30th annual Expo Feria de las Orchideas

Orchideas

One of the high points of Santa Semana in Boquete

During Holy Week, Santa Semana, here in Boquete we were able to visit one of the more celebrated flower shows in Panama. For thirty years, the Expo Orchideas, (Orchid expo) has given orchid growers a venue to display their exquisite flowers, and to compete for awards. The Expo has attracted people from all over Panama and Chiriqui province. President and patron of the festival, Reynaldo Serracín, quoted in La Prensa, said the event is “….for the promotion of the species (of orchids) across the country.” He also said that, “…se contará con la exhibición de más de 100 especies entre nacionales, híbridas y extranjeras.” Counted in the exhibition are more than 100 species, national, hybrids and extraneous types. Senor Serracin mentioned that the festival attracts more than 20,000 visitors annually.

Here are just a few of the lush, intricate orchids on display through April 2nd at the Feria grounds in Boquete:

                  Top left: Enciclia…Bottom: Oricidium.             Cattleya

                         Top left: Guiana…right: Aspasia. Bottom: Stanhopea

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Blue ribbon winner: Brasia

 

It’s quite a show, even if you’re not into orchids. In addition to the flower display in the main building, there are more than 60 leased exhibits where nearly 150 vendors sell everything from arts & crafts, to children’s clothes to various local souvenirs and products. There’s also an amusement park nearby, on the feria grounds where kids of any age can enjoy the various rides.

The Feria & Expo Orchideas continues through April 2nd. If you’re looking for a relaxing way to spend an evening and see some exquisite flowers and arrangements, drop on down to Boquete and take a look.

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Boquete on Avon?

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“What say you nurse? How fares my lady?”

Last evening we had the pleasure of watching a very professional, hysterically funny acting troupe, The Theater Guild of Panama, as they performed The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, abridged. For those who’ve not seen this madcap show, here’s the short description: All thirty-seven of Mr. Shakespeare’s surviving plays were performed, the dramaturgy consisting of, on average, 8 or 10 minutes per play. In other words, capsule versions. The longest play, and the very first of the evening, was Romeo & Juliet, (featured above). The famous tragedy of the star-crossed young lovers of Verona dragged on for an almost interminable 12 minutes. Three delightfully goofy fellows, Adam Herzig, James Mattiace and Simon Tejeira riffed off each other, stretched every line taut as a wire, incited the audience to near Trumpian raucousness and milked every opportunity for double, and triple entendre. Ex. “You pooped in my soup. I had to throw half of it out!”

         Adam, James & Simon                                       W. Shakespeare esq.

I’m including photos, with appropriate captions. Worry not; Mr. Shakespeare would have found it all quite rollicking good fun, as did we, and he likely would have written play number 38 from the leftover material. Curtain up. Here we go. The play’s the thing, so let’s get on with it.

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“Get thee to a nunnery!” The troupe with Bernie Moscovitz of BCP, AKA Ophelia

 In the above shtick, ‘Hamlet’ confronts Ophelia, which leads to the audience participation segment of the show. Section A, B and C vied to channel Ophelia to see which of us could evoke the better, or perhaps just louder shriek. I believe the honors went to section B, my own, but I may be a bit biased. I’d elevated the volume in my hearing aids for the affair, which is, of course, an open air venue, so that may explain it. In any case, Ophelia was properly chagrined & sanctioned by the Melancholy Dane, and the show proceeded apace.

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The famous balcony scene. “Wherefore art though Romeo?”

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Claudius & Hamlet: Act 2, Scene 2″The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”

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No evening of shortened Shakespeare is complete without Othello, the Moor of Venice. (Performed as a culinary experience, of course.)

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“No, no, no, don’t say the name! It’s The Scottish Play!”

Every Shakespearean actor knows of the superstition surrounding ‘The Scottish Play.’ Never, never, never say its name, ever ever. Theater people tend to be a bit superstitious anyway, and they’re convinced it’s bad luck. I am under no such morbid constraint. The scene above is from ‘Macbeth.’ Wait…lightning? In Boquete? And not a cloud in the sky? What the f…? But hark, what light through yonder broken window comes?

