Boquete for a second time

Trip Start Jan 07, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Feliz Navidad!

The Christmas holiday is suddenly upon us and again I am enjoying it in the warm weather. For the last 4 years I have been fortunate enough to share the Christmas holiday with my good friend Bill Hartman and his lovely wife Toni Hood in Las Vegas and will miss them terribly this year. It was a tradition I had hoped would continue until one of us eventually succumbed to the indulgence of pork and Little Debbie snack cakes that we so greedily imbibe in every year. This year it will be rice, beans and chicken.....the standard Panamanian meal, but somehow I will muddle through it.

After my last post I had the good fortune of catching a ride to Panama City with Cesar Donoso, a friend of the family that I stayed with during my Spanish classes in Boquete. Cesar is a pilot for the Canal and lives with his family in Panama City, but recently bought a small hotel in Boquete and travels there almost every weekend in an effort to get it up and running. Cesar was very kind and invited me to spend my first night in Panama City with his family at their home and I enjoyed it tremendously. He and his wife Olivia have three lovely children (Cesar, Jr. 18, Sara 16 and Diana 10) and they live about hour outside the city. The ride from Boquete to Panama City was about 7.5 hours and it was a good opportunity for me to learn quite a bit about Panama from a native's perspective. Cesar is fluent in English and I gathered lots of info during the trip.

The next day Olivia dropped me off in the Casco Viejo section of the city and I was amazed at how much it looked like the French Quarter in New Orleans. The area is in the process of being rehabbed and has some not so great areas, and some really spectacular ones. I opted out of that particular neighborhood after view available hotel rooms. Not one felt safe.

I cabbed it to another section of town and found a room that eventually became my home for the next 10 days. I suffered some sort of shoulder injury and decided it was time to shut down for a bit and rest my aging body. For two days I couldn't lift my left arm at it was lots of bad television in my air conditioned hotel room. My arm eventually improved but I did not want to push it so I basically spent the next 10 days sleeping late, watching bad tv, writing, and walking around the city. Panama City is frenetic, dirty, huge and from all accounts very unsafe for locals and tourists as well. I decided to keep a low profile. The traffic is horrendous, and I was repeatedly told that cabs were unsafe as drivers of many would rob their own fares. Yikes!

I did do a bit of walking around the city. Hit a few malls and felt like I was in anywhere America. But, I did find my favorite brand of under wear and had a party because I was so excited about finding them. I was overdue to replace the ones I had but had been having difficulty finding ones with a proper "fit". It is the little things you learn to miss when on the road. I also went to an interesting lecture with an expat group and met a woman originally from New Orleans that had been living in Panama for 25 years. She knew one of my NOLA clients very well. Small world for sure.

As soon as I felt better, I decided to fly, that's right fly, back to Boquete for an extended rest. My last day in Panama City I was walking down one of the main streets and I heard someone call my name. Not a common occurrence for me. I was happy when I turned to look and I saw Cesar driving in his truck. He pulled over and we chatted for a bit. It was decided that I would stay in his hotel in Boquete when I arrived. I was thrilled because business is a bit slow for him now and he told me I could use the kitchen to cook in. I don't think I need to explain to any of you here what that means to me. I am SO TIRED of road food. I was desperate for a few weeks of healthy salads and such, so I happily agreed and have been comfortably entrenched in the Palmira's Spring Hotel since.

I was greeted with a big hug and a kiss out front by Osvaldo, the handiest guy I have ever met. He works for Cesar at the hotel doing all sorts of construction projects and is literally a work horse when it comes to getting things done. Very impressive. Then Amelia who I had also met on my last trip was there with big hugs as well. I got settled in quickly and made my way to town to load up the fridge.

So, most of my days have been spent resting, doing research on the internet (job hunting mostly), writing, reading, and spending time with my Slovakian friend, Katarina. She is married to the son of Maria and Jeff Moss and recently opened a little take out restaurant with a very limited menu. She has little experience with food preparation and I have been teaching her some of the things I know about food. We get along great and being in town gives me an opportunity to network a bit.

I also traveled with Katarina and her husband's cousin, Nano, to an area on the Pacific Coast called Santa Cruz where she and her husband, Pedro, recently purchased a second home in need of renovation. It was a good opportunity for me to see some more of the country and get a look at what your money can but. I enjoyed that as well. I could have done without the sand fly bites, but you cannot have it all.

So the plan now is this.... I will spend the holidays with Cesar's family at the hotel. They are all arriving today for a two week period, and I suspect there will be plenty to keep me busy. They last came the weekend I arrived and I set up a project with the kids to decorate Christmas bulbs with paint and glitter. You cannot knock that gaudy part of NOLA out of my personality. I will continue to look for work, and try and take a few day trips with the family. Hopefully, in a few weeks I will feel confident with my shoulder and make a plan for what is next. I have to leave the country in mid January as my 90 day visa expires and needs to be renewed. It is a simple "get out of the country for 4 days and then come back" situation, nothing complicated, and I am making plans for that as well. What happens after that has yet to be determined.

I will post again sometime after the first of the year. A happy, healthy and prosperous new year to you all. May the coming year be a time when you realize all of your wildest dreams.

All the best!
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