The Barber Shop Experience in Boquete

Blog by Terry Richmeier

When we initially moved to Boquete, Panama, and I went for my first haircut at the barber shop, the experience was far from what I expected! And why was that?

First of all, before I even entered the store front, I was greeted by loud Latin music and a bunch of men standing around. As I entered through the door, even more men sitting and standing and having a laugh or two as they waited for their turn. I immediately thought, this is a bad idea and began to turn around to leave. At that moment, the Barber caught my eye and nodded at me and pointed to a sofa. There, on the sofa, a young boy politely stood to his feet and offered me the sofa.

Then began the many nods of acceptance of my presence, and smiles of politeness, a gringo amongst the sea of Panamanians. The conversations in Spanish resumed and I sat there, as if I was a fly on the wall, waiting for my turn at the pile of food in the middle of the room!

As I looked around I thought, “All these men have short hair already and really, this should go quite fast”. And then I began to realize that this is an experience I need to soak up and take in. It’s not at all like it is in the U.S. Where you are a number and to get you in and out and paid quickly and onto the next. This is not a place for making your profit through assembly line haircuts. The process was more about a men’s club! Away from their women and much talk while you are being groomed. The average time for actual haircut is a customary half hour. It includes the cut, conversation, the hair on the neck is trimmed, and sharp blades run across your facial hair cleaning you up and creating a relaxed atmosphere.

Along with that, you are brushed with talcum powder and splashed with what I think is after shave. And when all is said and done, you get your bill. A request to pay $3.50!

This experience left me bewildered and it did not quite please my internal clock that is telling me “You need to hurry and you need to get this done”. That fight is over! I am now able to shut off that internal life bleeding clock!

My style with my hair and the bald spots that suddenly appeared this past year now require me to be more specific with my needs. Along with having a full beard that is cut down to nothing, I, along with Casa de Montaña’s previous Manager, have come up with a schematic that relays the message to my Now Permanent Barber. My hair cut seems perfect to me every time! Of course the cost has gone up! I now pay $7.50 for my haircut and beard trim. Which includes a softener that is placed on my beard. In the U.S. my cost was never less than $25.00 with tip. Here, I tip well, I feel that they need to make a living wage.

And, what’s amazing to me is that these Barbers are keeping up with the trends that are desired by young and old! Recently Casa de Montaña’s own Office Manager Generoso (Meaning Generous) received a fairly new haircut. Something from the 80’s that is being revived! Take a look and let us know what you think?

The only thing that is missing from my haircut here in Boquete, Panama that I had in the U.S. is a glass of wine or beer while you are getting your haircut. But, you can have that when you come and stay with us as we offer you a free glass of either one daily! While you are here, come and plan on checking out the Barber!

 

For you women, there are many hairdressers here as well, from high end to English speaking. Your experience will be equally great. And, though I don’t know about the cost, you can fill in the blanks for us!

Having your haircut while on vacation at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast, can actually take away that feeling of “I have to get this done and get on with my day” Shut down your “internal lecturer” and enjoy a haircut while vacationing in Boquete, Panama!

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!

Cell phone coverage in Boquete, Panama

Blog by Terry Richmeier

The first month that we moved to Central America and stayed in Panama City, Panama. We thought, “What have we done!?” We were without communication to the states! Within days of arrival, we ran up to the mall, purchased some in-expensive phones and minutes, along with a phone number! Now, we thought, we will be ok!

However, I sat on the bed in the condo that we were renting and plugged in the phone to start charging it. (We had to stay in the City in order to finish up our residency.) And realized, this is a local phone with no way to call my Mom and Dad or my friends back in the states! Which I desperately needed to call! I felt lonely and scared!

So, I began to look for different ways to communicate with limited Wi-Fi. (Our condo only had a small phone device for Wi-Fi.) Well, it wasn’t easy, however, we did end up Skyping to our friend who would take over her laptop to my parents and we had set up a weekly. Boom, connected again!

So, my question is, “Is it just a problem here in Panama? Or all around the world? Is my experience an isolated experience based on my own lack of knowledge?”

