Tag Archives: Boqueron

Not Free, But Cheap Food

I recently wrote a post about how much free food was available here in Panama. Yesterday I went to a supermarket for groceries. Naturally that wasn’t free, but when I went to the bus stop to get back home there was a gentleman about my age who had set up a box on one of the two available seats. It was filled with avocados and pibas.

Now, you all know what avocados are, and there are several large avocado trees along my street. People come with long bamboo poles to knock them down.

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The old man was selling them for 50¢ each. Half of what they go for in the supermarkets. They were all rather soft and ready to eat so I bought one. It was scrumptious, too. Creamy and just right. You know how avocados are judged? You buy them in the market and wait for them to soften up. Each day you give them a little squeeze and goes like this: too hard, too hard, too hard, too hard, too late it’s rotten.

He also had a dozen bags of pibá (known in English as Peach Palm fruit.).

pibas

They are seasonal and people throughout Central and South America love these. In Costa Rica they’re called pejibaye. They’re chontaduro in Colombia and Ecuador, pijuayo in Peru, pijiguao in Venezuela, tembé in Bolivia. The Brazilians know them as pupunha and in Trinidad and Tobago they’re called peewah.

Whatever they’re called they’re about the size of a golf ball and just about as hard when they’re raw. They have to be boiled for hours in order to soften them up enough so you can eat them. Most often they are cooked in salted water over an open fire in a large pot known as a fogón. Cooked this way the fire imparts a smokey flavor to the nuts. Personally I like them. The flesh, even when cooked right, is rather tough but it reminds me a bit of the flavor of artichoke hearts.

What really surprised me was what a bag of them cost. Only 25¢ for a dozen. (Don’t count them in the picture. I ate two before taking the shot.) They were so cheap I wasn’t sure I understood what he’d said the first time and had him repeat it. Twenty five cents a dozen. And they’d already been cooked. As you roam around downtown David (Dah VEED) there are dozens of street venders selling produce and now they all seem to have little plastic bags of pibá .

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Boquerón Is Booming

I came to Boquerón back in November 2010. It was a sleepy little village of about 1,500 people. http://onemoregoodadventure.com/2010/10/18/a-quick-peek-at-boqueron/

Things have changed quite a bit since then and the place is booming with a lot of new construction. Within the last year the Banco Nacional has opened a branch up near the Town Hall, across from the park.

BANK 2

A whole new housing development has been created called Brisas de Boquerón (Boquerón Breezes). And going up the hill towards home I see new construction sites every week.

brisas de boqueron

And right here in my little neighborhood there’s building going on next door. One house has been built already, and last week another one was started.

Construction

There are no new bars or restaurants, though. But yesterday walking down from the Post Office I noticed one house’s patio was filled with clothing and a hand made sign that said, Ropa Americana (American Clothes). Now, I often see comments on stories that say ALL of the western hemisphere is “America,” not just the United States. Technically that’s true, but you know that Ropa Americana refers to the USA, and NOT Honduras or Paraguay. And while I didn’t stop and check, I’d be willing to be that those “American Clothes” have labels saying they were made in China, Bangladesh or Viet Nam.

There’s no stopping progress. There was a sign across from the bank spelling out some of the public works projects that will be taking place here in the near future, one of which is repaving the road from El Cruce to the Town Hall. Boquerón is booming.

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Food For The Taking

Half of the entire population of the Republic of Panama live in the capitol. The rest of the country is pretty much rural. Even here in Chiriquí with the country’s third largest city (David) things are different than they are in most of the U.S. There’s free food for the taking almost everywhere.

As I’ve said before, while the official National Bird is the harpy eagle, the defacto national bird is the common chicken. They roam free all over the place. I even see them within the city limits of David. Unlike Mexico, Italy, France and other countries there really isn’t anything like a national cuisine here. The closest you could come to a national dish it would be sancocho. Basically that’s chicken soup with ñame and yucca, two root veggies, and seasoned with cilantro.

