Monthly Archives: November 2011

Rolling On The River

You can always tell when it’s been raining up in the mountains by what’s happening in the little river beside the house. This morning it was, for this time of year, a mere trickle. In the middle of the afternoon you could hear the sound level rise and a glance out the kitchen window confirmed that the river had risen considerably though no rain had fallen here yet. By late afternoon we were getting a decent soaking and three teens came down with inner tubes.

“Why don’t you go up higher?” I said in my broken Spanish. “You’ll get a longer and faster ride. They agreed. It took them a while to make their way up stream a few hundred yards and then you could hear them yelling with delight.

I didn’t see them after that. Who knows? The could have gone all the way down to the Pacific Ocean.

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Mi Libro en Español

Last night the English Department of the Universidad Latina in David held an event to honor the authors who wrote the books that students translated as a requisite for graduation. I was one of the authors. Before the event Stephany Michell Peñaloza, who translated the first half of my book Despair! The Ill-Fated Last Voyage of the Admiral of the Ocean Sea, presented me with a bound copy of her portion of the book. She received a grade of 100 for her work!

This is Stephany:

She’s as smart as she is beautiful.

I know they say “pride goeth before a fall,” but I think this is pretty damned cool!!!

I don’t know what happened with the other girl, Deyreth, who was translating the other half of the book and Stephany either didn’t know or wouldn’t say. I stayed up late into the night when I got home reading the book.  While it was, of course, in Spanish, I didn’t have a problem reading it because I knew what it said, anyway. It was just neat seeing it in another language.

The event was kind of funny. While it was for the School of English I was stuck at a table with nine people who didn’t speak a word of the language and my meager Spanish was pushed to the breaking point. One of the gentlemen at the table coined a new word, I believe. David is the capitol city of the Province of Chiriqui. Chiriqui is a unique place and I truly believe if the people here had a choice they would choose to be their own independent country.

The residents of the province are referred to as “Chiricanos.” This one gentleman, whose name I don’t remember, asked me where I lived. I said, “Yo soy gringo.” (I’m a gringo.) He laughed and asked if I lived here. I said I did, in Boquerón. “Ah,” he said with a sly smile, “then you’re a ‘Chiringo’.”

I can live with that.


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Age Old Question Finally Answered —

Yes they do!

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Occupy Wall Street Fail

via Bits & Pieces

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Thank God, No Green Been Casserole This Thanksgiving

This is the sixth Thanksgiving I’ve spent outside of the U.S. Two of those were at sea. In ’91 I was coming across the Atlantic on the Jolie Aire and I believe we dined on freshly-caught dolphin. The next one was in ’92. I was on my beloved Nancy Dawson in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. I was nearly broke at the time and I think my Thanksgiving repast that year was refried beans and salsa on tortillas crisped on the two-burner stove.

There were two Thanksgiving dinners while I was over in Antibes. One was at Chez Charlie’s Pub and the other at Le Rouf. They were both good. Turkey, mashed potatoes, etc. Close, but not like in the States, but the effort that the cooks at those two places put in to trying to give the gringo expats a taste of home for the day was appreciated.

Here in Panama it’s just another day. Sort of like how Mardi Gras is in the States except for that thin strip of land between Mobile, Alabama (where the first Mardi Gras was celebrated) and east Texas. In the El Rey supermarket in David where I do most of my grocery shopping frozen Butterball turkeys suddenly appeared in the frozen food section and they were pricey. Around $30/$40 for a 12 pound bird. With quite a large gringo expat community in this area several of the restaurants put on a, sort of, traditional feed bag. Last year I went to the Ciudad de David Hotel and had a fine buffet meal with a couple of beers and an espresso afterwards and with the Pensionado discount it ran about $12 plus tip. Plus I got to watch the New England Patriots football game. Looking at what’s being offered around the area this year it seems the cost of a turkey dinner is anywhere from $15 to $20, topping out at $45 at a very upscale place in Boquete.

Of course the temptation to do go somewhere this year is strong. I’m tempted to try the Cuatro Restaurant which is right on the bus route I take into David. They’re offering grilled turkey breast over sweet potato hash (whatever that is) with cranberry sauce or, braised turkey leg meat over bacon and blue cheese mashed potatoes with cornbread. $15. Dessert will set one back another five bucks.

