Mar 27, 2011

Sizing Up Santiago

Other than cruising through Santiago by bus en route to Panama City,  I've had little exposure to Panama's third largest city.   This weekend I stayed in the home of some lovely Panamanian women, and we visited several areas of the city, as well as a few surrounding towns.  The weather was hot with a capital "H".  It was a nice change from the cold, damp and windy climate Boquete was experiencing.  And there is so much more to the city than what is seen passing though on the Interamerican Highway.  I'm seriously considering relocation there.

Santiago offers several of the big stores found in David and Panama City; ie Do It Center, Super 99, El Machetazo, Casa Gala, several educational facilities,  and a few universities.  There are also private medical clinics and a public hospital.  What I didn't see was a blatant expat community.  In fact, while attending an international festival in the town center on Saturday evening, I specifically looked for a stereotypical European, Canadian, or United States transplant. I didn't see any.  I'm certain they are there, but they weren't easy to spot and that made me very happy.   I ran into many Panamanians who were very competent English speakers.  I wasn't looking for English-speaking Panamanians, but I quickly realized that I needed to be judicious when speaking English, because the odds were pretty good that the average man on the street would understand my comments.  Education in Santiago seems to be a priority.  Schools and centers of learning were prominent, and the buildings and grounds of the institutions were well-maintained.  They seemed to be a source of pride.   I'm thinking that if I can get past the heat, Santiago might be a serious relocation possibility.  I did find a small town I absolutely loved, and spent a good deal of time exploring real estate opportunities there, but acknowledged that I need to be in an urban area to assure exceptional internet and phone availability.  The outlying areas still aren't adequately serviced in this respect.  Without internet and phone/fax lines,  I can't work, so I'll probably need to sacrifice scenery for services.  Property values seemed  a little more reasonable,  but I found no great bargains in my search of Veraguas, either. 

San Francisco de la Montaña

The small pueblo of San Francisco de la Montaña had been suggested to me as a possible place to settle.   I've been looking for a small, undiscovered Panamanian town where I might be able to seamlessly slip into the community without drawing attention as a foreigner,  and without signalling others to follow.  This town has a lot of history and tradition.   Unfortunately, it didn't have the right feel for me,  but I thoroughly enjoyed our brief visit.   

These photos were taken in front of the 17th century church that is the town's main attraction.  The woodwork and altar inside were beautiful to behold, but unfortunately photos with flash aren't permitted and without flash, I couldn't capture any indoor images.   The church currently is undergoing restoration but remains fully functional as the community's center of worship. 

Guess who came to dinner?

After a weekend in Veraguas I arrived back in Boquete with lots of housekeeping left to do.   My venturing out on the back deck to get laundry started, though, lead a concerned neighbor to call out a cautionary "Watch out!"  He pointed to one of the poles supporting my deck roof.    This is what greeted my curious gaze: 


Apparently while I was away, a colony of black wasps came to play.  Called the fire department, because that's who takes care of these infestations in Boquete.  They came and managed to chase off [assasinate] most of the unwanted guests, but this evening all the stragglers returned and I now have a smaller colony nested for the night.  Called once more, but no one came.  Will need to try again tomorrow, I suppose.  

Mar 21, 2011

Summer in Boquete feels like Fall in San Francisco

It's been downright chilly in Boquete these past two weeks!  The wind has been howling and brutal as well.   I'm sitting at the computer wearing flannel PJ bottoms, fuzzy slippers, and  a fleece jacket [that Barbara brought me from Milwaukee] sipping hot herbal tea.   Reminds me of the way it feels in the SF Bay Area just before Halloween hits.   Where did I go wrong?  Is this really the tropics?

Mar 12, 2011

Las Olas

Perhaps my timing is off in posting these art reference photos I took at Las Olas beach.  But in deference to the tragedy of the recent earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, these are photos of a calm seascape in Chiriqui.  I post them for my sister, Barbara, who has returned to the snow and cold of the great lakes region.  May they burn in her memory and keep her focussed on returning next February!

Another Thing I Love About Boquete

At 7 pm on a Saturday evening, I developed symptoms of an acute and uncomfortable infection.  Having previously tried getting antibiotics without a prescription from local pharmacies, I knew better than to even try this time.   I was aware the condition would get progressively worse in the next few hours, having been through it all before.

I called Dr. Chen, a general practitioner who has seen me before.  Apologetically, I explained my circumstances and asked what he suggested I do.  Unhesitatingly, he told me to come to his office.  He was waiting for me when I arrived 10 minutes later, examined me, prescribed an antibiotic, provided updated medical teaching re: the condition and treatment, then sent me on my way.  He told me to never worry about calling if I needed something.  He said he kept the office open until 9 pm every night, and if I had an urgent need past that time, to just ring the door bell outside the office or call him.  I now have his cell phone number as well. The consult was $ 10.  The pharmacy charged me $ 13.00 for the antibiotic, after providing a senior discount I never asked for.

Situation SOLVED in less than 30 minutes, for under the cost of a co-pay at Kaiser in the states.

Mar 6, 2011

Party Time in Panama

It's Carnival time in Panama.  The festivities started yesterday and will be going on until Tuesday night. Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, and also a holiday.  Then Thursday lent begins and work resumes.   I haven't been out to experience any of the action, but there's music and parties going on all over the neighborhood.  All I have to do is sit outside my front door to get the rhythm and flavor of it all. 

Work has really picked up.  It's going to be VERY difficult to focus on what needs to be done with all the good times going on around me.  Going to a Fat Tuesday bash, though.  Maybe that will make up for it.

Boquete Jazz Festival

Well, the Boquete Jazz Festival has come and gone and seems to have been a success.  I was mildly offended by the donation scalpers in central park on Sunday, though.  Local announcements stated there was a free concert in the park from 11 am to 3 pm as a gift to the community.  But in actuality,  concert-goers were accosted from all angles and donations aggressively requested. 

I arrived during a lull in the performances.  Immediately upon setting foot in the park, --like mosquitos attracted to a warm body at twilight,--- the hawkers alighted and shoved plastic pitchers in my face.   I mentioned it would be nice to hear some music first, and one of the collectors snapped, "Well, it's been going on all morning!  I remarked I just arrived and hadn't heard any jazz yet. 

The Sunday performance was a wrap up  to several appearances musicians made at local restaurants. (Places are too costly for a lot of locals to attend.)  It was a "gift to the community",  but what any curious Panamanian or Ngobe attendee observed were  gray-haired hipsters in jeweled chains & bracelets, with silver-studded hats, carrying plastic pitchers and asking for money. 

The atmosphere was quiet and restrained the short while I remained.  Not sure if it was because the music was unfamiliar, the location was sub-optimum, or if it was because of the people hawking donations.   Whatever it was, it wasn't anything to rave about. 

The after party at Las Ruinas, on the other hand, was fantastic.   The place was swinging, the music superb, and the crowd delightful.  Donations were requested there, as well, but it was done tactfully, at the end of magnificent performances by very accomplished musicians, and I couldn't wait to drop my money into the pitcher.   My feeling is that they "Let the free [Central Park] concert  be free," and only collect in the other locales.   But that's just me...

Snapped a few photos during the Las Ruinas after-party and jam, but they aren't very clear.  As I said, the event was a lot of fun....