Tuesday, May 29, 2012

More Flowers......

Although we're technically "retired" we are not your average retirees.  Since we retired in our 50's we enjoy living the life of a retiree, but still going out on the town dancing and partying.  On Saturday night we joined a group of Young Expats in Panamá (YEP) for a mixer in Coronado.  The crowd included all age ranges so we certainly felt like we blended in well. 

Drove up into the clouds on Sunday, as we made our way to El Valle de Anton for a little shopping. Looking for another end table made of twisted root to match one we already have was my plan. Stopped along the way at roadside wood shops selling tables, chairs and other touristy items, but didn't find the table we were looking for. 

Once we made it to the village of El Valle a stroll through the marketplace was a must. Out of all the things to buy, we filled our car with plants to go into are already full garden. They had many varieties of unique plants for just a few dollars each. Apparently Clyde doesn't have enough to trim, cut and mow now and needs some more. Also found some ceramic birds to hang on the outside of the house to add a splash of color.
A form of ginger these flowers look like plastic

This is a heliconia plant

There are about 40 different species of heliconia. The leaves of this plant are paddle-shaped, and they are related to the banana family. Heliconias are sometimes called "lobster claws" or "parrot flowers "because of their beak-like "bracts" which can be orange, purple, red, yellow, pink, green or a combination of these. A bract is a leaf structure at the base of a flower. The heliconia's flowers are tiny and found inside these bracts, which are so large and colorful that they almost hide the flowers all-together. This keeps the flower's sweet nectar tucked away so that only specialized birds can get to it. Some species of heliconia have upright facing flowers, and in some called hanging heliconia, the flowers dangle down from the main stem.

The flower wilted right before the picture was taken

See the tiny flowers begin to grow inside

Heliconias are found throughout the Neotropics and are actually quite common in the rain forest. They are also often found as ornamental plants in gardens and landscaped areas. People enjoy their colorful, gravity-defying ornamentation. The heliconia, like the bromeliad, can also be home to other living things. Water collects in the bracts of the straight stems, which provides a habitat for many species of tiny aquatic organisms. Many other animals depend on the heliconia as well. Hummingbirds and butterflies like to drink the sweet nectar from the heliconia’s flowers.

A closeup of the flowers inside

These grasshoppers are everywhere eating our plants

Not much to say since it's just another day....along the gringo trail.

Flower info provided by the following:

  • Jukofsky, Diane. Encyclopedia of Rainforests. Connecticut: Oryx Press, 2002.

  • Biological Diversity Info: biological-diversity.info/native_heliconia.htm
  • Saturday, May 26, 2012

    A Hole In The Dark.......

    Driving home last night from the grocery store we turned down our road and the right tire dropped into a hole.  Clyde got out and tried to push the car out with no success.  Although the car does have 4-wheel drive, the sensor is broken and we haven't been to the city yet to have it fixed.

    A view towards the hole
    NOTE:  I had mowed it the day before

    The HOLE!
    Much easier to see during the day.

    Since Panamanians live with their front doors wide open, our neighbors were half outside and half inside their house. With no where else to turn Clyde walked toward their house and said "ayudame, por favor,"which means "help me, please?"  A female called to her husband, a big guy who came out followed by a parade of women and children.  They helped Clyde push backward, then forward but the car would not budge.  Suddenly one of the women went inside and brought out a whole bunch more people and they all began to push the car until it slid out of the hole. 

    We met one neighbor when he filled our house up with smoke while burning his grass.  Another neighbor watches our trash to see what he can get for free, although he always asks permission first.  And now a third neighbor emerged when we needed help getting unstuck on the road.

    The hole was hard to see at night since it was covered by grass and had it been mowed, perhaps this wouldn't have happened.  Yes you read that right, the road in front of our house is a combination of gravel, dirt and overgrown grass that's been neglected for a while.  But today Clyde took care of the problem as he mowed the road with his riding mower.  Although the main highway in Panamá is well maintained, some of the side roads are bumpy, with gravel, dirt or broken up tar.  And most roads have large ditches on either side for drainage from the torrential rains we get here.

