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Happy Mother's Day

Big waves hit our quiet beach

semi-overcast 85 °F

I know I'm a day or two late sending out Happy Mother's Day messages, but the warm and fuzzy feelings are still here. As an expat living in Panama we get to celebrate Mother's Day two times per year; the North American version which is in May and then the Latin American version which is in December. Since Mother's Day is my wife's favorite holiday, she now gets to double up on it. For this May 10th Mother's Day we joined forty other people and at the BluWater Bistro in Nuevo Gorgona, Panama for an excellent Spanish wine and food paring. We enjoyed some fantastic food and drink with great company. My night was especially over the top when one of the other women guests approached us and said that my wife was the most beautiful woman there. A very nice compliment for Kryss to receive on her favorite holiday. IMG_6997e.jpg

Ten days ago we were warned by the civil defense authorities that no one should go swimming in the ocean and on very specific days to stay off the beach because of some very large waves and strong undercurrents that would be hitting our coastline. Since this is a weather phenomenon the weather guessers can only speculate on the causes. However, the most common explanation has been the "blob" that is along the Pacific coast near Alaska and Baja California. The second supposition has been a large typhoon near New Zealand has changed the water currents. No one has discussed that it might be the cycle of the tides caused by the new moon and the full moon. The waves that hit us were big to our standards, not Hawaii north shore waves, but they were eight to thirty feet above normal. We watched waves crash into neighbor's seawalls and then go over the wall and into their pools. Needless to say the surfers were having great time until the police and lifeguards cleared the beaches and the ocean. IMG_6907.jpg IMG_6901e.jpg

Business continues to grow in the Playa Coronado area. We now have a new beach bar called, "The Tiki Bar", which is on the beach in front of the Bahia Condos in Gorgona. It is about a quarter mile walk from our place and is easy to get to anytime except at high tide. We went to their "soft opening party" all drinks and snacks were free for the first three hours. IMG_6611e.jpg IMG_6876e.jpg IMG_6877e.jpg IMG_6881e.jpg This will probably be a very popular place especially on Thursday and Sunday afternoons for volleyball. On the second day of their opening the big waves hit and washed right up onto their deck, but nothing was damaged. Currently they are open Thursday thru Sunday but plan longer hours when the "tourist" season starts again.

We went to another beach, Punta Chame, with our neighbors a few days ago after all the big wave stuff calmed down. Punta Chame is a little village on the tip of a very narrow peninsula about 35 kilometers from Playa Coronado. Very wide and expansive beaches and no one around.IMG_6960_tonemapped-copye.jpg Near by is John Wayne Island which is named after the famous actor. In his heyday he would come to the island for his R and R. It is currently for sale, and it includes a small dock, a quaint hotel and a couple of fishing boats. Don't know the price but if your interested in owning an island and a hotel that's the place.

We have received our Panamanian Cedula's. This now completes the process for us to be legal permanent residents of Panama. We no longer need to carry our USA passports or copies with us. We are extended all the rights and privileges of a Panamanian citizen except we can't vote nor can we receive their version of social security. In four years if we so desire we can apply to become Panamanian citizens. So with our Cedula's in hand and our Spanish improving daily, hast luego amigos

Posted by rhislop 10:57 Archived in Panama Tagged waves panama coronado casco_viejo mother's_day punta_chame john_wayne_island undercurrent cedula tiki_bar blob blu_water_bistro nuevo_gorgona Comments (2)

The dry season in Panama

Breezy at the beach

sunny 85 °F

Panama has two seasons, wet and dry. Dry season's official start date is December 20th. The rains stop and the winds start picking up. During the dry season the winds come from the north (the mountains) and usually offer a nice cooling breeze over the beach. However, some days the winds are like the chinooks coming out of Alaska and into Colorado. Today is one of those days...the wind is blowing like crazy, the windows are rattling and it takes both hands to pull the front door shut. At the pool and the beach the breeze is nice because they are protected by the buildings surrounding them. We've been told that the winds calm down in March. It's ok, we're happy with the weather conditions, a little wind and sun is much better that snow and freezing cold.

Earlier this month we went to Playa Teta (Tit Beach), not a nudist beach, it's just a name.IMG_4080e_..mapped-copy.jpg The beach is not a very busy one and a construction company sent one of their crews to the beach for a road inspection. They drove the pickup to far onto the beach and got stuck in the sand, burying the rear wheels the harder they accelerated. We tried to push them out but they needed a back hoe with a tow chain to get them out. It's kind of ironic that no matter where you drive in January you can get stuck, in sand or snow. IMG_4096e.jpg

Kryss and I usually walk Tashi every morning on the beach that is in front of our building. We're gone for about an hour and on most days if we see and / or talk to over six people we're amazed. As beautiful as this place is, there is no one here. On the weekends there will be more people on the beach and more of the homes, apartments and condo are occupied but as far as fulltime use it is minimal. It's hard for me to understand why people go the crowded beaches of anywhere else in the world when they could have their own private beach in Panama. But, to each their own.IMG_4530e.jpg

