Monday, October 31, 2011

The Drivers License Experience......part one

We have called Panama home now for two months, and after three months we are supposed to have a Panamanian drivers license.  Since everything takes longer here than in the states, we thought that we should start the process now. 

First step:  take our current drivers licenses to the American Consulate for them to certify that it's authentic, fill out paperwork and pay $30.00.
Second step:  go to the Panamian Foreign Relations Office, fill out paperwork and pay $2.00
Step three:  have blood work done for blood type and fasting glucose at any lab, cost about $12.00
Step four:  Take all the stamped paperwork to the Driver's License Office pay $40.00, take eye test and hearing test and have picture taken.  Go home and know that we are legally able to drive in Panama for the next four years.

So today we started with step three first, since the blood work requires fasting, we stopped at local lab and explained what we needed.  After about an hour we were handed an official typed up letter that was neatly folded and put into an envelope. We anxiously opened it and it said "negative" for marajuana and cocaine.  What!!!  They did a drug test on both of us?  Apparently they didn't understand us and we didn't understand them due to the language barrier, so now we had to start all over again.  We both were skeptical when they handed us cups and showed the bathroom.  How was a urine sample going to tell our blood type?  I just assumed that they were doing urine for glucose and would do take blood for typing.  Wrong!


Clyde was patient enough to try and explain again what we needed.  The first girl thought he was applying for a "commercial" driver's license and that requires drug testing.  Perhaps it will come in handy if we ever need to get a job driving a pineapple or banana truck around. 

After another thirty minutes or more we were handed another envelope, and this time they got it right.  Our blood types and glucose level were listed in black and white, and we were free to go.  Since we were starving, we stopped at the first store we came to for a drink and snack.  By this time it was 11am and we were meeting someone for lunch, so that's as far as we got with the driver's license process for today.

And since November is a BIG holiday month here in Panama, many businesses will be closed for the rest of the week.  The following is a list of holidays in November only.

November 1-Children's Day
November 2-All Souls Day
November 3-Anniversary of Separation from Colombia
November 4-Flag Day
November 5-Colon Day
November 10-Anniversary of the First Call for Independence from Spain
November 28-Anniversary of Independence from Spain



All of the public buildings are draped with long red, white and blue flags.  Homes every where are proudly desplaying the Panamanian flags. From what we hear there will be celebrations everywhere with parades and other festivities.  Traffic coming home from Panama City was very heavy tonight as people are headed out of town for holiday.



Perhaps we'll take advantage of some of the festivities around tomorrow. We'll drink some local rum and become "honorary" Panamanians for the week. After all the country has welcomed us with open arms and are willing to take any money we'll send their way.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pineapples, chickens, and fish....oh my

Today we went on a mission through the jungle in search of pineapple plantations. As we drove along Clyde kept telling me "keep looking for pineapple trees," and then we noticed large plots of land with crops growing.  We stopped to look and suddenly realized we were looking at pineapples, growing on the ground and NOT on trees.  Apparently the young plants begin under ground and then blossom into a flower which later becomes a pineapple.  There were hundreds of hectares of pineapples growing and this was only in one area, perhaps just one plantation.

The Pineapples go on forever!


This is what they will look like

After driving awhile longer we came across some cows that seemed to have escaped.  A couple of them were dragging ropes from around thier necks.  We kept on seeing long rows of buildings.  Upon stopping we realized they were full of chickens.

Escaped Cows!




Dinner!

We kept following the road until we ended up at Lake Gatun.  As soon as we got out of the car, a young, well fed Panamanian man waddled on over, asking if we wanted to go out on a boat for $20.00.  He invited us over to see a huge peacock bass hoping to entice Clyde into a fishing trip on one of the boats.




I have to admit, I (Clyde) am
Ready for some fishing!



While checking out the dug out canoes and other boats, Clyde noticed some boxes on the side with LIVE chickens in them.  I suppose that if you want fresh chicken, this the way to do it. Take home a fresh chicken, kill and cook.

Now this is a "fresh" chicken!
On the way home we stopped for lunch at a 24 hour restaurant, bakery and store called "Cesarin."  For only $5.00 the girl piled four heaping ladels of rice onto a plate and topped it with beans, plantain and chicken.
 