Sitting on my front porch I can see several different food sources and while some of them are on people’s property, others are kind of free for the taking. Like avocados. It seems that many people here have long, long poles, usually made of bamboo, that they use to knock down the fruits they couldn’t normally reach.

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He’s after avocados.

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Next door the neighbors have a lot of plantains…

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And papaya…

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There are also two HUGE mango trees and they’re LOADED and should be ripe and ready to go in a couple of weeks. There is an extremely bountiful lime tree in my back yard and orange and grapefruit trees are all over the place.

One thing’s for sure. The people around here will never starve.

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La Ley Seca

Tomorrow, Sunday, May 4th, is Panama’s election day. They only do it every five years. And it’s for every office from President down to Mayor. All over the country. Voting isn’t supposed to be optional. In theory it’s mandatory that everyone of legal age goes to the polls. Of course there will always be scofflaws who won’t go.

In Panama there are three major parties. The newest is the Cambio Democrático, with 36 members in the National Assembly. The current president, Ricardo Martinelli, owner of the huge supermarket chain, Super 99, is the leader of that party. He can not run for a second term for 10 years.

The second largest party, though its membership has fallen off in the past five years is the Partido Revolucionario Democrático with 17 members in the Assembly. This is followed by the Partido Panameñista with 13 members.

The Movimiento Liberal Republicano Nacionalista has 4 in the Assembly but they support the CD candidate for President. And then there’s the Partido Popular which isn’t all that popular since it only has a single member in the Assembly.

Like in the States it’s sort of a circus, but a little livelier. People fly the flags of their favorite party at their houses, they adorn their cars, and even their motorcycles, with the same flags as well as plaster them with huge ads like you’d see on buses back in the States.

Pickup trucks with loudspeakers mounted on their roofs roam the streets blaring out the virtues of their candidates. It seems that there’s a campaign poster on nearly every telephone pole, often with the competing parties on the same one. It doesn’t seem like they tear down each other’s posters, and each party has to put up money in order to post this stuff so that workers will be paid to take it all down after the election. On the InterAmerican Hwy., on the way into David (Dah VEED) there is a long structure for 11 billboard-sized posters in one place. Right now, 9 of them are political posters. One spot is empty and the other is an advertisement for a hardware company.

Groups from each party wander through the neighborhoods, stopping at each house, to talk up their candidates. I became pretty adept at saying, “Soy extranjero. No puedo participar en su proceso electoral, pero, buena suerte.” (I’m a foreigner. I can’t participate in your electoral process, but, good luck.)

There are outdoor rallies where stuff is given away, the most frequent and most visible are baseball caps and tee shirts. I saw one of my neighbors who I know is a big Cambio supporter by the huge party flag flying at his house wearing a new baseball cap touting Juan Carlos Navarro, the PRD candidate for president, and a Juan Carlos Varela, the Panameñista choice, tee shirt. When I commented on the mixed message he smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said the Spanish equivalent of, “Hey, free stuff.”

In a comment on a local forum one member said that his Ngobe worker was given 6 chicks as an incentive to vote for someone running for office in Chiriqui.  And a promise of 6 more this week. That’s better than the empty promise of a “chicken in every pot.

Needless to say, but I will anyway, the airways are flooded with campaign ads.

I recently read some stories in a newspaper at a restaurant where I was having lunch, that the Panameñista candidate, Varela, has accepted over $1.5 million dollars over several years from an international Internet gambling ring laundering money in the States, and he also was given a Bertram yacht valued at another two million.  The story, originally run by Miami-based Diario Las Americas was accompanied with photo copies of checks made out to Varela and documents from Bertram.

When I mentioned the story to a Panamanian friend the other day she said, “Oh, Varela was on television last night and explained it all.” I missed that.

