Monday, January 28, 2013

Another Week Gone By....

Now that we're almost to the end of our 3 months here, I think it's time to write about some of our OBSERVATIONS of this wonderful country!!

The people here have been fabulous!! They are a happy people (maybe that's why Panama was just recognized as having the "happiest" people in the world!).  They also work hard, very hard!! They also play hard, very hard!! 

We've been met with smiles and Buenas or Holas everywhere.  They drop the "dias", "tardes", or "noches" here.

When either waiting for a bus or on the bus, they want to converse with us. We know they appreciate that we're showing we're no better than they are by getting around just like the majority of them do.  And, believe me patience IS a virtue!!

We love the diversity of topography within an area about the size of South Carolina.  It's easy to go from the beach to the highlands of the mountains in only about an hour!  At some points you can see both the Pacific and the Caribbean Oceans.

We love the ease of taking the bus wherever we want to go!  They run smoothly and very efficiently with regularity.

We love the weather along the Pacific Ocean coast.

We love that we have been able to live within our budget of only $1,800 per month for EVERYTHING!!!  And, feeling like we're living well!!

We love that we have felt safe everywhere we've gone. The crime here is no different that at home.  If you're prudent, just as you should be at home, all will be well.  Those here who feel a need to announce that they are wealthy will pay a price.  Again, we've walked at night in local neighborhoods, walked about towns at night, and never felt uneasy.

Assimilating in this beautiful country is very easy!!  Having the same currency and driving on the same side of the road is a big factor.

We have found out that we love the new friends that we made in Boquete but would probably not live there year round.  We've discovered that it's time to say "good bye" to cooler temperatures and lots of rain.  We want a more dry tropical climate where we can wear our shorts or sun dresses every day and never have to worry about a sweater or a coat.

We know we love the language!! Mike's Spanish has gotten very good and I'm so very impressed by him!!  He just charges into conversations and has learned so much from so many locals.  He's a true student and EVERY day he practices and studies his language books and dictionaries. Such dedication!!

And, I'm able to partake in conversations without totally making a fool of myself.  It's still hard for me to initiate a conversation but I'm beginning to do that too.  Not too bad for a true beginner in only 3 months with only 10 hrs of real classes.  Practice makes perfect and by opening yourself up to being in the company of the locals, you can't help but grasp some of it.

We know we can laugh at ourselves.  We know that with a good, happy attitude life is a whole lot easier no matter where you are!! That by "trying" no matter what it is, you'll be rewarded!

I now that I HATE the chitras, no see ems, and sand fleas because they just LOVE me and I'm allergic to them. But, it was the same in the states for me too. So I just have to keep remembering to spray on the bug spray.

My finger nails LOVE it here!!  They've never been healthier and I love showing them off with beautiful color polishes purchased for only $.60 - $1.50 instead of the $5-$10 per bottle in the states!!

Mike has really relaxed and he looks years younger because of many factors. And, I hope the same goes for me.

We just know that we are truly enjoying this journey and look forward to many more great experiences in many more countries with many more wonderful people!!

So since I last wrote, we've done a few more exploratory day trips.

Last Wednesday we attended an Expat meeting in a small town called El Espino about 4 km up from the Pan American Highway toward El Valle.  We met some new people and saw some that we already knew.

The speaker was an attorney from Coronado explaining the new Friendly Nation Visa, which allows someone to work in Panama.  This is a new visa that is quite easy to qualify for but we're told that it will probably be revoked once Martinelli isn't in office any longer come May, 2014. 

Anyway, the point I wanted to make, is that there is ONE or TWO in every crowd that have to speak louder, be more insistent, think they know more than the "expert", and feel compelled to just be a jerk!!  This has been our experience at every expat meeting we've gone to and this was no exception! How absolutely embarrassing! Go get a life and your thrills elsewhere or better yet, go home where you came from!  If you know it all already, why even come!!!  You make life for the rest of us who are thankful to be in such a beautiful country and allowed to live well here, much more difficult. 

So after the meeting and a lovely lunch, Mike and I, along with the swimsuits we had packed, continued up the mountain by bus to experience the Pozos Termales, the Thermal Pools.  It's only $2.25/person to get in and is run by the community of El Valle.  Visitors and Panamanians alike utilize this wonderful spot!

You begin by slathering the medicinal mud - barró - onto your face.  There's "regular" and "sensitive" skin mud. The "sensitive" mud being much darker than the other.  Mike chose not to do it all!  But, me, of course, had to take full advantage of this experience!!  Please no laughing from the peanut gallery!!  The mud dries so hard that I was actually trying to smile in this picture and failed miserably!!


As you can see, I wasn't the only one.  There was a couple from Holland that didn't read the signs and proceeded to slather the mud all over their bodies!!  Now, that was funny to see!!

Once it's all dry, you wash it off from the warm water being spewn from a pipe.  You can either let it dry by sitting in a "waiting" area or, as I did, sitting in a warm pool that has wonderful nutrients in it.  Mike said he could feel his body tingle.  I didn't. 

We took a stroll into an area we hadn't been before but decided to get back on the bus and get off at a sweet Italian restaurant that we had seen a few times just outside of the El Espino.  When we got there, it was only 5pm so we were the only ones.  Met the Italian owner, Fabricio, and they took good care of us!!  A nice drink, which included a rare dark Belgian Leffe for Mike,  a little leisure conversation, and then the most exquisite hand made and wood fire cooked pizza!! OMG! To die for!!


Thursday, the highlight, was being invited to swim in the pool at Costa Grande with friends.  We love the beach but there's nothing like bringing your body temps down in a refreshing pool without all the blowing sand. Funny thing was that my flip flop broke on the way there so I did some recycle shopping and found a discarded shoe to help me get up the gravel road!! There's many a shoe discarded everywhere here!! Chip came to my rescue and duck taped my broken shoe so I could make it the rest of the night. Thank You!!

From there a group of us headed over to La Ruina for dinner.  A very nice day, indeed!

Friday was adventure day again! We set out to go back to the BIG city.  We were at Albrook Mall by 11:30 am and the first thing we did was go have a Quiznos!  The food court in this humungous mall is mostly American food chains.  You'd never know you were in a foreign country except for all the Spanish speaking people. But, then that could be Miami!!

Our list in hand, we set about looking for several items, which we found almost immediately.  We found the movie theater and saw that Django was showing that afternoon, so we bought tickets. Even though we aren't residents and don't have our Pensionado Visa, the lady gave us the tickets at the senior rate of only $2/each!!  Thank you!

After 3.5 hrs of shopping, we were in the theatre and enjoyed the movie tremendously!  It was with Spanish sub-titles so we didn't have to struggle to understand. 

It was dark when we got out, so off to the bus terminal across the road we went to find our bus back to Gorgona.  By the time we got back to our drop off on the highway at the Gorgona exit (after a 2hr trip back due to construction traffic), the local busses and taxis were no where in sight!  A local took pity on us and offered us a ride at taxis rates and dropped us off at LaRuina for a night cap.

A leisurely weekend with some beach, a swim in the pool again, brunch at Café Coronado, more beach, and drinks back at LaRuina for the Pro Bowl.  I used the time to stroll the beautiful grounds of LaRuina and talk to friends, Tina and Linda, back home. 

We've made our private reservation for our transport to Panama City on the 5th in preparation of our departure from Panama to Costa Rica on the 7th.

I've also begun conversations and inquiries about our impending trip to Ecuador beginning in July.  So many gracious expats out there willing to help you muddle your way through.  There's only so much that research on the internet can do.  Experienced boots on the ground help you piece it together.

So much more  ahead!!


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