Hasta Luego Boquete

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We have beautiful Boquete in the rearview. So why snake pictures? No particular reason, except it seemed odd that we were greeted by the fellow on top, a lovely coral snake on one of our first days in Boquete, and the fellow on the bottom, a fer de lance, on our very last evening there. The fer de lance is one of the most venomous & lethal pit vipers in the world, and this one was right outside our front door. Did we leave it alone? Oh boy, howdy.

This will be my last post from Panama as Mariah and I have decamped for Medellin Colombia.(visit soon at byallmeanstravel.com)  I feel compelled to reflect on our (very short) stay in Boquete, and to share a few thoughts. I don’t wish to disparage the quaint, quiet, lush, and lazy little town we called home for almost a year in total, but there are some things we’d like to share. Yes, comments are not only welcome, they’re encouraged.

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Miraflores Locks

Everyone should see the Panama Canal before they pass through to the other side. What’s this got to do with Boquete three hundred miles away? It seems, metaphorically speaking, that Panama is a transit point not only for the world’s commercial traffic from ocean to ocean, but for one’s passage to the next adventure as well. We don’t regret for a minute our time in western Panama: we made wonderful (hopefully life-long) friends; we enjoyed several relaxing and inspiring moments there; and we learned a whole lot about ourselves, which is the most valuable lesson anyone have have.

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January sunset in Chiriqui

We saw spectacular sunrises & sunsets. The ones we witnessed on Kauai were breathtaking, especially the green flash the locals told us about, but Panamanian sunrises & sunsets rival even those in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Gorgeous.

We saw amazing birds, migratory and otherwise. Indeed, the wildlife we were able to spot and enjoy were like no other we’d seen anywhere. Interesting, too, how the selection and variety changed all the time. When we first arrived, flocks of parakeets were a daily, predictable sight. Then they vanished, as if they’d never existed. Likewise Kingbirds, Palm Tanagers, Baltimore Orioles, thrushes and Squirrel Cuckoos arrived, then departed. Especially once the windy season arrived in force, the birds seemed to take shelter elsewhere. All but the tenacious little hummers. They stuck it out no matter what.

We’ll not forget the amazing contrasts in Panama, especially in and around Boquete. As pictured above, outrageous affluence appears next door to grinding poverty; kids with proscribed & difficult lives sit idly by while their parents toil in coffee fields alongside wealthy, carefree gringos with all the time in the world for a leisurely stroll through those same fields.

Then there’s the weather contrast, of course, and the primary reason we chose Panama in the first place. Number one shot above, Bocas del Mar, ahhhhh!; number two picture, outside our Ohio condo not long afterward. Brrrrrr! as Mariah says: no mas nieve para mi!

We learned a lot about ourselves living in Boquete. We don’t like the Green Acres life, as much as we thought we might: Chickens are basically stupid creatures; bananas grow everywhere, and we do get tired of eating them; as much as someone wanted a pet sloth, it ain’t happenin.’ But thanks D&E for letting us stay at Finca Luz. Farm of Light certainly enlightened us, even if it cost you a chicken or two. Sorry about that. We’re city people through and through, as much as we tried to deny it. We love the symphony, museums, movie theaters, great libraries, public transport. Okay, Starbucks, I admit it. I love Starbucks. Sue me.

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Not a one-horse town!

Last thoughts on our stay in Boquete, pure speculation, but I’ll put it out there anyway. Boquete, possibly Panama itself, needs more revenue.Sure the Canal spits off a billion or so annually, and politicians skim off their fair share, and there’s no transparency, yadda, yadda, yadda. Sounds like the same complaints we hear from up north. I don’t want to piss anybody off, but I have a strong suspicion that folks are shirking their responsibility. As one who firmly believes that taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society, I believe a lot more could be done by my fellow expats, revenue wise. Kudos to those who’ve pitched in to make the city a better place, I take nothing from you. Keep it up. It must feel like a losing battle at times. But without sufficient revenue, neglect becomes endemic.

