Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Special Day Spent With Special Kids.......

Sunday was the day of giving back a little something to the community in the way of helping out families with special needs kids.  The annual event is sponsored by CASA (Coronado Area Social Association) along with hostess Maribel at her home near San Carlos. CASA along with the help of others put together 80 baskets of basic food items and other necessities to give out to families in need.  It all came together in one giant fiesta full of music, balloons, food, merriment, gifts and so much more.  JoAnne Burrill and myself entertained while dressed in elf costumes bringing smiles to everyone as they watched our antics.

The Band Entertains.....Local Bands Use Accordians

The families with special needs kids piled in via bus, wheel chair, carried by caretakers, with the help of crutches or other aids. CASA members helped by carrying in the food baskets, inflating balloons, helping serve the food, taking photos and helping to entertain.  Kids and adults alike were made to feel like royalty as they were crowned with foam crowns constructed by CASA volunteers.

Hostess Maribel

A local church provided a lunch for all which included turkey, rice, potato salad, fruit and cake.  Kids were all treated to ice cream cones, candy, and gifts before the food baskets were handed out.  With loud Latin sounds permeating from a local band, elf Jo Anne and myself kicked up our pointy elf shoes on the dance floor as we coaxed the kids up for some fun.  Although some of the physically challenged kids couldn't stand for too much dancing others kept us up and dancing until we tired out.
Clyde took photos of the kids and CASA members printed them out on the spot before handing them out to the families as a keepsake of the days event.

Families Enjoying Lunch
Another View
From The Inside Out

Along with CASA a big thanks goes out to Poco Loco's Rock and Roll Band for coming out of retirement to perform a fundraiser concert.  Ferreteria (hardware store) HIM helped by buying several of the food items (80 of each) on the list and our friends at Mailboxes Etc. provided reusable bags to hold the items. purchased 80 canned hams to add to the bags and Eileen at the Coronado Equestrian Club helped our by giving us a place to store all of the food until it was needed.
And a special thanks goes out to our hostess Maribel who opens her home each year to 80 plus families. She and her volunteers cooked up a ton of food, set up chairs, provided a band, drinks and so much love for these families and the kids. And none of this would be possible without Louise, the President of CASA who goes out of her way every year to organize the event with the help of Vice President Clyde and other volunteers. This is a special group of friends with such big hearts who are always willing to help those less fortunate without a hesitation

Jo Anne And Terry
Elfin' Around
Dancing With The Kids
A Dancing Train

 Maribel, Louise,  Terry and Clyde

Personally I had a blast with some great kids, some of who I remembered from last year.  I enjoyed dancing, joking, tickling, hugging, and playing with them as a silly elf that I was.  Jo Anne and I interacted with each and every child, even the shy ones that wanted to be left alone. Hopefully this special event helped put a smile on many faces and helped make their lives a little brighter......along the gringo trail.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Little Problems Of Living In Paradise.......

Don't get me wrong living in Panama is pretty good most of the time, but sometimes living in paradise isn't all that perfect.  Let me explain, for example one day last week I decided to go to the gym instead of working out at home.  Since Clyde had some errands to run and work to do for a client he dropped me off. I did my usual two hour workout which includes an hour of weight lifting followed by 45-minutes on the treadmill and then some stretching.  After that I changed into a bikini, downed a protein shake to feed the muscles I just worked, and headed out to the resort (with the gym) pool.  Like so many other times I had the whole pool to myself.  After dropping my stuff on a chair I grabbed a noodle to float on and quickly cooled off from the 90-degrees temperature.  The water felt cool at first to my hot, overworked skin but soon felt refreshing and wonderful.

My Other Gym
at Punta Chame Resort

After a while I decided to park myself halfway between the big pool and the smaller one on a landing.  Laying here works well since I can be laying out of the sun but half submerged in a few incles of water as well. While the sun was hot and providing me with more than my daily share of Vitamin D, the dry-season breezes were fierce.  After a short while I became chilly and my body became covered with goose bumps as the wind blew over my wet and dry body. This was my first problem of the day as I had to get out of the pool because I was cold and relax on a lounge chair.  Whoa is's 90 degrees outside and I'm cold!

