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

Sunday, September 28, 2014

It's Only A Number......Get Over It....

As a writer I'm a word person and have never been into numbers. I was that kid in school that could suck up to even the strictest English teacher or nun, since I went to a catholic high school.  And although I did ok with math I never liked numbers but managed to get by only because I had to.  Numbers seem to plague us all throughout our lives in one way or another.  Numbers such as our age , the numbers in our bank account, or the dreaded numbers on the scale that can dictate whether or not we're going to have a good or bad day.  Perhaps the scale thing applies more to us females than you guys out there?  And for some of us being up two pounds translates to I've gained 50 pounds overnight.  And then there's the size on the shirt or pants we're wearing that surely tells our brain if we're fat or not.

Just One Food Court At Albrook Mall, Panama City, Panama





Many of you know that I used to be fat....."gordo" as they say in Spanish.  It's been over 10 years now since I chose to undergo weight loss surgery to lose the weight which makes me even more obsessed with numbers.  During my fat years I hated shopping because it was so hard to find clothes that fit.  I wore the biggest plus size which at the time was a size 28 in pants and whatever the largest size was in shirts.  After losing the weight I was in as low as a size 3 in ladies pants and I'd buy extra small sized shirts.  As the years went on and my weight stabilized I was happy being a size 6 in pants with small tops before our move to Panama.

Our Wedding February 14th 2004
Before Weight Loss Surgery for the two of us

A more recent picture of us.





Each Door Has A Different Animal By It So Shoppers
 Remember Where They Came In


Panamanians are small people....short in stature.....so clothing sizes here run smaller than those in the states.  Clothes shopping in Panama is wonderful as long we you're willing to overlook the number on the tag that indicates size.  In the US women's sizes run from size 2 to size 18 while junior sizes (for younger women) are sized 0 to 13.  In Panama sizes can be anything from a "free size" which I guess compares to our "one size fits most," to no size at all.  Just recently I was looking at some colored jeans that were neatly folded on a table in a store. There was absolutely no size on any of them.  I along with many other women were just grabbing them, stretching them out to see if they looked like they'd fit.

Mannequins Here Are Voluptuous


If you listen in on expat women chatting you'll surely hear a thin woman say, "I used to wear size small but here I'm an XL."  Like them I never liked the fact that I might have to go up a size and finally realized it's only a number. But it makes we wonder IF sizes in the US are really accurate? Are we really the size we think we are? Are US clothing manufacturers making clothes bigger so we think we're smaller than we really are?

The orange shirt purchased today in Panama is an XL
The Blue shirt underneath purchased in the states is a Medium
 


Gotta Love The Mannequins


The up side of shopping here is that I can pick up a whole new wardrobe cheap! Last week we headed into Panama City with friends Allison and Ray for a day of adventures.  Clyde needed to pick up our new license plates (since we get new plate yearly) and Ray wanted to learn the ropes from an old pro.  So the guys dropped Allison and I off at Albrook Mall for some shopping while they ran around doing things. Six hour later when they guys returned I had spent a whopping $24 and Allison spent $30.  We had bags of stuff with the priciest being a pair of shoes I found for $7.99 all for such low prices. Lunch was a Mexican styled taco salad in an huge edible bowl with a drink for just $5.

 Yes Prices Really Are This Cheap!
 
 


And speaking of numbers, on Wednesday we headed to Westland Mall to take in a movie with Allison and Ray.  We left our house at 2:30 to catch the 4:15 showing of The Hundred Foot Journey.
We arrived in plenty of time but when we went to buy tickets we noticed there was no 4:15 showing, only one at 9:15.  Ray and Clyde asked the desk clerk who verified there was only one showing of that movie.  Since we were just another thirty minutes from Panama City Ray suggested we keep going.  But before we left Westland Mall Ray asked the clerk to go online to see what times the movie was playing in the city's theater. There was indeed a 4:15 showing there so we took off quickly, hoping not to hit traffic along the way.  On our way down the escalator leaving Westland Mall we noticed another large sign advertising the movie theater.  There in bold numbers it showed that our movie WAS playing at 4:15.....although the theater upstairs didn't seem to know that.


