Gringo Thanksgiving

Last year I decided that I was done with the typical American Thanksgiving meal and I would prepare something more ‘local’.  Chicken and rice was a possible option.  But since we moved and we have a great place to sit many people, we decided to go for the turkey again.

My Spanish teacher told me that Panamanians rarely eat turkey.  They don’t even have words for “stuffing” or “gravy”.  When my Habla Ya classmate and I described to her how we make gravy, you could see her stomach start to turn.  Turkey is quite expensive in Panama, certainly not the 79 cents a pound you find in the US grocery stores.  Here it’sabout $2 lb. and you get Butterball.

Some of you may recognize the woman in the middle from www.ThePanamaAdventure.com

Some of you may recognize the woman in the middle from http://www.ThePanamaAdventure.com


We got the turkey, made the stuffing and mashed the potatoes.  Others brought a feast of deliciousness.  J & J brought a huge ham.  We had spinach souffle, rice with spices and fruits, baked squash, roasted vegetables. lemongrass soup, pumpkin pies with real whipped cream and banana bread.

We ate and drank all afternoon and early evening.  It’s amazing how close you get to your expat family.  Of course, I did Skype my real family.  Technology makes it so much easier to be away from Florida during holidays.

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What’s New @ Casa Calibri?

We have been in the house for just over two months but now it seems like it might finally be coming together.  Many of the big projects are completed.  There’s still a lot to do, but progress is everywhere.

The terrazzo bedroom is almost finished, needing only a few pieces of fuguest room finishedrniture.  We don’t have any before pictures but this is its history.  It is outside the main house and has an iron door that locks from the outside.  That’s because years ago it was a maid’s room and they would lock their help in during the night so they wouldn’t steal.  Then hot water was added to the bathroom when it was intended to be a mother-in-law’s quarters.  The mother-in-law never came so it was basically a storage room.  It took a lot of scraping off the moisture damage, applying waterproofing and painting.  New curtains, rug and bed – voila!  It’s a guest room!!

The guest bath is usable but not terribly pretty.  The hall bath isn’t much better.  Both will get gutted in January.  New sinks, toilets, hardware and tile.  It will make a world of difference.

Travel room beforeThe Travel Room is where all of our travel souvenirs go.  It houses snow globes, furniture, photos and mementos from all over the world.  The Zanzibar bed and corner unit arrived safely but need to be assembled.  But first the room had to be cleaned and painted.  travel room afterDavid had to do a lot of work to get this room together.  Besides reassembling the furniture, he made shelves, hung masks and a spear, made window treatments and hung chair rail.  We only need a bookshelf.  We are calling the room 95% finished.

The living room has been repainted since the yellow that went well with our big US furniture was not a good color choice for our size-appropriate Panamanian furniture.  The new, 10″ deep, black granite sink is installed!  The moldy mess that served as a kitchen sink is gone.  We have glass block in the bathroom that only needs granite facing.  The gardener is getting the lawn and flower beds under control.  We hired a backhoe to level the back lot.  In January we will need to get 30 mts. of fill (whatever 30 mts might be) and Gabriel, the backhoe driver, will come back and make it ready for our hen house and chickens.

The office is still a hot mess and the terrazzo bar still needs a cabinet for the sink and ice maker.  The laundry room needs some organization, the greenhouse could use some work and landscaping is just beginning.

And finally, Casa Colibri has hummingbirds.  Lots of hummingbirds.  (Colibri means Hummingbird)  I have several feeders around the property.  They fly in the terrazzo and even the deposito.

Life has been extremely busy but very satisfying.  A baby pink house now has many bright colors.  The overgrown yard is being planted with trees.  Fish can be seen swimming in the pond.  We have people over for drinks and/or dinner frequently.  We are even have a Thanksgiving turkey in a few days since our new oven is  million times better than the Easy-Bake at our old rental.

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Freshman 15 in Panama

When kids go to college and parents aren’t around to watch what they eat, they eat a lot of junk/fast food.  Their lifestyle changes and so do their waistlines.  They gain about 15 lbs. in their freshman year.  We have been in Panama for over a year and I have done exactly the same thing.  My lifestyle change doesn’t involve fast food (I hate it) but it has involved lots of eating out and lots of party snacks.  Between that and some long term health issues, I got fat.

Most people would not point at me and think ‘fat’, but I need to lose about 25 pounds.  It’s not obese but it is fat. Matronly, not a good word.  I’ve become better at positioning myself for pictures to make my face and gut look thinner.  But those random, candid shots capture my unflattering fat much too often.   When I was young, I weighed about 115 lbs.  If I did that today, I’d look like a refugee from some camp in Nigeria.  I just need to get back in shape.

zumbaA few months ago I got new medication that allows me to run and jump again.  I began running down the main highway toward David and worked myself up to running a 5K with little difficulty – except my knees didn’t agree.  My knees are as old as I am and they were screaming.  To change it up, for the last month, I have been faithfully going to the gym 4-5 days a week.  I do Zumba 3-4 days and body toning on Friday.  I sweat like a beast and I keep up with the instructors.  The result – nada.  I don’t see any difference.

