time to get him to a vet. Oh, boy! Where to start on my quest to find a vet? Well, I decided to ask my friend who has two dogs and a cat. Until recently they also had two cats but lost one to a very similar fate as I am currently dealing with. I’ve read various things on blogs and forums about different vets here, some good, some not so good. My friend sent me a list of all the vets , with phone numbers, locations, what language they speak and she suggested one that she likes best. Of course on the paper she forwarded to me it says..”.Right now, he’s the best of the worst vets around……ask q’s. He’s very personable and believable, just always be skeptical”…(this is a good place for an Eye Roll!) This particular vet is in David, about a 35-40 minute drive , so I loaded my poor little kitty into his crate and headed down the hill with my Google map printed out, ready to attempt to find the vet. Of course before leaving I tried the 3 phone numbers I had on the sheet my friend emailed me, but alas! none of them were right! Ugggg! After asking my friend if she might have a different number, she told me she didn’t think I would need an appointment . So off I went.
I’ve told you before about my dread of driving in strange places. I really hate it. My friend had offered to come with me but Damn it! I hate being a wimp and I really need to learn how to drive in that darn city and stop feeling so nervous about it. The best way to do that is to just do it, right! So I set off, map in hand and I , of course, did not have an easy time. Because, of course, there are no GD street signs here! I know, Get over it! Okay….So I pulled over and opened up a great app, WAZE! It really helped me navigate my way and after taking many deep breaths and trying not to be a big baby and cry….low and behold I see the sign!! WHoooHooo!! I did it! I surprised myself and felt so good! There was one other car in front of the office and I saw a lady exiting the building….I also saw a “CERRADO” sign in the window! ARGGGG! Nooooo! They can not be closed! Holy crap! I got out of the car and the lady, a very friendly gringo lady, said, “They’re closed because of Carnival!” Ohhhhh! (Trying really really hard not to let the tears start!) This lady , Edna was her name. Was so kind. She had a big black lab in her back seat and she told me there was another good vet in town and started to tell me where it was. I can only imagine how pathetic I must have looked, being a very caring and obviously intuitive woman, she stopped, mid-direction, and said,”Oh, follow me, I’ll guide you there.” Deep sigh! “Oh, really? Oh my gosh! Thank you soooo much!” And off we went weaving in and out of streets and through David to the other vet. And Dontcha know….”Cerrado!” Yep! Closed! Okayyyyy! This was obviously not meant to be, but I have to say, I’m so glad to have gotten to meet Edna! What a sweet lady. We chatted a little while standing outside the second closed vet and when I introduced myself to her she told me she has 6 dogs and she has one named Holly. Hah! It’s times like that when I’m struck by just how many truly kind and generous people there are in the world. To have a complete stranger make me feel as though she cared about my situation and take time to help me, just warms my heart to no end. I am sad to say, I neglected to get her email address or phone number, I hope I run into her again someday. She even took the time to lead me back to the highway so I could easily make my way back up to Boquete. We said our goodbyes and I continued to follow her until making it to the highway and then waved a goodbye as I drove off on my way.
So Two strikes! My friend had also mentioned a vet in Boquete who is not actually a full-fledged Vet, but a Vet Tech. I was feeling pretty desperate and decided I would just drive by here office and see if she were open. I really needed to have someone take a look at my poor little lethargic cat who had not made one little peep the entire time in the car. Mind you, Midnight would normally be meowing and howling like he were dyeing. I found the office, no problem,and she was open! Not only was she open but there were two other people waiting outside for her. I spoke with these people, who all just raved about how much they liked this vet (or vet tech). Again, I had just run in to more nice people who I got to chat with. One man with a very strong southern accent was with a young woman with a tiny white dog. And another couple a gringo man and a Panamanian women had brought their neighbors dog in because he had a broken leg. Apparently the neighbor was handicapped and couldn’t get the dog to the vet. All these people were obviously very much “Animal” people and were very concerned about caring for the animal they had brought to see this vet tech. You can see where I’m going with this post….meeting all these nice, caring , generous people made a day that I may have otherwise labeled as pretty “Bad” and turned it into a “Good” day.
The Panamanian lady with the Neighbors dog even stayed to help me communicate my cats symptoms to the vet before she left. Staying for a really long time with me to make sure I was okay. I must say, the vet tech was extremely caring and knowledgable and I felt as though Midnight were in good hands. I don’t know why I didn’t go to her right away, I guess the fact that she isn’t really a full-fledged vet, made me nervous. She told me that because he is such an old cat the prognosis was not good, which I knew. She said he was anemic and very dehydrated and she hooked him up to an IV and began to give him fluids. She recommended a prescription cat food and a supplement that she said would be good to give him. All of which she said I could buy from the pet store in town. I spent two hours in her office and she gave him an IV of fluids and it only cost me$20.00! Yea! Panama! I was not wrong about my suspicion about his organs shutting down. He is on a downward spiral and , sadly it’s just a matter of time. Sigh. I’ve never had a pet for 14 years and seeing an animal decline is heart wrenching.
So, to say I had a day mixed with both good and bad moments would be an understatement. To feel the kindness of strangers is a gift. I feel so grateful to have been the recipient of so much generosity. Also I feel so grateful to my pet loving friend who has been incredibly encouraging and just today gave me really good advice about how to know when it’s “Time”. She says when you see that your pet can no longer do the things he loves to do, thats a good indication that it may be time to step in and do the most humane thing possible. Whew, sometimes its great to just talk to someone who’s been there. All in all, yesterday, while I had a few challenges, I really had some great interactions with several caring people, and It just makes me smile to think about it.
I’ve told you before about the Hydroponic lettuce place before. A lovely man named Rodrigo runs this place and I just love going there. Not only for the spectacular lettuce but also to visit his pet Toucans that live there. He has a passion for birds and especially Toucans. I counted eight but I’m not certain that’s correct. They are in a huge pen off to one side of the huge greenhouse and when I walk up to the pen they all fly up to say hello. Who knew Toucans were so friendly? Today Rodrigo was there and he chatted with me a bit and brought one of his oldest birds out to show me. The bird actually gave him a little kiss and you can see how bonded all the birds are to him. After returning the magnificent feathered friend to his home Rodrigo said (with childlike enthusiasm) “Look what I have” and walked me over to a large cardboard box that had a warm blanket draped over the top. Inside the box were four beautiful baby Parrots . He told be the name of them but I don’t remember. They were so pretty and he looked just so pleased! He is caring for them until they are a bit older and then plans to find homes for them. I am fascinated by birds but can’t imagine actually having one as a pet….animals in cages just hurt my heart a little and letting a bird fly around the house ….nope not my style! And my kitty’s would just be wayyyy tooo happy to have a nice bird dinner so I’m not a candidate for a pet bird. Rodrigo helped me with my lettuce, cutting them off for me and while he was doing that I had a question I have always wondered about. I wanted to know if it was necessary to wash his lettuce, I mean , it is grown in Water and indoors after all. I just wasn’t clear on weather or not he sprayed them with any type of chemical…I know, I’m pretty ignorant on this “hydroponic” thing. And I felt so lucky to be able to ask the guy in Charge…The answer was, ‘No, you don’t need to wash them but if you want to rinse them just to give them a little moisture that might be okay, but I don’t use any chemicals so there’s no need to wash”. Okay, I got my answer. They are just as clean as they look! I Love this place!