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“I had the strangest dream!”

All in all a fine, humorous, stimulating and very satisfying farce on the complete works of the preeminent poet of the English language. The audience numbered perhaps 100, weather was delightful, the venue ideal and the mood was light. It was a fine time, and we enjoyed it immensely. Highly recommended.

Worth 1,000 words

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so today, rather than a lengthy, intricate text message with photos, I’m posting a bunch of pictures with very little text. Here we go:

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Heliconia Rostrata, or Lobster Claws

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Lilies bloom in profusion

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images

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Our backyard

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Bocas del Mar

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More Bocas del Mar

More beautiful shots later; there’s no shortage of them here in Boquete. Stay tuned.

Kill all the lawyers…

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Exposed wires on the main bridge in Boquete

“First, we kill all the lawyers.” The old citation comes from Shakespeare’s Henry 6th, of course. Dick the butcher knows his nefarious ways may be his undoing unless all the solicitors are removed. Then he can have his way, free of the onerous regulations and restrictions impeding him. Lawyers have become the necessary evil in society, the sharks in the swimming pool of free commerce and the butt of many, many jokes. Q: How can you tell your lawyer’s lying to you? A: His lips move.”

In Panama it seems, intervention by the legal profession is a bit less aggressive, authorities a bit more aloof when it comes to running interference for the common man or woman. Or at least this is the impression we’ve gotten based solely on certain initial, and very early sights in the country. The photo above was taken on the main bridge across the Rio Caldera in downtown Boquete. As you can see, the exposed wires are right there, bare and available, within easy reach of anyone, adult or toddler. A lawsuit waiting to happen? In the U.S., yes. In Panama, not so much. I use the image as a metaphor to frame the stark contrast between life in Panama and that in the (heavily policed and legalistic) United States and other places. Indeed, it’s been one of the more noticeable differences here from our home turf, the sense in Panama that we’re on our own, that injury, loss, legal exposure and/or disasters big or small are not a deflectable concern of ‘society,’ but the business of the individual their very own selves. Spill hot coffee in your lap at the drive-thru window in Panama, and guess what? It’s on you, brother or sister. Coffee is hot; deal with it. Don’t contact your abogado to sue the restaurante for serving you ‘hot’ coffee, be more careful and it won’t happen again. Just so, grab the open hot electric wires on the bridge, feel the Burn in a wholly apolitical way and again, it’s on you.

Here are a few more shots taken around Boquete that illustrate the wide open sense that people must be responsible for themselves here in Panama.

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Where the sidewalk ends

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Open rain drain

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           Watch your step!            

I’m not picking on the Alcalde of Boquete, or his chief engineer. I’m not calling attention to deficiencies in the infrastructure, or citing a ‘better way.’ It’s too easy for us gringos to do that, and we’ve done it too much besides. Suffice it to say that the system of personal responsibility works for these folks, so that should be enough for anyone. There’s a collective sense here that a bit of caution is required to get through one’s day, and that disregarding that caution may come with a harsh reminder.

It involves much more than storm drains and bridge lights, too. It seems to apply to a lot of the services and protective infrastructure we Norte Americanos take for granted.

1-Emergency services: The EMS system is in place, and quite good we’re told, so when you need an ambulance for a medical issue, just call them and they’ll scoot right over, provided… Provided that you give them directions (in Spanish) as they may not know where you live, and no, there is no E-911 system here as there are effectively no addresses. One other thing. The emergency and/or police personnel, while quite competent and helpful, may require a donation to help allay the cost of gasoline to get to you. Much more on this topic can be found in Dianne Heidke’s The Boquete Handbook, 4th edition.

