Pete & Rosi Come to Boquete – The Place Will Never Be the Same!

NOTE: This Post is kinda backaasswards!  So much went on during the Insurrection against the government of Panama that I did not get a chance to post about our wonderful visit with Pete Kreis and Roseanne Wood….so here goes…mostly in photos

 

 

Air Panama brought a whirlwind of excitement and pandemonium to David-Boquete last week when Flight # ??? touched down and deposited Pete and Roseanne in our midst here in la Provincia de Chiriqui en Panama!  We are not sure when the region will recover!  But, after all, they are retired.  We took wonderful walks, had a hair-raising day rafting on the Chiriqui Viejo River, drove over the mountains to Bocas del Toro…relaxed and swam, snorkled and ate fresh fish and lobsters delivered to our  dock by local fishermen to our lovely little hideaway on the east end of Isla Colon.  Pete and Rosi (as well as ourselves) were lucky to get back to Boquete and then off to Panama City by plane from David just before the road blockade took place by the Ngobe Bugles protesting mining in the Comarca.  Hundreds of travelers were trapped for several days with little food or water during the protest.  We were glad our friends weren’t among them!

 

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Panama City – Casco Viejo

We made it out of Chiriqui on February 12.   Our last day, until we return some day, in Boquete.  We’re  really going to miss some of our new dear friends!  Especially, Greggorio & Kathy & their boys Arie and Kai, Dr. Dru and Jasmine, William, Elizabeth & Larry.   They are still our favorite restaurant “Big Daddy’s. and some of our local friends Doris, Hildla, Lydia, Camillo & daugter Yveth…our good friends from down in David,  Yamileth & Genaro…but who knows when the winds will blow us back in that direction?

 

It looks like the Ngobe Bugle protests have tamped down for a while..they’re still talking with the government of President Ricardo Martinelli about their demands to end all hydroelectric projects on the rivers of Panama.  We encountered one such huge project the day that Rosi, Pete, Georjean & I went rafting on the Chiriqui Viejo River just along the frontera with Costa Rica.  The world’s richest (who’s counting?) man, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, bought a concession from Panama to build a hydo project on this river.  People say that there are already impacts to the river.  Not too many people I talked with see the hydro projects going anywhere!

 

 

We took an uneventful 7 hour double decker bus ride to the capital.  Managing our growing amount of mateial possessions  became a challenge for us at the bus terminal.  A quick and easy ride to Cerro Ancon -the highest point in the city – to our b & b, La Estancia.  Nice, safe accommodations in a city that isn’t always.  Our driver, Daniel, pointed out the areas of the city, notably Chorrillos, where the US had bombed during the Bush Invasion.  Thousands were killed during the first 48 hours.  Much of this part of the city has never been re-built yet still thousands of people live here.

We ate an incredible ceviche dinner at Chiao Pescao in Casco Viejo or “old city”. The ceviche was made from a fresh sole.  We hadn’t eaten any food like this in the six months we lived in Boquete.  It was a bit of a contrast eating in such luxury near some of the worst slums in Central America.

Waylon mixed it up with some kids in the plaza.

Our driver, Daniel came back for us around 8:30 pm.  We were glad to gethome to a nice, warm bed!

       

In the morning I walked up Cerro Ancon about sunrise.  Cerro is the highest point in Panama City.  I took some good shots from there.  The thing to note is the picture of teh Panamanian Flag which flies proudly atop the hill.  It replaced the Stars and Stripes when Panama took over the canal in 1999.

 

We spent the afternoon at the Mecado de Artisanas and a visit to the Miraflores Locks.  Note how the Curator of the Museo has a resemblance to the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!

 

 

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Violent Reactions to New Mining Laws In Panama

Construction workers of the SUNTRACS union protested in Panama City on Saturday, joining demonstrations against mining activities in Ngöbe Bugle territory. Anti-riot police arrived around 8 a.m. with tear gas and took 33 of the workers into the La Joya penitentiary.

