Boquete Video Festival Sponsored by Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast

Blog by Veronica Pitti

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There is an exciting new festival coming to Boquete very soon! This festival is called Boquete Video Festival (BVF). The festival has been developed by some of the expats who are currently living in Boquete. Dozens of people have registered to submit their short videos to the organizers of the festival who will then post the video on You-tube for people to watch and “Like”. The cost for registration is only $10 and that includes free classes to learn how to use your cell phone to make and edit the video before submitting it to be judged.  There are five judges who have been carefully selected. These are people who have expertise in films and video production. The judges are current residents of Boquete. All the videos have to show a story about Boquete in one of six different categories. The six categories are: Documentary, Comedy, Commercial/Promotional, Drama, Adventure and Musical. The festival is a good way to show people around the world the natural beauty of the Boquete area and the people who live here.

Right now several professionals are involved in helping the contestants in making of their videos. Some of the contestants have experience in making videos and others do not. It is hoped that people are able to make a good video once they have some training and personalized help. The goal is to have fun, be creative, get recognition, and hopefully win prizes!  The contestants have until December 31st, 2016, to submit their video entries. All the videos are being uploaded to the You-tube website of Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast.

There are Boquete Video Festival t-shirts for sale at the Tuesday Market (BCP Teatro) 2every Tuesday from 9 AM to 11:30 AM or they can purchased from Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast between the hours of 8 AM and 5 PM daily.  These t-shirts come in many sizes and are all blue with the festival logo in the front and a design in the back. See the photo to the side: Our friend Gabrielle


The big “gala” award ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, January 28th, 2017, from 5 PM to 7 PM at the BCP Teatro. The tickets will be on sale soon at the Mailboxes Etc and at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast. This awards ceremony will truly be a “red carpet” event. Everyone will be dressed up in nice clothes and have their picture taken by professional cameramen as they settle down in their seats and take part in the ceremony. The top 20 videos will be shown at the event. There will be a total of 8 awards and prizes given to the contestants, one for each of the six categories and then two additional “special” awards. There will be “Oscar Awards” made out of chocolate, two-night stay at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast, restaurant gift certificates from Retrogusto and Seasons Restaurants.

Even though I am not submitting a video for judging, I plan on attending the award 3ceremony in January because some of my friends are entering their videos in the contest. Hope my classmates are able to attend the event as well!

Veronica Pitti

 

The 10 Must-Do activities while visiting Boquete, Panama!

Blog by Terry Richmeier & Manzar Lari

Ok, so, here at Casa de Montaña we have been talking a lot about taking some time out – a respite from life and a tranquil vacation from the daily stressors of life. It suddenly dawned on us that not everyone wants to sit around sipping wine while lounging in their room!
So if you are seeking some thrills as well as create life-long memories of a vacation full of adventure, we have the best options for you!

1) Boquete Overview Tour

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Let’s start with our very own Boquete Overview Tour! You inspired us to create this unique experience of Boquete – see the beautiful landscape, precious people, and to help you decide if Boquete could be a future home for you. This tour gives you an overview of Boquete from the comfort of the van while you enjoy a bottle of water and a snack. This is a half day tour and is full of information about Boquete and the surrounding areas. It’s our number one must do for a reason! Whether you are looking at a possible re-location or you just want to see the magnificent and amazing place we call home, this tour is designed just for you. There is a charge for this tour but check out our specials to look for discounts here .

2) Coffee Tours

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There are a couple of coffee tours that we highly recommend. The first one, “Café Ruiz” picks you up here at our hotel and takes you to the finca (farm) where they grow and pick coffee beans and do the initial processing of the coffee beans. Later on they take you to the plant where they roast and taste test. During this truly entertaining tour you learn a lot about the history and the current state of the coffee business in Panama. You also get to smell and taste different variety of coffee and you even end up bringing home your own bag of coffee! This is the perfect tour if you have never been on a coffee tour before. Just let us know and we can get this set up for you. And if you have been to a coffee tour before, Dos Jefes (Cafes de la Luna) is a great option for you. Remembering your knowledge on how the process works to put the great tasting coffee on your table, Dos Jefes details the process of winning the world’s best coffee awards. You will become the expert yourself as you pass through taste testing and talk about the living environment of the indigenous people that work the farms as well as why organic coffee is fast disappearing and much more. Unique to this tour is the chance to taste the new tea that is being produced from the Cherries of the coffee bean! This is a second tear/level of coffee tours. Note: We have information about a special and unique program where you can buy a portion of a coffee farm through “International Coffee Farms” (ICFC). If you are interested, you would be welcome to join their regularly scheduled conferences that is chock-a-block full of information about how you can be part of the Socially Responsible way of producing coffee by giving back to the community. Let us know if we can assist you in getting connected to ICFC or other coffee tours. Click here for more information.

3) Zip-Line

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For some real thrill and adventure we can get you scheduled for a Zip Line/Canopy Tour where you ride sky high from tree to tree looking onto the rivers, suspension bridges and the cloud forest below. This amazing adventure is not for the faint of heart! You may want to put this onto your bucket list! Contact us to schedule here.

4)Whitewater Rafting

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Another must do for the enthusiastic adventurists is to take scheduled whitewater rafting trip which is about 1.5 hours away at the Costa Rican border. This tour is particularly thrilling during the rainy season with the river rafting level going up to Level Four in the months of August-October!  The tour guides take in a van to the river, provide all the equipment and instructions and provide the adventure of a lifetime! They even break for lunch that is included in the fee. Click here to request more information.

5)Island Tour

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With tours that take you into the deep rivers with “White Water Rafting” (above) to zooming across the ocean in a water taxi on your way to a remote island, life couldn’t get better! Along the way to the Pacific island of Bolaños, you will get to experience whale and dolphin watching as well snorkeling when you arrive at the island.  And, when you are hungry, eating a lunch of sandwiches, fresh vegetables and fruit while you are sprawled out across the sand is definitely in order! Don’t forget to bring your swim gear! Click here for more information.

6)Cloud Forest Hikes

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Your thrilling adventure can continue upon your return to Boquete when you hike through the many more easy to difficult hiking trails (and everything in between) that Boquete has to offer! Start with “The Pipeline” trail, the easiest trail for those who want to see the animals, sloths, Quetzals (see bird watching) and Panama’s oldest and biggest tree as well as a beautiful waterfall at the end of the trail. Another great hike is “The Lost Waterfalls” hike, it consists of three different waterfalls. This is a moderately difficult hike. As you see nature at its finest don’t forget to jump into the middle waterfall, get wet and cool off! The “Il Pianista” hike and “Volcan Baru” are two of the most challenging hikes and we strongly recommend that you go with an experienced local guide to do these. There are so many more hikes that you can do. Our Manager Debra has done many of them herself. Contact us and she can give you more information.  Contact us here.