2-Responsibility for bills etc: Any utility bills, water, electric, internet etc. may or may not be delivered to your home. If you lose track of this, the electricity may cut off quite unexpectedly and you’ll have to make your way to the Municipio to pay up. No fair warning; no grace period; just blissfully easing through preparations of the evening meal and all goes dark. “What the f….? Oh, yes…the electric bill!”

3-The basics: One thing we hear a lot as we explore the area is that number one, there’s a real water problem, and number two, there’s plenty of water. What gives? It’s a matter of allocation, delivery and seasonal supply, it seems. Where does the personal responsibility come in? Many folks have learned that a reserve supply, either a cistern or holding tank of some kind, is a must. Friends in Alto Boquete recently went without water for five straight days. Liability for the municipal leadership? Not so much. Just prepare for it, because it happens. Same goes for electric & cable etc., though we’re not aware of anyone owning a backup such as solar panels and/or their own server. It’s common to hear the TV & Internet providers, cable & wireless, referred to as Cobble & Worthless.

4-Miscellaneous: Don’t assume a taxi fare, always ask, unless you’re okay being the mark in what’s called ‘gringo’bingo.’ No, the local people are not, as a rule, either malicious, conniving, desperate or cruel, far from it. The ones we’ve interacted with are gentle, fun, open, extremely kind and trusting people. Still… take responsibility for knowing the going rate. If you own a vehicle, keep a camera in it. If an accident dings your bumper, you’ll want photographic proof of the damage.

Speaking of vehicles, as expats we will have certain considerations as you might imagine, items we’ll need to take care of with no prompting or leeway given by the authorities. U.S. state driver’s licenses are acceptable authorization to drive here, but there are stipulations. As Susan and John write in Latitude Adjustment, concerning their early history in Panama, a border run is necessary once every 90 days until permanent residency is established.

Real estate issues can be a real can of worms. Though the Panamanians seem to be okay with it, and remain, from our perspective at least, to be openly hospitable and kind, it’s true that the expats are coming to Panama, and we will change things inexorably and forever. And that means rising prices, especially for real estate. Holly Carter and her spouse, Scott built a home in Boquete, and we’ve been following that trek on her appropriately titled blog, ‘Let The Adventure Begin.’ Good reading, Holly!  In her blog In Da Campo, Karen says the speculators will be playing high stakes ‘gringo-bingo’ and as with anything else, it will be caveat emptor to the max. Again, look out for your own interest.

One last shot demonstrating the need for self-awareness (and perhaps sobriety) in Boquete. This is what’s left of the bridge across the Rio Caldera. Barrier? Guardrail? Warning sign? Nope. You’re on your own.

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Available assets for those of us just launching the U.S.S. Expat are many. One of the best resources we’ve found is a site called Chiriqui Life. CL offers many, many categories of useful exchange and NTK info, and it seems to be accurate as far as it goes. The bottom line in this long, intricate post is that we’re on our own when it comes to living in Panama, there are hazards and potholes, but there are also people in the community with an understanding of how to navigate around the reefs and rocks. It will be quite a journey.

One last thing. Right alongside the hazards, potholes and scary-ass dangers that seem to lurk everywhere: the exposed electric wires, open rain drains, cut off sidewalks and predatory real estate speculators, Boquete also offers the following, in abundance, and growing wild. There’s no protection against this, either. Is there a lesson here? I believe so. Enjoy.

Vamos a Limones!

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La Playa a Puerto Limones

Yesterday, 3/11, we traveled west across Panama on the Pan Am Highway, then turned south and drove another 70 kilometers or so to Puerto Limones, the southernmost point in all of Panama. Like Karen says in her blog,  In da Campo, sometimes we need to go west to soothe our souls. From where the photo below was taken, the border with Costa Rica is approximately 10 kilometers. Just south of Puerto Armuelles, (roughly translated, Port of Spinach), Puerto Limones, (Port of Lemons) is a spot on the map with a resort hotel, un restaurante and not much else. Except for heat; lots and lots of heat. Driving through Puerto Limones, and this section of Panama generally, gave me a newfound understanding of what workers on the Panama Canal experienced 100 years ago. As David McCullough writes in ‘The Path Between The Seas,’ his National Book Award winning work on the building of the canal, at one point in the late eighteenth century the French effort was foundering. Heat, humidity, yellow fever and malaria were killing on average 40 men a day. At Limones it was not difficult to see why. Just surviving required effort, and the hardest work I was doing was raising a fork to my mouth.