Pool at Punte Chame Resort

As I laid there chillin' Yovanny, the resort's maintenance man.... slash.....pool boy began to clean out a few leaves from the pool. Finally I'd be able to engage my mind as it wandered into my imagination of what the perfect pool boy should look like.  Dark. chocolate skin, bulging biceps, young, cute and of course.....scantily clad.  And while this guy is kinda cute with a hunky little body, dark skin and strong accent he wasn't exactly dressed to stimulate much of anything in my brain.  He was wearing baggy blue jeans with a blue tee shirt and work boots.  Over the shirt he wore a white hooded sweatshirt, zipped up the front. To cover his head he had another shirt wrapped around the side of his head over his ears and on his face he had sunglasses. About the only thing that showed was an inch of cheek space on his face, if even that.  Perhaps he didn't know what the law states about hunky pool boys and their proper dress code? As I laid there I went over in my mind how I would say all of this in Spanish to joke with him, but thought it would be lost in translation.  So I decided to let it all stay in my imagination and keep my mouth closed. Panamanians are conscious about protecting themselves from the sun, unlike us silly gringos that subject ourselves to it's danger.

Instead I enjoyed the tropical paradise that surrounded me as I watched the poolside palms blow in the breeze.  Squawking birds flew by as I slowly began to warm up in the hot summertime air. A while later Prince Charming (Clyde) showed up to take me out of that place, which was a good thing since I was hungry now for lunch.

After a quick veggie and ham wrap at the house we headed out to the mall for a few things. We made our way home by 8pm tired from another long day of retirement.

Later that day we met up with others for the monthly CASA meeting to finalize plans for the big party this weekend of giving back to the community.  CASA with the financial help of a many individuals will be handing out food baskets and interacting with special needs kids of the area.  Also at the CASA meeting, we will join other crafty minded expats to make crowns for the handicapped kids which we'll place on their heads during the fiesta.   Friday we will assemble 80 gift baskets of food for families with handicapped kids. They'll be given out at the big event on Sunday (another blog with photos to follow).  This annual shin-dig is put on by CASA (Coronado Area Social Association), a local group in which Clyde serves as the Vice President.  Then we're off to partake in a Happy Hour tonight with friends before turning in for the evening. 

And so you should all feel sorry for those of us that are now cool when the temps drop below 75 degrees, as we're enjoying the tropical breezes of retirement in Panama......along the gringo trail.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Summertime In Panama......A Pool In The Road?

It's summertime in Panama when the days are hot as usual, but there's no rain for the next four months.  Unless watered, the pretty flowers, shrubs, grass and other green vegetation turn to brown and dry up. Every weekend the locals that live in the city head to the interior of the country to spend time at their weekend homes near the beaches.  For those of us that live near the beaches that means heavy traffic on the highway all weekend long. 

Summertime means the stores are stocked up on coolers, tents, pools, straw hats, beach towels, bathing suits, beer and other necessities. Panamanians tend to paint the outside of their homes with the absence of rain. Store employees can be seen wearing straw hats with visions of beach filled days coming soon on the weekend.

Yesterday we made a fast 30 or so minute drive to the mall at Costa Verde to visit The Do It Center.  Similar to stores like The Home Depot in the US, The Do It Center is a home improvement type of store common to Panama. The ice maker on our fridge went out recently and despite Clyde's trying to repair it, it's still not working. Clyde figured it was time to buy a new one and instead of ordering one from the US we thought we'd first look locally.  A friend mentioned that her husband tried to order one from this store so we thought we'd follow suit and do the same. Unfortunately the girl in the appliance department said they didn't have any and couldn't order one either. But she did give us the name, address and phone number of a Frigidaire dealer in Panama City that she said could help us.

Do It Center At Costa Verde Mall

On our way back home we drove off the highway into a huge development of houses called Montelimar.  We drove through the maze of small cement homes lined up on each street.  All were unique in their own way yet similar also.   Situated on small lots these belong to more of the middle class Panamanians that have decent jobs in Panama City but don't want to live in the chaos that is city life. As we turned down one street and followed it to the end an above ground, round blue swimming pool sat half way out into the street.  We laughed as we thought of the innovative parent that set this thing up obviously trying to entertain kids on the weekends with no where else to put it.  Clyde managed to drive around the pool and turn around at the end of the dead end street as we made our way out.  I wanted to get a photo but Clyde pulled out the memory card from our camera and forgot to put it back, so no snap shots of that one for this blog today.