7)Caldera Hot Springs and Gualaca Mini Canyon (Cangilones)

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Don’t forget that we also have amazing Hot Springs and Canyons! You can sit in the Caldera Hot Springs as you relax in the hot water so natural and healing or you can dive into the water in the Gualaca Canyon. Really exhilarating! This tour is usually a combination all-day tour. Let us know and we can get either (or both) of these set up as well.

 

8)Horseback Riding

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You continue your nature adventures by taking a “Horseback Riding” tour throughout the mountains and canyons of Boquete! There is not a better way to experience all the senses with the sounds of the birds the touch of the horses and the sites of the amazing and ever changing landscape of Boquete, Panama. Click here to schedule.

9)Bird Watching

And speaking of the sounds of those birds, if you are a bird watching enthusiast you have HIT THE JACKPOT while visiting the province of Chiriqui! Panama is home to 978 species of birds. Grab a book on Panama birds, take a journey on the Los Quetzals or the Culebra trail (for example) and snap those pictures! We even have guides available to help you spot them. Contact us for setting up a guide for you.

 

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 10)Relaxation: Massage and Yoga

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Ok, now that you have done the top nine things, it is time to pamper and rejuvenate yourself! All the Must-do’s have been accomplished and you are feeling great about your bucket list! One of Terry’s most favorite and highly rated must-do is to have a Massage or take a morning yoga class. Both melt away the soreness and allow you to relax and re-align yourself. Contact us for more information and to schedule here.

 

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We at Casa de Montaña know that vacation time is so short, we want to help you make it your most amazing trip possible! We will do our best to assist you in setting up your “Must-Do’s” creating the perfect vacation for you. We are available by email: info@casademontana.com or by phone, Panama: 507-7309472 or U.S. 952-931-9770 or just contact us by clicking here  and get your “Bucket List” checked off!!!

 

Where in the World are our Guests?!?!

blog by Joy Huppe

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Welcome, World Travelers! Casa de Montaña is pleased to invite you in. If you have stayed with us before, you may remember the large-scale map festively adorned with multicolored pins which greets you from right wall upon entering our reception office.  You may have even added a pin yourself, contributing to the map’s ever-expanding porcupine-like countenance! If you have not yet had the pleasure of being our guest, you may be a little confused and perhaps slightly wary of voodoo activity. No worries… let us explain.

Since Casa de Montaña opened its doors in January 2014, we have encouraged our guests to “make their mark” and designate their place of origin by inserting a pin into its corresponding location on our 8’ wide world map. We have watched in fascination as prick-by-prick, entire countries were overtaken and thin metal shafts claimed lands stretching from one corner of “tierra firma” to the other. Pins popped up in unexpected places: from the Congo in Africa, to Australia’s western shore, to the Middle East… to islands in Malaysia.   We are proud (and humbled) that such a diverse set of world travelers have chosen to include us in their far-reaching explorations. We are truly an international destination! Needless to say, Social Hour – which we host every night and includes a beverage of choice from our selection — takes on a whole other dimension when one has the opportunity to hobnob with folks from entirely different hemispheres.

Now that we are halfway through our second year (where does the time go?) we decided to tally the marks for a better understanding of where our guests are coming from. Counting each little pin head was no small task (don’t ask who ended up with this fun job)… but worth the effort. The result for the Top Ten Countries of Origin of Casa de Montaña Guests are as follows.

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Topping the count with a whopping 44% were local guests from Panama, followed closely by those who voyaged from the United States (37%). This was followed in descending order by guests from Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Netherlands, Australia, Costa Rica, and Spain. The list does not stop there, and we are happy to report that each continent, barring Antarctica, was represented. Perhaps we intuitively paved the way for this eclectic visitor mix when we dreamed up our International-themed breakfast menu.

For those of you who don’t already know, Casa de Montaña offers a unique (and satisfying) breakfast experience that features cuisine from a different part of the world each day.   Therefore, if you stay with us an entire week, you will never eat the same meal twice! It’s like a mini-world-tour for your mouth: Italy on Monday, Pakistan on Tuesday, then off to Belgium on Wednesday, heading to the American-West on Thursday, down to Mexico on Friday, a brief jaunt to France on Saturday, and being treated to a traditional Panamanian-style breakfast on Sunday. (By the way, with prior notice, we are able to cater to special dietary requests.)   What can we say?… We have an international flair. The proof is on our wall, and on your plate!

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Of course this global attention should be expected. Boquete, with its Quetzals, world-famous coffee and cool highland climate, is a sought-out destination by locals and far-flung travelers alike. Likewise, Casa de Montaña with its creative breakfasts, comfortable lodging and attentive staff is one of the most popular places to stay in town. Don’t just take our word for it… ask your fellow adventurers. (Both Trip Advisor and Booking.com have presented us with awards for having consistent outstanding reviews!) Or better yet, come visit us and experience Casa de Montaña for yourself. Don’t forget, returning guests are eligible for special discounts. Bon voyage!

 

 

 

 

 

Driving in Panama – watch out for hefty fines and some cattle!

Blog by Joy Huppe

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Police check-points are not uncommon. Be sure to have all your paperwork in order!

Ah, the pleasure of driving… the wind in your hair, tunes on the radio, that feeling of freedom when seated behind the wheel with nothing but wide open road and adventure ahead. More or less, we have all experienced this sense of motorized liberation in some form or another, even if only in daydreams. Here in Panama, as well in the U.S., the reality may be markedly different. Traffic, construction delays, unexpected police check-points with…what’s this?… a mandatory breathalyzer test? Thankfully you know better than to drink and drive, so you feel confident as you approach the blockade. You hand over your passport with a smile and a “buenas”…   and wait while the man in uniform flips through its pages. Hmmmm, there seems to be a problem. You’ve been in Panama exactly 3 months and 2 days… and suddenly you are facing not only a ticket with a fine, but your car is going to be towed. Also, because you were feeling so free and that pesky seat-belt was just a bit too confining, you had decided to skip the click that day. You were only traveling a few short kilometers anyway, and isn’t everything more relaxed here in Panama? In an attempt to smooth things over, you slip a twenty dollar bill out of your wallet with a wink, because you heard that this was an acceptable practice in these parts.   Well, the officer isn’t having any of it. Not only have you insulted him, you have incurred several traffic violations and are facing a potential suspension of your license.

