Irregular Posts; Cruise Miami to San Diego – Pacific

Antigua and Sea Friday, May 6, 2016 Buenas! Pastel terracotta walls, polished round cobbles, volcano rising into clouds; we are back.  It feels comfortable familiar.   But disoriented!  Landmarks on the way into the city?  I recognized none as we arrived from the southwest not the northeast like last time. The bigbus from the cruise ship left Puerto Quetzal in heat and humid.  Passing coal piles for power plants and then the cane fields, it followed slow trucks up into the highlands.  Poor villages that supply workers to the coffee plantations slipped past the window.  Coffee plants under the shade trees.  Green; a relief from the featureless blues and grays and whites of the Pacific above Panama. We approached Antigua from the southwest.  Eight years ago we approached from the northeast, from Guatemala City.  Now our bigbus left its tourists out at the Jade Museum.  We didn’t recognize the neighborhood from that side of the museum.  Wrong turn; walk-about. Turn the corners.  Look for familiars.  Soon we come to a place where locals gathered to sit and visit and talk, “Union Park”, surrounded by two churches, some tiendas with food and goods, and a very old yellow terra cotta building with fountain/basins for washing clothes.   The last visit had local Mayan women doing their laundry; today workmen are cleaning these colonial public basins and fountain.  At all the main tourist spots; museums, parques, landmarks and on the main streets, short costumed Mayan women trying to sell the textiles to the tourists.   Men trying to sell local jewelry. Ah YES, back again.  But I feel the “sprintness” of an excursion tour. ...

Irregular Posts; Boquete, Panama ‏ 5

Boquete, Panama‏; Monday, March 29th.  (from the 2010 archive) Hola y buenas dias, A long cool weekend in Boquete. Our room at the hostel had a balcony overlooking the Rio Caldera.  The river flowed past with a soothing rush over the rocks in the bed and on the banks.  Competing with the swooshing was the heavy beep-beep-beep of large CAT trucks as they backed up. A CAT shovel with river treads would claw, lift large boulders and stones from the channel and dump them bang-bang into the bed of the truck. Rio Caldera flowed from the high, clouded volcano above the town.  18 months ago, the river had over flowed and caused a flood.  It took away a lot of property on the banks in town and pieces of roads leading down into the town.  The CATs are paid for by the government to fix the river and make it safer.  Saturday night there were fireworks over the river.  El Presidente de Panama was there to celebrate the reopening of a washed out high end hotel. Our hostel was not high end. The owner had reworked his riverbank himself, “no help from the government”.  Sound familiar? connected get help; for everyone else, it is your responsibility.  The town of Boquete is up in a lower extinct caldera much as El Valle is.  This is not too far from David and the frontera with Costa Rica.  It is popular with vacationers, expats, and young backpackers types.  Languages from all over are heard on the streets and in the businesses. We were able to hike twice above the pueblo.  Both times we had...

Irregular Posts; David, Panama 4

David, Panama‏; Thursday, March 25th.  (from the 2010 archive) Hola y buenas noches During our resort buffet breakfast, we decided the time had come to move up the highway.  Been here, done all we want near here!  OK, pack and oops.  A call for evacuation of lower-looseness for Meg.  Answer it once and then twice.  Packing done and a half tablet of road-looseness prevention [Imodium] and off we go.  “Get some dollars at the ATM and the supermercado.”  Answer the looseness call one last time just to be sure.. David was over 300 km away.  It is actually west of Playa Coronado even if it feels like north.  On roads that are less than 100 kph, it would take the whole afternoon.  So we drove and drove.  A detour to the old colonial towns of Chitre and Parita.  These towns are on an arid Azuero Peninsula off the PanAmerican Highway.  According to the car’s thermometer, it was 38C outside; that is about 100C.  Damn good thing that I have AC! Walking about Parita at noon…muy caliente!!  Houses are low attached row houses from the colonial period.  Very attractive, this town that time forgot.  Teenage girls were playing basketball on a shaded community court.  Most had no shoes on. They were the girls town team practicing for their games.  We stopped in a Nata where the church was built 490 years ago!!  It is the oldest on the Pacific Coast of the Americas.  A farm wagon drawn by two mules moved down the street beside the church.  Cornstalks hanging over the back edge, slowly dusting the street.  Muy Caliente! On...