I’m not giving up because I really like the classes but I hope some of the fat chooses to leave eventually.

The age old question – Why can you gain 5 lbs. in a single weekend but it takes so long to work off?

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First Timer @ Ringside

If we were any closer, we would have gotten drenched with sweat.  yuck!

If we were any closer, we would have gotten drenched with sweat. yuck!

Last night we went to the fights.  That’s one activity I never thought I’d be a part of.  But friends got tickets and I decided it would be interesting.  We had a table for 8 near the ring.  There were  6 different fights.  These guys were young so they only had 6 to 8 rounds.  The headliner was ‘Chicho’ Concepcion vs ‘El Caciqu’ Pendroza.

The only boxing I can remember seeing is Cassius Clay/Mohammad Ali.  We didn’t see anything remotely like that last night.  There was no ‘float like a butterfly’ or ‘rope a dope’.  It was 12 men swinging at air until they were too exhausted to stand.  Only 2 bouts were called before the end.  I found it difficult to determine the “winners” of most bouts.  It became Last Man Standing rather than great fighting.

"the Invisible" (in red) won (against fringy yellow shorts) despite his crazy intro mask that made him look like a TB patient.

“the Invisible” (in red) won (against fringy yellow shorts) despite his crazy intro mask that made him look like a TB patient.

All the fighters had a moniker.  “The Invisible”, “the Chief”, “the Rock” were some.   It takes some pretty big cajones to name yourself “the Rock”.  He “won” the fight, but only because he remained upright while his opponent, Thunder, could barely stand.  Chicho, slang for amphetamine user, was the headliner but was out in 3 rounds. Several of the guys had fringe on their shorts that looked like their mom was getting them ready for a 1920s party instead of a fight.  The biggest cheers went to the local Chiriquí fighters.  In the end, the Cuban, “El Cacique/the Chief”, won the main fight.

They also had some ring girls (I am sure they have an official name) that promoted products.  The Toyo Tire girls were definitely crowd favorites, although the Abuelo girl certainly held her own.

Doors opened at 6 but it was about 8:30 by the time the first fight began.  It was a fun night.  It’s not something I would do every week, or even every month, but entertaining.  If I go again, I hope it would have more “sting like a bee” instead of “let me hold on to you so I don’t fall down”.

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Retirement @ One Year

I can’t believe that it’s already been one year since I retired.  I retired from a job that I really loved – although I began to hate the turn in education that teacher’s still have to endure.  For 33 years I taught, beginning in Grade 2 (not my thing), then Grade 6, then Grade 8, then Grade 10/12, and finally found my niche in Grade 11.  I was also lucky to end my final year with such a great group of kids.  They graduated this year, most at the top of a very large class.  It was nice to see them so excited about graduating and going to college.  I was lucky to make a trip through S. Florida and saw many of them just a few weeks ago.  Again, I was very lucky to end my career with such wonderful classes.

retirement 3Now it’s been one year after leaving my chosen profession and I am still shocked how little I think about teaching.  I don’t miss it at all.  I miss being around teenagers – am I mildly insane?  I know some people that teach until they die, some that teach long after they should have left and some that teach 40+ years because they are excellent and love it.  Some have no hobbies or friends outside of school, so they stay year after year.  I thought I would stay a few more years and I really thought I would miss it.  Wrong on both counts.

I thought about volunteering at a school but that would mean a regular schedule.  There is an orphanage nearby that I may investigate.  But for now, I stick with adult groups.  Within a few months of moving here, I joined a bunch of groups (against the advice of the long-timers) anbut I’m pulling out of manyretirement 2 of those too.

After one year of retirement I can honestly say, it’s the BEST! And  I know  I am very fortunate to have been able to retire earlier than expected.

Question:  Why do they always make retired people look like they’re 100 years old on posters??????

 

 

 

 

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BLOOD

Twelve years ago my husband had Stage 3 Non-Hogkins Lymphoma.  There was a good probability that he would not live.  He went through horrible chemotherapy for months.  My 6 foot tall husband weighed less than 145 pounds and could barely walk from the living room to the kitchen.  Obviously he lost all his hair.  He looked more like a grandfather than a recent Lt. Commander in the Navy.

Our oncologist gave him a cocktail every three weeks that would ravage his already fragile body.  I would frequently check that he was still breathing he was so sick.  In the last few months of treatment, his blood count went dangerously low and he needed several transfusions.  Because he was so sick, the doctors wanted people we knew to donate.  We were lucky that we had some wonderful friends who had the same blood type and donated pints and pints of blood.

