Tuesday, August 28, 2012

These Days In Panamá.....

What's going on with those two silly gringos in Panamá these days?  Not much or shall we say life as usual. The air is filled with the neighbor's clucking roosters, talking parrot and surrounding loud, melodic birds.  The air is warm and wet as usual with the chance of an afternoon shower. 

For the past three weeks the garbage collectors seem to have avoided our house.  Since we're the only house on the little street with a trash receptacle, it's easy to miss ours.  Clyde's been on a mission to catch them while they're picking up trash on the nearby street.  But since they come around in the middle of the night, that means staying up waiting for them.  And we also have no idea what night they're supposed to come do their pickups.  So yesterday he drew a map showing them where our house is and stopped by the office to complain. 

Yes, the "Basura" is piling up!

Here's my proof that I paid for August!


Clyde's decided it's time to start working on house projects like building new kitchen cabinets.  And since it's not simple to find wood here he figured out how many square feet he needs and went around getting quotes.  The choices seem to be "teca" teak or "cedro" cedar wood which are both impervious to termites.  But because teak is so hard the locals wood shops refuse to plane it, so we'll probably end up going with cedar. Either is just fine to me as anything will look better than the old, ugly cabinets that we have now.

El Baño Afuera
The outside bathroom


Recently with some wifely nudging,  I convinced Clyde to finally install the new toilet and sink in the outside bathroom.  This will be nice to have when friends come over for outside get-togethers.  A while back I painted the walls a collage of funky colors.  We added a shower curtain and some small rugs to complete the look. 

But then I realized we'd need something to hold extra toilet paper.  Being the creative type that enjoys making something out of nothing, I came up with an idea.  The body is an old plunger which holds three rolls of toilet paper.  An old coconut serves as a head that I painted, and the dress is an old curtain that I redesigned.  A colorful mop head for hair, a scrap of fabric for a scarf and some cheap trim to decorate her dress.  She holds a little sign that reads "My name is Charmenita, I'm here to help you out.  If you run out of paper, no need to scream and shout.  Pop off my head, remove my clothes and look under my dress, there you'll find a spare roll to alleviate your stress."  Although it holds three extra rolls it came out so cute that I don't want anyone to have to take it apart to get to the paper.  So I put some extra paper in a basket on the toilet tank too, which is much easier to access.  When I read the little poem to Clyde he smiled and asked "did you just come up with that?"  To which I replied, "of course."  Perhaps I missed my calling and could have made millions writing for Hallmark!

La Muñeca de papel de sanitorio
The doll of the toilet paper.  Her name is Charmen...ita, get it?

Once I get in the creative mood I keep going for a while.  After pulling out the old toilet from the outside bathroom I decided to keep the toilet seat.  Clyde gave me that strange look wondering why, and I explained that it would be cute to paint it, after sanitizing it well.  Also made a few coozies for the handles of the refrigerator to prevent rust caused by wet hands touching them.  The air is so humid here that even stainless steel rusts and must be cleaned continually. 

New handle covers on the fridge
with three 50 cent butterflies!


Just heard our Panamanian neighbor sneeze "ah-chew" so either they sneeze in English here or we're starting to understand much more Spanish. 

Our new Banana Trees are doing well!


Baby Chicks are getting big!

Cleaned up this garden area
and moved a few in from elsewhere

Completely Replanted this one, and each plant cost only $1.00

Cleaned this one up




I have to admit
an incredible new recipe!
Chicken Parmesan with Avocado


Trying to introduce Venus our doberman to the chicks hoping that she makes friends with them.  She sneaks back to the coop and just sits there fascinated with them, watching them and drooling.  Not a good sign since drooling means she's hoping to eat them, not hang out with them.  Clyde yelled at her a few times today chasing her away from them.  On our morning walks she doesn't seem to care about the chickens running free in the neighborhood.  But perhaps since these chicks are in her territory she's putting her paw down and trying to dominate them.  Only time will tell and if she's still mesmerized by them we'll have to keep them penned up. 