They take their politics seriously here in Panama, and one thing they do is invoke La Ley Seca. The Dry Law. Voting day is tomorrow, Sunday, and starting at noon today, there will be no alcohol sales anywhere in the country until noon on Monday. There are signs wherever alcohol is sold advertising that fact. The only exception is sales to foreigners at the hotels where they are staying if they have proof that they aren’t  Panamanian citizens.

 

 

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Grip Broken

It seems as if the grip that the ‘dry season’ has had on the country over the past several months has been broken. At least here in Chiriquí Province. We have had rain every afternoon this week, and it started today about an hour ago, 3:00 EST, and is still coming down in buckets. It will probably continue for another hour.

One thing we like about this kind of weather is that it moderates the heat. Shortly after it started raining the temperature dropped seven or eight degrees almost immediately. Now it’s to the point where I’ve had to put on a tee shirt to be comfortable. Most of the time I run around the house in a pair of shorts and flip flops. There have been times where its chilled off so much that I’ve had to put on a pair of jeans and socks to ward off the chill.

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Root, Root, Root For The Home Team

I am one of those people who always roots for the ‘home team’ wherever I happen to be living.

Growing up on Cape Cod it was, naturally, the Red Sox in baseball. When I was in the eighth grade I won a pair of tickets to a Sox game. My buddy Harry Bennett and I were put on the train in Hyannis for the ride up to Boston’s South Station by my mom with written instructions on how to get to Fenway Park and the oral admonition that when ordering lunch that Salisbury Steak was really just hamburger. The Red Sox ended up losing both games of a double header to the Orioles.

Through high school our DeMolay group would take the, then, three hour car ride up to Boston and visit the ‘Garden’ to see the Bruins play.

I never got into basketball very much, but I kinda followed the Celtics. After all, they were sort of the Yankees of their sport winning championship after championship and, at that time they had players like Bob Cousy and Bill Russell.

When Boston got an NFL team and I started cheering for the ‘BOSTON Patriots.’ Actually it was the old AFL then. When I moved to Miami I was torn. Of course the Dolphins were now the ‘home team’ and I pulled for them to win but was conflicted when they had to play the Patriots twice each year since they were in the same division. Eventually I sided with the Dolphins through it all, and when the two teams met I could live with whichever team came out on top.

I absolutely HATE IT when those sick bastards who moved down to south Florida from New York go to Joe Robbie Stadium and cheer for the stinking Jets. They shouldn’t even be allowed out of their homes during Dolphins/Jets games if they aren’t going to root for the Fins.

I lived, off and on, for five years in Chicago. Two years full-time and then just in the summers for three. I always rooted for the Bears, of course, but I never could work up any enthusiasm for the Bulls. Basketball, no matter where I am just doesn’t do it for me.

All the time that I lived in Chicago I wasn’t too far from Wrigley Field so, by default, the Cubs were my home team over the White Sox on the south side of the city. Though baseball is not ‘my sport’ I did go to several Cubs games during the summers of ‘75 and ‘76. Back then Wrigley was the lone hold out for installing lights and their games were played in the afternoons the way God intended it to be played. I’d usually twist up a couple of ‘fatties,’ and puff one before setting out. You could get a seat in the grandstands then for $2.00 and sit in the shade, watch the game, the pretty girls, and as the munchies set in people would bring you food and beer. My ‘seventh inning stretch’ was usually finding a spot away from everyone else and firing off the other doobie.

While I’m not what you’d call a ‘rabid’ fan I do like watching American football. Not soccer. That’s the sort of akin to watching paint dry. Wait a minute! Watching paint dry is MUCH MORE EXCITING than soccer. Anyway, I know the highs and lows of watching and cheering for a favorite team. I happened to be living in Fort Lauderdale when the Dolphins had their miraculous undefeated (17-0) season in 1972, led by Earl Morrell after Bob Greise broke his ankle in the third game against San Diego. (Earl died Friday, May 25th, at age 79.)

