Dogs And Chickens Drink Together

So, last week or maybe last month my mother asked me, “Do people in Panama think you are strange because you bring your dog to the bar?” I had to think about it for a minute and decided, it was not normal behavior. I have seen a dog or two with their human have a drink, but it is by far not an every day occurrence, especially because most dogs in Panama are dogs, not highly regarded members of their family.

Ginger waiting to be served

The question did give me pause, and then I thought about all the strange things I have seen in Panamanian bars. For example, there was the day a man parked his horse in the bar. You had to give him credit, it was hot out and there was not a lot of shade, so why not bring him in? The horse was a little big and did make it hard for customers to squeeze past, but at least the gentleman didn’t park his car in the bar.

Then there was the day someone stopped for a cold beer with his rooster. Now, the rooster wasn’t there for a beer, but he had to go somewhere, so why not on the corner of the bar? I have to admit, it was the first time I drank with a rooster. Fortunately, he was a quiet rooster and seemed to be house broken. I haven’t seen him come back, but maybe it was a special occasion.

It is not always animals that make for interesting sights in drinking establishments. For example, I am pretty sure if you walked into a bar in the States and handed the barkeep a machete there would be some confusion and possibly some police intervention. Here in Panama, that is just common sense. Everyone, including this gringa has a machete and no one, including me, wants a drunk bar brawl with a machete involved. That could get messy pretty quickly.

Surely, I would be remiss not to mentions bicycles. Even the bars that I would consider not appropriate for my dog to enter are open to bikes. Everyone has one, no one wants to lose one and so yes, you are likely to see many customers stroll in with a bike. They generally stand them up in the corner, or let it fall over, depending on their owners sobriety. Some places have designated bike corners while other places are not as organized. You won’t see a placard or a sign, but go with the locals and leave your bike with theirs.

So,in general, taking Gringer to the bar might not be average Panama style, but it is by no means the strangest thing you are likely to see while enjoying a cold Balboa.

Salvador Needs A Forever Home!!! – Adoption Is The Answer!

ADOPT Salvador…Every dog needs a forever home!
He’s name is Salvador! He was rescued ten days ago in the entry of Caldera, he was so skinny and with mange and some bites in his body. Dra. Chely made a blood test and he has tick fever, now he is with his treatment. He is so sweet, love to play with all the pack and he looks better now.

Please help to continue helping more animals!! They need all your support!

Looking for a forever home!!


Understand November In Panama

Ahhh…November and all of its glory is here in Panama. Put aside your work, your troubles and any plan of accomplishing anything productive. To put it bluntly, November is a long month of celebrations, parades and parties. Many government offices are closed or working on abbreviated schedules, streets are randomly closed for parades and basic day-to-day tasks are put on hold.

Lets start understanding November.

Banda Baru Famous Independent Band

November 2nd – Dia de los Muertos. Today Panamanians celebrate in reverence those that they have lost. The cemeteries are crowded with families cleaning grave sites of debris, touching up painted crosses and leaving flowers for loved ones. Don’t worry if you didn’t buy flowers in advance, the streets near cemeteries are crowded with flower vendors making a colorful site. Unlike many Central American countries, Panama’s Dia de los Muertos is a subdued celebration. Liquor sales are prohibited and loud music is a definite no-no. Don’t worry, the rest of the month will make up for the somber mood of the second.


November 3rd – Day of Separation. Today celebrates the 1903 separation from Colombia (also known as “Gran Colombia” as it also included Venezuela, Ecuador, northern Peru, western Guyana and parts of Brazil. Separation Day is not to be confused with Independence Day, although many locals, including my husband don’t make a distinction and just call it Independence Day. This is one of those times its nice to be knowledgable, without the need to be right. Expect lots of parades, music and drinks all around.

Love the little guys and gals

November 4th – Flag Day. Or simply, the day you will see nothing but red, white and blue! Flags stream from light posts, ceilings, balconies, cars, people, and animals. Don’t be intimidated by the national pride, instead feel free to join in the celebration. Just like yesterday (the 3rd) expect lats of parades, music and drinks all around.

Enjoy the local hot spots

November 5th – Colon Day. Yep, we are still celebrating the independence movement. The story is Panamanians officials bribed Colombian forces in Colon not to fight Panama’s separation from Gran Colombia. With no fight, Panama became officially independent and became yet another day of celebration. Get your party on if you haven’t already started!

November 10th – “Primer Grito de Independencia de la Villa de los Santos”. If you haven’t already grasped the independence movement, you have another chance. November 10th is celebrated as the beginning of the independence movement from Spain.

November 28th – Independence Day. Today Panama (as part of Colombia) celebrates its official independence from Spain in 1821. This is the “other” independence day, not to be confused by November 3rd, although, as I stated you may hear the names used interchangeably.

So, my friends, that concludes November in Panama. If you are still standing congratulations!!

NOTE: It is advised to find an ATM before the celebrations start, many machines run out of money early on in the party!

