Sep 30, 2015

Yes, Virginia...There are Bugs in Panama .

I have no idea what kind of arachnid this is.  Didn't get close enough to investigate.

3-inch beetle of some sort...

Mother scorpion and babies, courtesy of Larry Wilkinson, Boquete expat
Guess who's come for dinner...

Large Huntsman spider on my curtain valence
Bee hive that formed in an hour in front of the house

Received the most surprising email today from someone who lives in Volcan and happened upon this blog.  Apparently she was researching insects in Panama, having been bitten by an ant that she said  "hurt like a wasp".  She had moved on to reading about spiders and apparently my post about wandering spiders surfaced somewhere.   She seemed truly upset and told me she was "FREAKING OUT!"  She wanted me to reassure her that wandering spiders and such didn't live in Volcan where she was, and that they weren't all that common in Panama.  She really needed me to tell her this because she was in the habit of walking barefoot in her back yard and she didn't want to know otherwise. 

It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who pick up and just move down here without doing due diligence.  They have no knowledge of the language, no understanding of hispanic culture in general and Panama in particular, don't understand the lay of the land, and many have never visited Central or South America prior to arriving.  Countless other bloggers have reported similar and even stranger stories, so I don't intend to replay the same broken record.  The usual advice doesn't seem to be that effective anyway.  

What I am going to say, however, is that if you are afraid of spiders, you don't belong in Panama.  If you are afraid of insects in general you don't belong in Panama.  Panama is a tropical country with bugs and snakes and Africanized bees and lots of ugly pesky rodents. If you want to come here you need to get over it.  

Last year I killed 11 scorpions in my house that were over 6 inches in length.  I recently found the above tarantula crawling up my front door screen.  Once, I stepped out of the shower and threw on my bathrobe while yet another tarantula crawled over my foot. Apparently it had been sleeping somewhere inside the robe and fell to the floor when I put on the robe.   This year, I was invaded by "housecleaning ants" that somehow came in through the electrical switch in one of the bedrooms. Not more than a few weeks ago, after getting up from the toilet,  I felt something scratchy in my pant leg.  Down went the pants in a flash, and  I found a 2-inch brown locust trying desperately to escape.  He happened to hop into the wrong place at the wrong time!  There are inch-long black ants that come in the house at night and crunch loudly if stepped on.   I get possums in the garage or on my roof top.   I shoo'ed a baby bushmaster out from my living room three months ago.  I've had about 5 episodes of nesting black wasps that have  an affection for the posts on my back terrace, and I've experienced one instance of Africanized bees that took to my lemon tree. 

It's not that I live in the sticks.  I don't.  I'm in a Panamanian residential neighborhood. Unlike many of my neighbors, I'm fortunate enough to have screens on all windows and doors.  But it's amazing how little space a 6-inch scorpion needs to get inside a house when seeking shade and water.  

A friend of mine in an upscale planned community in Caldera was reading in bed a couple of months ago,  and felt something tickle her elbow.  She looked down and found a scorpion claw gently stroking her.  Another time this same friend opened her sewing basket to get some thread and saw a Fer de Lance curled up in the corner of the box. And one of my Panamanian neighbors recently beheaded a poisonous viper that was in his dining room. I could go on and on about such incidences.  Fortunately they haven't been constant nor continual.  They've happened over a course of 9 years residency here. Typically, they occur during the dry season.

But a person has to be comfortable with nature.  One has to be able to live and let live, and know to use reasonable caution when out in the yard  or if up in the house in the middle of the night. If it  isn't a part of your personality to wear shoes and marvel at the wonders of the insect world,  then you probably have no business being here.  I'm truly sorry, but if the mere mention of a poisonous creepy crawlie on a remote blog is going to "freak you out",  then you will be in a constant state of stress living  in Panama and perhaps should consider other venues.

A Boquete Embassy Outreach Experience

Approximately a month ago we received notice via the expat forums that the US Embassy would hold an outreach effort at the Boquete library today, Sept. 29th.  The representatives planned to be there from 10 am until 3 pm.  I needed to have a one-page document notarized so  I was pleased to hear this and cancelled other activities for the day in order to take care of business.  Thinking there might be a small crowd, I got up early and headed into town to be at the library a half hour before the scheduled start of services.

When I arrived, the line was much longer than anticipated and extended from the 3rd floor meeting room down three flights of stairs and almost out the front door.  I took my place in line, and upon finally reaching the 3rd floor room entrance,  was assigned the equivalent of what should have been number 140. Truth be told, the embassy staff ran out of laminated numbers and gave up assigning them.   Instead I filled in the blank numbered 39 on the 3rd set of  2-pg sign up sheets.

What I found even more surprising than the number of people availing themselves of embassy outreach services, was the fact that I recognized only 2 people in the entire crowd after living here for almost 9 years.  It seemed as though few people knew each other, actually.  Unlike earlier times when any  Boquete expat "event" included lots of gossip and catching up with neighbors, today's socializing  was about new people getting to know others and sharing war stories regarding relocation.  Boquete is just exploding with immigrants, and the US embassy function today was only a small slice of the ever-expanding pie.  People are arriving having never been to Panama before, but with Pensioner Visas in hand while staying in hostals and hotels.

Truly amazing.  The embassy staff were very helpful, friendly, and expedient despite the crowd.  I finally managed to get my document notarized   (at a cost of $50 per page)  at around 3 pm.  Because of the staff's willingness to communicate,  I was able to leave intermittently and return without having to sit the entire time and wait for my name to be called.  I have to hand it to them.  It will be no surprise to me if Boquete doesn't soon see some type of part-time embassy outpost opening in town.  This little mountain hamlet is changing by the minute.