So today in Panamá it's just life as usual!  Just doing some crafting, some gardening, some cleaning and cooking as another day in paradise comes to an end....along the gringo trail.















Thursday, August 23, 2012

Four Wheelin' To Chinatown.......

Surviving another day in Panama City with our first stop being Toyota to have the four wheel drive sensor replaced on the car.  To our amazement they actually had the part and finished the service in one hour, just like they promised. Clyde wanted to do lunch in Chinatown, although it's not officially called that here.  Our last experience was interesting....to say the least....when we didn't know if we'd eaten chicken, duck, turkey or cat.  To read the whole story refer back to the blog from October 3rd of last year.  Although not looking forward to another strange dining experience, I went along for the ride.

Nestled into the El Dorado section of the city lies this small, congested Chinese area.  We drove down what felt like a narrow alley with cars parked everywhere.  Both sides of the alley were lined with small store fronts displaying signs in Chinese.  Some proudly displayed whole raw ducks and chickens hanging in the window like decorations.  Only because a car pulled out did we manage to snag a narrow little parking spot.  Nearby Chinos watched closely as Clyde pulled the car into the spot.  They seemed to be worried that he would bump into their car, assuming they had one there. 

Displayed in front of our windshield was a bright red sign that read "Restaurante California....Comida China."  Seemed like a strange name for Panamá being such a distant contrast to the California lifestyle.  The sign on the door said "abierto" (open) in both Spanish and Chinese. 

Once inside I felt as if I'd walked into a banquet hall.  Large round tables covered with deep red linen tablecloths, topped with large lazy susans filled the room.  Since it seemed wasteful for two people to take up a table for 8, I kept walking until I found a smaller one with just four chairs.  The waitress was a tiny Chino dressed in faded blue jeans, black sneakers with a long sleeved white dress shirt a few sizes too big for her.  Her dark hair was neatly cut into a short bob which gave her a more modern day appearance.

She brought over a stainless steel pot of tea and two tiny white cups with no handles on them along with the menu.  Clyde noticed that some of the menu was in English and decided to do the ordering for us, which was just fine with me.  He ordered "rollos camirones" or shrimp egg rolls to which the waitress said no.  She explained in Spanish of course, that out of the four items on the appetizer menu they only had fried wantons or shrimp fried wantons.  He agreed to the shrimp wantons and ordered a meal of a chow mien combo. 

The tiny waitress put down her 3x5 inch notepad on the table to write down our order.  The black ink of her pen showed up clearly on the pristine white paper.  We marveled at how neatly she wrote in Chinese carefully creating each character with her tiny hand.  Of course we had no idea what she scripted and just hoped it was the right order.

As we waited for the food to arrive I took in the surroundings and drew a mental picture in my mind.  The walls were lined with huge paintings of the Great Wall of China, next to modern day air conditioner units providing a nice contrast.  A door to my right opened into the kitchen where the waitress went in and out.  Directly inside the door was a set of black steps that twisted sideways in this strange old building.  I  wondered how she managed to not drop the food running up and down the narrow steps all day long. 

Soon she arrived with a large platter of shrimp wantons and another of the main course.  One platter was covered with a huge portion of noodles soaked in "salsa chino" or soy sauce.  It was topped with veggies and tiny pieces of chicken, beef and shrimp.  A delightful taste sensation, we enjoyed our food as we watched the huge platters pass by to other tables.  The meal total was less than $7 and our tummies were stuffed to the brim. 

On the way out I made a pit stop at the bathroom.  I pushed back the door with the "bano" sign on it and walked into a rounded hallway.  The ladies room had round walls and I realized that this part of the building was like a round silo.  I marveled at the architecture of this neat old building as I headed back to the front.

From there we made a stop at Price Smart, a modern warehouse members only type club to stock up on basics.  With our cooler full we headed home from our day in the city.  Happy that once again we have four wheel drive just in case we ever need it.