Montilimar.....A Large Housing Development
A Typical House in Development
Last night after Clyde (not me) was working on a sewing project (more of this in another blog) we decided to head out for a quick dinner.  But since this IS summertime or the dry season the roads were bumper to bumper with weekend travelers headed back to their homes in Panama City. So creative Clyde decided to head out of Chame on the back roads so we avoided making a U-turn onto the crowded side of the highway. We ended up at El Pampero, a hangout for locals that's known for it's "chorizo" or sausage, and rolls. For $1.50 each Clyde dined on two different types of chorizo in a bun, each topped with a special sauce.  I choose a chicken filet accompanied by fried yucca which looked like fries but is thicker and denser.  My meal was $6.75 and so large that I brought some home for today's lunch.  This restaurant is so close to our house that we really could have walked but instead we made the quick five minute drive there and back.

El Pampero Restaurant.......They Recently Remodeled
So It Now Looks Different
What Are These Pigs Doing?
The Long White Thing Is A Thermometer 
   We Think.......But It Looks Like Something Else.....

Portable, blue, above ground pools pop up almost everywhere as locals prepare for the dry days of summer. It's odd to see tiny, run-down, unpainted cement homes that might not have electric or indoor bathrooms manage to invest a few hundred dollars in a temporary swimming pool.  Guess that shows us what's important to Panamanians.  Spending time with large extended families over some good food, a dip in the pool and of course some adult beverages. 

As for Clyde summer in Panama means taking it easy from weekly mowing of the yard and trimming of the shrubs.  Often people ask us, "why don't you water your yard?"  Clyde's response to this is, "it's the cycle of plant life here.  It dies off then regrows once the rains begin again. And besides it gives me a break." For me it might mean a little more time out in the sun at a pool or beach.  The trade winds change direction and provide a refreshing but sometimes annoying bunch of wind gusts. 

Clyde is out today doing some handy man jobs again for extra money.  I ventured out by myself with our two Dobermans, something I'd never tried before.  While we do try to walk our dogs on most days I'd never attempted to walk two 65 pound Doberman's on my own. I merely needed to maintain the pack leader mentality and the walk actually went well.  After that I enjoyed some time in our home gym lifting weights, something I enjoy more than cardio.  I love to feel the sensation of my muscles waking up as my whole body comes alive with strength.

No Explanation Needed!

Hard to believe it's snowing with freezing cold temperatures in other parts of the world.  Here it's 90 degrees and breezy, blue skies and sun shining over us.  In other words it's just another day in paradise here in Panama.......along the gringo trail.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy New Year From Panama......Partying With A Bang

The festivities are over and so are the seven holiday parties that involved food, drinks and socializing with friends both old and new. New Years Eve began with the pre-party at Picasso's Bar and Restaurant for their happy hour.  It was nice to spend time again with owner Claire's family who are visiting from Europe.  Her parents, sister and boyfriend were sitting with our friend Phil who invited us to join their table.  From there we headed down the highway to the beach resort of Bijao where we  ended the year with an explosion of fireworks and sky lanterns on the beach. Bijao is a luxurious resort community with condos, houses, townhouses and amenities too numerous to name.  With expansive white sandy beaches, six pools, restaurants, a gym and so much more it was the perfect setting to relax and sip away our worries with friends. A big thanks to Bobby and Sally for inviting us again this year.
Aerial View Of Bejao

After meeting up at their condo for drinks we all made our way down to the beachside bohio for a night of fun  The place was packed with Panamanians all dressed in white clothing apparently worn for good luck.  Somehow though our white-faced bunch of gringos missed the memo and we showed up dressed in a variety of colors. As the midnight hour approached we all headed down to the beach for the fireworks spectacular.  There was a Latin disc jockey jammin' at the waters edge and hundreds of people lighting up Chinese or sky lanterns into the night sky. Clyde and I bought four lanterns at a local "fuegos artificiales" or "fireworks" store in Bejuco, while Leon and Sue ordered some from the states. Patience seemed to be the key to launching these light-filled bags of wonder.  It took a while for the little wax square to catch on fire as several sets of hands held the balloon erect.  Eventually the lantern became hot enough to rise as it was guided along by a gentle wind.  Up, up an away they went as we watched each one, eventually going out of sight into the vast universe of stars above.

Olive, Rey And I Inflating A Lantern
Bobby Releasing A Lantern

And Another

And Another.....

Everyone Watching......Is It Going To Fly?

We Think This One Is Almost Ready
Let Go Leon......Or You Might Fly Away.....

Shortly before midnight the DJ made a few announcements and counted down the seconds as the crowds welcomed in the new year.  Diez, nueve, ocho, siete, seis, cinco, cuatro, tres, dos, uno.......Feliz Nuevo Ano!

