Why fall into Fall in Boquete?

Blog by Terry Richmeier.

I HATE the snow! I really do! And growing up in Colorado, I had my fair share of snow. I didn’t particularly like fall either. Why, because it was followed by winter….

But, that is not everyone, some do like the cold and snow. And many enjoy the changing of the colors in fall. And I must admit, when I lived in Minnesota, the harvest of apples and the off the road pie shops were amazing during the fall drives through the state.

We here at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast, well, we cannot lie, and we miss the fall just a little….We don’t have much of a fall here. Just a gentle rain in the afternoon. From about 2 pm into the night! Cool, crisp mornings that are perfect to sleep in. And that’s not too bad…..

Here is a statement from our friend Joyce Kinnear:

We’ve been in the eastern part of the United States for the past couple of weeks and will be heading back to Panama soon. The eastern part of the US has always felt a bit like a foreign country to me. Since I’ve spent the vast majority of my life in the west (Washington, Colorado, New Mexico, California and Nevada), the east has always seemed a bit like Europe to me—filled with history, museums, and monuments. Also, the changing seasons are more like you see in cards and read about in books.

Fall in the west is really not so different from summer. Depending on the location, you might have hotter weather or a bit more rain. The trees are mostly evergreen firs and pines, so the “color” that you read about isn’t there or a bit of yellowing in the grasses and few alders and aspen. I never got the attraction of fall. Panama is similar, in that when you live near the equator, “fall” is really nonexistent. Like California, you move from wet to dry with some variations in flower types and color schemes, but it’s nothing like the massive changes in the east coast.

Houses

The last couple of years, I have visited sisters in Maryland and North Carolina. Really, the east coast does its best in the fall. The colors are amazing, with trees ranging from yellow, to orange, to red, to a maroon/brown that is really spectacular. Flowers are blooming in their fall best. The weather, when sunny, is amazingly beautiful during the day. Temperatures are warm, and the sun has that slightly lower in the sky profile that makes photographs turn out great and walks pleasant without getting sweaty.

Maryland, in particular, appeals to me. There are so many museums and historical sites with an amazing diversity of people, restaurants and neighborhoods. If it wasn’t for winter, I’d be interested in living here.

But now, it’s time to get ready to head back into the depth of the rainy season in Panama. Here’s hoping I don’t get too inundated with rain!

So, if you are like me, or even if you’re not, plan to come down to Boquete, Panama and http://live.ipms247.com/booking/book-rooms-casademontaa with us at Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast! Winter is summer here and you can bask in the sun, white water rafting, or enjoy a massage in your room, all while others are shoveling out!

 

 

Yes, it is the right time to buy real estate in Boquete, Panama! Here is the reason why …

Blog by Manzar Lari

Ok, so I am slightly biased, I happen to own a property and business in Boquete and I would obviously want someone to buy a home and get settled in an area of Panama that has long been named as the land of “eternal spring”. Now there are some latest property tax changes that are coming soon that will be a game changer for anyone on the fence about renting or buying in Panama.  Finally there is some data to support my bias!

There are many wonderful and competitively priced homes for all tastes and budgets available for sale in the Boquete area. While most of them are listed with at least one (or more of the realtors in the area), many of them are available “For Sale by Owners” as well (we know many of the owners so contact us if you are interested!).

If you have done your research and have visited Boquete at least once and are ready for an overseas adventure, why not consider making Boquete your “forever” home?

Here is the latest info on tax relief by Panama Government:

National Assembly approves reform that reduces property tax in Panama!

Tue, 09/19/2017

The National Assembly approved Monday in the third and final debate a controversial bill that reforms the Tax Code on Property Tax (IBI), considered by the Government as the “most important” reduction of this tax in 40 years.

The reform establishes that properties that register as main dwelling will benefit from a reduction of more than 60% of the tax and owners of a primary residence with a registered value of $120,000 or less, will be exempted from paying real estate taxes FOREVER! What a game changer for property owners in Panama!

The MEF said that this project “constitutes the most important comprehensive reform of the IBI in the last 40 years and establishes a greater fiscal balance, which benefits the majority of the owners.”

 Any amount from $120,000 up to $700,000 will be taxed at only 0,5%. Leaving a home owner to only pay the bare minimum per year in real estate taxes once the tax exoneration period is over.  

 From a press release by the Assembly:

Money collected from the taxes will be given to municipalities to secure resources for decentralization.

Having been established, the progressive rate combined with the tax benefit known as family property tax or the main dwelling will be: 

  1. 0.00% on the taxable base up to $120,000.00
  2. 0.5% on the taxable base over $120,000.01 and up to $700,000.00
  3. 0.7% on the taxable base over $700,000.00The combined progressive rate on commercial real estate, industrial, other residences and others is as follows:

     1.    0.00% on the taxable base up to $30,000.00

    2.   0.6% on the taxable base over $30,000.01 and up to $250,000.00                                                     0.8% on the taxable base over $250,000.01 and up to $500,000.00 

    1. 1% on the taxable base over $500,000.01
  1. This is about a 70% reduction in yearly taxes or no taxes for the vast majority of Panamanians… I am guessing this will greatly stimulate an inflow of people who were on the fence about living in Panama, or who wanted to move to any tropical country but could not afford to pay or didn’t want to waste a lot of their money just on taxes before. This is great news!

     This truly is amazing! I think it goes into effect almost immediately (January 2018?). Why not take advantage of it? We routinely have guests at the B&B who are at various stages of relocation to Panama. Most of them end up taking my “Boquete Overview Tour”, designed for someone contemplating a move to Boquete. This 3.5 hour tour is packed with information that only a resident of Boquete can give you. Not to mention the various neighborhoods, developments and gated communities we visit during the tour. Boquete landscape, its people and the community are exceptional. I cannot wait to show you the area! Please book directly  with us to qualify for the current specials. See you soon!

How does one become legal to live, work and get health services in Panama?

Blog by Manzar Lari

Panama is a country full of natural beauty, laid-back people ready to embrace individuals from other countries and a government that welcomes expats to make Panama their home. We did our research several years ago and realized that there were many different visa options available for us. We picked the one that most suited our needs and hired a lawyer highly recommended by International Living to help with obtaining our permanent residency as well as making sure we could open a business. It took only 4 months to accomplish this! Sure, it cost us thousands of dollars but we felt that it was justified. The system is designed for people with the financial means to go through the residency process relatively painlessly.

There are many health care options available as well. We chose an option that gave us health coverage not only in Panama, but internationally as well. All this for a reasonable price! Unfortunately, not everyone has the same level of accessibility here. Yes, even the ones who were born here in Panama – there are bureaucracies one has to navigate.

Here is another story from our friends Joyce & Scott who moved here five months ago:

This afternoon a hummingbird got in the house. It panicked, naturally, and started flying crazily through the rooms and into the walls trying to get out. Scott spent about 15 minutes directing the bird out of different rooms. Eventually, the bird, exhausted, just froze in place on top of the hall dresser. In a concerted effort that came from years of trying to work together to tie down a cat to give it medicine or cut its claws, we were able to get the bird surrounded, so that Scott could carefully grab and hold its tail feathers to carry it across the house and outside.

The crazy actions of the frightened bird and the quiet skill needed to get that bird safely out of the house reminded me somewhat of how you have to work through bureaucracies—not just government ones either. We have been spending some time figuring out how to get packages mailed to us through a mail service in Miami. They are good and said to be the absolute easiest to work with, yet it has required a couple of weeks and several trips down to the office to make sure things are working. We are told that the packages are now in Miami and should arrive here in a couple of days. We’ll see.

This, however, has been a complete breeze compared to some government bureaucracies. As an example, Panama requires all citizens to have a cedula (identification cards with numbers). In order to have a cedula, a person must have a birth certificate. A cedula is required to access any government agency—public hospitals/clinics, education, or anything.This system is not unlike what has often been advocated for in the US as a way to reduce illegal immigration. However, the largest effect that we have seen is that it keeps a large number of indigenous people, who should have the most right to access government services of anyone in Panama, from getting those services.

The problem is that, as mentioned previously, a large number of indigenous people, especially women, are illiterate and uncomfortable with modern society. Their children are often born at home, delivered by other indigenous women, and do not get issued birth certificates. Because their mothers or both parents are illiterate and uncomfortable with modern society (and perhaps not even able to speak Spanish very well, just knowing their own language), the children never get birth certificates or cedulas. Thus, they are never able to go to school, get medical care at a reasonable cost, or access any government service. Lest you feel too much righteous anger at the parents for not getting the children these documents, consider how difficult this process is for literate people who are comfortable with bureaucracy.

