Macho, Macho Men: A tale of two men in Boquete, Panama.

Blog by Terry Richmeier

Here at Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast we have met people from all over the world! We meet all of these people while they are at their happiest time in their life -they are on vacation!

And what about the locals? What do tourist run into when they arrive in Panama and especially in Boquete?

They will find kind and caring locals and if you try to speak Spanish at all, Boquetenians will greet you with a great big smile! Panamanians and especially Boquetenians, love to show tourists their country and their world!

With the world having so many different personalities, you can pretty much be assured you will recognize some familiar personalities when you are touring Boquete, Panama. From arrogance, to a presence of all-encompassing love!

One short story from a friend of ours, Joyce Kinnear talks about two men she recognized as good and not so good! In this story, Joyce talks about a foundation that Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast supports through donations.

A tale of two men:

This week I met the stereotypical macho, Latin American man for the first time in the years we’ve been visiting and now living in Central America. He was everything I dislike about the stereotype–macho, dominant, totally inconsiderate of others, especially women and poor workers. All of this was done with a wink and an attitude where he seemed to think this all made him the sexiest thing alive (as opposed to reality where most of the women on the bus wanted to puke)

The second man I met today at an event for the foundation, which provides therapy, skills and socializing for handicapped children and adults, as well as help for the caretakers. At this event, one man stood out. He guided his son, who appeared to have cerebral palsy and some brain function issues, carefully to his chair, dancing with his son and making sure the boy had a lovely time. I found out that the boy’s mother and man’s wife died in a car accident a couple of years ago. This man has been caring for his son and clearly adores the boy.

I want to point out that while I have met one example of the first man, there have been many of the second type around me in Panama. Perhaps the tired old stereotype of the Latin American man needs a major overhaul to that of a view of a man who loves his family and children, works hard and yet still dances with them to ensure they live happy and full lives, no matter the child’s abilities.

So, come down to Boquete, Panama! Stay with us at Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast. Let us help you set up some time to visit the foundation, or other different volunteer groups here in Boquete. Spend some time seeing the different personalities of the Panamanian and especially the Boquetenians people! You won’t regret it a bit.


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!

Language Barriers when Traveling to Boquete, Panama

Blog by Terry Richmeier

We finally figured out some pronunciation issues that we have encounter while living and working at Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast, Here in Boquete, Panama! For example: the only sound that the “I” makes is actually an “E” sound. There is no soft ‘eh’ sound for the “I” as it the word “it”. You would pronounce “it” as “EEET”. This has presented itself as a challenge for checking in guests that have Spanish Names such as “George’ is pronounced “Hor Hey” and spelled “Jorje”. But it doesn’t stop there. We have met wonderful guests from all over the world and we have, without a doubt, pronounced their names wrong. One story of our friend “Joyce” is below:

My name is pretty much unpronounceable in Spanish, especially Panamanian Spanish. First of all, I learned when my daughter Amy Kinnear was taking phonetics in college, that the letter “J”, as pronounced in English, is very difficult and unusual. Children and second language learners have a very hard time with the pronunciation of “J” in English. Also, the silent “e” at the end of a word is a tough one for many languages.

When we lived in Germany, a lot of people had difficulty in pronouncing my name. I was called a lot of strange things. Germans in the 1980’s, however, were used to hearing such names as “John” and other very English names, so most people were within some variation of my name.

It’s even worse here in Panama. Panamanian Spanish has a strong tendency to pronounce the second syllable of a word. Also, it seems that almost NO names are less than two syllables.

Thus, a name with an unpronounceable first letter, an unpronounced final letter that is pronounced in Spanish AND that doesn’t have the decency to have a second syllable to accent is just not a name that people can say.

We have a friend who is Panamanian, but who lived and worked in the US for over 30 years. His English is nearly perfect. However, when he said my name today, I realized that for those in the know, you could tell from how he said my name that he is not a native English speaker. The pronunciation was just off. It wasn’t some of the stranger variations of my name (yoi-CEE or something even stranger), but it wasn’t JOYCE.

