The Holidays

Here we are again. Another year has passed, and we are all busy with our lives in one way or another. Dennis and I continue to appreciate all the blessings in our lives and are grateful for good health, a comfortable home, all the basic necessities, genuine friendships, and a loving family. The old adage that the older you get, the more you appreciate what’s really important is so true. As we sit here in our little casita (and I do mean little) we feel rich beyond our dreams. So then, why am I going into this holiday season feeling so melancholy and sad?

I no longer watch the news. It seems there is never a news report without the reporting of lost lives over and over, people desperate and out of control, families torn apart, rampant racism and bigotry, corporate greed, environmental destruction, and skewed values regarding what constitutes a healthy life. I listen to those in government foster fear and false promises, and I am incredulous as to the hypnotism of the masses into believing their dribble.

I walk my dog, talk to my neighbors, putter in my garden, read good books, listen to music, make art, surround myself with positive life affirming people, laugh and dance a lot, and do my best to walk softly on our beautiful earth. I make a difference where and when I can and daily remind myself that the madness that is our world today is not who I am.

The latest madness in San Bernadino did not escape us here in Panama. My heart cries for the victims and the perpetrators. I want a world of peace. I want my grandson to be able to go to school and not have to be bombarded with the horrors that are so commonplace today. This is not the world I want to leave him.

The Christmas advertisements have begun and everyone is whipped into a buying frenzy with people fighting one another over a TV and buying one thing after another to compensate for empty feelings of powerlessness in a world gone crazy. We all show our love through the giving of gifts, but then retreat into fear and being closed off to humanity the rest of the time.

Guns! Where do I even begin? In what world do more guns mean a safer world? My heart continues to break for the violence. Isn’t it time that all people stand up for peace and take back their lives? I don’t care if you are Democrat or Republican, black, red, yellow, or white, Christian, Jew, Budhist, Atheist or Muslim, rich or not so rich, young or old. We are all people sharing this same planet and we need to take care of one another. Period.

So no stories or anecdotes about where we are traveling next or new hobbies or projects. Just a sincere wish for good health, peace, conscience, and love in your lives this coming year. Find and follow your passion. Do good! Don’t wait.

With all my love,
Rona

“HOW WONDERFUL IT IS THAT NOBODY NEED WAIT A SINGLE MOMENT BEFORE STARTING TO IMPROVE THE WORLD” Anne Frank

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Havana Memories

I recently returned from a very special trip to Cuba.  Prior to 1959, Cuba was a huge tourist destination before Fidel Castro, along with Che Guevara overthrew Batista.  Because the US imposed an economic and trade embargo, restrictions have limited travel there by US citizens.  The history is fascinating and I am not knowledgable enough to do it justice.  I did watch a good movie before I left which helped me to understand something of the struggle. As with all things, nothing is ever black and white and there are many truths and lies to filter through.

Times are changing and I had an opportunity to visit and spend some time in a place that I can only describe as magical.  For me, it was a living museum with unbelievably beautiful architecture, historic fortresses, wonderful old cars, spectacular statues and art,  political billboards, fusions of new and old music, trendy restaurants , smiling people, and of course, cigars and rum.

I traveled with a girlfriend while Dennis held down the fort at home.  We each had a private room and bath in a lovely old ‘casa particular’, which happened to be located adjacent to a jazz cafe.  Nightly wine, soft breezes and smooth jazz made for perfect evenings and breakfast on the balcony made for perfect days.

We opted to stay away from the touristy area of downtown Habana Vieja and I’m so glad we did.  Being in a home, in a lovely neighborhood, really opened my eyes to what Cuba is all about…the people.

Of course, we took in as many sights as we could and took several day tours which helped us to see what daily life is like.  It was very easy to get around and we managed, in a very short time, to see quite a bit.  No trip to Cuba is complete without exploring Old Havana, visiting the home of Ernest Hemingway  and his favorite haunts or spending time in the nearby towns of Vinales, Cien Fuego, Trinidad, and Santa Clara.  We walked the cobble stone streets of Trinidad and saw  an old Spanish colonial home that was painstakingly restored to its original splendor.  We visited a small place where the Santeria religion, practiced by many Afro Cubans, is popular.  We hiked the Escambray mountains, viewed caves, watched cigars being rolled, and swam in mountain waters.  We missed seeing at least half of the country, so I guess I have an excuse to return.

Along the way, we met so many delightful folks.  Katherine, from Paris, the boys from Holland (I am not even going to try and pronounce their names) , Maria from El Salvador,  Anna and Myrna from Mexico,  Aida from Nicaragua and Nancy and Papa from Chile.  We formed a fun group and shared stories while Jano, our guide, tried to keep track of us and take care of us.  Actually, Cuba was the safest place I have traveled and is an experience like no other.  I hope they will benefit from better relations with the US, while at the same time, keep their beautiful Cuban spirit.  The new generation is optimistic that life will be much better.  I am, in no way, political, but I am a humanitarian.  Cuba has been locked in a time warp, charming in many ways but limiting in others. A new day is coming and Cuba is excited.

“THERE IS NOTHING TO WRITING.  ALL YOU DO IS SIT DOWN AT A TYPEWRITER AND BLEED.”  Ernest Hemingway

Boquetenos head out of town!

 

 

Dinner with the group

Dinner with the group

State store where you can spend your $30 a month salary on limited stock.

State store where you can spend your $30 a month salary on limited stock.