Last night we danced the night away with new friends in the Coronado area.  It was the Third Annual Halloween Dance Fundraiser for Spay and Neuter Panama.   This organization takes in strays and fixes them so they can't reproduce.  We met about 25-30 new ex-pats, some from Canada and others from the US,  who all had different reasons for moving to Panama.  But all seemed to share one common view, which is that they love it here and never want to go back to where they came from.  Clyde even met two women from San Antonio, TX and one even went to the same high school as he did.  Such a small world!



Yes, she is a "little" of out of character

Now him?  Way out of character!


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Clyde's Got Wood.....

Clyde finally found a place in La Chorrera that sells Teak Wood.  La Chorrera is a town about 15 minutes by car from the house.  He bought some teak that he's using to make a small desk for me.  We'll post the results when he's done.




This is going to be the table top

Across from the place that sells wood is some sort of produce market.  A few days ago when we were over that way I noticed pallets of bananas. Today when Clyde went to the wood place I asked him to snap a few pictures.  I seriously think that there are enough bananas in Panama to feed all those that are starving in the rest of the world.  Bananas are everywhere here!  Fortunately, I think I must be part monkey because I probably could live on them.  I love bananas, but I do realize that they're high in sugar and not the healthiest fruit in the world.

Bananas and Plaintains 

Sitting here typing I heard the ringing of a bell.  It was the ice cream man peddling on by with his little ice cream cart.

Ice Cream Man (we resisted this time!) 

Yesterday and today we have had extremely heavy downpours of rain.  The back yard looks like a lake after each deluge of rain.  I guess this is what November in Panama will be like. It's supposed to be the rainest month in the rainy season, and then it dries up for a while. 

I was kept up all night by some tapping noise. It sounded like an animal on the roof or in the walls. Clyde assured me that it's a woodpecker pecking at a plastic box on a nearby pole.  He's seen him going at it for days now and keeps meaning to take a photo.  Apparently he hasn't figured out yet that it's plastic and not a tree bearing bugs to eat. 

Yesterday we painted our new shed to match the house, so now it blends in more. Also painted the boxes that house the propane bottle and the water pump.



Tonight we're off to a Halloween Party put on by a local ex-pat group. It's a fundraiser for an organization called "Spay Panama."  Their goal is to spay and neuter the stray dogs and since this is costly, they have fundraisers to help raise money.  Panama doesn't celebrate Halloween but we did manage to find a store that had a few costumes. We had lots of costumes in Texas but we got rid of them all before we moved.

So we're off to make new friends and dance the night away.  A spooktacular night for all you ghouls and gobblins wherever your trails may lead.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Power of Water.......and Storage....

As spoiled Americans we tend to take for granted many of the things that we have.....things like hot water and water pressure.  Since we've moved to Panama that luxury has been missing from our daily lives.  We have cool water....sometimes.....but other times it just stops with no warning. We've been in the shower all soaped up and suddenly, no water.  In the middle of washing dishes or clothes.....and no water.  I've actually grown to like the cool showers unlike Clyde, who moans, groans and squeals every time he gets into the shower. 

Soon after we arrived we purchased an on-demand hot water heater.  It hangs outside the kitchen and is supposed to come on when we need hot water.  Since the water heater is triggered by water pressure and we don't have enough, we may get a trickle of hot water and then it turns cold.  We also bought a refrigerator with an automatic ice maker that will not work due to lack of water pressure.  The solution was to put in a pressure tank and pump. 

After getting permission from the landlady and the owner of the development Clyde went ahead with the process of getting this installed.  There are three parts in order to make this operation work.  First is a huge blue water tank that sits outside on our cement patio so we will not run out of water.  Then there is a pressure tank and water pump that gives us plenty of pressure.  It took two men most of the day yesterday to install this system and did cost us some money, but NOW we have lots of hot water and water pressure.  Clyde is happy to be able to take hot showers, we're both happy to have ice and I have enough pressure to rinse my hair out and wash clothes easily.  And on the advice of the installers, Clyde built a box that he can lock to put around the pump to keep it out of sight so it doesn't disappear.  The down side is that this will add to our monthly electric bill which I'm concerned about since I'm the frugal one.  And I didn't come here to indulge ourselves in expensive luxuries like those that we had back in the states.  But Clyde is sure that this will not add too much to our monthly expenses. And should we move out of this house we can take it with us.  He also built a box to hide the propane tank for the hot water heater.  He will paint them both to match the house tomorrow.

