Monthly Archives: December 2014

New Year’s Eve Repast

I was watching this video (the kids are fantastic, by the way) when I thought I heard someone calling my name outside. I went to the door and there was my next door neighbor with a plate of New Year’s food for me. A Panamanian tradition. He didn’t knock on my door because the man only had one arm and he was holding this plate which left him no way of knocking on the door.

What the plate offers is rice with guandu (rice and pigeon peas), baked ham and, of course, home made tamale rich with one of the free-range chickens that roam around my yard daily, but I doubt I’ll recognize which one is missing from the flock.



It’s not uncommon for my neighbors to share their food with me. Things are different down here in Panama and when I get invited to my neighbor’s birthday parties like last week, or receive a plate of food from a neighbor as I did just a little while ago, all I can say is that I LOVE IT HERE!!!


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2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 40,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 15 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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So, What Did You Get For Christmas?

Every year I splurge a little and treat myself to a Christmas present and also something for my birthday in July.  This year I had to buy a new, replacement computer in the middle of October when the old HP notebook shit the bed and wouldn’t start up any more, so I’m not sure if that qualifies as my Christmas present or not. Since I bought a MacBook Air for a touch more than I get each month in Social Security I didn’t have much spare change to go get something special for Christmas. So I’ll call the MacBook my Christmas present.

I went for the large 13″ screen, which is a tad smaller than the HP. This is what it looks like:


I’m not going to go into an explanation in this post of why I bought this specific machine. I outlined that here if anyone is really bored and looking for something to read: If you want to know more about it look it up on your computer.

I will, though, make a few observations…One of the so-called “selling points” for the Macs is that they’re “easier to use” than a PC. Nobody ever explained how they’re easier, and so far, with over two months under the belt, I haven’t found any truth to that statement. There are several things I do like about this computer.

  • It’s light weight. A fraction of what the old HPs weighed, so when I went to the doctor’s appointment last week I didn’t hesitate to bring the MacBook along with me to while away the normally long wait, and I could get some work done editing my next book.
  • It uses “flash” drives instead of a mechanical disc drive for two advantages…reduced weight and without the drive there’s no fan whirring around and you can actually set the computer on your lap without getting second-degree burns.
  • The battery life is everything the Apple ads say it is. I’ve never had a notebook computer with any battery stamina at all. A couple of hours at the very, very best. I have run this unit for a bit more than 12 hours on battery alone!
  • Since it won’t burn you working with it on your lap, and with the extraordinary battery life, I spend most of my mornings out in the shade of the front porch working away with my rewrites. This allows me to occasionally chat with the people passing by on their way down to the river to wash when there’s no water pressure in the homes or simply to go swimming for a while.

Naturally there are some things I don’t quite like.

  • I’m not real fond of the touchpad, though I do use it  when working outside, but I use a regular mouse when I’m on the computer inside the house.
  • One thing that Windows does that I like better than the Mac is the cursor. In Windows you can change the color, change the size and program it so that as you move the cursor it leaves a trail which makes it easy to see where that little sucker is. You can also program it so that simply by pressing the Control key the cursor will flash on the screen letting you know where it’s located. Not so with the Mac. The damned thing gets lost all the time, and if there’s a way of correcting this it’s a HUGE secret.

I’ll be buying a bicycle in a couple of weeks, but that’s sort of to comply with doctor’s orders rather than for a recreational diversion. I’m supposed to walk at least a half hour a day for the cardio/pulmonary benefits, but my 72 year-old hips bother me when I walk. A lot! They don’t bother me when I’m sitting down, so the bike will be less stressful, low-impact exercise. I’ll write about it at the proper time.



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Christmas Eve In Boquerón, 2014

The Christmas celebrations here in Boquerón have changed each of the four Christmases I’ve lived in this small, Chiriquí, Panama, Province. Fireworks are a cornerstone of everything. The wet dreams of every adolescent male in the United States are available here. There are stores that sell pyrotechnics year-round and to satiate Panamanian’s desire for loud sounds be it music or explosions, tents spring up all over the place selling “Fuegos Artificiales.”