And I know the downside, too. I was living in New Orleans in 1980. The year the Saints became the ‘Aint’s’ losing 14 straight and fans sat in the Super Dome with paper bags over their heads. They only won a single game that year. Then the team acquired Kenny Stabler to replace the long-suffering Archie Manning. You’d have thought the heavens had opened up and that Jesus Christ, himself, had descended to lead the team to fame and glory. But Kenny was long past his prime and played on shaky knees so the humiliation continued.

I saw a lot of games in the Dome in the early ‘80s. Back then I was captain of the ‘Lady Ann,’ a yacht owned by New Orleans Tours.

Lady Ann-Hatteras 58

We used to do cocktail and dinner charters on Lake Pontchartrain. New Orleans Tours also had the contract to meet all the visiting NFL teams at the airport, take them to their hotel and then to the Dome for the games. The bus drivers were allowed into the games for free and were allowed to watch from the ‘wheelchair’ section which was actually on the 40-yard line and nestled among the $40 seats.

Well, it didn’t take long to figure out how to scam the system. I’d put on my work shirt that had ‘New Orleans Tours’ embroidered on it, take off the captain’s epaulettes and buy the cheapest ticket there was, $15, up in the ‘nosebleed’ area of the Dome. Then, once inside, I’d go to the wheelchair section, tell the guy with the clipboard guarding the entrance that I was with New Orleans Tours and point to my chest and be admitted. Then I’d find someone who was actually IN a wheelchair, introduce myself and tell them that if he wanted anything during the game I’d get it for him. Now, if asked what I was doing there, I’d just say ‘I’m helping him.’ Those were the good old days. Like everyone else who ever rooted for the Saints, their Super Bowl victory was sweet indeed.

I need to back up, here, and get back into baseball. Back in ‘96 or ‘97 my buddy, Soby, the dock master where I lived on my boat at Marina Bay, asked if I’d like to go see a Marlins game. His girlfriend had season tickets. I said, ‘sure, I’ve always wanted to see what Joe Robbie Stadium was like on the inside.’ (Sidebar: Joe Robbie owned the Dolphins and he built that stadium with his OWN MONEY. No scamming taxpayers to pay for it as everyone is doing these days. When Wayne Huizenga bought the team, and the stadium, he sold ‘naming rights’ to the place and it has carried half a dozen different names since then. But to thousands of us, no matter what the sportscasters call it, the place will ALWAYS BE Joe Robbie stadium, and when it’s finally torn down we’ll point and say ‘that’s where Joe Robbie Stadium used to be.’)

I hadn’t been to a baseball game in over 20 years before Soby, his girlfriend and I went and sat through, no lie, the longest game ever played in the history of the National League without going in to extra innings. Five plus hours of batters racking up 3-2 counts to where you wanted to scream ‘Swing at it, you jerk.’ Both teams went through their entire pitching rotations and the Marlins ended up blowing a three run lead to eventually lose by three or four runs. I tell you, if I’d had my own car with me I would have left after the third inning. But the stadium WAS real nice.

Baseball is a big deal down here in Panama. They show major league games from the States several times a week on the T.V. and all the team scores and standings are in the newspapers. Carlos Ruiz, the starting catcher for the Phillies is from right here in David (pronounced Dah VEED) and his mother lives on my street on the other side of the Boqueron road and one of his cousins is my next door neighbor. I met Carlos over there a couple of years ago.

http://onemoregoodadventure.com/2011/12/03/pride-of-chiriqui/

Panama has sent a bunch of players to fame and glory in the States. There’s Carlos Ruiz, as I mentioned. He has a World Series ring and was in the All Star game two years ago (injured last year). Mariano Rivera just retired from the Yankees and is destined for Cooperstown. He was a reliever. Thirteen All Star appearances, five World Series rings. He is MLB’s career leader in saves (652) and games finished (952). There was Rod Carew, a former Major League Baseball (MLB) first baseman, second baseman and coach. He played from 1967 to 1985 for the Minnesota Twins and the California Angels and was elected to the All-Star game every season except his last. While Carew was never a home run threat (only 92 of his 3,053 hits were home runs), he made a career out of being a consistent contact hitter. He threw right-handed and batted left-handed. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame. Carew served as an MLB coach for several years after retiring as a player. The Panama Metro field is named for him.

