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Merry Christmas

A little Christmas fun is on the next page. Read More . . .

Gone Fishin'

Lake Gatun
Last week a group of us from the City drove out to Arenosa, a small (very small) village on the shore of Gatun Lake, for a day of fishing. Goldie (the experienced fisherman amongst us) organized the outing with Al, Mike and myself tagging along. After an hour’s drive we arrived at Dennis Melton’s waterfront home and boarded his pontoon boat (Armando was our friendly, knowledgable guide) for a day on the lake. Weather was great, just a couple of showers that cooled things off and even a little sunshine (we’ve had a lot of rain lately). We managed to land thirty-eight “keepers” (Peacock Bass, the primary species in the lake) and reeled in plenty of the little guys that we threw back - and, of course, we also had a couple of those famous “big ones” that got away. Read More . . .

Our new road

The old way   The new way

One of the little annoyances associated with living is Casco Viejo has always been getting into and out of the neighborhood - too much traffic trying to use the too narrow streets nearly always resulted in wasted time just sitting in traffic.
view from Cinta Costera walkway
This past weekend we got some relief when the latest section of the Cinta Costera (a $54M project) was opened for traffic. The project is not finished (notice all the construction barricades and fencing) but being able to access Casco without a hassle sure is nice. The completed project will add some green-space, walking and bike paths, along with some much need parking. It will also allow us to walk along the waterfront to the city with views like this.

Take care.

Parade Time

This week was the start of the Panamanian holiday season. "Fiestas Patrias" (Independence Day Celebrations) kicked off with a big parade that started here in Casco Viejo, went past the presidential palace and into the city. Yesterday (November 3) was "Separation Day" celebrating the creation of the Republic of Panama when it separated from Colombia in 1903. Today was "Flag Day," followed by “Colon Day" (when Colon, on the Pacific side got the word about separation from Columbia) on the 5th, and then — "The Uprising in the Villa de Los Santos" (the first call for independence from Spain) on the 10th. Closing out the month is “Independence Day” (from Spain) on November 28. Lot’s of parades and festivities all across the country. Read More . . .

The Canal


A couple of weeks ago the one-millionth ship transited the Panama Canal since it officially opened on August 15, 1914, so I thought I would post a few pictures and see what I could find in the way of “interesting facts” to mark the occasion. Surpassingly, the passage of the Fortune Plum, with a load of steel products from the Pacific to the Atlantic, wasn’t marked with a big celebration and was only announced by the Panama Canal Authority several weeks later - it was just business as usual, one of the 15,000 or so vessels that transit each year.

Some interesting stuff:
  • The Panama Canal was opened on August 15, 1914.
  • Estimated cost of the US built Panama Canal $375,000,000.
  • Estimated cost for the major expansion now underway, $5.25 billion.
  • Estimated year of completion of expansion 2014 - the Canal’s 100th anniversary.
  • The highest toll charged - $330,200 in 2008 by the Disney Magic cruise ship.
  • The lowest toll was paid by adventurer Richard Halliburton in 1928, who was asked to pay 36 cents - he swam the length of the Panama Canal.
  • Normal transit time for a ship is 8 to 10 hours.
  • Fastest Canal transit was 2 hours and 41 minutes by the US Navy hydrofoil Pegasus.
  • On February 29, 1968, 65 ships made the transit, a record. The average is 40 per day.
  • In 1963 the Panama Canal started operating 24 hours a day.
  • The Atlantic entrance to the Canal is 22-1/2 miles west of the Pacific entrance.
Read More . . .


STOMP en Panamá
Last night we drove across town to the Teatro Anayansi to see the international touring production of Stomp - fifteen years, 350 cities in 36 countries. We “sort of” knew what to expect - music and dance and it had to be LOUD (Jane had even considered getting some earplugs) - but were surprised. Despite the variety of rhythms coming from brooms, chairs, trash cans, PVC pipe, tin cans and lots of other stuff - the decibel level was very low (even by our “old folks” standard). In fact, is was downright quiet for the “numbers” that utilized match boxes, Zippo lighters, newspaper and the like as “instruments.” The show was also surprising in that it contained a good deal of comedy and was very visual - you needed to pay attention, and everyone did (little unusual for Panama). We had a great night. Don’t miss this show if it comes to your corner of the world.