THAT BLOOD SAVED DAVID’S LIFE.  If you see him now, you would never know he had been sick.

There have been many calls for blood donation in David.  There are many requirements that make many of us ineligible.  But there are also many young and healthy people in Chiriquí that can save many lives.  High school kids are eligible.  One pint of blood can help four children.  If you have a rare blood type, you are even more needed.

If you are under 62 (65 at one hospital) and healthy, I urge you to donate.  Five generous people saved David’s life and I can never repay them.  With just a little time, you too can save a life.

It’s a simple process for you that means the world to others.  Email andreainparadise@gmail.com  If you know your blood type and cannot donate now, let Andrea know your type so she can contact you if someone desperately needs your type.

If you are visiting Chiriquí, you too are eligible to donate to the local community.

 

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And the Show Goes on…

Friday was opening night.  Saturday we had a matinee and an evening show.  Today we have another matinee and then we break down the set so the stage is completely bare.  The show is Cabaret II.  For a small farming town, we have an awful lot of local talent.

Most people aren’t aware of the work that goes into making entertainment happen on the stage.  I certainly had no idea since, as a patron, you just pick a seat, buy a ticket and clap when things are good.  Standing ovation at the end of a great show and then go home.

Actual productions take months.  The set itself takes weeks – or longer if it is very intricate,  Plays are chosen months in advance and then parts must be cast.  In a perfect world, everyone who tries out and reads for parts has a chance to participate.  Things get more hostile when parts are guaranteed before the play is even announced.

Even rehearsal isn’t as easy as it seems.  The director tells the actors where to stand, how to move, the emotions that should be portrayed, how to enter and exit, and a thousand other things.  Actors must learn volumes of lines.  Props must be in place and the backstage crew needs to know when everyone needs to appear and theplay props they need.  Costumes not only need to reflect the character, but change the actor’s appearance.  Wigs, make up, clothing and movements make it happen.  Ann and Beth, both makeup artists,  work continuously to remake characters and to keep actors looking fresh.  Clothing changes must be quick with several people changing and getting new make up at once.

At the end of the play, all the members of the cast and crew come out for a bow.  Everyone has a smile.  Because with all the work, demands and chaos – it is so much fun.  Getting laughs and applause from the audience makes all the hard work worthwhile.

Ana Elisa and Bob ApplegateTwo local artists appear on our stage.  Ana Elisa Miranda (shown left with Bob Applegate) is only 16 but has won vocal contests because of her beautiful voice.  Edgar Vargas (right) isEdgar Vargas a well known guitarist and is currently a finalist for Panama’s best guitarist,  In US terms, that would be like having the winner of American Idol and America’s Got Talent on the same stage.  Yes, they are that talented.  Edgar plays with the Bathtub Gin Band, including Rhody Edwards, Francisco Serraccin and Bob Applegate (pictured above)

The expats are pretty talented too even though they haven’t gotten national recognition – yet.  The Saggy Bottom Boys are always a hit.  They come from their “tour of western Kentucky” to entertain.  My husband is one of the trio.   We played  in a skit aboplay saggy bottomut a date gone bad and the Joke Wallmisunderstandings between men and women   We also got a chance to deliver some jokes from the Laugh-In wall we made.

 

Other acts included singing, dancing and spoofs.  Brandy, Patti and Michelle were three of the Free Range Singers who had a great song about gossip.

play free rangeplay brandyplay shoop shoop Talented Lyle and Patricia performed Shoop Shoop, he in drag.

 

 

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Getting Vaccinations in Panama

David and I are going to India and Nepal in March to celebrate our 20th anniversary.  We will be leaving from JFK, but all required paperwork and health documentation needs to be completed in Panama.  Several weeks ago we went to Panama City and visited the India Embassy.  Easy peasy – we dropped off our passports and application.  Five working days later our driver, Eric, retrieved our passports and sent them to Boquete with Uno Express.

Because our origination country is Panama, India requires a Yellow Fever shot.  It is also recommended that we get Hepatitis A as well.  Today we went to the Salud Minister in David.  Once you have the directions, the building is not hard to find.  What’s funny, is the building you have to go to for shots is directly in front of the Chiriquí Morgue.  saludmorgue

They tried to tell us that people our age (old) don’t need the the Yellow Fever shot anymore.  After talking to others within the agency, it was verified that, regardless of age, all travelers from Panama to India are required to show proof of Yellow Fever vaccination.

saludBack to the caja (cashier) to pay for the shots before getting them.  David and I have had these shots before.  About ten years ago we made appointments at the Broward Department of Health and paid hundred of dollars each to get these vaccinations to go to Africa.

saludbillThe payment today for the same vaccinations?  Five dollars.  That was $5.  Five dollars each for yellow fever.  The Hepatitis A booster was free.  We did not have to make appointments.  We walked in and got treated.  In 15 minutes we were back in the parking lot with health verification cards in hand. salud2

When a country is concerned about public health, it makes it affordable for everyone to get health care.

