Category Archives: David Panama

My Translator’s A Champion!

Saying that the United States has had an influence on the Republic of Panama is an horrific understatement. You can see the Gringo influence right down to the playing fields of Panama. While soccer (fútball) dominates most of the world baseball rules in Panama. Philadelphia Phillies All-Star catcher, Carlos Ruiz, hails from right here in David and has a World Series ring. You certainly can’t overlook Mariano Rivera. Twelve-time All Star pitcher and five times World Series winner with an 18-year career with the New York Yankees. He is MLB’s all-time leader in saves (608) and games finished (892). While I’ve never followed baseball, names like Juan Berenguer, and Rod Carew really don’t send you to Wikipedia to find out what sport they play.

In the last couple of years American-style football has been making inroads into the sporting scene here in Panama. There aren’t any Panamanians, that I know of, playing in the NFL, but who knows what will happen a few years down the road? One of the girls who translated my book, Stephany Peñaloza, has been posting photos on her Facebook page about a local girl’s flag football team here in Chiriquí. Recently they went to the Province of Veragua and played for the championship of LCFA flag football. They won, and Stephany is their quarterback! (#11 for the girls with the yellow and black jerseys.

Now, if they get into the Lingerie League, I’d pay to go to their games.

Congratulations, Stephany and all the girls on the Wildcats’ team!

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Weird Water In Panama

Water is weird here in Panama. Right now it’s coming out of the sky but not out of the faucet.

There are often times when there is no tap water. Don Ray, who writes the Chiriqui Chatter blog lives in the City of David (Panama’s third largest metropolis which is strange if you think of a place with only four stop lights as a metropolis) often writes that he has no water from his taps. Sometimes it’s for days at a time.

After the recent devastating river flooding that took out one of the bridges on the Interamerican highway there was no water here in Boquerón for several days though, fortunately I was still in Potrerillos Arriba then and never had a moment without water. Often after a heavy downpour water service is cut off because the turbidity in the rivers where IDAAN, the water company, draws its supply from, clogs the filters.

In Panama City, referred to simply as Panamá, where almost half of the entire country’s population reside they’re building a subway system and a couple of weeks ago it was necessary to shut off the city’s entire water supply for a whole weekend to reroute the water around the tunnel. Can you imagine what the outcry would be like in the States if everyone’s water was shut off for a couple of days in a city of a million and a half residents? Heads would roll.

But here people just shrug their shoulders and get on with their lives. If they were French they’d shrug their shoulders, make a “poof” sound through their lips and say “c’est la vie, hein?” (If you think English is a strange language because of its non-phonetic spelling, try French. Hein is pronounced “eh?” Go figure.) I don’t think there’s a Spanish phrase that expresses the same feeling as that one does.

Since water outages are a common, though thankfully not a daily, occurrence there is a good market for large plastic water tanks here. And I mean LARGE. In some cases several hundred gallon tanks. Most of them are black or bright blue and just sitting here I can think of at least four stores in an around David that stock the things along with pumps to feed the water into houses. We don’t have one of those here at this house though there has been talk of getting one. Instead I have three five-gallon pails that I keep filled with water for those times when there is no tap water. Most of the time I just keep them under the roof line and collect rain water in them. I don’t drink it, but use it for other things like flushing the toilet or washing dishes and clothes. I’ll be doing a post about laundry sometime soon.

For drinking water I have a five-gallon cooler thingy that I keep topped off with filtered water that I collect from the faucet when there is tap water, and I have a two-gallon jug of filtered water in the fridge.

When I was over visiting in Bocas del Toro I noticed that many of the houses not only had a big water tank but they had fitted out their roofs with large-diameter PVC pipes where rain gutters would normally be so they could collect and store rain water. Made a lot of sense to me.

Here in my neighborhood where the water supply through the tap is often just a trickle, for some unknown reason, most daytime hours there is one constant water supply. The river. Almost every day I’ll see people coming down the street with towels over their shoulders and a bag in one hand with soap, shampoo and razors and they go down to the river and bathe in the cool water. Quite often I see women bringing down their dirty clothes to do their laundry in the river. Nobody thinks anything of it. Nobody moans and groans about it as far as I know. It’s just how life is here. People cope and get along with living.