A North American couple we have met here in Panama have been living among some indigenous people and trying to help their neighbors. They have spent over 18 months trying to get two children birth certificates and cedulas. One finally has hers, but the boy is still waiting on his cedula. Two college educated people, fluent in English and somewhat competent in Spanish, with the help of lawyers that they were paying, have spent 18 months trying to get these children the documents to prove that they are legal residents of a country that their ancestors have lived in for thousands of years. It’s quite a depressing tale of bureaucracy, but also with a ray of hope. The two children are, at least, in school, after the couple were able to talk the local school and the district administration in David to allow the children to attend during the birth certificate and cedula process. These two children can now read, write and do basic math. Their children will, in turn, be that much higher on the path to a comfortable life.

We feel fortunate to be able to live in paradise called “Boquete”! We try to live with gratitude for what life has given us and the wonderful people who either live in our little town or visit us from all over the world. Please come and visit us any time of the year and if you decide to make Boquete your home, we can assist you with information and connect you to people who can help as well. See you soon!

Neighborhood feel of Boquete, Panama: Just like the bygone days of the U.S.!

Blog by Terry Richmeier

On any given morning here at Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast, you will open your eyes to the smell of morning coffee and your prepared breakfast. This is our normal morning, but, what about the community?

 

 

 

Walking past the bed and breakfast will be dog walkers, children heading to the bus station, the elderly couple walking down the street and stopping to smell the flowers or pet the dogs. You will see a special lady who will go around picking up the trash in front of every house and place it in a trash bag. You will see men stopping to talk to each other, never seeming to be in a hurry. And that’s just a start.

People in Boquete, Panama, live outside. We even have an outside space designed for every room. We also serve breakfast outside on the back terrace. This is very different than the communities that lock themselves up tightly and live their lives behind walls and locked doors.

Below is a testimonial from a newly transplanted couple Joyce & Scott Kinnear:

We have had some lovely sunny afternoons this week. A couple of days it didn’t rain at all (or not enough to hardly matter) and the other days, it waited until night to rain.

It is interesting the difference between our neighborhood in California and here in our neighborhood in Panama in the afternoon.

In California, when I would be working from home or have the day off, there was lots of traffic going past our house—sometimes doing some pretty crazy stunts. Also, there were lots of people walking past the yard or waiting for the bus. Many of these people would pick our flowers or drop trash in our yard. We were constantly picking up cigarette butts, dog crap, old and nasty alcohol bottles and fast food containers. It was nasty. However, there were never any people out in the yards around us. I almost never saw our neighbors. The people next to us lived next to us for nearly 20 years. We maybe saw them outside the house 1 time a year or so—usually going to their car. Other neighbors we saw less often. The only people we usually saw were the seniors from the nearby senior facility. They would walk the neighborhood and stop to talk to me about how lovely the flowers were.

When we are here on a sunny afternoon, the neighborhood is literally buzzing with people. We do see some cars or people walking down the road, but what you hear is the noise of people living in their yards. There will be contractors in several houses near us. Other houses have gardeners out doing work. The woman across the street may come out to sweep her driveway. Other neighbors putter in their gardens or sit on the veranda to read, have a drink or look at their phones. Any of these people are more than happy to stop what they are doing to chat for a few minutes if you pass by.

Since children go to school early in the morning, they are often at home the majority of the afternoon.

As I weed the flower beds, I can hear the neighbors’ children behind us playing and laughing in their yard or the baby crying for attention.

There is just so much life in our neighborhood on a sunny afternoon. How can you not love this?

Is this the isolated experience of people just in Boquete, Panama? Or more of a small town experience? Who knows, but peace and tranquility can be yours while you are staying at Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast. Come and stay with us and experience living life in Boquete, Panama for a little while. Come and slow down. Oh, and if you think you want to know more about this lifestyle, check our Boquete Overview Tour and see for yourself the neighborhoods that are mentioned by Joyce…..

Shopping for what you need (and want?) in Panama!

Blog by Manzar Lari

Our guests at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast often ask us whether or not we can purchase everything here in Panama that we used to purchase in the U.S. One would think that it would be an easy question to answer but it isn’t for us. Our story is probably no different than most of the expats who move here. We have been in Panama for almost 4 years. We are used to a different way of living now. Unless it is something we absolutely need, we have learned to do without. We typically shop at the stores in David for household goods and some hard-to-find items. Sometimes we never find those items! We have a Mailboxes Etc account. We can generally buy something on Amazon.com and then have it sent to the Mailboxes Etc address in Miami and then they forward our package to the Boquete location of Mailboxes, Etc. It takes an extra week, but we do receive the package safe and sound at their downtown Boquete store. Oftentimes, we have friends pick up small things for us while they are on vacation in the U.S. We do the same for our friends when we are on vacation. I guess after living here for a while, either you learn to make do without certain products or you figure out a way to get them through other sources (for a higher price).

It is always interesting to see the settling-in process new residents of Boquete go through while they learn the rhythm and norms of their new culture and surroundings. The stories and experiences of our new Boquete residents Joyce and Scott continue:

So, I’m not a big shopper. Clothing stores are meant to be gone through fairly quickly, in my mind. I’m much faster than my daughter Amy and slower than my husband Scott. However, I am a bit crazy about garden and hardware stores. I find them very fascinating.

So, imagine the heaven of finding yourself in a country that does a lot of repair work. Lots of repairs are done for a variety of reasons—the weather is hard on things, people have less money to buy new things so repair the old, and some contractors are terrible and you have to fix things that were just built/installed. I’m sure there are more reasons, but all of this has resulted in hardware stores that sell absolutely everything you could ever imagine to repair anything you could have ever thought about.

Our closest hardware store is a large maze of aisles just filled with every screw, nail, and piece of plastic and little doo dad you could possibly imagine. Since the store is absolutely jam packed, all the way to the 20 foot ceilings, with stuff everywhere, new items can be placed absolutely anywhere you could imagine—and places you can’t.

For the hardware enthusiast, such as myself, this means that you can spend hours in the store, looking at each item and always find some new little gadget that will be useful for something or other. Oh man, it’s like a child let loose in a candy store for me.

Amy thinks I’m weird, of course….

The shopping adventures of Joyce and Scott continue from Boquete/David to Panama City:

Today we took a taxi to David for an early morning bus ride to Panama City. The taxi went well, but it was the most expensive part of our day. It wasn’t bad though. For a 30 mile drive to David, it was only $35. In David, we paid a little over $15 each for a 6-1/2 hour bus drive to Panama City and Albrook mall, which is right on the canal on the northern side of the City. It was a very smooth and easy drive for us. It didn’t seem as long as it might have, since as I’ve not been feeling well for several days, I slept most of the drive.

When we arrived in Panama City at the mall, we took a taxi to our hotel, which is on the old military base. It was such a short drive (only about three miles), that we decided to walk back to the mall after checking in.

The Albrook mall is the largest mall in Latin America, from what we have been told, and it is immense. I estimate that it is about a mile long and 2-3 stories. There are numerous large department stores, plus any number of other stores, including about every shoe store known to human kind. You could spend days in that mall.

We went into a three story HUGE department store that seems to emphasize inexpensive items. After our three months in the small town of Boquete with occasional trips to the mall in David, it was really a bit overwhelming to see so many items and so many people in one store! There were tons of things that looked interesting, but we were mostly able to restrain ourselves—fortunately for our pocketbooks!

So, apparently there are many more items of interest available in the malls of Panama City! Joyce has written above about Albrook Mall but there all sorts of other malls like Multiplaza Mall and Multi Centro Mall, for example. Many of the Boquete/David residents also make regular trips to Panama City for their shopping and dining needs. We do the same periodically. Plus it is great for a change of scenery as well. After the hustle and bustle of Panama City, it is always great to be back home in the cooler and quieter Boquete environment and familiar surroundings.

There is a new mall in David that is under construction and promises to be similar to the Albrook mall, only smaller. The main David bus terminal will be relocated from its current location to the new mall. From the looks of it, it is about halfway done. Maybe in a year or two we will be able to do most of our shopping there? Rumor has it that the best grocery chain (in our opinion!) in Panama, Riba Smith, will have a store there! We can’t wait. Look at the architect’s rendering of the David mall below:

Hope to see you down in Boquete soon. We have a lot more information available for you! Make sure you ask us about life in Panama when you come and stay with us at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast.

How does one find a good builder, contractor or a handyman in Boquete, Panama?

Blog by Manzar Lari.

Short answer – It is not easy! Long answer, do your online research before coming here. In addition, talk to acquaintances and friends who have been here a lot longer than you. As I usually say to our guests at the B&B who are contemplating a move to Boquete, “talk to at least 12 different people locally about a topic of interest to you, synthesize and then distill the answers and then come up with your own truth”. Each person speaks from the standpoint of their own experiences and points-of-view. As a good “researcher” one has to initially gather as much information as one can until one starts hearing the same kinds of answers and collecting more data is not going to help inform the conclusion(s).

