Jan 30, 2011

Prices in Panama are really UP !

I wish I understood economics and financial trends, and I wish I had even a trace of business savvy.  But unfortunately I am worse than worst in these areas and fear I'm just too old to learn at this stage of my life.   That said, I'd give anything to understand why prices skyrocket as they do in Panama.  It's accepted that prices will increase over time, even in the states.  But it seems to me, they do so alot less drastically. Wish there were a clear explanation. 

Today, at the supermarket I reached for my favorite cheese, which routinely has cost $5.69 for a standard, round, waxed mold.  My jaw dropped when, practically overnight, the price tag read $ 7.49.  The price for my favorite wine had also risen  $.50.  And my favorite cut of beef, up $0.65 per pound from prices a few weeks ago.  Checked the same items at different stores, in David as well as Boquete, but the prices were consistent.

Wondering if it has to do with tourist season, or if there's some other rationale.  I remember learning somewhere perhaps 40 yrs ago that when demand increases, inflation goes up and prices rise.  Can't believe demand on these items went up that much that fast.  All I know is it isn't getting any easier to live here than in the states, and that's an important consideration.   The cheese I like so much---made next door in Costa Rica---is cheaper at the local Mexican supermarket in the states than it is right here, or even in Costa Rica, for that matter.   Can someone explain this to me?

Jan 22, 2011

Could You Please Tell Me Where I Am?

Did I mention  I love having my own Panama vehicle?  There's so much to see, but until recently, no way to get there.   Today,  I drove out to Caldera.  The plan was to investigate how different the weather was from Boquete.  But Caldera (the town) is a lot smaller than  imagined.  Nice, but barely there.  Two sneezes and you'll miss it.  The surrounding areas are captivating, however.   

One thing lead to another and I found myself driving for nearly 4 hours over hill and dale and dusty trail.  Got thoroughly lost.  But stopped frequently and enjoyed the sights along the way.   Here are some of them.

Eventually ended up on the road to Bocas del Toro and stopped in a small town somewhere past what may have been Gualaca.  There I was able to get directions back to Boquete.  It was a wonderful excursion, the car held up, and I met some very nice Panamanians.

Jan 20, 2011

The Feria is Still On....

It's 3:15 am on a Wednesday night and I can't sleep.  I live about 5 minutes by car from the Boquete Fairgrounds.  The music and noisemaking from the Flowers and Coffee Festival is keeping me awake. Sounds as if it were coming from two houses away rather than several miles...

I visited the fair last Sunday afternoon.  This was the least enjoyable of the four festivals I've thus far attended.  Less vendors than usual, no artisans to speak of,  only one plant kiosk worth stopping at, and just run of the mill junk in the international arena.  Not sure what's happening, but it  appears the municipality is running out of steam when it comes to organizing these fairs. The noise seems to have incremented, however, so perhaps the real fun is with the nighttime activities.  Downtown Boquete is all decked out for the occasion.  Lights all around central park,  newly planted geraniums in the flower boxes and along the roadway entering town.  I'm not feeling the love, though.   Four more days and counting.....

Jan 16, 2011

Playa La Barqueta---For What Ails Me

Although the Boquete weather is struggling valiently to improve, I'd still had enough and needed to go somewhere warmer.   The annual Coffee and Flowers festival is in town for the next two weeks.  Tried to visit, but couldn't find a parking space and just gave up and came home.  I'll go on foot another day.

Headed out to Playa Barqueta to see what it's all about.  I am sooooo happy to have a car and be able to get out and explore finally.  Although the trip from Boquete to David was heartbreaking due to all the ecological destruction being done in the name of progress (translation---highway expansion from 2 to 4 lanes) I managed through it.    I wanted to cry every time I saw the mutilated carcasses of centuries-old native hardwood trees strewn callously about the shoulder of the road or piled high against a hillside of dry red dirt where lush tropical vegetation used to grow.  The countryside from Boquete to David is forever scarred.  Levelled, cleared, it reminds me more of the Arizona desert than the tropical paradise I fell in love with.

Once past David, things looked less violated. The scenery was open and flat, but green and comforting.  There's a huge planned community slated for Playa La Barqueta, and expansive homes and gated entrances keep the casual visitor out of the nicer spots.  But since the beach is public domain, one can enter through the public access point and walk along the beach to explore the community on foot, if desired.   I've visited Coronado and Vista Mar resorts near Panama City, and found Las Olas to be in the same league, but on a smaller scale.  The best news is it's so much closer!

Public Access Beach

Photo taken from Hotel Las Olas beach entrance

Jan 10, 2011

California Dreamin'

I  never thought I'd say this.  But it's just possibly true that a person can reach their saturation point with open air, beautiful scenery and tranquility.  I'll probably read these words at some future point and think I had to be crazy.   But I'm ready for another dose of northern California.  Eight months of Boquete has done me in. 