SUNTRACS lawyers say the arrests are an illegal intimidation tactic and a violation of human rights. Union leaders have called for a peaceful march from Porras Park on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Ngöbe Bugle leaders have confirmed that protester Jerónimo Montezuma died from a bullet to the chest and others have been injured in clashes between police and protesters in San Felix. Minister of Security Jose Raul Muliono, however, told KW Continente that agents are not carrying firearms. The protesters reportedly set fire to the San Felix police station in retaliation.

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A Day of Death, Mourning & Violence in Chiriqui

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Trapped in Boquete: Ngobe Bugle’s Fight Against South Korean Copper Mining Interests

Today, at this moment, thousands of indigenous Ngobe Bugle people are fighting against “reforms” to Panama’s Mining Codes rushing through the National Assembly.  The “reforms” are devised to allow copper mining on Colorado Mountain in the Talamanca’s.  The proposed mining activity by a South Korean company is expected to produce up to $300 million a year in revenues but news reports don’t say who will enjoy the $300 million. The fight is over preservation of the pristine environment and protection of the rivers in these mountains.

For the last six days protesters have blocked traffic on the Inter-American Highway between San Felix in Chiriqui Province (where we live) and Santiago which is in  la Provincia de Veraguas a stretch of road over three kilometers long.  Other roads blockaded include the road between Boca Grande in the Province de Bocas del Toro.  I have heard that there are five roads blockaded in Bocas.  No traffic can get in or out of Bocas.  Dozens of people are trapped within the blockade in their cars and some have been stranded with little water and food (no toilets) for several days.  The president sent five helicopters to the biggest blockade on the InterAmericana Highway to rescue hundreds of stranded people who have had little water, food or bathroom facilities.  These seem to me to be innocent victims of an ideological battle that may not end with these protests.

Our friends, Roseanne and Pete, from Tallahassee, had been visiting us in Boquete for a week.   We had a great time, drove over the Talamanca Mountains for a few days at some villas on Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro.  We decided to return to Boquete on Saturday.  Good thing because otherwise we could well have been sequestered on the highway for several days.  Not a good idea in the tropical heat we experience in these parts this time of year!

Thousands of people have taken over the road between Panama City and the frontier with Costa Rica, blocking delivery of gasoline, food and other vital things like newspapers etc. traffic is passing between San Felix and David.  We couldn’t get a newspaper here in Boquete this morning and people are worried that the supply of gasoline will soon dry up.  Chiriqui Province provides a tremendous amount of vegetables and meats for the rest of the rest of Panama and these supplies are not moving through the human blockade.

Panama’s president, Ricardo Martinelli,  has come to Chiriqui but no one knows whether he will meet with the protest leaders.  Yesterday there were arrests and beatings sending people with various injuries to the regional hospital in David.  Police had attempted to disperse the crowds with tear gas, pepper gas and by shooting rubber bullets into the crowd.  Everyone is alert to the action and there are some groups attempting to support the indigenous forces by sending food, water and clothing to the protest site.

Alberto Montezuma, Chief of the Ngöbe Bugle General Congress, has called an extraordinary meeting to oppose President Martinelli offering of Cerro Colorado to the South Koreans.

Montezuma said, “I have called all of the representatives of our congress’s three regions to let our opposition and the steps we will take be known,” adding that Martinelli can not give away Cerro Colorado to foreign mining interest knowing that the mountain is part of indigenous lands.

Reactivation of the Cerro Colorado mine would produce more than 600 million tons of copper per year, ranking Panama sixth in World copper production behind Chile, the United States, Peru, China and Russia, according to reports in La Prensa.  Our understanding is that there is a division of opinion between the different groups representing teh nGobe Bugle peoples with some groups wanting to assert their rights to the increased income that owuld come from the mining while others are hanging tough for a “no mining” rule to protect the land, rivers and streams.  We’ll see!

Since we hope to get out of Chiriqui somehow next Sunday the

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Monday January 9 – Friday January 20, 2012

Lots going on this week..little time to blog…the coffee fair…is happening in Boquete for the next 10 days or so,  The “Feria de Cafe” is much more than that.  With multitudes of beautiful flowers sprouting everywhere, all kind of food, music and dance there are so many people here in   it is amazing.  People take a bus 7 hours from Panama City to come  the the Boquete Feria and then turn around about midnight and return!

