Thursday, July 19, 2012

Party On The Playa....

Costa Esmerelda, an exclusive beachfront community on the Pacific Ocean,  provided the backdrop to our beach party yesterday.  Sponsored by CASA (Coronado Area Social Association) the semi-annual event is a time for socializing in a private, gated community that sits directly on the waterfront.  With around 200 members signed up for CASA, this large pavillion is the only place around big enough to accommodate so many attendees.  But since this is summer in North America many "snow birds" are in their home countries now and not in Panamá leaving fewer to attend the July event. 

Bohio's with the water in the background

Nevertheless, there were still around 65 who showed up with a home-made dish to share and enjoy the juicy barbecued chicken prepared by CASA volunteers.  President Louise and her CASA staff did a great job organizing the event and coordinating the food.  There was a nice assortment of appetizers, ample sides to accompany the main course and desserts for those that still had tummy room to spare. 

Large pavillion where party was held


Black and white sand marbeled together on the beach

We mingled with our friends and made new friends from all over the world.  It's truly amazing how many people come to Panamá from all over the world looking for a more tranquil, more economical way to spend retirement.  As we relaxed away the afternoon hours,  the tide rolled in and the pounding waves provided a soothing melody in the background.  Despite a few passing showers the day wasn't a total washout, although the sun managed to stay in hiding.

Beautifully landscaped area at Costa Esmerelda


Admittedly so, we never thought we'd be mingling with retiree's from the Coronado area in a ritzy community like Costa Esmerelda.  But being in close proximity now being that we live in Chame, we've been attending more gatherings in the beach communities and discovering a whole new group of friends.  And to think that just ten months ago we moved to Panamá not knowing another soul and now we know hoards of other expats.

Pool at Costa Esmerelda

Local ladies in our neighborhood.
  Panamanians carry umbrellas for both sun and rain use.

Let's dip our toes in the water, move slow as a snail to our next adventure....along the gringo trail.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Shoelace Chase......

A few days ago my sweet husband said he needed to find shoelaces next time we went to the store.  I offered some hot pink laces that I'd pulled out of some sneakers before discarding them, but he wasn't too keen on the idea.  They would have added a splash of color to his drab black shoes, and the price was right too. 



Now where would one find shoelaces in the Republic of Panamá?  And do they even sell replacement laces here?  Would they be near the shoes, near the foot products, or in the shops where they repair shoes?  Do they sell them by the package or by the yard?  And what do they call them in Spanish?

Clyde promptly looked up the translation which came up as "cordones de zapatos."  He wrote down the word "cordones" since we already know the word "zapatos" and conveniently left the piece of paper at home.

First stop was an El Rey Supermarket where he planned to pay our electric bill but the "pago" or pay window was closed for the day.  I browsed the aisles of odds and ends for "cordones de zapatos" being a female, since that's what we like to do. Clyde being a typical man that doesn't like to shop, he asked the clerk immediately (when I say "asked", he pointed toward his own shoelaces), who told him they didn't have any. 

Next stop was across the street to El Machetazo which is a department store that sells shoes.  Up the escalator we went to the second floor, which in Panamá is really the first floor, since the ground floor is called "planta baja" and not counted as the first floor at all.  We walked through beautiful displays of housewares, gifty items and sparkly things strategically placed to catch the eye of the female browser going by.  Clyde pushed me along practically covering my eyes with his hands to keep me from buying anything along the way.  Then our path led us through women's clothing where brightly colored swim suits and wraps were enticingly displayed on skinny mannequins wearing floppy hats.

The arms of slinky, frilly tops reached out to hug me, as the matching purses and shoes seemed to call out my name.  I tried not to glance at the clothes and kept my mind on the task at hand.  Like a kid in a candy store or a man who was face to face with overflowing cleavage, it was hard to resist.

As I was pushed into the shoe department there was even more temptation along the way, which I pretended not to see.  But what to my wondering eyes did appear, right in the front of the shoe department, but a small rack of packaged shoelaces.  A reasonable selection of black, brown and white with a few brightly colored ones along the bottom of the rack.  The packaged laces had no prices on them anywhere which is typical here but at least we know they can be found.

So you see my faithful followers that the silly, shoelace chase was really not a chase at all.  But if I told you in the first few lines of this blog that we needed shoelaces and found them easily, that would have been no fun at all.  So instead I dragged you along into my weird world of words while you wondered where you were being whisked away to.  But you ended up here as usual following our everyday lives of adventure or nothingness....along the gringo trail.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Going down to Panama.....