Bringing Your Car To Panama

My adventure, which ultimately led to my destination in Panama was a long one. I drove through Central America, stopping at interesting sites (aka beaches) along the way. So needless to say, I arrived in Panama with a car.

Just like all the other countries (the exception being Mexico that has its own peculiarities) I stopped at the Aduanas, or Customs Office. There I was instructed to buy car insurance first and foremost, nothing could be completed without it. Fortunately, there were several offices that sold insurance in the near vicinity for the same price ($15/month 2015) and you could purchase it for up to three months. I would understand later that three months was the limited amount of time a foreign car could be kept in Panama without further trekking into the land of bureaucracy.

Insurance secured I headed back to the Aduanas Office where they of course wanted originals and copies of everything having to with the car. I was pleased that the nice lady selling car insurance has already taken care of said copies*** (listed below), but I must mention I was wary of handing over my car title and passport and being told to, “go wait over there”, but as one does with all things immigration, I smiled and stepped two feet from the window, which was not quite, “over there”, but no need to get technical.

After twiddling my thumbs for what seemed like endless ages, 15 minutes later my name was called. The official handed over my title, passport and told me to sign both copies of the official car “registration” paper. One was mine, one was hers. Next I was instructed to get the car inspected. Logical enough, if only I knew who was suppose to inspect the car. After waving the paper around in several people’s faces I was directed to the gentleman that had on a polo shirt (it does have official insignia) and a lanyard around his neck with identification. Mr. Inspector took my paper, looked at the license plate, matched it to the one on the paper and looked in several windows. Then he scratched his signature and handed me back my “registration”. The car was legal!

The next stop was actual Immigration. I handed over my passport and my car papers (this was on advice of a local and I am guessing it null and voids any question about my departure or return ticket) and they stamped me into Panama. The story is longer, as I had Jack, my faithful 4-legged travel companion with me, but that part of the story is for another day.

Before you can leave the border area you must purchase a fumigation ticket. This is $1 and allows, although you are forced, to drive through the fumigation machine. This is like a giant car wash, big enough for trucks to pass. A word to the wise, remember to put your windows up. Yes, I forgot! Borders always take longer than one would like, but to help speed things up, while you are waiting for the Aduanas Office to deal with your car, go across the street and purchase your fumigation ticket. It only takes a couple of minutes, but it is one less thing to worry about once you are finally legal.

***Copies you need:
2 Copies of your title
2 Copies of your passport (both the front page and the last page)

Rain, Rain, Where Art Thou?

Rain, rain, where art thou? Oh, trust me, I need not ask. I spent fourteen years in New Orleans and four years in Nicaragua. I thought I knew what rain was. Then I moved to Panama.

The rainy season is only part of the year, the guidebook will tell you April through December and they are for the most part right. What they don’t tell you is how much rain. When I think of rain, I think two different things. I think of the afternoon showers in the summer heat of New Orleans and the tropical storms and hurricanes there. What I don’t imagine is six weeks of rain.

Yes, last November (2016) Puerto Armuelles had six weeks of rain. It rained all night, it rained all day and it rained in between. It is only October, but I am getting that rainy feeling. It has now rained basically 24 hours non-stop. No big deal right? Wrong. Although, Panama has a much better infrastructure than many of its Central American neighbors, drainage would not be considered a highlight. Especially when it is not just rain, but actual torrential downpours. I don’t have a way to measure, but I can tell you my yard was flooded at 7am this morning, and since the rain has not stopped, I would guess I am close to swimming pool status. We don’t have a public pool here…maybe I should consider opening one at my house?

So what does one do when it rains? First question. Is the power still on? Today yes, although it has flickered. Second. Do you have water? Seems like a dumb question…my yard is a swimming pool. Strangely enough, lots of water in the sky, the rivers and everywhere but where you want it is the norm. In Panama many of the water filtration plants work from the rivers. When the rivers flood and all the debris and detritus of the world gets pushed into the plants, the water stops flowing. So, six weeks of rain last year equalled six weeks of no fresh water.

Being my first year as a home-owner here I was NOT prepared. Generously the government sent out water trucks. Would have helped if I had a container bigger than a five-gallon bucket for said water. Bottled water is a good idea, but why buy water when it comes out of the sink? The argument I had about the electric plugs downstairs not being at ground level like they are back home…well, after my downstairs flooded knee-deep, I just feel like a moron. While all my neighbors were out digging trenches along the road and I sat reading a book and drinking a cold beer…again, moron comes to mind.

So, now as the second season of rain appears to be upon us I have learned many a thing. How many I have I implemented? Lets just say, my downstairs did not flood yesterday, but I was forced to drink bottled beer. The most important thing I have learned is that, although many things my neighbors do seem odd to someone from the U.S., there are reasons for them all (with the exception of booming stereo speakers) and as a transplant here I would be wise to take a few tips from them. I have also learned that all of my neighbors and friends here are more than happy to explain the reasons why they do strange things and even help me out on occasion.

Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to ask for help and always be prepared!

Gringas & Machetes – Life Taming A Garden

Wack. Wack. Wack.

Ok, this isn’t so bad. I can do this.

