Our First Visitors

October saw us have our first visitors!!!  We were so excited for Megan and Addie to come visit.  Megan is Adam’s girlfriend and Addie is her friend.  Being the first visitors also means that they were our trial and error regarding things to do and show our guests.

They first spent a couple days in Panama City seeing the sights there.  They then flew here to David, where we picked them up and the excitement began (actually, I’m pretty sure their excitement began in PC).

One of the fun things we did with Megan and Addie was a coffee farm tour.  We got up early and drove to Boquete – coffee farm mecca of Panama.  We meet our guide in town and were introduced to the other party in the tour – a young couple on vacation from Germany.  We were then driven to the finca (farm) and had a really great tour.

October and November are known as the the wettest of the wet season.  These young ladies really lucked out.  Everything we wanted to do we were able to.  The day we hoped to go to one of the islands the weather seemed to be sketchy, but by the time we contacted the local panga boat captain, drove to the boat dock and actually got to Isla Gamez the weather was pretty darn good.  Isla Gamez is so pretty, we brought a picnic lunch and swam in the clear water.  Lots of fun.

 

I am pretty sure Megan and Addie had a great time with us, I know that we had a great time with them.

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Tropical Depresssion

No, not me, I’m not depressed.  I’m referring to the weather. We went to bed Tuesday night last week with rain (it had been a nice sunny day), woke up to the rain on Wednesday and it basically hasn’t stopped since then.  Although we in are the tail end of the rainy season we are having an unusual amount of rain.  The weather had been quite good until last week, but that is due to this:

https://www.wunderground.com/news/tropical-depression-sixteen-tropical-storm-otto

Last Wednesday there were winds, in fact our two white plastic terraza chairs went across the terraza and over the bank.  Also, a decorative clay pot that we had hanging on a post on the terraza, fell and broke.  The wind, at least for now, is gone.

Yesterday we went to lunch at a local resort.  We spoke with the Manager and she said she’s never seen the weather like this.  Even in peak rainy season she says it will only rain two days, three tops, in a row.

We are hoping that our Thanksgiving plans will go on as planned.  There will be more on that in a later post.

Fingers crossed for a mild next few days!!!!

 

Work Around the Property

Also in September we had a perimeter fence put up.  This was mainly to keep that errant calf out because it had come back.  It ate and killed a sapling/starter royal palm that we had gotten at the plant swap.  Jim was extremely irritated over that.  We found some local workers to do the fence, which they got up in less than two days.  In this heat that is impressive.

our fence

our fence

Jim has been working diligently on the drainage.  When it rains here, it usually really rains and gushes down the driveway and the paths.  We asked the workers if they could dig a ditch and then concrete it. This is what they did!!!!

Drainage ditch

Drainage ditch

They saw the leftover blue pool tile and asked Jim if they could use it!!  It’s a nice decorative touch.

One of the workers, Carlos, seemed to take a liking to us.  One afternoon Jim was watering the recently planted twigs.  He said “No, No, it is too hot to water.  Water the plants at 6:00 in the morning or 6:00 at night. ”  (That was said in Spanish, not English).  Oops.  Been doing that wrong.  The next day he showed us that some plants were not doing well because the rain was getting in them.  He cut them, with his machete, at a angle so that the rain does not go in them!!!!  The ones he cut, I swear within days had new growth.  It is amazing how things grow here – have I mentioned that.

One of the days Jim went to town to pick up the workers for the day and Carlos had a ton of clippings from his garden.  He gave us several aguacate (avocado – score!!!), some mango (score again), cashew, bougainvillea, a banana tree, more hibiscus, palms and some cuttings of a bush with pretty yellow flowers that we are putting as a hedge.  OMG, what an incredibly nice thing to do.

Will be a bush.

Will be a bush.

Jim had also been building a privacy fence.  There is a dirt road that we wanted to block from view.  The bamboo are the best pieces of the rotted bamboo that was supposed to be the main fence at one point.  I believe I’ve mentioned I don’t want to talk about that, still don’t want to.  We don’t know how long this fence will last or if it will blow down in a good wind.

Bamboo fence Jim built

Bamboo fence Jim built

 

 

 

No Posts Lately and Maybe Back on Track

I realize that it has been a while, ok, it’s been a couple months, since I’ve written anything.  I guess I would have to say that not a whole lot of exciting stuff has happened during that time. September was just mostly planting, waiting for our various furniture to finish being made and delivered, and projects around the house.