I’m not a teacher!! But somehow I find myself teaching English to three Panamanian women….sometimes you just gotta go with the flow. And right now, in my life, the flow seems to be… me teaching English, who’d a thunk?. I never looked for opportunities to teach English, but in my mind when something just drops in your lap, why not give it a shot? Here’s how this came about…. I’ve talked about my good friend Valerie, she and I have really developed a great friendship and we just enjoy each other’s company tremendously. I’m very sad to say that she and her husband are moving back to the states to care for her aging mother who has Alzheimer’s. My heart aches at the thought of her not being here anymore but more than anything I’m really glad she’s following her heart and doing what she feels she needs to do. So, her departure is what has opened up the opportunity for me to teach English classes. You see, Valerie has been teaching English because she inherited the opportunity from a good friend of hers who also moved back to the states. As a matter of fact my friend Aris who I meet with once a week to practice my Spanish with is another of Valerie’s former students. Aris is learning English and I’m getting a bit of Spanish practice in at the same time. Now Valerie has introduced me to Rosemary and Elisabeth, sisters, who both are very serious about learning English. I will be meeting with them two times a week at Rosemary’s home. And there’s another possible student, a trainer at the gym that I just started going to. Apparently this young man is interviewing with Copa Airlines and needs to improve his English. So I may meet him this week and hopefully start getting together with him to practice one time a week. I’m nervous about this new development, me teaching, but mostly thrilled to dive into the challenge of a new experience. It’s also a great opportunity for me to develop relationships with more Panamanians . Read the rest of this entry
My friend Valerie has told me so many times how much I would like her gym which is a much more ‘Panamanian” style setting, not that she thinks there’s anything at all wrong about mine, she just thinks I would enjoy the more social aspects of the smaller little neighborhood gym .(I don’t remember the name of the gym, but I’ll check and edit this post later.) I must admit, I’ve really enjoyed going the The Haven to rehab my ankle with the gentle swimming. The setting at the Haven is just beautiful, peaceful , relaxing and serene. It’s really luxurious and I’ve enjoyed my time there. All the staff are very friendly and the gym is sparkly clean. I had planned to check out the gym that Valerie goes to but in the back of my mind I didn’t really expect to like it as much. It’s a much smaller, casual gym with no pool and just mainly machines and a small weight room where a lot of young muscly Panamanian men work out (not a bad thing, nice scenery!) . Although I had read that they offered a nice selection of classes including Zumba. I had tried Zumba in California and whew! It was brutal! But I do really enjoy the music and the latin dance flavor of the Zumba classes, it’s really a fun way to get some exercise. So, last week when Valerie invited me to join her for a class I agreed to go and see what I thought.
I just loved it!! I loved the feeling of the gym and the people, everyone was so welcoming and friendly and it just felt so energized. The Zumba class, while a great aerobic workout, wasn’t as killer as the one I went to in the states. Don’t get me wrong, I worked up a sweat, but for some reason this instructor is much easier to follow. Maybe because it’s a man and not a young, tiny, blonde whose body does unrealistically crazy moves that my body would never in a million years be able to copy. The instructor is a fabulous dancer, of course…He’s Latin! And he just smiles and is having a good time. Most of the class is women and while not all Panamanian, I would say a large majority are . And Man Oh Man, can those ladies shake their booties! I think maybe all the strobe-lights and clapping and whooping just make me feel like I am at a party and not exercising in a gym. I can’t stop smiling the whole time the class in in session. I’ve been three times now and I think I’m hooked. My membership at the Haven is up, I only joined for three months so I think I may go ahead and join this gym now. It costs $40.00 a month and that includes all the classes. This Zumba class is two days a week Tuesday and Thursday at 8:45. Valerie also tells me that the personal trainer there is also very good and It think I’ll talk to him about helping me to set up an exercise routine to go along with my new Zumba class.
I just love how friendly this gym is. I met so many people before and after the class. Last week I think I met more people at that place in just three visits than I ever met in the three months I was going to the other place. Not that this is a bad thing, The Haven is a wonderful gym, I’m not trying to say that I didn’t like it, just that this little gym might be a little bit better for my social spirit. I do so love to make new friends and meet new people. And I just may have a new hobby….Zumba!! Whoohooo!! I sense a shopping trip in my near future..gotta get some exercise clothes! I’m so glad my ankle injury is a thing of my past because this girls gotta do some Zumba! Then maybe a little birdwatching and hiking and I’ll have to get the banking done (now that I have a bank account!) and fill up my hummingbird feeder, feed the neighbor dog, bring Scott Lunch and Hmmmmm I havent even told you about the English classes I’m teaching…to be continued, I’ll tell you all about that next time! My days are filling up quickly and a wonderful routine is beginning to set in, a routine that leaves room for spontaneity just in case someone invites me to play Mahjongg or go for a hike or maybe have a pedicure…life is good!
I´m sure many of my friends from Los Altos are wondering what Mariah’s been up to…most of my clients were used to getting an update on that little girl every six to eight weeks for most of her life, so it’s been a long time since I’ve gotten you caught up on her life. As you’re aware, I’m sure… I’m happy to report that those nightmare teen stories are a thing of the past….Sigh of relief! Not only did we all make it through those sad, dark times, but I believe I can say that the path she chose, although extremely painful and tremendously scary for all of us who witnessed it, was instrumental in making her the strong, independent, self assured young women that she is now. It would have been nice to have taken a little less rocky path, but “Oh Well!”.
We rolled back into Boquete yesterday morning (Sunday) by 9:45ish and were on a mission to find a good breakfast and some much needed caffeine(mostly Caffeine)! We had started our morning off first thing with a stroll to the border to finish our border run. Costa Rica side first, BAM! I love the Costa Rica side…they really have it down! No problems, no politics, just fill out the little piece of paper, stand in a short line that moves along quick and BOOM, stamp in our passports and we’re on our merry way. Off to the Panama side to stamp back in….SKREEEEETCH! Then the bureaucracy begins and slow motion sets in, oh, my goodness, how my Tranquilo wanes! Why oh why Panama? Why do you have to make it so unbelievably difficult and (seemingly difficult, Cuz’ what do I know, maybe there’s a perfectly good reason for all the BS ) unnecessarily complicated to get into the country? It seems to me that Panama should be trying to encourage tourism and they would want to encourage people to cross their border…well, in my mind, (which I’m certain is not as bright as the ‘rule-makers’ in Panama) . All I know is that the requirement that each person entering Panama have a minimum of $500.00 cash on them seems a crazy thing, if only for safety reasons. They were making people actually count out the cash at the window right in front of all to see! Really!! Now, the Frontera is a very busy place, crowded, confusing, and I’m sure there are ( not so honest) eyes watching that cash and waiting for an opportunity to relieve people of their hard earned money. I saw young and old, Costa Rican, Nicaraguan, Panamanian, Indigenous, American, European….all being asked to take out the money they have on them and count it, Sheesh!! To many of those people $500.00 is a life savings! . It just seems like there could be more important requirements for coming to Panama than showing all to see that you have $500.00 CASH on you when you walk across the border. But that’s just me….what do I know? After satisfying all the different questions from the man behind the plexiglass window who really didn’t seem as though he were in any hurry to stamp our Passports, he eventually ran out of things to ask for because we are pro’s after all. Yes, we were prepared with an airline ticket out of Panama, (refundable of course!), our bank balance on a withdrawal receipt , which has worked the last two times as proof of our financial solvency, but this particular guy wanted to see the actual $500.00 cash, which I had tucked away in a money belt, so I reluctantly and not happily, brought it out and counted it for him….Grrrrr! After satisfying the guy, he finally, and very slowly stamped our passports and off we went. Good to go for another 90 days…maybe our last one? It could happen. Read the rest of this entry
Yet another border run for us…
Yes, it’s that time again! It’s amazing how fast 90 days flies by when your havin’ fun. Last time we did the border crossing at the Rio Sereno border which I really liked. Sadly, that border is not quite so easy to do a quick, one night run. It would require having a bit more time than we have at the moment. Given the fact that Scott is a full fledged ”
jefe” right now with four full time employees depending on him, we need to make this next border run a fast one. So It’s back to Paso Canoas, darn it! The good thing is that this time we know what we’re doing and already know where to stay,(Hotel Canarias), where to park our car and hopefully there wont be any new surprises. You just never really know what new and totally random requirement they may decide to throw in the mix. Our plan this time is to leave Boquete after Scott finishes working for the day on Saturday. He usually works until 4:00 but he’s planning to call it a day at around 1:00 so we can get outta town on the early side. Then, if all goes well, we will get up bright and early, and go back to the border to check back into Panama when the border opens up first thing. My fingers are crossed that it goes smoothly, let’s hope I don’t’ fall down again! (eye roll!) I’m just kidding!