Jano and Aida start the party

Jano and Aida start the party

Santeria practitioner

Santeria practitioner

Giant rock mural

Giant rock mural

Hanging out with John Lennon statue near my casa

Hanging out with John Lennon statue near my casa

Aida, Maria y yo

Aida, Maria y yo

Cool ride!

Cool ride!

My first Cuban cigar.  Very smooth.

My first Cuban cigar. Very smooth.

Saint Francis Square

Saint Francis Square

Friendly Havana gentlemen

Friendly Havana gentlemen

Beautiful architecture everywhere

Beautiful architecture everywhere

Revolution Plaza

Revolution Plaza

Buena Vista Social Club Revue (not the originals)

Buena Vista Social Club Revue (not the originals)

Loving all the old cars

Loving all the old cars

Old cars for rent by the hour

Old cars for rent by the hour

At the Sunday Art Fair on the Malecon

At the Sunday Art Fair on the Malecon

Young boy in Havana Centro.

Young boy in Havana Centro.

Hanging out in Centro.

Hanging out in Centro.

Hotel Nationale.  Visitors included Micky Mantle, Sean Penn, Rita Hayworth, John Wayne, Peter Framton, so many more...

Hotel Nationale. Visitors included Micky Mantle, Sean Penn, Rita Hayworth, John Wayne, Peter Framton, so many more…

Cafe Madrigal Jazz Bar

Cafe Madrigal Jazz Bar

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Gran Teatro de La Habana

Meeting up at Cafe Madrigal

Meeting up at Cafe Madrigal

Hemingways favorite hangout bar.  (And the answer is yes.)

Hemingways favorite hangout bar. (And the answer is yes.)

Hemingways library in his home in Miramar

Library at Finca Vigia, Ernest Hemingway’s home.

Abuelo lived upstairs.

Abuelo lived upstairs.

Afro Cuban street art

Afro Cuban street art

Happy domino players

Happy domino players

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To the Equator and Back

Feliz Ano Nuevo 2015 everyone!  Just returned from a very fun trip to Ecuador with our good friends John and Margo.  Alan, our neighbor and friend, was a sweetheart and took care of the house and Marley while we were gone, so we were free to explore Ecuador for almost 6 weeks.  Thanks to Bruce, my spanish teacher, I had a pretty good idea of where we would go and what I wanted to do and see.   Backpack stuffed, guidebook and map in hand, I was ready.

We landed in Guyaquil and headed to the Funky Monkey hostel for the night. The city is not much to look at, big and crowed with warnings galore of theft and crime, but we had no problems and headed out in the morning to Playas, the first of 3 beach stops we had planned.  If you love ceviche, then Playas is the place for you.  Wonderful little restaurants along the malecon were hard to resist, so we didn’t.

From Playas, we moved on to Puerto Lopez, a small fishing village beginning to attract tourists with restaurants, shops, and boat rides to Isla de La Plata, home to the Blue Footed Boobies.  Known as the poor man’s Galapagos, we couldn’t resist and had a great time hiking the island.  Watching the fishing boats come in and drag nets the way fishermen have been doing it for hundreds of years was great.  Birds swooping in for runaway fish made for an exciting time.

Leaving Puerto Lopez, we bussed over to Montenita.  This is a chill surf/hippie haven filled with hotels, clubs, more restaurants, and fabulous beaches.  Dennis grabbed a board and spent the day surfing while I walked the beach and played in the waves, read, journaled, and checked out the local shops.

Next stop, Cuenca for 2 weeks.  We toured lots of churches, museums, art galleries and met lots of really nice folks. We took a day trip to Sig Sig, where I met with a shaman healer for a bit of ‘cleansing’.  Then off to Chordeleg to see the silverwork they are known for.   We found a nice place through Airbnb, and it was nice to settle in for a bit and prepare meals after being on the road and eating out so much.  John, Margo, and Dennis made some excellent meals and I was the designated cleaner upper.  The mercados in Cuenca were amazing with every possible fruit and veggie and anything else you could possibly desire.  We quickly found reasons to go to the market every day.  Haircut, keys, spices, backpack (for all the trinkets I was picking up along the way) etc.  What an exciting place?  We took a short bus ride to the Ingapirca Ruins on the winter solstice was awesome.  Our guide performed a short prayer and chant tapping into the energy of the area for manifesting good into our lives as well as for the good of the planet. This occurred at the highest point of the ruins and created a beautiful vibration in the rock chambers in which we were standing.  It was a great great day!

Dropping south, we transferred buses in Loja, and headed to Vilcabamba.  The drive was spectacular and we had such good weather that the views were endless.  I loved Vilcabamba for its sleepy little town square with organic restaurants and hippie vibe.  Yoga, meditation, friendly people, Vilcabamba is  home to several communes, mixed in with local residents riding horses and burros to town for a bit of visiting and business.  I was very happy here.  Muy tranquillo.  Our hostel was the perfect spot to relax in a hammock  with a book while enjoying the gorgeous gardens within its secret walls.

Back to the bus and headed to Alausi for the Devils Nose Train Ride.  We almost didn’t get a ticket, but fate intervened and we got last minute seats for a lovely excursion through the Andes.  We continued on to Banos, a resort area for New Year’s and found ourselves reveling with thousands of folks dancing and walking the streets.  Men dress as widows of the old year in sexy dresses, high heels and wigs and put on quite a performance stopping cars and asking for money.  Lots of folks were wearing costumes, much like Halloween and it was a sight to see.  There were paper mache effigies of politicians and pop icons everywhere being burned to get rid of bad events in the Ano Viejo (old year).

