Friday, December 28, 2012


I had a wonderful visit with Laurie and Lou Mutalipassi in Westminster.  While there I went to my old book club's Christmas party and a party with old work buddies before going to visit my son for a few days.  His girlfriend, Renee, is a sweetheart.  She is a model for Bebe and took us to her proposed photo shoot at a boxing gym in Santa Monica, where I met Rashid, who plans to be the next Welterweight Champion of the World.  She is also best friends with Barry Zito's wife, so we went to their house in the Hollywood Hills.  He is a SF Giants pitcher and recently helped them win the World Series.  Best view in LA.  We also visited the Holocaust Museum.   I had Christmas with my family in Santa Monica, then a Boxing Day party with Wendy Chavis and her family.  Then Anne Grittman and I went to an exhibit on movie costumes at the Bowers Musem.

A Book Club Christmas--Rosemary, Jennifer, Lisa, Tara, Emmy, Karen, Eve.  Front row Laurie, Susan, Cheryl, Sandra, and me

A Pacificare Christmas (forget UNH)--Anne, Kathy, Dellamarie, Anne, Karen, Maryann, Donna, and me

With Cathy Giardina

Matt and Renee at Toast Bakery

Me and Matt at Toast Bakery.  Magic Johnson came in for takeout
Matt at Holocaust Museum

Barry Zito and the best view in LA

With Rashad Holloway in his gym

Boxing Day party with Anne Grittman and Wendy Chavis

Sunday, December 9, 2012


I flew to San Francisco after Thanksgiving and was met at the airport by cousins Ann and Don,who I had not seen in many years.  I had a wonderful time, mostly eating and drinking and walking the dog.  We went to the Cakebread winery in Calistoga before going to a Christmas party at their friend's house.  Then a harrowing nighttime drive to Mt Shasta, where we relaxed and ate and drank and walked the dog some more.  We went a couple of times to feed some horses they have adopted near Weed.  We went walking near Yreka to collect mistletoe and acorns for holiday decorations.  On the way back to the Bay Area we stopped in Chico, my old home for ten years, and toured the Sierra Nevada brewery before having lunch at Italian Cottage, where I used to love to go for breakfast.  Sorry, Chico friends.  We were only in town a few hours and I wasn't in charge, so I didn't get to see you.  Next time.  I have to say the brewery tour was amazing though.  They just started when we moved to Chico in 1980 and now they are the third largest brewery in the country.  Way to go, Sierra Nevada!

It was cold in Mt Shasta and cold in San Francisco.  I am ready for something above the 40's.

Marin Civic Center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

Christmas party in Calistoga

Feeding the horses near Yreka

Mount Shasta

Collecting mistletoe and acorns

Sierra Nevada Brewery tour

Italian Cottage, a favorite Chico hangout

Richmond Bay Bridge

Solene found a new friend

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


On November 7 I finally got on a flight to Los Angeles.  I had to leave school a few weeks early in order to get my visas for my next journey, which are impossible to get in Panama. 

Brad Pitt ad infinitum at the Panama City airport

I spent several days in Santa Monica, seeing a dermatologist and a travel doctor.

I then flew to San Jose and was met at the airport by my longtime friend, Cathy Bonner.  We worked together for years, but had not seen each other in a couple of years since she had moved to Santa Cruz.  We had a great week, just catching up and doing a few touristy things like wine tasting, walking near the beach, having lunch on the Santa Cruz pier, and visiting the quilt museum in San Jose.  We also rode through the redwood forests on the Roaring Camp Railroad.
Surfing museum

Seals like to sleep on the pier

Cathy and I

Getting ready to go on the train
The conductor

Looking up through the redwood trees

Cathy's six nephews are very musical

including bagpipes


San Jose Quilt Museum

After a fun time in Santa Cruz, I flew to Phoenix to celebrate Thanksgiving with my in-laws.  It is the one time of year I know I can see everyone.  We had our holiday dinner at Philip's house, so the next generation is taking over!  I also had a nice lunch with Marilyn Colvert.

Kaleb and Thomas take charge

While Patty is the mastermind

Dan and Barbara referee

Really, Tim, who had the better birthday cake?

Monday, November 5, 2012


Demonstrations have quieted down so it looks like I will get home.  My Level 7 adult students gave me a going away party during our last class with traditional food--spanish rice, tamales, potato salad.  I also got several going away presents of typical Panamanian handicrafts from them and my Level 5 class.

