Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Seeing Panama Through Your Eyes......

After nearly three years of living in Panama, we had our first house guests from the US.  About four months ago through email I was telling my sister in NJ about a cruise we took and the islands we'd visited.  She started whining about wanting to travel and I bluntly said something to the effect of, "you're not getting any younger, how much longer do you think you have to travel, so why don't you take a trip now?"   I suggested she get a passport already and  come visit us in Panama. To our surprise she took us up on the offer and brought along a girlfriend who's fluent in Spanish too.

My sister Maryann in her sixty-some years of life had never before been out of the US so we knew she was in for major culture shock. Her first dilemma came while going through immigration at Tocumen Airport here in Panama.  We forgot that they'd be asked where they were going in Panama by the immigration agents, and all they knew was Chame.  Although since there's NO mail system in Panama there are NO addresses so Chame should have sufficed.  But since Maryann speaks no Spanish and the agent spoke no English so neither understood the other.  Had she let her friend Nancy do the talking in Spanish things might have moved along a bit easier.

Restaurant Next To Our Hotel, Panama City, Panama

First Night In Panama at Pomodoro Restaurant, Panama City
On the left....Nancy, Maryann and Terry on the right
We Closed Down The Restaurant

Las Vegas Hotel and Suites, Panama City....
The Hotel is Attached to Pomodoro Restaurant

Outside View of Hotel Las Vegas

Since they're flight came in late at night we decided to spend a night in Panama City and do the city tour the next day.  Our first stop was the famous Miraflores Locks where they watched in amazement as a huge ship passed through the canal.  After that we explored the Amador Causeway where we stopped for lunch at Mi Ranchito Restaurant.  Next we walked the cobblestone streets of Casco Viejo where we peeked into the warehouse of an artisan making floats for Carnival. They browsed through the many souvenirs made by indigenous people and picked up a few trinkets to take home. Our car climbed Cerro Ancon, the highest point of the city for a breathtaking view of the city skyline before heading over the bridge into the interior of the country.

Escalator Up To Miraflores Locks Building
Clyde And I Always Take The Stairs

Miraflores Locks, Panama

Miraflores Locks, A Ship Passing Through The Locks
Nancy Posing With Devils, Casco Viejo, Panama

This Guy Was Just Hanging Around The Street
Artisan Market

Kuna Indians Or Mola Ladies As We Call Them

Terry, Nancy and Maryann in Casco Viejo Outside Artisan Shopping Area

Museum Of Bio Diversity, Amador Causeway, Panama

View From Amador Causeway
Terry, Maryann and Nancy at Amador Causeway
Checking Out A Heliconia Plant
We Found This Little Guy On Top Of Ancon Hill, Panama City

View From Ancon Hill

Nancy, Maryann and Terry on Ancon Hill with View of City in Background

Maryann continually felt bad for the poor Panamanians walking along the roadside, since many are too poor to own cars. She didn't understand how they could walk in the blazing tropical heat with kids and grocery bags in tow.  We tried to explain that life for Panamanians is much simpler than our life back in the states. Panamanians work to live instead of living to work like us Americans do.  They're perfectly happy making just enough money to take care of their family for the week, then chillin' in a hammock with a cold beer. They don't have mortgages, car payments, credit card debt, gym memberships or other bills common to those of us in North America. If we can learn just one thing from the Panamanian culture it's that money doesn't buy happiness.  Many Panamanians have very little in the way of material possessions yet they're insanely happy people. 

After our day in the city we drove into the interior to show Maryann and Nancy a different side of life in Panama. From the busy PanAmerican Highway we turned off into the countryside in the tiny town of Chame.  Our house sits surrounded by smaller cement block homes in a Panamanian neighborhood. Since Maryann loves being outdoors she spent much of her time on the covered porch or bohio taking in the humid, tropical air.

