Jun 28, 2014

Pretzels at Mort's Bakery

Stopped in for bagels at Mort's Bakery in San Francisco Plaza today.  Was pleasantly surprised to learn he's started baking pretzels, primarily at the behest of the German expats in Boquete.  Had to try one, so I had him pack a single pretzel in my bagel bag and headed home.  On the way, I reached in and bit into the pretzel.  That was the end of me.  I've eaten plenty of pretzels in my day, but this one, was bar none, the best ever!  I turned around and headed back for more.

They are a little on the small side for soft pretzels, but bursting with flavor and definitely addictive. They cost $1.50, which in my opinon is a little high for this area.  Mort explained to me that the cost is determined by the market. The current low demand plus freshness restraints prevent his producing them in quantity. Also, they require lime, which involves additional clothing and safety measures, augmenting the manpower hours for preparation.  He claims that increased demand will bring down the price, because it costs him the same to produce 20 as to produce 100 and the higher sales would make up for a decreased price.  I'd like to see the price drop to $1.00 per pretzel because I think that is a fairer purchase and I'd buy a lot more at that rate.   I also encouraged him to consider making more and freezing what didn't sell after day one.  I would have no problem eating a thawed pretzel that had been frozen the day of baking.  In fact, I'd even buy a frozen dozen and bring them out one at a time for personal use at home.  

Mort mulled that over and expressed that a few additional customers with my attitude could perhaps do the trick.   If you are out there, please stop in and try Mort's pretzels.   Then, if so inclined, tell him the same thing I did.

Jun 25, 2014

Noriega's Family requesting House Arrest for Ex-Dictator

Photo courtesy of TVN 2 News Channel

Family and physicians for Manuel Noriega are requesting a reprieve from incarceration and a change to house arrest for the ex-strong man and military despot, citing failing health and mental depression.  Apparently Panamanian penal law allows a prisoner over the age of 70 to be detained under house arrest once health status is confirmed by a forensic physician.

The ex-dictator has served 2.5 years of a 20 year sentence in Panama for political crimes.  His family says 20 years incarceration for him  (aged 80 years) is the equivalent of a life sentence.  

Upon learning of this news, I experienced the strongest visceral reaction regarding any political issue since coming to Panama.  I still remember clearly the reports of the horrors done to Dr. Spadafora for speaking out against Noriega.  And to this day the disappearance of many Panamanians of that era remains a mystery. Their families never got closure.  Surely there are a lot of Panamanians who have more reason than I to want this monster to remain in jail. 

I possess a compassionate side which tries to reason that he is a depressed, old, feeble, wheelchair-bound man in declining health and incapable of doing harm to anyone.  News reports indicate he has already served 25 in prison abroad and suffered two cerebral vascular accidents (strokes).  Since coming to Panama he has been hospitalized various times.  But I immediately ask myself where Noriega's compassion was when he held the fates of his country and countrymen in his hands?  Where was his sense of democracy, dignity, and respect for human life?

Apparently the appeal for house arrest has been made before and denied. According to the current Director of the Prison System, no new supporting information has been provided.  There is speculation (and reports) that an appeal for Presidential pardon is in the works.  I hope the penal system and the exiting President strongly evaluate the message Noriega's release would send to those families and loved ones of his victims.  Some have spoken out publicly and professed a lack of rancor.  They still beg for answers to the whereabouts of their relatives, however.   They are better souls than I am. Without any personal ties to that period of history, I still haven't the capacity to forgive, and hope he remains in jail. 

Jun 24, 2014

Boquete Library Hosts Classical Guitar Virtuosos

Residents of Chiriqui had the good fortune of listening to two very accomplished classical guitarists visiting Panama for an International Concert two weeks ago.

John Marcel Williams, from the United States, and Oscar Somersalo, from Finland made a side tip to Boquete and gave spellbinding performances to a full house at the new library.

Acoustics were lacking, but the occasional sounds of buses passing on the road below or the one-time crowing of a wayward rooster didn't dampen spirits or lessen anyone's enjoyment.  The performers took it all in stride.    Following the performance Price Peterson took the microphone to thank the musicians for their visit and the audience for their participation.  As he commented,  "this certainly isn't New York".  Nevertheless we were all grateful for the opportunity to hear such marvelous talent.  Kudos to the library director, Elsa Castillo, who was able to coordinate the event on short notice and without any assurances the event would be well-attended. (Father's Day, the soccer World Cup, and a musical concert at the BCP were competing events.) 

It was definitely a success and a very inspiring one at that.