Kuna Indians In The Mall
Yes They Really Do Dress Like This All The Time




Despite city traffic we made our way to the theater at Multi Plaza mall on time but the movie wasn't playing there until 4:45.  We were happy with that option because it gave us time for a bathroom pit stop along with time to buy huge buckets of caramel popcorn and drinks. The movie was a feel good movie that we all enjoyed.  Afterwards we stopped for a late dinner at Jimmy's Restaurant before heading home.  We made it back home by 10pm exhausted from another long day of having fun in retirement.....along the gringo trail.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Gone Fishing.....The Tuna Coast

For the three years we've been living in Panama, my dear husband Clyde's been wanting to go deep sea fishing and finally he had his day.  On day three of our adventures at the end of the world it was decided that we'd hire a boat and go fishing in the Pacific Ocean.  Just down the road from where Emmett and TC live is a beach lined with fishing boats just waiting to take money from would be fishermen.  For just $50 we hired a boat with a Captain, provided the gas and we were ready to go......almost.  First the Captain had to get the boat that was anchored away from shore in the choppy water.  So like any good Captain would do he swam out, hopped in and maneuvered the boat back to shore where we climbed in.


Our Captain Getting The Boat To Shore


Originally I had planned to stay on the shore and relax for the day while Clyde and the others fished.  But TC mentioned that they usually see whales while fishing and suggested that we all go along for the ride, even if we didn't want to fish. I had a bad experience deep sea fishing twenty some years ago back in New Hampshire.  It was one of those large boats with lots of people, I was hanging over the side looking down at the water when suddenly it hit me.....seasickness, which only became worse as the day went on. The crew at that time told me not to look at the water but instead just look out over the horizon and the sickness would go away, but it never did. But since that time I've been on several cruises and other boats with no problems so I thought I'd be ok.  And just in case I brought along some scapalomine pills which we bought for a prior cruise just in case we needed them. I had cut them in half and took half since the full dose would put me to sleep.


  All Aboard!

As the boat plowed its way through the choppy waters we bounced around in our seats as the boat was practically airborne.  The rough movement of the sea seemed to be ok with my tummy and I chatted with Allison which kept my mind busy too. But when Clyde caught the first fish and the boat came to a sudden stop, I turned quickly to capture it with a camera.  It was then that my tummy asked what are you doing to me and began to churn.  During the rest of the trip I tried to stay put in my seat and focused on the horizon all around as not to upset things any further.  But the few moments of tummy upset were just that and thankfully never surfaced to anything more and I survived the day at sea.

Crew Helping Clyde
We Assume That This Guy Didn't Know How To Swim
Since The Lifejacket Never Came Off.....At Least Someone Was Safe

I Caught A Fish!!!!
 
 
And Another One

Clyde's dream came true as he caught the first fish which happened to be a bonito.  Although pretty in coloring the Captain told us they were not good to eat and threw it back into the water.  A while later Emmett caught a bonito and the crew followed the same procedure.  Eventually Clyde caught not one but two tuna which made him a happy fisherman and fulfilled his longtime dream of deep sea fishing in Panama.

Clyde And Emmett....Armed & Ready To Clean The Fish


On our way back to shore we spotted a few whales in the distance, although mostly what we saw was the water spout from their blow hole.  But we were thankful that the rain stayed away and didn't wash out our fishing trip.

The funny thing about this fishing trip is that only the Captain and his helper had lifejackets and the helper wore it the whole time.  There were no oars in the boat so we have no idea what would have happened if the motor gave out. Emmett explained that when he registered his boat here he had to have lifejackets for everyone aboard, two oars, a Panamanian flag, a whistle and other safety gear customary to boaters safety.  But Emmett did admit that the water was choppier this day than any other time he'd been out fishing these waters.  Later on Emmett said, "I guess when the Captain puts on his lifejacket you know you're in for a rough ride."


I was just as thrilled to be back on dry land as Clyde was to have caught a few tuna, so the morning was a success for all.  From here we went back to the house to clean up, change clothes and head out for our next adventure.  Our plan was to drive over to Playa Venao in Pedasi and find a place for lunch. Although we had our sights set on Mexican that place was closed so we settled for another.  I'm not sure if you can call it settling when we had our butts planted in a quaint oceanfront restaurant overlooking the gorgeous Pacific Coast.  The occasional bikini clad body would stroll by on the beach for the guys while Allison and I watched the surfer dudes in their board shorts. After lunch we had planned a trip to a waterfall so headed over to meet our guide.

Restaurant In Playa Venao




 
Restaurant In Playa Venao
 
The Happy Couple......Allison & Ray

Say Cheese.....or A Cheesie Pose
 
 
Always Willing To Help A Friend.....Drink A Margarita 

 


The day before we stopped by a house....slash, restaurant.....slash tiny resort that offered fresh juices for sale. Although the place was closed TC knew that the owners lived there so she yelled inside until someone heard her.  A dark skinned Panamanian women came to open the door and allowed us to come in to buy drinks. We all ordered some fresh squeezed juice drinks that were blended with ice and served to perfection. Some outdoor furniture was placed on a deck overlooking the jungle and that's where we parked our butts to relax and enjoy our drinks.  Howler monkeys sang their songs in the distance as we delighted in the sights, smells and sounds of the jungle around us.