Propane Tank Hidden
Ready to Painted


Our Water Tank and
Hidden Pressure Tank and Pump
Also the storage shed
All ready to be painted Mañana

And Clyde has been working diligently building a cabinet for the kitchen to give us more storage space.  The kitchen in this house is tiny and has only two cabinets.  He had been waiting for his tools to arrive from the US so he could do these projects around the house.  He wanted to make it out of teak but was unable to find some, so he used pine and stained it to match the other cabinets already in the kitchen.  I'm happy with the look of it and the extra storage it provides.  It was nice to be able to empty the rest of our "kitchen" boxes that we brought with us.  His next projects include a desk for the guest room, and a large desk for both of us to use. (We found teak today!)  The living room in the house is large we will use part of it for an office. This is where this double desk will sit so we can each have our own space and own computer.  Or I will have the option to go into the guest room and write when I need to get away.  I will also be able to use the extra desk for craft projects, painting or sewing too.



More Storage
New Kitchen Cabinets

And the third bedroom in this house was opened up and turned into a den.  I was able to turn the den into a gym.  It's right across from the kitchen, next to the living room so it can't be missed.  I have an old bowflex machine, some free weights, a balance ball and the P90-X System that I haven't tackled yet.  We're also looking at buying some sort of cardio machine, maybe a spin bike since that's something I enjoy and it's a great workout.  Since this is the first week I've seriously lifted weights in a while my muscles are sore.  But the good news is that neither of us has gained any weight during our exercise hiatus, in fact we've lost a few pounds. 

Someone posted on facebook that she was glad that today is Thursday.  I looked at Clyde and asked "this is Thursday?"  I guess that officially makes us retirees.......we have no idea what day of the week it is.....and really don't care!  In fact our only care in the world each day is.......what are we going to do today?  If anything.....maybe we'll take a siesta, or maybe let everything wait since there's always......manana.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Box Says Blonde.......

I have a confession to make, for those of you that haven't figured this out about me already.  I admit that I DO color my hair dark blonde.  So in the past whenever I've acted like a "ditzy blonde" which can be much of the time,  my excuse was always "the box says blonde," and I'd point to my hair.  I've been coloring my hair for as far back as I can remember.  My hair was light blonde as a child and then it darkened with age. As a teenager I started with lemons while sunbathing, then the product "Sun In" also while bathing.  Then with my parents permission as a teen I started to use lightening products at home.  I've always had the impression that if I was blonde life would be better.  I'd look prettier; no one would notice I was fat; more men would want me; I could act ditzy and it would be cute etc....  Those of us fake blondes that are willing to admit it,  over the years the bleach seems goes to our brains and we do become ditzy blondes.

My first concern when Clyde first started talking about moving to Panama was "will I be able to buy blonde hair dye?"  Since so many products come through the Panama Canal there are products from ALL over the world here, including hair dye.  There are huge selections of hair dye here with brands I've never heard of before, along with my old favorite Loreal which I've been using for years.  Now that we've been here for almost two months my hair is in need of a touch up. 

Last week while at the store I picked up a box of Loreal Excellence Cream Color in rubio (blonde) with the number "7" on the box.  In the US  I was using Loreal's Preference line and this Excellence brand looked similar and they had the color I needed.  Although it had Number 7 on the box it didn't say "dark blonde" just "rubio" which is blonde. 

Since the water tends to stop working here where we live,  I waited until a weekday to re-color when less people were home using water.  I cringed at the thought of getting ready to rinse the color off my head only to find there was absolutely NO water to rinse with. 

I opened the box and pulled out the instructions along with all the products. The instructions of course, were ALL in Spanish.  I started to read them and ran to the computer to look up the words that I couldn't decifer since these are harsh, dangerous chemicals I was about to pour on my head.  Even though  I've been coloring my hair for over 30 years and I was even a licensed hairdresser at one time in my life, this was still scary!

Thankfully, the process is complete and I still have hair on my head.  I think it might be a bit darker but it will lighten once I get out into the sun since it always does.