Jun 23, 2014

Update on Forensic Findings

According to the most recent announcement by the Ministerio Publico, the remains found in Alto Romero are confirmed as belonging to Lisanne Froon.   The investigation regarding Lisanne Froon has changed from one of possible kidnapping to one of possible homicide according to Betzaida Pitti.  She emphasized, however, that any attempt to determine the cause of death ---whether natural or traumatic---would be premature and needs to be left up to forensic experts.  She as well as others have reiterated that the trail from Boquete to Bocas del Toro, upon which the two women traveled, obligates the traveler to cross the Culubré river three separate times.  From videos provided by the national news service, these crossing are extremely treacherous. 

Ms. Pitti has assured that the process they've followed has been appropriate all along and that calm needs to prevail in order to carry out the best investigation into the circumstances that lead to Lisanne Froon's demise. 

The spokesperson for the Froon and Kremers families indicated the parents of both women will issue a joint communication from Holland.  

Jun 20, 2014

Probable Remains of Dutch Women Found

Shoes, human bones and other remains were found along the Rio Culubré near Bocas del Toro providence yesterday.  Forensic specialists were flown today to the site to extract DNA samples and run confirmatory tests.  Tennis shoes located at the scene are a brand sold exclusively in Holland.  Confirmation the remains belong to Lisanne Froon and Kris Kremers is pending.  Local residents of the area where the remains were found surmise that the two women may have fallen into the river and been carried downstream by the forceful currents.  Large rocks in the riverbed, as well as snakes and poisonous spiders are some of the hazards they could have encountered.

Below is a link to the latest TV video regarding the missing women and the recent discovery. It also has relevant footage of Boquete, and introduces the recommendation for trail maintenance and international signage to accommodate increased ecotourism in the area.


The families of the women have not yet made statements.

Jun 2, 2014

A Better Paso Canoas Experience

Everyone has been talking about Hostal La Morenita, the newest lodging option in Paso Canoas, so I decided to explore for myself this weekend.  I was more than pleasantly surprised.  Prices are in keeping with other options in town,  yet you get so much more for those same prices. 

The facility is clean, has comfortable, common outside space and social areas, modern, efficient air conditioning, comfortable beds, wi-fi, and even a small internet cafe with late model hardware and monitors.  Meals are prepared by the owners, Ricardo and Nilka, and I thoroughly enjoyed my favorite typical Panamanian plate---Corvina al ajillo, patacones, mixed green salad, and an ice cold cerveza Atlas. Although it's being called a hostal, La Morenita is much nicer than hostals I've visited in Panama City.  The rooms are in line with those of Cabinas Romy, in the center of Paso Canoas, however La Morenita's fixtures are much nicer and there is no comparison regarding atmosphere and service. La Morenita is heads above in that aspect as well.

Located about 3 km outside the downtown area, in a town called Canoas Arriba, La Morenita is located on the Panama side of a road that divides it from Costa Rica.  This proved a great advantage for me, because I was able to drive my car all the way to the hostal.  When staying previously in Costa Rican facilities, I couldn't take my car across.  I had to park somewhere on the Panama side and either hail a taxi or shoulder my heavy bags back and forth. In addition to less than pleasant downtown accommodations, I always worried about how safe my car was. This time it wasn't a concern.

Others have remarked on how pleasant and service-oriented the owner Ricardo and his wife are.  I can only agree with everything that has been said about them. Last night Ricardo introduced me to some locals who had stopped in. We all enjoyed good conversation and a pleasant visit outside on the terrace. Jokingly, I told Ricardo I wanted Corvina al ajillo and patacones for breakfast. After having two cups of delicious cafe con leche, this morning. I was served the following breakfast, which I inhaled almost as quickly as last night's dish.  

The only less than pleasant aspect of the entire visit was discovering I had a flat front tire in the morning.  I had noticed a slight vibration when I was driving into David, but after stopping at a gas station and putting air in all tires, the guy there assured me all was well.  Apparently I had ran over something, though.  Even this was easily handled by Ricardo, who possessed an air compressor and inflated the tire so I could drive to a tire store.

I am thrilled to have "found" this place,  recommended by expats who've been here before me.  I selfishly hesitated a bit regarding publishing this post, because I know that the quality of the accommodations coupled with the pleasant atmosphere and excellent cooking will make La Morenita highly sought by those who frequent Paso Canoas for shopping or visa runs.  I discussed with Ricardo my fears that his creation, open for business for only six months, will become so popular that demand will raise prices and bring about other changes.  He responded that he is hoping to be able to keep prices fair and maintain the service quality with full occupancy.  One can certainly hope that remains the case.  

If you are planning a trip to Paso Canoas in the near future, this would be my first recommendation, bar none.   Where in the past I absolutely dreaded going to Paso Canoas, this time I sort of wished I had more time to spend there.