(The next Day) Well, here I sit, comfortably ensconced in our hotel at the Frontera. We’ve checked out of Panama and stamped into Costa Rica and now we are happily chillin’ in the hotel for the night. Scott’s watching TV while I play on my ipad. We’re officially in no mans land here at the Frontera. The border area is a very popular place where the local Panamanians enjoy shopping. There are all sorts of stores and malls here. We haven’t done a lot of exploring because its just so darn hot! Whew! I know we’re total whimps! So after we got ourselves checked into our hotel and parked our car in their private lot we left our things in the room and set off on foot to get those stamps in our Passports. Easy breezy when you know what to do and where to go. Last time we were here it was a much different feeling, not knowing what to do or where to go was a little disorienting. This time, we’re ahem’ ‘seasoned’ border runners! 🙂 No need to be nervous, we just marched right up to the window got our stamp and went our merry way. I’m hoping the worst part of this particular border run will be stepping in a huge hunk of bubble gum which somehow jumped onto my ankle and unbelievably wrapped itself completely around my ankle!!! Geesh!! (Looking up to the sky and wondering…why meeee??LOL!)
Last time we did this we were hoping it would be out last time….well, here’s to hoping ‘this’ is the last time we have to do this. Maybe in the next 90 days we’ll have succeeded in the completion of the ‘never ending’ collecting of all the required documents for our permanent visa. For now, we’ll just enjoy our wine and our cheese and crackers that we brought for our ‘Hotel Picknic”! In the morning we’ll walk back to the Costa Rica border and check out then check back into Panama then we’re home sweet home!! Back to Boquete and the Boquete Jazz & Blues Festival!! Cant wait to sit it the fresh, cool Boquete air and listen to some good music, who knows maybe even get a little booty shakin’ in??? It could happen!! 🙂
The fun part of building a house is when you get to go shopping!!! Yipee!! I’m right, right?? Faucets, sinks, floors, light fixtures, whoooohoooo! Here we go!! We’ve been slowly researching where to purchase all these wonderful materials locally for our casita. There are plenty of places to find nice fixtures and even many brands that we recognize. For our bathroom we got Hansgrohe fixtures and a Toto toilet. We were glad to see so many familiar brand names. All of the fixtures we found at a really nice store in David called Elmec. We had already been on the Hansgrohe web sight and written down the style numbers of the things we liked, which made our shopping much easier. Dina (our saleslady) just showed us what they had on the showroom floor and then looked up other things on the computer and if they didn’t have the exact model then she found one that was comparable. Right now we are just purchasing materials for the casita and down the road we’ll go back for all the things we want for our house.
I’ve been working on getting a bank account established here. This has been my next big project. As I’ve told you before, they make you jump through hoops to open an account. I wonder how hard they make it in the states to open an account if you aren’t a citizen? Hmmm? So I went into Scotiabank (on the advice of both our attorney and our realtor) to give Ana all the documents she requested, Two years tax returns, copies of passports and U.S. drivers license, copy of utility bill for the house we rent, copy of rental agreement, a letter of recommendation from my bank in the states just stated that we have been customers in good standing for at least two years, a letter from my attorney here in Boquete vouching for our intention to settle here in Panama, and a copy of the deed to the land we purchased…whew! I also had to fill out an application that included three panamanian references, which was pretty funny because the bank manager who I was dealing with, Ana, happened to know personally all the people who we know. Funny, it’s a small town. This was helpful because she knew how to spell their names and what their addresses were, ha! And she saw where we currently live and it turns out she’s my neighbor as well! The final thing the bank needed was to contact the bank manager in California to confirm her letter of recommendation. So I email Susan at my bank in Los Altos to give her a heads-up that she would be receiving a correspondence from Panama, hoping to make it go as smooth as possible. Good thing I did that because they contacted her via email immediately yesterday and she forwarded me her response. Looks like we should be good to go, I hope! I’ll go down to the bank on Monday and see if there’s any other information they need, but I feel pretty organized. Read the rest of this entry
I joined Facebook just before I moved to Panama. Before I moved I was never interested in becoming another obsessed person on Social media. But then I began to realize that Facebook was going to be just one more great way for me to keep my connections back in California. And I was right. It’s been so much fun to be able to see photos and read all the posts people share about their lives, as well as sharing my own special, and not so special moments with friends and family. Today I noticed something new on FB, Facebook Movies…I wasn’t sure what it was and then I started watching them and my morning has just flown by as I’ve been sitting here with tear-filled eyes watching all these little clips from peoples lives. Sigh…It’s just so sweet to see all the different moments people wanted to share with the world. Babies, flowers, cakes, soldiers, sunrises, hubbies, weddings, mountains, christmas trees, graduations, hockey games, Anniversaries, funny times, sad times, new cars, daughters, sons, Moms, Dads, Races, beaches, Births, deaths, sunsets and rainbows, just to name a few of the things that brought tears to my eyes. I have to say, I just find it so heart warming to be able to feel as though, in some small way we are all a part of one another’s lives. Between my blog, Instagram and Facebook, as well as email, Facetime , Skype, and Magic Jack, living in Panama doesn’t feel such a world away from all the people I love and care about.