   

“Omri” and “Rinat”, two Israeli’s from Tel Aviv, graced us with their presence for two days.  We are learning a lot from the travelers.  Omri’s understanding of events taking place in the Middle East is deep and colorful.  He is helping me connect the dots.  They are on their Honeymoon – “Luna de Miel” and will be traveling throughout Central America for four and a half months.  Already at the age of 29 they are experienced travelers.  After their compulsory army service of two years, many Israeli young people take off to see the world.  We couldn’t help but be impressed with their tales  of travel from Tibet, Mongolia, China and beyond!

We were honored to be invited  to be part of Dr Andrew’s “Dru” and Jasmine “Jazz” wedding at their home in Volcancito and were proud that they asked Georjean, Waylon and I to be “greeters” to the some 250 invited guests.  It was a really special day for them and for us as well.  Their story is really a modern Fairy Tale full of magic.                        

Our lovely friends, Courtney, Serio and Lucka came down from Alto Boquete Sunday afternoon.  Serio’s an Italian from Rome.  He’s had a colorful history, chef, restaurant owner, charter fisherman.  He wanted to make us a dish with his homemade fettuchine (“why do you Americans always add an “i” on the end of our pastas?”)  I’ll let the photos describe how delicious this meal was and thank God for leftovers!!!  The sauce was a magnificent mixture of tomatoes, onions, garlic, chopped pork ribs, ground beef, and all kinds of special herbs.  I hope, as you are reading this, your mouth is drooling!  It was that good!

       

Today, we finally got our act together and took the bus (actually two to get there) to Volcan a pueblo on the other side of the volcano from Boquete.  We’d been promising Arie, Kai and Waylon to take them for a long time!  Our good friend Mario Weiss who has been teaching the boys the art of break dancing shows up at 7:30 am.

He’s ready to roll!  After about a three hour bus ride (which cost Georjean, Waylon & I $2.50) we arrived in Volcan, grabbed some fresh juice, cookies and ham empadadero’s at Tinas Cafe then hailed a “Truck Taxi” out to the lakes about 5 km. Glad the truck had big tires.  We needed them!

Las Lagunas de Volcan were everything we had heard they were.  Spectacular natural beauty.  People said you could not swim there because the water was too “heavy”.  “Peligroso, Senor, no puede nadar in el lago”.  We couldn’t understand what they meant by that until we reached the shores and saw the wind “el viento” whipping the waters into circular pools that spun out into the middle of the lake and back again.  It was really pretty astonishing impact.

It also didn’t stop us from swimming…but we were careful not to take any chances.  The waters were cool and blue and very deep. Magic day.  Full of love!

 

 

Our good friends Jerrie Lindsey, daughter Morgan and fiance Matt arrived Wednesday night.  Jerri’s our neighbor at MLC in Tallahassee.  Morgan & Matt are environmental biologists.  We spent another terrific day on Thursday (we only saw a glimpse of Cheetah…she wasn’t her cheerful, young self it appears) at the Hot Springs…can’t stay away it seems! Lounging on the hot rocks in the cool rio after a hot soak.  Don’t get much better than that folks. These nice folks treated us to a fine Panameno dinner at La Posada when we returned to Boquete.

Friday we hike the Bajo Mono Trail to the Waterfalls.  Arie, Kai and Waylon, Morgan, GJ, Jerrie and I.  Stunning views and good exercise.

Capped the night of by watching the annual Bailar de Pollera Parade down Avenida Principal.  Our friend Daniel, the taxi driver, drove them back to David so they could catch the all-night bus to Panama City.  It was great to spend time here with some friends Florida.  Wondering why more people haven’t come by?

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Sunday January 8, 2012

I wake up thinking about bacon!  Good old crispy, fried American bacon!   The US has obviously “taught” the Panamanos many “lessons”.  How to cook bacon so it is perfectly fried to a crisp with no fat left is not one of them.  There’s only one restaurant here in Boquete where the cook knows how to make bacon.  Olga’s!  Her little cafe is right around the corner from the Dollar Store on the main road leading into town.  This morning Waylon wants to stay home and watch a movie – 1000 Dalmatians – on the laptop.  He opts for a big bowl of Fruit Loops and seems content for the moment.