    Clyde's been shooting pictures of interesting bugs even though they're not as huge as some we've posted before. This week he found some miniature wasps and a hive too.  So this just goes to show you that not all bugs are gigantic in Panamá, it just feels that way when they're biting.

    Looks like a tiny wasp

    His hive, small perfect hexagons 

    Notice the interior layers.

    Found these cows loose on our walk
    They were more curious about us!

    Thought this was funky looking
    NOTE:  Not on our property

    A hole in the road, we just couldn't see but at least we didn't run into a tree.  We made it home safe although slow as a snail, to bring you adventures.....along the gringo trail.

    Thursday, May 24, 2012

    Caught With My Clothes Off......

    Sitting here naked yesterday when a truck pulled up to the front gate.  It was the window installers of course at 9 am.  They told us they'd be here around 1 pm and the man even specified after lunch, but here they are four hours early.  So we both scrambled to put on clothes but since Clyde had it easier he was the one to let them into the house. 

    On Monday we waited all morning for the window guys since Clyde said they told him they'd be there first thing Monday morning.  In the afternoon Clyde suggested we run over there to see what time they'd be here.  I asked "did they say....temprano Lunes.....which means "early Monday?"  Clyde looked confused and said "no, they said "Martes."  Well since "Martes" is Tuesday we were just lost in translation again.  But the good thing is Clyde won't ever mix up Lunes and Martes again.

    Since early can mean 6 am to a Panamanian, on Tuesday we got up early and put clothes on waiting in anticipation.  It was around 9 am that two young men were dropped off at our house, with their tools and the ten windows.  The truck left them here apparently to go to another job, which made perfectly good sense not tying up a truck on one job site.  Although the windows were numbered the installer had no idea which went where.  Fortunately Clyde was here when the owner measured the windows and he knew which was one, two and so on and told this to the young man.

    They went to work installing the windows and caulking around them on the inside and out.  Clyde asked about the screens and was told that the screens and the locks would not be ready until mañana.  Before they installed the glass sliders they carefully cleaned each one using a glass cleaner and I was impressed.  But after they put them up I noticed large, black numbers written on the glass with marker.  We questioned why they left the numbers on and the young man commented that he'd remove those.....mañana.  Yes there's always.....mañana.

    They finished up around noon and called the office for a ride while sitting outside on our front porch.  Clyde gave them a bag and told them to help themselves to mangoes which they munched on while waiting for their ride.  Before leaving they told us the materials to make the screens was coming from Panama City in the morning.  Once it arrived they'd make the screens and bring them over around 1 pm and he even said "despues almuerzo" which means "after lunch."  Which is exactly why they showed up at 9 am ready to install the screens and locks.

    Yesterday once again they worked until noon and told us they had to leave to get one more screen and would be back in one hour.  So while they were gone we ran off to the eye doctor in Coronado so I could get my eye rechecked.  The doctor saw me immediately and said that my eye was healed and didn't even charge anything.  On the drive back home Clyde said "where could you go in the states to be seen by a doctor immediately and for no charge?" 

    The window guy showed up on schedule only to discover that the screen didn't fit which meant he'd have to come back again.....mañana.  And as for those numbers on the glass written in marker, they did clean them off yesterday.  Now instead of numbers we have a big, round smudge on the glass that needs to be cleaned again....mañana.

    My afternoon was spent sucking up dirt made by the installers and then washing the floors after vacuuming.  Clyde's been on the lookout for a hedge trimmer and after another expat emailed him about where he could buy one, he was off to the store.  He found a Black and Decker one at a local hardware store that works just fine making him a happy hedger. 

    Headed over to Coronado toward evening for an expat mixer. We met a few new people there.  Some thinking of moving to Panama and others already living here.