Clyde and I are both wondering when we'll get bored and have nothing to do like retiree's are supposed to.  Today I did some laundry and lifted weights for an hour or so.  Have to make time to study Spanish and do some cardio, maybe take a walk.  Then I want to do some more writing and research on how to get published.  I also want to get into craft painting again.  As for Clyde he ran around looking to buy some teak wood, but came back without it.  He did buy some other wood to make shelves for the kitchen so we can get more stuff out of the boxes and ready for use.  He has lots of projects he wants to do around the house, as well as finding time to work out and study Spanish among other things. 

So life in Panama is keeping us busy and having fun.  When I was working I'd hear retirees say "I don't know how I ever had time to work," and now we understand what they meant.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dealing with The Stuff......

As we sat waiting for the movers a small pickup truck drove up around 10:30 and then turned around, since we're on a dead end road, and then it stopped again. A Panamanian man carrying paperwork walked around the corner from the main road.  Clyde stepped outside and the man said "are you Clyde?" Just then a white unmarked truck turned the corner and the man directed them to our house. We had heard that someone from customs or immigration would show up at the house to go through the boxes.  The boxes had not even been opened.  But in Texas when the movers took the stuff they DID open every box to verify it's contents with the list on it, so perhaps that was enough valididation for immigration.



 

There were five men along with the man with the paperwork,  who seemed to be the boss of the crew. They said they'd be here between 10 and 11 am and here it was 10:30 which means that they were exactly on time.  Inside the moving truck were two wooden crates made out of particle board.  The men worked quickly and efficiently to get out stuff into the house.  The couch was well wrapped with heavy brown paper and plastic wrap on top. When they started to cut off the wrapping with a knife I cringed, afraid they would slit the leather.  But they were gentle and seemed to know what they were doing. 


The manager of the crew spoke some English and was delighted to hear that we spoke some Spanish.  At one point he told Clyde "tranquilo"....relax and take your time learning Spanish.  He said "you practice your Spanish on me and I'll practice my English on you." 



While bringing in the couch they knocked over my new plant holder and broke the ceramic pots.  But everything arrived in good shape, at least from what we've unpacked so far.



As they were picking up the mess of brown paper, plastic and other stuff outside they started to dismantle the wooden crates.  I said to Clyde "I bet you'd like to have one of those?"  He laughed and said "yeah right."  He said rather jokingly to the manager, "you can just leave that here."  The man said "you want one of those?"  Clyde said "yes" and to our surprise they left us a huge, wooden crate which we can use outside the house for storage.  It's about 7 feet long, by 7 feet high and about 4 feet deep and fits perfectly on the side of the house without even blocking any windows.

 

As soon as they left and Clyde located all of his tools, he ran to the hardware store to buy some wood and supplies to finish off this our new storage shed.
With this helpful new storage unit we can get some of the boxes out of the house.  Although it's pretty ugly now once he gets it done he will paint it to match the house so it will blend in.  Then he can put a lock on it to keep things inside safe. 




So now the house feels more like a home with our familar stuff around. We still have much more to unpack and find a place for today, but things are going well.

Something else strange has been happening here at our house.  The automatic ice maker in the freezer has been making ice.  Let me explain.  We bought a new refrigerator the first week we got here and paid extra for an automatic ice maker.  Most of the ice makers on the fridge's here are not automatic. Water must be poured into the ice maker and then they make the ice.  We wanted to bypass that step and have the automatic type,  and since this model had that option we paid a little extra for one.  We had it professionally installed along with the other appliances. The installer told us to give it a few days and it would begin to make ice.  But it NEVER made even a single cube!  Clyde read over the book and did some troubleshooting.  He figured out that because our water pressure is so LOW that's why the ice maker wasn't working. So we've continued to buy ice until now.  The other night Clyde was standing in the kitchen and heard a strange sound from the fridge.  Low and behold it has spilled out a tray of ice into the holding container.  We don't know why it is that NOW it's making ice but we're happy that it is.  Perhaps that since everything else in Panama is slow, or on manana time.......the ice maker is too!

As we look at the mess of boxes filled with stuff we wonder why. Why did we bring all of this stuff, why did we keep all this stuff, why do we need all of this stuff.  But we all know that STUFF is the way we connect with our past.  Our stuff allows us to hold on to memories so we avoid throwing the stuff away.  But realistically we all know that even without the stuff the memories are buried in our hearts and cemented in our minds forever.  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

On Time....en punto

The phrase "On Time" is a foreign concept here in Panama.  It's understandable in the Panama City where traffic can be so grid locked that streets turn into parking lots.  But throughout the rest of the country there's no excuse for lateness with no explanation.  Yet everyone we've talked to both locals and ex-pats have experienced it.  We waited at home for three Fridays to have the air conditioner installed but no one showed.  Waited days for furniture to be delivered and the same with appliances.  Each time they didn't see the need to call and when we made contact they always had some excuse that they just assumed we already knew. 