It was low tide when we visited, as you can see in the pictures. We dined on tuna steaks fresh from the Pacific and watched humongous pelicans folding their wings and knife-diving into the roiling ocean for their own pescado por almuerzo. I’m going out on a limb to state that our tuna was likely as fresh as those the pelicans were catching. It was yummy.

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Looking due south

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La siesta at Limones

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Raquel, our tourguide/AirBnB host points out the CR border

After a five-hour drive through western Panama, our visit to Limones, and a view of Costa Rica we headed back to the AirBnB at Volcan. I’ll post about that soon, as our stay at Raquel’s Ark is worth at least one blog post, perhaps eight, just ask Kris Cunningham, a frequent blogger at The Panama Adventure. What cannot be seen in the above photo is Raquel’s tag-along navigator, assistant, driving critic and constant companion. ‘Boomer,’ a mono pequeno howler monkey is in there scritching, climbing, being the best little monkey he can be. Boomer has the run of the vehicle–I thought he was going to help shift gears a time or two–and he took great pleasure in just ‘monkeying around’ for the entire trip. Here’s a photo of Mariah holding Boomer, her new simian BFF.

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Boomer & Mariah: BFF

More later as the Panama adventure, our version of it continues. Thanks for reading.

Llegando En Panama

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Dos amigos en la cuarto de esperar, Ciudad Panama 3/6/16

Autobus Ciudad Panama a David

The picture is Mariah with two friends in the waiting room at Albrook Mall Panama City prior to our departure for David. We’re taking advantage of every opportunity to learn Spanish. The chica bonita is learning English in 4th grade, so things proceeded apace. (Yes, we asked if we could photograph them). This is just how gracious the people are here; they were eager to assist our stumbling efforts to communicate, never laughing even once, though I’m sure they thought about it. (Hint, when describing your state of high body temperature, use ‘calor,’ never ‘caliente.’  Yes, there are, ahem, certain connotations involved. Don’t ask.)

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Our view from the autobus: A good seat selection? No, the heat was muy mucho!

After a once-in-a-lifetime experience, (meaning we’ll never do it again) our nine-hour cross-country bus trip from Panama City to David (Dah-Veed) ranks up there with life’s more grueling, therefore more rewarding and insightful experiences: Yes, we’re the spoiled rotten gringos; yes, we thought of many, many ways the bus system could be improved; yes, we kept our traps shut. This is not our country, and the Panamanian people are justly proud of the infrastructure and system they’ve built in the recent past. Still, on a 550 kilometer trip, driving into the sun, air conditioning might be nice, and not everyone aboard the double-decker bus is as deaf as me, so the 90 decibel audio in the three Disney movies could have been dialed back a teeny bit. (I’m fortunate insofar as I was able to mute my hearing aids.) Lastly, the mountains (literally) of trash along the roadway in Panama is disheartening, especially considering the astonishing beauty of the country otherwise.

Enough with the kvetching. We’re back in Boquete again at last. Arriving at Finca Luz on Sunday evening, we received what is without question the most amazing welcome back since Marco Polo brought the hula hoop to Italy. Elizabeth and Dianne are THE Best hosts, and the owners of THE best little coffee farm in all of freakin’ Central America. If you write nice things about us on this blog, we’ll introduce you to the Finca Luz signature brand, Mariposa Azul. Blue Butterfly is Cafe por un excelente dia. Try this coffee and you’ll win a hula hoop contest, I guarantee it. Or maybe a trip to Italy! No, I made that part up. There’s no trip to Italy.