For two weeks leading up to Christmas Eve youngsters are constantly setting off fire crackers, M80s and cherry bombs and bottle rockets. But Christmas Eve is the culminating event. Four years ago the fireworks that were shot off here in my neighborhood rivaled those of any small town in the States. We were treated to a display, courtesy of Philadelphia Phillies catcher and pride of Panama, Carlos Ruiz whose mother lives on the other side of the Boquerón Road from my house, that would be the envy of many small towns in the States. It lasted a full twenty or twenty-five minutes. The next two years, though, saw a decline in the exuberance of the aerial displays. But those were private shows. No real municipal participation. This year was different. There was an election and Boquerón’s new mayor (Alcalde), I heard, appropriated B/25,000 and we had a town-sponsored parade and fireworks display last week.

This year’s neighborhood fireworks display was the poorest showing yet. Here are the videos I took last night.

This one has no video, but you can hear the sounds of fireworks going off all around the area. Up and down the hill and some firecrackers going off right here on my street…

Then there were two, short bursts of activity and that was it…

While we’ve probably become a little jaded on our block when it comes to these Christmas Eve displays you have to remember that these are paid for out-of-pocket by a local resident and not funded by the town.


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“It Is Far Better To Have Gone Alone…

Than not to have gone at all…”(Me)

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There’s No Escaping Assholes…

It saddens me when I read about what’s going on in my country. The incredible polarization of the people is awful. It’s awful that a certain portion of the people have stigmatized the word “Liberal” and somehow turned it into a four-letter word.

You go online to certain forums and conservatives are crowing about their stunning “victory” in November’s election. They are completely incapable of reason. When only 33% of the total number of registered voters bother to go to the polls and your side barely ekes out HALF of THOSE votes, or roughly 16.75% of all registered voters, please explain to me how that becomes an overwhelming endorsement of conservative policies?


Yes, my Facebook page is filled with anti-conservative and anti-theist posts, so in some respects I’m as intolerant as those I criticize. But I DON’T promote racist points of view, misogynistic points of view, nor do I support homophobia. There are a lot of people who can’t stand what I post there and I’ve had a brother, a cousin and a nephew “unfriend me” on Facebook, but I look at it like this…


But no matter how far one separates themself from the heartland of the conservative twatwaffles they are always around. You just have to look at local web forums like Boquete.ning which is sort of a gringo bible down here to see a whole cadre of Climate Change Deniers, people who believe Obama is the anti-Christ incarnate.

And today, as I was eating lunch in David a white pickup passed with these two flag decals on the tailgate…


It’s really rather depressing to know that ignorance and intolerance and downright bigotry is able to secure a passport.



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Language Learning Breakthroughs

Spanish is the second foreign language I’ve had to learn because I ended up living somewhere with a different language than the one I grew up with. Sometimes there are little things we encounter, daily, in our new lives that are mysteries of the language, and then, one day there is a breakthrough and the “secret” is revealed. I had one of those moments yesterday which I will explain a little later.

The first breakthrough happened when I was living in France back in 1990. Antibes, where the boat I was running was located, is a major European tourist location and tour buses were seen all the time. Most of the buses had a mysterious little sign in a window advertising K7. This cryptic message was also seen on music store windows as well, but I had no idea what it was all about.

I arrived in France at the beginning of 1989, but didn’t really come to grips with learning the language until the following year. All that time I kept trying to puzzle out the meaning of K7. Slowly my mind began thinking differently with the new language. My French girlfriend, Florence, and I used to drive a lot on Route Nacional 7 between Cannes, Antibes and Nice. This road was shortened to RN7 which, when vocalized, sounds like Eyre (as in Jane) N Set (actually 7 is “sept” in French but pronounced “set”). As you can see, the way the letters are pronounced are different than we pronounce them in English. For example the letter A is pronounced as AH. B is Bay, etc. The letter K is pronounced “Cah” (like Bostonians pronounce an automobile). Then, one day, walking over to the post office in Antibes, I passed the local music store and the sign in the window didn’t say K7 that morning. It said “Cah Set.” CASSETTE… Of course! Or as the French would say, “Voilà!” (Incidentally, voilà, is my absolute favorite word in ANY language. It covers so much ground)

So, about the revelation in Spanish, yesterday. In stores items are often priced with the notation C/U. When I first came to Panama and encountered it I wondered, “what’s that?” Didn’t know, but assumed it meant “each” and let it go at that. Obviously I was right, but I never delved into exactly what C/U actually meant.

Yesterday my blogging friend, Kris Cunningham, invited me to go along with her and her neighbor, Cedo, to Cedo’s finca up in the mountains near Volcan where she raises dairy cattle and pigs.

IMG_0643(Kris and Cedo entering the finca.)