Here is another story from Amy Kinnear and her experience with a U.S. carrier before moving here to Boquete, Panama:

The Joys of Communicating Overseas. Before getting a new cellphone carrier, I made sure to let them know that it was extremely important that I had a phone that could work in Panama. They promised me that when I went to Panama I would was have unlimited text and data, as well as be able to make calls. It would just be more expensive. I stupidly believed them. A few months later I decided to move to Panama and would be flying to Panama City to meet my parents, for our connection to David, Panama. I had only been to Panama once before and was nervous because my Spanish is horrible. I was not stressing much at first because my carrier assured me multiple times that my phone would work in Panama. I would just call and let my parents know when I got to Panama City, so that we could meet before the flight to David. A soon as the plane landed, I called them. No signal! My heart dropped. What was I going to do if they needed to reach me? “No worries,” I told myself. I would follow their instructions on how to get to my next gate. I had a gut feeling that they were not going to make our connection. How on earth was I going to get to Boquete? What was I going to do once I got there? I had no way to get in their house without the keys, and I needed a place to stay. If my carrier would have worked the way they promised, I could have just called my folks. I did not even have data like I was told I would. So I could not message them on Facebook either. I was able to pay to use the airport’s Wi-Fi. I tried to contact my mom on messenger, but her phone was not working. I had to message my ex-boyfriend, so that he could text my mom to see what the plan was while I was also messaging everyone I had met in Panama last year to see if I could get a ride from David to Boquete once I landed. Finally I Facebook called Manzar to see if Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast had a room available and if they knew anyone I could call for a taxi. It all worked out in the end, but needless to say I am very upset with my ex-provider. I went a few weeks without a local phone, but I felt uncomfortable only to be able to call if I was connected to Wi-Fi. The phones are very affordable here. I have a very basic local phone, but it is nice to know that I can communicate with people while I am out and about, and it only cost about $20!

So, there are several options available for you here in Panama. First, if you are just traveling here, you can get International coverage by contacting your own cell phone provider. Or you can purchase a worldwide usage phone. And another option is to purchase a SIM card upon arrival so you have a local phone number and then purchase minutes through a purchased cell phone minutes card. And also remember that you can buy a monthly data plan which has unlimited data use. This would be good for use wherever there is WIFI and you can connect with family and friends back at home through WhatsApp or contact an Uber or taxi driver without costing any more money!

Now, if you are planning to relocate to Panama, outside of the options that are listed above, you can bring with you a Vonage phone and keep your local number. You will be able to stay in touch with all your family and friends!

We here at Casa de Montaña bed and breakfast know how important staying connected is! We do our best to keep you connected and we can help you with contacting people close or far! So, come and stay with us and relax knowing that you can get in contact back at home!

Is it worth taking the journey to Panama? Yes it is!

Blog by Terry Richmeier

I feel old! The first thing that Joyce said when she wrote about her trip back home to Boquete, Panama, from the U.S.!

The fact is that you can indeed arrive in one day to Boquete, Panama, where Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast is located. However, unless you get a head start in the morning, you may lose your sleep schedule if you are taking a red-eye flight and you may need a day or two to feel “normal”. Is it worth it? Or would it be better to make the journey slower (stop along the way)? Take the time to see what is best for you as you read a local Boquetenian, Joyce’s, recent journey:

I feel old. The trip back to Panama from Reno just exhausted me. We had a late afternoon flight to Las Vegas, which was 30 minutes late (quite a trick for a 75 minute flight). After getting our luggage in Las Vegas, we had a short night at a hotel (getting up at 1:30 am) to catch our far too early flight to Panama City.

After the 6-1/2 hour flight, we got our luggage again and went through immigration, where we had our own line as “foreign residents”! Luggage was a crazy scramble. The current terminal in Panama City is just too busy. They are building another one, but until it is finished, things are busy, busy, busy at Tocumen International Airport.

A really friendly guy–a former contractor for the US at the military bases, when the US was in Panama–drove us to the bus terminal on the other side of Panama City. We then got on a bus which left immediately for David. Of course, this bus stopped at every hamlet in the country, and we arrived in David about 11 pm.

Fortunately, we were able to get a taxi relatively quickly, and we were home by midnight. Still, it was an exhausting trip, and a couple of days later, I still have not returned to a normal sleep schedule.

You know it can be done! You can get directly to Boquete from most places around the world. But is it worth it? Several people travel from Europe and other faraway places across the globe. They do indeed have an adjustment to make with their sleep schedules, and yet, they endure the journey to get to explore the exciting trails, beaches and activities that Panama has to offer. There are also many activities in Panama City and other locations inside of Panama to see and accomplish, so take your time. If you need an adjustment or feel sleep deprived, we can offer you an excellent bed and an in-room massage. Arrive safely to Casa de Montaña Bed and Breakfast! Contact us now or book through our website where we offer specials and savings.

