Tag Archives: Boqueron Panama

Butterflies

Sent off a wire transfer of funds to my friend in Ft, Lauderdale  to buy the MacGregor sailboat in Miami.

Also sent a bit extra to pay for marina space for the rest of April rather than have it “on the hook” until I get up there….

And about THAT!

Went on line to see what it’s going to cost to get up to Ft. Lauderdale.

Spirit Airlines is supposed to be the cheapest, but they want $199 for a one way ticket from PTY (Tocumen). And then they CHARGE for every bag INCLUDING carry ons. Adding it up it came to $306 for what I plan on taking with me. PLUS, the flight doesn’t leave Panama until TWO IN THE MORNING!!! That’s A.M. folks. PLUS their seats don’t recline!

So, I went online again and looked at what it would cost to fly COPA which also flies into Ft. Lauderdale. Their price was $299. $7 cheaper than Spirit AND no charge for carry ons or the first two checked bags, AND their seats recline. Their flight leaves at 11:45 IN THE MORNING for the three hour flight!

Supposedly if you have “Jubilado” status   (Jubilado roughly translates as “old fart”) you’re eligible for a discount on travel. I went on line and found a travel agent, Jose Palm, in David. Talked to him and explained what I was looking for and asked if there was a “Jubilado” discount.. It does, and he quoted me a ticket price of $241.14. I’m going to go to his office tomorrow morning.

Will be returning to the States either April 19th or the 26th. Don’t know which. Need to get rid of some stuff here like my bicycle and clothes washer, etc. What I’ll do is take the midnight bus from David to Panama. It gets in to Panama around 4:30 or 5. Take a cab out to Tocumen and wing my way back to Trumplandia….also known as “Murika”

So I’ve had butterflies in my stomach all day long. I’ve been talking about repatriating to the States for over a year. I’d hoped to be there last July, but the dentures delayed that, and then it moved from summer into fall and then into winter and I WASN’T going to go back up there in the winter even if it was to Ft. Lauderdale. Hell, back in ’76 when I was helping bring a big sailboat up from Key West it EFFIN’ SNOWED!!! Now the reality of picking up sticks and actually doing this thing has me a bit on edge. As they say, Talk’s Cheap. I think, well, I haven’t paid for the ticket yet and I suppose I could tell Stef not to pay Fernando and then the six yapping dogs at the house 30-feet away start going nuts and I try and picture how tranquil it will be anchored up at some small island off the coast of Florida or the barrier islands of the panhandle and I know I’m doing the right thing.

 

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Two Panama Bus Stories

Why Panama Is Saner Than The U.S.

This morning I boarded the bus to go pay my February electric bill ($15.73 by the way). These aren’t “chicken buses,” either. They’re nice, air-conditioned 32-seat Toyota Coaster, like this:

I happened to get the last empty seat.

Across the aisle from me was a very attractive 20-something yacking away with her seat mate while unselfconsciously breast feeding her young infant. NO ONE was upset by this or paying the least attention.  Unlike in the States where you get headlines like: “Video of Man Harassing Breast-feeding Mother at Target Goes Viral…”  or: “Breastfeeding Mom Claims An Officer Threatened To Arrest Her…”

How to deal with uptight America…

breast feed

There Are Assholes In Every Country

After going over to Bugaba to pay my light bill and pick up a couple of things I’d forgotten in yesterday’s marketing foray, I hoped on a bus from Frontera to get home. As we were getting close to El Cruce, where I get off to take another bus three kilometers up the hill to my house I gave the guy at the door a one Balboa coin… (These were originally called “Martinellis” after President Ricardo Martinelli who introduced the coins. He is now on the run and living in Miami due to corruption charges against him. Several of his cabinet members are sitting in prison as I write this, awaiting trial. Most people no longer call the coins “Martinellis” but instead refer to them as “Fugitivos.” You don’t even need to speak Spanish to figure out what THAT means.)

The “Pavo” it literally means “turkey” but that’s what the guys manning the door and taking care of the fares are called, gave me 35¢ in change. I said, “The fare is 50¢.”

“¿Que?” (What?)

English translation: “The fare from Bugaba to El Cruce with the jubilado discount is 50¢, not 65¢”

“Mumble, mumble, ¡Americano!” as he swapped out the dime with a quarter.

By now people around me were looking at us and I said, “Yes, I’m a gringo, but I’m also a resident in Panama. Would you like to see my cédula?” (A cédula is the national identification card all Panamanians an permanent resident aliens are issued.)

He declined, but as I was passing him as I got off the bus he muttered the word “Gringo.”

I said, “Hasta luego, pendejo.” (Pendejo literally means pubic hair but it’s the Spanish equivalent of “asshole.”

I’ve been in the country for over seven years and he’s only the fourth Panamanian in all that time I don’t like.