The furniture maker delivered the items, and we are very happy with them.  All the furniture is based on items I found on the internet, but made with my personal “tweeks” to the original.  One thing we’ve learned is that they don’t really understand stain.  They tend to paint with the stain. Jim is a bit disappointed that on the kitchen table the stain is so thick that it is difficult to see the grain of the wood.  The coffee table looks great though, that was stained to perfection.

Kitchen Table

Kitchen Table

Coffee table and tv stand.

Coffee table and tv stand.

Note that we although we have a tv stand, we do not yet have a tv. We are in no rush to get one – surprisingly.  We watch tv on our computers and stream the Seahawks.  Since these pictures have been taken we have purchased a few decorative accessories and some pictures.  That homey stuff will all come in time as we find things we like.

After all the planting we/Jim has done, there is finally something to show for it!!!  You can see the twig and the hibiscus flowers – just crazy how things grow here.  The hibiscus is planted on one of the banks that is covered in mani which is great for erosion control.  The mani was planted in June and has spread really well and is doing a great job of holding the bank.  We also purchased two huge palms from a temporary worker we had.  They are really pretty palms.

Hibiscus flower.

Hibiscus flower.

 

Cuban palm tree.

Christmas/Cuban palm tree.

I think I may be back on track and posting somewhat regularly again!!!

 

Drivers License – Step 3 and 4 of 4

Wednesday we officially received our Panamanian drivers licenses.  We completed the four step process.

As mentioned in an earlier post Jim and I are/were in the process of getting our drivers license.

Step three of the process is to:

Obtain proof of your blood type, if your driver’s license does not include that information.  You must visit a lab certified by ATTT. (https://panama.usembassy.gov/obtaining_a_panama_drivers_license.html )

It seems to me that Panama is hooked on knowing your blood type.  I think we’ve been asked that in the past and we both had no idea of our blood type.  Now we do!!!

We hired our attorney’s assistant to walk us through this process.  He first took us to a certified lab for our blood work.  They were professional and very nice.  We had to wait an hour for the results.  We dropped the assistant back at his office while Jim and I did errands.  We picked him up and went back to the lab.  We laughed with him as Jim said there was no way we would have been able to find that lab without him.  We are still learning our way around David.

With our previously obtained documentation and newly acquired proof of blood type in hand, we went to the drivers license office.  Luckily it was almost noon so it wasn’t crowded and we got helped right away.  They asked us several questions about contact information which they entered into the computer. We then took a vision test which consisted of 5 questions. Easy peasy.  Next was a hearing text.  This one was a little more stressful because I would hear a beep and then it would be 15-20 seconds before I heard another, so I was thinking “did it beep and I not hear it?”  Turns out they were having problems with the machine and the worker would have to press the buttons after me to get it to go to the next beep!  My hearing is fine fyi.

When we were finished with the tests it was lunch time and the cashier lady was at lunch so we had to go back in an hour to pay and pick up our licenses.  We took Jeffrey back to his office, then went to PriceSmart (similar to a Costco), then to the drivers license place (we could find it by ourselves) to pay and retrieve our office licenses!!

Our licenses are for Tipo A and C.  Yes, you need a license to ride a bike.  Not saying that everyone who rides a bike has a license, just that they are supposed to have a license.

Driver License Classifications

Driver License Classifications

 

Clippings Haul

Another social activity for us this week – after going to PC, sushi night, and boat ride lunch – was the neighborhood plant swap on Saturday. I believe this is the 2nd annual swap.  We all went over to a friends and brought clippings from your garden and food to share for a potluck.  If you were like us with no garden whatsoever (yet) – our hibiscus twigs don’t count – then you just show up planning to go home with quite a load of clippings.

Clipping haul.

Clipping haul.

We did end up bringing a little something to share with others.  Since the day we arrived here in March there has been a pimento plant in our front yard.  We surmise that it came to be from seeds from the workers during construction.  This is a great plant.  I use the sweet pimentos in potato salad, in pasta salad, in our scrambled eggs, just to eat by themselves as a snack, and so much more.  Yum.

Our pimento plant.