I do a “Boquete Overview Tour” for people who are considering moving to Boquete and we touch on many topics that may be relevant to a future Boquete resident. I have noticed that the visitors generally have tons of questions and they are “hungry” for answers. Frequently, people are looking to buy land and build their dream home here. I inform them that you will never hear people publicly say that someone is an awful builder or that the contractor didn’t do what they were paid to do. You can only find those things out when you talk verbally and in person with someone. We have different slander and libel laws here as compared to the U.S. and people are very cautious about divulging their true (negative) experiences to strangers.

Just recently our friends Joyce and Scott had this to say:

Friends here in Panama wanted me to discuss the issues with contracting. This is a tough and complicated subject that I (Joyce) have been thinking about for a while.

The problem is that contracting is never fun, wherever you are. There are always problems from delays in construction, parts not being available, costs being more than you expect, etc. This happens in the US as much as in Panama.

I’ve been trying to figure out the difference in these situations and I think it’s mostly that in the US there are more ways to find out about a contractor before you try to work with him. In the US, there seems to be more controls through state licensing and disciplinary procedures on incompetent contractors, YELP reviews and so on. It’s a bit more based on word of mouth references here.

Word of mouth references are always good, of course, wherever you live. Some of our best experiences in both the US and Panama have been in working with friends or people recommended by friends.

The problems that we have experienced in Panama seem to be that it is harder to find out if a contractor isn’t what he is cracked up to be. We have heard stories from friends of contracting with an electrician, who blows up everything in the house through bad wiring mistakes and then later says, “But I’m really not an electrician, so it’s not my fault if things don’t work out.” Other bad experiences include contractors getting the money for parts and using that money for someone else’s job or just never showing up at all (or, as in our case, abandoning the job after taking money and just disappearing from existence). It’s just difficult to find out if a contractor really knows what he is doing and whether he will complete the job.

I suspect that word of mouth worked better in the past when Boquete was a very small town, and everyone knew what was going on everywhere in town. With the growth in population in the past few years, the competition for the best contractors and the escalation in costs that come with population growth, the historical practice of working only with contractors who have a good reputation through word of mouth has some problems.

Let’s just say that while there are always horror stories about contracting experiences wherever you live, the stories, experiences and lessons learned are a bit more expensive, worrisome and common here in Boquete!

We have been in Boquete for almost four years and our experiences were not so different than the newbies Joyce and Scott when we first arrived in August 2013. Hopefully we have become a little wiser in those four years! Bad experiences have a way of teaching us some life lessons. We are fortunate that we have been able to find some reliable and trustworthy individuals who show up (mostly!) when they are supposed to, finish the job, give us a warranty, and not charge us exorbitant amounts of money.

If you are contemplating a move to Boquete, why not book a room with us  and schedule a Boquete Overview Tour? Terry and I (Manzar) love to assist our guests in any way we can to make your transition to Boquete a smooth one. See you soon!

 

We are feeling a bit bugged (in Boquete) and want to inform you as to why!

blog by Terry Richmeier

Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast  has been open for 3.5 years now and we feel fortunate enough not to have experienced any scorpions, spiders, or snakes inside our Bed & Breakfast! That’s saying a lot considering where we live! Tropical climate attracts and sustains a wide variety of creatures.

A couple that stayed with us, just made the move to Boquete, Panama. They purchased a home high on the mountaintop and made a list of the top bugs that “bug” them. Read below:

By Joyce Kinnear

The things a person learns about bugs when moving from a temperate/arid climate to a tropical one:

 

  1. It is hard to tell a centipede from a caterpillar when it is crawling on your neck.

2. Many bugs dislike the smell of cinnamon and lavender, which is why my doorways look like witch’s circles with cinnamon around them, and my cleaning supplies are all lavender scented.

Bar of natural aromatherapy soap with dried lavender and essential oil

 

 

3. The dilemma is real about spiders in the house–they kill bugs, BUT they can also bite you. When they are crawling all over the house, which is worse?

 

4. Scorpions are, in fact, pretty damn ugly, whether small and in your bed or large and in a bathroom.

  1. Beetles/June bugs are unbelievably stupid, but loud, when they fly around the house, noisily bumping into walls everywhere, crashing and then doing it again.
  2. Moth balls serve a purpose, as you can tell when the only thing with light in your house is the cell phone, and you become a moth attracter of amazing capabilities.
  3. Ants are the worst possible pests–the leaf cutters that can destroy a plant before your eyes, the little black ones that crawl all over your feet and into your shoes and leave stings that itch and hurt for weeks, or the little red ones that feel like hypodermic needles are injecting you.
  4. Coffee flies are practically microscopic, but the sting hurts and itches for at least 3 weeks.Our thoughts on these bug problems:
    1. Why does it matter if it’s a centipede or caterpillar? Some species can be poisonous here. That said, having any bugs crawl on you is creepy!
    2. You can make an all-natural lavender scented mix to spread around your house.
    3. No spiders – EVER! Enough said.
    4. Scorpions tend to be in the mountains and are not found in the area we are located.
    5. These guys don’t hurt anything, they just look creepy. That said with full knowledge of not having them in our Bed & Breakfast or near us.
    6. There is a season when the moths are flowing through the town. Still we haven’t seen them inside our Bed & Breakfast.
    7. Then only ants we seen are so small you can hardly see them. We exterminate frequently.
    8. Coffee Flies go for blood! They are all over tropical areas. That said, they usually bite at dawn or dusk.We here at Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast, believe that the bugs are not to be bugging our guests! We spray frequently inside and out to prevent them from making their home inside ours and on you! You will be able to rest peacefully knowing that we are on the job of de-bugging your life and travels here in Boquete, Panama. Come and stay with us and don’t be bugged!

Scott is volunteering in Boquete, Panama – both Scott and Joyce are really busy!

Blog by Terry Richmeier

(This is a follow-up to last week’s blog titled: Joyce is working hard at volunteering in Boquete after retirement – resistance is futile!) 

So, you get nervous around large animals and yet you love them and want to help! This is me as well and you’re not alone! This is called Zoophobia: However, this is not what her husband (Scott) has…

This is Joyce’s story…..

Scott is the animal lover between the two of us. I have always been extremely nervous of some animals–particularly large ones that have a tendency to jump up on me. Animals can sense my nervousness, and it’s a negative feedback for us both.

Scott, on the other hand, is really, really good with animals. They nearly always like him, especially how he scratches their itches–literally. A couple of weeks ago, he was scratching a goat between its horns. The goat was in love and cried when we left.

So, he has started volunteering with a group (Amigos de Animales) that does monthly neutering and spaying. Vets are brought in from Costa Rica and some from other parts of Panama–apparently, the few vets in this area work on large, farm animals. Volunteers bring in strays and coordinate local families to bring in their pets. The day long clinic neuters and spays hundreds of animals, with volunteers running all parts of the operation except the actual surgery. Scott says it’s quite an operation.

Many of the animals who are spayed and neutered are strays, feral or abandoned. Recently, a local woman was introduced to one of the animal organizations in town. She is a soft hearted woman who was taking care of 39 drop-off and feral cats. The organization is helping her pay for food, move the cats into homes and pay for the low cost spaying and neutering with the organization Scott is working with.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Because of this, Boquete is not beset with hundreds of feral and wild dogs and cats roaming the streets, as is the case in many places we’ve visited. Because people are not inundated with so many wild and somewhat dangerous animals, people tend to treat the animals better, thus they are not mean, and the positive circle.

Here is a video of two dogs that are loved tremendously!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23872rWorXM&list=PLwz-744OmrNPdFOjzK8uojrPnMUnaLDLp

 

This is a great thing for the animals and the people in the community and Scott is really enjoying working with the animals. The last two times, he’s had the job of waking cats up from the surgeries. As anyone who knows Scott has experienced, he loves playing with cats, so he’s gotten to have fun while helping out. I can imagine him doing more with this organization over time, as they always seem to need more help.

We here at Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast help out in the form of donations as well as our staff volunteering. Animales also supplies a calendar for purchase each year and the proceeds go to the clinic. Come and stay with us, if the time is right, we can get you in touch with them and you can volunteer to help in the clinic or support them financially. You have a great heart and we cannot wait to meet you!

Why are Panama Hats Called Panama Hats if they are made in Ecuador?

Blog by Terry Richmeier

In my last blog about Traditional Clothing. I came across a fact that bewildered me. The Panama hats are NOT made in Panama! What the….?

So, I dug in to find out some information about them. Here are the results:

Panama hats are Ecuador’s most iconic souvenir, yet their name is attached to the country whose strip of land connects Central and South America. The handwoven hats, made with straw from the toquilla palm plant that is endemic to Ecuador’s Pacific coast, have been made in Ecuador for centuries and can be traced back to the Incas. So why, then, are they called Panama hats?

There are several theories as to why, and it is probably true that each theory has contributed to its reputation in some way. One major factor was Panama’s position as a center for trade and transport, especially in the mid-1850s during the Gold Rush in the United States. At the time, Ecuador did not see much tourism or trade, so it exported its hats to Panama to sell from here.