So today we sit and wait again, but this time for our stuff that we shipped from the US.  First they told us they would be here on Friday, then Saturday first thing in the morning.  Clyde asked "what time" and we were told between 8 and 10 am, now it's between 10 and 11am.

Last week during one of our Spanish classes, Jaime the instructor brought up the issue of being on time.  He explained that if someone uses the phrase "en punto" which literally translated means "on point" or "on time" after a given time, that Panamanians take it more seriously and DO show up on time.  Clyde DID try this with the movers and when they said they'd be here between 10 and 11am Clyde added "en punto?"  So we'll see what time they show up today. 

Clyde's been planning what he's going to make once his tools get here.  We need computer desks so we can both have our own space, which he will make.  The kitchen needs some additional storage space, either shelves or cabinets.  I'd like a small writing desk in the bedroom so when I want to get away I can take the laptop and have some privacy.  We're new to this "retirement thing" and realize that we DO need to have time on our own away from each other so we don't kill each other.  And we need space in front of computers to work on our Spanish too through Rosetta Stone and other websites and media.

Yesterday Clyde was like a kid in a candy shop out searching for a table saw.  Here we have the "Do It Center" which is similar to the Home Depot, but they don't sell power tools.  But we did find one of these stores that knew of a table saw at another one of their stores.  When we found it Clyde thought it was too much like a "toy" so we kept looking. He did find one hardware store with real big power tools but they had real big price tags on them.  So he settled on the smaller model from the "Do It Center."

Stores here are too quick to send the customer to another store to get rid of them.  Take for example the kayak clamps we've been looking for.  We had a luggage rack installed onto our Toyota Rav 4 so we can attach kayaks to it.  One store sent us to another who sent us to yet another who only had ONE of these clamps and we need two.   They also had some crazy price tag on them so we think we can make due without by strapping the kayaks onto the car luggage rack.  When I was in retail management in the US, the goal was to keep the customer in your store and sell them as much as possible, but that's not the case here in Panama.  As for the kayaks, we ordered them from Price Smart a warehouse club similar to Sam's in the US. They are supposed to take a month to arrive in the store so we don't have them yet, but are optimistic. 

Better get showered and dressed now as the movers will be here soon......or "en punto" as they say here in Panama.  Just like everything I'm sure the arrival of our stuff will bring it's own adventures here along the Gringo Trail.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Next Chapter.....

Today we said "adios" to Spanish Panama and goodbye to our formal Spanish education here in Panama.  Although we'll miss the people we've come to know at the school along with our favorite instructor Jaime, we won't miss the stress of going to school.  We had the opportunity to explore the El Cangrejo area of Panama City and eat at some of it's many restaurants.  There was typical Panamanian fare,  Mexican, Carribbean, Sushi, Italian, New York Deli style, Chinese and everything in between.  Walking became a way of life as we literally broke shoes and almost toes on the rough, uneven pavement.






As we head home to continue learning Spanish, we go armed with several new books purchased at the school along with our old Rosetta Stone program.  Every second of each day we pick up a few new words or an understanding of some phrase we didn't quite understand. 

The stuff we shipped from the US is here and supposed to be delivered on Saturday.  Since things in Panama don't happen on schedule, we'll believe our stuff is here when we see it at the house.  Our butts will be happy to sink into the lazy boy instead of the plastic lawn chairs we've been using.  Clyde will have tools to do his honey's do's around the house.  And I'll have my fitness equipment so I can get back to working out and pumping iron.