Our pimento plant.

More of what we came home with:

Plumeria aka frangipani

Plumeria aka frangipani

Prickly pear.

Prickly pear.

Thought this was Red Ginger, but not sure.

Thought this was Red Ginger, but not sure.

Things.

Things.

And more things.

And more things.

 

Busy Past Few Days

If you have been reading this entertaining blog, then you know we got home Wednesday afternoon from PC.  That evening we had reservations at one of the local resorts for their special sushi dinner night.  They brought in a chef from a sushi restaurant in David.  You pre-order for the evening.  Not knowing what to expect Jim ordered four different rolls for us.  We went for our 6:00 p.m. seating and sat with some fun friends who are only here one more week of their three month stay.  The sushi was really good and even had sake sangria to go with the meal.  It was a delicious and fun evening.

The next day, Thursday, these same fun friends had arranged for a late lunch at another resort on a nearby island (I ask – who will be our social directors once they leave?). This boutique hotel is best accessed by boat. We were a group of 13.  Some arrived by their own boat, others meet at the Boca Chica dock to take the resort’s boat.  I went with our fun friends and a few others from the Boca Chica dock, while Jim had gone fishing in the morning with some other friends.  We all then met up at the resort.  They did not have success fishing that day.

The boat ride there.

The boat ride there.

The restaurant.

The restaurant.

Some of the group.

Some of the group.

Jim had the lobster.   It was delicious with a spiced coconut milk and curry  sauce.

Delicious lobster with spicey coconut milk and curry sauce.

Delicious lobster with spicy coconut milk and curry sauce.

I had the fish tacos,  which was excellent!

Excellent fish tacos.

Excellent fish tacos.

Two days of good times.

 

Driver’s License – Steps 1 and 2 of 4

Since in the mid-end of July of we received our temporary pensionado visa (the final pensionado and process may be completed some time in December +/- a month) we now need to get, by law, our Panamanian driver’s license. To do this we needed to go to Panama City (aka PC).

I know, I didn’t write about the day long experience and the fact that we had to leave our American passports in the hands of immigration for a few hours.  They wanted them overnight, we said no! Just know that it was a long day with lots of sitting around.

Back to our driver’s license and PC.  I booked us a room at the hotel at the Albrook Mall right next to the regional Albrook airport where our flight landed (versus Tocumen, the international airport).  We got in a taxi and told him where we were going.  Just a few minutes later we are driving past the hotel.  Jim and I look at each other, and I say wasn’t that our hotel.  The taxi driver pulls over, apologizes and starts pondering.  He is pondering because as far as we could tell the road around the hotel/mall is two lanes of one way.  So the hotel was about a block or so behind us with only a one way road away from the hotel.  It seemed to us that pretty much we would have had to do a loop around the entire mall to get back to the hotel and let me tell you this mall is HUGE with crazy traffic. Per wikipedia:  “Albrook Mall is a large shopping mall and leisure complex located in Panama City, Panama. As of August 2015 it was the fourteenth largest mall in the world, the largest in the Americas and the largest shopping mall outside Asia.”  See*** below.  We said that’s okay, just let us out here.  He did.  Good thing it wasn’t raining! 

Step one is to have our valid American drivers’ licenses notarized at the Embassy.  The next morning our driver picked us up at the hotel to take us to the US Embassy.  We pull up to the entrance and the local security personnel says to park over there, that we have to be checked in at the gate and then walk up the hill to the embassy.  We get out and are about third in line and the line is getting longer and longer behind us.  We are the only gringos in line.  This local security guy can’t find the name on the list of the people at the beginning of the line.  We wait and we wait while he goes through the list several times.  Meanwhile I’m getting antsy. Time is a-tick’n and our appointment time is nearing.  You have to make the appointment on-line, bring the confirmation of the appointment with you and here we are being delayed getting in to our Embassy!!!  Finally another local security comes over, says something in Spanish to the large group waiting to get in.  I thrust our appointment papers in his face, he takes down our passport numbers, and points for us to go through the gate and on up to the Embassy.