Additionally, Ecuador did not have the technology to be able to mark the hats with a stamp or label that said “Made in Ecuador,” so people assumed the hats were made in the same country they were bought in.

“Panama Hats,” by capelle79 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/51252776@N04/5655872438/)

When thousands of North Americans on the east coast went in search of gold in California, many traveled by boat through Panama to get there, as it was a quicker option than traveling across the United States via land. Many of these American travelers bought the straw hats while passing through Panama and returned to the United States with their new accessory. When asked where they got their fine woven hats, people said Panama.

In 1881, the 23-year project to build the Panama Canal began. Many of the workers who constructed the Panama Canal wore the hats to fend off the strong sun, adding to its association with Panama. These hats were perfect for the job since they are lightweight and breathable. The Panama hat gained even more fame when President Theodore Roosevelt was photographed in one of the straw hats while visiting the Panama Canal in 1906. The photo was widely published in the U.S. and was mistakenly called a Panama hat; from that point on, the name “Panama hat” really stuck.

President Theodore Roosevelt in a Panama Hat

Others claim that the travelers passing through the Panama Canal over time who wore the hat gave it its name, rather than the canal workers or President Teddy Roosevelt. No matter what you believe the real origin or continued use of the term “Panama hat” for the Ecuadorian-made product is, there is no doubt that these hats are made in Ecuador,  primarily in and around Cuenca and on the coast in towns like Montecristi and Jipijapa (which is why the hat was actually technically called a Jipijapa hat).

I found this information on Vivatravelguides.com

So do as President Theodore Roosevelt did, come down, Stay with us at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast, Purchase your hats and enjoy the benefits of sun blockage, pass the Panama Canal and be a part of history! Just as we did!

At Casa de Montaña in Boquete we are cooking up a storm!

Blog by Terry Richmeier

 

picture-1So why did we choose international style breakfasts for our guests here at the hotel? Well, it all started with a dream that we both shared of owning our own B&B business and our enjoyment of flavors from all over the world. We have been fortunate enough to get to travel from Canada to Colombia and many places in between. And during our travels, we enjoyed many different cuisines and international foods.  One might ask, how many different ways can you do breakfast? Isn’t breakfast just eggs and toast and some juice and coffee? Our answer to that is a resounding “NO”!

So we sat down (while still living in Minneapolis) one day several months before the opening of Casa de Montaña and began to dream about what we enjoyed the most in food. Thinking specifically about the breakfast flavors we would choose. picture-4The choices in the beginning were somewhat different then what is being served now. picture-2 picture-3This evolution may be because of the ability for us to get certain items here in Panama that we might need. Also, originally we were thinking of breakfasts that included meats. We ruled that out pretty quickly since more and more people are vegetarians or vegan these days. Also, even if someone eats meat, they would gladly skip having meat for breakfast. We decided to do an informal survey of our friends and family about meats versus having a vegetarian breakfast. The vegetarian breakfast won out by far! So, we went back to the drawing board and started again!

picture-5We were fortunate to have Manzar and his sisters take part in learning to cook from their mother! She was an amazing cook and this led us to our first international breakfast (from Pakistan) of Puri, Chana Masala and Kolonji Potatoes.  It is eaten more as a brunch in Pakistan and has been one of our most flavorful and complimented breakfasts! We usually serve it on Tuesdays.

During the time we were developing our breakfasts, Manzar’s oldest sister Rakshinda was visiting in Minneapolis and we decided to make and taste all of the recipes that we had developed. Of course we started with the Pakistani breakfast first and Manzar and his sister made the recipes look so easy. This was a week-long trial period in which we said yes to all of our choices. The joy and fun we had that week was amazing! Who knew this could turn out to be more of an act of love than a challenge!

We made all of the fabulous and vegetarian breakfast that are listed on our website. Starting with Sunday here are the following picture-6breakfasts: Panamanian, Italian, Pakistani, Belgian, American Western, Mexican, and French!

You can take a look at the reviews of our breakfasts on our TripAdvisor page.  as well many reviews telling you about other services we provide and the amenities we have at our Bed & Breakfast.

We started with diverse breakfast choices but why stop there? Here in Boquete, Panama, even the hotels and restaurants do not have many international dining choices for lunches and dinners. So, we wanted to share what Manzar, his mother, sisters and sister-in-law all know in cooking up and preparing Pakistani/Indian cuisine. picture-7We started to share this skill with many of the Boquete residents and guests of Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast. We had our first Pakistani/Indian cooking class almost three years ago and it went very well with a full class of incredibly talented people! That was the start of many different classes to come. We are now in the process of repeating some of these incredible cooking classes so that others can learn and enjoy amazing international dinners. By the way, neither David nor Boquete has a single Pakistani or Indian restaurant! You can see photos, menus, and the recipes of these classes on our website.

There is more to come. We have had guests ask if we can schedule a cooking class while they are staying with us. We gladly accommodate if we have enough advance notice. Our next class is this coming Wednesday, January 11th and we are planning to have cooking picture-8 classes in the coming months as well. Who knows, we may do some Thai and Mexican cooking classes next? The possibilities are endless when it comes to what we can come up with. Here in Boquete we are only limited by our own imagination.

When you come and stay at Casa de Montaña ,  talk with Manzar about the secrets that make the International cultural food taste the best. Talk to him about how to cut and fry up the  onions (for example) when cooking Pakistani food or what order to add the ingredients picture-9to make the amazing flavors of the spices blend to create the greatest tasting food! He is full of secrets passed along to him from his mother. And who knows, maybe you too can request cooking class be set up during your stay here at Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast!

And if cooking is not for you, then come and enjoy our breakfasts while you are relaxing and resting. After breakfast, we can set up an in- room massage or a tour or two. Take a look at our current specials. See you soon!

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Saying Goodbye to guests and staff at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast, Boquete

Blog by Terry Richmeier

1Over the past three years we here at Casa de Montaña have had the pleasure of getting to know our guests and each one of you have made such an impact on us.

We opened with the very first guests. A couple that was from Holland and the wife had just finished her degree to become a doctor. They needed a break and choose Casa de Montaña as that place of respite. Along with them, we had a lovely couple that has a home here in Boquete, Panama, already. The husband wanted his wife to see the bathroom and open shower concept that we introduced to Boquete. She was quite pleased and they took several photos of the shower concept to share the idea to their contractor. We genuinely smiled incredibly proud that we made an impact! This impact started from an open house that we had in order to introduce ourselves to the new community that we fell into and in love with.

From there we continued as we spent the time during our social hour talking with all of 2you, our guests, getting to know you, getting to know more about the world in which you live. The stories of places you visited and your experiences. We learned about Germany, Holland, and cities within them. We learned about Ukraine, Russia, Australia, Israel and South Africa! And the list will go on and on…..

We enjoyed hearing the stories of your adventures here in Boquete, Panama, as you learned about the many steps to getting a cup of coffee to your table. And as you went on the Canopy Tour and you zipped speeding down the track hanging far above the trees! And your whitewater rafting trip to the Costa Rican border! It’s as if we took the adventure along with you!

During this time we had the opportunity to grow. We grew in staff so that we had people here that could speak to you both in Spanish and English. We grew in popularity through TripAdvisor and booking.com.  It is so heartwarming to read what you experienced during your stay here with us. We still to this day go back and read them. Remembering you and your time spent with us. And most importantly, we felt a kinship with each and every one of you, our guests, our hearts were and are still filled with love and happiness! Our lives will never be the same.  The energy, blessings and gratitude we receive do not end!

3What does end is the time you, our guests are here with us. Just before you leave, many times we stop and ask to take a picture with you. Our hearts step up to our throats making it difficult to speak. We act like nothing is wrong and we smile for the shot. Still inside, we are struggling to let you go. You have taken us by storm and we are left with that photo and a small piece of your lives.

As Terry has said, “I can imagine that most parents experience this feeling as their children, now adults, go off to college, or get married and move onto their adult lives.” It is difficult for us to say goodbye, however, you have shaped our lives so tremendously and you have energized us so incredibly, that we are renewed and ready to receive new guests and open our hearts to them and all who stay here at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast!

Along with our guests, we have had several employees that have moved on in their lives as well. We also have to say goodbye to them. Sometimes it feels like we are attending a funeral and for days, the remaining staff and all of us are affected.

Just real recently we said goodbye to Debra. Debra decided, after having experienced Casa de Montaña, that she was ready to open a bed and breakfast with her boyfriend in Quito, Ecuador. It about broke our hearts into pieces. Veronica created an exquisite thanksgiving dinner and we all sat together and quietly said how much we loved Debra, some of us could not verbalize it. It was a rather quiet meal until we found humor and all of us, laughed almost too loudly as it was forced.