Where to begin…..I had a GREAT Birthday, thank you very much! 🙂 The man who prepared all the food at the resort where we stayed made me a special lobster dinner. Of course the lobster was fresh caught that day! And a delicious cake for desert and all the other guests sang to me!! In Spanish of course!! Wow! What a great Birthday! It really pays off to tell everyone you meet ..”Hoy es mi cumpleaños!¨:) Hee!Hee! I feel so fortunate to live so near to such natural beauty and to have the freedom to explore and learn first hand, about such a colorful culture. The Kuna are just a fascinating group of people. The first thing I saw through the little window of the small airplane as we landed was two Kuna women and I inwardly gasped at their exotic beauty. The traditional clothing that they wear immediately caught my eye and I was mesmerized by the bright colors and beautiful embroidered designs. But what really stood out to me was the amazing adornment on their legs and arms. They wear these beautiful beaded things (‘Things’? ‘Adornments’?for lack of a proper word) that at first looked like leg warmers , covering their legs from ankle to knee. And on their arms from wrist to elbow. When I saw them closer I realized they were actually beads of brightly colored oranges, yellows, reds, black and green. Hand beaded in beautiful geometric designs. We noticed that the young females didn’t wear the traditional garb and our guide told us that they begin to dress in the clothing when they turn 18. They also have their hair cut short at that age and never again wear their hair long. This makes perfect sense to me given the constant wind and lack of lot’s of fresh water and also, I’m sure there’s not a hair salon to keep all that long hair trimmed up! (although this may not be their motivation, shrug!) All these Kuna women are tiny, almost childlike in stature. The traditional costume that they wear is hard to describe and I’m certain to do a terrible job in my verbal description of the beauty and charm of these women, but I’ll do my best. On a side note, before I continue my attempt to describe the female members of the Kuna I must tell you that none of the men wear any such traditional garments. They dress just like any Panamanian you would see almost anywhere. I found that kinda funny. Anyway….The first adjective that comes to mind when describing the Kuna women’s attire is ‘colorful’! They love color and design and they display it well! They wear an amazing mixture of different fabrics, textures and colors as well as patterns. The tops seem to all be made from some type of lightweight, maybe Rayon or chiffon fabric, flowing and lightweight. In beautiful floral patterns and soft geometric designs that are both feminine and bold. They have puffy sleeves that go to just above the elbow and most had scoop necks that set off the brass colored necklaces they wear along with long brass colored earrings. At the bodice this first fabric is connected to a corset-type piece that is embroidered with the traditional Mola designs, each women wears different designs and I don’t know what the significance of these designs are to the individual women, if there is a significance at all. But they are very brightly colored, hand embroidered , and intricately decorated all the way down to where the next piece of fabric begins, this next layer of color and pattern is the Sarong type skirt they all wear. And on their heads they all have a red handkerchief type scarf to tie around their short hair. They all wear the brass jewelry and some of the older women had pierced noses. I did manage to very discreetly get a photo of a women who was standing in front of me at the airport on the morning we left. ( I know “bad girl!”) They don’t like to have their photos taken so I felt kinda bad, but she didn’t see me , I promise! I just had to show those of you who have not had the pleasure of seeing them before. In addition to all this color and amazing external adornment I must add that above all I found their easy smiles to be most endearing of all. Every women I saw gave me a great big smile and a wave, I just love that! I didn’t see one unfriendly face the whole time I was there!
Well, my Birthday is Tomorrow, Jan 29th and we’re headed to San Blas for four nights. We’ve read a lot about this area of Panama, just off the Caribbean coast, and I’m so excited to finally get to explore it. Several months ago, not long after we arrived in Panama, we discovered that they have a coupon deal similar to “Groupons” in the states called Oferta Simple. We bought two coupons for a stay at a hotel on San Blas called the Dolphin Lodge. It was a great deal, half off! Then we just recently got an email letting us know that it expires on Feb 2!! Yikes!! Better go now!! So, you can imagine right now isn’t the best timing for us to go out of town, but oh well…Guess we’ll just have to suffer! Darn! But seriously, leaving three employees does pose a bit of a complication, not insurmountable of course. Scott is making sure that they have all the materials to continue working on the retaining wall and hopefully all goes well while the Jefe is away. It’s not easy to get out to the islands. Today we’re flying from David to PC, staying one night then catching a small plane out to one of the islands where we will be met by a boat that will take us to our island, there are many so I’m no sure which one we’re going to. Then we have four nights at the Dolphin Lodge where Scott will scope out the nearest hammock and remain there as long as possible! I’m looking forward to doing some snorkeling and likely a bit of hammock time as well!! Kindles are charged up, sadly my iPad is staying home because I seriously doubt there will be internet connectivity on these islands! I may suffer from withdrawal but hopefully I’ll survive! 🙂 You’ll be relieved to know that we have some very good friends who have kindly agreed to spend some time at our house with the kitties so they’ll be well cared for, not to worry! So, I’ll let you know all about this little adventure when I get back home! Following is a little excerpt I copied and pasted from Wikipedia to give you a little info on this wonderful place! Cheers! …. Read the rest of this entry
Okay, I’m in a Funk….
As Scott has begun to have a routine of his own, he works on our project from 7:30-4:00, I’m finding myself at a loss, as to what to do with myself. It’s a very strange feeling for me that no one expects me to be anywhere. I could just sit at home alone all day long and no one would even miss me. (don’t panic, I’m OKAY, really) I have no one expecting me to be or do anything at all. This is not a familiar feeling for me and I’ll admit I feel a bit lonely and kinda lost and not a little useless. Right now I don’t feel like I have a ‘purpose’ to my days. I’m enjoying going to the gym and swimming and getting exercise, but the gym is a very quite place. I’ve always been such a people person. Whew! I knew I would miss the social aspects of my salon, the people, the fun conversations about books and life and gossip and the laughing and joking and the reward I got from giving of myself to make people feel good. I know I’ll eventually find my new purpose but at the moment I’m just a bit lost, although at the same time, kinda feeling as though I need to embrace this moment and sit with it so I can process what I’m going through and move forward in a healthy way. Just writing it down feels a little bit better but I don’t like to sound like I’m so pathetic and that’s exactly what it sounds like when I read back to myself what I just said. Geesh! (eye roll!) Well, it’s honest and I think it’s one of the things you like about following my journey. I know it’s one of the things I like about sharing it, being open and revealing to you what this new beginning is truly like for me. (shrug!)