Boquete is a fine example of this. The town could be a jewel of a place, lush, green, structured and tidy. It is not. Boquete could have neat and tidy streets. Verdant city parks. It could have sidewalks! Street signs! Sadly, Boquete is decrepit, with little attention to order and its infrastructure has decayed so badly what’s there hardly qualifies as adequate. It’s a shame. What’s the answer? Aside from falling back on the old bromide that it’s ‘a first-world problem,’ I’d suggest more $$$$, in the form of taxes.

I’ve not researched this thoroughly, so it’s likely useless opinion on my part, but a steady, predictable system of taxation & associated accounting of it might be just the ticket. One of the first things we encountered in Boquete was the proliferation of small businesses that operate solo efectivo. Not naming names, but it seems to me there’s only one purpose for a cash-only endeavor, and it ain’t environmental concern about using too much plastic. I believe it’s to disguise earnings, and maximize income. Okay, I’ll step off my horse. But one reason this rant appears now is that we’ve seen what can happen when revenue is sufficient for a modern, people-friendly city. It’s happening in Medellin. The absence of the challenges cited above are among the reasons we’ve moved away.

This is sounding like a whiny bitch fest, but there’s another aspect of it that comes to mind and then I’ll quit. This is just us, irritable, disenchanted gringos etc., but it’s another reason we won’t miss Boquete very much. It’s about a few of the very same gringos we encountered there, and the apparent reason they chose Panama for their retirement hidey-hole. When we decided to move to Boquete a few years ago our Norte Americano neighbors asked if we were afraid of the Panamanians, fearful of the local folks who’d surely molest us, pester us, rob us blind with gringo-bingo etc. Who knew we’d encounter these things from gringos? During our short but illustrious stay we met wonderful, caring, compassionate, fun people, folks we cherish and hope to keep up with. And we met some real stinkers. Not once but twice we received rather rude and unnecessarily avaricious treatment from landlords. Especially our last one at the Country Club. With all the cleaning fees, three different fumigations, an exciting afternoon marked by a gas explosion, defective appliances, constant power outages and the final insulting accusation that we stole bedsheets for pity sakes, we felt like unwanted vagrants, not something a renter needs while shelling out $1,200 bucks a month. BTW, anyone considering a rental at BCC, caveat emptor. Contact me and we’ll chat. Oh yes, a third landlord incident, this one involving only a potential arrangement, but still. After making inquiries to rent a certain place at The Springs, we were told in no uncertain terms that the unit was not available to the likes of us, because we were not dedicated Trumpsters. True story. The refusal stemmed from a Facebook post in which I was critical of ‘he who shall not be named.’ Evidently he can ‘say what’s on his mind,’ but the privilege does not extend to peons such as myself. Thanks, Dan, I hope your unit stays empty forever. I’m done now.

Anyway, we’re out of Boquete, now happily ensconced in Medellin. We’ve not been here long, just a week or less, but the difference is night and day. All the best to our friends in Boquete, we wish you well. Drop by the new site when you get a chance. byallmeanstravel.com will be up and running soon. Stay safe. Thanks for all you did for us. And beware of the gringos!

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28 thoughts on “Hasta Luego Boquete

  1. Your first two pictures brought to mind that (very) old song “I don’t like Spiders and Snakes” and a meeting with either of these poisonous varmints ranks just a bit higher on my Eesh radar than meeting those espousing certain politics. 😉 During our slow travels in Latin America, we evaluated each new city and country with “Could we live here?” eyes and actually came up with only 1 choice (Granada, Nicaragua) at the end of 3 years. And that was more for the people that we met there (expats and locals) and our 3 months working in an NGO school than the actual place itself. Becoming an expat is indeed a learning process as you’ve pointed out and it’s just as important to learn what you don’t want or need as well as find out what’s important to you. Welcome to your new city and new life and I’ll be looking forward to your new blog as well. Drop a note when it’s up and running! Anita

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow, great post. We are missing you terribly in this little burg, but we understand completely – and we’re so excited for you as you embark on your new life in Medellin.