This is not an isolated incident. It happens every time. And now, it’s happening again. Our wonderful Maria Isabel has decided that at this point in her life, she wants to be with her children. It’s always tough to work when you’re a mother with children and Maria Isabel has an opportunity to be a stay home mom! We can’t fault her for that and what a blessing for her and her children. Maria has this to say shortly before parting from Casa de Montaña:

4I have worked at Casa de Montaña for only 8 months, and I have made great friends. From Veronica whom with her motherly care takes care of all of us, along with Nicolas who is always on top of all the little details on the house maintenance. Natalia who is so detailed on the cleaning and can swiftly clean a room, and Junior who takes great care of our garden. Terry and Manzar have always been so fun to work with.  It’s sad to leave, and it feels like I am leaving my family, not just coworkers. I am sure I will be coming back to visit and bring cupcakes! (Otherwise Terry would not let me in hahaha).

 

So if you see a tear or two running down our eyes, we are ok, we just had to remove our heart from our throats one more time.

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For those who have not been here yet, or who have not stayed with us yet, please do contact us as we have a place in our hearts that only you can fill!

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

 

Getting on my last nerve – Finding some healing in Boquete, Panama!

Blog by Terry Richmeier

1It all started back in October of 2015! Although in reality it started a lot earlier, January 2015 to be more precise! I had a car accident and was hit in the back side of the van by a speeding, inattentive driver. I and my van flung across in a complete circle and it hit another car on the opposite side. This really jolted me. Thank God nobody was hurt, or so I thought at the time.

Although I was fine for nine months, suddenly in October I woke up and could not stand up straight. I had to hold onto the end table, then reach out to grab the dresser, then reach out to grab the walls and anything that I could hold onto in order to get to the bathroom. I thought I was going to need a wheelchair! This was just the first day of many months of falling down, having weakness in my legs and arms and hands. 2Every step was exhausting and I needed many naps throughout the day. Walking our guests upstairs to their room completely took all the energy I had! I finally got to the point that I just wanted to crawl into bed and not get up again. I gave up on Zumba class and I gave up on life as I slipped into a depression.

 

3I went to the doctor. I went to the Chiropractor. I went to the acupuncturist. I loaded up on different vitamins. I had massages often. I purchased a back rest. I took muscle relaxers. I took advice from absolutely everyone. I practiced yoga from Youtube. I did stretches daily. Nothing seemed to completely cure me. Yes, I had a pinched nerve for sure!

 

What is a pinched nerve? And why does this happen? This is what I learned from the Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pinched-nerve/basics/definition/con-20029601 A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues, such as bones, cartilage, muscles or tendons. This pressure disrupts the nerve’s function, causing pain, tingling, numbness or weakness. 4

A pinched nerve can occur at several sites in your body. A herniated disk in your lower spine, for example, may put pressure on a nerve root, causing pain that radiates down the back of your leg. Likewise, a pinched nerve in your wrist can lead to pain and numbness in your hand and fingers (carpal tunnel syndrome).

With rest and other conservative treatments, most people recover from a pinched nerve within a few days or weeks. Sometimes, surgery is needed to relieve pain from a pinched nerve. Pinched nerve signs and symptoms include:

  • Numbness or decreased sensation in the area supplied by the nerve 5
  • Sharp, aching or burning pain, which may radiate outward
  • Tingling, “pins and needles” sensations (paresthesia)
  • Muscle weakness in the affected area
  • Frequent feeling that a foot or hand has “fallen asleep”

 

6The problems related to a pinched nerve may be worse when you’re sleeping.

A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure (compression) is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues.

 

 

In some cases, this tissue might be bone or cartilage, such as in the case of a herniated spinal disk that compresses a nerve root. In other cases, muscle or tendons may cause the condition.  7

In the case of carpal tunnel syndrome, a variety of tissues may be responsible for compression of the carpal tunnel’s median nerve, including swollen tendon sheaths within the tunnel, enlarged bone that narrows the tunnel, or a thickened and degenerated ligament.

A number of conditions may cause tissue to compress a nerve or nerves, including: 8

  • Injury
  • Poor posture
  • Rheumatoid or wrist arthritis
  • Stress from repetitive work
  • Hobbies or sports activities
  • Obesity

This pressure causes inflammation of the nerve and disrupts the nerve’s function. If a nerve is pinched for only a short time, there’s usually no permanent damage. Once the pressure is relieved, nerve function returns to normal. However, if the pressure continues, chronic pain and permanent nerve damage can occur.

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For me, I’m 95% better but still suffer from some weakness and my depression has lifted. I’m currently doing ARPWave/Therastim treatment. And this seems to be working for me. What is this you ask? The Therastim (also called “ARPwave”) uses conductive electrode pads to provide neuromuscular stimulation. It treats the neurological origin of soft tissue conditions, not just the physical symptoms.

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  • The Therastim features a state-of-the-art electrical mechanism designated as a class 2 medical device by the FDA. Treatment includes unique Therastim protocols and testing techniques.  Therastim has been proven to be an effective treatment for those who have been told they need surgery and for those who have already had surgery.
  • By increasing range of motion and decreasing pain, Therastim can be a highly effective way to prepare for physical therapy.
  • Therastim is used by many elite athletes and teams throughout the world.
  • Therastim dramatically reduces recovery time for ankle sprains and strained tendons or ligaments.
  • Every year, thousands of patients receive Therastim treatment, it has proven effective on all types of chronic pain including RSDS and FibromyalgiaWhat is amazing to me is that all of this is available right here in Boquete! Plus, this is not all that is available here in Boquete. Many more options such as Yoga, botanicals, energy healing and much more…  So whether or not you’re traveling to Boquete or looking to move here, give us a call and we can get you connected with any one or all of these service providers while you stay at Casa de Montaña for your recovery!

    Contact Us at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast

 

Do I need vaccinations before my trip to Panama?

Blog by Debra Harwood

 

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Travelers to Central America from North America, Europe and Australia/New Zealand generally have more questions about what kinds of vaccinations, if any, they need to have done prior to their journey to Panama and other countries in Central America. Travelers are looking for a peace-of-mind, especially if their journey takes them to some remote regions. The best thing to do is to contact your local “travel clinic” first. They will most probably have the latest information about any kind of virus outbreak warnings and recommendations from agencies like the CDC (for the travelers from the U.S.). Here is what we have found in our own research from talking to other people and doing our internet searches:

Routine vaccinesThese vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.  You should be up to date on these no matter even if you travel or not.

Most travelers should check into the following before travel:

 Hepatitis AThis vaccine is recommended because you can get hepatitis A through contaminated food or water in Panama, regardless of where you are eating or staying.

 TyphoidYou can get typhoid through contaminated food or water in Panama so this vaccine is recommended for most travelers, especially if you are staying with friends or relatives, visiting smaller cities or rural areas, or if you are an adventurous eater.

 

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Some travelers should check into the following:

 Hepatitis BYou can get hepatitis B through sexual contact, contaminated needles, and blood products, so this vaccine is recommended if you might have sex with a new partner, get a tattoo or piercing, or have any medical procedures while on your trip.

RabiesAlthough rabies can be found in bats and other mammals in Panama, it is not a major risk to most travelers. Rabies vaccine is recommended for only these groups:

  • Travelers involved in outdoor and other activities in remote areas that put them at risk for bat bites or other animal bites (such as adventure travel and caving).People who will be working with or around animals (such as wildlife – professionals and researchers).

Yellow FeverYellow fever is a risk in certain parts of Panama, so depending on what areas of Panama you plan on exploring you may need to have a yellow fever vaccine.  For example, remote areas of the Bocas del Toro, Darien Region or San Blas Islands.

MalariaWhen traveling in Panama, you should avoid mosquito bites to prevent malaria. You may need to take prescription medicine before, during, and after your trip to prevent malaria, depending on your travel plans, such as where you are going, when you are traveling, and if you are spending a lot of time outdoors or sleeping outside. Bringing some mosquito repellent with you is a good idea.

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Remember some vaccinations involve a series of shots over several months so spending time researching in advance is wise.  In addition, ask your doctor what vaccines and medicines you need based on where you are going, how long you are staying, what you will be doing in that country. Don’t let the fear of a little needle scare you, it only hurts for a second!!!

Most seasoned travelers know to pack a few meds such as Ibuprofen, Imodium, and Antihistamines along with bug repellant, sun block and band aids. It is always good to be prepared for your trip so you feel relaxed and ready for the journey!

So come explore Panama! We are a country of beautiful beaches, breathtaking cloud forests, dense jungles, a world class city and of course the Panama Canal which is one of the man-made wonders of the world!

Remember when in Boquete come stay with us at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast where we will treat you like familyJ

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Panama uses the U.S. dollar (which is doing ok at the moment!) but what is happening to currency around the world lately?!