From here, we moved on the Quito and enjoyed exploring the historical section of town.  Quito is one of the oldest cities in Ecuador, with cobbled streets and incredible architecture, but with 2.2 million people, it was a bit too big for me.  We did have fun riding the teleferico up to the highest point and looking down on all of Quito.

Onward and upward, we found ourselves in Mindo, known for its chocolate, butterflies and birds. On the way, we made 2 stops.  The first was to Mitad del Mundo, located somewhat near the equatorial line, but not exactly.  Good enough for me though. We jumped out of our taxi, took a quick picture and moved on.   Our second stop was an incredible crater which is now a very fertile valley and home to many farms.  Pressing on, we arrived in Mindo, about 2 hours from Quito. While this is a small town on the edge of the jungle, I think it was one of my favorite spots for its beauty and peacefulness.  We did a short hike by the butterfly farm and wound up having lunch along a pristine creek with birds and iguanas and plants galore.

Our last stop was Otavalo, home of the largest indigenous marketplace in Ecuador.  We stayed outside of Otavalo in a sweet little area called Araque with incredible views of Lago de San Pablo.  Our hostel was run by a very nice family who made our stay very special.  We sat around the livingroom fireplace in the evenings and had a wonderful time getting to know one another and practicing our spanish and english simultaneously.  We took a quick day trip over to Cotacachi and a tour of the area and then said our goodbyes to our wonderful hosts.

Ecuador is a beautiful country and the people are friendly and proud of their heritage.  Everywhere we went, we met people eager to help us, share their love of their country and just make new friends.  We met so many wonderful people from all over the world and treasure each moment we shared with them.  It seems the more we travel, the more we embrace the reality that we are all just neighbors, meeting however briefly and enriching one anothers lives by sharing our experiences.

Flying out of Quito to Panama City was a quick trip and left us with a bit of time to try out a restaurant our friends have been raving about.  It was indeed yummy (The Smoke Shack) and then we took a quick ride on the new subway that runs to Albrook Mall.  Dennis and John found a coffee spot while Margo and I cruised the mall a bit before heading to the airport and arriving home.

Ecuador was great, but being home and relaxing on the patio here in Boquete is pretty great too.  We’re unpacked, laundry is done,  garden is tended and life is back to normal.  Think I’ll head over to the Flower and Coffee Festival downtown for a little walk about tomorrow.

“TO TRAVEL IS TO TAKE A JOURNEY INTO YOURSELF.”  Danny Kaye

pulling in the nets

pulling in the nets

the crowd gathers

the crowd gathers

beach bums

beach bums

ice-cream man

ice-cream man

boobies

boobies

snorkeling near Isla De la Plata

snorkeling near Isla De la Plata

Yum!

Yum!

taxi ride

taxi ride

Montenita beach sunset

Montenita beach sunset

Shopping in Cuenca

Shopping in Cuenca

Panama Hats made in Ecuador

Panama Hats made in Ecuador

Museum of Aboriginal Cultures

Museum of Aboriginal Cultures

restaurant murals

restaurant murals

Ingapirca

Ingapirca

Christmas Parade

Christmas Parade

Christmas parade of ninos

Christmas parade of ninos

Hola

Hola

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

one of many many churches

one of many many churches

spices galore

spices galore

at the market

at the market

Our hosts, Nellie and Patricio

Our hosts, Nellie and Patricio

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Bob Marley takes over

Most of you know Dennis and I broke down and got a dog. We resisted for a whole year, but once a dog lover, always a dog lover.   We’ve been volunteering at Amigos de Animales since we arrived and I knew it was just a matter of time.  One Sunday, while I was at the Chiriqui Flea Market, there he was justing being cute and giving me the once over.  I knew we were planning our trip to Ecuador, so I tried to resist, but as fate would have it, I ran into him again at the Tuesday market the following week.  This time, Dennis was with me and Bob Marley just won him over.  So that’s the story of how Marley came to take over our lives.  Seems he had kind of a rough beginning being tied up and underfed.  A lot of the stray dogs here exist on garbage they can get into and I suspect he didn’t fare much better.  His owner had to give him up as he had gotten free and killed some chickens (kind of understandable if you’re starving)  but still, he needed to be removed from his living situation.  We have a huge fenced yard, so everything worked out perfectly.  We actually went to visit our friend’s finca (farm) and met his old owner, who said hello, but Marley was pretty happy to stick with us.  Lucky us.  Lucky pup. We’ve even joined a group of dog walkers (Band of Buddies) and have made several new friends within the group.

We’ve been busy making plans for Ecuador and are getting ready to be on our way.  Housesitter is lined up.  Bills are paid.  Fridge is empty. Tickets are purchased.   New backpacks  just arrived and they are lighter and more comfortable.  I did a trial run today  and packed everything I’m planning on taking.  I’m good to go. Wahoo.

So many folks have given us ideas of where to go and what to see.  Margo and John will be our traveling compadres and we all seem to bounce off one another well and good energy abounds.  I will try and do a daily pic on FB with a short blurb on our experiences, rather than blog our trip.  For one thing, my memory just isn’t quite what it used to be and I might leave out some good stuff.  Daily is better, so get ready to be bombarded with all things Ecuador.

November has been busy with several Panamanian holidays.  I’ve posted a few pics of the festivities.  We send our love across the miles to all our friends and family for a truly blessed Thanksgiving.  Life is so sweet and we miss you all.