Okay, so I know you’re all anxious to find out what I did this Thanksgiving. Well, while most Americans would like to believe it’s carved in stone somewhere that we down commercial-sized portions of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy and that disgusting sting bean casserole today, it’s NOT. Like the name of the day says it’s a day to give thanks for what we have. I’m thankful to be here in Panama and only have to be subjected to the election nonsense that’s pervading the airwaves of America. Gee-ZUS! There you have Ron Paul, 2012’s answer to R0ss Perot. Then there’s the guy named after a slimy amphibian that lives under rocks touting “family values.” Which family, Newt? Your first, second or third? Rick Perry? You know there have to be claw marks on the inside of Molly Ivans’s casket as she tries to get out for just one more go-’round with Governor Good Hair.Plain vanilla Mittens Romney. They guy who crafted the health plan in Massachusetts that “Obama Care” is patterned after and now he has to eat crow and denounce his own plan. One question about the Mormon magic underwear, Mitt…boxers or briefs? And I don’t even want to get started on the three stooges of insanity: Bachmann, Santorum and Cain.

I’m thankful to be living in a beautiful country surrounded by friendly people and being able to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle on what little money I have.

I’m thankful that I woke up to another day.

Though I’ve moved all my stuff into the house in Boquerón there are still things I need so I decided, instead of going to have a semi-traditional Thanksgiving dinner I’d go do some necessary shopping and stop at a place along the way that a lot of people around here have been writing about lately. I stopped off at the Chirqui Mall and had a delicious Philly cheese steak sandwich. Most places here fall flat on their faces trying to cook gringo food. Don’t EVER order a hamburger. They don’t have a clue. But the cheese steak sandwich was spot on delicious. Grilled onions, heavenly melted cheese all done in a very nice Italian-bread roll. Yummy to say the least. Maybe next year I’ll go have turkey and the fixings but this year I was thankful for what I had.


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New Digs and the Internet

The house over here in Boquerón is not hooked up to the internet nor television as is the house on the side of the mountain. I don’t care about not having T.V. Here in a Spanish-speaking country if you want to watch television programs in English you have to subscribe to some kind of satellite service such as Sky or Claró  and I believe Cable & Wireless and Cable Onda will wire your house. In Potrerillos Arriba the owners had a huge Sky dish out in the back yard. Had it been up to me, and naturally it wasn’t, I would have forgone the $32.48 monthly fee. The programming wasn’t all that great and I only watched a few programs on National Geographic, History and Discovery Channel.

An internet connection, on the other hand, is essential for me. The internet is my major source of entertainment. It’s the only way I can download books from to my iPod and reading material to my Kindle. The internet keeps me connected to the world. I freak when I can’t get on line to check out my email throughout the day.

Seven months or so ago when I was living over here in Boquerón I had subscribed with C & W for one of their USB modems. I had to sign a contract and then when everything was hooked up it really sucked. It was like going back to the days of a telephone connection. About the only thing you could do with it was check email and you were restricted to only being able to down and up load a maximum of 2 gigabytes. That may seem like quite a bit, but it’s not. You can run through that in just a few days and then, like so many cell phone plans in the States you pay extortionate overtime charges. The monthly charge for this horrid service was forty something bucks a month. My first month I racked up over $100 bucks in overtime without even knowing it, and after that I was very frugal with my on line time.

As my regular readers know, Panama is rapidly becoming a “wired” country. Most small towns have what are called “Info Plazas.”

The sign says, “Closing the Digital Gap.”

Here in Boquerón there are eight, very up to date computers for people to use and there is also Wi-Fi service. When I was here before it cost 35¢ an hour to either use one of the computers or log on to the Wi-Fi. Of course that depended on who was in charge when I was up there to do my web-surfing. If Nancy was at the desk she logged when I logged on and when I checked out and charged me the 35¢ for each hour. But even playing around for three hours only set me back $1.05 which anyone would agree is quite a bargain. If Karina was manning the plaza I could have stayed there all day and she’d only charge me a flat fee of 35¢. I liked Karina a lot. Now, however, under President Martinelli’s push to get the entire country on line there is no charge at all.