Sometimes as I’m running errands and trying to be productive I ponder how many of the things I need to get accomplished just aren’t as neat and tidy and simple and yes, convenient as I’m used to. This isn’t meant to be a complaint, simply an observation of one of the many changes of lifestyle I’ve experienced with this awesome adventure. The task of finding a way to get a simple money order was a good example of what I’m talking about. Normally, (in that other life) I would have known where I needed to go in order to get a money order, I would go there and be confident that I would be walking out with what I needed! Not quite the case for me here. Add to the fact that I not only don’t yet know how or where to acquire such a thing , but I also don’t have a strong grasp on the language and, any semblance of “convenience” just goes right out the window! Another thing as trivial as parking near a store I need to go into can often turn into a search for a place to park that’s at least reasonably near to my destination, you just don’t find big, parking lots up here in Boquete. It’s pretty much a sort of ‘free-for-all’ when it comes to finding a place to park your car. There are a couple of small parking places that are easy to park in, but mostly I park on a side street where I’ve strategically scoped out as the easiest spot to get in and out without too much trouble. I’ve long since given up on any deluded idea that I might just run a quick errand, I constantly remind myself that there’s really no reason to feel hurried, I’m not on any ‘time schedule’. So who cares if I need to walk across town! This is when that “Tranquilo” word comes in handy! And I realize, “Hey, who needs convenience right now? I’m a free bird!” I just take it all in and smile at the friendly faces and say “Bueno!” I watch my step as I stroll along to my destination and I try to adapt to the fact that I may or may not get all the things on my list, at least not today. Who know’s what I may accomplish mañana and what treasure I may find at Romero’s or at Mandarin or Deli Baru! One thing I consistently find as I make my way through town is lot’s of smiles, there’s always an abundance of those. Read the rest of this entry
Scott’s making progress up on our property…I really need to come up with a good name for our property so I can stop calling it ‘our property’…I’ll work on that ! Anyways, He now has three good laborers who are working out pretty well so far. Two are father and son, Ricardo 1 and Ricardo 2, and the other is Archiles. The father and son have worked for one of the construction companies in town and have a lot of experience. Ricardo 2 is also very skilled at welding and metal working which will come in very handy. Already he will be doing some work on making a metal door for the Bodega (shed) that they built to store bags of cement and tools. We also need a nice gate at the entrance to the property and maybe we can get him on that as well. There’s another worker who we have been introduced to who is waiting in the wings for Scott to be ready to add to his crew. This is another very experienced guy who will be very good to have around. Originally we had planned to hire a contractor to do the building of the main structures of the two houses we will be building on the property. But….now that Scott seems to be gathering such experienced men he’s rethinking this original plan and considering moving forward on his own! Yikes! Well, not really Yikes! I know he’s fully capable, I’ve just been a bit hesitant to build singlehandedly, like we did in Los Altos because of not having the knowledge of things like, where to purchase materials, building houses here is done very differently than they do it in the states, the language and possible trouble communicating, and just the general headaches that will certainly come from not having an experienced contractor in charge. I’m a bit conflicted, as you can tell, about our ability to tackle such an enormous project all on our own. Believe me, Scott’s not diving in to such a big decision, he’s weighing all the pro’s and cons very carefully before making a firm decision. This project may well go through many varied and different decisions on many levels, until we come up with a solid plan that we both feel comfortable with. But for now Scott and his little crew of three have been very productive and are getting a lot done. They got the roof on the bodega this week and only the door is left to make it a secure place to lock things up. Yesterday Scott bought all the metal necessary to make the door and Ricardo 2 will be welding it up at his house today.
As this fresh new day approaches I sit on my terrace with my coffee and just gaze at my surroundings. Ahhh… sip… smile…sip…the trees seem to sparkle right now as the sun shines down from the bright blue sky and the gentle breeze moves all the leaves two and frow. The clouds slowly moving over the hills in the not so far distance look like a soft blanket, gently caressing the hilltops. The birdsong is mesmerizing, so many different and distinct songs busy chirping and tweeting and communicating to one another in a language I wish I understood. I sit quietly observing this place, this haven, this wonderful, peaceful, place that is now my home. It’s so green, so many different shades of green and it feels to me as though life is just so natural and vibrant and free. I breath in the fresh, crisp, clean air and feel the breeze that gently blows this morning. Ahhhh….sip….Smile…What time is it? What day of the week is is? Is it January already? Does it matter? Nawww…what matters to me right now, in this moment is all this Devine beauty the colors, the sounds the feel of the breeze, the quiet, even the rooster that disturbs the quiet 🙂 It’s all just such a gift, and such a pleasure to know each morning it’s just right outside my door waiting for me to soak it all up, to take it all in and to be filled, each day with gratitude for all the richness that is my new home….. Boquete.
No, not 4 wheelin’…I wish I were spinning my wheels up there instead of traipsing around feeling like I can’t seem to accomplish anything I need to accomplish. I need to do something very simple but can’t seem to get it done. I simply need to purchase a money order or get a bank check payable to the Consulate of Panama. We need to send payment for the authentication along with our documents to the Washington DC Panamanian Consulate. I’ve been to ten different places to attempt to purchase a money order…”Necesito comprar un giro postal”. Blank looks..No can do! Even the Western Union here in town doesn’t seem to issue money orders. I thought that’s what Western Union does? (Tranquilo…deep breath…) Now, of course I can understand the banks unwillingness to help (kinda) because I have yet to have opened an account here. We are in the process of collecting all the necessary documents they require in order to open an account but the visa stuff has been the priority so far. My last resort has been to contact a friend and ask if she would be willing to meet me at her bank to purchase a money order or get a bank check. I hate to inconvenience people, but the only other option, according to the person I spoke with this morning at the Panamanian Consulate in DC is to go to the Maritime Authority in Panama City to pay. Well, That seems kinda inconvenient , that would be very costly for us to make another trip …..Grrrrrrr.
Sorry, this post is kinda whiny but that seems to be the tone of this day so far, but hey, it’s only noon so it could look up! The other stupidly frustrating thing that happened today is totally my fault..I bought a stapler the other day, so we can staple the different piles of documents together before mailing them. I bought the wrong size staples!!! Humph! So I went to Mandarin today and bought two more boxes of different size staples and….you guessed it…they also don’t fit my new stapler!! What a dummy!! So, I think I’ll just bring the darn stapler with me next time! Uggg!! Honestly, I feel like crawling back under the covers!! Nawww not really! Maybe I should go lay in the sun with the dog who looks so peaceful and cozy!
(Several hours later and all’s well!)
I told you things could quite possibly begin to look up…and I was right! My friend Sela was kind enough to meet me at her bank and arrange to get a bank check Payable to the Consulate of Panama for the amount of the Authentication (which is $30.00 per page! 8 pages!). Whew! Sigh of relief! And Scott found the right size staples to top off my day ( how easily my day is topped off!) ! We organized all the documents, put them all in a big envelope with a pre-paid, self addressed return envelope and I marched them off to Mail Boxes Etc. to be DHLed to DC. Done! And Done! Now we wait until they are returned to us and then add our FBI report to it to send it all off to PC to our attorney, and the application process will officially be in process!! Which means we can then head back to CA to prepare our container for shipping. My next big task is to get a bank account here! This would have been much easier had I had an established relationship with a bank. And now that we have employees working for us it’s of the utmost importance to get the ball rollin’.
The day just kept getting better because as you may recall Monday is the day I go to my friend Aris’s house to practice Spanish. I had the brilliant idea to walk over to the Feria with her. She also thought that was a Bueno Idea! So I met her at her house and we walked over there. Her house is just practically right next door to the fair grounds so it’s a short walk. I’m glad we went early in the day, around 3:00, because it get’s pretty crazy in the evenings. As a matter of fact I’ve been told that the music goes well past 2:00 in the morning, more like 3 or 3:30. I took a few photos of the enormous stages they have built and they turn into raging Disco’s after dark! I must admit, even though I hate crowds I’m a bit curious and may have to check it out with Aris one night this week, we shall see how brave I’m feeling…. But the Feria is also an amazing place to shop for all sorts of crafts and hand made artisan things. I saw beautiful hammocks and leather purses an jackets and boots and lot’s of woven baskets and plants for sale and hand painted things. I bought a little purse and a key holder to hang on the wall of our house someday. I really enjoyed walking around with Aris. We got an ice cream and found a nice picnic bench near the river and chatted for awhile. Amazing how a yucky day can turn out so not yucky by the end of the day. As a matter of fact…Darn right wonderful! Smiling!