Each of the provinces here has their own baseball team. Probably equivalent to minor league teams in the States as far as skill is concerned. The games are broadcast on T.V., in Spanish, of course, but you soon learn that the outfield is ‘el jardin’, the ‘garden. The infield is the ‘cuadro interior’ the ‘inside quarter.’ The pitcher is ‘el lancedor’ and you can think of it this way…a lance is thrown. My favorite, though, is the catcher. In Spanish he is the ‘receptor.’ The basemen are known as ‘defenders of the respective ‘sacos.’ Primero, segundo, trecero. The lancedor throws ‘stikes’ and ‘bolas.’ Three ‘outs’ constitute an ‘episodio.’ Other tough terms to understand are ‘foul bol,’ ‘home plate,’ ‘home run,’ and sometimes a batter hits into a ‘doble play,’ or a sacrificio.’

Baseball season here is held during the ‘dry season’ where there’s less chance that games will get rained out. Right now they are playing the Republic’s version of the World Series. Defending champs, Chiriquí, my home team since I live in Chiriquí Province, are battling the 2012 champs, Bocas del Toro. Instead of playing at each teams home field the games are being played at Rod Carew Stadium in Panama City since it’s the largest in the country.

Last night Chiriquí won a squeaker with a walk-off double in the ninth to win the game 2-0 and now leads the best-of-seven series two games to one.

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Dog Day Afternoon

Does it get any better than lying in the dirt at the foot of your favorite tree on a hot afternoon?

dog day

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More Than A 60¢ Fare

I’ve often written about how I’ve been accepted here as an integral part of my neighborhood even though I’m an expat. Today was proof that I’m an accepted part of the community of Boquerón as a whole.

I do most of my grocery shopping at a supermarket called Romero in the San Mateo section of David.

bus route

Let me try and explain this map so you’ll see what I mean about today’s tale. When I go shopping I get let off at Bus Stop 1. At “La Bomba” the gas station. I then walk across the street and into the market.

When I’m through shopping I could wait for the bus at Bus Stop 2 and catch the bus back home there. It’s heading in the right direction. (It will make a right turn down there at the corner) But at this time of the year I usually don’t do that, for a very simple reason. School is in session, by the time the bus reaches Stop 2 it’s filled to capacity with students and I’d have to stand up the 20 kilometers or so to Boquerón. Naturally I don’t want to do that.

Instead I haul my groceries across the street back to Stop 1 and then, for 35¢ I take whatever bus comes along to the terminal. I never have to wait longer than 5 minutes for a bus to come by. Down at the terminal, my favorite place in Panama for people-watching, I’ll often get a cup of chocolate ice cream or a cold soda until my bus comes into its terminal slot. Now, I get on, usually in the seat opposite the door, slide my groceries under the seat ahead of me, plug my head phones into the latest book I’m listening to from Audible.com and I don’t have to worry about having to stand up.

Today, though, as I was standing at the corner waiting for traffic to pass so I could  cross the street to Stop 1, along came the Boquerón bus. I was a block away from the bus stop, but the driver recognized me, knew where I was ultimately headed and pulled over and picked me up. There were only three seats available on the bus, but at least I wasn’t going to have to stand.

Now you have to realize, he could have kept right on going past me. I hadn’t signaled to him and when it’s all said and done I’m only a 60¢ fare. But that’s not how it is down here. I live in Boquerón, I’m part of the community just like the driver is, and there is a respect here in Panama for older folks that’s lacking back in the States. It might have been like that once, there, but it sure isn’t any more. And can you imagine any bus driver up there stopping at a place that’s not a designated bus stop?