Irregular Posts; Playa Coronado, Panama ‏ 3

San Carlos, Panama‏; Wednesday, March 24th.  (from the 2010 archive) Hola y buenas tardes. Beaches have been a problem for us. I did find my …duh… wallet in a seldom used pocket of the camera bag.  Yesterday we used the resort’s beach club for the first time.  A long golf cart ride through some private fancy house streets and through a private gate and into the beach complex.  Walking the beach, a wave swept Meg off her feet and her glasses away into the surf.  NoWayToFindThem!  I watched the waves for anything.  But as you would suspect NoWay Jose, or Juan in my case!. Fortunately she had brought back-up glasses.  Let that be a lesson.  I was trying to think of a plan B.  Where in the countryside would you get new glasses made and how long would it take?  Do you have a current prescription with you?  I WILL bring my extra hlasses from now on.  Hmmn, I’d better get some made. 6 degrees of separation…  During breakfast at the resort, we had talked to a guy from Bedford MA.  His wife was from the Canal Zone high school in Balboa.  They were here with a large number classmates for 11 days of reunion activities in Panama.  She told me that some people from Lynn were here.!  OK!  I was introduced to Eleanor who had gone to school at Lynn English and her husband Bernie from Balboa in the  Canal Zone.  They now live in Lynn.  Most of the reunion people live in Florida because it’s climate is a lot like Panama  Talk talktalk we did.  It turns...

Irregular Posts; Playa Coronado, P‏anama 2

San Carlos, Panama‏; Monday, March 22nd.  (from the 2010 archive) Buenas tardes mis amigos, The brief rainstorm has stopped.  It was the first that we have had.  It dropped the temp from 95 to 85…but raised the humidity from 85 to 95!  Sounds like a wash.  No pun intended.  San Carlos is about 15 km up the Pan American Highway (PA) from our Playa Coronado home.  Sleepy, small pueblo of mostly Panamanians near the PA.  A small colectivo dropped a number of locals off from a route that includes El Valle.  There is a market of artisans and shops for the more well to do Los Norteños with vacation-retirement villas. We revisited El Valle and spent some time in conversation with a small artisan shop owner.  He had some family in Mystic CT.  His English and some of my Spanish were good for a half hour of conversation.  He was glad to have moved there from Panama City.  PC is a gritty, not pretty, city.  Loud and chaotic.  He had been downsized from Sprint cellular a couple of years ago.  El Valle was tranquil and pleasant to raise his family.  He could get by with a small artisan shop of tourist art and souvenirs. Later, the talk turned to economics.  He experienced the downturn that began in late 2007 much as we did at Western Avenue Studios in Lowell.  The number of visitors dropped and wallets closed.  He sells some small pieces of local art and souvenirs to the fewer tourists that come by.  The rich folks are not buyers of artisan things. Yesterday we drove a bit west on the PA to Penonome. ...

Irregular Posts; Panama City, Panama ‏ 1

El Valle, Panama; Saturday, March20th. (from the 2010 archive) Buenas tardes mis amigos. Settling down through the clouds over the Panama Canal, the usual apprehension began to gently rise. Unspecific but it always begins before the plane lands. I can never identify what I am worrying about; immigration … transport … money … finding hotel … communications. What is the source here… Guess what. I can’t find the question mark on this public internet keyboard. Also keys require a hard hit to register. “I’ll probably get sore fingers from this session.” But it was cheap at $1 per hour. Sometimes the computer froze so I had to save the draft often. Communications are a source of apprehension. We had booked two nights in a guest house, Casa de Carmen, in the El Congrejo neighborhood of Panama City. Two age groups…twenties and sixties. Our casita was at the back of the garden. Very basic; perhaps one star. A thin mattress, a fan and AC, and an OK shower. Internet was horrible. The servers would not stay connected. Occasionally, I could begin to check email, the computer server would seize up and close out. “Free wifi” is not always a good deal. Interesting discussions with a lone retiree on the road for a month. He was from Iowa. I had never met anyone from Iowa in a guesthouse. Another 50+ yr old couple from Colorado. They were in an old VW Westfalia. They had left Colorado 5 months ago. They were headed done the Pan American Highway. Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and then Uruguay. They thought they might stay...