On Thursday and Sunday afternoons (4pm-6pm) a group of ex-pats of all ages and abilities gather at the Bahia beach for two hours of friendly volleyball. The first time I went I just watched and took a few pictures. Now, I'm playing and this week Kryss is going to start playing too. If Nate, Rob, Alissa, and Megan were here we'd have a hell of a good team and time. It's all six on six with sides changing after each game, usually there are three teams so everyone gets to play and sit on the sidelines, drink beer and take a few pictures. IMG_4502e.jpgIMG_4408handse.jpg

Speaking of games...we had a Super Bowl Party at our pool. About 80 people attended bringing a variety of potluck items from Thai soups to Chocolate cake. There were two football squares games, a $1 and a $5 game. Kryss won one the first quarter of the $5 game and brought home $100. She said that is going into her shopping fund for new clothes when her sister gets here this weekend. I guess the expression about "throwing a game" will have a new meaning after the way it ended. Was it a bad call or a throw?

We were advised on Monday that our application for permanent residency in Panama has been approved and now we need to return to the Immigration department, pay $120 each and be photographed for our residents cards. In five years we will be able to apply for citizenship in Panama, if we so desire. Right now just having our "E" cards is enough for us.

The Baldwin's are arriving this Friday for a month. Lots of touristy things planned, including the Canal, Casco Viejo, Bocas del Toro, Boquete and a few stops in between. Looking forward to their visit, plus they are bringing us a few things that aren't available in Panama.

Hasta luego amigos

Posted by rhislop 13:54 Archived in Panama Tagged beach bahia playa coronado winds volleyball ex-pats super_bowl playa_teta chinooks Comments (0)

Rainy Season

There is still sun out there.

rain 74 °F

We had been told that Panama has two seasons; Rainy and Sunny or Wet and Dry, take your pick they're both the same. I prefer rainy and sunny because on many of the rainy days it is still sunny and pleasant. IMG_2033e_edited-1.jpgIMG_2013e_edited-2-copy.jpgToday, however is a different story, it is wet, gray, damp, cool and more rain. Really, I shouldn't be complaining since my SIL and BIL in Aurora, CO have snow and a chilling 1degree Fahrenheit and many of our friends in North America are getting clobbered by the first winter storm. So, we are inside wearing shorts and golf shirts vs. the normal swimsuit and t-shirts.

Last week was Panama's Independence Days celebration. November 3-5 and 10 are the actual holidays for Panamanian workers. The days vary because when independence was first realized from Spain and the Columbia different areas of country got the word at different times, thus the different days. The last of the independence days will be November 28th. Our Panamanian neighbors spent most of weekend celebrating with their families at the beach, the weather was great! About a mile from our residence there is a huge open field with narrow dirt roads leading up to the field. That was the place all the young rockers and salsa fans spent every night during the holiday. The music and partying would start at about midnight and stop when the sun came up around 6am. The last night, the AM of the 5th, the party got so loud that it woke me up. I sat on our balcony watched the activities and almost like vampires as the sun started to crack the horizon seventy-five to one hundred cars loaded up and headed home.

We had another cool experience last week, the arrival of the full moon. Our balcony was a perfect place for one of my best, in my humble opinion, moon photographs reflecting over the Pacific. Using a tripod, a shutter remote control, a 500mm lens and a bunch of experimenting the image was captured for perpetuity. IMG_2173e_edited-4.jpg The cloudless sky was perfect for the rising moon but as soon as the moon got to ten o'clock the clouds floated around and in front of the moon ending the perfectly clear night.

Two nights prior to the full moon and during the Independence Days celebrations a very cool rain, lightning and thunderstorm rolled into the area. There were no fuego artificiales because of the storm. However, Mother Nature provided an excellent show. We had lightning strikes as near as two miles and as far away as twenty. Using my AEO photography lightning tracker a bunch of very cool images were captured. IMG_1950e_edited-1.jpgIMG_1932e_edited-2.jpgIMG_1914e_edited-1.jpg

We've found an SUV that seems to meet our criteria and hopefully in a few days we'll be driving it and return the rental. More details on that when the deal is done. Also, next week we're off to Panama City and the American Embassy to get our Panama drivers licenses. Something new and different every day. Hasta pronto amigos.

Posted by rhislop 11:03 Archived in Panama Tagged sunset beach sunrise clouds holiday panama cool sunny dry wet warm lightning damp gray coronado suv embassy t-shirts swimsuit independence_day drivers_license aeo_photography Comments (1)

Settling In

Taking care of business

storm 78 °F

IMG_0058_5..ed_edited-3.jpg

The process of getting your Pensionado Visa is only the beginning of all the necessary paperwork to be completed to live in Panama. Our passports were returned to us on Friday with a multiple entry visa stamps which makes it possible for us to come and go from here without having to exit the country every six months for a new visa.