A little update on Dennis’s outdoor project.  It looks awesome.  We still haven’t made pizza (not on our low carb meal plan at the moment) but we’ve enjoyed several evenings of friends gathered outside in the rancho.  I even have a garden box on the back side  and wonderful heirloom tomato seeds that Margo gifted me.  I can’t wait to plant them.

If you build it, they will come.  Good friends, Mick and Linda and Linda’s brother Pete and his wife, Virgina are coming to Panama for a visit.  They will be here for the Jazz Festival in February, and we are so excited to show them around Panama.  We’ve made so many new friends, but our old ones are never forgotten. We are so thrilled that they are coming here.

“DOGS COME INTO OUR LIVES TO TEACH US ABOUT LOVE, THEY DEPART TO TEACH US ABOUT LOSS.  A NEW DOG NEVER REPLACES AN OLD DOG; IT MERELY EXPANDS THE HEART. IF YOU HAVE LOVED MANY DOGS, YOUR HEART IS VERY BIG.”

Supervisor Marley

Supervisor Marley

Finishing up the roof painting.

Finishing up the roof painting.

My soon to be herb box

My soon to be herb box

Audrey at the craft fair

Audrey at the craft fair

Volcan quilter's booth

Volcan quilter’s booth

crafters at the library

crafters at the library

Downtown on parade day

Downtown on parade day

Dia de los difuntos

Dia de los difuntos

Guest casita awaits.

Guest casita awaits.

 

 

 

 

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Sh*T Happens!

So it’s been a while.   I haven’t written much because after a year,  you kind of get the idea of what life here is like.  We continue to learn about Panama and adjust our thinking whenever necessary.

There are so many new places to explore I am pretty sure we will never get tired of it.  Some places are just so wonderful, we keep returning and Las Lajas is one of those places.  I had my concerns that 3 days with a group of folks that I only partly knew would hold my interest and not drive me up a coconut tree.  In all actuality, it was awesome.  I got to go birding in the wetlands which is one of my all time favorite things to do and saw a variety of wetland and shore birds native to that area.  I got in a little hammock time and I finished my book in time for this month’s meet up of the book club at the library.  I worked on my boogie board style (I actually have no style other than hanging on) played in the waves, and took wonderfully long walks along the shore.  I also learned how to play Zilch, Taboo, and some other games while getting to know the group we met up with a little better.  On the last night, we set off some pretty awesome fireworks and made a short music video (some killer musicians in the group)  to send to Robyn’s mother for her birthday, which was very touching.  Some little remnant of my old self felt a little guilty that I am able to totally enjoy being at peace with doing everything and nothing, but I am quickly getting over that.  I have never felt more alive and it is a wonderful feeling to have the freedom to experience life on such a cellular level.

We are busy planning our next escape to Ecuador with John and Margo.    Dennis and John have had a few side adventures of their own, one being a fishing trip to beyond Puerto Armuelles till the wee hours and managing to drive into a ditch.  No elaboration necessary, but we do have 4 new tires, which we needed anyway.  ‘Nuff said!

And this brings me to the latest little glitch in an otherwise tranquil existence.  We were robbed!  It sounds so awful and I know our friends back in the US were horrified to hear that this happened.  I am sad that this occurred, but hardly surprised.  If you ask anyone around this area, they will say almost the same thing. ” Gringos are a target.  You will settle in and relax and then a theft will occur.  It will be a quick snatch and grab.  They only want items that fit in a backpack. ”  Well, we were a textbook example because that is exactly what happened.  We had noticed a bit more activity on our street lately due to new homes going in.  It saddens me to think it might have been  someone we knew, but the truth is we will never know.  We went out to dinner and came home to find the bedroom bars  had been removed with a crowbar.  Laptop, Ipad, cell phone, binoculars, jewelry, 1/2 bottle of wine, a loaf of bread and my calcium supplements were taken.  All I can think is that somewhere, there is a ‘ladrone’ with good bone density.  I am not angry.  I did move briefly into a fearful state  because someone had been in my home without permission.  I know I am blessed to have more,  in the way of material things, than many people here and that makes me a target.  Will I stop befriending Panamanians?  Certainly not.  Our good friend, Ahmad, came over to help Dennis  weld and secure the bars to prevent any further break-ins.  Camera security is next and we move on from this experience wiser and better prepared.  I am reminded that our good friend in Post Falls had his truck stolen from his home about a year ago.  He stepped up his security and made the necessary changes to regain his sense of well being.  We are defined by how we meet challenges, not by the challenges themselves.  They do not cause us to retreat.  So there you have it.  End of this particular story.

As you know, Dennis and I have been volunteering at Amigos de Animales, so it was just a matter of time until we brought home a dog of our own.  Elliot is still a strong memory for us, and we weren’t sure we had enough love to offer another critter.  When I saw this little guy up for adoption, I knew immediately that he and I were going to be good buddies.  Dennis reluctantly agreed and now has a new ‘shop dog’ to supervise his every move.  He doesn’t seem to mind at all.

Next week looks to be another busy week with painting and spanish classes, trip planning,  Satsang,  reading and dog training.  Something I learned in my painting class is that with watercolors, you have to be willing to surrender control.  The results are often amazing.  My metaphor for life.

