Boquete’s Tuesday Market: Something for everyone!

Blog by Terry Richmeier

When you come and stay with us here at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast, you will be served a different International Breakfast daily with most of the products coming from the Tuesday Market vendors. Along with that, if you are here on a Tuesday, we will encourage you to go to the Tuesday Market and check out all the different locally made and grown products it has to offer! The market is open from 9 AM to 12 Noon and is located across the small bridge downtown in the building known as the BCP Teatro. The market offers something for everyone. Our special favorites are baked goods by Mort’s Bakery, Gluten Free goods from Gluten Free Gold Bakery, designer “Chox” chocolate and Anna’s fresh produce.  While you are at the market, see what “Tuesday Talks” are about! Below is a story of Joyce Kinnear’s experience with the Tuesday Market and Tuesday Talks:

One of the things we like about living in Boquete is the Tuesday market. For us, it fills our need for a Farmer’s Market—enabling us to purchase organic produce, bagels, hummus, freshly made food from Germany, Hungary, and the Caribbean, and also filling our Trader Joe’s requirement for premade frozen food that we can whip up during the week. The fact that said food is tasty Thai, spicy Creole, or wonderful Indian is even better, since we lack restaurants for those and other spicy foods in the area.

We also enjoy most of the Tuesday talks. One of the women in the community spends a lot of time finding interesting speakers on a variety of topics of interest to expats in Panama, from attorneys discussing changes in laws, to geologists describing the potential actions of our local volcanoes, to so many other topics. Today, we listened to four Peace Corps volunteers in small villages between here and the Costa Rican border.

Two of the volunteers are with the part of the Peace Corps that works in education and English language education. Two others work on environmental issues. They all had interesting discussions about how they live and develop projects in small communities to enable people in those areas to access available assistance and increase community interactions.
Of particular interest to us was one young man who is working to improve the quality of home cooking fires among the indigenous. He has gotten grants from the Panamanian government to construct 14 units (and
is working on 20 more) that will reduce the amount of smoke put off by cooking fires in the home and thus reduce asthma related diseases, as well as improve local air quality.

Another young volunteer is working in a school of 700 students in Volcan, a town of about 15,000 near the border. She is doing many things, from teaching English, to teaching Science classes to leading student clubs and groups. Her school gave her a room and some assistance in developing the first library in that town or school. With funds she was able to get from her own meager stipend and local teacher’s equally meager funds, they have been able to start a library with about 20 books in a school of 700 elementary students.
She told us that among these low income (and many indigenous) students, reading comprehension is extremely low. Families are mostly illiterate, books are not around, and students never learn comprehension. The majority fail college entrance exams, because they are unable to pass tests at a fourth grade level. This volunteer is working with the local government, teachers and community to try to increase reading comprehension and improve future life potential for these students.

It was inspiring. Listening to the talks gave several people in the audience ideas for ways to assist the volunteers and local communities to help to enhance the lives of these students and their families.

This small town surrounded by the Mountains of Boquete, Panama is a wonderful place to gather anything from souvenirs to intellectual stimulation! Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast is extremely proud of our community, volunteerism, and the Tuesday Market. Come and stay with us and experience this special place!

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!

Expats residing in Boquete, Panama, from many different cultures. Are we living in harmony with the locals? Come and see for yourself!

Blog by Terry Richmeier

At Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast, we have been in business now for 3.5 years and have discovered there are differences in each culture we have encountered! Differences that are neither bad nor good, just different. Here in Boquete, Panama, for example: you see the Indigenous women in their Mola dress and now we are starting to see more and more of the Indigenous men wearing western clothes. And the younger generation is now in shorts. Something that was really NOT acceptable for Panamanians several years back. I (Terry) myself spend my life here in shorts! This is not an isolated incident, and is just one example of many, as Panama is known to have so many different cultures living here. Are they coexisting in harmony without major problems?

Here is one experience from local expats Joyce and Scott Kinnear…..

Scott and I have lived outside of the US twice—once in the 1980s when we lived in rural far Western Germany and now we are living in rural Panama. We’ve noticed a large difference between the stereotypes with which we were and are viewed in these two experiences. I don’t know if these differences are due to locations, our own stereotypes about the people there, the difference in time or what, but it is interesting.

In Germany, we were told that Americans were too nice, too friendly, too ready to smile all the time (lots of white teeth) and far too naïve. We were not really accepted into our village until we discovered that our landlord was trying to cheat us by having the grandmother’s electricity plugged into our meter. When we figured that out and stood up to our landlord, the landlord and neighbors began to treat us as part of the community—inviting us to their homes and sharing drinks and food at the local beer fests.

On the other hand, in Boquete, we hear that North Americans (particularly US citizens) are viewed as too rushed, too pressured, too hurried and less friendly than the locals. This seems to me to be because things are very likely to not happen or happen much later than originally planned here in Panama, especially Boquete, and North Americans (used to time schedules and things being completed within a certain time of when originally agreed) tend to get a bit upset, even pushy when things don’t work out.

I don’t think we’ve changed that much over time, but it is interesting that what we hear about ourselves and our cultural background has gone from “too naïve and smiley” to “too pushy and demanding.” I wonder if the Germans and other Europeans who have moved to Boquete feel this difference even more than we do?

Anyway, bouncing from different cultural expectations is very interesting, as long as you stay flexible and calm. For a psychology major, it is always interesting.