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Exciting Week in Boquerón

It’s been an exciting week in what is normally a sleepy little town in western Chiriquí.

It started off on Monday with a visit to town by the President of the Republic, Juan Carlos Varela. It was to acknowledge a program that provides decent housing to the poor throughout the country. It’s called Techos de Esperanza (Roofs of Hope). It’s sort of Panama’s version of  Habitat for Humanity. As I’ve said elsewhere in this blog, there are a lot of people living in what we in the States would consider to be “shacks.” Dirt-floor structures, split bamboo sides and rusty tin roofing.

besikohomemom

besikohometarproof

teteobrama

It has been raining here in Panama for days on end which is extremely unusual, but it’s because of Tropical Storm Oscar off a tiny bit north of us in the western Caribbean. Interestingly, the rain stopped while Varela was in the covered basketball courts in the town park less than a 100 yards from my front door.

varela-speech

I heard a lot of noise next door. A ton of people milling around. I went out on the front porch to see what it was all about, and there was Varela sitting at my neighbor’s table enjoying a bite to eat before heading into David (dah VEED).

varela-dinner

As soon as he finished and shook hands all around he got in his car and headed down the hill and it started to rain. I tried to get him to come back so I could bring the clothes that have been hanging out on the back porch for nearly a week trying could finally be brought inside. They’re still out there.

There was a short break in the weather Tuesday morning so I made a mad dash into the city to do some grocery shopping and pay a couple of bills. I didn’t pay the electric bill last month since it was never delivered, but I got an e-bill this month. Had to go pay arrears. Two month’s electric bill came to $31.39. Eat your hearts out gringos of the Great White North.

When I got home, around 3:00 in the afternoon I saw this sign that had just been put up while I was absent…

bikes

For those of you who are monoglots (great word, eh?) It’s announcing the sixth stage of Panama’s equivalent of theTour de France coming up on Wednesday.  (Doesn’t everyone spell Wednesday out in their heads as they write it down?) Oh, yeah, and I was only in the house for about ten minutes before it started pouring again.

Around 8 a.m. the teams started arriving and getting ready for the race…

getting-ready

The finish line set up near the town hall…

finish-line-set-up

Policeman directing traffic away from the finish area and doing it in the rain….

directing-traffic-in-rain

The leaders sprint to the finish about three and a half hours after the start…And it’s ALL uphill from El Cruce three kilometers away at the InterAmericana Highway…

sprint-to-the-finish

About five minutes later the pelotón showed up to finish…

peleton

As far as I know nothing else is happening of any note this week. Next Monday, though, celebrates Panama’s SECOND Independence Day but I believe all the parades and hoopla are taking place elsewhere.

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A RANT!!!

I LOVE Panama, and, in general, I love the Panamanian people. BUT sometimes it’s REALLY hard to do. In fact, sometimes it’s IMPOSSIBLE.

Take this past week, for instance. This was the 249th anniversary of the founding of the little town of Boquerón, and they were making a huge deal out of it.

The festivities started off on Wednesday. Around noon the first of the parade started by my house. Several of my neighbors from the old house came by with stools to sit on my porch and watch. It was the best parade they’ve had here in Boquerón in the five plus years I’ve lived here. This time there were a lot of floats and this time a lot of thought, care and originality was evidenced in them.

The first actual band that came by and even stopped in front of my house was from Colegio Daniel Octavio Crespo in nearby Concepcion. Most of what passes for marching music here in Panama are simply drums and once in a great while there will be a glockenspiel. It seems that Panamanians love pounding on things with sticks. But here we had an actual BAND complete with clarinets, saxophones and one lonely flute.

I used to play flute when I was in high school. Me and my four brothers were REQUIRED to take music lessons. About 6 years ago I bought a flute down here in David (dah VEED) but as my COPD developed I lost interest in trying to use an instrument I had to blow into and it has remained unused for the last three or four years. I put it up for sale at about half the price I paid for it on a local buy/sell Facebook site and got absolutely ZERO responses even after it had been posted and bumped up several times.

Looking at that lone flute in the Crespo band gave me an idea. I went inside and grabbed the flute and then went to the band’s director and gave it to him and told him to make sure some kid who couldn’t afford to buy an instrument for themselves got it. His thanks were profuse and he had his assistant take a photo of us and the flute together. Who knows, I might have changed some kids whole life by giving that flute away.

That night at the covered basketball court about 100 yards from my house the very popular Manuel “Nenito” Vargas and Las Plumas Negros (The Black Feathers) was playing. I went up and watched for about an hour and then returned home, stuck some plugs in my ears and went to sleep.