 

Boquete Coffee – High quality coffee that is performing well on the international market!

By Eliecer Andres Lay

Are you a coffee enthusiast? Then look no further! A visit to some of our Boquete coffee farms is a must when you stay with us at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast.

coffehttp://infusionistas.com/cafe/panama-renueva-la-oferta-del-cafe-de-calidad/

The perfect weather and altitude of Boquete, as well the volcanic soil provides excellent conditions that make the coffee produced in Boquete one of the best coffees in the world. Panama is a small country that produces great coffee crops. Because of the limited land mass, growers in the highlands, such as Boquete, decided to specialize when it comes to coffee production. Coffee from Panama competes for quality, not quantity. Most Panamanian coffee is grown in Boquete, or highlands of Chiriqui. Farmers are very proud of their crops. Coffee quality control includes testing for soil, elevation, weather patterns and even the vegetation growing around the coffee bushes. Panama plants different types of coffee, the most famous is a variety called “Geisha”. The requirements for Geisha are very strict and requires great care in the production. This coffee has been known to be exported and sold at record prices to Japan and Taiwan. At the last auction held by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), the best bid for 14.5 pounds Panamanian coffee got sold for $289.29!!!

 

Different “Coffee Tours” that are available in Boquete

Here at Casa de Montaña we think that Finca Dos Jefes tour is the best! It is a very informative and interactive tour combining a field experience as well as an opportunity to roast your own coffee to your liking and bring it back with you to take home! There are several Boquete tours you can take or just buy their coffee that is not always available anywhere else in Panama. Finca Dos Jefes, Kotowa, Café Ruiz, Finca Lérida, Finca La Milagrosa, Janson Familia Coffee and Hacienda La Esmeralda are some options available to you for a tour. Each plantation has its unique appeal. Visit one or more on your next visit to Boquete. Below is a video of Finca Dos Jefes Coffee Tour:

 

Did you know… there are several steps in producing coffee?

There are many steps in bringing coffee to your favorite cup to help you wake up in the morning! Come to your tour fully equipped with these steps and impress your tour guide:

  • Cultivation: Apart from the differences in the systems of pruning and cultivation of Arabica coffee, most others follow the same general pattern in most areas where coffee is grown.

 

  • Propagation: The coffee is spread on a large scale by means of plants grown from seed or by grafting or cuttings. In the case of propagation by seed, there are procedures one has to follow related to storage of the seed to prevent spoilage. Thus for Arabica, for example, dry air storage is recommended at temperatures of 10 ° C with a moisture content of 10-11%

 

  • Shade: While there is still some debate among experts about the need for shade coffee cultivation, it should be noted that the modern trend is not to use shade plants, and the vast majority of new plantings are made ​​without this. It is a proven fact that coffee invariably produce higher yields without shade plants. It should be noted, moreover, that in the case of using shade plants, they would have to:
  1. a) Be productive
  2. b) Have similar needs for water and nutrients because otherwise an imbalance between coffee and these plants occurs

 

  • Soil Management: The most difficult issue with coffee cultivation, especially in tropical regions of the highlands, is the problem related to soil conservation. It is essential in order to establish a coffee plantation, one has to protect the soil from the erosive action of tropical, torrential rains as soon as the clearance is made. In mountainous areas and on steeper slopes, coffee can be planted along the contours. The selective weeding, removing plants that can compete with coffee trees, and / or planting of herbs to enrich and protect the soil, can be used in order to improve the quality of coffee plants on steeper slopes.

 

  • Fertilization: It is shown that fertilizers are absolutely necessary in the cultivation of coffee trees that are in the sun as well as in soils that are especially in middle to low fertility. In recent years there has been an introduction of a trade liquid fertilizer or foliar fertilizers. These are applied by spraying the leaves of plants, provide supplementary nutrients, and are similar to the solid fertilizers that are applied to the soil.

 

  • Pruning: There are two main aspects to consider regarding the pruning of coffee: first, the training of young trees to build a strong and well balanced plant with good structure, fruiting branches, and second, the pruning of branches so they keep producing fruit (coffee beans).