                                        

Georjean and I head out for Olga’s.  She’s there at the door.  “Hola, mi amor, como esta?”  Breakfast is true!  Fried eggs, cooked just right sunny side up with bacon and papas perfecto.  The “pan” is a little dry toasted but no one is a hundred percent all the time right?

As we are departing Olga’s a woman steps out of the door calling my name.  “Cliff, do you remember me from the other day at Big Daddys?  I’m Sue.  I was there when you had your accident”.  Of course.  She was the one whut was kneeling next to me on tghe ground when I had fallen backwards off the porch my chair slipping off the edge and my body hurtling backwards towards the ground below.

All I had remembered were some horrified screams from nearby diners.  I recall a thud.  Then  nothing but blackness for a while.  My head had come to rest in the very small space between two large protruding rocks.  How I, or my body, neck, head, spine etc had missed those two hard objects on my descent I will never know.  It must have seemed impossible that I had to the close observers.  Incredible.  I became aware – was it 20 or 30 or more seconds (they argued about how long afterwards) I was “out”.  I heard a voice asking if there was blood.  Someone said to call the Rescue Squad.  It was then, after silently taking inventory of every scrap of my being bones, cartiledge, skull that I knew I would survive this near miss accident and live for another day (at this age one wonders how many more there may be!).

 

I reassure Sue that I am well, unhurt, not at all injured by the grace of God thank you.  She seems  better.  The worry lines across her brow relaxed.  She tells us about the  Blues concert about to take place in the parque beginning at eleven.  We decide we need to hear some good old Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia Blues.  We call Waylon to tell him to get down to the parque.  Arie and Kai are already at our house.  They want to go for another hike today.  It is terrific to know boys who love nature so much they just want to be out in it.  They do not care for the music or the parque.  They just want to walk. “We could do the Quetzal Trail in seven hours”, Arie claims.

But this morning, Georjean and I, jonesin for some good music are grooving to the sounds of the Boquete Blues Band, not bad considering where we are on then planet!  We need to dance.  Doesn’t matter that it’s eleven o’clock in the morning on a Sunday.  Who cares if we’re the only ones on our feet of the hundreds of concert goers.  Waylon joins us and does a little break-dance number.  The crowd goes wild.  There’s an Argentine juggling keeping people amused at the far corner of then parque.  The concert is a precursor to the Boquete Jazz and Blues Festival which takes place (is this the third or fourth annual?) on the first weekend in March with two days of back to back bands playing up at Valle Escondido, all night performances at Amigo’s, Tammy’s, La Posada and elsewhere and in conclusion a grand jazz and blues parade through the town on Monday.  We are sad that we will miss the event.  We leave for Cuenca, Ecuador in mid-February.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Saturday January 7, 2012

We are going to spend today with Genaro and Yamileth.  We take the bus out of Boquete to David.  It’s an hour and a half ride on an old US big yellow school bus.  Genaro meets us there.  We meet in front of “El Rey” a big grocery store right off the InterAmericana Highway.  We drive back to their house which is a third of the way back to Boquete!  I’m wondering why he didn’t tell us to get off in front of his neighborhood?  He and Yami live in a somewhat new subdivision.  Almost all the houses are painted the same color green.  Theirs is pink.  It’s a tiny house no more than 500 square feet but it’s cute.  It’s just the two of them who live there and they seem quite comfortable.  Yami gives us a tour of her plantings in the yard.  Papayas, yuca plants etc.  Everything can be eaten.  Georjean realizes that these are truly country people.  Yami fixes us lunch.  it’s a typico soup of Panama called “Sanchocho”and is delicious!  Chicken with yuca, oregano, cilantro I don’t know what else.  Wonderful!  After lunch they take us across the street and down the road a bit to a “quebrada”  called Las Lajas – a little wild tributary of a bigger river (didn’t catch the name).  It’s shallow but there a a couple of deeper pools where we can soak and get out of the heat.  It’s a little dicey getting into the water because of the rocks.  There’s lots of them and they are slippery.  But the day is hot and we are not to be denied!  Sitting in the cool water, I feel these little fishies biting me, actually nibbling is a bit more like it…Everyone laughs when I mention it.  Genara tells me that they are the Las Lajas “Tiburons” – sharks!