“SECURITY IS MOSTLY A SUPERSTITION. IT DOES NOT EXIST IN NATURE, NOR DO THE CHILDREN OF MEN AS A WHOLE EXPERIENCE IT. AVOIDING DANGER IS NO SAFER IN THE LONG RUN THAN OUTRIGHT EXPOSURE. LIFE IS EITHER A DARING ADVENTURE, OR NOTHING.”  Helen Keller

How does this guy see to drive?

How does this guy see to drive?

Happy plant

Happy plant

Props for painting class

Props for painting class

Ladies getting their 'Ziltch' on

Ladies getting their ‘Ziltch’ on

Surf cat

Surf cat

Morning walk

Morning walk

Having my morning coffee and enjoying the waves

Having my morning coffee and enjoying the waves

Early morning birding with Margo

Early morning birding with Margo

Hello Everyone!  I'll be living here now.

Hello Everyone! I’ll be living here now.

 

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Oferta Simple

We have this great website here called Oferta Simple.  It’s pretty much Panama’s version of Groupon and offers good deals on lots of different things.  We’ve purchased a few and then tuck them away till we are feeling the need for a little getaway.  Our most recent Oferta deal was a night at Seagull Cove in Boca Chica.  Since this is the off season, you can find some good deals on really nice places to visit, and so we went on a mini vacation with our friends Margo and John.

Boca Chica is about 2 hours from here and is a beautiful drive.  We arrived early and did a bit of exploring while our room was prepared.  We were pleasantly surprised as the person who built our house also built this resort, so many things were the same.  The bathroom had the same layout and the furniture was identical to ours.  Pretty funny.  The restaurant and patio had some incredible views, and we enjoyed just relaxing and enjoying the flowers and birds.  After lunch, we took a short cruise around the archipelago and got a bit of a show from what we think were flying fish.

The food was great and I found a fellow Rummicub lover in Sue, the owner of the resort.  Dennis and another guest, a young girl named Angie on school break, joined in.  Margo picked up the game quickly and now I hopefully have a new convert.

The next morning we said our good byes to Seagull Cove, but weren’t quite ready to head home, so we continued down the road a bit further to Las Lajas and spent the day there.  The water was perfect and we alternated between rolling around in the waves and languishing in the pool while John read his book.  Dennis had an underwater encounter with something that brushed his leg and decided to cut his swimming time short.  We didn’t see anything, and I suspect it was a renegade coconut floating around, but you never know.

A note on the rancho.  The barbecue and oven looks awesome.  Dennis is working on the finishes now.  I can’t wait to bake a pizza in the oven and try it out.  Dennis also made a small feeding station and we are trying to attract some new birds.  We have lots of parrots that fly overhead, and I am hoping to get them to take a break in our yard for a quick snack.

Kind of a sleepy weekend.  Bought a few books (and cookies)  at the library booksale today and then joined friend Lin for a cup of coffee and chat. Tomorrow will be a Health Fair at the park and our tai chi group will be giving a demonstration.  Crossing my fingers that the weather cooperates.  Either way, it will be fun.

“HE HAD LEARNED THAT IT WAS THE SMALLNESS OF PEOPLE THAT FILLED HIM WITH WONDER AND TENDERNESS, AND THE LONELINESS OF THAT TOO.  THE WORLD WAS MADE UP OF PEOPLE PUTTING ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF ANOTHER; AND A LIFE MIGHT SEEM ORDINARY SIMPLY BECAUSE THE PERSON LIVING IT HAD BEEN DOING IT FOR A LONG TIME.  HAROLD COULD NO LONGER PASS A STRANGER WITHOUT ACKNOWLEDGING THE TRUTH THAT EVERYONE WAS THE SAME, AND ALSO UNIQUE; AND THAT THIS WAS THE DILEMMA OF BEING HUMAN.” Rachel Joyce from The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye

View from my patio

View from my patio

Margo stands next to a tiny truck

Margo stands next to a tiny truck

Laundry day

Laundry day

Capt. John runs aground

Capt. John runs aground

Walking Playa Hermosa

Walking Playa Hermosa

It had just rained and the flowers were very happy

It had just rained and the flowers were very happy

Walking around Boquete

Walking around Boquete

 

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Where does the time go?

Retirement is not about slowing down, and I guess I am a prime example of that.  Each time I plan on writing a new post, something comes up and I’m out the door.  Today I am making an extra effort to put some thoughts down as I am turn the corner on my first year living in Boquete full time.

I am amazed at how the time has flown, and I am also amazed how incredibly easy it has been to make the transition to living in a new country.  I don’t want anyone to be mislead by that last sentence as there have been many challenges along the way, but really, it hasn’t been that difficult.  I’ve written about all the planning that went into our move and I see others all the time doing the same thing…to different degrees.  Some folks plan to the nth degree, others just arrive and jump in.  I think we fell somewhere in between.  Having a good lawyer, relatively sound minds and bodies, a few good friends here who had already made the move, and an attitude of ‘how hard can it be?’, we seemed to have bumbled our way through and are very happy with our decision to make our home in Panama.  If you want details on how we managed this, this is not the blog for you.  If you want lots of  encouragement to follow your dreams, then this definitely is the blog for you.