Just then the sky exploded to an array of fireworks that never seemed to end.  We watched overhead and all around us at the rainbow display that painted streaks of color across the dark sky.  The fallout from the explosives fell like gentle snowflakes against our skin. Once the fireworks were done and the sky lanterns had risen out of sight the kisses and hugs went around the group as we wished each other a Happy New Year.


Back at the bohio we enjoyed some champagne and nibbled a bit more on the food as Bobby tried to initiate  a sing-along.  Later on Clyde and I headed back home along the deserted Pan American highway.  Our neighbors were still rockin' the night away with loud music and merriment as we found our way into the house.  We made our way to bed around 3am wearing earplugs and sleep masks ensuring us a good nights sleep well into the middle of the next morning.

On New Years day we crawled out of bed around 10am ready for yet another day of partying.  We left the house around 1pm and headed over to city of La Chorrera which looked like a ghost town. This bustling , congested city is usually packed with people, cars, taxi's and busses but today being a holiday it was dead.  On the other side of the city lies a hidden development called "Brisas del Lago," where our friends Jennifer and Dan live.  When we first moved to Panama we rented a house in Capira and attended the expat mixers held in La Chorrera.  It's there that we met this group of people who invited us to house parties where we met even more people from these neighborhoods. So it was wonderful to reunite with some of the old crowd that we haven't seen in a while. We chatted away the hours over drinks and food catching up with old friends and making some new ones.  A young couple that follow this blog recognized us and came over the chat.  Jennifer and Manual, an American young lady married to a Panamanian, divide their time between working in the states and visiting his family here. It was fun getting to know them especially since his family is from around where our house is now. 

We made our way home just in time to chill out and relax for the rest of the evening. Hopefully today we'll have time to catch up on things around the casa.  I'd like to take down the Christmas tree and ornaments and get the house back to normal. Clyde plans to mow the last of the green grass before it dies off during the next few months of the dry season. But there is just one more holiday event to come, a very special time of giving back to the community.  You'll have to wait for the details of that one in a few weeks as we head into a new year of more exciting adventures......along the gringo trail.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Another Christmas Goes Out With A Bang...........

Christmas Eve in Panama is full of parties with friends and family before an explosive night of fireworks that light up the night sky. Panamanians love fireworks and take every advantage to shoot them off outside of their homes since they're perfectly legal here and not too expensive.


Since Clyde and I had no plans for Christmas Eve this year we decided to head out for dinner.  Surprisingly, the stores were still open but most of the restaurants, other than fast food, were closed.  But Clyde knew one place that was surely open in Nueva Gorgona.  Located at the Bahia Resort is a fairly new restaurant called Bluwater Bistro.  This upscale, open air restaurant is situated surf-side on beautiful Gorgona beach.  We enjoyed some fine dining while listening to the waves crash against the shore, as the balmy night breezes blew gently through my hair.  My food selection was mahi mahi fish taco's while Clyde enjoyed some linguini with sausage. Both dishes were yummy and reasonably priced considering the location and surroundings of the nicely developed resort.

From there we stopped to pick up some margarita mix to go with the tequila we had at the house along with some cheesecake for dessert.  The rest of the evening was spent watching the old classic, "It's A Wonderful Life," while getting tipsy and overindulging on sugar.  But after all, isn't that what the holidays are all about?

Christmas Day we headed up into the mountains to the town of Sorá to see friends Paul and Nancy. As owners of the Sunrise Sunset Guest House of Sorá, this was the perfect setting for Christmas brunch.  A group of about 15 provided delectable delights such as sausage and eggs, pancakes, waffles, egg casserole, breakfast cheesecake, cookies, fruit, flan and so much more. We washed it all down with Mimosa's (orange juice mixed with champagne) and chatted the day away while enjoying the mountain views all around us.

My Festive Ho Ho Shirt.....It's Really An Old Nightshirt

On our way home Clyde wanted to stop in the town of Bejuco for some "fuegos artificiales" or "fireworks." Since we've never bought any in the three years we've lived here, we really had no idea of what to expect. But we were surprised to find the small store neat, clean and the man and women behind the counter were very friendly. Clyde was on the lookout for "sky lanterns, " or "Chinese lanterns" as they're also called.  Last year on New Years Eve we attended a beach party with friends and for the first time in our lives we were enchanted by these gorgeous, light filled bags that floated into the sky. So this year Clyde wanted to have some of his own to release into the night sky along the beach as we welcome in the New Year. But the store clerk had no idea what we were asking for so we kept explaining until he figured it out.  I think he referred to the things as "globos," which means "balloons" in Spanish.  The funny part of this story is that he could not sell us the lanterns because they belonged to someone else's inventory.  He had to first call the other vendor and we had to wait until she arrived, still getting dressed with her sandal straps undone and dragging behind her.  Although the prices were on the lanterns and the women did absolutely nothing when she arrived, it was the protocol that she had to be present when her merchandise was being sold.