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Pride of Chiriqui

Yesterday morning my next door neighbor, the one who has 30 (that’s right, count ‘em, THIRTY) fighting cocks, was out in his front yard letting some of his roosters have a sparring session.

There were three or four other men who were not from the neighborhood standing around watching. I ambled on over. I’ve had a bit of an interest in cockfighting since my paternal grandfather used to raise and fight the birds in and around Woburn, Mass. back at least into the early 1950s. It was, of course, highly illegal.

Anyway, I asked when he was going to fight them for real the next time and he said, “Tomorrow night at Las Brisas.” Las Brisas is a “Jardin (a combination bar and dance hall often with a cockfighting pit) in David, right on the bus route into the city. I said I’d really like to see him fight his birds but transportation was a problem since I don’t have a car. A young, solidly built young man in the crowd said, in English, “you really want to go?” I said I did and explained about my grandfather and his birds. “I’ll take you,” the young man said.

I stuck out my hand and introduced myself. “I’m Carlos,” he said. We talked for a little bit, me using a combination of English and Spanish since I honestly feel it’s impolite to speak to Panamanians in English and try my best to talk with them in Spanish. All of my neighbors only speak Spanish so I stretch myself all the time. But Carlos spoke to me only in English.

I asked where he learned his English. “In the States,” he said.

“Where in the States?”

“Philadelphia.”

“Really. What do you do there?” I asked.

“I play for the Phillies,” he said.

Now, I’m not a big baseball fan. Oh, I like it well enough but I don’t follow it and I think Ted Williams and Don Drysdale are the most recent players I could name. Back in the mid 70s when I spent two summers running a 300-passenger sightseeing boat in Chicago I lived just a few blocks from Wrigley Field and I’d go catch a couple of games. Not so much that I liked baseball, but it was a nice way to spend an afternoon. Those were the days before Wrigley put in lights so naturally all of the games were played during the day as God meant the game to be played, and it only cost $3 for a general-admission grandstand seat. I could sit in the shade and watch pretty girls walking around and people would bring beer, hotdogs and peanuts to my seat. Sometimes I’d even watch the action on the field.

So, being totally ignorant of who I was talking, to we watched the birds spar for a while and I wandered back to the house. “I’ll be here at seven tomorrow,” Carlos said, “if you want to go.”

“See you then,” I said.

Back home I went on line, checked out the Phillies roster and found out the young man’s name is Carlos Ruiz, and he’s quite a guy. He’s the team’s starting catcher.

(Photo from Wikipedia)

A champion, in fact since the Phillies won the World Series in 2008, and Carlos had a big hand in doing it.

In game three he hit his first post-season home run and then in the ninth he recorded a walk-off single, sending Eric Bruntlett home from third, becoming the fourth National League player to hit a bases-loaded walk-off hit in World Series history, the first to deliver a walk-off infield hit, and the first walk-off of any kind by a Phillies player in the World Series. ( A walk off is a hit that ends the game. It must be a hit that gives the home team the lead, and consequently, the win, in the bottom of the final inning of the game—either the ninth inning, or any extra inning, or any other regularly scheduled final inning. It is called a “walk-off” because both teams walk off the field immediately afterward, rather than finishing the inning.)

In 2007, Carlos had one of the highest fielding percentages in baseball among catchers with a .997, with only 2 errors in 744 chances. On June 26, 2007, Ruiz stole home on the front end of a double steal in an 11–4 home win over the Cincinnati Reds, becoming the first Phillie to steal home in 10 years and the first Phillies catcher to steal home in 25 years.

In 2010, he became the only player of Panamanian descent to catch a perfect game, and raised his season batting average to a career-best .302.

Ruiz caught Roy Halladay’s perfect game on May 29, 2010 against the Florida Marlins and Halladay’s no-hitter against the Reds in the first game of the National League Divisional Series on October 6, 2010. In so doing, he became the first man since the Chicago Cubs’ Randy Hundley in 1972, to catch two no-hitters during the same season and the first since Yogi Berra in 1951 to catch two no-hitters by the same pitcher during the same season On August 12, 2010, when the Phillies were down 9–2 going into the 8th inning, they scored 8 runs in the 8th inning. The following inning, the bottom of the 9th, the Phillies were tied and Ruiz hit a walk off double to win the game, 10–9.