Dennis has managed, in a very short time, to get our little casitas in fighting shape.  New roofs, ceilings, spiffy paint job, gravel driveway, and now an outdoor rancho in which to enjoy the never ending gorgeous days.  Dennis has done most of the work, with the help of some very capable workers on the heavy jobs requiring extra bodies.  As I sit here, Dennis and Ahmad are up on ladders soldering the roof beams.  A little oven for a fire and maybe a pizza or two will be a nice addition on chilly (if you call 70F chilly) evenings.  We did have a little glitch regarding the need for a permit and are in the process of working out the kinks on that one.  Tomorrow Ahmad and Dennis will travel to David to ANATI in search of a plot plan (cost about $.75 for a copy I think) to submit along with a drawing of the outside area.  Problem solved.

Life is pretty tranquillo.  I’ve found great places to shop for anything we think we might need. It only took 4 stores to find a splatter screen, but the search is half the fun. (It was Arrocha)   One of my favorite things to do is travel to the downtown area of David and explore, then have lunch and enjoy the sights and sounds of the city.  Fresh produce is everywhere, and I am learning to use the local vegetales and jugos (vegetables and juices)  At the moment, the limes are abundant and I am raiding Margo’s trees to make the best limeade on the planet.  I kid you not.  My juice from the tree tomatoes  met with mixed reviews.  Day 3 of sauteed chayote with carrots, onions, peppers, garlic,  and mushrooms was well received.  That was a very big chayote.  What can I say?  Thank you Cedo.

Being away from friends and family has been an adjustment.  We have had a few visitors and that is always a treat for us.  Our good friend Claude recently came for a short visit and vacay from work up in Canada.  We did a beautiful 4k  hike up to the Boquete Tree Trek, had an excellent dinner at the Rock, a delicious restaurant on the Alto Lino loop, and got in a great visit.  We have an abundance of restaurants to choose from here and although they are all good, we do have a few favorites.  The Art Cafe, hands down, just feeds you on so many levels.  The food, the vibe, the music, the and art are all inspiring.  Daniel has created a very special place.  And then there is Mike’s International Grill, which I’ve mentioned before.  It’s the neighborhood bar and grill run by Heidi and Mike, always good for a meal anytime of the day, a soccer or football game (yes, Tom…American football), a glass of wine,  and running into someone you know.

So that brings me to what I love about the lifestyle here.  Getting together with friends just seems to be high on our list.  We have such a wide assortment of interesting and wonderful friends.  Two weeks ago, we spent the afternoon poolside with the Chiriqui Rainbow crowd.  Last week, we joined the crazy Trivia group at Los Molinos for a night of laughter and friendly competion.  I took a trip up to Volcan to a friend’s finca to see a working farm in action.  Along the way, we stopped for fresh herbed cheese and some cookies at the  cooperativa in Buena Vista, a store that sells  locally made goods.  There are so many little places to explore, I think I will be quite busy for a long time discovering all that this area offers. Yesterday, I made a trip up to Rodrigo’s greenhouse for my hydroponic lettuce and then went to the Tuesday Morning Market for a talk on Insurance (actually very entertaining and a fresh perspective by Magda Crespa, our local insurance agent) and a quick pass by the locally made chocolate bars (irresistible)  by Deborah and another quick hello to the DoTerra Essential Oils distributor new to the area (I am so happy).  Today I’m off to the gym to hang out with Lesia.  I’m so busy tomorrow with spanish lessons, lunch with friend Sheryl, tai chi with Kevin (don’t get me started on how much I am enjoying this) and an afternoon beading class with Margo and Barb, that I had to cancel a whale watching trip with another group of friends.  Looks like Dennis and I will have to do that on our own.  Sunday is the monthly flea market, then volunteering to help make fruit empanadas and sell  food  at the big Amigos de Animales venta de patio event coming up.  Mid month we are heading to Boca Chica for some beach time and birdwatching.   Does this give you an idea of how much there is to do here and the wonderful diversity of it all?  Oh, I almost forgot.  This Friday, I am meeting with another group of very creative women to begin a watercolor class with a local artist in the area and also welcoming new casita guests for the week here on vacation from Germany.

It sounds as if I am busy all the time, which isn’t quite exactly true.  There is plenty of time for just sitting and enjoying the tranquility of life here.  I am grateful for  time with my meditation practice, taking pictures, reading a good book (just finished ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye’ and am starting Dr. Joe Dispenza’s ‘You are the Placebo’) and working in my garden.

The days come and the days go.  One of Dennis’ favorite things to do is watch the ever  changing vistas that come with living next to a volcano.  The sunsets are beautiful and a cold beer on the patio makes him a very happy fellow.  Ah, the simple life.  Clouds floating down the side of the mountain one minute and gone the next with flocks of parrots flying overhead and spectacular thunderstorms  that almost seem like they are  in the room with you.  Kaboom!  The polarity of life. Calm and chaos.  What a wonderful time of life to be able to really stop and just be one with it all.  Very cliche’, but it’s really true.  My own True nature.

“MY ENTIRE LIFE CAN BE DESCRIBED IN ONE SENTENCE;  IT DIDN’T GO AS PLANNED, AND THAT’S OK.”  Rachel Wolchin

 

Ahmad and Dennis get busy

Ahmad and Dennis get busy

fresh coconuts from Ahmad

fresh coconuts from Ahmad

A visit to the lettuce farm

A visit to the lettuce farm

Love these flowers

Love these flowers

Kris, Cedo and I walk the finca (I get stuck in the mud)

Kris, Cedo and I walk the finca (I get stuck in the mud)

piglets

piglets

traffic jam

traffic jam

herbed cheese - yum

herbed cheese – yum

at the Buena Vista cheese and yogurt store

at the Buena Vista cheese and yogurt store

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Sunset in Boquete

 

 

 

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Mixed Emotions

Sometimes I feel like I’m on overload.  I know I do it to myself and get wrapped up in the business of everyday life.  Then when I take the time to step back and look and feel what I am doing, I am able to see where I need to add and where I need to subtract.  I’ve had a lot of lessons this week and am truly grateful when I get a psychic kick in the butt and get a reality check.