    All projects here in Panamá take longer than expected.  So whether you're visiting on vacation or moving your life here bring lots of patience.  And remember if it doesn't get done today, there's always mañana......along the gringo trail.

    Wednesday, May 23, 2012

    New Residency Program Offered.....

    The government of Panamá just issued a new order making it easier to obtain permanent residency to live and work in the country.  Up until now foreigners had few options and those that didn't fit into any category had to remain "permanent tourists" living on a tourist visa.  The problem with this choice is that the individual would have to leave Panamá every six months for a few days, then return to set their visa status. 

    We live her on a "pensionado visa," which means that we have income coming from a pension or social security outside of Panamá to support us.  We are not allowed to work in the country which is just fine with us.  Other people live on a "person of means" visa which means they invested a large sum of money into a business, bank CD or property here.  There are a few others but those are the two most common visas, until now.

    On May 16, 2012 the government issued Order 343 creating a new category of Permanent Residency. In this category permanent residency is offered to foreign nationals from specific countries that maintain friendly, professional, economic, and investment relationships with the Republic of Panama.

    These individuals will be able to start a business or obtain a work permit with the status of permanent resident, as long as they're from one of the approved countries.  The intention of the government is to ease their shortage of qualified workers and help keep the economy growing.

    The following countries on the list are allowed to apply.
    • Germany
    • Argentina
    • Australia
    • Austria
    • Brazil
    • Belgium
    • Canada
    • Spain
    • United States
    • Slovakia
    • France
    • Finland
    • "The Low Countries"
    • Ireland
    • Japan
    • Norway
    • Czechoslovakia
    • Switzerland
    • Singapore
    • Uruguay
    • Chile
    In order to apply a person still needs to involve a lawyer and provide the following:
          1.  three passport sized photographs
          2. document that explains the purpose of requiring the permanent residency
          3. Proof of how much money you have in the bank by showing a bank statement from the  past month that reflects an account balance of no less than four digits, or that demonstrates your income that's acceptable to the National Immigration Service.

          4.  An identification card from your country

    Dependents will also be allowed into the country as permanent residents but other requirements are needed.  For the complete article translated from the local newspaper by Don Winner, see the link below.
    But before you pack your suitcase remember that Panamá is a Spanish speaking country.  So to obtain a job here one would need to be fluent in Spanish.  And also remember that minimum wage is low here, around $1.75 an hour in Panama City.  So I have to wonder if foreigners coming here will be enticed with high wages to make it worth while, or not? 
    Just remember things do move slow here and the kinks still need to be worked out, but it's a sign that things are changing.  As for us we'll just keep enjoying retirement and lazy days under the mango trees.....along the gringo trail.


    Tuesday, May 22, 2012

    Through The Looking Glass......

    Once upon a time in a far away land called Chame, there lived a beautiful princess named Mangoresa.  The princess and her Knight in Shining Armor lived in a cement castle surrounded by gorgeous gardens and fabulous fruit trees.  Her prince tried to make the princess happy but she was saddened when giant bugs would make their way into her humble abode, since there was no glass in the windows.  But one fine day in the merry month of May that all changed.  The local glass company sent two dark complected lads over with sheets of glass.  They placed the glass and frames into the window slots so the prince and the princess can live happily ever after.  So why then is this fair maiden still unhappy?  Because the young window installers failed to put screens into the windows.  How then can this fragile, fair maiden frolic happily around her castle with bugs nibbling on her sweet, mango flavored skin? 

    Alas, the young, hard-bodied window installers shall return to the castle mañana armed with screens in hand.  These will shield the damsel in distress from the colossal creatures crawling around the crevices of the creaky castle, making the perfect princesses' pout perk-up into a pleasant smile.  The fair young maiden and her pleasing prince will then live happily ever after, plodding along their path in Panamá...along the gringo trail.

    Monday, May 21, 2012

    Land Of Giant Bugs.......