In 2010, Carlos received the Pride of Philadelphia Award from the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.

In 2011, he was rated the most underrated catcher in baseball by Jason Stark of ESPN. One scout in the MLB quoted, “I think he’s the best catcher in the game – other than [Joe] Mauer, who’s on a different planet.”

Born here in David, Chiricanos are rightfully proud of their native son as should all Panamanians. I’m honored to be riding to the cockfights with him this evening.

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I Felt THAT One!

Panama sits on the eastern edge of the “Ring of Fire.”

The “Ring of Fire” has 452 volcanoes and is home to over 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes. Here in Chiriqui Province we sit in the shadow of Volcan Barú. One of the dormant ones. Shhhh. Don’t wake it up.

About 90% of the world’s earthquakes and 89% of the world’s largest earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire.

I’ve lived most of my life (so far) in the hurricane magnets of Cape Cod, southeast Florida and New Orleans. One of the few good things about hurricanes, besides providing shovel-ready jobs for construction workers in the areas they hit, is that you know about them days and sometimes weeks before they nail ya so you have a chance to run away and hide somewhere if you have any sense.

Earthquakes, on the other hand, just HAPPEN! No rhyme, reason or warning. BAM!

Since I’ve been living in Panama we’ve had several small quakes and they’ve all gone unnoticed by me. Well, I thought I’d felt one once a few months ago in Potrerillos Arriba, but there was no mention of it anywhere in the media.

This morning, around 2 a.m. (EST) as visions of sugar plums danced in my head the world started to tremble and shake. Dishes rattled in the cupboard and knives forks and spoons jingled in their holder. There was no doubt that THIS is what an earthquake feels like. It didn’t last all that long and if there were any after shocks I didn’t feel them and fell back to sleep almost immediately.

This morning I learned that we had a 5.0 quake with an epicenter according to the United States Geological Survey some 23 miles west of David. That’s about directly under my bed. In 2009 there was a 6.2 quake in this same area that, while not causing any injuries did result in some structural damage to buildings.

The cash cow of the country, the Panama Canal and Panama City itself, the home to slightly more than half of the country’s population isn’t immune from the threat of earthquakes. In fact, there are two fault lines in the area, one that transects the Canal itself. Quite a bit has been written about this and the impending quakes that must inevitably come.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19745-panama-canal-is-due-a-big-earthquake.html

http://news.discovery.com/earth/panama-canal-quakes.html

(Anita Carter was Johnny Cash’s sister-in-law)

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Down At The Depot

Some time ago I’d written a post describing an old Bert & I skit where a rugged Down-Easter had won a free trip to Boston for a week. When he returned and people asked him what Boston was like he said, “There was so much going on at the depot I didn’t get a chance to see the village.”

Well, the bus terminal here in David is sort of like that. I’ve alluded to it before in quite a few posts. It’s one of my favorite places in all of Panama, so I thought I’d give you more of an idea of what the place is like.

It takes up quite a bit of space…

If you’re heading to Panama City you go to this area…it’s in the upper right corner of the photo above…

You can see one of the modern double-deck, air conditioned buses waiting to load on the right. Buses leave almost every hour for Panama City and there is even an “express” bus that leaves late at night and knocks about an hour off the seven-hour trip. But I’ve never been tempted to take that one because you miss all the scenery along the way by doing that. The last time I took the bus to the city was to do the paper work necessary to get my driver’s license. The fare, one way, was $18 and change with the Jubilado discount.

There’s a hotel at the terminal but I can’t imagine what it must be like to stay there.

The terminal and the surrounding area is about more than just transportation. Across the street there are five stores selling all kinds of feed for animals as well as huge quantities of rice. The other day when I was down there, without my camera, of course, you could buy baby rabbits and quail. There are always young chicks for sale. They cost 50¢ each, or for a buck and a half you can get one of these…

Even in this day and age horses are a daily mode of transportation for many Panamanians…

And if you’re in need of a new saddle, well, just drop in at the terminal. I saw two different stores selling saddles there today and one in a store across the street.

