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Archive for April, 2008

Crime Scene Tape (translated to English!)Again, walking the dog. This time I was on Amador Causeway which is a beautiful area near the Panama Canal where the ferry to Taboga Island leaves from as well as the most refreshing boardwalk in the city, and this morning was no exception. On any given day there will be walkers, runners, bikers, people sipping coffee or cold beer at cafes along the causeway. As I was strolling I saw police and 2 rescue vehicles, boats and jet skis. The closer I got I realized it was an accident of some kind, but the area was not taped off like CSI Miami… nor was anyone serious about keeping me away. In fact, while there were plenty of vehicles there were only a few officials milling about. I wasn´t at all sure what they were doing, it didn´t seem to be much. Definately not a scene like those portrayed on television.

One man however was serious about filming me for the news station… He had the camera on me all the way down the sidewalk. There was nothing else to film I guess. He was bored and open to questions so I decided to switch things around and interview him…

To make a long story short, it seems some unfortunate twenty year old soul was on a pleasure boat Sunday when a ball went off the side and he jumped in to retrieve it. Sadly he was not a good swimmer and was never seen again once he hit the water. The canal entrance is very close to Amador Causeway and the entire area an extremely busy shipping route with a deep channel. Once past Amador towards the Pacific the currents can be very strong. The rescue people were still searching today (Tuesday) and in all likely hood they will never find the body. A tragic end to what was a beautiful Sunday on Amador.

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CucumbersYesterday I went to the supermarket. I would have loved to go to the wholesale market but I never go there alone, it is like the wild west over there. So I drove to the supermarket and bought vegetables.

We had decided to try some grilling. I bought fresh cucumbers for a salad with sour cream dressing, and eggplant to grill, as well as fresh tomatoes for a homemade vegetarian pasta sauce. The quality of vegetables here in Panama is AMAZING. Two things were most amazing yesterday, the cucumbers were bursting with juice and snapped when you bit into them. The eggplant once grilled was so intense and rich in flavor, our son said it tasted like beef. Today for dessert I bought fresh strawberries, what a treat-mountain grown here in Panama.

Not to be missed, the taste of fresh Panamanian fruits and vegetables. Mmmm.

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Waiting in Panama

Waiting is one of the pastimes of everyone who lives in Panama. You will wait for everyone and almost everything, except possibly our doctor who is very prompt, that in itself is an amazing feat. Since most of my work is done out of my home office, waiting for deliveries and workmen is not so tough. Unless of course you´re on a deadline. Like today. I stayed in this morning because I was expecting a delivery of brochures at 12:15. I waited to call until 12:45 and was told the delivery would come at 5:30 instead. This is very normal in Panama. I have learned long a go to accept it. You definitely cannot change the habit of over a million people.

So the brochures will get delivered tomorrow. The waiting game snowballs….

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Every morning in the city I get up and take our dog Sakura for a walk. We head out early because of the heat that builds around 10 am. We walk around the residential area of Paitilla which is located next to the ocean but because of the high rises there are only a couple of places you can make it to the shore. We head to the shore after a walk along a shady boulevard and then through an elegant little seaside park.

The Shore/Cove:

polluted, but doesn´t smell, no one will step in the water-on the positive side they are cleaning the bay due to a huge project which I am told is about 25% complete;

a tiny cove where fishermen come at night in their pangas (small boats) to drop anchor and sleep;

located beside an exclusive social and business club ($40,000 to join);

has an old breakwater we walk along to spot fish and seabirds.

I love walking along the breakwater because one early morning I saw a huge manta ray jump out of the water and seem to fly for a bit over it, then dive elegantly right back in. So every day now I stroll along looking for more sealife and watch the tides. Today there were pelicans fishing just off the end.

Sakura and I usually meet lots of other dogs and their owners (from US, Britain, Israel, Panama…) or maids at that time of day. She tries to stop and meet all of them. Mostly purebreeds of one kind or another. Not too many really large dogs because Paitilla is an area of 90% condo high rises.

Today was cool, about 26 degrees Fahrenheit, the weather is finally beginning to change I think. Strangely enough, there were not too many walkers out. Maybe because it is Monday…. Even the lady with her cart at the corner of Plaza Paitilla Hotel was not there selling her fried empanadas and fruit drinks. Lots of people intent on getting to work though, traffic on the main avenue (Ave. Balboa) nearby was jammed. Ave. Balboa is famous for its traffic jams and is now worse because they are widening it and making a bypass plus a green area between the bypass and main avenue. Once that is complete it should be a very nice area. A new place to walk!