Okay, so maybe this didn’t happen to you, but it could! Knowing traffic law in a foreign country isn’t just helpful, it is imperative. Luckily the rules of the road in Panama are similar to those in the U.S., so you should already have a grasp on the should and should-not’s. However, for visitors and residents alike it is easy to slip into a vacation frame of mind while traveling in this beautiful country, and neglect to be as vigilant as one should.

For starters, if you are here on a tourist visa, you are only legal to drive if you have a valid license (yes, your U.S. license is acceptable) and are within a 3 month time frame of the entry stamp in your passport. Now this may be a bit confusing to some, as a tourist visa is valid for 6 months, but that is just the way it is. If you get stopped and cannot prove you fall within the 3 month time-frame, you will not be able to drive away. Your vehicle will be towed, though you may be allotted 10-15 minutes to make arrangements for a friend to come to your aid and retrieve your vehicle instead. How do you prove you are within the 3 month limit? Carry your passport! Some folks advise that a copy of the photo page of your passport, along with a copy of the page with your latest entry stamp will be sufficient. However, this is not guaranteed to be accepted. Having your passport at all times is a better bet.   Also graciousness and honesty go a long way. Bribing officers is a thing of the past, and now may land you in hotter water than you already were. Do not think that you can buy your way out of a situation.

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He may not be real, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an officer around the next corner…

It is important to note that the penalties for breaking traffic laws here in Pamana have become more strict in the past few months. Fines are higher and the police are on the look-out for offenders. Know the rules, and use caution and common sense.

One such no-brainer is wearing one’s seatbelt. Every time you get in your car, make it a habit to put on your seatbelt… even if you are just going down the block.  If you are stopped and not sufficiently strapped in, you are facing a $100 fine, 6 points on your insurance record, and possible suspension of your license for 6 months with required attendance in traffic class. As the saying goes: Click it or Ticket it. Take it to heart. It could not only save you money, but save your life!

Another no-brainer: don’t run a red light. Panama Traffic Law #60 forbids this, and you are looking at 8 points on your record and a $200 fine. If the traffic light is yellow, that does not mean speed up! Since we don’t have any traffic lights in Boquete, and in David there are only a handful… most of us will not even have to worry about this. Yet in Panama City it is a different story. Just because you think you can beat the light, ask yourself… is it really worth it?

Next up: Panama Traffic Law # 36. This law prohibits the use of a cell phone or technological device while driving, and is taken very seriously. If you need to use your phone, pull off to the side of the road. And it goes without saying, don’t attempt to make any status updates to your Facebook account when you are behind the wheel – even if you are sitting at a standstill on Pan American Highway due to current construction, restraint the urge to check your email, send a text, or make a quick call.   Doing so will result in a hefty of $300 fine, 6 points on your record, and possible suspension of your license with mandatory attendance at talks to reinstate.

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Sometimes signs can be confusing… when in doubt, slow down!

As mentioned previously, it is not uncommon to encounter a random traffic check-point. The Transit Police will ask for your identification, driver’s license, and possibly paperwork for the vehicle. There may also be a mandatory breathalyzer test. Be warned that driving with alcohol on the breath will elicit a $200 fine, 10 points on your record, and required attendance at talks. Furthermore, driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics will get your vehicle impounded, your license taken away, and a fine will be determined by a judge. This is not something you want to have happen, so if you are going to be enjoying a cocktail or two or five – have a plan!   Just like in the U.S. a designated driver is always a good idea. Or better yet, take a taxi to and from your desired location.

Other traffic violations include driving on the shoulder (Law #51) and driving in lane reserved for designated persons, such as police, firemen, etc. (Law #50) – each of which will earn you a $200 fine with 4 points, and $150 fine with 4 points, respectively.

Last but not least, there is Law #66 which states that driving over the speed limit will result in a $150 fine, 8 points on your record, and possible attendance at talks. Be warned that the speed limit can change several times on one stretch of road, so be on the lookout for signs. A good rule of thumb is to slow down when approaching and entering a town, even if no sign is visible.

Traffic laws aside, driving in Panama can have unique challenges of its own. Some quick tips are as follows:  Don’t be afraid to use your horn! Drive defensively.  Be ready for the unexpected.   (You might not imagine turning a corner to find a herd of cattle in your path, but that is exactly what can and does happen!)  Leave enough distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you. Keep both hands on the wheel.  Obey the law.  Do not make assumptions.  And always err on the side of caution.  For more information, a great article about driving in Panama can be found here.

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A road trip in Panama can reward you with spectacular views!

All that said, driving can be a highly enjoyable experience. Here in Boquete, it is almost impossible to get lost, as all the roads loop around and end up more or less in the same place. The vistas from the drive through Alto Jaramillo or Upper Volcancito are not to be missed. The drive across the mountains from David to Bocas del Toro is even more spectacular! Even the cross-country drive on the Pan American Highway is an event in itself. Granted, current construction to expand the road may slow down your pace, but at the same time you get a first-hand look at one heck of an impressive undertaking!   And at the end of the day, when you reach your final destination… at Casa de Montaña you can take comfort in knowing you have correctly followed the rules of the road, and climb into your comfortable bed with dreams of unfettered road trips dancing in your head.

The Panama Canal Expansion Project… (Casa de Montaña approved!)

blog by Joy Huppe

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Recent Casa de Montaña guest, Ralph E. Furlong, on the job!

Casa de Montaña recently hosted a guest who is involved in the current expansion of the Panama Canal. As the Safety Manager for the whole operation, he represents several entities: the shipping company, the SPMT (Self Propelled Modular Trailers) company, and the company that actually constructed the gates themselves. In a span of 18 months, he oversaw the delivery of sixteen gates, with the heaviest gate weighing in at 4,230 tons! The gates were transported with a Heavy Lift Vessel and then off-loaded using 16 SPMTs, each of which have 240 solid tires. All of the gates travelled to Panama from their origin in Tiestre, Italy, taking approximately 28 days for a single gate to make the journey.

There is nothing small about the new gates, or really about the entire endeavor. In fact, it is the largest canal project since the original construction in 1881. The Panama Canal Expansion Program (as the project is named) was initiated in 2007, though work formally began in 2009. Now, some five year later, the end is near!   At the time of this writing it is estimated that the project is approximately 90% finished, with the final gate having been installed at the end of April.

