Tuesday, December 9, 2014

An Afternoon On The Town.......

One day last week we were in need of some groceries and I insisted that Clyde take me out to lunch before shopping. Off to our favorite cheap restaurant we went, which coincidentally IS inside a grocery store. "Café Caney" is a large, cafeteria style restaurant that's attached to El Machetazo, a local department store chain but on the grocery side. With a choice of maybe ten different meats and many more sides, there's something for everyone.  But first we had to figure out just what each item was before making our final decision.  Usually on "Viernes" or Friday they have a delicious, lightly breaded, fried fish, but yesterday, "no hay," in other words, "they didn't have any." We saw a variety of "pollo"....chicken and "puerco" .....pork, some of which was pink and resembled ham but the clerk said it wasn't "jamon."   We selected something that looked like a boneless pork chop although it went by some other name.  Pork chops here are called, "chuleta," and this was not that but something else. The girl dished out two pieces of meat which we knew was enough for both of us to share.  We added some sides.....potato salad for Clyde and a Greek salad for me and as always we drank the free water that's offered.  Our whole bill came to a whopping $4 and some change......a cheap, tasty lunch for two in Panama.

Next I wanted some gold shiny ribbon to tie onto ornaments for the Christmas tree, so upstairs we went to the fabric department in the same store. Quickly I found what I wanted and waited at the cutting table for the clerk to come over and cut the ribbon for us but no one ever showed up. Nearby the fabric department is a counter that does gift wrapping along with sales of gift cards.  With Christmas just around the corner there was a long line of customers waiting to have packages wrapped for FREE. Clyde went over to the gift wrapping desk to ask them to call someone to the cutting table.  One of the women told him in Spanish that she would be there as soon as she finished wrapping the package she was working on.  We waited......and waited.....and waited what seemed like an eternity.  The women carefully, and ever so slowly wrapped the box neatly before adding a bow, card and whatever else the customer wanted.  It must have taken here 20 minutes or more before she came over to cut my ribbon.  The pretty gold ribbon was just 15 cents per meter and we asked for 10 meters since it was so cheap.

Frustrating as it might be, Panamanians are the most patient people in the world and nothing, I mean nothing makes move quicker or hurry at anything.  But this trait IS what makes most gringo's fall in love with Latin American countries.  The mere fact that the locals are laid back and seem to live life at a much slower pace then the rest of the world.  Yet it eventually turns into a frustration of every day life here and just something that we have to get used to.

Downstairs we paid for our ribbon and a few groceries at the register. Like so many others, our cashier was amused by our credit card that proudly displays a photo of Clyde and I smiling nicely.  Apparently credit cards here don't offer the option to put a photo on them, something we find a great security bonus.  As usual the cashier showed the card to the baggers and other nearby cashiers, all smiling and making comments about how nice it is to have our photo on the card.

During the transaction before ours the cashier dropped something into the folds of the chair she was sitting on. Without getting up she searched, felt around and did everything she could to retrieve the coin without moving off of the chair.  You see cashiers here ALL SIT at their registers and they WILL NOT move for any reason.  Perhaps they're told when they get hired that IF they move off the stool they will be fired?  Or just maybe there's a special breed of Panamanian that's born with chairs permanently affixed to their butts and they're destined to be cashiers? Whatever the case may be if your ice cream doesn't make it's way down the conveyor belt the cashier WILL NOT, for any reason get up to reach for it.  That my friend is the job of the customer to make sure that ALL of the groceries move along the conveyor belt.  Once the items are scanned by the cashier the baggers on the other end will bag the groceries and tie the bags shut.  On the rare occasion that a cashier does not have a bagger she will NOT bag anything that's out of her reach, but instead it will just sit there.  Typically in Panama EACH cashier will have 3-6 bag boys that stand around, eager to help who we think only work for tips from the customers. And these bag boys will take your groceries outside to your car, a taxi stop or even to a bus stop for a small tip in return.

After lunch we jumped into the car and headed off to the town of San Carlos, about ten minutes away for our produce.  A tiny co-op sits in the center of this busy village that's loaded with local produce, beans, meats, eggs and other stuff at low prices since it's where the locals shop. Typically we spend maybe $10-$15 for enough produce to last a few weeks.  Such items include cabbage, carrots, onions, bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, egg plant, celery and fruits such as bananas and pineapple. 

Our next stop was a local "panaderia," or bakery where we could get some ice cream.  At first it seemed strange to us that a bakery would sell "helado"..... ice cream but why not?  We've all enjoyed cake with ice cream at birthday parties so why not merchandise them together?  The prices per large scoop are 80 cents for one or $1.30 for two, served in a Styrofoam cup.  I choose "cereal" which is called that cause it's sprinkled with a grape nut type of cereal throughout. Clyde wanted his favorite "fresa" or strawberry but the closest thing they had was neapolitan so he went for that.  Unlike the vanilla, chocolate, strawberry that goes by the name neapolitan in the states, this version had all three flavors swirled together.....not a pretty sight, but he ate it anyway.