Getting ready to eat

My youngest adult student, Laura, age 14, and her aunt Karina

Jelani and I got some nice presents

My Level 7 class in our computer room

Osiris is one of my best students

The University staff gave me a nice lunch at Ivos restaurant-, which has a nice buffet for $4.50.  They paid for everyone.  Atttending were my boss, Elizabeth Juarez, and the office staff Janet and Lisset.   They also included the other WorldTeach volunteer, Jelani, and our host moms.  Teachers  Henry and Nellie came by to say goodbye.

Elizabeth and Teacher Henry

Our office staff

Me and Teacher Nellie

The buffet at Ivos's was excellent

Friday was Independence Day, and there is no drinking of alcohol allowed until midnight, when everyone apparently meets for a big party.  I did not go out, but heard  fireworks about 12:30 a.m., and a parade at 2 a.m.

They finally have some decent movies playing in Daviid.  This week I have more free time and saw Argo and Skyfall.  I don't think they are even out in the US yet, but I know the $1.85 price beats what I would pay if I waited to see them there.

I took a bus to Panama on Sunday instead of Monday, since I was afraid of crowds due to the end of a four day weekend.  It was a very nice air conditioned bus and took  8 hours to get to Panama City.  The taxi ride from the bus station was complicated due to continuing holiday parades, but we finally found a way in to the hotel by having someone remove a barricade. 

The Lemon Inn is in a nice area.  I walked to Multiplaza mall and ate at my favorite restaurant, Crepes and Waffles, a Bolivian chain that has yet to make it to the US.  This  time I had chicken curry in a French bread bowl.  After lunch I went to the mall theater to see Loopers, a science fiction movie.  It is a fabulous theater with stadium seats.  I got to pick my seat on the computer when I purchased the ticket.  There were only about ten people in the theater, but I had my seat!  Of course I had to pay for such a nice theater, about $2.50 instead of the usual $1.85.  Later I went shopping.  This is the expensive mall with all the Rodeo Drive type stores.  I didn't buy anything.  I went to Albrook Mall the next day for more reasonable stores.

Lemon Inn

Dinosaur wing, Albrook Mall

Friday, October 26, 2012


I have started to pack for my trip home to the US next week. I am a little concerned because demonstrations started last weekend in Colon province against selling government owned land to private companies in the Colon Free Trade Zone.  Panama was formerly practically a colony of the United States,  with military bases in every province.  Understandably they want to keep control of what they have now.

Now there are riots and looting in Panama City,  The bus terminal is closed since all entrances to city are blocked by demonstrators, so there are no buses to Panama City, leaving me with no way to get to the international airport.  Bridges over the Panama canal and in Bocas del Toro are shut down.  Malls are closed due to looting.  There was a picture on the TV news of one guy carrying off a full sized stove.

It is quiet in David, but I heard an announcement of a demonstration at a local mall.

Will I get home?  Or should I move to Valle Escondido?

Sunday, October 21, 2012


This weekend i went to Boquete and took a tour of the Cafe Ruiz coffee plantation and processing plant.   All you ever wanted to know about coffee in four hours.  The guide was a local Indian who had started out picking the beans with his family.  He now speaks excellent English, has an Italian wife, and drives an SUV.

I stayed at Suenos del Rio Hotel this trip, overlooking the river

All coffee originated in Ethiopia, where the goat herders noticed the goats got pretty wild after eating the plant.  After detours to Kenya and Tanzania, it came to Costa Rica and then to Panama in the 1960's.  It was initially not considered a success due to low yields, but Panama coffee is now famous due to the flavors, depths, and aromatic qualities that can be found here, specifically in the highlands of the province of Chiriqui, where I live.  Starbucks has put us on the map.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of coffee growers here.  Cafe Ruiz has a few processing plants and takes beans from independent growers and cooperatives to process over 6 million pounds of coffee beans a year.  The outer husks are removed and the beans dried and sorted for size and quality.  I learned that the not so good beans are used for decaffeinated coffee, which was disappointing.   Also, the darker the roast, the less caffeine, which was opposite of what I thought.

Old coffee grinder

Starter plants sorted by variety

Beans taken off the bush have a sweetish taste
Drying area

Bagged for shipment

The taste test

Cafe Ruiz owns lots of land, but the home plantation is valued at $4 million.  The price of land is escalating in Boquete, and it is worth more if it is developed.  The owner is 92 years old.  His children work in the business, some of them in sales in America and Europe.  He will leave it up to them to decide if they want to continue the business after he is gone.

I bought some Geisha coffee beans grown locally.  This is the most expensive coffee in the world, going for $98 at the annual online coffee auction.  I was told that people came from Ethiopia to buy some beans to try to re-establish the coffee industry in that war torn country.  Life is a circle.