We spent the night at an expat mixer in Coronado.  The meal was a strange mix of lasagna with fries, Italian bread and salad.  Tons of people filled the tiny restaurant both inside and out.  Later as the skies opened up and poured with rain, everyone had to squeeze together under cover. 

Tired after a long day we headed home to relax.  Another day of new experiences, challenges and good friends....along the gringo trail.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Chick Magnet......

With my permission Clyde and our friend Daniel took off yesterday to pick up some chicks. They came back with not one but a dozen cute, little, fuzzy yellow baby chicks that will hopefully provide eggs in the near future.

They drove over to Melo, a well known farm and pet store throughout Panamá where they sell chicks. Specifying to the sales clerk that they wanted hens not roosters that would be good at laying eggs. The clerk explained in Spanish that these chicks were "pollas" not "pollos" which means they're girls not boys. They both had to chuckle at those words since neither had ever heard a gender assigned to the word for chicken.









Each chick cost 70 cents each and they also bought feed, vitamins, a water bottle and feeder all suggested by the sales clerk of course. Chirping away they're happily getting used to their new home. Once they're big enough to be out in the open six of them will go live with Daniel, although they're not the kind of chicks he's usually looking for.




As soon as they're big enough to avoid predators we hope to let them run loose as free range chickens. This will depend on how Venus our Doberman feels about sharing the property. So far she's barely noticed that they're here. She's more interested in barking up at the mango tree that's no longer producing mangoes. We're not sure if she's chasing birds and lizards away or telling the tree to drop a mango so she has something to munch on?

Chickens run free everywhere here in Panamá. We see them alongside the road, in front yards, in the city and even crossing the road. Perhaps raising some of our own chickens makes us official Panamanians now. And my dear husband is among cackling hens, both inside and out now...along the gringo trail.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Trouble With Texting And Toyota....

Texting is one of those things a bit foreign to me since I've never found the need for it. But yesterday while sitting at Toyota in Panama City, I had plenty of time. Since they offered free Wi-Fi like so many places here do, I snatched the Ipod away from Clyde and made the attempt. It was out of shear boredom that I attempted to write emails and post to internet sites. I even started blogging here but decided to correct the mistakes before posting it today. After all I didn't quite master how to type capital letters in the middle of a sentence. Besides it took so long pecking away at that tiny keyboard that I didn't get too far. But it did help pass the time while waiting for our car.

Several months ago the four wheel drive light on our car dashboard came on indicating that we were engaged in four wheel drive. The car ran fine but wouldn't shift into four wheel drive. But we knew having it checked out meant calling to make an appointment and dealing with someone that spoke no English. Next was the long drive into Panama City through grid-lock traffic then dealing with someone at Toyota that spoke no English. Then waiting for hours not knowing what was going on and having it explained by a mechanic that spoke no English. And finally having a clerk tell us they would have to order the part, that spoke no English.

Our appointment was for 10am and Clyde already knew where the dealership was, or so he thought. We arrived on time and Clyde approached the reception desk where they told him he was at the wrong location. Apparently there are two Toyota service centers on Tumba Muerto, also known as Avenida Ricardo J. Alfaro. One is closer to Tocumen Airport and the other is closer to the El Dorado neighborhood.

The receptionist was very professional and told us they would service our car there instead of sending us to the other location. The computer indicated that there had been a recall on this particular make and model of Rav 4 and they would check out that issue too. From what we understood checking out the sensor light would take one hour and the suspension issue recall would take two hours, or vise versa. Of course the young man spoke no English so we weren't quite sure.

Once settled in the "sala de esperar" or waiting room, I noticed the time was 10:50am. So we plopped out butts down onto the comfy leather sofa for a three hour wait time. There we found free coffee, free water, free Wi-Fi and snacks for sale. As the hours dragged by Clyde raided the snack machine several times. Three hours went by, then four, then five at which point Clyde was getting impatient. He went to inquire and was told the car was almost finished. Since it was already 4pm and we didn't have lunch, we were starving, tired and irritable.