    When we first moved here one of our first new friends told us, “The Panamanians are great. It’s the gringos you have to watch out for.” Although we personally have not had bad experiences to match yours, we’ve heard plenty of other stories. My sense is that expat communities everywhere, not just Boquete, tend to attract people that would be pretty marginal back in their home ports. By that I mean religious fanatics, extreme political nuts of every persuasion (although in Boquete the extremity seems to fall on the far right side), gun nuts, and unscrupulous folks trying to dodge the system to make a buck at the expense of others. It’s too bad these types of folks have to mess things up for everyone else, and it’s even worse that they’re making us all look like “Ugly Americans” (or Ugly fill-in-the-blanks) in the eyes of our host Panamanians. After all, we are guests in their country.

    But I do believe the bad folks are in the minority – and I can honestly say we have made some of our closest friends, ever (you guys included) in our almost two years in Boquete. This is our home, and we wouldn’t change a thing (well, maybe we’d tone the wind down a bit in the dry season!).

    The best to you both!
    – s

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ME BE in Panama

    S/J: Ditto on the friends part, in spades. I hope the post didn’t come across as too harsh, but it felt right. If we call ourselves writers, we gotta open a vein as they say. We miss you already as well, and look forward to seeing your smiling faces here. We’ll ride the tram to Parque Arvi and pack a picnic! We’re having a ball exploring this place, what a city!

    Later–M/B

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear By and Mari,

    As you know already, Don and I wish you well. The four of us have enriched each others’ lives – with the “how VERY much” part of it yet to be completely realized by any of us. Transitions. Life is filled with transitions. I don’t enjoy living out of suitcases nor do I enjoy the process of moving, But, with each and every move, I have opened my heart to the new scenery, to the new experiences, and to the new ” true and genuine” friendships that have been part of each one. I am not Irish, nor religious – but I am spiritual and can reflect on this prayer with its thoughts and wishes:
    http://www.worldprayers.org/archive/prayers/invocations/may_the_road_rise_up.html With hugs and kisses – always, Sylvi

    Liked by 2 people

  5. ME BE in Panama

    Sylvi: This reminded me of my old Irish mum. It was her favorite blessing, and she used it a lot, so thanks for sending it along. I used to be religious, as you know, and am now much more spiritual than ever, so I can relate. Mariah and I will continue to explore and be open to all new things, as you try to do. You’ve certainly enriched our lives, and thank you again for that. We’re hoping you and Don will drop by for a visit to our new Colombian home, we’d love to show you around.
    Hugs back, abrazos & best wishes.

    BE

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  6. Reblogged this on The Panama Adventure and commented:
    This is a post by some friends who moved to Boquete, and found it didn’t work for them as well as they had hoped. This expat life doesn’t work for everyone, and advice is to live here for at least 6-12 months before buying a house and putting down serious roots. After the honeymoon phase is over, are you going to be happy in this place that is very different, and sometimes exasperating in many ways? There are things to consider about living in Boquete also. It’s full of expats which can be good in some ways, but difficult in others. I think every gringo I know has had their feelings hurt by another expat, and many have suffered much worse experiences. It’s much better if you can make decisions with information on the difficulties as well as the benefits of your intended new home!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. We miss you!! We are both sorry to see you leave, but understand completely and hope you are really happy in your new home. it’s also not so bad to have friends in a new place because we can experience it through you. Please let us all know when your new blog is up and running and I hope we can also come and visit you in person. Colombia and Medellin are high on my “must see” places!
    Best wishes, and thank you for sharing your experiences. It’s important for potential expats to know that life isn’t always rainbows and unicorns before they make any life altering decisions.

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    1. ME BE in Panama

      Thanks, Kris. Yes, our exodus was a bit hasty, but we simply fell in love with Medellin, and as big-city people we didn’t see any reason to stick around Boquete. Our lease was expiring mid-March anyway, so we folded our tent and took off. Sorry we didn’t get a chance to say hasta luego, so we’ll say it now. Come visit when we get settled. Hola a Joel.

      Best: M/B

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  8. I laughed throughout this post because I see so much of myself in your words and thoughts. We’ve lived in Nicaragua for over 12 years now and I am torn between loving Nicaragua and hating it. My problem is that when I am in a “I hate Nicaragua” mood, I usually don’t write a post because I still live here.