Typical Ngöbe Indian dresses for little girls are available. Boys wear jeans and tee shirts…

More than a dozen people sell lottery tickets every day at the terminal. Panamanians LOVE to play the lottery and they go from one vendor to another looking for their special number. There are no “quick picks” here. If your number doesn’t come up you can use the pharmacy behind the vendor to buy something to calm your jangled nerves…

You can find out if you need to go to the pharmacy by having your blood pressure checked…

Not into pharmaceuticals? Well, an apple a day, they say…and grapes and strawberries are just nice to bring home with you for later…

Hungry? There are three fondas serving comida corriente, two cafeterias and a pizza place at the terminal…

After you’ve eaten your fill, if you’re a lady you can get your hair done at one of the three hair salons…

Or you guys can visit my barber and get a $2 cut…

There are also18 kiosks all selling approximately the same stuff…bottled water and soft drinks, bags of chips, empenadas, candy, ice cream, etc…

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Thinking of a move to Panama? Read This First

There is a feature for WordPress bloggers called “Tag Surfer.” It hones in on what other bloggers have written that you have expressed an interest in. Today I found a post by an unknown (there’s no”About” section attached to the blog so I don’t know who wrote it. It’s called:

http://livingtheamericandreamineurope.wordpress.com/

And the title of the post was: “So, You Want To Move To Europe? Part Two I have to admit I didn’t see Part One.

Anyway, the unknown author presented an article from Cracked.com and the post:

http://www.cracked.com/article_19363_6-reasons-your-plans-to-move-abroad-might-not-work-out.html

Now, Cracked.com is a humor site, but there’s a lot of truth in this post. Here are the six reasons given and I’ll add my own notes but you need to read the article for yourself if you’ve ever thought about moving to Panama or any other country that’s not your own…

#6. The People There Probably Don’t Want You

Personally I haven’t met anyone here in Panama like that, but I know they exist. My lawyer told me once that she has friends who don’t like gringos. Hey, I understand. I don’t like most of them either.That isn’t to say I don’t have some gringo friends here, but for the most part I avoid gringos. I went to the Tuesday Market in Boquete once and I shudder to think of ever having to go back again. I bought what I came to get and left as soon as possible. But then again, I do that with shopping in general. That may have something to do with sex. (No, not THAT kind of sex. Sex as in which one you were born into.) Most women go love to go “shopping.” That doesn’t mean they’re going to buy anything when they go, but that’s the term most women use. Men, on the other hand when they have something they want or need to get, they go to the store, find the item or items, pay for them and leave.

#5. Their Governments Don’t Want You, Either

Panama is a little bit different. They are actually trying to make it easy for people, retired people that is, to move to this small country where they will voluntarily spend their retirement income.

#4. Other Countries Treat Illegal Immigrants Worse Than America

Who knows about Panama? I do know, that despite having a Pensionado Visa, and am “legal,” I am perpetually a guest in this country and can be told to leave at any time for any reason or no reason at all. I hope I never have to find out how their extradition process works.

#3. What You Hate About America, You Find Everywhere

Now this is spot on. Don’t think moving somewhere else is going to change a lot of things. I never went to McDoo Doo’s in the States and I’m NOT going to go to one here. But I hate having to go all the way to Panama City for some tasty, spicy fried chicken. LOVE that chicken from Popeyes. Pio Pio just doesn’t cut it and KFC which is here in David, gets the same treatment as Mc Doo Doo’s. Didn’t eat it there won’t here, either. Same thing goes for Domino’s, Pizza Hut and TGIF,, all of which have a presence here in David.

#2. Adapting Will Be Harder Than You Can Imagine

I think this is something most new expats never really expect. Good old CULTURE SHOCK. It’s GOING to happen to you. There’s no way you can avoid it. You’re not in Kansas anymore. Again, personally, I haven’t been hit with culture shock here even though I’ve been “in country” for a year and a half. And I think I know why. About six months into my three year stay in France culture shock punched me in the gut. I wanted to leave. But I had a job that I said I’d do and I stuck it out. Things got better. Then, about six months after I got back to the States I experienced culture shock again. I wanted to go back to France so bad you can’t believe how much. But I didn’t have the money to do so, so I stuck it out and things got better, sort of. Now, I think having gone through two bouts of culture shock before I’ve simply learned to take things as they come. Things aren’t going they way you want them to? Well, TOUGH TITTY! That’s the way things are…DEAL WITH IT!