Clyde here,

When Terry and I were doing our research on moving to Panama, we came across Shorty and Slim and their wonderful music.  This is our favorite and I just thought about it and have been playing it again.

Terry told me, we have to share this with our Blog readers as it brought back the memories of the excitement of making the decision to move down to this beautiful country.

So, click on the link and be sure to make it full screen!  It is in HD so the video is of good quality.

More Patience Needed...

Last Saturday when we had the pleasure of having Direct TV installed, the programming seemed alright at first and then started to break up and pixelate.  The salesman was quick to send someone out to install the system, and even quicker to send a bill via email.

The next morning Clyde quickly called the representative who sounded very concerned and said he'd send someone out first thing on Monday to take a look at it.  Monday came and went with no sign of anyone from Direct TV, after we stayed home all day long.  Clyde sent an email to the rep named Michael, who never responded.  On Tuesday Clyde called him again, only to get his voicemail.  He probably knew it was Clyde calling and decided not to pick up his phone.  More emails and phone messages left throughout the day, Clyde was getting more upset all the time.  In fact Clyde was ready to tell this man that he sold the dish to a local metal collector for cash.  On Wednesday I called Michael from my phone, thinking if he didn't recognize the phone number he would answer.  To my surprise he did answer and I quickly handed the phone to Clyde.

Michael made all sorts of excuses as to why he didn't return the phone calls and emails, and this time said he would personally come out to the house on Thursday, promptly at 8am.  By this time Clyde had already disconnected the dish from the television and re-connected the cable, since it hadn't been cancelled yet.  But to our amazement, Michael did show up yesterday around 10:30 instead of 8am, but at least he made an appearance.  It seems that his installers had attached a broken piece to the dish on the roof and that's why it wasn't working properly.  He quickly took care of the problem and was very apologetic about the whole mix up.  He even deducted some money from the bill since we weren't able to use the service for a week.  So once again we have the US networks in English, but they come out of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  Hopefully this will keep us a bit more in touch with the rest of the world.

A few nights ago we took a journey to India by way of our television screen, while lounging on the couch.  The movie was called "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," and the story hit home since we're living a similar one.  A group of seven British retirees from different paths in life all coincidentally move to Jaipur, India at the same time.  They're all enticed by the romance and adventure of this brand new beautiful hotel for the elderly.  One of the gentlemen lived in India many years ago and always wanted to return.  Another woman needs a hip replacement and discovers it would be much cheaper in India.  And yet another widow who can no longer afford to live in her home after her husband dies, decides to make the move for financial reasons. 

As the widow prepares to leave England her son says to her "but how will I know you're alright?"  To which she responds, "I'll call, they do have phones there you know.  Or you can read my blog." "Your what," the son questions?  "A blog," explains his Mom.  "It's a story of my day to day life, and you can log on whenever you want to see what I'm doing."

Greeted by host and manager Sonny, a young enthusiastic, funny character who sings the praises of his hotel.  Not exactly the way it looked in the brochure, the hotel is dilapidated and the meals are too spicy for British palates.  Sonny assures them that his vision of an exotic, beautiful hotel is just around the corner.

The expats suffer the culture shock of life in a foreign country, but at the same time fall in love with its people and its beauty. As their lives intertwine they realize retirement is not the end of life, but the beginning of a new adventure.  As they create new memories and make new friends they begin to embrace their new surroundings. 

Change is not easy and in order to embrace it, one must be willing to adapt to new circumstances, make adjustments and be patient.  Life in Panamá has not always been easy, but we keep telling ourselves if we were back in the US we'd be working.

Life here is tranquil, relaxing, enjoyable, different and best of all....cheap.  Our monthly expenses excluding groceries and gas are roughly $30 for electric; $47 for Direct TV; $30 high speed internet; $3 trash pickup; $6 water and $200 health insurance for both of us.  Most of our money gets spent in the grocery stores and on gas for the car.  We try to buy all produce at roadside stands since it's cheaper, and it helps the local guy out.  Propane is used for our clothes dryer, water heater,and stove and to refill a bottle is less than $5.  We use a Magic Jack phone to call the US which goes for $20 a year.

So for us moving to Panamá has been a fun adventure that's brought us closer together. Each day is spent making new memories and having fun with my best friend and husband Clyde. Life was meant to be enjoyed and that's just what we're doing now in Panamá....along the gringo trail.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

An Exhausting Day Of Nothing......