Up at the first Embassy building we go through actual metal detector security.  I had to leave my cell phone, kindle, chap stick and all five of my lipsticks (hey, one never knows what color they may be in the mood for) in a cubby for pick up on our way out.   We walk to the next (and final) Embassy building and go through another metal detector.  At the counter the lady gives us each a form to complete and ends the conversation with “don’t sign it yet.”  Well guess who signed it – no, not me.  Someone who shall remain nameless had to complete the form three times to get it correct.  Note – don’t use different color inks on serious, important documents.  We were done and back in the car in under an hour.  Very pleased with that.

Step two is taking those official, stamped and notarized documents to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for certification/authentication.  The online information says this is on the first floor, the Embassy gave us a paper with the address of the above and it too said the first floor.  As we pull in the driver says take the elevator to the second floor.  I’m thinking but everything says the first floor.  We walk over to the elevator and are pondering the situation.  An older Panamanian woman is standing there and in perfect English asks if she can help us.  We show here the paper where we want to go and she says upstairs.  As this is happening a young Panamanian man asks if he can help us. He too says we need to go upstairs.  Such nice and helpful people!!!  I guess at this particular building the first floor is what we would call the second floor.

Turns out the lady was going to the same place we were.  We follow her to a man at the entrance who hands her a number to wait for it to be called.  She tells him what we want and he points for us to get in a line.  A few minutes later, the lady comes over and tells us we have to get a number from the man.  We go see him again and they start talking back and forth.  She finds out for us that what we really have to do is go to an office across the hall, which I believe was a law firm, pay them $4.00 to stamp our documents with an official looking green stamp (Panama loves their stamps), then go down to the 0 (zero) floor to the Bank, pay another $4.00 for the actual authentication service, bring that receipt back up to the “1st” floor Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Meanwhile the wonderful Panamanian lady is personally walking us through this process and to all these places.  Can you believe it – how nice.  She was doing paperwork for her son, so her grandson can get Panamanian citizenship.  She lived in Boston for a number of years she said.

We recently learned that another perk of the pensionado is that there is a special line at most offices and banks for the jubilados (the local pensioners) and pensioners.  At the bank we see a jubilado line so we stand in it  The security guard comes over and points to the regular line, so we go over there.  I say to Jim maybe he thinks we look too young to be jubilados.

Finally we are back at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, get a number, and wait our turn.  We give the lady our freshly stamped, paid for, and notarized documents, she looks something up on the computer, writes it on our receipt and says come back tomorrow to pick them up.  What!!! Wait!!!! No where on any of the sites and paperwork does it say that you have to come back.  Our flight home leaves at 10:00 the next morning.  I ask what time they open – 8:00.  There is no way we can pick them up and get to the airport on time.  We go back to our car and driver.  We explain about having to come back and our flight time.  He says he will come the next day, pick up the documents and take them to a courier service for delivery to David.  What a life saver.

Once we have these authenticated documents then we complete steps 3 and 4 in David.

***  Although the mall complex itself is huge, in the area near our hotel I’d say at least half of the spaces were not occupied, especially the second floor retail space.

NOTE:  One of the benefits of having the pensionado visa is that you get discounts at Panama hotels and restaurants.  When I booked the hotel there is no box to check indicating that you have a pensionado.  At check out Jim asked about the pensionado discount. We ended up getting nearly $150.00 off of our hotel stay!!!

The Angry Sea

The sea was angry that day my friends (that is Jim’s suggestion as an opening). But truly, I think it was. Soooo, this is the story:

Let me explain something first.  The area outside of Boca Chica is known as “the nursery.” Humpback whales come to Panama’s Gulf of Chiriqui National Park, a 14,740 hectare marine park, to give birth.  They migrate from the northern and southern hemispheres to the warm water and then head back to their feedings grounds.  Prime whale watching season is August, September and October.

Yesterday we had plans to go fishing and whale watching with some friends on their boat.  There was six of us, plus the first-mate.  We wake up to a gray and wet morning.  Many times by 10:00 or so the gray has burned off and it becomes a nice day –  not yesterday.  We all meet at the marina at 7:00.  We board the boat and just pass the marina we, aka Jim and the first mate, fish. Turns out these six to eight inch fish will be used as our bait. We/they catch about 10 or so of these in just a matter of minutes.