That’s right! You heard me correctly, I’m a rough and tumble, 4-wheelin’ gal these days! Watch out!! Ha! Ha! Ha! When I lived in California I drove a Jeep Cherokee 4 wheel drive. But I gotta admit If I had ever had occasion or necessity to use the 4-wheel drive on that car I would not have know how to do it! I don’t think I ever shifted that car into 4wheel drive. Now I drive a Toyota FJ Cruiser and just the other day I had my first lesson on how to actually do some off road 4 wheel driving! And I had this new , exhilarating experience driving up to our property. It may sound silly to some, but to me it was such an exhilarating, experience I just have to tell you about it. I know….I do get easily excited by some of the most trivial things, but I just cant help it, It’s all so very different from my life in Los Altos. So, as you know, our property is way up in the mountains and there’s no ‘road’ yet to get up there. Well, let me re-phrase that, for Panama standards there is a “road” kinda, sorta… its actually more like a ‘path’? or a ‘clearing’? But it’s rough going and it’s not for the faint of heart at the moment. As Scott has been trudging up there with his truck for several weeks now the road (or where the ‘road’ will eventually be) is becoming much more evident, you can actually see tracks where your tires go. When we first started driving up there the plants and weeds were higher than our truck. It was very funny. My stomach was always in knots, it just didn’t seem like a place we should be attempting to drive! I was certain we would get stuck and not be able to get out again! Just certain!! Ha! (what an optimist, huh?) After we actually get to our property, after trudging through a very rough path, the ‘road’ goes downhill then hits a creek , (which already has a sort of bridge-ish thing so your not actually driving through water) and heads up pretty steeply, this part, when we were still in the rainy season was much too slick and steep for us to get Scotts truck or my FJ up there, the tires would just spin. So we were hiking up to the spot where our house will eventually be built. Of course before we could even ‘hike’ up there Scott had to first use his shiny new weed-wacker to clear the way to be able to get through the thick brush.
I must pause in my telling for a moment to reflect on the joy my husband got from owning and using his very own nifty Weed-Wacker! Eye roll here! (Smiling Eye Roll, mind you!) That guy….So easily appeased! If you’ll recall, the poor guy had been down for the count for several months before his hernia surgery and then consequently, after the surgery to be well healed. I tell ya, keeping that man down was not an easy feat! He was Stir-Crazy, and insanely unhappy about it!! So I suspect the joyous look on his face as he gassed up that weed-wacker and began to clear the brush was mainly from getting to DO something!! Anyone who knows Scott can imagine how glad he was to be weed-wacking to his hearts content, and my dear husbands heart was indeed ‘content’ as that weed-wacker buzzed and hummed its way through big tall weeds and plants. A couple of times I brought my lawn chair and set it up near the car as he worked away at clearing a path for us to climb to the top of our property. No, I was not interested in trying out his weed-wacker, thanks, but no thanks. 🙂 I wouldn’t want to steal his fun, I’m much to generous for that! 🙂
So back to my joyous experience, cuz as Scott had his joyous Weed-Wacking experience, mine was learning how to utilize the 4-wheel drive in my car. Scott was working up there last week and he had put some bags of cement in the back of my car. He called me and asked if I thought I could manage driving up there so he could get the bags out of my car. Hmmmmm….Well, I had not actually DRIVEN up to the property on that “road” (eye roll) myself and was a bit hesitant, to be honest. But I said I’d drive over and meet him there. When I got there he had driven his truck down to meet me at the bottom and offered to drive my car up so I wouldnt have to…..Well….I gotta learn someday, right? So I may as well give it a shot! So he showed me how to shift the car into low 4 wheel drive and put the gear in low as well and he said,”just follow me”. Okay……So I slowly, at first, began to drive along behind his truck on the path. “Hey…Whoa!…Uhhhh….Whoooooohoooo! THis is pretty FUNNNN!” (Great big smile here!) I couldn’t stop smiling as my trusty FJ slowly made it’s way up through the rough path to where we will someday call our home! Oh Yea! I have now made many trips up there to bring a cooler full of lunch for Scott and I. It’s nooooo Sweat! And It’s soooo fun too! I never dreamed I’d enjoy 4 wheelin’ and I especially never dreamed that I’d be 4 wheelin’ to my HOME!!! Ha!Ha! Ohhhh I just LOVE this place and this new life! Seriously, people I could not be any happier with this Adventure!
Yesterday I got a rather , ummm what word shall I use???? Harsh? Mean? Angry? Bitter? (definitely not kind), resentful? I don’t know what word to use because sometimes it can be difficult to accurately discern the true tone of someones words by email. But suffice it to say , this person who left a comment on my blog, a complete stranger I may add, had issues with my writing and the accuracy of the content of some of my posts. At least I think she meant to portray her distain (?) Possibly superiority as a result of my lack of research into certain information I had published, for example, “Boquete” does not mean” bouquet “and the Feria is not TWO WEEKS its Jan 10-19! Oh, and she knows all about allll the holidays that are observed here in Panama and feels I should also know them and blah blah blah. (maybe she was trying to help me?). I don’t rightly know what the purpose of the comment on my blog truly was, If it was to ‘help’ me, I must say that I did learn something. She’s not wrong about the importance of putting true and correct information on my blog. I do try to write about what I know but given the fact that I don’t know everything about everything, I may occasionally, and very unintentionally, write something that is inaccurate.
May I remind those of you who read my little blog… I’m not a professional writer and honestly it takes some courage to publish my words for all to read. Mostly, I began writing this as a way to stay connected with my friends and family but my readership has grown and now there are hundreds of people who follow my blog who don’t know me and many who tell me they enjoy following my journey. For the most part I’ve been very touched by the kind words I receive from complete strangers. Many of those ‘complete strangers’ have since become good friends and I have my blog to thank for these new friends. They say you have to take the good with the bad and this is something I just had firsthand experience with last night. While I agree I need to remember that putting words out for all to read brings with it a certain amount of responsibility on my part to be as truthful and honest and accurate as I possibly can. But, honestly, truth be told, I Don’t know everything and my experience will not always match those of others who have moved here long ago. I honestly do my best to write and tell you about things as accurately as I can but when I mis-speak, (because I will), I’m happy to make corrections and undo my wrong. Writing a blog, for me, is a learning experience and I’m having a great time doing it, please forgive my mistakes and if you feel the need to share how much more you know than me (which, believe me, will be ALOT!) I ask that you do so in a private email. Boy, is it embarrassing, and I think unnecessary, to get yelled at (that’s how it feels to me) in public. And I beg you to remember that I am human and I’m just sharing my experience, not attempting to sound as though I’m an expert at living abroad or that I am a scholar on all things Panama , did I forget to mention this is a NEW experience for me? As is blogging, I love talking and chatting and sharing my perspective, please don’t ruin my fun, no one’s forcing you to read the junk I write….move on to a different blog or forum or whatever you can find that will provide absolute accuracy , one that will satisfy your need for perfection or does my lack of professionalism,editorial accuracy and literary intelligence just make you feel superior? Hmmmm…..