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One of the last remaining gates being transported to its final destination…

 

The scope of the project is impressive, with more than 30,000 jobs that have been created since its execution, and when all is said and done, over 4.4 million cubic meters of concrete poured!   Specifically the program consists of the following projects:

  • New Locks (Third Set of Locks), which is the construction of two lock complexes, which will create a third lane of traffic.
  • Pacific Access Channel, also known as PAC4, which is the excavation of a 6.1 km-long access channel for the new Pacific locks  to bypass Miraflores Lake.
  • Dredging of the navigational channels along the waterway.
  • Improvements to water supply by raising Gatun Lake maximum operational level by 45 cm to improve the Canal’s water supply and draft.

The impetus for all this work? It’s simple: Panama needs to stay relevant in the world of international maritime.

Global commerce is big business. In fact, the number of cargo ships worldwide has more than quadrupled over the past 20 years, to 50,000 vessels carrying $13 trillion in goods each year. Panama is not the only country taking strides to meet growing international transport demands. The Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean to the Asian seas, is adding lanes to accommodate two-way traffic through Egypt. Turkey is planning to dig a canal parallel to the Bosporus Strait linking the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. And China has a plan to create an entirely new canal across Nicaragua – a project that comes with a projected price tag of $70 billion.

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When all is said and done, over 4.4 million cubic meters of concrete will have been poured!

 

If Panama did not undertake their $5.25 billion expansion project, the national economy would have been at risk. As it stands, the Canal is responsible for a large chunk of the national profit, and it is projected that the expansion will boost Panama’s annual economic growth rate by 1.2 percentage points.   Currently, the canal takes reservations months in advance, collecting a 15% booking fee on a toll that often runs to $400,000. The existing locks allow the passage of vessels that can carry up to 5,000 TEUs. After the expansion vessels will be able to transit through the Canal with up to 13,000 TEUs. If the expansion didn’t happen, the larger ships (and their money) would reach America from China via the wider Suez Canal.

Now with project in the end-stages, the Panama Canal Authority is considering launching into a second expansion project! This potential project comes at a higher cost (projected 17 billion) but the end result would be the canal’s capacity to handle the world’s largest sea-faring vessels. It is thought that a fourth set of locks would allow passage for this newest generation of big ships – ones that can carry up to 20,000 containers. In just the past few months alone, container ship traffic through the Canal has risen by 3 to 4 percent, though it was mostly due to now-settled, off-shore labor disputes. Yet, it has given Panama a taste of what even greater revenue could bring, and this is the determining factor for any future expansion: will trade growth sustain the extra investment?

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With completion close at hand, Panama is considering a new expansion project!

 

For now, we are happy to celebrate the near-completion of the current expansion project. It certainly has been, and continues to be, impressive to witness such a grand undertaking. Of course, a trip to the Panama canal is an almost mandatory experience for any would-be tourist… as is staying at Casa de Montaña when visiting Boquete!   😉

 

Guidelines for “tipping” in Panama

Blog by Joy Huppe

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Tipping, in general, is a curious phenomenon. It is a direct exchange between the consumer and service provider which almost everyone engages in at one time or another. Additionally, tipping represents a major source of income for many who work in the service industry, and as such, it is a consumer behavior of enormous importance in the economy. Lastly, tipping is one of the few areas of the economy where the exchange is dictated by informal rules of custom rather than explicitly stated procedures. Factor in that tipping norms vary cross-culturally, and are influenced by individuals’ perceptions and awareness of this custom… and you may end up scratching you head, wondering whom to tip and how much.

It should come as no surprise that tipping etiquette in Panama is different than say the U.S. (where tips are expected/implied), or from say, New Zealand (where tips are few and far between.) So how should you handle tipping when visiting or living in Panama? The answer we resonate with the most is “listen to your heart” and give how/what you feel is appropriate. You cannot go wrong when you give from the heart. However, in matters of money, the heart usually takes a back seat… and this is where suggested guidelines can be helpful.

Tipping has evolved over the years. While the exact origins of tipping are not known, the custom dates back to at least to 18th century England when collection boxes with signs stating “To Insure Promptness” (TIP) were placed in inns and coffee houses for people to deposit coins. At its core, tipping is simply a monetary incentive given to invoke or reward exceptional service. Overtime, in certain countries, the custom of tipping has become mandatory and/or relied upon in certain industries to actually meet minimum wage requirements. For example, it is commonly known in the US that restaurant waitstaff earn much less than minimum wage because outside tipping is factored into their end totals. Another common practice for restaurants is to include the tip as part of the bill when serving parties over a certain size.

In Panama, the customs on this are a bit looser, but similar to the US.   You may or may not see a “propina” added to your bill, regardless of party size. Technically this is not legal, but this does not stop many area establishments from engaging in this practice. Use your judgment when dining out how you would like to handle this, while keeping in mind the following. It is commonly required for waitstaff in Panama to pool their tips, of which they will only get a certain percentage, regardless of the quality of service provided. Therefore, every little bit counts, especially if your server went above and beyond the call of duty. Other advice is if you are paying with a credit card, you should consider leaving the tip in cash. This is because, unfortunately, it is also common for restaurant owners to pocket credit card slip tips and not reimburse their servers.

A standard amount for tipping in a restaurant here in Panama is 10%, and tips are considered a reward for good service, rather than an obligation. Keep in mind that service workers here in Panama earn staggeringly low wages, so tipping is a great way to help supplement that and get your money into the hands of people who actually need it.   However, if you received truly horrible service, you should speak with the owner/manager to let them know, and whether or not you decide to tip after that is up to you.

So far we’ve talked about tipping in relation to dining out, yet there are countless other instances where tipping is appropriate. Spas (massage, hair cut/color, etc.), hotels (room cleaning, baggage handling, etc), and tour operators are also incentive-based industries. For spa services it is customary to tip at least 10% of the total cost of the treatment. Of course, if you received exceptional service, you may want the tip to reflect that. An appropriate tip for hotel porters is suggested to be .50¢ – $1.00 per bag, while $1 – $2 per day is suggested for housekeeping.   For tour guides it is suggested to tip $5 – $10 per day, depending on the duration of the tour and the quality of the service.

Interestingly, it is not customary to tip taxi drivers here in Panama. However, you may decide to round up your fare. Or, if you have a favorite driver you rely upon, it wouldn’t hurt to slip him a little something.

Again, when in doubt, erring on the side of tipping is always appreciated!   Don’t worry, over-tipping is not an insult. Also, a simple smile and praise go far to reward someone for a job well-done. Honest appreciation is taken to heart and remembered.

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Believe it or not, there is a bit of controversy when it comes to tipping outside of one’s home country. Some people are of the opinion that tipping can be detrimental to the local economy of the country they are visiting. While there is a point there (think a waiter earning more than say, the chief of police), it is important to note that the Latin American countries have the most inequity in the entire world. Why would it make sense to not give to those who don’t have?