It probably doesn't help that the wind is blowing like crazy right now, and a plastic chair just flew off my back deck and crashed into the cyclone fence,-- or that the driving rain is soaking my concrete walls.   But even if that weren't the case (it wasn't an hour ago...) I am still ready to head home for awhile.   I am [briefly] missing a lot of things.   As I wrote in an email to an internet friend earlier today: 

Miss my son, miss the California "let it all hang out" attitude, miss being able to find anything I could possibly want within a mile radius, miss Borders bookstores, street musicians, See's candy, light rail trains, and being able to argue political views in a friendly manner, without recrimination or resentment,  with whoever happens to share whatever public space with me.   There's no place like the San Francisco Bay Area.  It's crowded, congested, full of cement and questionable sorts, but it's stimulating and thought provoking at all times.  Not repressive, the way I've found socializing in  Boquete to be.  Sometimes [expat] Boquete reminds me of the Stepford Wives for both sexes.  I need to go back---even if it's only for a few months.  I do like being here, but I now know I'll never survive it 12 months a year. 
I like being in Boquete, but this year the weather "sucked" to use California vernacular.  It is improving, but the summer still isn't completely here. 

I don't enjoy the expat social scene, and unfortunately opportunities to meet local Panamanians socially just haven't presented themselves.  I'm probably going through what a lot of hispanic expats face in the states.  Hard to break into established social groups as an immigrant.  If I could dedicate more time in the Spanish-speaking community,  it would probably get easier.   But telecommuting to work 40 hrs/week curbs this somewhat.  

I think I just need a short dose of San Francisco, and then I'll be ready to return.

Jan 2, 2011

Transitory Rainbow

My friend, Ardie, has a personal writing project she calls "Kisses from God".  She explained that it's a journal of all the special things that happen in her life that she knows are more than coincidences.  She feels they are direct answers to her prayers to God. She's keeping this journal to share with her children and grandchildren when she's no longer around to relay them herself.  I've encouraged Ardie to share the stories now, not only with family but perhaps with others who would also be inspired by her personal accountings.  I thought it would be great  if she could set up a blog with the same title.  She's "thinking about it".   

I don't want to plagiarize her idea nor steal her thoughts.  But today I experienced one of Ardie's "Kisses from God', and wanted to share it.  Once her blog is established, she can copy this post with my blessing.  I'll  be the first to follow it, and I know others will quickly join me.  Ardie,  it's time to get  Kisses from God up and running.  You're the perfect person to do it!

I didn't actually pray for the gift I was given, but it definitely feels God-sent.
For nearly a year, I'd been trying to find someone to teach me about a subject for which I have great interest, but no experience or talent.  I inquired everywhere I could think of & even asked a few professionals if they would consider working with me.  But I kept reaching dead ends.  Finally, I just let it go, stopped trying to force the issue, and decided to explore my interest on my own.  Now, as I'm gaining some momentum, the perfect teacher suddenly appeared and has agreed to give me lessons at a cost & frequency I'm able to afford.  We reached an understanding today. After wrapping it all up this afternoon, I opened my back door to take deep breath and look at the sky.   This is what greeted me... 

After seizing my camera to record this kiss, "my" rainbow gradually ascended upward, over the mountain, and  into the sky.  It was gone within 30 minutes.  

Jan 1, 2011

Feliz Año Nuevo !

New Year's in Panama is  a lot of fun.  I decided to forego the multiple commercial celebrations, and declined a private party or two,  to stay home and relax.  I say that a little tongue in cheek, because my neighborhood is not known for going tranquilly into the holiday season or the New Year.   The last New Year's eve  spent here was roudy, with parties on every doorstep, a few that lasted 24 hrs non-stop,  and everyone was out in the street at the stroke of midnight to watch and generate fireworks.   From my back porch, there's a 180 degree view of the the skies above Jaramillo and Alto Boquete.  From my front step, there's the same view of Volcan Baru and related neighborhoods. 

This New Year's eve wasn't disappointing.  The fireworks displays were everywhere, and surpassed a lot of "professional" productions I've observed from blankets in crowded municipal parks in California.   Added to the fabulous lightshows were hundreds of small noisy firecrackers lit from just about every home, regardless of economic status. It was a joyful noise, and one couldn't help but get caught up in the emotion.  (Panama is 3 hrs ahead of California---New Year's hasn't yet arrived there.)

Here's wishing everyone peace, happiness, blessings, prosperity, and good will throughout the coming year.   May 2011 be extraordinary!