Venus Guarding The Side Door Into Our House

Coco Posing For Picture With One Ear Flipped Back
Our House, Chame Panama

Outdoor Living Area On Porch, Side Of House
The rest of the week was spent sightseeing other areas of the country.  One day we drove through Colon and past the massive Free Trade Zone, one of the largest in the world.  Then we headed out into the jungle to explore the ruins of old forts and castles perched high alongside the Caribbean. The rustic town of Portobelo is home to the church of the Black Christ, a statue that's caused some controversy over the years.  We took them into the mountains another day to see how some of our friends live with scenic vistas nestled among the clouds.  And no vacation would be complete without a sampling of some of the locals foods like plantain and yucca washed down with local rum and beer. 

La Joya de Chica Mountain Lodge, or Phil's place in Panama

 Our Friend Phil with Maryann and Nancy
Maryann and Nancy, Sora, Panama
Posing In Front Of A Beach

Ruins Of An Old Fort
 Another View
Nancy, Maryann and Terry at Fort San Lorenzo, Panama

Posing With A Cannon

Fort From A Distance
Iglesia de San Felipe, Portobelo, Panama
Also Known As The Church Of The Black Christ

The Ladies In Front Of The Church
The Black Christ, Portobelo, Panama
Someone's Pet Monkey In Portobelo,
Maryann Sticking Her Finger Into Cage To Pet Him
The Monkey Didn't Like Her Touching Him, So He Turned His Back On Her
Cobblestone Streets Of Portobelo, Panama

Another View Of Fort
Playing Soccer Barefoot....Yes Kids Play Outside Here!
Another View At Fort
Kuna Indians Selling Their Goods With Nancy and Maryann,
Portobello, Panama

One night Clyde arranged for a private party to be held at La Ruina, a local restaurant owned by another gringo.  There Clyde opened up "Clyde's Tiki Bar," as he entertained with an assortment of  island-drinking songs while playing his guitar. Since the menu offered "ropa vieja" many of us had to try some for dinner. Literally translated as "old clothes," ropa vieja is shredded beef mixed with vegetables served over rice.  Here Maryann and Nancy had the opportunity to meet some of our expat friends from all over the world.

Clyde Entertaining Friends at La Ruina Restaurant,
 Gorgona, Panama
Punta Chame Resort, Also Known As "Wayne's World"
Bath House
Pool And Bohio

Floating In The Pool

The week ended with a shopping trip for us girls to Westland Mall.  The ladies were amazed to see the low prices on so many things sold here and each picked up a few things to take home.

Having house guests made us realize things about Panama that we've become accustomed to over the years.  The water and electric go off sometimes for no reason at all and we felt a slight embarrassment having to explain this to our guests. Toilet paper isn't flushed in Panama due to septic problems throughout the country.  Go into any public restroom and there's usually a sign in Spanish asking the patron not to flush paper.  Next to all toilets here there's a trash bucket full of dirty toilet paper.  Strange at first but then it just becomes the norm and something we're used to living with now. Small lizards called gecko's run around our house like they own the place and can be heard chirping throughout the night. They've become like useful members of the family since they eat the bugs helping to keep the population down. Chickens roam freely along the streets as do stray dogs who are hoping for a free meal. It's common to see locals riding by on horseback as their means of transportation or spot cows walking down the middle of the road. 

Our adopted country of Panama is a beautiful country full of rolling hills, majestic mountains, miles of coastline and lush tropical jungles. Yet it also lacks some of the conveniences we took for granted back in the states. But to live a simpler, cheaper life we've come to accept the quirks here and live happily ever after despite them.

Things Are Different In Panama....Not Wrong,
Just Different As the Above Equation Explains

A big thanks to my sister Maryann and her friend Nancy for coming to visit us and allowing us to show you our life in Panama.....along the gringo trail.

1 comment:

  1. Still enjoying your take on life in Panama - sounds like a lot has changed but some things remain unchanged from my time in-country back in the Eighties (you might enjoy some stories about the American garrison days here - Thanks for the isthmian goodness!


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