Offered to drive a friend and neighbor to the airport a few weeks ago, so he can do the same for us when we visit the states.  Last night his plane was due into Panama City at 8:30pm, but didn't show up until 1am.  Apparently Dallas, TX was surrounded by bad weather which delayed take off for over four hours.  So we were stuck at the airport for five hours, which was not as bad as sitting on a plane grounded on the runway for that same amount of time. We arrived home around 3am and our heads hit the pillow sometime after that.

But as usual I woke up with the first light of day, made some strong coffee and managed to get through the day.  Met up with a bunch of friends at Picasso's restaurant in Coronado for a 10am brunch that lasted for several hours.  Then followed one of the couples home to see their house in Gorgona, to talk away the hours into the late afternoon.  Home by 3pm for a late lunch on the terrace, after which I fell asleep in the chair.  I woke up only to crawl into the hammock for a more comfy nap, waking to the sound of rain pitter pattering on the tin roof above.  I enjoyed the dark skies opening up, bringing a gentle rain to the lush vegetation around me.  The sound of the rain lulled me to sleep like a soothing lullaby, as the gentle breeze rocked me like a baby in a cradle.

As dark settled over the land and Venus nudged me with her snout trying to tell me it was time for her dinner, I crawled back into reality.  Back inside we enjoyed a light meal, I took a cool re-freshening shower and enjoyed a quiet end to another delightful but exhausting day.  Time to hit the sack early and catch up on some sleep before beginning another exciting week....along the gringo trail.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fourth Of July In Panamá....

Remembering the stars and stripes while partying the night away was how we spent our first July 4th in Panamá.  Although the country doesn't celebrate July 4th, the locals are more than happy to take our money and provide us with a place to party.  Mamma Mia's Restaurant in San Carlos hosted the event which included two for one drinks and pizza specials, and live music by the band Invicta and fireworks.

One expat woman boasted about the great mojitos that the restaurant makes and immediately ordered one.  The waiter came back to apologize that they didn't have any mint and therefore could not make a mojito.  So the women ordered something else and the waiter returned once again to say that the bartender didn't know how to make that drink because she had left her book at home.  I believe that in the US bartenders must remember how to mix drinks and are tested prior being allowed to work.  So the woman explained to the owner of the restaurant in English who explained to the bartender how to make the drink.  Apparently the girl had only been tending bar for one month and with the massive crowd for the holiday, was going crazy.  When our friends David and Stephanie arrived later on, Stephanie offered to help and jumped behind the bar to lend a hand, as she'd worked as a bartender before.

Invicta
 
Americans and Canadians too all packed the house until it was standing room only.  The rock band performed most of the songs in English, and we showed our appreciation by dancing among our expat peers.  Dressed in my red, white and blue flag bikini with sheer, white gauze pants over the dark blue star clad bottom drew much attention.  When we first started to dance the restaurant owner snapped a picture and asked if he could put it on their face book page. Cameras were snapping all over and one women asked me to pose with her man and then brought his friend over too.

Ready to celebrate the fourth!

Fireworks lit up the night sky in back of the restaurant, and as we stood and watched we felt a shower of residue sprinkle over our bodies creating a bit of a tingle. What fun times we're having and in the middle of the week, which is just fine since we don't have to get up for work anymore.  If we knew retirement would be this much fun, we would have done it much sooner.

The camera captures some wonderful colors

right above our heads

eerie photo of young man setting off the fireworks

Earlier in the week while socializing we made some new friends that mentioned they have all the US television stations through Direct TV.  Since this was the first time we heard that was available here, we asked more and they emailed us the name of their contact person. He was quick to reply and yesterday the installers showed up around 11am.  In typical Panamanian fashion, they had with them a small ladder, not tall enough to reach the roof.  How did they plan to get up onto the roof to install the dish?  Clyde let them use our ladder and in a few hours the installation was complete.  After they left the TV was on and for the first time in almost a year, I heard the sounds of an English speaking talk show.  Wow, we have mindless TV once again, and all for only $47 a month.  Apparently this Direct TV comes out of Puerto Rico so there's still plenty of stations in Spanish for when we want to work on that too. But we now have all the US networks along with many other stations we'll probably never watch but at least they're available.