In Panama, there is some controversy surrounding the bag boys found in most of the larger supermarkets. These boys are usually school-aged and not legally employable. They don’t earn any money, other than what they may collect in tips for bringing customers’ bags to their cars. It is not uncommon for the boys to be rewarded with $1.00 by every “gringo” who utilizes their services. This can add up quickly and be quite a lucrative business for a school-aged child. Some are concerned that this may discourage them from actively pursuing higher education and instead becoming accustomed to “easy money.” Others hold the opposite viewpoint that money earned will help contribute to the boys’ families income and overall quality of life. Despite differing opinions on this topic, the choice to tip remains personal and entirely optional… though you can be sure that the money is appreciated!

Here at Casa de Montaña, we value our hard-working staff and encourage tipping for good service. For our guests’ convenience we’ve placed small envelopes in each of the rooms for tips that then get divided between our house-keeper/chef extraordinaire (Veronica) and house-keeper / all-things-handy-man (Nicolas). We strongly believe “what comes around goes around” and also that “paying it forward” makes a difference, especially here in Panama!

7th Summit of the Americas: Panama sets the stage for prosperity!

Blog by Joy Huppe

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“Family Photo”… 33 out of 35 leaders attended this year’s Summit

As many of you know, the 7th Summit of the Americas just wrapped up in Panama City last week. The Summit is a meeting that takes place in a different American country every 3-4 years with the aim of fostering discussion among top political leaders in the Western Hemisphere on a variety of issues concerning the social, political and economic well-being in their slice of the world. This year’s official theme was “Prosperity with Equity” and featured hot-topics such as education, health, the environment, security, civil society, participation and governance.

However, at the conclusion of the Summit no official declaration was issued, due to lack of consensus on six paragraphs of the document being discussed. Believe it or not, a non-consensus is not all that surprising. It is hard enough sometimes getting agreement between three or more people on just one topic… now imagine this multifold! In fact, this is the third consecutive summit to not produce an official declaration, prompting questions (and criticism) as to whether or not the summits have out-lived their usefulness.

Despite mixed opinions and lack of an official communiqué, there is one thing we can all agree upon: The 7th Summit of the Americas was indeed a historic event. Panama President Varela credits the Summit as heralding “the beginning of a new era of dialogue and cooperation in our region.” Others have called the event a “tipping point in a new chapter of the Americas.”

While the main impetus for such sentiments is no doubt the newly-lifted embargo between Cuba and the U.S., which opened up the opportunity for Cuba to participate in the summit after over 50 years of being excluded from the event, other newsworthy happenings should not be overlooked. These include hemispheric-wide support for peace in Colombia, a new proposal to institute an Inter-American education system, current tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela, and overwhelming praise to Panama as the host country.

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Obama & Castro: The shake heard ’round the world

First things first: Obama & Castro. Yes, it happened. The current presidents of the United States and Cuba met, talked and shook hands, signaling the end of the last vestiges of the Cold War and the beginning of a renewed relationship. This is cause for celebration, as many feel the fledgling reconciliation will have profound political and economic effects for the entire hemisphere (and in particular, the Caribbean), yet it is prudent to note that the differences between the two countries are vast and still persist. Both Obama and Castro, though cautiously optimistic, are realists.

“We have very different points of view on how to organize society. I was very direct with him that we will not stop talking about democracy, freedom of press and human rights,” Obama said in regards to the meeting with Castro that lasted over an hour.

A representative for Castro relayed that the process “will be long, difficult and complex” and emphasized that while the dissolution of the blockade and the subsequent promise of Obama to remove Cuba from the list of terrorist countries are steps in the right direction, nothing concrete has yet to occur. In remarks directed at Obama, Cuban Foreign Minister Rodriguez Parrill warns, “I hope your decision conforms to reality and therefore is fair.”

Moving on… a second item of note from the recent Summit is majority support for the ongoing peace talks between the Government of the Republic of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Though talks have been underway since November 2012, the Summit of the Americas provided a platform where leaders could vocalize their stance on the matter. Overwhelmingly, they urged for the parties involved to come to an early agreement, which they hope will finally bring peace to a region which has been in civil war for over 50 years. With over 220,000 casualties (mostly civilians) due to this conflict, peace cannot happen fast enough.

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Colombian peace talks (in Havana, Cuba) draw support from Summit leaders

A negotiator in Havana, Cuba (where the peace talks are actually taking place) acknowledged the Summit leaders’ input and responded in turn: “Saluting the successful completion of the Seventh Summit of the Americas, we can only thank the explicit expressions of support for the peace talks seeking an end to the painful confrontation between Colombians.”

The next item of interest was the bold proposal from Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos of the creation of an inter-American system of education. This proposal was aligned with the “equity” theme of the Summit, as the proposed system would increase the quality of education in the region and in turn help combat the inequality which is all too prevalent throughout Latin American.

“If we want to get out of poverty, if we want to combat poverty, and if we want to stop being the most unequal continent in the world… which we are, worse than Africa… education has to be the main tool,” said Santos. Furthermore he alluded to leveraging connections with the United States which he said had “the best universities and many facilities to learn [from]” and encouraged his hemispheric peers to “take advantage of that knowledge.” However, a definitive plan has yet to be outlined, and although the proposal did garner support, it is uncertain if Santos’ vision will actually materialize.

Meanwhile, tensions between the United States and Venezuela remain high due to a deepening dispute over recent U.S. statement that Venezuela is a “threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” This rift stems from recent U.S.-issued sanctions on several senior Venezuelan officials for alleged human rights abuses in the suppression of protests in Caracas last year.

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Venezuelan President Maduro and U.S. President Obama at odds, but reportedly “cordial”

During a 40-minute speech at the Summit (which Obama coincidentally did not attend), Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said any effort to normalize relations depends on the U.S. repealing its financial and travel sanctions. Several Latin American countries in support of Maduro (i.e. Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador) added fuel to the fire by heaping criticism on the U.S. leader, calling the sanctions “ridiculous” and “a mistake”, while other less-biased countries (Mexico & Colombia) spoke of the necessity for dialogue between the opponents.

President Obama did not take the criticism lying down. In his Summit speech, Obama said that when the United States speaks against injustices it sees around the world, it’s not seeking to meddle in the affairs of other nations but rather live up to the democratic ideals it defends at home. He continued by saying that the U.S. would continue to promote the right of Latin Americans to peacefully demonstrate against governments without fear of arrest or retribution.

Obama and Maduro did hold a private bilateral meeting at the Summit that has been described as “cordial”, though no official comment on their discussion has been released.