Fuegos Artificiales Or A Fireworks Store

Another View

After paying our $15 for four sky lanterns we headed out and jumped into our car.  I suggested a drive along the highway to take photos of "muñecas" before they go up in smoke with the new year.  A local tradition is to make life size dolls, "muñecas" that look like undesirable people, things or represent something that must go away.  These dolls are constructed from old clothes, paper mache, coconuts or whatever else they can find and packed with fireworks.  At midnight on New Years Eve they're set on fire and all watch as the fireworks explode.  This is a symbolic way to get rid of the old to make way for the new good things that come with the new year.  As another year goes out with a bang we're thankful for our new lives, our good health, our wonderful relationship and to all that cross our paths......along the gringo trail.

muñecas on the roadside




A Politician

Friday, December 19, 2014

Giving Back To The Community.......

For the past few years we've been involved with CASA (Coronado Area Social Association) which is simply a social group made up of mostly foreigners.  CASA members meet monthly at President Louise's bohio (outdoor gazebo area) for a coffee social, wine and cheese event or anything else that comes to mind. But one of our most special events is raising money for 80 baskets of food that are donated to families with handicapped kids around the holidays. Since Clyde is the Vice President on the CASA board he volunteered to help out and go buy the food.  Since it sounded like fun to me.....that is being able to spend money and shop, I went along to help.  Louise gave us a list of what needed to go into each basket, and we set out to three different grocery stores last week to compare prices.

Local businesses also get involved as they buy some of the food to help the money go further. purchased 80 canned hams, Ferreteria HIM (ferreteria is Spanish for hardware store) bought a bunch of food items, and Mailboxes Etc.  donated reusable bags to hold the food. The Coronado Equestrian Club donated space in their office to store the food which will also serve as a place to build the baskets with other CASA members.  And what a treat it was when our favorite band, "Poco Locos" came out of retirement and did a fundraiser performance that helped cover the costs of the food.

Poco Loco's Band
Clyde determined that a grocery store called, "Super 99" had the lowest prices so today he and I were off to pick up the goods.  Originally his idea was to collect one of each item on our list, bring it to the front of the store and ask, "if they had cases of each item in the stockroom."  But instead we just started counting out 80 of each of the 17 items and putting them into grocery carts. One cart went to two, then three, four etc....... until a nearby employee noticed and brought over some boxes. Having a background in retail management and Clyde having one in grocery management we thought the store would be upset that we were emptying their shelves.  We began explaining to the employee what we were doing and asked if they had cases of each item. Turns out they didn't have back-stock of most of the items and they didn't seem to mind us taking from the store shelves.  Before we knew it we had 6-10 stocking clerks helping pull the items and pack them into boxes along with us.  They put each box into carts and helped us get the carts up to the checkout.  We explained to the cashier why we were buying so much also as she diligently counted out 80 of each item. The same stockers helped repack the items into the same boxes before carrying them out to our car.  Although we didn't think we'd fit everything into our Toyota Rav4, surprisingly it all fit.  Clyde thought we'd have to put the toilet paper on top and tie them down but they too managed to slip inside. Our car was so packed with stuff that I had a place to park my butt but literally no leg room.

Stock Boys Loading Up Our Car

In The End The Toilet Paper Fit Inside of The Car

Our Helpers Working Hard
Vacant House Used For Storage Facility

More Stuff Piled Up

And More....
Ferreteria HIM In The Back Of This Mini Mall

The baskets will be distributed on January 6 which is also the Feast Of Three Kings here in Panama.  Each child will be made to feel like a king or queen as they're crowned with foam crowns made prior to the event by CASA members.  A local woman and church get involved to serve up lunch and ice cream as CASA volunteers hand out balloons.  Many of the gringo's like ourselves get involved with local orphanages, churches and other groups that serve to help the community.  It's nice to give a little something back to the community and help those less fortunate than ourselves.  The holidays are a time of giving, sharing and being grateful for our new lives in this beautiful country we now call home......along the gringo trail.

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.