No, things are different here in Panama, and I absolutely LOVE IT HERE!

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San Andres/Dominical Bus Ride

Yesterday, April Fool’s Day, I did another of my ‘let’s see where this one goes’ bus rides. Turns out I wasn’t a fool at all.

Regular readers know I occasionally get on a bus just to see where it goes. It’s a great way to see the countryside, it’s inexpensive, and sometimes you meet some interesting people along the way. Of the buses that pass El Cruce at the foot of the Boquerón Road headed west towards the Costa Rican border, I’ve ridden the Armuelles bus that ends up at the Pacific Ocean, the Porton Bus (there isn’t any Porton. It isn’t even as grand as Boquerón which is nothing.), the Cerro Punta bus up into the bread basket of Panama and the Rio Serrano bus WAY up in the mountains and is a border crossing town into Costa Rica. The remaining two, Divala and San Andres was cut in half when I boarded the San Andres bus yesterday.

dominical

Canoas is the main border crossing into Costa Rica. The main sign on the buses say ‘San Andres’ and then in smaller letters it says Dominical. That’s the end of the route. San Andres, what there is of it, is about 2/3rds of the way between Canoas and Dominical.

Since I stopped smoking over three months ago I haven’t been over to Bugaba/Concepcion in the last couple of months. I was surprised to see that the little layover bus stop for the Cerro Puna and Serrano buses has been torn down and something, who knows what, is going to be built in its place.

I’ve only been west of Bugaba a few times, so the scenery is new and interesting, and of course, when we made the right-hand turn off the InterAmericana it was ALL new.

The bus was fairly full when it pulled away from El Cruce, swapped a few people out in Bugaba and now, as we proceeded into the countryside more and more people left. The houses, quite close together and very similar to middle class houses in the south Florida style became further and further apart with small farms between. At first most of the crops were corn and then what looked like trellised fields of pole beans, but were actually fields of Ñame (nyah may), a tuber-type vegetable much valued here. I wouldn’t have known what these were if it wasn’t for the fact that my neighbors grow the stuff. As the housing thinned out there were fields of yucca. plantains and papaya. Every so often there were small, lean to-like structures with tobacco hanging to dry and sometimes you could spot small fields with red and yellow peppers growing. Here and there we came across shady stands of bamboo and every once in a while small, modest houses built from bamboo.

We passed half a dozen elementary schools and finally came to what I assume was the center of San Andres. The only clue that it might actually have been the town was that, the houses were grouped close together and there were three fairly large ‘super mini’ markets and two or three fondas (small, informal restaurants).

By this time three quarters of the original passengers had left the bus. The young man at the door who takes the fares (you pay based on how far you’ve ridden) looked at me quizzically and asked where I was going. I explained, in my butchered Spanish, that I lived in Boquerón, didn’t have a car and liked to take the buses just to see where they go and see what the countryside is like. This, then, got me into a discussion with three Panamanian gentlemen about my age at the back of the bus. I went back and chatted with them for a while. They were interested in where I came from and what I was doing in Panama. It was an interrogation of interest, not aggression and as it turned out I was the first foreigner they’d ever spoken with in their lives. One by one they arrived at their destinations and departed with a handshake and a smile.

By now we were out of what could be considered San Andres and well into the mountains. This Google Earth photo gives you an idea of what the topography of the area is like.

2200 FEET AT Dominical

The vistas are breathtaking and their grandeur simply can’t be captured in the two-dimensional medium of a camera. The following photos were all taken quickly out of the window of the moving bus.

The road, as we ascended, got narrower and rougher. We crossed probably a dozen rickety, scary bridges. Simple iron structures long in need of a coat of paint and the surface simply sheets of iron.