When we got back to the house after our swim, Genaro receives a telephone caall.  It’s from his mother.  His grandmother has just passed away.  She had been ill for a while with kidney failure.  She was ninety!  A good life but still sad.  We get ready to leave.

Yami wants to shop with us in David.  She’ll join Genaro later with the family.  In the city, we look for some water color paints Georjean needs.  It takes several stops before we find what we need.  In every shop I have to stop at the counter to turn in my backpack.  It’s a bit of a hassle!  Later we look for a wallet I want to buy for Waylon.  The little capitalist has a lot of money and he needs somewhere to keep it all together I figure.

We leave Yami about five at the Terminale to catch the bus home to Boquete.  There we meet Waylon at what has become our favorite restaurant, Big Daddy’s for some of the freshest fish in the region.  A long but satisfying day concluded.

 

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Our friends Yamileth and her husband Henado are driving up for a visit from the city of David for a visit today.  Georjean is preparing a black bean soup.  She purees some of last night’s rice into the soup.  It’s delicious!  Yami and Henado arrive in their new “new” car.  It’s easily ten years old but they are so proud of it.  Henado is a professor of religion at a private college near Santiago, Panama.  It’s a four and a half hour bus ride back and forth to David.  He’s gone all week.  His salary is $800 a month.  Yami taught spanish at Habla Ya.  That’s where we met.  She was Georjean’s  spanish professor at Habla Ya, seems like a thousand years ago now.

The boys and Mario are hard at work preparing for the  break dance performance tonight.  They’ve worked really hard all week and are excited.  I’m surprised how shy they are.  They don’t want any audience except Greg and Cathy and Georjean and I.  They agree to allow Robert, the Slovakian who lives in Colombia, to attend as an exception.

Cathy’s bringing pizza dough, we’ve made the fixin’s.  Greg(orio) as usual arrives with two bottles of really fine red wine, one of them is an Italian.  The break dance performance is a hit!  The kids and Mario have done a really great job training and preparing for just five days.  They dance in synchricity.  It’s beautiful.  We are all proud of them.

The pizza’s wonderful.  Three styles (1) hummus and green olive (2) tomato & garlic & veggies and (3) the “kitchen sink”.

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

We are excited to be going back to Caldera to visit the hot springs.  Our guests, Sandra from San Francisco and Tong Chen from Ghanzou, China are going with us.  Mario, the young man from Germany who is teaching Waylon, Arie and Kai break-dancing will join us as well.  Another new friend, Robert, who is a Slovakian wh now lives in Colombia with his girl friend  they run an internet cafe and are starting a B & B, is also joining us.  We take the bus out of Boquete for the 45 minute ride to Caldera.  There we find a taxi who will take us to the springs.  He’s expensive!  Wants $20 bucks.  We don’t have that much time today and want to spend what time we do have swimming in the river and lounging in the hot springs.

Today “Cheetah” the famous “mono loco” of Caldera greets us on teh trail.. He decides he wants to be Georjean’s new baby.  I’ll post some photos soon.  They’ll crack you up!

All had a splendid time art the springs spaking in the hot pools, laying on the hot rocks in the river or swimming up stream against the tide…

We caught the last bus our of Caldera at 4 pm (you don’t want to miss this one!).  Backhome, it’s my night to cook.  I’ve planed a “ratatouille” dish I read the recipe for online.  Georjean encouraages me to shortcut everything but I bravely resist and eventually all agree that it is a delious meal.  Our guest tonight are Mario and Robert the “Slovakian Colombian”.  I’m impressed by him, 30 years old, he’s riding his touring bike across Central America e a livelufor four and a half months while he figures things out.  After dinner Mario, Robert and I have a  lively conversation about the impacts of climate change on teh planet, renewable energy (Germany’s a leader) and teh tough economy…no easy answers were to be found.

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