Just then Clyde's cell phone rang and it was Toyota telling us that the car was done. We had to laugh at this and he tried to explain that we had been there the whole time. Soon after a young women walked through the door with paperwork in her hand. She explained that they checked out the suspension system issue that was on the recall. Clyde asked if they fixed the light and she said no, and explained something in Spanish. We stopped her explaining that our Spanish was basic and asked if anyone there spoke English to which she said "yes, I do." She stood there looking at us and Clyde asked her again what had been done to the vehicle, expecting an answer in English since she said she spoke it. Flustered she began to answer in Spanish and then apologized that her English was not too good.

So to make a long story short, we sat there for five hours only to find out that they didn't fix the problem that we brought the car in for. Instead they found another problem that they did fix for free. The sensor had to be ordered and they said it would be in today. We made another appointment for tomorrow to have the sensor replaced at a cost of just under $400.

So manaña once again we head into the grid-lock, chaos, and craziness they call Panama City. They assured us that the part would be there and that it would take only one hour to be installed. But since this is Panamá we expect our wait time to be several hours. Because after all nothing happens fast here since this whole world seems to run in slow motion. Nothing really has to be accomplished today because there's always manaña....along the gringo trail.



Sunday, August 19, 2012

Happy As A Rooster....

These days my darling husband is as happy as a rooster in a hen house, with no where to lay.  He's got his hackles up, flew the coop and is building a chicken coop so he can hang with some cute little chicks.  Since everyone in Panamá seems to have chickens, Clyde decided to do the same.  Perhaps this egg-celent idea was hatched while nesting with friends in Texas who already share their roost with feathered friends.  We enjoyed fresh egg on our face for breakfast each day while asking if raising chickens was all that it's cracked up to be?

My Version of a "chicken brooder"
Made these out of scrap wood

Here you can see the front screened part
and the covered rear part to hide in
 
Here is the little door I cut out
for them to get into their hideout

I still need to put hardware cloth on the bottom
and chicken wire on the sides
then hinge the top


Most of the chickens struttin' their stuff here in Panamá seem to have flew the coop as free range birds.  We're really not sure if the locals feed them or if these birds just flock together, like birds of a feather do.  They eat grass, bugs and whatever else they find along with the vast tick population that eats for free off of our four legged dog friends.

So Clyde is running around like a chicken with it's head cut off, working on building a brooder before buying baby chicks from the local farm store.  But us city slickers know little about feathering a nest so we don't want to count our chicks before they hatch or put them all in one basket.  As the weeks go on we'll let you know if Clyde's ruling the roost or if the yolks on him over our new egg-citing adventure. 

After several weeks of not working out while in the states, we hit the gym this past week, and today I feel like someone's been beating on me.  But it's really not all that bad since after all, it only hurts when I move. 

Friday night we visited with friends over a bbq at our house before heading over to visit even more peeps.  We dragged our tired bodies home around 1am, then cleaned up some messes before hitting the bed by 2am.  Each hiding behind our own sleep masks, we managed to stay in bed until 10am yesterday which totally screwed up the whole day. After late nights out the following day is usually a lazy one, which  yesterday was for us.  An afternoon spent laying by the pool at the resort gave us our daily dose of Vitamin D before heading home.

A stop at a grocery store in Coronado on the way home made me realize how retirement to Panamá has changed me.  Eventhough we have more friends here than we had back in Texas, dressing casual with less makeup and my hair up has become ok with me.  Wearing a green, brown and white striped bikini covered up by a mismatched wrap, flip flops, and no make up with my hair in a messy updo.  Clyde looked at me and said "you can't go in the store like that."  "Why," I said.  "This is Coronado, a beach town and people will just think I'm coming from the beach."  After all I wasn't naked and everything was covered up. We didn't manage to bump into anyone that we knew and headed home for a simple dinner of sandwiches while watching a movie.  In the past I'd wear makeup and dress properly even when I was home alone, working out or whatever I was doing.  Perhaps retirement has made me accept the real me a bit more, flaws and all.  These days I spent much less time putting on makeup because it sweats off.  Blowdrying my hair much of the time has been replaced by airdrying or putting it up.  And clothing has to be light and airy, both easy to put on and take off.  Instead of worrying about the superficial things, I spend more time enjoying life, my husband, our home and the fact that I don't have to go to work. 