Blog by Terry Richmeier and Manzar Lari

Here at Casa de Montana Bed & Breakfast we are very fortunate to have guests from all over the world. Lately, we are hearing from our guest’s issues that they are facing in their country with the value of their money.
For example, in Canada their currency the “Canadian dollar” does not seem to be doing well. In fact, the Canadian dollar has reached an all-time low. In an article from “Financial Post” titled “Canadian dollar hits 11-year-low in its worst losing streak since 2013” they talk about this issue. Why has this happened? The Canadian dollar is in the midst of its worst losing streak in more than two years as global economic growth looks set to derail the country’s plan for an export-led recovery.

1The currency plunged to an 11-year low after Norway, another large oil exporter, unexpectedly cut interest rates and said it may ease monetary policy even further. Signs that economic growth in China, the world’s biggest commodity consumer, is slowing down have sent prices for everything from oil to copper plunging and prompted speculation demand won’t be quick to recover.

Will a weak Canadian dollar really lead to stronger exports? An article from Reuters http://blogs.reuters.com/macroscope/2015/09/09/will-a-weak-canadian-dollar-really-lead-to-stronger-exports/ seems to not think so:

Canada’s near two-year-long attempt to boost exports through a weaker currency so far has proved to be futile. The country’s policymakers had hoped a lower exchange rate would benefit exports and in turn propel the economy. On the face of it, that is not an odd assumption to make as a weaker Canadian dollar should make the country’s exports relatively cheaper – and therefore more attractive. But a close look at the historic trend of exports and currency movement, as well as Reuter’s polls, suggests policymakers might be indulging in a pointless exercise, especially when the price of oil – a major Canadian export – has fallen so sharply.
The evidence shows that Canada’s export performance, and not just of crude oil, has been good even during periods when the dollar was strong.
A weaker currency, in turn, should bolster domestic demand by making it more expensive for people to buy imported products or even vacation abroad.

The Worst Performing Currencies at Year-End 2015 Worldwide (according to investopedia.com)

2As the U.S. economy recovers, the dollar has strengthened, making it one of the best performers over the last year. This is how other world currencies have fared vs. the dollar.
The Russian Ruble was hit hard in 2014, losing nearly 40% of its value following economic sanctions by the West and low oil prices. So far, in 2015, the ruble itself has remained fairly unchanged, however the ripple effect to former Soviet countries, including Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Moldova, has made these nation’s currencies among the worst performers so far this year.

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Brazil’s economy stagnated in 2014-2015, along with a general decline in commodity prices, which it relies on for exports. Political uncertainty and rising inflation has caused the Brazilian Real to lose nearly 20% so far this quarter.
The euro, the common currency of the Eurozone member nations, has seen its value steadily decline due to persistent economic woes, prompting the European Central Bank (ECB) to begin quantitative easing (QE) efforts in order to jump start the economies there. Furthermore, fear of a Greek exit from the euro and the contagion that would cause throughout the peripheral nations has depressed its value.
Scandinavian countries, although not members of the Euro currency, are nonetheless intrinsically linked to European economic activity. Sweden and Norway, in particular, who rely on oil production as a large part of their economy have seen their currencies fall just under 10% so far this year, extending losses from 2014. Likewise, the British pound has lost similar amounts.
Canada and Australia, both traditionally stable economies during economic downturns, have not been able to escape the effect of low oil and commodity prices. The Canadian dollar is down nearly 9% and the Australian dollar down almost 6.5% year to date. The New Zealand dollar, which is closely correlated with the Australian economy has also lost nearly 5% of its value so far this year.

5This is where we here at Casa de Montana Bed & Breakfast become concerned about our future guests in being able to take a much-needed vacation! We love meeting and spending time with not only the Canadians but people from all over the world. Debra, our Assistant Manager, is herself from Canada! So, what can we do to help? We ask all our future guests to give us a call or email us your inquiries and we will see what we can do to offer a bit of a discount to you to ease some of the financial burden. Please call us at Panama #: 507-730-9472 or U.S. #: 952-931-9770 or contact us directly through our website: www.casademontana.com. We want you to enjoy a vacation or two in your hard working year. We also want you to be able to enjoy activities and tours while you are here. So, let us try to help out with your stay with us!

Is it safe for women to travel alone around Panama?

Debra at canal

What is it like traveling alone as a women? That is a question I get asked every time I set out on an adventure. I understand for some women it would be something they would never think of doing alone for many reasons.
What always comes to mind first is will I be safe. Of course important to think about when traveling by yourself. Here are a few things I try and remember:
– Always keep a local map with you and make sure you familiarize yourself with it before leaving your hotel…most hotels offer a free map of the area
– When out at night it’s wise to take a taxi back to your hotel. Here in Boquete its costs just a few dollars
– Remember alcohol will dull the senses so do not overdue it
– Never leave with people you just met no matter how sweet and nice they appear
– I also send a quick email back home to a family member with information of where I am staying It takes only a few seconds but important for the people on the other end as well
– Know how to handle yourself in the case of unwanted attention, and that usually will happen

Debra in Casco ViejoNow about eating out alone in a restaurant. The first few times you experience it may seem a little strange. What I do is bring my ipad or a guide book so that I have something to keep me occupied. What I liked about eating out in Ecuador was that if you are alone at a table for 4, other people will come and sit with you. It’s just how they do it there and I enjoyed that. I have met some wonderful people that way and now I am not shy to do the same. Remember to be respectful of the people and customs of the country you are visiting, you are a guest in that country and so behave as one.

Also I found that staying in a B&B’s makes me feel safer and like I have a temporary home away from home. There is always someone around with useful information about the area and you don’t have to eat breakfast alone…bonus!!
Another helpful idea before you leave home is to spend time researching where your off to especially if you have limited time and want to make sure you see the things that are important to you. Book tours in advance so you won’t miss out. Also be aware of the country currency (it may surprise some people but the American dollar is not the worlds currency) and the availability of ATM machines. I never try to carry much cash and I do use ATM machines and have yet to have an issue with them.

Debra in Bocas del TorroWe here at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast welcome single travels. We know that you will feel at home and safe during your stay with us. We are happy to assist you in booking tours or giving you information about the area so you see all there is to offer.

Lastly remember it is ok to travel alone. There is not a thing wrong with it and does not mean you’re a failure in any way. People travel alone every day all around the world. Please do not let fear keep you from exploring, it’s your choice. I guarantee you will feel proud of yourself after your first adventure alone and each time you will be more comfortable and gain more confidence. I have been traveling alone to almost every province in Panama and can say with certainty  this is one friendly and safe country to spend time exploring.

Debra Boquete
There is a big beautiful world out there just waiting for you to discover. So go get started making some priceless memories today!

Remember, when traveling through Panama don’t forget to stay with us at Casa De Montaña Bed & Breakfast in beautiful Boquete.

The diversity of food choices in Boquete, Panama!

Blog by Terry Richmeier & Manzar Lari

 

At Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast we love different flavors of food from around the world. People of Panama have their own delicious cuisine but it is good to try out different flavors as often as we can! With ex-pats from countries around the globe living in Panama and many of them in Boquete, it’s time for us to meet the needs of the tastes we so love!

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At Casa de Montaña we recognize this need and offer a breakfast with an international flair! Flavors from Mexico, Italy, Pakistan, France, Belgium, North America and of course Panama! Manzar Lari, having grown up in Pakistan has a real knowledge of South Asian and East Indian cooking. He brings this to his Cooking Classes that he hosts to teach and share recipes passed down from his mother and the culture he grew up in. Those recipes can also be found on our website by clicking on the following link: http://www.casademontana.com/recipes/ Please feel free to print them off (since each of them are in a pdf format) and give them a try. Don’t forget to let us know how they turned out or if you have any questions. And while we are sharing the above recipes, we thought we would share a few of our other favorite flavors from other places in the world! Starting right here at home in Panama!

One of the greatest sweet breads you can ever sink your teeth into is the local Hojaldra! This is usually served with breakfast and has an incredible texture of crispy on the outside and a soft, succulent interior. Of course the locals will enjoy this bread just the way it is, however, we love to dunk it into a delicious imported maple syrup! Here is the recipe:

 

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Intl. Food: Panamanian                            Yields: 4.5 Servings                      

Ingredients:

1 2/3 Cups Flour + 1/3 Cup Flour for kneading

1 teaspoon Salt

2 ¼ teaspoon Baking Powder

½ teaspoon Sugar

1 Tablespoon Butter, softened

2/3 cup of water

 

Procedure:

  1. Keep 1/3 Flour for kneading.
  2. Soften Butter.
  3. Mix the Flour, Salt, Baking Powder, and Sugar before incorporating the batter.
  4. You will want the mixture to look like wet sand.
  5. Gradually add Water until you end up with very wet dough.
  6. Begin to add the additional flour and knead it in.
  7. You want the dough to feel soft, but not sticky.
  8. Turn it out onto your counter-top and knead it for about 5 minutes.
  9. Separate it into balls, whirl a bit of oil on the bottom of the mixing bowl before dumping the balls of dough in.
  10. Let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, the more they rest the more time it’ll have to rise.