    They always said "things are bigger in Texas" but I'm starting to think that things are bigger here in Panamá, at least the bugs.  This place is beginning to look like some movie set where unusually big creatures fly and crawl around.  While sitting in our friends living room recently I noticed something flying around on their balcony that I thought was a bird or bat, turns out it was a big moth.  And they say they've seen an even bigger one than this so I think I need a bigger fly swatter.  This critter was the size of a man's open hand and posed nicely for photos on their glass slider.  Earlier in the week we came across this huge beetle on our walk.  It was dead, but huge and Clyde just happened to have his trusty camera with him.  Later on he posted it on face book to share with the world.  Another ex-pat named Dick saw the picture and had to post pictures of a dragon fly he came across near his place in David, Panama.

    One Big Moth on a glass door at night

    We came across the dead beetle on our
    morning walk

    Picture sent to us from Dick Kesterke
    near David, Panama

    Another View of this critter

    This was not a huge bug but
    was able to capture his picture
    For the past few days I've been seeing the world a little lopsided wearing only one contact lens.  My right eye has been bothering me for several weeks now, feeling like I had something in it or it was scratched. So on Friday I found an eye doctor in Coronado thinking there'd be a good chance that someone there spoke English.  Inside the little shop called "Optica Boyd Diaz" the doctor and his wife both greeted us in English.  After asking me a few medical questions he examined my eye on which he found a scratch and instructed me to not wear the contact in that eye for five days.  He also sold me some eye drops and told me to come back for a recheck in five days.  The visit and eye drops came to $38 and we were on our way.

    Since my contacts are mono-vision, one eye takes care of reading while the other see distances, leaving me lopsided wearing only one.  But with a strong dislike for eyeglasses I'm stumbling along only being able to see close up wearing my left lens only.  But around the house I started putting my glasses on but blocking my left eye since it has the contact in it.

    Woke up on Sunday around 8 am to the sound of loud latino music pounding from our neighbors house across the street.  It was a dreary rainy day, the kind that makes you want to crawl back into bed and stay there a while, which we did.  Due to the dampness it dropped down to a bone chilling 83 degrees in early evening which actually did make us chilly.  Did a few things around the house and tried to watch a movie in the evening over the music still blasting.  They finally turned it off around 7 pm maybe because they put the smaller kiddos to bed.  Although the music became annoying after a while, during most of the time we did enjoy it and I found myself dancing around the house. 

    Today I was up at 6am since the windows are supposed to arrive, and Panamanians usually start work early in the morning.  Hopefully the rain will hold off until the windows are installed so they don't drag dirt into the house.  But since a large porch surrounds the house, the installers will be under cover for most of the job anyway.  At the time we ordered the windows they said two weeks until delivery and it's been just about that now.  Perhaps next time the neighbor is blasting the tunes we'll be able to close our windows if we choose to block out some of the noise. 

    Hopefully a little glass will come our way today in the form of windows to keep out the giant bugs here in Panamá.....along the gringo trail.

    Thursday, May 17, 2012

    Gettin Artsy Fartsy....In Panama

    "If it doesn't move.....paint it," used to be my motto years ago when I was managing a craft and fabric department back in New Hampshire. But after I stopped working in retail management and life got in the way, I stopped doing decorative painting and crafting.  But I kept telling myself back then that someday when I retired I'd have time to paint again.  So for twenty some years I hung onto the paint brushes and craft paints waiting for the day.  My painting supplies traveled from New Hampshire across the U.S. to New Mexico, then to South Texas and now across the ocean to Panamá.

    Skillet Art!

    Old Wok repurposed

    Call me crazy, but I am going to
    put this at the end of our street!

    Big Bug on the Table!

    The plant is still in shock but
    the planter looks nice!

    Look out Venus,
    she's painting everything!