I feel badly especially for my mother Judi Baker Nieman Correa, who used to tell me as a child that one thing she really liked about my name was that it was impossible to create a nick name from it. At least when I was little, she hated nick names and refused to let any of us have one.

Here, I have so many nick names that I can’t even count them all. Any word or collection of sounds that has an “oy” in the middle of it is fair game for being what someone might be calling me.

My name, Terry is fairly easy in Spanish and sounds quite lovely! It’s sound is more like Taary! I love it! On the other hand Manzar is not so simple for Spanish speaking. Manzar in Urdu sounds like Munzer. In English, most people pronounce it Man Zar like it’s spelled. And in Spanish it sounds like: Maanz zahr. So, when you are contacting Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast to find out more about our specials,  or to ask about our Boquete Overview Tour for relocation, or to find out about more about your reservations. Don’t be surprised if we hear something different than you pronounced or originally ask! Our staff and us will listen carefully to your questions and do the best we can to answer you! We love learning about different pronunciations from different parts of the world and we look forward to you bringing that to us!

Living in Panama and embracing the Spanish language!

Blog by Terry Richmeier and Manzar Lari




When we first moved to Boquete, Panama, we knew that we would need to learn Spanish or at least retain some words in order to order our lunch (almuerzo) or Dinner (cena) and maybe a word or two to know how to ask “how much?” (cuánto).

What we didn’t realize is that we needed to know more than what we originally thought. What words do you need to know if you have pain and need to see a Doctor? What if the pain is in your back or your neck? Then, when the plumbing clogs up and you need to describe this to the plumber, what then? And there are always these little things about food allergies or that you may not want anything to drink that has sugar (sin azúcar). When the order arrives, you end up getting a flavored tea that has Splenda in it and that was not what you wanted!


Navigating through these challenges and struggling for the right words to use can be frustrating to say the least. For some people it can be as easy as sitting down with a book of Spanish words and phrases and learn the vocabulary and grammar. For some others, it is advisable to take a Spanish class and for still others, taking private lessons is the key. And after all the time and money spent, most still have a difficult time retaining the new words and applying them in their proper forms of conjugation. How many forms of conjugation does one really need?!?! Practice is crucial in order to retain any new learning.

Here in Panama, the people are so happy and thus forgiving with our language difficulties. If we just try, they love us for trying. TERRY here at Casa de Montaña was out at a restaurant eating. He mustered up enough courage to try a back-words compliment by telling the waiter that he “did not like his food” (No me gusta mi comida). This was after Terry finished the entire plate. At first the waiter laughed and then thought for a second that Terry was not kidding. Maybe he really did not like his food after all? This made Terry nervous and so he tried to explain that he loved his food. (No, no, te amo!) What Terry actually said in Spanish was that he did not love the waiter. Embarrassing moments were shared by all! Everything turned out ok. However, Terry learned that joking in a different language is off limits until he knows more!

Here is a clip of a Spanish speaking person who tries to speak English. This must be what we as English speaking people sound like when trying to speak in a foreign language.





Ser y estar


Foreign languages are hard to learn as an adult. Studies show that learning a second language as a child is much easier. Take a look at this article from the American Council on the teachings of foreign languages:

How to i learn

And why can some people comprehend and retain it better than others? The four components of language learning include: speaking, reading, writing and listening. The following article asserts that out of the four, listening (or comprehension) is the most difficult one to acquire and master:


As for Manzar (co-owner of Casa de Montaña), being fluent in two languages already, has an above average understanding of conjugations, has been open to learning Spanish, he is treating all this as a “delightful challenge”! He has gone from home studies, then to two Spanish classes and is now taking private lessons. This challenge is opening up new horizons for him and eventually he will become tri-lingual. He states that contrary to popular opinion it is really not that much easier for him to learn Spanish just because he already knows two languages!

Terry (co-owner of Casa de Montaña) on the other hand has just enough words to sound like the above video and is so proud when he can get his staff to understand him! Of course, most of that is the fact that the staff can think outside the box when communicating with Terry and can generally figure out what Terry is asking them!

Veronica (one of the staff) has decided to get a degree in English and every night, Monday through Friday, is going to classes at the University as she has a true desire to understand and speak English. We at Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast are supporting her in any way possible.