FRYING THE HOJALDRA:

  1. You can roll them out with a rolling pin and stretch them out like a pizza dough just before dropping them in preheated oil on medium high heat. Should be about 5 inches in diameter.
  2. They fry very quickly, about 2 minutes per side, so don’t wander off! Enjoy!

 

Asian cultures have been known for hundreds (if not thousands) of years that wrapping things in lettuce makes an amazing snack or meal. This Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps are Vietnamese-inspired version of a blissful, healthy, flavor-packed return to the wrap’s humble roots.

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Ingredients:                     Yields: 2 Servings

12 oz flank, skirt or sirloin steak

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 Tbsp hot sauce (we like Siracha)

2 Tbsp fish sauce

Juice of Lime, plus wedges as garnish

1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced

½ red onion, thinly sliced

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 carrot, grated

1 head Bibb lettuce leaves separated

 

Procedure:

  1. Heat the grill to hot or heat a grill pan over high heat for at least 5 minutes. Season the steak with salt and pepper and toss it onto the grill. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side, until its firm but yielding to the touch. Let it rest for 5 minutes.
  2. Combine the hot sauce, fish sauce, and juice of 1 lime in a small saucepan over low heat.
  3. Slice the steak thinly (if it’s flank or skirt steak, be sure to cut across the grain) and drizzle half of the warm sauce over it. Set out the jalapeno and onion slices, cilantro, carrot, and lettuce, along with the lime wedges and sauce. Use the leaves like tortillas to wrap up the steak slices with the other ingredients.

 

Note: Are you a vegetarian? You can grill mushrooms with goat cheese

2nd Note: You can use curry chicken or grilled fish and guacamole or ground turkey sautéed with ginger, garlic and soy sauce and last of all you can use pulled pork as an option for changing up this recipe. Enjoy!

 

When people look for Subgum chow mein they usually have an idea or memory of a wonderful time and place where they enjoyed this dish with friend and family; it is a difficult thing to replicate. Directly translated “sub gum” in Cantonese means “diverse and varied”, whereas in Mandarin “sub” or “sup” means “10” and “gum” means “Sticky.” So altogether we have a diverse and varied combination of 10 fresh ingredients to accompany your preferred protein in a thick sauce creating a delicious, classic dish for you and your loved ones. This recipe was given to us through the chef of our favorite restaurant in the Minneapolis MN area in the US. It’s by far one of our favorites!

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Subgum Chow Mein

 

Ingredients:                     Yields: 4 Servings

2 Cups diced chicken (or protein of choice)

½ cup vegetable oil, (2 tablespoons if only using veggie, seafood or steamed tofu)

4 cups chicken broth (or veggie broth)

The “Sup” 10

2 cup celery

½ cup each of the following:

Onion, bell pepper, water chestnut, bamboo shoot, peapod, cabbage, carrot, white mushroom, & roasted cashews

 

Sauce (Mix together)

4 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

2 tablespoons Michu rice wine or sherry

2 tablespoons brown sugar

¼ – ½ tsp white or black pepper to taste

4 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 6 tablespoons cool water

 

Note: Chopped green onion and extra cashews for garnish are optional

 

Procedure:

  1. Cut all your veggie diagonally, about 1/2” long and ¼” thick
  2. Heat oil in wok until bubbly, toss in chicken, stir fry until ½ cooked (just white outside, this is called blanching) 1-2 minutes
  3. Turn off flame & pour off excess oil, discard, or save for later
  4. With the small amount of oil left sauté garlic and ginger, medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds, toss with meat, brown a little for roasty flavor
  5. Add broth, turn up heat to high
  6. When rapidly boiling add veggies (if too soon veggies overcook)
  7. As it comes to a boil again, add cornstarch/water mix, cook for a minute longer to fully incorporate the starch

Note: Total cook time is about 5-7 minutes over high flame, check your chicken to make sure it is cooked through. Serve over crispy noodles with side of steamed rice.

At Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast we would love to receive your favorite international dishes and recipes! Feel free to send us an email at: info@casademontana.com with your most delicious dishes and if you are planning a trip to Boquete, Panama, take a look at our specials and book now through our website and you too will enjoy the delicious tastes of an international breakfast here with us! We also schedule cooking classes from time to time. Make sure you ask us about the next cooking class. See you soon!!!

 

Choice of words can really make a difference! Reflections of B&B owners in Boquete

Blog by Terry Richmeier & Manzar Lari

Recently at Casa de Montaña we put out a flier that was about a “back terrace sale” The intent was to sell off stuff that we purchased and brought down from the U.S. when we moved here. We had not used this stuff in over a year and a half since we opened for business. In the flier we tried to create a sense of urgency to come to the sale early and included the following statement “Everything must go!”

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That particular statement was received by many as an indication that we were closing up shop, selling off everything at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast and were moving out of town!!!

The “Bochinche” (gossip) around town spread like wildfire! People shared their concern by either emailing or calling us directly. This told us how others viewed us as an integral part of this community and made us feel all “warm and fuzzy” and made us realize that we are truly “home” in Boquete, Panama!

A different time that comes to my (Terry’s) mind is when I was trying to give a compliment about how wonderful our dinner was, when we were invited to a friend’s house, was received and interpreted incorrectly. What was said was this, “I think I’ve gained 5 pounds during this meal” What was meant was “Wow, what a delicious dinner”, what was Interpreted was: My food that I worked so hard on is so fattening. Totally different message!

This and other situations around choosing carefully one’s words invoked in me several thoughts around this subject. Should I be more careful and concise regarding the words I choose to say or write? Will what is said and meant always be up for interpretation from the receiver? And how often when we say something we offend them or they offend us? Is this something that comes from lack of confidence?

As I sat there meditating on this, I realized that improvements can be made on all sides. I thought about why this happens and how we talk to others. Does “Bochinche” happen because we want to share our feelings and thoughts around the topic? Do we want to have acknowledgment that we are on the right track with our thoughts? Do we want validation of our own feeling as well? Or do we just have too much time on our hands and not much going on in our own lives?

So often times, we receive something incorrectly. Whether from our other people or even our spouses and this makes us feel lousy about what was said. Is this something that can be changed? Is this something that should be changed? Is this our direct intuition that tells us to receive this information the way we do and it is correct? Or is it our pride? Or our decisive knowledge about that person we just received a message from? How many times is there an undertone from people telling us something? And sometimes, we just really heard it incorrectly!

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One thing that we looked at is that most people are not coming from a place of ill will or ill intent and just trying to start some gossip. It’s just their perception. Look at the following definition of perception:
Source: Boundless. “Introducing the Perception Process.” Boundless Psychology.

Perception is the set of unconscious processes we undergo to make sense of the stimuli and sensations we encounter.

Key Points:

  • Perception refers to the set of processes we use to make sense of the different stimuli we’re presented with. Our perceptions are based on how we interpret different sensations.
  • The perceptual process begins with receiving stimuli from the environment and ends with our interpretation of those stimuli. This process is typically unconscious and happens hundreds of thousands of times a day.
  • When we attend to or select one specific thing in our environment, it becomes the attended stimulus.
  • Organization of stimuli happens by way of neural processes; this starts with our sensory receptors (touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing), and is transmitted to our brains, where we organize the information we receive.
  • After we receive and organize stimuli, we can interpret those stimuli, which simply means that we take the information and turn it into something that we can categorize.

This is one reason why here at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast we feel that attending the “Get Out of Your Own Way” 1.5 day workshop https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qi6nfYI10W8 would be a good choice for accepting the stimuli and information that one senses on face value and without judgment. Good way to reduce stress, anxiety and depression and truly live in the present and enjoy each moment.

If that is not going to work out for you at this time, or you are planning a visit to Boquete, Panama, also know that Manzar Lari (Owner of Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast) is a Counselor and a Life Coach and offers a free half hour session. You can meet with him and begin to “Get Out of Your Own Way”!

Vivid Dreams at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast in Boquete

Blog by Terry Richmeier

 

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It was all so sudden, the doorbell rings and Manzar jumps up to get the bedroom door. It’s 2:30 am and I can’t believe what I’m hearing! Lots of laughter and voices of women and children. I’m suddenly feeling ill since I’ve been woken up so early in the morning. I’m angry that these people showed up at our house this late. Manzar opens the door and there they are, six women and their children. Manzar turns on the lights and offers them something to drink. As that is happening, the children start jumping on the bed and the teddy bears are flying down across my face! Slam! Slam! Slam! I want to throttle this unruly child! I try to remember this young boy is just playing and that he has no idea of the danger he is in by hitting me in the face with the teddy bear!

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Suddenly, another child is jumping up and down right next to the wall. She is reaching for something, what is it? Finally the girl is successful – she manages to reach the painted picture of Manzar and I and pulls it off the wall. The wallpaper rips down with it! I’ve had enough. I jump out of bed and realize that I’m naked and I frantically look around for my clothes as the children laugh at me! I’m really restraining myself from bloody murder with these kids! I pull on my underwear and shorts but cannot find my shirt. Forget it. I don’t need a shirt!