Then off for our usual grocery shopping experience which has become normal to us after living here for three years now.  Some oddities in the grocery stores here:  whole chickens are sold with the feet and head.  Milk is sold in boxes and not refrigerated, although the usual cold version is here too. Eggs are displayed on a shelf near the produce in one store and near the meats in another, but are never refrigerated. This time of year raisins and other dried fruits are sold near the fresh produce since they're used for holiday baking.....fruit cake is popular here and rather tasty.  Dried green tea and other herbs are sold in the pharmacy as well as the tea aisle.  Panamanians go to their garden when ill instead of the pharmacy. Herbal teas made from scratch are widely used here to alleviate all types of ailments. Just heard about a remedy for colds from a friend who heard it from a local.  Take 7 mango leaves from a tree and boil them in 1- 1/2 cups of water. Boil until it reduces down to a small amount then drink it as a tea.  It will stop a cough help the person sleep though the night.

Yesterday was Mother's Day in Panama along with the Feast of The Immaculate Conception.  Stores everywhere had racks displaying nightgowns and pajamas for 99 cents for Mama along with mugs and other silly little gifts. But the day is really all about people going to visit their Mom's since family values are a big part of everyday life in Latin cultures. As for us gringo mother's and father's alike we wasted away the afternoon hours socializing with friends over sangria. It was CASA (Coronado Area's Social Association) Kickoff to The Holidays Party at our friend Louise's house. Everyone enjoyed some adult beverages as we watched the sunset over the palm trees in her backyard. Another end to a great day in Panama with friends......along the gringo trail.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Close Encounter.....Creatures Of The Night......

Yesterday afternoon our car climbed high into the mountains of Sorá to visit with friends Paul and Nancy. They are the proud owners of the Sunrise-Sunset Guest House of Sorá, a small b&b nestled in the mountains. The four of us headed out on back roads in our Rav4 for a birds eye view of the sunset over the valley below. But the car could only take us so far and we had to travel the rest of the way on foot. We hiked to the top of breathtaking peaks that opened up to views of the Pacific Ocean, the beaches of Coronado, and various mountain ranges all around us.  The winds were heavy at the top as the trade winds seem to have changed direction these days. A welcomed sign that the dry season is upon us or at least, just around the corner.

Mountain Views

And More
Mount Picacho Is The Tallest Peak

As nightfall came we headed back to their place to enjoy some desserts on the veranda enveloped in the cool night air. A while later we were entertained with a fireworks display off in the distance, a rather common event here in Panama.  Here is a link to their B and B. 

Paul & Nancy's House
The Sunrise-Sunset Guest House of Sorá, Panama

Later on as we headed down the mountain for home we almost immediately were slowed down by a truck with no lights. But soon our headlights focused on a fluffy, cream-colored arm in the road on the passenger side.  I yelled stop, "it's a sloth," as Clyde stopped the car and fumbled for his camera.  I figured since the sloth IS one of the slowest moving creatures on earth we should have time to fetch the camera before it was out of sight.  The huge, furry creature was amazing as it pulled itself across the road with long, hairy arms.  It didn't seem to mind two humans gawking at it and snapping photos.  Clyde was able to get astonishingly close to it but she did hiss and reached up her arm when he bent down to pet her. Once she crossed the road she began to climb up a tree, as she seemingly stopped to pose for us along the way. What an amazing encounter with a sloth, so up close and personal and unexpected. Never in our lives have we been that close to one of these furry creatures.  She almost looked huggable with her long, tan, soft fur that glowed against the darkness of the night.  Her dark brown eyes met ours and perhaps she understood that we meant no harm.  But instead we were fascinated with this brilliant creature of the night that crossed our path in Panama....along the gringo trail.

Our Furry Little Friend
In Panama these are called "mono perezoso," or "lazy monkey."

Why Did The Sloth Cross The Road? 
So We Could Get Photos Of Course.....
Clyde Petting The Sloth

Going Up!

Just Hangin' Out.....Smile!

One More Pose For The Silly Gringos

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Day In Panama.....

Locally known as "dia de accion de gracias," Thanksgiving Day is NOT a holiday celebrated among Panamanians.  But it IS however a gringo holiday that's celebrated by Canadians and Americans alike, although in different months. Our Canadian friends start out the holiday festivities with their Canadian Thanksgiving Day celebrated on the second Monday in October. From what they tell us the foods are rather similar to the American fare with turkey and all of the fixins' along with a selection of desserts. Six weeks later those of us that relocated from the United States celebrate our day of thanks.
In The Back.....Clyde, Clara and Daniel
Seated is Terry, Claire and Phil
Clara and Daniel

Phil and Claire
And Last But Not Least.....US!
Terry and Clyde

This year we added an international flair to our turkey day at our friend Daniel's house.  Our group of friends included our host Daniel who hales from New Mexico in the US along with Clyde and I from Texas. Daniel wanted to introduce his Colombian lady friend Clara to a traditional American Thanksgiving Day. Our Canadian friend Phil joined us along with his British girlfriend Claire. Since Clara speaks mostly Spanish with some understanding of English the dinner conversation went back and forth in both languages.