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Main entrance: Finca Luz (Farm of Light)

After a comida of salmon, zuchini, y enselada, plus yummy vino blanco y vino tinto, followed by un delicioso postres de chocolate mousse etc. etc. we yakked into the temperate evening with our dear amigas, who offered much advice on prospering en Panama. Don’t assume anything; don’t act like a victim; don’t be a show-offy pain in the glutes Norte Americano, and do learn as much Espanol as possible. One sage tidbit of vital info concerned the scorpions. Elizabeth warned that this is the dry season, and thus the nasty little  arachnids are eager to join you inside tu casa as they look for water. Very timely advice it was, too. Before we crashed for the night yours truly had to dispatch not one but two scorpions in our bathroom. I hate (HATE) killing anything, especially spiders and their cousins, but I didn’t wish to share the casita with those two little biters thank you ever so much.

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On the road to El Parador por almuerzo

Today was rest, a full, delicious day of doing as little as possible. The high point was a stroll from Finca Luz down the road to El Parador guest house for lunch. Life is good, Boquete  is beautiful and we’re looking forward to exploring every corner of it, with or without scorpions.

What to pack?

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Soon we’ll be off on yet another trip to Panama, this one longer than the last, to discern whether or not Boquete is right for us as a retirement spot. We’ve been diligent with Duolingo to learn as much Spanish as we can, wracked our brains thinking of what to do prior to departure and made all necessary accommodations (we hope) for a long stay.
The abiding question seems to be, what to pack? It sounds easy, just take what we need for several weeks, and hope it’s enough. But here’s the thing, we’ve come to understand that there’s a real cultural and presentational aspect to this. Do we travel as typical gringos, a couple of American tourists descending on the locals to mix with them? Or do we attempt to fit in, dress down, try for as low a profile as possible? This is not an easy dilemma. Let me explain
For one thing, regardless of what the word has come to mean to us here in Ohio, or Kansas, or California, we’re not the only ‘Americans’ around. They may or may not refer to themselves as such, but Panamanians are Americans, too. If we want to get technical, a person living in Tierra del Fuego, at the tip of South America, is ‘an American.’ So it’s up to us as visitors in Panama to be aware of such distinctions.
Here’s another aspect of it: by presentational, I mean the way we appear to local folks as we move among them on the streets of Boquete, rub shoulders with them in the Mercado or Farmacia, sit side by side with them at un restaurante, comiendo nos sopas, y bebendo nos cafe y leche. Sure, they’ll realize we’re not Panamanians, we know that. But how much do we try to fit in, and try to blend with them as if we hope to become their neighbors? All these questions have a focus on what to stash in the suitcase. Do the Panamanian people wear the casual, almost shabby shirts and pants we do? Do they think nothing of heading into town wearing T-shirts & sandals? Or does such casual dress offend them in some way? Do we take the camera long every time, snapping away at whatever novelty item or bright shiny object we see, or do we just act like inhabitants? These are not idle questions. The answers may, to some extent, determine how we’re accepted if we decide to become expats in Panama.
So back to the suitcase. Do we really need the dress shoes? They take up a lot of room, and we may not need them. The full range of toiletries & makeup etc? Or do we make a point of purchasing needed items there? What about the snorkel gear? Take ours, or rent it there? One other side of this is the weight factor. Ordinarily we make every effort to carry on baggage, stuffing as much as we possible, avoiding a checked bag. That won’t work this time, and American Airlines wants their fifty bucks (each way) for that item. Baggage handlers need to eat, too, I suppose.
We’ll figure it out, and any suggestions from our readers are, of course, encouraged and welcomed. One other side of this comes to mind. While we’re scratching our heads filling the suitcase, taking things out, putting them back, asking if things are  needed, or not, or perhaps..? One question is coming into focus: It’s not likely we’re going to be snowbirds. If we decide to move to Panama, it’s likely going to be a permanent relocation. That will simplify packing, and a lot else.