And last but not least, on to more joyful news: Panama’s recognition of being an excellent Summit host! Former Panama Vice President observed that “…the country was notable for many things: organization, tolerance, hospitality and love of country pride.” Current President Varela added, “Panama has always acted as a mediator. The summit has affirmed that. Panama should be proud.”

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Panama is receiving praise for being such a welcoming (and impartial) host country!

Other countries agreed, encouraging Panama to remain in a mediatory position even though the conference has ended. It is hoped that Panama can continue to be a place where “different thoughts converge” and potentially play a key role in easing relations between the U.S. and Cuba and Venezuela.

It has been announced that Peru will have the honor of being the host country for the next Summit of the Americas. No date has been set, but there is an estimated time of three years.

So, as you can see, lots happened at this past Summit! Tucked away in the green mountains of Boquete, blissfully removed from the hustle and bustle of Panama City, we at Casa de Montaña keenly watched the events unfold. It is exciting to witness history in the making, and as silly as it may sound we are proud of our home-country of Panama… land not only of breathtaking beauty, but also significant political relevance. “Gracias” to all who continue to work for a better world.

Cost of electricity in Panama… Are LEDs the answer?

Blog by Joy Huppe

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Lighting up the Casa at Night: Our glowing sign uses strands of colored LED lights.

Recently, motivated by an interest in reducing our electricity costs, we started doing a bit of research into the world of lighting, specifically LED lighting… what it is, what are the pros/cons, and if it makes sense to be using this technology here in Boquete. While in the midst of our fact-finding, we began to realize that if we had questions about this still-relatively-new world of LED, then perhaps you might too.

LED is short for Light Emitting Diode, which is a semiconductor device that converts electricity into light. And okay, the technology is not really all that new. It was first developed in the 1960s, but has taken awhile to catch on, mostly due to early limitations of color and brightness. Fast-forward to the year 2015, and now with numerous improvements in brightness, life-span, color quality, shapes and sizes, there is an impressive array of LED options to choose from.

We’ve come a long way from the first red-only LEDs (originally featured in electronic devices such as clock-radios, answering machines, etc.) and even further from the original filament-bulbs of Edison’s day. In fact, the only thing LEDs have in common with the original light bulb, is that they are both apparatuses that produce light. Instead, one should consider LEDs as being “computerized light”, and as such, it is necessary to reframe one’s thinking when interacting with this new technology.

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Remember these? We’ve come a long way from the original red-only LEDs.

First of all, forget everything you know about watts. For years we bulb-shoppers have relied upon wattage as an indication of how bright a bulb will be, though technically wattage isn’t a measurement of brightness, but rather how much energy the bulb draws. With incandescent and fluorescent bulbs there is a direct correlation between wattage and brightness. With LEDs, this no longer holds true. For example, an LED bulb with comparable brightness to a 60-watt incandescent bulb is only 8 to 12 watts. This is because it draws less energy to produce a similar brilliance.

What we need to consider then, is lumens. The lumen is the real measurement of brightness provided by a light bulb, and is the number to look for when shopping for LEDs. A helpful reference chart for this can be found below.

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Handy ‘lil cheat sheet for converting Watts to Lumens

The second item to consider when shopping for LEDs is the quality of color. It has been determined that the quality and color of light can both enhance people’s ability to perform tasks and influence their emotional state. LEDs are now capable of displaying an impressive color range, from purple to red, to a spectrum of whites and yellows. When selecting lighting for the home, most people desire a warm, soft color/quality, similar to the light produced by incandescent bulbs. To meet this demand, LEDs have designated “warm white” (or “soft white”) and “bright white” bulbs that have become popular for domestic use.

If you want to get technical, light color (which is actually color temperature) is measured in kelvins. The lower the number, the warmer (more yellow) the light. The typical incandescent bulb is between 2,700 and 3,500 k, so that’s the range you need to keep in mind when looking for soft/warm quality LED light.

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Use Kelvins to get “in the mood”…

Now that you understand that LEDs use less energy to produce a similar brightness and color quality as traditional bulbs, and factoring in that LEDs have a longer life-span than incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, the logical conclusion is that the overall cost of electricity should decrease. Right? Right… and sort-of right.

This is where the pros and cons come into play. For example, the cost of purchasing an LED is substantially higher than that of a traditional bulb — to the tune of upwards of $25 – $75, or more! (Though it should be noted that LED prices have been consistently dropping from year to year.) Therefore, if you are considering replacing your all current bulbs with LEDs (as we have been), this could require a substantial amount of money upfront. This then begs the question, will the initial investment pay-off over time?

It has been claimed that LEDs can reduce electricity bills by up to 96%, with a lifespan of over 15 years. Indeed this is true, and there is a lot of supporting information available on this topic. In fact, there are several online calculators to predict what your personal “energy savings” may be if choosing to make the switch. Judging by just this factor alone, it is almost a no-brainer to opt for LED usage.

Yet there are a few things to consider. One critical factor to the life-span of an LED is heat-sink design. Although LEDs produce substantially much less heat that other bulbs, they still produce heat. This heat is pulled into a heat-sink at the base of the bulb, then dissipates into the air, keeping the LED cool and prolonging its life. However, if the bulb is placed in an enclosed housing, the heat won’t have anywhere to go and life-span is greatly compromised. As much of our lighting here at Casa de Montaña is recessed, this was of particular concern for us.

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Heat sink design and bulb placement are critical to an LED’s lifespan.

Another concern is the issue of “dim-ability” – or rather, how compatible LED lights are with traditional dimming switches. Most dimmers work by cutting off the amount of electricity sent to the bulb, which in turn lowers the brightness. With LEDs, as you now know, there is little correlation between energy draw and brightness, resulting in the need to either replace current dimming switches with LED-compatible dimmers, or seek out dimmer-specific LEDs (usually at an even higher price point than standard LEDs.)   Most of our lighting at the ‘Casa’ is controlled by dimmer switches (we like being able to “set the mood” via lighting) and hence, would require some major re-wiring.

The last issue, which is of particular importance for us here in Panama, is the ability of LEDs to weather fluctuations in electrical current, a.k.a. power surges. As most residents know, power surges are common and our electronics are at the mercy of these electrical spikes. (To combat this, most people use surge protectors for valuable electronics and adopt the habit of unplugging items when not in use.   Here at Casa de Montaña, we have property-wide surge protection installed that considerably lowers the risk of burning out small appliances.)