Tonight we were scheduled to have drinks with Kathleen Peddicord and husband Lief Simon from "Live and Invest Overseas."  This is a  company that we received a lot of our research materials from in order to move to Panama.  If you remember, in an earlier BLOG, we told you the story how our classmate at Spanish Panama was the daughter of Kathleen.  With their hectic, workaholic schedules Kathleen was exhausted after just returning from a conference in Orlando and just could not make it.   Since it was too late for them to email us and they didn't have our phone numbers, Lief was nice enough to show up alone.  We met at the Bristol, a lounge located inside of the 5 Star Bristol Hotel here in Panama City.  Lief was easy to chat with and we enjoyed hearing about their conferences, publications and travels.  Like his wife Kathleen he formerly wrote and traveled for International Living Magazine, and has been all over the world.  Together they currently hold seminars, and publish books and articles helping people to retire or move their lives overseas.  Perhaps sometime in the future we'll have the opportunity to meet his lovely wife. 

Hotel life here at the El Parador has been uneventful except for some noisy visitors.  A family of  pesky pigeons has made a home atop the air conditioner on the  outside. In the middle of the night they wake us up cooing and bopping around in the air conditioner vents. I was sitting on the bed one day when a feather fell from the ceiling, like an angel wing from heaven. 

It's hard to believe that we've only lived in Panama for 7 weeks now and already we call this "home."  We're still like baby chicks just poking our heads out of the broken egg shell, looking at the new, strange world.  With so much to see, so much to do and so much to learn we've only just begun our new lives here.  Like my dear husband keeps telling me "I can't promise you anything except that this will be an adventure."  And it has been the adventure of a lifetime.......with so much lifetime still to go.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On the Dark Side......

Prostitution is apparently legal in Panama, but it's kept very quiet.  While walking around last night on the hunt for a place to eat, we noticed some big signs that led to little hole in the wall store fronts under other businesses.  Nothing but the sign was visable from the streets.  Once we got home we looked up one of these businesses called Moulin Rouge Girls but the website had expired.  These place seem to be clubs where men can be entertained and then should they choose, take a girl back to their hotel room. I did find a few comments indicating that these girls extract about $400 to $500 from their customers. And according to the internet there are massage parlors here that also offer some "benefits" that one might call a "happy ending."



While on the subject of "romance" as men like to call it, Panama also has some other features we've not seen elsewhere.  There are these sort of drive in hotels here where one can go for some rent by the hour romance.  Picutre if you will a tacky, heart sign indicating the way to a driveway.  After a long driveway there is a selection of open garages that look resemble an automatic car wash in the US.  A car can drive into one of these garages and put their money into the slots ($15 for 2 hours, $5 for additonal hour) and rent a hotel room for 2 to 3 hours.  There is no embarrasing hotel lobby to walk into and no way your "spouse" can see your car in the parking lot.  A friend once made a point about these "no tell motels."  Let's suppose you have 5 kids and things are crazy at home and there's no time for mom and dad to have a little alone time for romance.  So why not drive down the road to one of these hotels and get a room for a few hours to have some fun, before going back to the chaos of family life.  By the way the one we drove into just to see what it was, there were two sides of these garages. Each side had about 25 open garages and signs on the inside wall with prices.  On one side the price was $20 for 2 hours and $5 for an extra hour, on the other it was only $15 for the first 2 hours.  We have no idea what the difference was, maybe less on the inside?  This one is called "Los Arbolitos" and we'd pass it all the time and one day Clyde said lets drive in and see what this is.







Spanish school is going well this week as we try to grab all that we can out of our instructors since this is our last week there.  After class we studied our verb conjugations for hours, hoping that they'll eventually sink in. 

We stopped by an El Rey Supermarket to pay our $17.00 electric bill. There were about 20 people in line at the pay station.   As we waited Clyde asked me to walk up and see if there was a special window for pensionados and jubilados.  I went to look and there was a window with no one in line with a sign indicating it was for pensionados. Clyde walked to that window, paid the bill and we were out of there while the others waited in the long line.  It was nice but made us feel a bit guilty too, since many on the long line were older than us.  We're realizing that outside the US there is much more respect given to the elderly.  Even in the Spanish language there are words used to indicate "respect" towards an older person. 

Well I've got to get ready and get to school.  So all you chicos and chicas have a wonderful day and we'll see where our trails take us today.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Rude Awakening

Yesterday morning while blissfully blogging uncomfortably in my plastic lawn chair, the slats in the chair carving lines across my butt, and suddenly a truck pulled up.  It was a white pickup truck with a ladder sticking out of the bed. Two Panamanian men jumped out and yelled since the gate around the property was locked.  At first I panicked since I was indecently exposed having just gotten out of bed.  I ran to the bedroom yelling for Clyde to get up.  It was the air conditioner installers here at 7:30 in the morning.