I’m thinking we are going to the outer islands, about 45 minutes away, to fish.  Welllll, as we pass these outer islands I ask our friend and captain of the boat, I can’t remember what I actually said, but the gist was – where are we going and when are we getting there.  Now understand, I’m asking this because for about an hour now we have been riding the waves like a roller coaster and even catching air – our backsides leaving the seats. Another wife and I are sharing a seat up near the captain and sort of protected by the windshield, but we, and everyone else is wet and being very jostled.   To my (and the other wife’s) dismay he says “the Hannibal Bank.  We have about  40 more miles to go.” (Hence, that means about two more hours, most likely even longer considering the conditions).  I say something to the affect – aren’t there fish here and he says no. Oh, okay, as we are bounced around and hanging on for dear life.

The conditions.

The conditions.

Finally, as the swells have gotten bigger and the weather meaner, we all agree to turn around and seek shelter in the Secas Islands because the weather is not improving and neither are the seas.  As we turn around we see that the large shrimp boats are all seeking shelter too.

Shrimp boat coming in to shelter from the storm.

Shrimp boat coming in to shelter from the storm.

Shrimp boats seeking shelter during storm.

Shrimp boats waiting out the weather.

Side Note:  This island was used to film a British survivor type show featuring celebrities.  I guess it was filmed a year or so ago.  This beach is behind us as I am taking the above picture.

one of the many Secas Island beaches

one of the many Secas Island beaches

We hang out here for just a bit as the first mate prepares the rods for in-shore fishing (versus off shore fishing at the Hannibal Bank).  We then start trolling , leaving our nice and relatively calm sanctuary from the weather.  It pays off because Jim catches this:

A bonita - another fish used for bait.

A bonita – another fish used for bait.

At some point during our trolling it is decided that we will head back to the marina and go for a beer at one of local spots.  Basically we’re calling it a day – the weather and seas won this round. Not!!!  As we head back the weather improves and the sea calms, not perfect but way better than it had been.  We are going by the largest of the Secas islands and see some whales.  We slow down to watch the show and it was fabulous.  We could see them under the water.  We saw a baby. They would leave rings in the water where their tales had gone.  We continued at this slow pace really enjoying ourselves now that weather and sea had settled down.

Humpback whale.

Humpback whale.

Humpback whales.

Humpback whales.

An awesome end to an awesome day with friends.  We are truly blessed.

 

Beef

I know, beef seems to be a hot topic with us.  Beef was such a staple in our state side life and now it is not.  Well it is verbally, but not physically.  Soooo, back to Beef.  That’s the name of a restaurant that we recently tried.   We had driven by it a few times and I thought it was either a butcher or a restaurant.  We recently learned through friends that it is actually, sort of, both. Mainly it is a restaurant, but you can also buy various cuts of beef and wild boar.  I believe that at times you can also get salmon – I’m guessing that it would be Atlantic salmon, but don’t know that for sure. I read online that their beef is imported from the U.S. and Argentina.

During a recent errand run to David, Jim and I needed sustenance and I mentioned giving Beef a try.  Needless to say, I didn’t have to twist his arm.  It was easily found, drove right to it – a huge plus.  It was nicely done inside with a quaint ambiance  (most places here are not – lots of light with a cold feeling), this was nice with a warm, welcome feel to it.

There was the regular menu, plus a lunch menu where for $12.50 you get the main,  a soda and an ice cream.  Boy, I read helado (ice cream) and I was all over that.  Turns out the mini Angus burger I wanted was unavailable.  I almost shed a few tears (because of the no helado – though I could have, but didn’t, order helado separately.  I can, sometimes, have self control).  Jim and I ended up sharing a burger and fries for $10.50.  It was really good – sort of.  Jim and I both acknowledged that it had a gamey taste to it.  I said to Jim “It’s beef, how can it have a gamey taste.”  I’m thinking of Jim’s deer and elk that I don’t usually eat and enjoy because of the wild, gamey taste to it.  We came up with – we are used to the beef in the US that is grass fed, then shot up with hormones and fed grain, whereas this beef is likely just grass fed – hence the gamey taste!?  In most instances I do not eat gamey food, but I’m pretty sure I would go back to Beef and eat there again.  I know that Jim would.

We discussed buying a steak to take home with us.  Jim and the waiter went to the freezer and discussed the various cuts and prices.  One New York steak that would have been big enough for the both of us would have cost $30.00.   This time we didn’t buy a steak, maybe next time.