What is the Feria De Las Flores Y De Cafe? Well, it’s my first time to be here in Boquete for this event so I can only describe what I’m seeing so far. Judging by the amount of preparation that has been going on at the Feria grounds all month and all around town as well, it’s a big deal. I’ve seen many store and restaurants repainting and hanging new signs, lot’s of general clean up going on as well. Oh, the town of Boquete is preparing for something that is obviously very big! Since the name of this glorious town actually brings to mind a “Boquete”,( but don’t be fooled it does not MEAN Boquete!) flowers are an obvious theme for a Feria! And Add to that, abundance of flowers , all the coffee fincas spread out all over the mountains here and Cafe is most definitely something to be celebrated. So I’m assuming this Nine day celebration is in honor of these most abundant, and beautiful aspects of Boquete. And have I mentioned , these Panamanians love a Party! Aside from the most amazing flower beds that seem to have bloomed, incredibly, just in time to be celebrated…I see Massive stages being built! There will most assuredly be music! And most likely lots of dancing and general merriment well into the wee mornings at the Feria Grounds. It seems as though there are many more cars in town as well as touristy looking Panamanians who I’m sure are in town to join in on the fun. l love seeing all the people strolling along the bridge with cameras , taking photos of the flower beds at the Feria grounds. It is looking quite spectacular indeed. I will let you know what all the hubbub is as soon as I take a stroll myself and check it out. I suspect it will be crowed, but the good news is, my ankle is almost totally better, so who knows, I might even shake my booty a little bit if the music is playing when I’m there! Of course Scott will run for the hills!
Many of my readers have been asking me about Scotts journey and if he’s back home. Yes, he’s back home again. I picked him up on Tuesday. Unfortunately his trip was not a successful one. He was trying to get to the Panamanian Consulate (not to be confused with the “American” Consulate here in Panama) to have all our Visa documents Authenticated (which can only be done at the Consulate, not the Embassy). There is no “Panamanian” Consulate here in Panama, only an “American” Embassy, which I’ve learned, is not the same. Let me be clear…There is most certainly an American Embassy as well as an American Consulate, what they do not have in Panama is a “Panamanian Embassy & Consulate”, which is who needs to Authenticate our documents.. Because of all the bad weather that the U.S. has been experiencing, his connecting flight was cancelled and United was sooo back logged that we couldn’t even get through to them by phone. So he never made it out of Panama City. He made the most of it though and went to the Embassy to have all the Docs notarized and now we are going to just attempt to mail it all to the Consulate with a self addressed, prepaid envelope and a money order for the Authenicating. Of course, this is also not as straight forward as one would expect! Yesterday I learned that finding a place to purchase a money order isn’t easy. I thought Western Union did that! Not here they don’t’! The lady at the counter of the Western Union looked rather confused by my request, as did the teller at Scotia Bank…HuH? And Fed ex doesn’t offer the service of a PRE PAID , envelope! What? Why is that a problem ?,…I have no idea! I finally asked the guy at Mail Boxes Etc and he said he can do that part and gave me a couple of more places to check about the money order. Sometimes things that should be just easy chores end up turning into a wild goose chase here.
So, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Now, today is some kind of holiday (which I am not as of yet familiar with, but I’m sure this time next year I will have learned more about the holidays ) so Scott has no worker but he took off to go work alone. He has a new worker starting tomorrow. He’s slowly gathering a small crew to help with the retaining wall and then the road up to the lot. Progress is moving along slowly. And SLOWLY is just what I need to adapt to. That darn Visa will eventually get done so I’m actually, somehow, holding onto my Tranquillo and realizing that “Poco a Poco” is just my new life theme! (Smiling!) And today I get to learn how to play Mahjongg with a new friend, so life is good! I do love to learn new things, and I really like playing games and best of all , getting to know a new friend is icing on the cake of this day! I’ll be letting you know all about the “Feria de las Flores y de Cafe” as soon as I check it out for myself. Today is the first day of the Feria so I’ll try to get over there soon. Cheers!
Have you ever had to drive around a big, strange city at night, alone? If that doesn’t faze you, well I gotta salute you my friend, cuz I’m just a total wimp when faced with navigating a strange city, and add nighttime to it and Alone…. I’m tellin’ ya, I’m on the verge of tears! REALLY! I know this admission of wimpyness may have changed your vision of this wild, adventurous gal, but I gotta be honest, right? Well, I probably don’t ‘have’ to be quite so honest but , hey, it’s my blog, so I just gotta be me!
So, I’ve posted about this on FaceBook but I must expand on my evening escapades for those of you who aren’t participating in the social gathering that is… FaceBook. You see, this experience is all part of this grand adventure of mine! Learning the ins and outs of navigating a new city, and country, Literally, navigating, and sometimes, all alone, and possibly at night. I just hate driving in an unfamiliar place. I have a lousy sense of direction. Reading a map is not my forte, to put it kindly! I really suck at trying to figure out any map!! To be fair, my sense of direction is very likely effected by my panicky , nervous, frazzled mindset when faced with unfamiliar surroundings. My daughter can attest to my crazy bouts of sitting-up-really-straight-turning-off-the-radio-very-serious-face-moments while driving with me. How many times did she say…”Mommm, Chill!” With a laugh of disbelief while we tried to find an address in a neighborhood I was unfamiliar with.
I think I’m going through a bit of a transition in my life at the moment. I just said goodbye to Scott for the day, as he left to go to work at our property. He has a worker now so today’s his first day of being accountable to someone who’s expecting him to be there at a certain time. I’m really glad he’s finally got someone to help him with the physical labor up there but… now I find myself feeling a bit …..Ummmm let’s seee, what word do I want to use? Disconnected? Free? Unfocused? Discombobulated might be the best word….It’s that same ol’ “Now What?” Kind of feeling. For lack of the proper description, I’m not exactly sure what my role is or how I’ll choose to define my purpose right now. Oh, I have a short list of things I need to accomplish today, go to the gym, pay our rent, make some phone calls, bring Scott lunch, clean the kitchen, fill up the hummers food, but I gotta tell you, without a routine I’m just a bit…. lost. It just occurred to me as Scott was driving down the driveway that he’s beginning to have a routine. And I have yet to actually discover what my routine will be, besides going to the gym, which I love. I have a few small goals that are tumbling around my head but I think at the moment I just need to focus on me and I gotta stop getting myself so caught up in feeling guilty about not having a clear, set routine for my days quite yet. In my head I know it’ll come. I’ve spent my whole adult life being so intensely focused, it’s so foreign to me not to have a clear path to follow. Don’t get me wrong, It’s not a crisis or a huge problem. I’m just sharing with you the fact that today I feel as though I’m in the midst of a transition. Since our move Scott and I have been kinda attached at the hip and we’ve been doing most things together. This morning I’m realizing that he’s got a new routine that isn’t mine. Whew! It’s both Freeing and unfamiliar at the same time. Well, I’m off to the Gym now…..I’ll figure this out later….or, maybe I’ll just play Words With Friends! Ha!
It’s hard to believe that it’s New Years Eve! After going to the gym, starting laundry, making Scott lunch to take up to him while he’s working on our property, boiling some more drinking water, making more hummer food ,watering the Basil plants, and cleaning the kitchen, I had a minute to stop and think about the year that’s passed as well as my hopes for the new year ahead , before I take a quick drive over to the coffee finca where we purchase our coffee beans. 2013 was a monumental year for us. For the majority of the early part of the year our focus was on this move and then starting in late May, getting ourselves settled here in our new home was our focus. This time last year we were spending a few nights in San Francisco and dreaming about what our new life in a new country would be like. It was a rather emotional time for us as well as for all our friends and family. Goodbyes, were looming in the nearby future as we were closing down our life in California to begin anew in Panama in just a few short months. We were exhausted. But we were also both full of the anticipation that comes with an adventure that’s looming nearby waiting to be embraced. Up until we actually drove off, on our way to the airport with our very unhappy cats in tow, we had a very defined plan, it was clear and fairly predictable. But after landing here, we knew everything wouldn’t be quite so straightforward. There were many unknowns, and things we just couldn’t plan for before we arrived, we would just have to get here and figure it out…. Things like.. Where would we live (minor details! ha!)? What cars would we find to buy? Would we be able to find property to buy? How will the cat’s adapt? Would we meet nice people and make new friends?(well me, not Scott, had that thought!) What will it feel like to live so far away from our families? But when I think back now on all those unknowns, I realize that’s just the way life is all the time. We may think we have a plan and that we’re in charge, but really, much of life just kinda works out the way it should, no matter how hard you may try to force it to fit into a box of your making.