 

 

 

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Being Bored in Boquete

We had dinner with a couple that is doing their recon mission to see if living in Boquete (or Panama) is right for them. Everyone who lives here has done the same. And maybe everyone has asked themselves, “Does Boquete have enough things to do so I won’t get bored?”

I think that if you are boring or have no interests, you will be bored everywhere you go. I also don’t think that it is possible to be bored in Boquete unless you make it your mission. Even if you don’t want to be with other people, there are a lot of things to do. Hiking everywhere. The beach is only a short distance for sunbathing, surfing or diving. There’s fishing, both fresh and salt water.

For more social people, there are organizations for everyone. Cards and game people meet every day of the week. Groups meet for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Other groups are more civic minded and organize construction projects, help the hungry or handicapped, or provide entertainment.

When David and I came here after we decided that moving to Boquete was definitely a possibility, we also wondered about boredom. I even asked people about it. Several times during our early visits we certainly asked ourselves if living in a small town could become boring. But we never seemed to get bored. As we kept returning, we made friends. When we came for an entire summer, we joined the theater and began helping with Amigos de Animales. We took advantage of all the outdoor activities Boquete has to offer. And we were never bored.

Just in the last 7 days we have: had people over for dinner, auditioned for a play, went ziplining, went to the gym, met friends for dinner, went with friends house-hunting, had an organization meeting with Boquete Jazz & Blues Festival, attended an open house for a new B&B, played Trivia, took Spanish lessons, and visited many friends in their homes. No, we aren’t bored.

What I found was that you can be as busy or lazy as you want. A lot of people (us) actually get ourselves involved in too much. That is a common problem for the newly arrived. After being busy with a scheduled life for 30+ years, you want to continue with that pace and agree to help every group. We have decided that after fulfilling our commitments, which end in March, we will only going to be involved in the theater and the monthly spay/neuter clinic.

People who don’t have activities or interests often become masters of the 12 oz bicep curl. Does Boquete drive people to drink? No. Retired people without interests in their live often turn to unhealthy activities no matter where they live.

P1010588Now that we live here, we have settled into a ‘regular’ life. Sometimes we just hang out at home and read or watch TV. More often we are meeting friends, going to David, traveling, gardening, running errands, hiking up Palmira, or just watching the rainbows. But we are never bored.

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December in Boquete

We are entering windy season. I’ve only heard about windy season, which lasts from December through February, since we always visited in spring and summer. And boy, is it windy! We are pretty lucky that our house does not face the wind and we only have one window that we have to keep shut to prevent the house from blowing away.

People always talk about rainy season. Windy season is much shorter than rainy season and is also called the dry season. It is a very different climate than just a few weeks ago. Our plants need watering daily and the air is dry. Sometimes the wind is cold, at least to a Florida girl. We were wearing our jackets the other night.

We had a party a few nights ago. There were 50-60 people in the house and the yard. Once the wind picked up, it didn’t take long for people to move inside since the wind was not only strong, but pretty cold. Our tiki lights would not even stay lit. The party was great but good thing we have a fairly large living area because it got crowded quickly.xmas tree central park

It’s also Christmas season. Not the commercial extravaganza like in the States. Most houses are not decorated at all, let alone with 50,000 lights and blow up reindeer. If they have a Christmas tree, chances are that it’s on the front patio since living rooms are so small. People buy gifts but it all seems more calm. There aren’t gigantic malls in David but they have smaller shopping areas. There are no malls, or anything remotely like a mall, in Boquete. The tree in Central Park was only put up last week. There’s no Thanksgiving here so there’s no day to “begin” shopping season.

Without all the hype, commercials, newspaper ads, etc. you could almost forget there’s a big holiday coming. This is a Catholic country so there aren’t any lighted menorahs or festivus pole controversy. It’s a family and religious holiday.

We brought only one of our Christmas trees back with us on the repositioning cruise. We used to have six trees all with different themes. I sold two at one of our garage sales. The one we have now is our “travel theme” tree. It seemed to make the most sense when we were deciding which one to bring. And we have a few lights outside. We used to decorate so much it looked like Christmas overload. This year is very simple. xmas tree

We are spending Christmas eve at a charity event to help Buenas Vecinas (Good Neighbors) who bring food to needy families. On Christmas Day we are going to a friend’s house. Some expats return to the States for Christmas but most stay here. A few, like me, have family visiting here. My daughter comes in 2 days!!

New Years Eve is only a week away. We will see what differences that celebration brings.

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