We got back to our apartment, Sakura overjoyed to get to her water bowl, and me because our maid Olga had arrived!

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Taboga Sunrise by Mark Gimson

Sunday morning. I got up early today and sat on our Cerrito Tropical balcony to watch the sunrise. What a lovely day it is. A large line of ships waiting in the distance for the Panama Canal, fish jumping, songbirds flitting around, and an interesting group of international guests sharing the breakfast table.

Our property manager and chef, Aristedes is teaching our son to make slingshots under the mango trees from tree twigs and recycled pieces of rubber balls. Far away from the video games and televisions, perfect.

Taboga has very no cars, a few trucks for transport of people and supplies but that is it. More noise is heard from nearby boats than from vehicles.

Taboga holds a special place in our hearts because of the friendly, simple people. As a bonus the village is small, safe and laid back. Early this morning one of our favorite neighbors came up the hill on horseback just to say good morning.

What a nice way to start the week.

Thank you to Mark Gimson for providing me with the spectacular sunrise photo.

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I was out for lunch the other day at one of our favorite restaurants in Panama city, Pompei. It is run by a very personable young Italian (he is the chef) and his lovely wife (she runs the front). While enjoying a delicious salad I was chatting with a Panamanian friend about the weather, and lack of rain. OK, ok, it is a world favorite subject, the weather. Anyhow, Panama is known to have 2 seasons. December through April is sunny, dry and with reference to travel and tourism, the high season. The amount of rain or lack of it varies from place to place. It rains very little to none on Taboga Island (just 12 miles from the city), during dry season, while it rains a little in the city, but maybe only once or twice a week and very lightly. In dry season the cloud cover is lighter , therefore sometimes hotter from direct sunlight; the air is also dryer.

The rainy season and how the misconception of the weather affects tourism. Our conversation at lunch led us to discuss how comfortable the weather can be during rainy season (May through November) but yet often visitors do not travel here during that time because they have visions of floods and day-long rainstorms. In general that kind of weather is not seen on the Pacific side which has dry areas. But on the Caribbean coast, it can rain a lot. Panama has a number of varying micro climates. One of the dry areas is found on Taboga Island where it can be just about perfect during most of the year. It is a delightful time to visit many locations in Panama, especially for those of us who are not sunbathers anymore (at least quite careful about not searing our skin). We felt that this special season is vastly under-marketed so I took it upon myself to mention it today.

During rainy season, it rains more, but not like many of us picture before we move here. I live in Panama City and on Taboga Island and look forward to this season. In Panama City and surrounds, for much of the year the rain is quite bearable and lasts one or two hours a day. Although more humid (good for our skin), this cools off the country, waters our gardens, fills our wells, and the strength of the sun is tempered by some clouds. On Taboga it rains much less during the rainy season. Crowds are limited because the Panama schools are in class (in Panama the school year runs from March through December) and tourism numbers drop, rooms are easier to find, so it is a nice time to travel here (Tip: don´t forget to ask hotels for their low season rates).

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There is never a dull day in Panama. Then again, I have never been bored anywhere.

After a major decision making process (spanning several years) our family chose to relocate to Panama. Panama was at the top of our list for a number of reasons, which I will go into about in detail later. Time flies they say, it has been over three years and the country continues to hold its appeal for us. Prior to living in Panama, we had lived in Japan and recently returned there for our first visit back. We stayed in Tokyo for a few days and then traveled through Kyushu for a total of three weeks. It was a terrific trip and because of it I realize that I have completely adapted to Panama. I am content here, business is improving nicely, and this year our son is settling better than ever into school.

Why the Blog? After completing a second webpage for our small business on Taboga Island (Cerrito Tropical B&B) I decided to create a blog. But the blog is coming on Panama time; this high season has been so busy I had no time to focus on the endeavor! I like to offer plenty of information when creating a website, and this blog will be no exception. I want to share knowledge and up-to-date experiences from Panama which may be helpful to travelers, investors, and expats. I hope you will look forward to my evolving blog, and find it useful to you in our adopted country.

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