I march out there into the living room and I scream “GET OUT! NOW! GET OUT! GO! GO! GO!” And I hustle all of them out! The women are shocked at my rudeness. I’m appalled at theirs. And they grab the toys and children and hustle out!

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I turn around and wait….What’s this? One young boy sitting there quietly in the corner. He looks a bit scared. He has just realized that he has been forgotten! Reminds me of the movie “Home Alone”. I wonder, how can people manage to forget their children in unfamiliar places? I feel sorry for the boy.

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There is loud sound of thunder and I wake up suddenly and can’t believe what kind of a dream I was having!? Just before this dream, I was quietly looking for a piece of jigsaw puzzle to finish off this lovely nature scene while cherishing my quiet alone time. Boy that changed so drastically!

What makes us dream what we dream? Why do we remember some and not others? Are these signs of stress and conflict in our lives? How would you interpret my dream?

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From what I’ve found in an article from Howstuffworks.com is this: Dreaming is a symbolic language designed to communicate your inner wisdom to you while you are asleep. The part of your subconscious that processes dreams — your dream self — sends messages as symbols and images, which in turn conveys ideas or situations in a visual language. These are the five most widely accepted reasons:

1- Compensation: Famed psychologist Carl Jung believed that even our most fanciful dreams are methods of compensation for events that occur in our waking lives. Jung also suggests that dreams may also reflect underdeveloped parts of our personalities.

2- Coping Mechanism: When dealing with stressful situations, your dreams become markedly different, and sometimes reflect your inner feelings. Psychiatry professor Ernest Hartmann, M.D. suggests that dreams are directed by particular emotions, like stress and worry.

3- Information Processing and Memory: Research already supports the claim that sleep is fundamental to a well-functioning mind and memory. However, some suggest that the key to memory consolidation lies not within a few hours of rest, but in the dreams we have instead.

4- Resolution: When approached with obstacles, we primarily pull on information we already know — our memories — to resolve them.

5- Wish Fulfillment: In dreams, your subconscious can uncover the wishes that your conscious mind has learned to repress.

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According to the link: http://www.dreammoods.com/dreamdictionary/

So my dream is this:

Doorbell: To dream that you hear or ring a door bell indicates that you are open to new experiences.

Partner: To see a partner in your dream suggests that you need to seek the help of others in order to accomplish a mutual goal. Alternatively, a partner symbolizes the duality of your personality. Also consider your waking relationship with your own partner.

Naked: To dream that you suddenly discover your nudity and are trying to cover up signifies your vulnerability to a situation.

Laughter: To hear laughing or dream that you are laughing suggests that you need to lighten up and let go of your problems. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Laughing is also a sign of joyous release and pleasure. If you are being laughed at, then it indicates your insecurities and fears of not being accepted.

Wake: To dream that you are waking up in your dream indicates that something is missing or lacking in your life.

Boy: If you are an adult male and dream that you see or are a boy, then it suggests your playful, innocent, childlike nature.

Children: To see children in your dream signify an aspect of yourself and your childlike qualities. You may be retreating back to a childlike state and longing for the past. You are trying to still satisfy repressed desires and unfulfilled hopes. Perhaps there is something that you need to see grow and nurture.

Teddy bear: To see or receive a teddy bear in your dream suggests a regression to an earlier state. You may be reminiscing about early childhood memories. Or it may symbolize lost security, comfort, and companionship. You need to be reassured and taken care of. Alternatively, a teddy bear signifies an immature relationship.

Left behind: To dream that you are left behind represents feelings of rejection or not fitting into a group. It may also highlight fears of not being able to keep up. You are questioning your abilities. The dream may be telling you that you are not utilizing your full potential. If you left something or someone behind, then it indicates that you are ready to let go of the past or move forward.

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It seems like I’ve managed to get all 5 of the symbolic messages incorporated into my dream. All this dream stuff is fascinating to me! Here at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast, we want you to have many pleasant dreams of your own as you stay with us. Hopefully not disturbing ones like mine! Don’t be afraid to share with us your dreams – both the “awake” or the “sleep” kind over a glass of wine during the Social Hour!

Let the “spirit” move you in Boquete, Panama!

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Blog by Terry Richmeier

Many people will come to Boquete, Panama, looking to see if this would be a place they can call their next home. Why is that? What is it that pulls them here and for some makes this the most awesome place on earth to be? In order to answer that, we have look at what moves ones spirit or one finds “spiritual”.

I myself fell victim to the all-encompassing power that Boquete, Panama, had over me. The first time I stepped off the bus and looked deeply onto the mountain side where the sun was just setting behind the mountain side with a tint of purplish red and telling me “be calm and let me surround you with a blanket of tranquility”. Many times during that first trip and from then on, I would feel those mountains come together and wrap me and give me a sense of security and invite me to relax, calm the angst within me and tell me the world was at peace at that very moment. To me that is my “spirituality”.

I began to wonder if others felt this same thing when they were sucked into the land of cloud forests and calm nights. What were their stories? Did they find this to be a spiritual place as well? So to understand a bit more about what spirituality is, I had to research what it means.

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Spirituality, according to Wikipedia: Not to be confused with Spiritualism.

There is no single, agreed-upon definition of spirituality. Surveys of the definition of the term, as used in scholarly research, show a broad range of definitions, with very limited similitude. This causes some difficulty in trying to study spirituality systematically; i.e., it impedes both understanding and the capacity to communicate findings in a meaningful fashion.

Spirituality for many denotes almost any kind of meaningful activity or blissful experiance. For others, it denotes a process of transformation, but in a context separate from organized religious institutions, termed “spiritual but not religious“. In modern times the emphasis is on subjective experience. Houtman and Aupers suggest that modern spirituality is a blend of humanistic psychology, mystical and  esoteric traditions and eastern relegions.

              So, ok now we know! Not really, however, I thought I would present to you some different facets of spirituality that we have down here in Boquete, Panama

Real recently Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast used their space for a spiritual workshop that was called “Rites of Passage” and had a presenter named “Wilbert Alix” leading the group. It was inspiring to listen to the drumming that was soft and methodical as people closed their eyes and placed themselves in a solace position. According to Alix, “Happiness in life is not achieved by finding the right answers but rather by asking deep and meaningful questions.”

Many people here have taken their spiritual journey through artwork. Creating emotions in every piece they do. The local photography group named “Photografia” captures the local people and wildlife in amazing positions of great emotion. Others capture emotion in the painted faces and still others capture that spirituality in encaustic art like Robyn Cole Artworks.

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Many people here attend their respective Churches from Catholic and Christianity to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islamic Mosques, Jewish Synagogues and Church of Latter Day Saints. After a little bit of researching, I found the following information on the organized religions of Panama.

The government of Panama does not collect statistics on the religious affiliation of citizens, but various sources estimate that 75 to 85 percent of the population identifies itself as Roman Catholic and 15 to 25 percent as evangelical Christian. The Baha’is community of Panama is estimated at 2.00% of the national population, or about 60,000 including about 10% of the Guaymi population; the Bahá’ís maintain one of the world’s eight Baha’is Houses of Worship in Panama.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints (Mormons) claim more than 40,000 members. Smaller religious groups include Buddhists with between 15,000 and 20,000 members,Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah Witnessess, Episcopalians,  with between 7,000 and 10,000 members, Jewish and Muslim communities with approximately 10,000 members each, Hindus, and other Christians. Indigenous religions include Iberogun (among Kuna) and  Mamatata (among  Ngobe). For the indigenous people of Panama, the spirituality is Bahai. There is also a small number of Rastafarians.

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Bahi’s House of Worship, Panama City, Panama

Catholics are found throughout the country and at all levels of society. Evangelical Christians also are dispersed geographically and are becoming more prominent in society. The mainstream Protestant denominations, which include Southern Baptist Convention and other Baptist congregations, United Methodist, Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the America’s, and Lutheran, derive their membership from the Antillean black and the expatriate communities, both of which are concentrated in Panama and Colon Provinces. The Jewish community is centered largely in Panama City. Muslims live primarily in Panama City and Colon, with smaller concentrations in David and other provincial cities. The vast majority of Muslims are of Lebanese, Palestinian, or Indian descent.

The Constitution provides for Freedom of Religion, with some qualifications, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.

                            So, after all this exploration about spirituality, in my opinion it comes down to this … what you find inside your heart, that place of peace and tranquility where you know you are truly in the happiest moment of your life, that is your spirituality! For me, I sit outside on the back terrace, look out upon the ever-changing sky and think, reflect, dream, and love all that is there in that moment and that is why Boquete, Panama, for me, is a spiritual place! I would like to invite you to come down to Boquete and see for yourself what this awe-inspiring place brings out in you. See you soon at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast.

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