Thursday was sort of a rest-up day to prepare for the weekend. Now here’s where it gets bad. After a night time parade filled with drum and bugle bands some asshole with a van full of speakers opened the van’s back doors and started playing music with such volume and with such wide open bass that everything in my house shook and vibrated. The ear plugs helped only a tiny bit but there’s nothing you can do about the bass. This FUCKING LASTED UNTIL 3:30 IN THE MORNING!!! And it isn’t even really music. There’s NO MELODY involved. No one can dance to this shit! It is, pure and simple, JUST NOISE and it seems that the majority of Panamanians LOVE IT!

If you want to be a mindless, uncaring, self-centered piece of shit, I say, go park you van in front of YOUR HOUSE and play like that.

Then comes Saturday night. Some idiotic twatwaffle with a car full of speakers parked on the same corner and started the same shit again. But then it got EVEN WORSE. Directly across the street came THREE CARS AND A VAN loaded with speakers and each one seemed to be in competition as to who could be the most obnoxious asshole in the bunch. Literally everything in my house was vibrating.

I couldn’t stand it and so I threw my iPad and my telephone that holds my audio books into my knapsack and locked the house. A cab passed by in less than a minute and took me down to El Cruce where I caught a bus into the city less than five minutes later and went to my harbor of refuge over the years, Bambu Hostel where I was able to get a bed for $11 for the night. This is where I slept.

jungle house

I woke up at 6:30, which is actually about an hour and a half later than I normally get up. Walked the couple of blocks to the bus stop and hopped on the bus that dropped me off, literally, at my doorstep.

A nearby neighbor stopped by on his way to the little tienda and told me the stupid assholes didn’t stop the noise until FIVE FUCKING THIRTY this morning!!! It was worth the 50 cents for the ride to El Cruce, the $11 for the bed, the buck for the frosty bottle of Balboa and the $1.20 round trip bus ride. Plus instead of being blasted by the morons with their car loads of speakers, I spent a couple of hours talking to a couple from France and an American who has lived in Sweden for the last 15 years and who, with his girlfriend has been riding their bicycles from Mexico City and are on their way to Panama as I’m writing this.

Some Panamanians will ask if the loud music like these assholes play and everyone else endures doesn’t happen in the United States. The answer is, NO IT DOESN’T! And there are reasons for it. There are noise laws everywhere in the States and the police will come and shut things down if there are complaints. Nothing like that happens here. All of this went on within ONE BLOCK of the police station.

Another reason it doesn’t happen is because if it’s NOT shut down some pissed of person with a FUCKING GUN will come out and shoot up the speakers and then will shoot the assholes who are responsible. That’s the ONLY TIME I condone gun violence.

Anyway, the festival is over. The food stalls that surrounded the town park are being dismantled and tonight should be back to normal…At least I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will…

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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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Solving Problems

The house here in Boqueron, like my Spanish, is a work in progress. Last year the owners did major renovations on it but weren’t able to finish everything in the limited time they were able to spend in Panama before returning to Texas.

The major problem remaining unfinished was storage and shelving. The owner said that he and his wife had lived out of their suitcases while they were here. Since I’ve signed on for six months that’s not an acceptable solution for me. I was told that whatever improvements I made on the house out of my own pocket should just be taken off of the rent.

Being able to hang up my clothes (and I admit that I usually hang my dirty stuff on the floor) was easily remedied. I simply measured the width of the huge walk-in closet upstairs and bought an adjustable shower curtain rod to span the distance and voilá, problem solved.

The biggest problem was the lack of shelving in the kitchen and under the sink. There was nothing there except open space.

I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out a solution to this problem. It wouldn’t be too hard to build some shelving but the problem would be getting the wood to the house. I’d either have to beg help from someone with a truck or pay one of the pickup trucks that are used as taxis around here which would probably cost more than it was worth. Even before I moved in, and knowing the lack of storage I’d spent time wandering through the Do It Center (a Home Depot kind of store without the lumber) and its competition Novey to see if I could come up with some ideas. Of course there are all kinds of shelving solutions where you screw slotted jobber dos into a wall and then insert arms where you want them and lay shelving upon those. Reasonably priced, but the problem here was that anywhere you needed to drill into something you’d need to have a masonry bit because EVERYTHING is concrete.

Tuesday I was in Novey and they had the solution I’d been looking for. Inexpensive, no drilling needed.

I bought two of them immediately and a couple of other things I needed and yesterday I went back and bought three more. They were $11/each. Two of them are under the counter right now, one is set up next to the stove to hold the pots and pans and another is in the closet for the underwear, socks, etc. I haven’t decided where the fifth one is going to go. Probably under the sink counter, too.

The advantages of this solution is that it didn’t require any construction. No sawing, no drilling, just put the pieces together in a few minutes and it’s done. Plus, the owners don’t have to like it. They’ll most likely deal with the problem in a permanent way. So, when my time  here is up I’ll simply disassemble and stack them up and take them with me. They won’t take up much space wherever I land after this.

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