Additionally, we opened a bank account in Coronado, Panama. This was an interesting process that took two and a half hours. The banks ask as many if not more questions than the Immigration officials, take your money to open the account and then charge you for the pleasure of banking with them. Depending on the amount of money in your account the banks charge anywhere from a $1 to $3 dollars per month to insure your money against theft, fraud or stolen credit card. All this with a smile and a fat hand shake.

The next bureaucratic challenge will be getting our drivers licenses. Maybe in a couple of weeks we'll face that event. We're told it usually takes two or three days to get it completed. We're still looking for a car to buy, nothing has landed on our radar yet, but we're still looking.

Most of the pictures we've posted have been from our deck looking out into the Pacific Ocean. However, that is only half the story. To the north (out our front door) are the mountains and the jungle. It's easy to overlook the beauty of the mountains when everyday you get to see the ocean but they are equally as beautiful. Because we are still in the rainy season, until the end of November, the jungles are very lush and green. IMG_9707_8..ed_edited-1.jpg

Tashi has really adapted to the Panama life style. The morning walks on the beach are probably her favorite. She loves chasing her ball, running after the birds that always get away, and lately running into the surf. We take her off leash once we get to the beach and she races down to the water sticks her nose in the water and then races back to us. She's still under "house quarantine" for another ten days so we have to be careful about her contact with other dogs.IMG_9687e_edited-1.jpg Some days when we walk the beach we head east toward Gorgona, a small village about a mile and a half down the beach. There is a fish market right on the beach where we can pick up fresh fish at a very reasonable price. The last visit we purchased a very tasty "corvina" Panama's Sea Bass.IMG_9751e.jpg

On Thursday morning around 4am another lightning and thunderstorm rolled in from the Pacific. The lightning display was awesome and as the sun started to lighten the sky the black gave way to blue which made for some interesting photographs. IMG_1683e_edited-2.jpg

Posted by rhislop 08:45 Archived in Panama Tagged mountains beach jungle panama lightning thunderstorm banks immigration coronado drivers_license corvina pargo sea_bass Comments (3)

Testing the waters

Immigration, the beach, and other stuff

sunny 83 °F

Prior to coming to Panama for this extended stay we started the necessary paperwork to obtain a Pensionado Visa. This would give us retiree discounts on almost every purchase except booze and groceries. Additionally, there are special lines for retirees so they can go into the theatre first, get on the bus first, etc. However, to get one of these visas you must obtain a clean FBI report, have guaranteed monthly income of at least $1200 (for the two of us) and be in good health. We completed all the forms, obtained the necessary apostles (an internationally recognized notary) and submitted them to our representative in Panama. IMG_9814e.jpgLast week we had our first of two face to face meetings with Panama Immigration. Typical government bureaucracy; long lines, but we were in the retiree line so it was much shorter, paperwork at one window, photographs and fingerprints at another. We were in and out in 2.5 hours. Yesterday we went back for our second visit to pick up our temporary card and in about two months we will receive our permanent Pensionado card. Along with this we got a multiple entry visa which will enable us to come and go in Panama without being concerned leaving the country every six months so we don't overstay our current tourist visa. Roy Canon, an American ex-pat, that lives here and is fluent in Spanish was our paper work killer. He helped us get through the immigration process with easy. We would recommend his services to anyone interested in living in Panama whether full time or part time. We got everything completed in one week, we have friends here that have paid Panamanian Lawyers thousands of dollars and are still waiting on their visa over a year later.

Even though this time of year is considered the rainy season we have only had one day of hard all day rain. We've seen micro bursts in the mountains and out in the ocean but nothing of any consequence in our neighborhood. At night we've seen storms five or six miles out in the ocean with lightning but the storms didn't move inland. However, three nights ago a storm rolled in from the Pacific that really gave us a lightning and rain show. Sometimes the lightning was so strong when it hit it was almost like daylight and the rain coming down in buckets. We'll probably have a few more nights like that one.IMG_9620e_edited-1.jpgIMG_9619e_edited-1.jpg

On Monday, Kryss and three other ladies went to Penenome, Panama to visit two orphanages. Two of the ladies had been collecting donations and supplies for the orphanages. They had purchased clothes, diapers, toys, and personal items for the babies and the pregnant mothers waiting to deliver their baby's. Kryss said it was a very sad situation where babies were waiting to have babies. All the pregnant girls were 13-14 years of age and had been raped or abused by a father, uncle, brother or other close family member. This depressing situation is something that is an ongoing and difficult to stop. Maybe over time this is something we can help change.

Next on our agenda a Panama bank account, a driver's license and buy a car. All of this is part of the fun living at the beach in a foreign country. IMG_9813e_edited-1.jpg

Posted by rhislop 13:30 Archived in Panama Tagged rain storm panama visa canon coronado orphanages coronado_beach pensionado retiree roy_canon penenome Comments (2)

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