    Yet, in your freedom to express exactly how you feel, you have opened the door to many discussions that need to take place about living abroad. Thank you for that! It sure isn’t paradise and when it is time to move on…you know it!

    We are not city folks, and prefer country living. Since we live in a small all Spanish-speaking community, we don’t get involved with many of the expats. Most of the time, it is a good thing because we have quite a few who are escaping from one thing or another. Yet, I miss the stimulation, music, cultural activities, etc. that a larger city provides. Which is why we decided this year to spend 6 months of the year traveling.

    For us, it is a win-win and we can always return to Ometepe Island refreshed and renewed, or like the name of my blog Rewired and Retired. haha Best wishes in your new city of Medellin! We love Colombia and look forward to returning.

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    1. ME BE in Panama

      Thanks for the comment, much appreciated. Yes, it is an easy temptation to envision living ‘in paradise,’ then discovering the exasperating reality of insects, snakes, casual attention to things we consider important, decrepit infrastructure and suicide showers. We loved Boquete for the natural beauty, friendly people, (with noted exceptions) and the slow, serene lifestyle, but the rest of it wasn’t working for us, especially the avaricious (gringo) landlords! I’m afraid to say that Boquete was/is the dark underbelly of capitalism, a predatory system in clear view. Thanks for responding, and look for our new blog soon: byallmeanstravel.com.

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  9. Kathleen Phillips-Hellman

    Boquete has never been “on my radar” as a place to relocate in Panama, but your info was appreciated. I’m planning to move down when my home in the states sells, but have been told it will be EXTREMELY difficult to find a place to rent, since my family will come with me…and it consists of two large dogs and three elderly cats. The snake issue also concerns me, as the dogs will kill (or try to kill) anything which come in their yard. Finally, I am a voracious reader and have a lovely collection of books, which I learned on my most recent trip (all of February 2017) will not survive in the tropics. Again, thank you for your information and best wishes for a good life in your new home country. Vaya con Dios.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ME BE in Panama

      Kathleen: You’re right about the difficulty of finding a rental with the pets; we have friends in Boquete who are dog owners, and that adds a dimension to the already difficult task of finding a good rental there. Feel free to e-mail me if you need further info on this. If I don’t know the answer, I will likely know someone who does. For us it really did come down to city or country, rural living versus big city with all the trappings. Boquete is beautiful, calm, safe, serene etc., but there’s not a lot to do or see, unless you’re an outdoor type. Good luck, and keep us posted! Our new blog will be up and running soon: byallmeanstravel.com.
      Best:

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  10. jim and nena

    Hola ME and BE,
    Thank you for the most informative and truthful post that Nena and I have ever read on Boquete. Nena was born there 60+ years ago and my first visit was in 1970 when she took me there to meet her family.
    We will spend some time reading all your past posts and look forward to reading your new experiences in Colombia.
    Saludos,
    jim and nena

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    1. ME BE in Panama

      Jim/Nena: Muchas gracias por leendo mi posts. Boquete is a a beautiful little town, with many friendly, smart, hard-working people, several of whom we’ll really miss a lot. But there’s not a lot there if someone is looking for modern, energizing entertaining things and experiences. We (mostly) enjoyed our time there, but the few negative experiences we had shadowed our stay. It sounds like your personal story is very interesting as well.

      Thanks again. We’ll be back shortly with byallmeanstravel.com.

      Abrazos

      BE

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  11. jim and nena

    Hola BE and ME,
    Whew! Just finished reading the entire blog. I wish that blogs like this were required reading for everyone considering Panama, and especially Boquete, as a destination. Many parts of Panama are truly gorgeous and Panamanians are a wonderful people (I may have gotten the very best one 47 years ago!). As a tourist attraction, Panama is tough to beat; as a permanent destination, Boquete is a much acquired taste. The influx of expats to a farm town has taken its toll.

