A Stroll Around Dolega, Panama

In a little more than two months I will have to leave this delightful location in Potrerillos Arriba.

The owners will be back and I have started to consider where to go next. I may try to find another house sitting gig but I might also just start renting somewhere. My original plan on moving to Panama was to build a houseboat and settle down in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. That’s still a possibility but that dream, for many reasons, is starting to fade.

I know I don’t want to move to Panama City. If I wanted to live somewhere with high rise buildings surrounded by people speaking Spanish I would have just stayed in southeast Florida. I sometimes think of trying one of the beach communities on the Pacific Ocean an hour or two west of Panama City.

But, quite frankly, I really like it here in Chiriqui province. I like the city of David. It has pretty much everything you could want in the commercial sense: banks, shopping, good transportation and, probably, the best hospitals outside of the capitol. Growing older and carrying around three stents that’s an unfortunate but important consideration.

One of the few advantages of living in Potrerillos Arriba is the climate. At 2,600 feet it’s constantly Spring time. Right now, at 9:00 a.m. it’s 76F. In Fort Lauderdale it’s 82 and predicted to top out in the low 90s whereas we’re predicted to hit a hair above 78. Down in David, though, you get the hot and sultry temperatures one would expect situated only a little more than eight degrees north of the equator. It’s 80 there now and expected to hit a heat-indexed high of nearly 90 degrees.

I am lucky to have had the opportunity to live here just as I had the good fortune to live on the French Riviera. But Potrerillos Arriba is a bit too isolated for me to want to stay. There’s not much to do here so I’m going to move. I DON’T want to go to Boquete which so many publications lately have been touting as one of the best places to retire in the world. I don’t want to move there precisely for that reason. I have an aversion to such hyped up places. I also don’t want to move down into David itself. It’s not the heat and humidity. I can deal with that having lived in Fort Lauderdale for the previous 17 years. One of the big downsides of David is they often have a real problem with water. Last week, for instance, more than half the city didn’t have any for several days which is a sad state of affairs for a city with a population of about 150,000. It seems that all the rain we’ve been having up here along with the collapse of a dam being built for hydroelectric production below the town of Dolega caused silting problems at the water plant which was shut down and the spare parts needed to repair it had to come from Germany. Not a good situation.

I’ve been thinking about the possibility of trying to find a place to rent in Dolega, which is about half way between where I am now and David.

It’s certainly not a major metropolitan area but it has a bit more to offer than Potrerillos. First of all, transportation is better which is a major concern for someone without a car. Up here a bus comes by about once an hour. I just missed one last week meaning I had to wait another hour. Fortunately I always bring my iPod along with me so I spent it sitting in the sun listening to a book I’d downloaded from Audible.com. In Dolega buses leave from the terminal about every ten minutes making getting back and forth much more convenient. There are several small grocery stores in the town as well as several hardware stores and at least three internet cafes.

Yesterday I took a stroll around Dolega and this is how it looked to me.

Off of the main road that leads down to David there is often a rural feeling.

Most of the houses are middle-class and would fit right in to many southeast Florida communities.

While there are McMansions to be found on the road up to Potrerillos Arriba and around Boguete, there are houses in Dolega that seem to subscribe to the tiny house philosophy taking root in the States.

Many houses here in Panama, especially those owned by the less affluent, not only are small in size but it’s common to only paint the side of the house facing the road.

And most people in Dolega still dry their laundry the old fashioned way.

It’s common for people to keep chickens around their homes. When I have my morning cup of coffee as the sun comes up I hear roosters crowing from all points of the compass.

The majority of houses here in Panama are built with concrete block since termites are a huge problem and wood houses are nothing more than food. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

This one seems to have been abandoned quite some time ago.

Because it’s only 900 feet above sea level Dolega is noticeably hotter than Potrerillos Arriba. Much more like David, but scattered around town are tiendas where you can stop and get a cold soft drink or a beer to go.

There were also shaded places alongside streams flowing through the town offering a nice respite from the heat.

Some have benches beside the water; a good place to sit and contemplate how wonderful life can be.

If you’re looking for something more active, Dolega features a very nice baseball stadium.

Baseball is extremely popular in Panama as it is wherever Americans have been an influential part of a country’s life: Japan, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and here. There are several players from Panama playing in  major league teams in the U.S, Carlos Ruiz plays for the Phillies, Manano Rivera wears Yankee pinstripes, and Carlos Lee for the Astros just to name three. The big newspapers in Panama carry MLB stories, scores and standings and cities throughout the Republic have stadiums and very good teams. Panama’s own version of the World Series is as closely followed as any World Cup Soccer matches. This year the Panama City Metros whipped Bocas del Toro in four games.

There was a Little League game going on when I stopped by the stadium. The little guy at bat is the catcher for his team and made a world-class catch of a foul ball while on his back a few minutes earlier to end the inning. I wish I’d gotten a picture of that. Good stance, no?

Naturally, soccer is HUGE here. The reason it’s so popular around the world is that there really is only ONE piece of equipment needed…a ball. Lots of things can delineate the goal: a pair of rocks, a couple of wadded up tee shirts, whatever the mind can imagine. I’ve seen a lot of small courts around for pick-up soccer games like this one. And if they get tired of kicking the ball they can throw it through the hoops.