 

  • Harvest: The harvest season varies depending on the proximity to the tropics of the country producing the coffee. Generally the harvesting of coffee is done between October and February in countries closer to the Tropic of Cancer, and from May to July in the countries closest to Tropic of Capricorn.

 

  • Breeding and Selection: The breeding and selection of coffee has continued in two main channels – one has been the outstanding selection of local breeds, in various countries where coffee is grown; the other is the improvement of Arabica and other species.

 

  • Pests and diseases: Many efforts have been made ​​towards introducing agronomic techniques that include controlling weeds, pests and diseases. The effects of weeds are well known to the farmers. With the rising cost and scarcity of labor, it is necessary to find the most economical solutions that cause the least amount of damage to the environmental.

 

 

An excerpt from Infusionistas.com

Panama has not historically been “famous” in the cultivation of coffee, but rather largely overshadowed by its neighbors in this regard. That perception has been corrected in recent years mainly because of the great attention that has won the Geisha variety grown in farms in the region, capable of producing a “floral”, highly appreciated and sought after coffee in the international market. It is only in the district of Boquete in the province of Chiriqui where small family farms produce these unique coffee, brightly colored, with floral aromas and fruity clean taste, considered among the best in the world. The cool, moist mountain air, organic practices, expanded areas for growing shade coffee, painstaking care, all help to produce exceptional coffee. Panama has held annual coffee competitions since the late 90s, but it was in 2004 that the Finca La Esmeralda won the first prize and gained fame with the Geisha variety grown in a high elevation on their farm.

This variety of Arabica coffee exported from the wild forests of Ethiopia, was introduced in Central America in 1950, but its production was virtually non-existent in Panama until recently. Today there are several Panamanian farms that offer this variety as well as in Colombia and Costa Rica. There are many varieties of Arabica coffee beans that include flavors that are floral, fruity, sweet, or like chocolate! These are being produced in Boquete Panama and other highland areas of Panama. Panama has the lowest coffee production in Central America, however, the coffee growers in Panama are committed to quality over quantity and have established a solid reputation for excellence with the aim of sustainable growth of coffee targeting the gourmet market. In 2010, again a batch of this famous product of the Hacienda La Esmeralda farm has set a new world record when sold in an online auction at $170.20 per pound (460 grams).

Boquete have some of the top producers of coffee in the world and it is the best place to go and taste a good coffee. Boquete offers you different types of coffee tours – starting from seeing the end to end processes and ending with roasting of your own coffee to take home! One of the coffee processing plants (Café Ruiz) is located just a few doors down the hill from Casa de Montaña! During your next trip to Panama do not forget to visit Boquete and try one of the best coffees in the world.

Boquete’s Green Season – A time to cleanse your body and soul!

A view from the guestroom window

A view from the guestroom window

It is not a surprise to us that some tourists prefer coming to Boquete during the Green Season when it rains the most. We thoroughly enjoy this time of the year as well. The color green is much greener! Come to think of it, ALL colors seem to be so much more vibrant. The peak rainy months are September and October. In the U.S. it’s starting to cool down and there is always the possibility of snow in the Mountain, Upper Midwestern and Northeastern states. Here in Boquete, we enjoy both the Green and the Dry seasons and that’s all we have to be concerned with.

We tend to start the morning with the sun shining brightly in the sky. Around 11 AM, the clouds begin to roll into the valley over several hours (we took pictures of some of this happening, out of the window of our guestrooms, the other day). Then around 2 pm, it starts raining with a wonderfully soothing cool breeze. The perfect time to sit on the back porch, enjoy some coffee or cocoa or even a nice glass of wine and watch the rain fall to the earth and create the “purifying green” that we get to enjoy here year around.

DSC00657What’s also very nice about September and October is that you can plan to do the zip line tour, coffee tour, quetzal walk and any other tours in the mornings when it rarely rains. There are fewer tourist here and there seem to be discounts available for those who plan on having an adventure here at this time of the year. Also, in general there are greater varieties of blooming orchids and flowers here as well.

For those of you who especially enjoy having some time to read a book, sit and watch the rain and just have an incredibly slow relaxing time, this may just be the months of the year for you to come down and visit us!

Blog by Terry Richmeier

Welcome to Boquete’s Newest B&B!

Welcome to Casa de Montaña, located in beautiful Boquete, Panama. (More info to go here)

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