Today we trekked into Panama City to meet with the previous owner of our house so he could give us all of the original documents and deeds on this house. Once back in the car Clyde glanced through the paperwork to discover that the street on the side of the house is called Calle Celaje, which is the name of our neighborhood.  And the street in front of the house is called Calle Sin Nombre, which translates to "street with no name."  And we thought Panamá didn't have street names, but now we know our street name is something so simple.

While chatting over coffee about the fruits growing on the property, Dr. Arellano solved the mystery of this strange, brownish, fuzzy fruit that appeared on one of the trees a few months back.  He said it's called a "nispero" and ripens to a very sweet, delicious fruit.  He said the tree it grows on is called a "sapodilla" and is very rare.  So next time the tree bears fruit we'll be sure to try some.  We also asked him to clear up the myth that Panamanians think that mangoes are poor mans food, and they refuse to eat them.  Being a well-to-do man in a powerful position as Chancellor of a medical school, he said he loves mangoes and eats them all the time, and so does his family.

Before leaving the city we stopped at a jewelery store that was re-setting the diamond in my ring, and cutting of the gold speed bumps that had been cutting into my finger.  When I tried it on I realized that it also needed to be resized since the humidity here makes my fingers swell.  Imagine moving to the tropics and now my ring doesn't fit, even though I recently lost ten pounds.
As another busy week comes to an end we realize that retirement is that time of life when we stop making money and start making memories.  And memories are what we're making here in Panamá, as proud Americans....along the gringo trail.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Day Of Leisure.....

All pumped up and no where to go, as we enjoyed some good Panamá coffee with friends in Coronado yesterday. A coffee social sponsored by CASA (Coronado Area Social Association) was held at someones lovely home near the beach in Coronado.  We sipped away while chatting with friends both old and new way into the afternoon hours. 


I (Clyde) was impressed with this parrot
made out of an old tire


It was after 1 pm before tummies began to rumble telling all it was time to leave and head out to find lunch.  We joined some new friends for lunch at an ocean front restaurant in San Carlos.  The surf was so powerful that the waves splashed up over the railing in front of our table as we dined. By the time we got home it was after 3 pm and time to take off some clothes and jump into a cool shower.


A view from the restaurant
in between waves


The other direction

After cooling off and putting on some shorts and a tank, I decided to give the dog a bath.  As I walked outside and she noticed me carrying a towel she knew someone was going to get washed and made herself scarce.  She quickly ran to hide under the gazebo hoping that I wouldn't see her. Even coaxing her with the lease didn't work as she'd rather not get washed if she didn't have to.

The day warmed up into the 90's and I took four or five cool showers before the day was over.  The heat usually doesn't bother me but for some reason I was melting.  From my morning workout on the bike and lifting weights until I was ready for bed I was hot and sweaty.

While having breakfast today we heard a Panamanian doorbell, which is when some local stands at our front gate and yells "buenas" to get our attention.  Clyde threw on some clothes, went outside and walked upto the front gate.  By this time Venus our doberman was trying to climb over the fence and eat the people since she doesn't seem to like Panamanians on our property.  The couple at the gate were from some church handing out paperwork and trying to get us to listen to their speal.  Clyde immediately used the "I don't speak Spanish" card.  But the man quickly asked "do you speak English?"  Oops....guess that's not going to work this time, so Clyde just politely said "no thanks" and walked away. 
After working out and taking a hike with the dog we headed out for and exciting day of grocery shopping.  First stop was for some non grocery items and a stop at GNC in Westland Mall for some protein powder.  Since we were in La Chorrera we stopped for a brick oven baked pizza at our favorite pizza restaurant called Viene Qua.  We were delighted that the Panamanian waiter came over to chat and wondered how we'd been since we haven't been there in a long time.  But since we're probably one of the few gringos that eats there, it's easy for him to remember faces.

After that we headed to the outdoor produce markets for cheap, fresh finds.  Then stopped off for a few $1.00 fresh pineapples and avocados that cost $2.00 for five.   Final stop was for groceries before heading home for the evening.

Tomorrow heading over to a local restaurant for a July 4th celebration of drinks, food, live music and evening fireworks with other gringos.  Of course July 4th is an American holiday but the locals are all too happy to take our money and let us party in their establishment.  The Canadians had a chance to celebrate Canada Day on Sunday so now it's time for us Americans to party.  Perhaps I'll put on my red, white and blue flag bikini and declare my own independence tomorrow....along the gringo trail.