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If you look closely you can see in the upper part of the photo, just left of center, the road we’ve just come up on…

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Around noon I was the only passenger on the bus. The young man at the door got off and the bus took off again and stopped about five minutes later on the side of the road. The driver asked me if I had any specific place in mind I wanted to go, and I explained again how I liked to ride the buses to see ‘el campo.’ I noticed, in the seat opposite the driver, there was a young boy, perhaps four or five years old, sound asleep. It was the driver’s son. It was the driver’s lunch time and he brought out a Tupperware kind of container with rice, beans, plantain and a small piece of some kind of meat. He handed me a local newspaper, La Critica, and I retired to my seat where I learned a new Spanish word…Wao that translates to Wow in English.

After a half hour the driver turned the bus around, we picked up the doorman and proceeded on our way. A short while later the driver stopped and took the young boy on his shoulders and took him to what was apparently their house.

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As we went on our way the road turned from blacktop to dirt and we left a trail of thick dust behind us. We stopped and picked up two passengers. A young man in his early 20s and an old Indian man well into, I’d guess, his 80s though it’s hard to say. They were loaded down with plastic grocery bags and after about a mile they were let of at a crossroad. There were no houses to be seen and it didn’t look as if any money changed hands. It doesn’t surprise me. Way up there in the mountains it was like one neighbor helping another.

Way up here, along the dirt road the houses were fairly basic shelters with wide, thick plank siding and gaps of probably an inch or more between them.

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And then, out in the middle of nowhere you’d see something like this and ask, ‘yeah, but why would you build that here?’

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Eventually, of course, the road turned from gravel to macadam and we started to pick up passengers, including a group of five, giggling, frolicking first grade schoolgirls who were enjoying themselves to the utmost. A few passengers got off in Bugaba, others got on to fill every seat by the time we got back to El Cruce nearly six hours after I got on in the morning. Total cost: $6.00 and worth every penny. Time and money well spent.

 

 

 

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Weird Day

What a strange day. It’s like something happened overnight that I wasn’t aware of. Moved into some kind of parallel universe, sort of. I mean Where IS everybody? I needed to go into David to do my pre-weekend shopping. Usually I have to stop a couple of times in the 150 yard hike out to the bus stop, but not this morning. Nobody home.

It was a short wait at the bus stop. One came by at 9:15. Now lots of times the nine o’clock buses are lleno (full) packed and will just pass by because there isn’t even standing room. I’ve had to pass up as many as three buses because they were ‘como latas de sardinas’ (like cans of sardines. Isn’t my Spanish getting better?). But this time there were only four people on a 36-passenger bus and only one young Indian girl and her baby got on before we got to the InterAmericana, three kilometers down the hill.

There was a net gain of two riders between ‘El Cruce’ (where the Boquerón road crosses the InterAmericana) and the 20 kilometers of so to President Martinelli’s Supper 99 supermarket which is the outer edge of what one would consider downtown David. From there to the terminal I was the ONLY passenger and the driver took side roads the buses never travel on which was cool because I got to see new things.

At the terminal I always hop on the Dolega bus since they depart every 10 minutes and pass by Plaza Terronal where the El Rey supermarket that I wanted to shop at is located. This is a very popular bus because people who work at Conway (Panama’s Target) Panafoto (think Best Buy) and other stores at Terronal use this bus and it’s general standing room only. Today it wasn’t even half full when it left the terminal.

The REAL Twilight Zone, however, was El Rey. Those of you familiar with Florida, El Rey is a Panamanian version of Publix. My footsteps nearly echoed off the walls. I’ve never seen it so empty. I asked the cashier if it was a holiday or something since it seemed as if the entire province hadn’t checked in at dawn. She just shrugged. ‘Es temprano,’ (it’s early) she said.

The normal hustle and bustle of the terminal at 11;30 a.m. was subdued. The Boquerón bus was in its slot and I was on my way home after a 15 minute wait with the bus less than half full. I haven’t the slightest idea what’s going on. I think I’ll take a nap and hope everything returns to normal when I wake up.

 

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