The distant sound of drums can only mean that there's a parade in our future somewhere, someday for some reason.  The local kids play drums and must be practicing for some holiday unknown to us foreigners.  Panamanians do love their music and typical weekends around here include an array of music shaking the cement blocks on the tiny houses of the locals.  As we headed out to walk the dog this morning, I danced past the neighbors house bopping along to a latin beat permeating out of their front door.

My happy rooster has stopped working on the chicken brooder for today.  He needs to get chicken wire and some other supplies before heading out to pick up chicks. The rooster may rule the roost but the hen rules the rooster, even in this hen house....along the gringo trail.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Getting Hot And Steamy.....

One of my pet peeves has long been having a clean floor in the house since I walk barefoot all the time.  Our friends all know to remove their shoes upon entering our house, if they wish to stay in my good graces.  My typical floor cleaning routine involves hours of vacuuming, followed by washing the floor and then dry mopping for a final touch. My wonderful but sarcastic husband continually says   "there's medicine for that" as if I'M the one with the problem.  Surely, everyone should want their floors to be clean enough to eat off of, I would assume.

After talking to some lady friends who also share this infatuation for cleanliness, several mentioned having steam cleaners.  One of my friends casually mentioned last month that since we were headed back to the states anyway, why not pick up a steam cleaner at Walmart.  Since we had other items to stock up on at "Wallyworld", we checked out the steam cleaners while we were there.  Overwhelmed by the variety, we emailed our friend here in Panamá from Texas to find out what make and model of steam cleaner she has been using, before making the purchase.

To make a boring story less boring we ended up buying a Shark steam cleaner along with extra pads since they're not available here.  Due to this purchase we ended up having to borrow an extra suitcase from the friends we were staying with in Texas.  But since they plan to visit us in Panamá sometime, they can fill it up on this end with cheap rum, seco and shoes and have it back.

Yesterday since dear Clyde decided to tackle the lawn, I knew he'd spend most of the day outside.  While he was mowing, trimming, weed pulling and grooming everything on the property, it gave me the opportunity to clean the floors inside. But before starting on the floors I had to shower and then decided the clean all three showers and bathrooms.  And everyone knows the best thing to wear while cleaning a shower is nothing to avoid getting one's clothing wet. 

After the naked bathroom cleaning I got dressed and started on the overwhelming task of cleaning the floors.  It seemed that having the house closed up tight for two weeks caused more dust and dirt than when we're here with the windows open.  After sucking up dirt and gecko poop throughout the house I washed the floors before proceeding to sanitize them with the steam cleaner.

Tired and hungry I stopped for lunch, and called Clyde over to eat too.  While sitting in our outdoor living area it started to rain and I asked my dear husband what he was going to do in the rain.  After all he knew that he was absolutely not allowed back into the house while I was doing the floors.  Being the nice wife that I am, I gave him the laptop and told him to be a good boy and stay outside.  He was ecstatic with a laptop and a hammock while I went inside to do more cleaning.  But to his dismay, just as he got comfy in the hammock the rain stopped and the guilt set in. He decided to get up and resume his "'yard boy" duties.

My calloused hands continued to work on our old tile floors for most of the day.  Not sure if the steam made much  of a difference, but at least I know they're clean and sanitized.  After yet another shower we scrambled to put the scatter rugs and furniture back into place before dinner.

Despite being tired Clyde grilled chicken, veggies and arepas (thick corn tortillas filled with cheese and grilled to perfection) along with a pot of beans that had been slow cooking in the crock pot.  A friend stopped by and we dined under the bohio sipping on a few adult beverages as the stars lite up the night sky.