Andres (our office staff) came to us speaking both Spanish and English and has helped us along the way with not only answering the phone in Spanish but interpreting during staff meetings and writing up all our informational flyers as well as information that we have included in the binders for the bedrooms and anything else that we need his assistance with.

Nicolas (our other staff) will start his day speaking to us in English and seems to easily understand our English, hand gestures and voice overs we use to tell him what we need done. He will quietly and respectfully slip in the correct word we need into the conversation helping us to learn new Spanish words!


In most countries around the world, the governments and schools are requiring that two languages are taught. Germany requires three languages and in Pakistan English and Urdu are required in many schools. Panama is no different! This country is working towards their schools becoming bi-lingual. Almost anywhere you go in Boquete you will find an English speaking Panamanian who will gladly help you get your point across.

The 4 most spoken languages in the world are in this order: 1-Mandarin 2-Englsih 3-Hindi/Urdu 4- Spanish. This means that Spanish is an important language for most of us to learn. The following article shares the top ten:

So while you are staying with us at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast, why not enroll in a Spanish class or two? It is a fun way to learn a language as well as the culture and meet some interesting people. We have many options here to choose from. Do contact us directly through email or by calling us to inquire about the special Spanish language student rates and where to enroll! Hasta Pronto!!!

A Panamanian’s perspective: Positive things about learning English & Spanish

By Eliecer Andres Lay

Learning a second language can bring positive results to your life. English is the most spoken language in the world and is becoming a fundamental part of Panamanian life as well. In Panama, several companies are hiring people who are bilingual. Spanish as well is becoming of greater importance in the world. For example, people from different countries are moving to Panama and other countries in Central / South America in greater numbers. It’s no wonder that Spanish is a popular second or third language. Even though learning a new language can be challenging, it can be done! I did it. Here is my story:

My aunt who has been living in the US for about 23 years, asked me if I wanted to go to the US right after I graduated from high school, so I could learn more about the US, their culture and also to get better with my English. When I first moved to the US, I took an English course for about 2 years. It made communicating and making friends much easier.

I learned more about American culture and it was fascinating to live in a different country. I had the opportunity to join my college soccer team, and it was imperative to know English. The team was made up of students from different cultures and countries.

Learning English and Korean was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. Now I communicate with people from different countries and there are more opportunities available to me since I am trilingual, plus now I am able to travel to English speaking countries with great ease.

From an article in Why Learn Spanish?se habla español

Who’s learning Spanish these days? For starters, residents of the United States, a bunch not known for conquering monoligualism, are studying Spanish in record numbers. Spanish, too, is becoming of greater importance in Europe, where it often is the foreign language of choice after English. And it’s no wonder that Spanish is a popular second or third language: with some 400 million speakers, it’s the fourth most commonly spoken language in the world (after English, Chinese and Hindi/Urdu), and according to some counts it has more native speakers than English does. It is an official language on four continents and is of historical importance elsewhere.

The numbers alone make Spanish a good choice for those wanting to learn another tongue. But there are plenty of other reasons to learn Spanish.

Excerpts from an article on learning a second language:biblioteca

Learning to speak a second language well may be the best thing you can do to improve your life.

  • Get access to knowledge through the web and books:The web has over a billion pages of information and books on any subjects from all over the world.
  • Communicate with people:In regards to English, one billion people in the world are learning it. 75% of the world’s letter and post cards are written in English and almost all conferences and competitions are conducted in English.
  • Push your career forward: If you want a good job in business, technology, or science, get out of that armchair and start learning a second language now! (If you already have a good job, start learning before you lose it!)
  • Travel: when you are traveling to Panama, the native language is Spanish. However most Panamanians would be able to converse with limited English. It is not necessary to be perfect at it, but at least you need to know how to communicate with people.
  • Culture: when you are in another country, it is important to familiarize with the culture more. You can do some research about the country you want to visit before you travel there, that would get you an idea about their costumes, food, people’s attitudes and more. It is important to know at least the basics of their language, so you are able to order food or ask for common questions.

Andres is a full-time student at Universidad del Istmo in David, Panama, and is also employed at Casa de Montaña

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