Wild? Did I say Wild? Well, Ahem…wild for us! It all started with a few (yes, just a few!) grey hairs, and a haircut….then before we knew it we had made quite the rounds!This is how it all started… My friend Andrea mentioned awhile back that the guy who last cut her hair had left and she would have to find another person to cut her hair, my ears perked up…since my friend Valerie has deserted me for visiting her family for the holidays (I know, how rude!) I had no other choice…”Really?” I said to Andrea….”Well….if ya wanna….maybe you could put my color on for me and I’ll cut your hair!” She liked my Brilliant idea and today was the day!! Andrea and Don showed up and Scott and Don quickly skidaddled , soon thereafter, in search of escape from the beautifying afternoon that us girls were so gleefully looking forward to! I don’t know why they ran soooo fast, it’s not like we would’ve been able to beautify them!!! But anywhoooo, Scott took Don up to show him our property with the instructions to meet us back here at the house to go have dinner when we were done getting gorgeous!
Just as we were getting close to finishing up our beauty party Scott called and said that he and Don were at George’s Grill having a beer, “call us when your done and we’ll meet you at the BCP”. Okay…We had a little more time so I told Scott I’d call him in a bit. Andrea and Don had told us about a little event that they thought sounded fun at the BCP ,( for my friends in the States thats the Boquete Community Players, this is kind of a community center where they have plays and they hold the Tuesday Market) . They are hosting a Football night on Sundays and they have two different rooms with different games going on two big screen TV’s and then they have yummy food and drinks, today it was pulled pork which is always a great big YES for us!
Andrea and I were about as purty as we were gonna get so we called they guys to tell them we’d meet them at the BCP. Scott said, “we just ordered another beer and an appetizer,(Surprise, Surprise!) why don’t you guys come on over here then we’ll go to the BCP” That sounded just fine to us so we scooted on over to Georges, I ordered a Sangria and we just chatted a bit while we shared a nice appetizer and the guys finished their beer. Then we all hopped in our cars and headed over to have a little pulled pork…..Well…..Screeeeech! Low and behold they only had enough pulled pork for two little sandwiches sooooo the hungriest of us (I wont mention any names here) ate the two little pulled pork sandwiches and we all had a drink and decided this would be yet another little appetizer. No problem! Next up on our wild night out on the town…..Big Daddy’s for some fish tacos and Margarita’s!!!
Andrea & Don run a small B&B http://www.boqueteguesthouse.com and coincidentally their guests where also having dinner at Big Daddy’s! Such a nice young couple. They let Don & Andrea know that in the morning they were being picked up at 3:00am to go on a big 4 wheel adventure up the volcano, Voncan Baru. This is the highest point in all of Panama and we haven’t done it yet, but have heard it’s quite an amazing trip. Don & Andrea really get to meet so many great people who come to stay at their place. So, dinner was lot’s of fun. We laughed and chatted and laughed some more then decided it was time for one more place…..Yes, you guessed it….Gelato!!! Betcha didn’t know Boquete has Gelato! Yep! And its really yummy! We walked through town on a beautiful evening to top it all off with a bit of gelato! And the evening was complete! I know what your thinking…”wow! They are really wild and crazy!” We hit four different establishments in one night! And lived to tell about it! Ha!Ha! Two gorgeous women and four full tummy’s, I must say , A good time was had by all!
Our first day of working on our property. Scott began early while I was a the gym (Im working hard to strengthen my ankle). In order to begin the staging part of this project Scott’s building two pen-type things to keep the gravel and sand contained for mixing with the concrete. He began his day early by driving up there with a truckload of concrete blocks that he picked up yesterday evening, unloaded them at the top of the lot then drove back down the Ivan to pick up the next load. While he was there he decided to go ahead and let them deliver a load of blocks, (500) two loads. He picked up four loads of gravel which he unloaded himself. The delivery guys don’t have a truck that would make it to the top of our property so they dumped the blocks at the bottom, Scott loaded them into his truck then drove them to the top and unloaded them himself…he’s really gotta get ahold of some workers!
And the construction project begins with Scott’s shopping spree and a beautiful new Concrete mixer! Although there are many things yet to finalize before we actually ‘break ground’, setting the stage (so to speak) is a big job. We are currently working with our architect to finalize our design for the casita. Today we spent some time in his office going over a few changes and modifications to the plans and walking through the electrical plan the the roof line plan. I had to decide exactly where we want to have all the wall plugs and light switches as well as the actually lights we will have in each room. So we went room by room and laid out where each light fixture would be located, like canned lights, sconces, ceiling fixtures, etc. We also discussed the windows and what size and where each window would go in the house. It seems like we may be fairly well done with the plans and so when he’s finished drawing them up we will review them once more before he begins the permit phase of the project. As soon as we have a blueprint in our hands then we can begin the process of interviewing contractors.
I never could have imagined this time last year that we would be so busy during our first Christmas Season here in Boquete. For the last thirty years my holidays have been so cram-packed with getting all my clients hair ready for all their holiday travels and parties and special events that I never had a ton of time or energy to think of too much else. I always managed to get our big Christmas tree up and decorated on the weekend after Thanksgiving, and I always enjoyed that all through the month. This year we don’t have any of our own belongings here yet so we opted to forego any Christmas decorating at our house. We’ve never been big on buying each other a lot of gifts and sending things to the States is not especially cost effective so the money we would normally spend on gifts we’ve decided to contribute to local causes. There are so many great organizations here and it’s deeply rewarding to feel as though we’re doing something worthwhile to help people who really have ‘need’ of so much. I must admit that this form of giving makes me feel so happy. I always wished I had more time and resources to help those who really need it ,and this year I get to do that.
Since moving to Boquete we’ve had the opportunity to take several little trips to different areas in Panama and Costa Rica. We always love seeing new places and experiencing different areas. But, I have to tell you, every single time we’re away from our new home , we’re delighted when it’s time to go home again. It’s funny how happy we are to go ‘home’! So this past two days we spent hanging out on the beach with some great new friends that we met through my blog. Dan & Janet were out visiting back in August and we all got together and went on a coffee tour and had a great time. We’ve kept in touch with them as they’ve been preparing to make their move out here to Panama. They decided to plan one more vacation out here before they make their actual move which will be early next year. But this time they invited their good friends along, Sheldon & Laurie and their two kids Amanda & Branden. They rented a house on the beach in Boca Chica and we rented a small casita nearby. For my readers who don’t live here, Boca Chica is a small beach community about 2 hours drive from Boquete. We had done a bit of driving around that area in the past but had never really spent much time there so we were happy to have the opportunity to spend more time there.