I’ve been enjoying going to the gym 3 times a week at Curvas Bonitas.  The name inspires me and so does Bonnie, the owner.  65 is not the new 25, or at least my body says it isn’t.  I am happy for what I can do and have finally reached the point where I am energized, not exhausted, after my workout.  Lesia, my good friend, has joined me and having a workout buddy is a blessing, as I can come up with a dozen reasons why I can’t make it to the gym.  Thank you Lesia for clearing me up on that point.

I have been more dedicated in my Spanish practice and have my teacher, Bruce, to thank for that.  I am a mix of excited and terrified because tomorrow we are headed to David, where Bruce will expect us (several of his students)  to conduct all our interactions in Spanish.  I can just see it now.  Oh lord!  They say laughter is good for the soul.  Pretty sure we are going to prove it tomorrow.

Guitar practice is going about as well as spanish.  Mas o menos.  John left his guitar here for me to play with while he is at Burning Man, a yearly event for him.  Now I have 3 that I get to practice on.  I enjoy my practice time, and Dennis seems to tolerate me banging around on chords and practicing fingerpicking until my fingers give out.  Thanks hon.

I’ve been getting together with a few friends and spending some afternoons exploring different art mediums.  Lately, I’ve been experimenting with watercolors and was fortunate enough to meet up with a local watercolorist who shared many excellent ideas with me to get started.

This Tuesday, I begin a new book club with a few likeminded friends.  We are discussing The Light Between Oceans and I have to say, the ending left me emotionally drained and sad.  I love a good book that makes me examine my own life and how closely I match my ideals with my actions.

Being retired is a bit decadent in that I’m able to focus my time and attention on self-exploration.  I feel so fortunate to have amazing teachers available here and time to just lose myself in the activities I love.  I do have mixed emotions that I am in a place in my life where life is showering me with blessings….amazing people, wonderful opportunities, creative expression, spiritual study, etc.  And while I enjoy these blessings, my heart knows that there is also heartache and challenge as well.  My body doesn’t quite work as well as it once did.  I am not a size 10 anymore.  I feel compassion and empathy for friends who are dealing with serious illnesses and the loss of a loved one, when a friend experiences betrayal or roadblocks to some perceived goal. I miss the daily interactions with my son and grandson and feel the emptiness  of a missed softball game or birthday party.  I miss a yoga celebration with friends.  I miss my Science of Mind friends.  I smile, but the mixed emotions are there.  I embrace  all that I am.   It’s why we’re here.  There is a degree of calmness with growing older.  I worry less about who might judge me and worry more about how I judge myself.    I think that’s a good thing.   I am hoping that mine is a life well lived.

“WHEN LIFE IS SWEET, SAY THANK YOU AND CELEBRATE, WHEN LIFE IS BITTER, SAY THANK YOU AND GROW.” Anonymous

Bruce Laidlaw at Cafe Cacao for a spanish lesson

Bruce Laidlaw at Cafe Cacao for a spanish lesson

Dennis is surprised that is BP is WAY down.  Yay!  No meds.

Dennis is surprised that is BP is WAY down. Yay! No meds.

Deborah sells her gourmet chocolate to Audrey and Patricia

Deborah sells her gourmet chocolate to Audrey and Patricia

Ladies are kickin' it, Bollywood style.

Ladies are kickin’ it, Bollywood style.

 