    Last week I painted silly designs and pictures on about six rocks.  Yesterday I painted an old skillet and an old wok that were left out in the gazebo of the house we bought.  Clyde wanted to name our street Mango Street for obvious reasons and also since there's a song by that name.  Since there are no street signs throughout most of Panamá, we knew no one would care if we named ours. Besides the sign will be on our property but near the road.  So today I made a "mango street" sign and even put a few painted mangoes on it.  After that I still had some paint left on my palate, which is a plate covered with aluminum foil for easy cleanup.  So I headed outside to decorate six flower pots sitting on the front porch.  Dots, stripes, squiggles and other odd shapes can be seen all around the property now is a rainbow of colors.  The dog kept looking at me as if to say "come one step closer with that paint brush and I'm outta here." Personally I thought she'd look pretty with multi-colored polka dots covering her brown and black fur, making her a dober-dalmation, but guess she didn't agree.

    Yesterday for the first time since we've lived here, I ventured out alone.  Since we're having more plumbing problems Clyde had to stay home waiting for the plumber, who never showed up.  But I drove myself to the gym for an extra long workout, then hung out at the pool chatting to a women that lives there.  From there I headed into Coronado for some leisurely shopping at Machetazo.  I browsed through the shoe department looking for some badly needed sneakers, but didn't find any to my liking.  Shopped for some make-up, nail polish and a new pair of sunglasses along with a few groceries before heading home. 

    Clyde called while I was shopping to ask me to pick up some orange and lime jello and cream cheese for a mango mousse recipe that our former dental hygienist in TX sent him.  Gelatin is not too common here but after visiting two different stores, I did manage to find the flavors that he needed.  Cottage cheese is different here too as it's probably made from the local white cheese that to me has an odd taste.  They do sell the Philadelphia brand of cream cheese, but since it's imported it cost more.  The mousse turned out good with lots of mango taste!  And it was nice to have a day of retail therapy,  shopping with no male distractions.

    Another online friend, Juli sent him a recipe idea to cut up a pineapple and cook flattened chicken breasts in between the pineapple skins to allow the juices to permeate through the meat.  On the side with this he served veggie and pineapple kabobs for a yummy dinner.

    Chicken cooked in
    Pineapple Planks

    Pineapple Kabobs too!

    Mango Mousse

    An update from a recent blog about our Panamanian neighbor waking us up at 6am working on replacing his tin roof.  They took off the old tin, replaced the carrioles underneath and then put the old tin back on.  The old tin looks worse now after being mangled off and thrown around by a crew of men.  This is typical Panamanian style with no explanation to us foreigners as to why they'd do this.  Perhaps since he sold the house he's only doing what he has to do, and the new homeowners can worry about the rest.

    The horse on our walk
    this morning

    Good God!  Look at the size of this dead
    beetle I found on our walk.

    A local man came by earlier today selling fresh shrimp and fish from the back of his truck, so Clyde ran out to buy some.  For $12.00 he bought a pound of shrimp and over a pound of fish.  So right now the shrimp's on the barbie and I'm waiting to eat it.  This is the first time we bought fresh shrimp since we've lived here. 

    Time for dinner on the gazebo and then to relax under the stars as another day comes to an end......along the gringo trail.

    Wednesday, May 16, 2012

    Life In The Tropics.....

    The sound of hammers banging up against a metal roof was our alarm clock yesterday.  Our neighbors are still fixing up their house since they sold it, and the work begins at first light which is around 6 am here in Panamá.  Since it was so noisy we decided to get away from the house but didn't go too far just to the pool for a lazy day in the sun.  Our first thought was to take a trip into the city to take care of a few things we've been putting off.  But when we realized it's pay day for the locals we knew the stores and streets would be packed with Panamanians trying to spend money so we'll keep that trip for another time.

     Here you can see the old roofing just setting on the house
    next door to us

    A view on our morning walk

    Spotted this horse on our morning walk

    Living in the tropics is different since life here is very much indoor-outdoor style, which simply stated means that we hear and see what the neighbors are doing, and vise versa. The locals live with their front doors wide open with no screens, so if their TV or radio is on, we hear it.  When Mamas yell at their children the whole neighborhood knows.  If Papas watching a futbol game, we hear that too.  Chickens run freely everywhere as do dogs and children. 