On the way over, Cedo asked Kris to stop at the Mercado Municipal in Bugaba to buy some rice that is sold at discount prices on Saturdays. She bought two sacks that felt like they probably weighed twenty pounds each. On the way back to the car I asked her how much they cost. She said they were $6 (or here B/6. That’s six Balboas). “Total?” I asked. “No, cada uno.” (Each one) As they say in Antibes, Voilà!  C/U = Cada/Uno.


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Boquerón Celebrates Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here. Houses all over the neighborhood are sporting flashing Christmas lights, even the worst-kept house on the street, the one where they toss their trash into the front yard, has a couple of strings of colored lights. Go into the supermarkets to do your shopping and you’re assaulted with the same Christmas carols you hear in the States. And I mean the SAME because most of the ones I heard the other day in Romero were in English!

Yesterday, the 19th, when I got on the bus at the terminal to come home after paying a couple of bills in downtown David and checking out the inventory at the city’s major bicycle store, there was a notice taped to the window of the bus about Boquerón’s Christmas celebrations. There was to be a choral presentation at the bandstand in our lovely little park up the hill at 5 p.m. Then there was going to be a parade going from El Cruce (the crossroads where the Boquerón Road meets the Interamerican Highway on up to the park starting at 7 p.m. followed by fireworks at 9. Naturally the times listed were merely suggestions, approximations since this is Panama, after all, with the typical Latin attention to punctuality.

Taking that into consideration and factoring in that my street is about two kilometers up the hill from El Cruce I headed up to the corner at about 7:45. That this was a major event in the year for my neighbors was evident when I got to the bus stop and nearly every one of my neighbors was there, many having brought a chair from home to sit on. The little kids ran around playing tag while the teenaged girls all stood or sat around totally absorbed in texting away on their cell phones, probably to teenaged girls on the other side of the street waiting for the parade to come by, too.

The head of the parade made it to our street at about 8:30 with a float, of sorts, with what I have to assume was the Queen of the event who waved at the crowd of about 50 or so. It just struck me, but besides myself, there was only one other adult male in the group on either side of the street. Like New Orleans parades the riders on the float tossed goodies to the plebeians. No beads, but handfuls of tiny, penny candies which were pounced on with unbridled fury. It took over an hour for the parade of floats, lit up cars, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles to pass our location. It wasn’t that the parade was incredibly lengthy, but this is a two-lane road up and past the town square with one single, two-lane road branching off from it so there were long delays while the first participants were disbanding up above.

Looking at the parade with gringo eyes it was pretty shoddy. The floats were extremely basic with a few lights and minimum creativity. But that’s looking at it with “gringo eyes.” An expat has to look at it with a local’s eye. This was put on by people who, for the most part, have very little disposable income compared to people living even in small towns in the States. Those in the parade don’t have a lot of money to spend making elaborate, Rose Bowl Parade-style floats. The handful of candies tossed to the crowd is probably in proportion to THEIR income as the beads and doubloons  tossed by Krewe members on a Mardi Gras float. For the residents of tiny Boquerón this WAS a major event for both the parade participants and the people lining the route. THEY were happy. THEY enjoyed it. And, when it’s all said and done I enjoyed it because it was nice to see my neighbors having fun on a warm summer evening (yes, it’s SUMMER HERE down by the equator).

The fireworks went off at about 9:30 and they would have done ANY small town in the States proud. People here LOVE their Fuegos Artificiales.

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Suited Up And Ready To Ride

Justin, who was supposed to be buying the motorcycle left his passport over in Bocas del Toro, so technically I sold the bike to his girlfriend, Brandy. We went over to Bugaba and worked out all the paperwork. Fortunately there was a young lady who handles titles and registration for some care dealership standing behind us and she helped us fill out the two forms we needed to complete (in Spanish, of course.) I’m sure we could have made it on our own, but the line behind us was growing longer by the minute so the lady was a great help…

Here’s Justin all suited up and ready to ride. They plan on going to spend the night in Boquete and then ride the bike over to Bocas del Toro in the morning.


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Heading over to Bugaba this morning to transfer title on the motorcycle. Got close to my asking price so I’m satisfied. Of course the money is already gone. I have some massive dental work that needs to be done. Fortunately it’s a LOT less expensive here than in the States, but it’s still a serious chunk of change.

Home Safe 3

I just never used it like I thought I was going to. There were roads I’d pass on the bus going to and from David and Bugaba and wonder what was down them. I did ride down several of them and the answer was…not much.


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