Stomp in Panama

Take care. Hope you have a stompin’ good time.

The road less traveled . . .

Ever since my early travel days (Nigeria and Europe in the mid 60's) I've always tended to take the road less traveled. Motorcycling in the bush (jungle), hitchhiking - frequently taking the fork in the road that had the fewest cars, and riding the train - where I would pick a destination simply because it was in a different color on the schedule board. I've always chosen the unknown over the familiar - hey, we're living in Panama, so I guess not much has changed.

Cambutal Map
When Jane had a little break from tutoring it looked like a good time to escape the bustle and noise of the city for some peace and quiet. Looking at the possibilities I picked Panama's Azuero Peninsula (we hadn't yet visited this area of Panama) and after checking out the small towns of Las Tables and Pedasi, I spotted Cambutal which certainly seemed to fit my "the road less traveled" criteria. Only question, what (if anything) was there? Turns out, not much - a great beach that attracts serious surfers occasional and lots of small farms. But as is often the case a surprise or two - most importantly, the Hotel Playa Cambutal. Read More . . .

A look back

Street Music
Time flies . . . . as we start our third year in Panama a quick look at the year gone by.

Some highlights:
• The parades, processions, concerts and festivals. Always something happening in Casco.
• Dinning out - at affordable prices. Eric's hamburgers, Per Due's pizza, the prix fixe dinner at Renee's
• Dinning our - a splurge at Buzio's, S'cena or Ego.
• Going to the National Theater.
• Meeting Panama Notes readers on their vist to Panama.
• Talking to visitors in Casco Viejo and giving our little tours.
• Watching everyday life in our new neighborhood. Walking the streets. Relaxing in a plaza.
* Housecalls - for Jane's haircuts and by Wag's vet.
• Jane is tutoring English as a second language. It's hard keeping a former teacher retired.
• We bought a car.
• Managed to get our Panama drivers' licenses in a single day - major accomplishment.
• Roadtrips - shopping and exploring the countryside - big plus of having a car.
• BIGGEST SURPRISE of the year - Jane is driving herself around town.

On the practical side:
• Changed our stateside bank (our Atlanta bank was one of those failures you read about). Now banking with USAA - great service.
• Continue to be very happy with the quality of the health care in Panama.
• Progress on learning Spanish has been painfully slow on my part. Jane is, however, picking up the slack.

Hope you past twelve months has been as interesting as ours. Take care.

Odds and Ends

Damcers on stage

I thought I had better get something posted so that everyone knows that all is well in Panama. It's just that we've settled into a state of tranquilo-ness, i.e. - nothing really exciting to write about and I've simply been short of inspiration lately.

So . . . . what's been happening: Read More . . .

Horsing Around

Club Ecuestre
Yesterday we spent several hours at the Club Ecuestre Metropolitano watching a horse jumping competition. The competition was a qualifying event for an upcoming international event. Most of the riders were young (some very young) and the horses were impressive. It was an interesting change of pace (our first horse show) and we had a nice lunch (BBQ chicken and Papas Fritas) while we watched the festivities along with a fair sized crowd.

The challange (as is most often the case for us) is finding out what's happening before it's over. In this case we did - and enjoyed the afternoon. Read More . . .

Seeing the sights

Ellie Barbara Jane
Ellie and Barbara, two of Jane's teacher buds from Charlotte just completed their visit to Panama and are now trying to stay warm and dry after returning home to the North country. During their stay we did most of the mandatory tourist stuff - Casco Viejo, the Canal, Ancon Hill, Panama Viejo, Rainforrest Discovery Center, the Amador Causeway and a visit to Embera' Puru. The three ladies also managed a little shopping, maybe more than a little, and we hit a fair number of restaurants in our bid to help the local economy

It looked, and sounded, like they had a fun two weeks and they now have a few Panama tales to tell. Hey, the Diablo Rojos, taxi drivers and the general Panamanian way of doing things always makes an impression - usually good, because this place certainly isn't Kansas! Read More . . .