As the old proverb says, “Give a man a fish and he will be hungry tomorrow. Teach a man to fish and he will never go hungry.” Here in Panama it rains A LOT. In an attempt to live on a strict budget I decided instead of paying someone to cut my grass, and the never ending plethora of weeds that I call a garden, I would teach myself to use a machete. How hard can swinging a blade through grass possibly be? Ha!

I made it through the garden with only two ant bites and the need to start alternating arms due to burning muscles and newly arriving blisters. Not bad so far. With the garden somewhat under control, I headed for the backyard. Here lives the “vine” of which I am the less than pleased owner of. Not heading the warnings of locals about snakes and other undesirable creatures I began my wacking. I was honing my technique quite successfully, at least in my mind. Wack.

“Oh no, what’s that?” Under my flip flop, yes…highly recommended footwear for climbing around in the jungle swinging a sharp blade, I felt a distinct wiggle…and it was BIG. My first thought, as an ex-New Orleans city dweller…rat!

I jumped, totally forgetting I was swinging a machete high in the air. Out from under the wretched “vine” sputtered, wings flapping, screeching to high heaven,and scaring the living daylights out of me, flew a chicken. Yes, chickens live everywhere. Although I ran from the backyard machete held high, screaming like a little girl, possibly never to return, I am quite sure my neighbors had a good laugh.

Only after I had reached the safety of my house did several important facts come to mind.

-Never run with sharp objects (pre-school)

-Flip flops are for the beach (middle school)

-Chickens live everywhere, not just at a Purdue Farm (post graduation)

So please, take a word from an amateur. Never under-estimate how much hard work gardening with a machete is.

Una Cerveza, Por Favor – Guide to Panamanian Beer

Onesimo and Dave enjoying a cool beer.
The world of micro-breweries is a concept foreign, to many of my friends in this foreign country, so I would suggest leaving the concept at home and giving one of the national beers a go. Unless, of course, you are in places like Bocas del Toro or Panama City that cater to more tourists. In the rest of the country your choices are somewhat limited. Although, I will say that in many bars you might spot something you recognize. Corona is popular with the Panamanian ladies, Old Milwaukee somehow has a hold out crowd here and Miller Lite shows up at the baseball games quite frequently.

Throughout Central America each country has what is termed, “national beers”. Nicaragua it is Tona, or Victoria. In Costa Rica look for Imperial. Panama is unique, as it has several options. Take a gander below to get your bearings before the bartender raises her eyebrow and waits for you tell her which cold beverage you want…most likely there is no menu, and good luck if she cares to share with you your options (she doesn’t get tipped often, so customer service can sometimes be a tad lacking).

Balboa. Now in just the last two years Balboa has become slightly more complicated. Once it was just Balboa. Now you have Balboa Ice and in larger cities like Panama City you can find Balboa Roja. Balboa, the normal Balboa, has a red label and in small town like Puerto Armuelles many call it Balboa Roja (not to be confused with the Roja in the cities). See, ordering a beer can be difficult. This Balboa is the darkest and considered a premium lager. The alcohol content per bottle (330 ml) is the highest of the other local options at a “staggering” 4.4% (Ok, its not exactly Chimay…but it will do on a hot sunny day). The local saying is “Balboa es por los hombres” meaning it is for the men. This is an argument that my tastebuds refuse to take part in, and as a woman I proudly drink my “manly” beer. I also personally find it is the only beer I can drink on the warm side without being reminded of a a stale port-o-potty.

Panama. This is just a guess, but I am going to say that this beer was named after its country of origin. It is distinctive by its little green bottle (285 ml). Some of my friends drink Panama, and in a pinch it is my second choice and has the same alcohol content (4.4%) as Balboa. It is lighter than Balboa and as far as I am concerned, does not have the flavor, but if it is hot, and it is hot in Panama, just about anything will do. Just don’t drink it warm. Did I mention pot-o potties? There is also Panama Light (3.8% and also 285 ml), be careful when ordering. Panama Light is like its counterpart Panama, a beer with very little taste and yet they took the taste out of it.

Atlas. Hands down this is the most popular beer with my friends, and no, I have no idea why. My husband drank Atlas before he met me, but since then he swears each bottle tastes different. I don’t drink enough Atlas to claim one way or another, but he has YEARS of experience. At least Atlas is served in a regular sized bottle (330 ml) and has an alcohol content of 3.7%, but for the sake of your mental health, make sure it is cold! They also have a Golden Atlas, which is lighter and I am guessing has even less flavor. Not a fan of beer in clear bottles.

Soberana. With clear bottles being an issue, I will state I have drank Sobrana once in my beer drinking life, which is an extensive life, and I have never had such a bad hangover. No, I didn’t drink a case, I had one beer and a headache for two days. So I have very little to comment about, but just be forewarned. Stop! It is not the alcohol content (3.8%).

All alcohol contents are according to the bottles in my house. They recycle the bottles and you pay a deposit, so NEVER-EVER throw your bottles in the trash or goodness forbid the ocean!!!