 
A Cart In Front Of The Juice Place.....Ride Anyone?
 
Since the owner lives here and the restaurant was closed she had been doing laundry that was hanging on the fence posts all around us.  Clyde, being the typical silly man that he is giggled about her purple panties hanging next to him. He and Ray chuckled like fifth graders that were seeing ladies panties for the first time.  The female owner who seemed to speak NO English laughed at their comments, apparently understanding more English than she admitted to. I'm always telling Clyde not to say something about a Panamanian assuming that they speak no English because sometimes they surprise you. But Clyde does tend to open his mouth and get into trouble occasionally, ok so maybe a lot.....but it's usually all in good fun.



 This Is What Excited The Guys

In the meantime the owner told us about a four hour tour to a waterfall and natural swimming hole that they offered and before long we had booked it. We scheduled the tour for the next day after our fishing trip at a price of $100 for the six of us. But when the next day arrived it started raining as we were on our way over so we called to cancel.

The sky opened up and the rains turned into a downpour as we headed back to Emmett and TC's house.  We decided to take it easy for the rest of the day and relaxed on their back porch enjoying either rum drinks, seco or beer.  There we sat chatting the day away long after the sun set over the Pacific. 

Old Retired Couple.....Ha....Ha...


When dinner time rolled around we thought about something different and decided to stop at an Italian restaurant and pizza joint near their house. Although the restaurant was closed once again TC and Emmett knew that the owners lived there so they knocked on the door.  The owner opened the door but said, "not tonight," because he was painting. As a last resort we ended up at the Hotel Cambutal once again but knew they had excellent food so it was no problem.  We all enjoyed a wonderful meal and drinks while sitting surfside in the humid, tropical air.  Later on back at the house we enjoyed some "arroz con leche," or rice pudding that we'd bought the day before.  The previous day on our way back to Emmett's house we spotted an indigenous indian selling something on the side of the road.  TC said she's usually selling tamales that are excellent but today she was selling rice pudding in plastic cups for fifty cents each.  We bought one for everyone but neglected to eat them until the next night.  Usually flavored with cinnamon this batch of pudding seemed to be prepared with natural cane sugar or molasses along with some coconut to give it a different texture. It was a sweet end to our vacation from vacation and we were sad to think we'd be heading back home the following morning.

Two Happy Gringos......Living The Dream!


In the morning we packed up the car and headed home along the coastal route through Pedasi.  We stopped along the way to check out Playa Venao again but this time it was too early for lunch so the Mexican restaurant was closed.  A side trek through the town of Pedasi was a must and we detoured down some side roads to stop at a few beaches just for a picture.  The sky was full of clouds so we didn't take any snorkeling trips along the way back like we had hoped to. A typical Panamanian style restaurant in Chitre was where we stopped for lunch.  Clyde and I each had a bowl of wonton soup for just $2.50 each.  Allison had some chicken with gravy along with fries that she didn't plan to eat, while Ray had fried rice with chicken and some of Allison's fries.

Had Lunch Here.....Mostly Chinese Food On The Menu

Also A Bus Stop.....Notice The Ice Machine On The Side....Chitre, Panama

A friend had told me a while ago that town of Chitre is known for selling pottery, hammocks, ceramics and other artsy stuff cheap so we stopped to checkout a roadside stand. Clyde and I picked up a large mushroom lawn ornament for $12 and a three piece ceramic pot decoration that hangs on the wall for $12.  The total should have come to $24 but without even asking for a discount the vendor asked for only $20 which made us rather happy. The artesian shops around here sell the stuff for much higher prices so now we know to stop whenever going through Chitre.

Ceramics For Cheap!
Made To Be Hung On Wall
 
Ceramic Lawn Ornament



TC and Emmet
From Texas To Cambutal, Panama......
Also Living The Dream Of Early Retirement!

The four of us had a wonderful time at the tip of the Azuero Peninsula with friends TC and Emmett.  They graciously welcomed us into their home and hearts and eagerly took us around the delightful neighborhood they happily call home. And eventhough TC and Emmett moved here from Texas they found us through this blog and we've since become friends. And the same is true for Allison and Ray who moved here from Virginia.  They were blog followers from way back who kept in touch with us through email and on each consecutive trip to Panama. A big thank you to Emmett and TC for hosting us at their home and another thank you to Allison and Ray for the great friends you've become.  Here's to meeting more wonderful blog followers and having many more adventures with these good friends.....along the gringo trail.