I was going to do a straight forward "note" about the Albrook Mall but while doing a little research I came across some information that I though some of you might find interesting. So . . . this will now include a little historical tour of the "Albrook" area of Panama City and the transformation it has undergone over the last 75 years.

Albrook swamp
We start our walk through time in the early 1900s with this picture of the "Balboa swamp" from George Chevalier. After the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914 security concerns brought about a slow but steady increase in the number of US military installations in the Canal Zone. In 1922 the "Balboa Fill Landing Field" was completed and as the name implies the swamp was "filled in" and the river was diverted under ground to make room for the airfield. In 1924 it was renamed "Albrook Field" in honor of Lt. Frank. P. Albrook - the general area is still referred to as "Albrook" although many of the facilities, including the airport, now have names honoring Panamanians. Read More . . .

Entertainment Tonight

Individually there was nothing really extraordinary about what we did on two successive evenings this week. But talk about different, read on.

INAC building  Dancing

Sunday evening I was walking Wags and stumbled upon a stage (plus a couple of hundred people waiting for a performance to begin) in Plaza de Francia. When I got back to the apartment I told Jane that something was about to happen and we should go check it out. Shortly after we got back to the plaza a modern dance troupe started their performance. We had good seats - on the steps of the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (same steps James Bond used when he entered the "Grand Andean Hotel" in the last Bond movie) and we had a nice breeze, under a starry sky. We're not into modern dance - but stuck around for 30 minutes and it was . . . . well, interesting, and after a short walk along Las Bóvedas we were back at the apartment. Read More . . .

What's it cost

This won't be a post showing how inexpensive it is to live in Panama. In my experience, someone's "cost of living" has less to do with where one lives than on how one chooses to live - wherever they are. Jane and I could certainly live on less, but could also spend considerably more - if we had more and wanted to - but are happy with our current lifestyle.

I can tell you our monthly expenses in Panama are at least a third less than when we lived on St. Croix. Some things are cheaper, some more expensive. On both St. Croix and here in Panama we find items that we feel simply cost too much but we frequently will buy the item anyway - because we need it and if we "shop around" or wait for a better price the item may disappear from the shelves - for a long time. Read More . . .

Yellow is nice

Until recently Jane and I relied on taxis to get around and for the most part it worked out well. We had a few experiences that resulted in interesting stories and over time we became pretty proficient at getting around the city. A couple of minor difficulties, however, always made these taxi outings more of a challenge then they should have been. Namely, it was always hard to tell if a cab was occupied (no fancy little light on top) and it was difficult to tell if the car in question was really a taxi (no standard color) so you ended up waving at a lot of occupied vehicles, some of which weren't even taxis. Read More . . .


Nice day to be inside
I understand that it's a little cool for those of you up north. Here in Panama we certainly don't have that problem but we do need to keep reminding ourselves what season it is - lest we get confused. Now lets see, looking at the big picture (season wise) we are now in the "dry" season, which runs from December to May. Unless . . . it doesn't stop raining on time or starts raining a little early, then we just go with the flow - you need to be flexible. Of course, the other half of the year (give or take a little, or sometimes a lot) is our "wet" season. We do get occasional rains in the "dry" season, but things don't stay wet - so we call it dry. Got that. Read More . . .

Transcontinental Journey

Panama Map

In many parts of the world a transcontinental trip is a big deal, requiring significant planning and days (if not weeks) of travel often under less than great conditions. Not so in Panama where people live on one coast and work on the other, riding the world's first transcontinental railroad (established in 1855) or driving the newly opened Corredor Norte (tollroad) on their daily commute. We even have vantage points in Panama where you can actually see both oceans at the same time. Not surprisingly, our transcontinental journey is more akin to a leisurely Sunday outing than an expedition as we can travel from the Pacific to the Atlantic (Caribbean) in under an hour whenever we want to do a little exploring. Read More . . .
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