 

 

For the crew of Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast, it is also very interesting. We can only recommend that you come and stay with us, and experience more than just the Latin American culture in Panama but many other cultures that are represented in Boquete, Panama at the same time! It make for great discussions and who knows, maybe even friends from all over the world. Contact Us and Come

Working hard at volunteering in Boquete after retirement – resistance is futile!

Blog by Terry Richmeier

So, you’re thinking about retiring in Boquete, Panama? As many of us have already taken the leap, we want to welcome you to your next new adventure! We at Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast had the great privilege of having two of our former guests, (and now friends) finish their journey home to Boquete, Panama. And now, here is their story of being here after about three months:

Scott and I have both been doing some volunteering in Boquete, and I’m sure we will do more over time, as we are relatively young and healthy and hard workers. Once that is discovered, we’re in trouble.

My volunteering, so far, is with the knitter’s and crochet’s group. Scott is working with an animal group, and I’ll talk about them next time.

The knitter’s and crocheter’s group makes blankets, hats and sweaters for babies and their siblings. The group works with a clinic that provides well baby checkups and classes for mothers (nutrition and other child rearing items) and the hospital clinic for preemies and children with malnutrition in David.

The idea behind these clinics is that many of the indigenous young girls begin having children at 12 or 13. Since they, their mothers and grandmothers are so young, it is often the case that they haven’t had some of the nutrition and other training that is so necessary in rearing healthy babies. They often can’t afford the even extremely inexpensive care provided by the health system here.

Combined with crushing poverty of many families, there are too many babies and children with malnutrition and similar health issues. Check out the video:

The clinics provide assistance for the mothers and children. The mothers are given our blankets, sweaters and hats for their babies for free. Prior to the clinics providing these items, I am told that some of the poorest mothers from the high mountain areas where it gets quite chilly were wrapping their babies in newspapers. Our group leader says she hopes no one ever has to wrap her baby in newspaper again with our help.

I’ve been finding out about other activities that are related–donations of food provided to 120 families each month (by Buenos Vecinos de Boquete), services for handicapped children and adults and many other things. I’m really glad to be helping in a bit of this and can see that in a couple of years I will have to be protecting myself from working too hard.

 

Scott and Joyce have, within a short period of time, jumped in and have settled into the community with their joy, hard work and loving hearts!

 

Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast has been able to help. From the beginning of their stay with us, we have been “hands on” in helping them to acclimate to their surroundings. Come and stay with us, especially if you are thinking of making a move to retirement and volunteerism. We will take the same “hands on” approach to see if Boquete, Panama is right for you.

 

Indigenous creatures and animals that surround Boquete, Panama

Blog by Terry Richmeier

Over the last several weeks, Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast has been encountering many of the wild life that lives and surrounds the mountains and valleys of Boquete Panama.

Starting with the ever so clever Cotamundi, an indigenous animal. Manzar witnessed a bit of “feeding frenzy” when he happened to stop by at the Boquete Visitor Center recently. Here is a video where you can see this relative of the Raccoon family:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Y9SdTf4i9c

Also indigenous is the Glass Winged Butterfly. Often missed unless you take a tour guide with you, these amazing creatures are just one of many different species of butterflies in Boquete, Panama. The transparency of its wings results from the combination of three properties: first, from the low absorption of the visible light by the material constituting its wings, second, from the low scattering of the light passing through the wings and finally, from the low reflection of the light impinging on the wings surface. Adult Glass Wings can be found from Mexico through Panama and down to Colombia. They can migrate great distances and have been documented as far north as Florida:

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Then, there is the Respondent Quetzal! This bird is a must see while in Boquete, Panama! The males are filled with color and this indigenous bird is hard to spot unless you have a tour guide to find them for you. They can even make interesting noises to help attract and locate the bird. You can literally be sitting under one and never see it. It is found from Chiapas, Mexico to western Panama and it is well known for its colorful plumage. The resplendent quetzal is Guatemala’s national bird, and an image of it is on the flag and coat of arms of Guatemala. It is also the name of the local currency (abbreviation GTQ).

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You will find many other animals and creatures running around the outskirts of Boquete, Panama as well. From Toucan’s and Monkeys to the Scale-crested Pygmy-tyrant and the Golden Frog and snakes and many many more!

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The Elusive Sloth • Boquete, Panama’s Pre-Historic Resident

Taken from http://boquetesafaritours.typepad.com/boquete_mountain_safari_t/wildlife-update-boquete-panama/

Central and South America provides a home for a living pre-historic mammal. The very strange looking and odd behavior Sloth has its ancestral roots dating back 35 to 40 million years ago. They are very shy and live almost entirely in the tree tops. Their dwindling numbers are directly attributed to the de-forestation of the rainforest and the encroaching human habitat.

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While you are on your hike, be sure to look down at the ground as well! There are some amazing creatures that roam the grounds. You will see just a glimmer of yellow on a dried up leaf. Look closer, it may just be the most amazing little insect. Or you may see a very rapidly moving green lizard! Take a look as they will surprise you how amazing their colors are.

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Yes, indeed as everywhere in the world there are poisonous creatures as well. It’s always best to keep your distance from animals you are not sure of and remember that they attack when they are fearful and feel threatened!

Here at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast we want you to know that you are coming to an amazingly colorful and tropical place! We want you to see all that Boquete, Panama has to offer and can set up a tour guide to take you safely to see these creatures and animals alike and to enjoy the amazing Indigenous and other animals that surround Boquete, Panama.

Contact us through our website at: www.casademontana.com or view our Exploring Boquete page for more information on setting up a tour guide.

Please look at our specials and book a special package while you are here as well. We look forward to your visit!

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