Our Panamanian neighbors provided the ambiance with loud music and fireworks as they partied around a bonfire.  Although our get-together ended around 10pm, the neighbors partied into the wee hours of the morning.  Fireworks continued through much of the day today in our neighborhood along with others.  Although we're not aware of any local holiday this weekend, there seemed to be an abundance of  parties around the town.

A late breakfast in Coronado was followed by a stop to visit friends on the way home.  The rest of our Sunday was spent being lazy with some mindless movies and leftovers for dinner. A tranquil end to a busy weekend of getting hot and steamy and whacking some weeds....along the gringo trail.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Where In The World Are......

Two lost gringos left behind a blog and all it's followers to take a vacation from retirement?  Apparently some of you have been wondering where in the world we were?  Or perhaps how come there were no wise and witty blogs to help you waste away your working hours?  Some of your wrote wanting to know if we were wasted away in Mango-reesaville or wandering the world wishfully wanting one more adventure.

Since we'd been out of the U.S. for nearly a year now, it was time to travel back and visit our family and friends.  But since our life has become an open book through this blog and other social media, we avoided posting any information for security reasons.  Obviously we didn't want the world to know that our house was being taken care of by friends and our dog, and we were out gallivanting around the world. 

The first leg of our journey led us to Clifton, New Jersey for a visit with my Mom and sister Maryann. Mom's health is failing due to lung cancer and other ailments, so I thought it would be nice to celebrate her 82nd birthday with her and the family.

Terry and her mom

Some of Terry's family,
that is her sister Maryann
in the black dress


Terry and her mom Theresa
relaxing at the pool

Being so close to New York City a side trip to ground zero where the World Trade Center once stood was a must for Clyde being a retired firefighter.  We took the ferry over to NYC from Weehawken, NJ and then a bus to the WTC site.  After visiting the monument and snapping a few photos we headed out into the chaos of the city.  Since it was time for lunch we stopped for a slice of New York pizza on the roadside and bought a map for some further direction.



Terry on the ferry with
New York City in the background

This is one of the memorial pools
This one had all of the names of
the emergency personnel
that died that day

One of the new towers

A better view of the
memorial pool

We jumped on the subway and headed over to 81st Street to visit the Museum of Natural History.  A childhood rewind for me since I remembered being there on school field trips several times.  As a child I remember being in awe of the life sized dinosaurs that towered above us in the museum halls. As an adult the museum was a maze of four stories intertwined by thousands of stairs that we walked up and down for hours.  The massive museum halls went on for miles displaying room after room of impressive life sized artifacts, dinosaurs, Indians, animals and so much more. 


Yep!  We are in New York City!
I have to say honestly
traffic is worse in Panama City than New York City!

Underground in the Subway tunnel

Our Subway train
coming in

She looks impressed!


Clyde with his keen sense of direction checked the subway map so we could make our way back to the waterfront to catch the ferry back to New Jersey.  The short eight minute ferry ride offered a breathtaking view of the New York skyline that I'd taken for granted so many times while growing up.


Mounted Police Officers

Our ferry coming to pick us up

Good bye New York!
This shows the two towers still being built

Our NJ adventure included a drive around my old neighborhood as well as a few trips to visit with old friends.  A drive to Cherry Hill to visit with Tina, my first-ever girlfriend who I'd known since I was just five years old.  Another road trip to see my old high school swim team friend Lennie (short for Lenora) was another treat, as was a visit from an old boyfriend that I'd kept in touch with.

From Newark, NJ we flew into San Antonio, Texas where we managed to make the national news.  Soon after we landed the pilot announced that we could not get off the plane due to a security issue in the airport.  Minutes turned into an hour and other planes landed and sat scattered around the tarmac.  We peeked out the window and noticed security vehicles driving all around and we knew this couldn't be good.  Since we were already watching Direct TV in our seats, I changed the channel to CNN News thinking whatever was going on just might make the national news.  As the minutes turned into hours CNN broadcast a "breaking news" story that San Antonio Airport was closed due to a bomb threat.  The broadcast showed several planes sitting on the ground, including the one we were on. 