Unfortunately, there is conflicting information available on how well an LED will fare in a power-surge. Some claim that LEDs are more prone to burnout from electrical power surges because “the individual semiconductors are extremely sensitive to voltage fluctuations.”   While at the same time, it is reported that “LEDs are current sensitive and not usually impacted by a typical voltage surge.” Needless to say, such disparate information does not instill confidence. And while many LED manufacturers offer warranties, actually submitting a claim and receiving reimbursement (particularly when living in a foreign country) may not be an easy process.

All this to say, even though we are constantly refining, improving and evolving, we have decided to hold off on making the change to LED lighting. And, if/when we do, we’ll most likely dip our toes in, rather than make a major plunge. Meanwhile… we invite you to come stay with us at Casa de Montaña. Not only will we greet you with a smile, provide quality lodging, offer delicious breakfasts, and go above and beyond to provide exceptional service … “we’ll leave the light on for you.”

Emergency First Aid in Boquete: Safety doesn’t take a vacation

Blog by Joy Huppe

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Emergency First Aid. It isn’t the first thing you think of when you are on vacation, and in all honesty, it usually doesn’t hit one’s radar at all. However, experienced travelers know that accidents and injuries can occur at any time, regardless of well-laid plans. Thankfully, we have not experienced a health-related emergency at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast, but that didn’t stop us from being prepared… just in case.

In order to be ready for a crisis situation, the ‘Casa staff’ recently participated in a First Aid workshop. Though we all came from varying backgrounds of prior first-aid education, each of us walked away with new knowledge and a desire to remind others how vitally important this information is.

First aid can be defined as the initial care given by a responder with little equipment to someone who is injured or suddenly ill until professional emergency medical treatment becomes available. When disaster strikes, every second counts. There is no time to reach for an instruction manual or enter queries into a search-engine. Working knowledge of first aid can literally be the difference between life and death. Yet studies show that more than half of those polled (59%) would not feel confident enough to try and save a life, and almost a quarter (24%) of responders would do nothing but wait for an ambulance to arrive or hope that another passer-by would take charge. The result? Thousands of people continue to die each year from lack of first aid in situations where it could have been prevented.

Worker: 'QUICK, does anybody here know First Aid?!' / Worker: 'Yeah, him.'

It is no laughing matter. First aid SAVES lives!

First aid has three main aims: preserve life, prevent deterioration, and promote recovery. The first aim of preserving life is carried out by emergency first aid procedures such as opening the airway of a choking victim, performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on a cardiac arrest victim, or applying direct pressure to a wound. Once a person is stabilized, the second aim is to prevent the victim’s condition from deteriorating further. This could include, for example, asking a person who has fallen and sustained injury to stay still to prevent movement of possible fractures. Lastly, recovery can be promoted by arranging prompt emergency medical help. Additionally, simple first aid can significantly affect the long-term recovery of an injury. For example, quickly cooling a burn will reduce the risk of long-term scarring.

While the core tenants of first aid have remained more or less the same over the past 100 years, the instruction and method of such continues to evolve. Every five years research and current practices are consolidated and reviewed, oftentimes resulting in new, more effective procedures. One of these new developments is “Hands Only” CPR.

Many of us who have previous first aid instruction may remember learning CPR that utilizes mouth-to-mouth breathing in conjunction with chest compressions. Now, however, CPR is being taught without the use of rescue breaths.  This change is due to the finding that untrained bystanders are not acting in emergency situations because they are afraid of possible contamination and/or they are worried about crossing a social barrier. Hands-only CPR removes these obstacles, making it even easier to save lives.

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Good advice for those untrained in traditional CPR

It is important to note that if one is already skilled in administering rescues breaths, it is advised to continue with that technique, as it is preferable over compression alone. However, for those who are untrained, taking action via chest compressions is better than doing nothing at all. It has been found that in most cases the victim still has oxygen in the lungs and blood, so chest compression will keep this oxygenated blood flowing to the brain, heart and other organs for a limited time (approximately five minutes.) The exceptions are when the victim has had a breathing failure (ie, drowning) or if the victim is a child.

To simplify the life-saving process of CPR even more, the American Heart Association (AHA) has come up with an easy way to keep the rhythm when performing chest compressions. Fittingly, the song they suggest is the catchy disco classic “Staying Alive.”   For more information, visit the AHA website by clicking here. Or, if you prefer watching firemen (and who doesn’t?), check out the “firemen flash mob” demonstration of the proper beat in the following video:

It is important to note, here in Boquete there is no “9-1-1” service. To summon an ambulance you may call the Alto al Crimen Hotline at 6477-6662. It is recommended to save this number in your cell phone under “AAAAA” so it is the first number in your contact list, as time is of the essence in an emergency situation.   For more information on available emergency / treatment options, you may read this relevant article.  If you are in need of follow-up care, additional medical resources can be found listed here.

If you are interested in learning First Aid, we highly encourage you to enroll in a training class in your locality. In Boquete we recommend contacting local educator Brandy. (Just ask us and we’ll put you in touch with her.)

Do you have a rescue experience to share? Come on down and visit us. As always, we look forward to you seeing you at Casa de Montana Bed & Breakfast.  And you can be sure we will do all we can to ensure that your memorable visit won’t be your last…

2015 Summit of the Americas in Panama: History in the Making!

Blog Joy Huppe

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An unprecedented historic political event is poised to unfold in Panama. The world waits in anticipation while the country prepares to host the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Panama City on April 10-11, 2015. The mounting excitement is not because this is the first time that Panama will be hosting the Summit (which it is), but rather because of a sudden and controversial turn of events, specifically between U.S. and Cuban relations. For the first time since the inception of the Summit in 1994, Cuba will be in attendance… and the buzz is that current U.S. president Barak Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro will shake hands!

Now, it is not that the hand-shake itself is so ground-breaking (even though it is!), but it is everything that it represents. After more than 50 years of the official U.S. ban on trade and other commercial activity with Cuba, the embargo is being dissolved. The White House announced their decision in December of this past year, only six days after Cuba was formally invited to the Summit. This is kind of a big deal…

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For the first time since it’s inception, U.S. president Barak Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro will both be present at the upcoming Summit.

You see, even though this will be the seventh time the Summit convenes, up until now Cuba was blacklisted due to tension with the U.S. However, numerous leaders at the last Summit insisted on Cuba’s presence, going so far as to threaten a boycott if an invitation was not extended. Specifically, Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Dominica, Ecuador, Grenada, Nicaragua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela were the ones putting on the pressure. Needless to say, controversy was brewing…   especially after the government of Panama issued an invitation to Cuba without the unanimous consent of the other members. At first U.S. Senators urged Panama to withdraw their invitation, asserting that the move could be a “slap in the face” to the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. However, a few short days later there were rumblings of a change of tune, and on December 17, 2014 the U.S. Government dropped it’s objections to Cuba’s presence, while simultaneously calling for the participation of Cuban civil society groups.   Though seemingly hasty, this decision was borne after 18 months of secret talks between Washington and Havana.

