Monthly Archives: November 2010

Thanksgiving in Panama

Thanksgiving is a uniquely North American celebration. Canada has its Thanksgiving day celebration on the second Monday of October and the United States holds its on the fourth Thursday of November.

Well, those are the two biggies, anyway. Lesser observances are held in four other countries as well. In Leiden, the Netherlands, where many of the Pilgrims who settled the Plymouth Plantation lived before voyaging to the cold and stony shores of New England, a non-denominational service is held each year on the same day as the celebration in the States.

The 25th of October is called Thanksgiving Day on the island of Grenada but instead of being a harvest celebration it marks the U.S. led invasion of the island in 1983 that led to the deposition and execution of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop.

Liberia celebrates Thanksgiving on the first Thursday of November and the Australian Territory of  Norfolk Island follows the tradition introduced to them by American whalers and is held on the last Wednesday of November.

Today was the fourth Thanksgiving I’ve spent outside of the States. The first two were in France in ’89 and ’90. There was a fairly sizable group of American expats in Antibes, most of whom worked on various yachts. Chez Charlie’s Pub and Le Rouf Bar which I would categorize as expat bars because the common language in each was English despite the nationalities of the denizens of those establishments. Each put on a Thanksgiving spread for the Americans. Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. While the courses resembled what we think of as the traditional repast in the States there was something that wasn’t “quite” right about it that went beyond the lack of cranberry sauce. Some “je ne sais quoi” that I can’t put my finger on, but we all appreciated the effort they displayed to try and give us a little piece of home away from home.

Thanksgiving of ’91 was spent at sea making the crossing on Jolie Aire from Europe to the States and, as far as I can remember, went unnoticed and uncelebrated.

Here in Panama there is a sizable gringo community from the States and Canada and the Canadians have to accommodate themselves to their brethren from the States. Several restaurants in Boquete, Volcan and David put on specials for the day. I chose to go to the Cuidad de David Hotel where I enjoyed a tasty buffet complete from soup to pumpkin pie, but once again devoid of cranberry sauce. The price was reasonable, the company was enjoyable and I got to watch the New England Patriots whip the Detroit Lions on a large-screen television.

So, just because I’m residing 8 degrees north of the Equator doesn’t mean I missed out on a turkey dinner today.

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Fast Internet Connection

I’ve been plagued and frustrated from the use of the USB modem I’ve been using at the house. At the town hall here in Boqueron there is what is called an “Infoplaza.” Many towns have them. I know there is one in Potrerillos though I never visited it. The one here in Boqueron has eight computers and a wifi connection. That’s what I’m using now, and it’s FAST. Much faster than the connection I had at the house on the side of the mountain, even. The infoplaza is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will be interesting to see if the wifi system is turned off on Sundays or if I can come up and sit under the cover of the basketball court which is about 80 feet away. If I can do that then I’ll be able to make Skype calls which the USB  modem at home won’t support. My next move is to unplug and see if I can do that, and also to check the USB modem because there is a  cell phone tower right behind the town hall.

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“I Love You” Around The World

Spanish Te Quiero
Armenian Yes sirum yem k’yez
Bulgarian Obicham te
Czech Miluji tě
Danish Jeg elsker dig
Dutch Ik hou van je
French Je t’aime
German Ich liebe dich
Italian Ti Amo
Portuguese Eu te amo
Russian Ya lyublyu tebya
Swedish Jag älskar dig
Japanese Ai Shite Imasu
Chinese Wo Ai Ni
Redneck USA Nice tits, get in the truck.

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Learning Curve

Things I learned this week:

La Concepcion is not the place to go for grocery shopping. It takes two buses each way at a cost of $1.60. A bit cheaper than Potrerillos to David round trip which was $1.80. A shopping trip from Boquerón to David also requires two buses each way and costs the same as going to La Concepcion.