For the past three Fridays we waited at home all day for them to show up. Every time they'd never call but would just not show up.  Clyde dreaded to call them but when he did there would always be some excuse like "they had car trouble."  Panamanians don't seem to understand the common courtesy of calling when they can't fulfill a committment.  We had to get our friend Betsy involved and they told her they would be here on Saturday.  To our surprise here they were, bright and early.

I ran to put on some clothes and brush my hair.  Since the air conditioner was going into the bedroom this was even harder since that's where they were.  I literally grabbed the first thing I touched and didn't bother with underwear.  I stayed out of the way and let Clyde deal with them.  They were effecient and thorough and finished in a few hours or less.  The service here seems to be good once they show up!



This is the "Split Type" of Air conditioner
found in a lot of foreign countries


After they were done we headed out to the big town of La Chorrera, which is said to be the second largest city in Panama.  We found a store we'd been looking for along with many more including a huge fabric store.  Clyde in his past would do upholestery and was impressed to see upholestery fabric for $1.99 a yard.  Most everything was $1,99 to $2.99 a yard with a few exceptions. 

As we drove back to the house through Capira we took note of the town's center square. There is a covered pavillion that had chairs and tables setup, as if something big was about to happen.  While in the mercado picking up produce we saw a sign for BINGO and the date on the sign was 15 de Octubre.  On the way home we noticed a long line in the pavillion for the bingo game.  When they do something here in Capira they to do it big, and this was no exception.  All night we could hear music in the distance and around 11pm there was a explosion of fireworks.  Panamanians seem to love fireworks and it's not uncommon on any normal night to hear some go off both near and far.  They must sell them cheap here and I suppose it's safer since everything here is made of cement.

We nodded off last night comfortably to the sound of our new air conditioner.  I snuggled under the sheet and swore that we'd freeze to death, although it was set on 82.  We've become wimpy, warm weather people that whine, when we waltz into whirling waves of cool air in malls and stores.  Wishing a wreath of warm wishes, wrapped around our readers worldwide, until we meet again here along the gringo trail.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ruins of Old Panama....

Standing among ruins with the impressive Panama skyline in the background sent chills up my spine.  I could only imagine living as a female back then, possibly a cloistered nun never to be seen by the world.  Or perhaps a fair maiden awaiting arrival of my beloved,  only to discover he'd been lost at sea after being attacked by pirates.  The pages of history come alive on the outskirts of Panama City in the archaeological site of Panama Viejo






The first permanent settlement on the Pacific Ocean,  Panama City was founded on August 15, 1519 by Pedro Arias Dávila and about 100 others.  By 1610 the population of the city had grown to 5000 with about 500 homes,  many churches, convents and a hospital.  In the early 17th century, the city was attacked several times by pirates.  In 1620 an earthquake destroyed many buildings and in February of 1644 a big fire destroyed 83 buildings including a cathedral.



As if that wasn't enough for this beautiful city by the sea, in 1670 with over 10,000 residents at the time the city was attacked by Captain Henry Morgan. With a crew of 1,400 men Morgan took over the city and it was destroyed by fire. No one is sure if the fire was started by Morgan or if Captain Don Juan Pérez de Guzmán ordered his crews to start the fire.  But either way the city was demolished and many lives were lost.



Some of the ruins have been restored and preserved as an important piece of Panama's history.  These stones of history can be touched, climbed on, walked onto and taken into the hearts of all that experience them.



There's a museum on the grounds that displays an impressive collection of artifacts found where the ruins sit today.  Then we were free to step back in time and walk through the buildings and imagine what life was like. 



For those reading this that enjoy a nip of Captain Morgan Brand Rum on occasion,  that brand is not sold in Panama.  The reason is that Captain Morgan was a real pirate and he is the one that destroyed the original city so many now call home.

 

The city was rebuilt in 1673 some 8 kilometers from it's original location and now goes by the name Casco Viejo.  This remains a historic part of the greater metropolis called Panama City.  Quaint streets, churches, businesses and tourists line the streets of Casco Viejo. These gringos will explore those streets at length someday and we'll bring you all the details.  But now as our heads hit the pillow our minds recall the memories of those historic ruins, and what secrets stay embedded in those walls that only they could tell.

A View from the old city to the new