    Another plus to the blog read is that I found my next book purchase! I am looking forward to “The Sky Behind Me”. Being involved with aviation at the ground level (not counting my hour driving a Cessna) for 40 years, I am looking for my next helicopter read. “Dustoff” was an amazing read as was all the past books on flying. Thank you for the enjoyment, looking forward to reading about the new adventure.
    jim and nena

    Liked by 1 person

  12. ME BE in Panama

    Jim/Nena: Just saw this, and once again gracias para leendo. I’m afraid you’re right about the influx into quiet little Boquete. It’s too bad in a way, but then we were eager to make our own contribution!
    Many thanks for considering The Sky Behind Me, hope you enjoy it and reviews are always welcome.

    BE

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  13. jim and nena

    Hola BE,
    I got your book and as soon as I finish 2 volumes of “Africa Trek” it is next on my list. Then again I may take a detour into the skies if I can’t wait. 😊
    jim

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    1. ME BE in Panama

      Jim/Nena: I really appreciate you taking time with either of my books, thanks very much. Reviews are always welcome.

      Stay well:

      BE

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  14. Hola Me and Be – I’ve been sporadically following your blog, as well as Kris Cunningham’s, and have thoroughly enjoyed reading the little I have read – have much catching up to do.

    I’d been thinking of a move to Panama (and started my own blog on the subject – “Yosoyperdido” – which has been languishing for many months now). Sadly an intended visit to explore at the end of 2016 didn’t work out, but that didn’t stop me from constantly reading and researching about Panama. Oddly enough, I gradually came to the same conclusions as you describe – and additional reading and chance encounters with people – one from Colombia and one from Peru, led me to start looking at Colombia – in particular, Medellin. To shorten a long story a little, it currently looks like I’ve set my sights on Medellin now (long before I read your post here) and am bemused to find someone else who’s come to the same conclusions I did – though I haven’t even visited either Panama or Colombia yet!

    I look forward with considerable interest to your new blog about your adventures and experiences in Medellin. And if I have the opportunity to visit Medellin (which I hope to), I hope you won’t mind if I look you up, drop in for a visit, say “hola” –

    Meanwhile – enjoy your new home in Medellin!

    Wendy

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    1. ME BE in Panama

      Wendy: I appreciate the contact etc. Yes, we are very much enjoying our new home in Medellin. Those who come here say it’s dangerous. They’re absolutely right. Dangerous, because once you visit, you won’t want to leave. Are there issues? Sure, it’s a city with 3 million souls. Is it loud? Sure, see note #1. Mariah and I are city people, so the first time we saw this place we felt like we’d come home to a place we’d never been. It’s not for everyone: acquiring a visa to stay is more difficult (but doable) than in Panama; locating a rental property, if that’s what you intend, is hard to do as well, until you acquire the visa/cedulla etc., or a property finds you, which is usually how it happens. Traffic is nuts, with thousands of motorcycles weaving in and out of cars etc. so there’s no way we’ll ever own a car here. The good news is we’d never need to. A taxi or Uber anywhere in Medellin might be $3.
      If you decide to visit, please feel free to look us up. Shoot me an e-mail and I’ll give you my WhatsApp # etc. byedgington48@gmail.com. The new blog site should be on line by April, I hope.
      Thanks for writing.
      BE

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      1. Thanks for your response BE, and advice. Yes I’ve read about Medellin as you describe it (love the “dangerous ” aspect too). Thank you for your contact info – I’ll surely look you up if the opportunity to visit Medellin presents itself (which I hope it will).
        Meanwhile, look forward to your new blog when it comes online in April.
        Best – Wendy.
        PS: my email address is wkamdin@gmail.com. I also have WhatsApp but have forgotten what leads to it – possibly my email address (shows you how often I use it).

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  15. Interesting read. We are in Boquete now. After a few other stops here in Panama including a tour of the canal as you suggested we will be headed to Colombia. I look forward to your posts on Medellin and any interesting sites we should check out.

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    1. ME BE in Panama

      Thanks for the contact. You’ll enjoy Medellin, and the progressive, people-friendly atmosphere. Look for our new blog soon at byallmeanstravel.com.

      Best:

      ME/BE

      Liked by 1 person

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