Thank God we were on the
air conditioned plane!

After three hours on the plane they let us out, only to discover that we couldn't leave the airport since it hadn't yet been cleared.  We found a restaurant and had dinner and by the time we were done they had cleared all the airport terminals.  A minor inconvenience of being stuck on the plane for three hours, but at least they kept the air conditioner running and managed to scrounge up some snacks and water to keep us happy.  The CNN segment featured passengers standing outside on the tarmac with temperatures soaring above 100 degrees.

Once in Texas, our friends Ronny and Andrea opened up their home to us as we made ourselves comfortable for the week.  Their large, lovely home is surrounded by tropical plants and fruit trees set beautifully around an in-ground pool.

During the week we visited with my daughter and grandson as well as Clyde's three children.  A trip to the beach with my 5 year old unusually neat grandson was comical.  He refused to touch the sand and told his Mom to make the sand castles so he didn't have to get dirty.  Earlier that day he used the vacuum at home, a complete opposite to my less than tidy daughter.  We also got to see some old friends and I even spent some time in the Corpus Christi Athletic Club working out with my former personal trainer and workout partner too.


Terry and her daughter Desireé
at the beach

Our grandson Vash
he is five now


Clyde with his daughter
Christy and her husband Jerry

And the trip would not have been complete without enjoying many meals at our favorite Tex-Mex restaurants too.  We ordered our old favorite of one taco each, but didn't remember how huge the portions are compared to those here in Panamá.  With an endless supply of chips, salsa and drinks we realized why us Americans as a whole eat and drink to abundance packing on the extra pounds.

Due to the extreme heat and drought in Texas, the landscape was dry, dead, ugly, and flat and we longed for the lush, tropical greenery of Panamá. Being used to living without air conditioning, I'd become comfortable living in the heat and humidity.  The dryness of the plane, air conditioning and the dry environment caused my skin to dry up and break out.  I even woke up with a nosebleed the first morning in NJ.

Upon boarding the plane in Houston I heard a couple behind us telling a young man that they live in Ecuador.  I turned and asked if they retired to Ecuador to which they replied, "yes."  Turns out this couple is also from Corpus Christi and lived just down the street from where my daughter lives, which was literally a few blocks from where we lived.  And just like us they retired last September and were visiting Texas to deal with the sale of their house.  We exchanged emails and hope to visit them in Ecuador sometime in the near future.  In turn we would love to have them visit us here in Panamá and learn from each other about our newly adopted countries.

We arrived back in Panamá yesterday to a cool 85 degrees under cloudy skies.  Our friend Daniel picked us up at the airport and then organized a "welcome home" party for us and friends.  Dining on home-made beef enchiladas, our local friends welcomed us back with good conversation, rum and beer. 

It was great to see our family and friends who we love dearly, but it was great to come home again to our life here in Panamá.  And we must admit that living with air conditioning again while on vacation spoiled us.  Today it's back to life as normal without an air conditioner and I must admit, we're sweating.  So I'm off to shock my body with a cool shower instead of the basking in the warm waters we've enjoyed recently.   

We've returned to Panamá with a new found appreciation for all that we have here.  Although the U.S. has much more to offer than the tiny isthmus of Panamá, it comes with a high price.  Life in the United States is expensive, stressful and full of opportunity.  More food choices make for bigger waistlines and more health concerns.  Higher paying jobs mean bigger houses with expensive mortgages and taxes.  We Americans have come to demand more of everything and we want it NOW, no matter what the cost. 

Here in Panamá we've simplified our lives in order to live on less money, and have time to make more memories.  I've always been fond of the words of this Shaker religious song:

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

So to answer the question "where in the world are those crazy gringos?"....We're living the simple life of early retirement, and living the dream where we chose to give up a few things to gain so much more.  That simple life of being free to be me....along the gringo trail.