Sunday, September 30, 2012


Entrance to Hostal La Quia
This weekend almost all of the WorldTeach volunteers met in Santa Fe to meet the new cpuntry director, Amanda Colon, and to celebrate Anna Reusink's birthday.

Santa Fe is a small town up in the mountains between Santiago and Bocas del Toro.  It is an up and coming retirement haven and the land is much cheaper than in well established Boquete.  You can get a few acres with waterfalls and a tropical feel for little money (although prices are going up fast), but there is not much else there.  A curvy two lane road leads there, whereas in Boquete they are completing a four lane highway from David.  I had to take a bus three hours from David to Santiago, then transfer to another bus for 1 1/2 hours to get to Santa Fe.

We stayed at the Hotel La Quia.  It has one main building and several outbuildings with dormitory and private cottages.  I stayed in a room upstairs in the main building.  It did have a mosquito net, which seems rare here.  Malaria was conquered early in the 1900's so they could complete the Panama Canal.  There are still bugs though, because the walls are unchinked wood boards.  That serves as air conditioning.  I came a day before most of the group, and they took over the whole dormitory of eight beds.  The facility has been sold to an American University, who is turning it into a research center.  I am not sure what they will be researching, but it is a beautiful location.

My room.  You have to stand on the bed to attach the mosquito net to the ceiling

View from upstairs balcony

Santa Fe cemetery

The two Michaela's in front of the dormitory

For dinner we walked to the Blue Iguana to celebrate Anna's birthday.  It is run by an American couple from Texas and has decent American food.  We sat outside and were soon attacked by chitras (like sand flies).  Veraguas province is apparently noted for them.   You can't see them, but you certainly feel them biting.  I rarely use insect repellent because they aren't a problem in David or Boquete, but I could have used some here.  On Monday I went to an already scheduled doctor's  appointment to get something for the itching.  He had taken a week off, so I went to the pharmacy and got an anti itch pill and some Caladryl lotion.  I still ended up scratching in my sleep and by the time I saw the doctor the next Monday, my legs were full or sores.  I blame him for taking an unscheduled week off.

We met for dinner at the Blue Iguana.  We certainly look a lot scruffier than when we left Panama City
Happy Birthday to Anna!

Friday, September 21, 2012


Today we celebrated my host mom, Mery's, 64th birthday.  The two sons and their families came, as well as Juan's sister and her granddaughter and daughter.  I skipped the dinner but had a little cake and ice cream.

Mery and Juan Lara

Marisol is expecting in December

Juan's sister

Juan Alberto and family

Mery never lets me help clean up

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Church at Valle Escondido
On my trip to Boquete this weekend I visited Valle Escondido (hidden valley), which was established as a kind of survivalist stronghold.  It was founded in 1991 by an American nicknamed "John Galt," who was one of the main characters in Ayn Rand's book, Atlas Shrugged.  They have a river running through the valley but also springs for water and a hydroelectric plant to supply their own electricity.  People from many countries have bought homes or condos here for a safe haven in case the world falls apart.  The guards all speak English and carry guns.  I looked at homes and condos here with a realtor, who doubles as a pilot for a private air company and has pictures of famous people he has flown all over the world.  Some of the homes are mansions, and the condos range from small to huge.

They have a cute church, a hotel, golf course, tennis courts, a fitness center with a knockout pool, and trails.  The prices are similar to what I paid for a condo in the upscale area of Asheville, but the monthly fees are a less, even including electricity , cable, and water.  Asheville has more to do.  All in all, it didn't make me want to move there.

Hostal Refugio del Rio is just down the road.  Former vacation home of Noriega's secretary

Downtown Boquete

If the world truly starts to fall apart, I may change my mind.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Finally I have four days off in a row and can go somewhere!  I decided to go to Bocas del Toro, a resort area on the Caribbean side of Panama.  It was formerly the headquarters of Chiquita Banana Company.  The region has many tropical islands and hosted the Survivor show at least once.  The WorldTeach volunteers in Santiago are going there the next week, but they have one or two weeks off since they teach in elementary schools, which have a regular spring vacation.  I will have to go alone (which seems to shock my host family) since this is my only longish stretch of time off.

I took the bus to the other side of Panama, which took about five hours and cost $8.50.  Then I took a 40 minute water taxi to Bocas Town, which cost $2 (senior rate).

My hotel is the rear building
I stayed in the Hotel Palma Royale, which was a splurge at $80 for a room with air conditioning, a small patio, and breakfast.  I later looked at some of the hostels in town.  They cost $10-20 but some look pretty noisy and potentially unsafe.  I booked a boat tour to a nearby island which had snorkeling and lunch for the next day but it ended up raining.  I skipped the boat tour and took a bus to Drago Bay on the other side of the island.  We went through a lot of jungly areas for about an hour and ended up at a kind of low rise hotel complex with an outdoor restaurant, a small beach, and an ecology institute.  I had red snapper for lunch and browsed through the souveneir stands before taking the bus back to Bocas.

Taken from the water taxi

Across from my hotel

Restaurant in Bocas del Drago

I cancelled my boat tour because the sky looked like this

Small boats to get to other islands

It rained pretty much the rest of my time there,which is typical for Bocas.  At least I felt like I had a little vacation.