Everyone brought some type of food hoping to lessen the work load of Daniel in the long run.  I baked an apple pie and a pumpkin pie from scratch (crust and all) which turned out good.  Other foods included turkey of course along with stuffing.  One version of stuffing even had some green chili's added since Daniel likes his food spicy. Mashed potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, salad, bread and more completed our dining experience for an enjoyable evening.

Getting Ready To Eat
With temperatures soaring into the 90's, we spent much of our time outdoors in the cooler air before heading inside for dinner. Although the temps were a bit rough to take we gloat in the fact that our friends back in the US are freezing their butts off. And here we are retired, enjoying the hot and humid temperatures of the tropics of Panama......along the gringo trail.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Deep In The Heart Of Texas........

We found some pictures that we never put out here from our trip to Texas in October, so I thought I'd do a little blog about it.

Since my daughter lives in San Antonio now with my grandson we had to spend some time there before heading over to Corpus Christi.  Clyde's daughter and hubby live near Austin so our first trip was over that way to visit with them.  We spent a nice afternoon at their lovely house along with an evening out for dinner.  When they suggested Chinese barbeque we were a bit skeptical, but turns out it was very tasty and cheap too.

The next few days had us hanging out with my grandson Vash and his Mom Desiree.  One day we took Vash to the San Antonio Zoo for a day of fun and exploring. But being the fussy eater that he is we never get to sugar him up and send him back to Mama, something that grandparents usually enjoy. However we did create some cherished moments with him and Desi and took a few photos along the way as keepsakes.

Grandma and Vash at San Antonio Zoo

Vash in Petting Zoo

The Zoo Was Dressed Up For Halloween

After our visit to the San Antonio and Austin area we headed over to Ingleside where we'd spend the rest of our time in Texas. Our good friends Ronny and Andrea graciously put us up every year giving us free run of their home. They're gorgeous back yard features a pool, hot tub, large aviary, chicken coop, green house, pond and gardens full of flowering plants and fruit trees.

Ronny & Andrea's Aviary

Octoberfest In Texas! Where's The Bratwurst?

Posing Before The Party Begins

Much of our short visit in Texas is spent visiting family and friends as well as stocking up on things that we can't easily find in Panama. And while it's always nice to visit Texas it's just as nice to come back home to Panama and resume our life here.....along the gringo trail.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cruising The Backroads Of Panama.........

One day last week we woke up to no electricity which apparently is how the water department gets water to it's people, so eventually we also had no water.  Neither scenario is unusual for Panama as the water and power go off at random times for reasons unknown to us. So with no Internet or TV it left us no other option but to talk to each other......yikes.  Well, Clyde being a guy did come up with another option but with no a/c that was out of the question too.

Instead we decided to get out of the house and hit the road to anywhere. From the Pan American highway we turned down a road that took us through the village of Las Lajas which is Spanish for "flat stones." Here in Panama we never know what we'll find up ahead and today we found a parade of sorts.  Clyde pulled the car to the side of the road to let the small procession go by.  It seemed that we  had a front row seat to the only entertainment in town that day. We're not sure if there was a reason for this parade or if it was just the local school band doing a dress rehearsal in full uniform? But whatever the reason it was a sight to see and we took the opportunity to snap a few pictures.

What's This? A Parade?

Aren't They Cute?
The Kids Love To Pose For Pictures.

From there we drove around back roads taking note of the unusual houses we spotted along the way. I suggested we take some photos which would give me something to blog about, since I don't seem to get inspired to do so these days.

Strange Fence.
What Is This?

Lovely Rock Work Around The Windows.
 A Store, House Or Closet?  No Clue....Just A Tiny Building Full Of Clothes
With A Door In Front.
Not Uncommon To Find Unpainted Cement Homes Here, But This One Could
Afford Rock Decorations.

 A Work In Progress?
Out In The Middle Of Nowhere......Literally......A Huge Horse Statue Could
 This Be A Horse Ranch?
A Creek Along The Way.

Another View Of The Closet House.
Someone's Car?
Another One, Probably A Weekend Home.
 A Church.


After exhausting our view of houses we continued to the end of the road to Laguna de San Carlos (a small lake). The area has a tiny restaurant, boat rentals and a walking path around the lake.  Since this is rainy season the ground was too muddy for walking.  But it was lunch time so we enjoyed a lunch of fish and plantain with salad while taking in the water views.  Millions of tiny fish dotted the lake and the occasional turtle swam by while we dined.  Although the skies were cloudy the rain held out for the rest of the day.  We made our way home sometime in the afternoon content to find our water and electricity in working condition once again.  Afternoon showers were a nice delight as we finished another relaxing day in Panama......along the gringo trail.

Prices At The Lake, Although The Man Told Us The Fish Was Corvina (Sea bass).
The Lake.

Small Boats For Rent.

Our Lunch.....Whole Fish, Patacones (fried plantain), And Tomato Slices As Salad.
Cost:  $5.00