Overall, the shocking change-of-events was well received. Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, expressed the sentiments of many when he said, “This opens the door for everyone. We can now deal with matters together. It releases a lot of tensions and pressures.”

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Flags flying high at the last Summit, held in Colombia in 2012.

Several Latin American countries (including close U.S. allies Mexico and Colombia) applaud the action, as they believe that Washington’s policy towards Cuba had outlived its usefulness and had begun to contribute to increased polarization of the region. In fact, even critics of U.S. policy have levied praise, as exemplified by Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro labeling the action “a courageous and historically necessary step.”

So what does this mean moving forward? It is hoped that with U.S.-Cuba tensions dissolving, and full representation of all the Americans (including North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America) finally possible, there is greater potential for more unity, prosperity, and equality than ever before.

The aim of the Summits of the Americas is to foster discussion of a variety of issues affecting the western hemisphere. Fittingly, this year’s central theme is ‘Prosperity with equity: the challenge of cooperation in the Americas’. The Summit is expected to address rising inequality, an issue that has recently come to the forefront after Oxfam released a report claiming that 1% of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99% by 2016. For more information on the Summits of the Americas, click here.

We at Casa de Montaña are excited by the news and look forward to watching “history in the making.”   Terry daydreams of Obama visiting Boquete and tucking himself into a good night’s sleep in one of our large mountain-view rooms. (We think Obama would love the Quetzal room.) And although Obama has declared broccoli as his favorite food, we think Veronica’s French Crepes Breakfast could win him over.

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Breakfast fit for a president! Crepes at the ‘Casa…

Boquete: Valley of Eternal Spring… and some allergens!

Blog Joy Huppe

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Boquete Panama, where the skies are painted with rainbows!

 

Ah, Boquete… located in the cool mountain highlands of one of the most naturally diverse countries on the planet, where palm trees rub shoulders with pine trees, and humming birds flit from one scented bloom to another in an endless landscape of color: greens of every hue, brilliant reds and fuchsias of the bougainvillea, the bold orange of the “bird of paradise” flower, cheerful yellow marigolds, hauntingly beautiful white and purple orchids… It is no wonder you’ve been dubbed “The Flower Capital of Panama” and “The Valley of Eternal Spring.” Breathing deep, locals and visitors alike oxygenate their lungs with your fresh, clean air, and slip into a more tranquil rhythm of life. Ahhhhh… ah CHOO!

What’s this? Allergies? In paradise??? Well, in a word – yes. Though not all are affected, and different allergens irritate at different times of the year, there is a bit of a trade-off for all this natural beauty.

The signs and symptoms of airborne allergies are familiar to many: sneezing, often with a runny or clogged nose; coughing and postnasal drip; itching eyes, nose, and throat; watering eyes; and “allergic shiners” (dark circles under the eyes caused by increased blood flow near the sinuses.)

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Ah CHOO! Yes, even allergies can happen in paradise.

 

The good news is that Boquete’s actual air quality itself is high, and air pollution is low. Although there are no emission controls here in Panama and some vehicles burn too much oil, thanks to the little-to-no presence of local industry, combined with an almost constant mountain breeze, the air here remains pristine. And with the proliferation of all things green, there is no scarcity of oxygen.

There are, however, two main culprits that could potentially interfere with one’s ability to “breath easy”, and they are Pollen and Mold.

Pollen takes effect in dry season, when the fragrant dust of all those pretty flowers is mixed into the air by the seasonal winds. Seasons here in Boquete are fairly well defined and predictable. Dry season typically starts in mid-December and runs through the middle to the end of April. During this time there is little rain and strong winds are the norm. Wind velocity can range from “gentle caress” to “I am about to lose my mind” with sustained winds of 50 mph and potential gusts peaking at 70 mph.

During this time, those of us with more sensitive constitutions may experience some of the allergic symptoms listed above. If you find yourself sniffling in paradise, don’t worry… there are a variety of actions you can take. One sweet remedy is to eat the local honey. Honey contains pollen from area plants and helps the body adjust to the proteins in the pollen. In addition, honey offers a number of other health benefits (including hangover relief!) For more information about Boquete bees and the benefits of their honey, click here.

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One Sweet Remedy: Honey from Boquete Bees

 

Another course of action is to take an over-the-counter or prescription antihistamine, which works by inhibiting the immune system’s release of certain chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions. It has been shown that if allergy medicines are taken before exposure to pollen, they can help to stabilize the immune system before symptoms begin to manifest. In other words, plan ahead. If you know are prone to pollen allergies, and yet dream of frolicking amongst chrysanthemums during the annual Boquete International Flower and Coffee Festival (projected 2016 dates: January 14 – 24, 2016), start taking an antihistamine a week or so in advance.

Rainy season, which typically runs from May through November, with the heaviest rains occurring in the month of October, brings with it the second culprit allergen – Mold. Though not usually a concern for short-term visitors, sensitivities to mold and mildew brought about by damp, humid conditions can be a concern for residents and long-term visitors. Again, there are steps one can take to minimize it’s effect.

One simple solution is to run a dehumidifier, which will reduce the ambient humidity in the air. All of the rooms here at Casa de Montaña are equipped with dehumidifiers for this purpose. Other steps that can be taken are making sure there is good air-flow in all indoor spaces, as well as inspecting wall hangings, furniture, clothing, and even shoes and belts (mold loves leather!) for signs of mildew, and if found, performing a through cleansing of all affected items.

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Rainy season is the perfect time to slow down and savor all Boquete has to offer.

 

Now that you know a little bit more about the different type of potential allergies here in Boquete, you can be better prepared when you visit, depending on what time of year you choose. Dry season typically overlaps with “high season” for tourism. During this time, there are a number of holidays and festivals, including the Boquete Jazz Festival, The Flower and Coffee Festival, Carnival, and the Orchid Festival. Rainy season tends to find less activity here in Boquete, but has a unique draw of it’s own. The mountain landscape becomes even more lush and green, and the crowds diminish, heralding a sense of peace. Since the rain oftentimes does not start until later in the day, mornings become a time for exploration and adventure. Afternoon is then a time for sipping coffee, relaxing, and chatting with friends, or curling up with a good book. Plus, “deals” are more common during this time. During the months of May through September, Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast offers discounted room rates and special package deals. Rain or shine, we look forward to sharing our Boquete home with you.

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