    So if you're one of those people that doesn't want to hear music, talking, kids, dogs, chickens, birds, geckos, frogs or life happening outside your house, Panamá may not be the place for you.  In the mornings we take our cup of coffee outside to our outdoor living area.  We usually eat most meals outside and even take some showers out there too. 

    Tired of eating chicken and fish we bought a package of salchica or hot dogs last night for something different.  Clyde fired up the grill while I gathered together the condiments, chips and salsa and headed out to the gazebo.  A while later I hear my mild-mannered hubby sputtering about something to do with the hot dogs.  Turns out that each hot dog was individually wrapped in plastic which he didn't realize until he put them on the grill when the plastic melted into the meat.  He tried to pull it off  but thought it would be safer to start over with new ones.  And the brand was Hormel which we thought came from the U.S. but they must be packed differently for Panamá.  Most food items here are individually wrapped like cookies, candies and crackers and I've even seen large marshmallows wrapped that way.  Perhaps it's due to the high humidity and that way things stay fresher.
    Individually wrapped hot dogs!
    Who would have guessed?

    Former fireman Clyde seems to prefer using an ax instead of a machete for cracking open coconuts.  Maybe it brings back the joys of breaking down doors on burning buildings with the ax, and just gets his adrenaline pumping.  We enjoyed some fresh coconut water right from one of our own coconuts for the first time.

    Coconut ready to drink the water with a straw
    and later cracked open for the meat

    And my handsome, hunky Gardener trimmed the hedges and plants to look pretty once again along with mowing the lawn.  This guy works pretty cheap and even gets to sleep with me his one-and-only mango-resa (since I am a Theresa)  here in mangoville......along the gringo trail.

    A view from our front door

    Another view of our yard

    This is Venus our FEMALE Dobie
    hiking her leg up to pee
    I wouldn't mess with her!

    Monday, May 14, 2012

    Close To Home.....

    Stayed close to home for Mother's Day after Saturday was spent with friends sipping mango-ritas and eating fish tacos with chips and mango salsa.  A sweet end to the meal with magnificent mango cake topped with cream cheese frosting. 

    On Sunday we took care of some long awaited planting around the house.  Clyde had been wanting to separate some of the over-grown plants into decorative planters on the porch.  And he also planted some seeds for cucumbers, Serrano peppers, squash and a pineapple crown. 

    Our dog entertained us by chasing lizards in the flowering hedges that run the fence line.  At one point she came out chewing something so we assume that she caught one for a snack.  She manages to self-exercise herself by chasing huge lizards around the property when she's not eating mangoes off the ground.

    Later in the day we drove into Coronado to check out a sale on granite at one of the local stores that friends told us about.  We picked up three pieces of granite for future kitchen counter tops, and one for the master bathroom plus the pieces for the back splash, a total of 24 feet....all for $320.  Granite was never affordable in the states but since it's much cheaper here in Panamá I just had to have some put into the house.  So now Clyde has another thing added to his to-do list.  First he has to rebuilt the kitchen cabinets and put in a new sink before he can add the new counter tops.  And as for the master bathroom that has nothing but a single sink hanging on the wall now,  it needs a counter to be built plus two new sinks. 

    The leftover mango-ritas made great tasting frozen sorbet last night for dessert, after a dinner of chips and mango salsa.  Moving slow today since it's been raining all morning.  Time to get dressed and head over to the gym for our Monday workout.  The flowers and plants are growing rapidly as the tropical rains blanket them with love.  Time for us to get our sweat on, burn some calories and build some muscle.....along the gringo trail.

    Life In Portugal....At A Snails Pace....

    Yesterday was just another day in Portugal when my dear husband Clyde said he was going to run to the pharmacy for a few things. Time passed...