Up on the mountain we were connected to the internet by a company called MobileNet. It cost $45.45/month. It is some kind of a wireless system where the house had an antenna. It wasn’t blinding speed by any means but pretty good though playing streaming videos on YouTube were a bit of a hassle. You had to start the vid and then pause it and wait until the little line at the bottom of the picture filled in otherwise it would play for a few seconds and then stop while it buffered some more. Oh, well, life’s not perfect.

I discontinued my service with C & W for the USB after paying for a lot of months when I didn’t use it at all. One of the problems with having a contracted service. But I still wanted to be able to check my emails and read the news when I got up in the mornings without having to wait for the info plaza to open sometime between 9 and 10 and not at all on Sunday though I could still sit out on the bleachers of the covered basketball court outside the town hall and still get a Wi-Fi feed. But it’s still about a half mile from the house.What to do?

Since I’m going to probably be here for the next two years I checked the possibility of getting the house wired. I know C&W hooks up the houses around here and I asked MobileNet a while back when I went to pay the bill if they serviced Boquerón. They said they did in some parts but we didn’t know if the house was in one of those areas. It probably is but I didn’t ask about connection fees or any of that and I didn’t ask C&W but they were on the list of things to do after I got settled in.

I wasn’t going to  go through the whole contract and lousy connection business with C&W again but in Plaza Terronal where I do my grocery shopping there are four cell phone companies, and I noticed in the Claró window they had a USB modem on display so I checked them out. You buy the modem for $40. Well, $39.99 but forty is close enough. You can either sign up with a contract or pre-pay. For $40 a month you can get unlimited service. Last Tuesday I went down and did the deed. I bought the modem and paid the $40. After taxes it came to $84! Sigh, but since it’s pre-paid if it really sucked I’d just be stuck with buying the modem and rely check out getting the house wired.

When I went back up on the mountain I tried it out and, like the old C&W thingy it sucked! Oh, well. The owners of the Potrerillos house drove me here to Boquerón late yesterday morning and naturally one of the first things I did was to plug in the computer and try out the connection.

Let me tell you, they aren’t going to be seeing a lot of me at the Info Plaza. THIS one works great. It’s easily as fast if not a tad faster than the MobileNet connection in Potrerillos Arriba. It still takes a bit of time for a YouTube video to load all the way but it’s probably twice as fast which is nice. I’m going to keep this one and I’ll be saving $5/month over the MobileNet fee.

I’m a happy camper except for the fact that now my camera is acting up.


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Moving Day – Sunrise Potrerillos Arriba/Sunset Boqueron

Moving day. Started off in Potrerillos Arriba and ended up in Boqueron.



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Last Solo Sunrise

The only thing special about today’s sunrise is that I was able to witness it. This is the last sunrise I’ll see in Potrerillos Arriba with no one else around except the dog. The owners arrive late this afternoon. I’ll be spending the night for a couple of reasons. One, they’ll be traveling all day long and, as I did last year, I’ll fix dinner. Two, you can’t say, “welcome home, thanks for letting me live in your house for free the last eight months. . . see ya!” and split. Well, I guess some people could do that but I can’t.

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There Is Always Another Sunrise

Man that is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.

He cometh like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow and continueth not.

This morning I learned that my friend, Frank Hilson, died yesterday. I only knew Frank for a few years and we only spent a couple of weeks in each other’s company but hardly a day passed that we weren’t in contact with each other via emails. I can’t imagine anyone not liking Frank Hilson. He was that kind of guy. I wish I had known him longer, but I’m grateful for the time I did know him. He will be missed by everyone who knew him.

Frank Hilson

9/28/1939 – 11/15/2011

Please, don’t think I’m being flip about this, but it’s our destiny. We all owe our creator a life. There’s no getting out of paying that debt. You can’t beg for more than what you’ve been allotted. It’s not going to happen. But whether we’re here to see it or not there’s always another sunrise.

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Twofer Tuesday

When I got the idea to document my last week of sunrises, +1, here on the mountain in Potrerillos Arriba, this is the kind of morning I’d been hoping for. So far the sunrises haven’t been as glorious as they often are here, but this morning didn’t disappoint me. It was so good, in fact that I have to give you two shots instead of just one.

It started off like this:

And ended up like this:


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