#1. You Will Likely Just Hang Out With Other Americans

This is definitely true for WAY TOO MANY GRINGOS who move here and settle around Boquete and Volcan. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that but it’s just not how I want to live here. Yes, as I said, I do have gringo friends here but, by and large, I avoid most gringos as if they had some kind of infectious disease. But that’s just me. Your mileage may differ.

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Tee Shirt Wisdom–Food For Thought

It’s strange where we pick up nuggets of wisdom and food for thought. Some people find them in Holy Scriptures like Ecclesiastes, and there’s some good stuff there. Sometimes we find those nuggets in secular books we read. I’ve found good mental nudges on bumper stickers, too, though the only thing that pops into my mind at the moment is “My kid can beat up your honor roll student!”

Today as I was riding down the hill to do some grocery shopping in David the young kid who is sort of the bus “conductor” was wearing a tee shirt with a phrase written in English. I wonder if he knew what it said or if he’d had someone interpret it for him. I’ve often wondered whether people in my travels know what it says on the clothes they wear. I remember once seeing a Mayan Indian woman in Fronteras, Guatemala, with a tee shirt that said “Sometimes I wake up grumpy and sometimes I let him sleep in.” I doubt if she had a clue.

Anyway, what this young man’s tee shirt said I liked so much that I dug out my shopping list and wrote the phrase on the back of the list. It read…

The Most Important Things In Life Aren’t Things

 

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Down At The Depot

Back in 1958 Marshall “Mike” Dodge and Bob Bryan recorded their first collection of “Bert and I” records. Sort of an early Down East version of Lake Wobegon immortalized by Garrison Keillor. Bert and I depicted Maine fishermen and woodsmen with dry, classic humor and spot-on Mainer accents.

One of the stories that always stuck with me was the one in which Bert won a raffle for an all-expense-paid week-long trip to Boston. When he returned everyone in town came to greet him and were hungry for details of his trip and the delights he had experienced in the big city. “Well,” he said, “there was so much going on at the depot I never did get to see the village.”

That story sprang to mind the first time I stepped off the bus at the bus terminal in David, Panama. If you want to get a true slice of Panamanian life there’s no better place than at the terminal. I just love it there and enjoy waiting for my bus to arrive to take me back up the hill. It’s a people-watcher’s paradise.

The terminal is filled with dozens of little kiosks where you can buy an eclectic assortment of snacks, ice cream and shoddy goods. There is a good sized cafeteria and a couple of small “fondas.” Street vendors walk up and down hawking belts and pirated audio CDs. Students in their pressed uniforms walk together in groups and the Ngobe Indian women and their children in their traditional mumus  add color to the parade. Over it all are the “puerteros,” young men who are sort of like conductors opening the bus doors and collecting the fares from the departing passengers, sing out the destinations of their bus routes which are plainly visible in huge lettering on the windshields of the buses.

I’ve never understood why some people say that the transportation system in Panama is so poor. I find it to be excellent. Buses run throughout the country. True, they aren’t all luxurious motor coaches and I’ve noticed that as you get away from the more metropolitan areas the buses get smaller and smaller. In my early explorations of the country I went from Panama City to Pedasí on four different kinds of bus. A large coach from PC to Santiago, then on a smaller Toyota seating about 30 people from there to Chitré. A slightly smaller Toyota from Chitré to Las Tablas and then a 12 seat rattle trap from there to Pedasí. And then there are the ubiquitous yellow taxis everywhere. Check them as they come out of the terminal exit and passing by on the street.

A word of advice…NEVER get in a cab until you have established how much it’s going to cost to get to your destination and if it sounds unreasonable to you move on. I’ve been quoted prices I KNOW aren’t right and I always ask, “and how much is it for a Panamanian?” before going elsewhere.

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