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!

Celebrate your Special Occasion at Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast.

Blog by Maria Isabel Zapata.

Great moments sometimes do not come from creating a scenario they come from sparking a long-lasting memory. At Casa de Montaña we strive to create long lasting memories for all our guests. Sometimes they come prepared knowing exactly what they want and sometimes we go the extra mile to create that memory for them. We have created several special memories for some of our guests and it has gone to be a great experience for all of us to cater to these special needs.

Before moving to Boquete, I had a small bakery and catering business I was running from home so I could take care of my family, and it turned out be a perfect addition to those special moments our guests require.

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So you may wonder what it takes to make this special occasions possible. A few weeks ago we had two very special occasions we participated on and we want to talk about them.

Will you marry me?

Boquete is not only perfect to get marry, but also for a proposal. The beautiful mountains views, the access to wonderful gardens along with the weather makes everything romantically perfect. There is no way your partner won’t say “I do”.

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As you might now, beautiful flowers can be found in Boquete easily. Our guest pre- ordered the arrangements and   we made sure everything was looking romantic by their arrival.

 

 

Debra took some rose petals  and made a heart with them. Isn’t it beautiful!?

The Birthday celebration:

Our guest wanted to do something special for her husband`s birthday, something simple but romantic. Every time I make a cake, I take a lot of things in consideration, as to how many people is going to be eating the cake, their favorite flavor and if they have a theme in mind.   I  can decorate with fondant or just a classic frosting decoration. I like to use the best quality products, they might be a little more expensive but it goes a long way when it comes to something you are supposed to enjoy, and my sweet tooth thinks there is nothing like a very good cake to seal a special occasion.

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This time I made one of the favorites of all times:  a chocolate cake filled with rich chocolate ganache, covered with whipped chocolate ganache and Twix chocolate bars and  decorated with chocolate ganache rosettes. The room was decorated with helium balloons, which I found on our local party supplies store (Boquete has it all!), wine, two “tres leches” shots and off course the cake, which was a complete success! The face on her husband when they entered the room was priceless and obvious it was a big surprise. He was thankful to her for thinking about how to make his day special.   Its little joys like that which make us feel great.

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It makes me so happy to see the faces on my clients when they enjoy a good sweet treat. Same here at Casa de Montaña as we love the way our guests smile when they are here and how genuinely  sad they are when they are leaving. We take pride in everything we do and always try to make you feel at home, even more if it means celebrating with you all those wonderful and unique moments in life.

Whether it is a proposal, an anniversary, a birthday or just a romantic getaway, a little detail as roses or wine is always a plus. Come and stay with us at Casa de Montaña and contact us if you wish to arrange a special celebration!

 

Boquete: Valley of Eternal Spring… and some allergens!

Blog Joy Huppe

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Boquete Panama, where the skies are painted with rainbows!

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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One Sweet Remedy: Honey from Boquete Bees

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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