El Rey is the best grocery store for all around shopping. There are four groceries in the area: El Rey, Super Baru, Romero (affiliated with El Rey) and Super 99 (owned by Panama’s President, Ricardo Martinelli). El Rey is the only place that has Jell-O Chocolate Pudding Mix. Romero, on the other hand, is the only place stocking Grandma’s Molasses (an essential ingredient for a couple of bread recipes I bake) and Baru (named after Panama’s highest peak, an extinct volcano) is the only one that has Kikkoman soy sauce. I don’t like Super 99. It has nothing to do with politics. To me it’s a bit like the Winn-Dixie near where I lived in Fort Lauderdale. Every time I shopped there I felt like I needed to take a bath when I got home.
Just because you come up with something that seems like a good idea doesn’t mean you should try it out. But that’s part of what makes it a learning curve, isn’t it?

About three quarters of the way to the bus terminal in David there is a large Romero. From the outside it seems to be about as big as the Rey I was headed for. Shopping there would mean not having to take two extra buses, not that the 60 cents they’d cost makes any difference. Well, this store was better than the other two Romeros I’ve been in but still not on a par with Rey.

The problem came trying to catch the bus back home. There are only two an hour. I barely missed the first one so I had to cool my heels for half an hour. No big deal except the next one that came along was full to the brim as was the one a half hour after that. After 90 minutes I was able to get one of the last three seats on the Boquerón bus.

So it’s back to Plan A which is to do the four bus shuffle. At least if I start my return trip from the terminal it’s a lock on getting a seat. And it’s not a problem if I have to wait a while. Most of the little kioskos sell 30 cent scoops of a decent chocolate ice cream and I can enjoy it while watching the passing parade of Panama: school children in their uniforms, Indian women in their native garb and just the ordinary people of the country. I love the terminal. Anyone coming to visit me, even if they rent a car, will have to spend an hour or so there.

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Solving Problems

The house here in Boqueron, like my Spanish, is a work in progress. Last year the owners did major renovations on it but weren’t able to finish everything in the limited time they were able to spend in Panama before returning to Texas.

The major problem remaining unfinished was storage and shelving. The owner said that he and his wife had lived out of their suitcases while they were here. Since I’ve signed on for six months that’s not an acceptable solution for me. I was told that whatever improvements I made on the house out of my own pocket should just be taken off of the rent.

Being able to hang up my clothes (and I admit that I usually hang my dirty stuff on the floor) was easily remedied. I simply measured the width of the huge walk-in closet upstairs and bought an adjustable shower curtain rod to span the distance and voilá, problem solved.

The biggest problem was the lack of shelving in the kitchen and under the sink. There was nothing there except open space.

I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out a solution to this problem. It wouldn’t be too hard to build some shelving but the problem would be getting the wood to the house. I’d either have to beg help from someone with a truck or pay one of the pickup trucks that are used as taxis around here which would probably cost more than it was worth. Even before I moved in, and knowing the lack of storage I’d spent time wandering through the Do It Center (a Home Depot kind of store without the lumber) and its competition Novey to see if I could come up with some ideas. Of course there are all kinds of shelving solutions where you screw slotted jobber dos into a wall and then insert arms where you want them and lay shelving upon those. Reasonably priced, but the problem here was that anywhere you needed to drill into something you’d need to have a masonry bit because EVERYTHING is concrete.

Tuesday I was in Novey and they had the solution I’d been looking for. Inexpensive, no drilling needed.

I bought two of them immediately and a couple of other things I needed and yesterday I went back and bought three more. They were $11/each. Two of them are under the counter right now, one is set up next to the stove to hold the pots and pans and another is in the closet for the underwear, socks, etc. I haven’t decided where the fifth one is going to go. Probably under the sink counter, too.

The advantages of this solution is that it didn’t require any construction. No sawing, no drilling, just put the pieces together in a few minutes and it’s done. Plus, the owners don’t have to like it. They’ll most likely deal with the problem in a permanent way. So, when my time  here is up I’ll simply disassemble and stack them up and take them with me. They won’t take up much space wherever I land after this.

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Watch This Space For Future Developments!

I moved into the new house in Boqueron on Monday. Today, Tuesday, I went shopping in La Concepcion. My first impression of the place was not changed by today’s visit. Tomorrow and Thursday I have promised to meet with students at American School to help them with their English comprehension.

So, it’s a busy few days and I’ll be neglecting this blog for a bit until I get out and about with the camera.

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