This play area is at the bottom end of a nice park with benches around the edge. There were several groups of older men gathered to solve the world’s problems in case the church at the other end of the park isn’t able to.

As I was heading back to the bus stop several of the men on the benches moved along with me and headed to the jardin as I did for a cold sixty cent bottle of Panama beer.

Though you can’t really tell what it is in this picture, just behind the car there is an arena for cock fighting. I asked one of the men at the bar when the fights were held and there was one last night. I seems they are a weekly occurrence here.

I finished my beer and then sat across from this bus stop to wait for my ride back home.

Avicola Athenas is a huge agricultural corporation that supplies much of the province’s poultry and beef. Their main headquarters is about two kilometers below me. There’s a very small market there with excellent prices for, surprise, chicken. On the outside wall of their restaurant for the workers is a sign stating that a blending of capitalism and socialism is the best combination for peace and prosperity.

Most of the bus shelters in the area are “sponsored” by one or another corporate entity such as Avicola, Citrico and large citrus grower or one or another of the cell phone providers like Digicel.

I quite like Dolega and in the next few weeks will be seeing what might be available to rent come November.


Filed under Living Abroad, panama, Retirement Abroad

5 responses to “A Stroll Around Dolega, Panama

  1. Very nice tour of Dolega. It is a great town for walking around, and I see its appeal for you. Good luck finding something there – I imagine that you will!

    Thanks for the compliment. Of course when I got back and started writing this I thought of all the pictures I SHOULD have taken, too.

  2. Hi Richard:

    Good luck with your home search in Dolega. It’s been years since I was there. From your description, it seems like a nice rural area to live. In Panama City, we still dry our clothes hanging it out in the sun. No need to spend on electricity and no air pollution as well.

    I enjoyed your post.


    I don’t know how easy it’s going to be trying to find something to rent in Dolega since it’s a rather small place and who knows what might be available.

    Going to bed on freshly-washed sheets and pillow cases dried in the open air is one of life’s little pleasures. What a great smell. Right up there with fresh-mowed grass, just ground coffee beans, and that brief, ethereal smell you capture for a few seconds when rain falls on broiling hot pavement.

  3. So much appeal in Dolega! It occurs to me that some of those little grace notes – the sun-dried linens, the rooster crow – are denied to us because of (ahem) homeowner’s associations meant to keep things… tidy. Somehow it just strikes me funny to be living in the “freest country in the world” but not be able to dry my clothes outdoors.

    This is such a rich post – so a few assorted comments. Carlos Lee is one of this nicest guys in the world. I’m no follower of baseball, but you do hear about the hometown guys, and he seems one of the best. And we’re all transfixed by Little League right now – our local team (Pearland) is in the LL world series. (And up 2-0 last I heard)

    All three of your photos of the water are beautiful. I love the sound of streams. Lakes are fine, but I like my water with some movement. I suppose if I saw the Great Lakes I’d think “movement”, as I do with the ocean, too. But there’s nothing like a shady stream.

    Wish I had one right now. 98 degrees, 78% humidity and a heat index of 116. Which is why I’m here, and not out there. 😉

    I lived in Chicago and spent three years working on Lake Michigan. There’s an old song that says: “Lake Michigan Ain’t No River.” It really does have ocean-like qualities. For one thing, you can’t see the other side. It’s over 300 miles long and 125 miles wide at its widest. Back in ’74 I took a 42′ Hatteras Tri-cabin from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale and went the lengths of Michigan, Huron and Erie. Up in the Mackinac straits where Michigan and Huron join has spectacular scenery.

    Dolega’s a small place. I hope I can find something to rent there. I really like it there. Rural but easy access to David.

  4. I laughed a lot at your easy humor!!! I, too, am looking for a place to rent in November! I am in Volcan right now. Seems like the workers putting in new hydro-electric plants have filled a lot of the rentals here.

    Pretty chilly and rainy here, also, and I’ve heard, very windy for a few months.

    Until you mentioned it I hadn’t thought about the workers on the hydro plants and the impact they might be having on the housing markets. But you’re probably on to something there. There’s a project going on just below Dolega right now, PLUS the widening of the road from David to Boquete. It would be a stretch to believe all the people doing the work are locals, and the populations of towns like Dolega and Boqueron are around 2,000 or less and there isn’t a glut of available housing on the market to begin with. Good luck in your search.

  5. David

    I lived in David 30 years ago. I spent some great time in Boquete and Poterillos. Boqeute was beautiful and just had a small hotel run by an American and swiss if I recall. I can’t remember the names. I also went secas in a sailboat. Nice memories

    Boquete is also known as “Gringolandia” now. Place is overrun by ugly Americans who construct walled communities and expect the locals to learn English so they don’t have to learn Spanish. In the last year I’ve been over there twice, which, I hate to say it, was once more than necessary. They’re now in the process of four-laneing the highway up there. So far Potrerillos is pretty much untouched though more and more gringos are creeping in. My money says in 10 years it will be like Boquete.

    I really like Dolega and I loved Boqueron and when the owners of the house I’m sitting at I’m going to try and find a place back there. David is growing. It’s the thirds biggest city in Panama and just got their THIRD stop light a couple of months ago.

    I’ve been here just over a year, now, and I’m enjoying it immensely. Learning the language keeps the brain cells active and being able to communicate with the natives, hopefully, leaves a good feeling towards gringos to offset those in Boquete.