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Just a Bend in the Road

We needed a break from working around the house and as luck would have it, we got a call from Sierra and Ryan saying that they had returned from Costa Rica and were heading to Torio to check it out the area.  We had given them a number of our favorite places to visit and they were making the rounds.  When we heard they were heading to Torio, we realized it had been way too long since we’d been there and decided on the spot that we wanted to go too. After picking them up in David, we headed towards Santiago (mucho construction on the new highway with lots of stops)  and then down the western side of the Azuero towards Mariato and then Torio.  The trip took 5 1/2 hours.   We only made one wrong turn, and I was able to bust out my Spanish and ask for directions.  I had a real conversation.  Oh boy! My Spanish is improving.  I never thought it would happen. Progress is everywhere and there were a few changes since the last time we were there.  Not much though.  There is a bakery and one other restaurant, although it is a 50-50 chance that the restaurant will be open. Rumor has it a pizzaria is coming.   Still no internet, but a few more houses are dotting the hillsides and there is a very small expat community.  Muy pequeno.  You must love solitude to be in Torio. Known as the Sunset Coast, people come here to surf and fish (both are world class)  There is a surfing community and each morning you will find them on the beach (mostly at Morillo and Mariato).  What I liked about all the people there is how they respect one another’s privacy, but are quick to help out when needed.  Because it is 90 min. from Santiago, everyone works together when necessary.  After being there for 4 days, Boquete felt like the big city.   It is breathtakingly beautiful there, and the people are delightful.  There isn’t an indigenous Indian community as much as in Boquete and it is largely Panamanian.  It is a simple life and everyone visits. On the road, on the patios, on horseback, on bicycles, at the bus stops, fondas and tiendas, etc.  I love it.  Most folks ride horses, although the road has been improved somewhat, and there seemed to be more work trucks than I remembered.  We came in late, and a horse walking down the road literally staggered into our car.  He was okay (we were too, in case you were wondering)  We had stopped to let him pass and he just knocked into our car.  Hello.  Do horses sleepwalk? We got in some good visiting time with our friends Ted and Kathy and spent 2 days surfing, swimming, walking the various beaches, getting caught in a torrential downpour, drinking wine and catching up. Ted, Ryan and Dennis tore up the surf  (hahahahaha).  Then over to visit Robbie and Heidi in their gorgeous new home which is  home base for their newest venture, a coconut plantation.  Little Ariana is the newest addition to the family and is adorable.  She loves to go up to people and ask, “Are you happy?”  Wyatt is the doting older brother and is now in first grade.  Both children are bilingual and their Spanish is way better than mine.   Robbie took us on a tour of their place and it was amazing.  Fruit orchard, petting zoo area with sheep, turkeys, ducks, geese, and 2 rescued deer named Bambi and Rudolph , 5,000 dwarf coconuts, a tilapia pond, a coconut manufacturing plant and more.   Robbie has more energy than 10 men, and with a lot of vision,  has created a paradise. A little note on accomodations.  http://azuerosunset.com/western-azuero-restaurants-hotels/ They are rustic.  There are several surf hostels ranging around $15-$20 per night,  and Cabanas Torio is still running…sort of.  Ludvig also has rooms and a restaurant, but we didn’t stop by there this time so I’m not sure if they are still operational.  The restaurant where we stayed opens for lunch and dinner, and they opened for breakfast just for us.  (all tasty) but the cabinas are minimal.  The mattress was comfortable and we had a private bathroom (it’s the little things) , the power went out for part of the stay and the water also went out for 1 day.   I showered at Kathy’s, so no biggie.  I heard there is a  newer and nicer place down the road for $60 a night, but we were happy with where we stayed and even got the jubilado discount ($30) without asking for it. In parting, I love visiting Torio and seeing my friends.  I love the scenery, the secluded beaches, the people, the laid back lifestyle.  Could I live there?  Hmmm….probably not.  I am spoiled here in Alto Boquete.  I need a bagel every now and then, and most definitely my internet.  The dogs are everywhere in Torio.  The infrastructure is minimal and repairs take much longer when things go down.  Garbage pickup is only now beginning to be on a regular basis.  Burning is the best option.  The folks that live there wouldn’t be anywhere else.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Mark Twain

 

Yummy fruit snack.

Yummy fruit snack.

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The Lightness of Being

Thursday I went over to my friend’s house for a guitar lesson.  It’s a beautiful spot and I love the drive over with all the greenery and flowers going bonkers with the rain we’ve been having.  As the weather was perfect,  the garage door was left open to let in the fresh air and warm breezes.  In the middle of our playing, a rather large hummingbird made his way into the house and quickly got confused as to the way out.  Not wanting him to hurt himself banging into windows,  I leapt up to try and corner him and help him find his way out.  I was a bit nervous that he’d peck me in fear when I approached him, but I was able to gently pick him up. I sent him a telepathic message that I wouldn’t hurt him and I was there to help.  He immediately became calm in my hands and let me carry him to safety outside where he was happy to fly off and continue on his merry way.  I was in heaven.  I HELD A HUMMINGBIRD.   Wow!  I know it sounds silly, but it was the greatest feeling.  When I looked up the symbolism of hummingbirds, I learned that if a hummingbird shows up in your life, it is to remind you to enjoy life’s pleasures and take in the ‘nectar’ or sweetness of life.  As you open your heart up more to love and joy, you are open to sharing that abundance of love with others.  As hummingbirds are so light, travel great distances,  and move  quickly, they  encourage us to ‘lighten up’, release negativity and develop the characteristic of resiliency and quickly adapt to challenging situations. In addition, the hummingbird uses up a lot of energy and is a reminder to continually feed ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Upon researching a bit more, I found hummingbirds are symbols of resurrection , teach us how to work with the healing energy of flowers,  and that their wings flutter in an infinity symbol.  They are a very powerful animal totem.    Boquete is a haven for hummingbirds.  They are everywhere and it seems to me that they are all telling us here to enjoy life to its fullest.

The house continues to progress.  Our kitchen is done.  The last shelves were installed today and we now have a kitchen that really works for us.  It’s still tiny, not much we could do about that without tearing down walls,  but we’ve captured quite a bit more work space and we are muy contento.

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Steve and Bodo (think Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy or Martin and Lewis) get ready to install our counters

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Anticipation of not washing dishes in the bathroom anymore

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Voila! We have a real kitchen.

Yesterday was a fun day in David with good friends, Margo and John. We met them last year and are so happy they have returned to live in Boquete.   We made another trip to Pedregal, the little fishing village and picked up a nice Pargo to stock our freezer.  A few other short stops to the music store and El Mec, the tile mecca for this area and then a delicious wonton soup,  Panama style,  at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants, Nuevo Futuro.  As it was Saturday,  we got caught downtown in a few traffic tie ups of epic proportion, but Dennis navigated well and we got everything done and zipped home in time for a glass of wine on the patio before starting dinner.

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Pargo heaven

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I am not having a good day.

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Chillin’ with some great music at The Art Cafe

“SOMETIMES THE MOST ORDINARY THINGS ARE MADE EXTRAORDINARY, SIMPLY BY DOING THEM WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE.” Nicholas Sparks

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