A Travellerspoint blog

Panama Flora

As seen on the Pacific Side

storm 85 °F

Saturday, 11/20/10-Monday, 11/22/10. I have been asked several times what plants and animals are here in Panama. Well, Panama in general is a very diverse country when it comes to those things. So, all I can tell you is what I've seen in the area of the Pacific Ocean side. Today I would like to tell you about the flowers, plants and trees. The Panamanians love their flowers and since it rains a lot here and the climate is tropical, they grow in abundance. One very common plant is the bougainvilleas.

You see them in pots:

Growing thru walls:

and used as hedges:

Other flowering plants are used as hedges also:

Some flowers grow right on the beach:

Trees grow in abundance here and they get very tall. Here is a picture of an avocado tree in my backyard:

I don't know what this one is, but these trees grow to well over 100 feet:

And naturally, palm trees are abundant:

There are no jungles here, but the rain forest that comes right up to the beach:

Next entry is for the birds!

Posted by Jan Foster 09:10 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

Lessons I have Learned

Passing them on

rain 80 °F

Tuesday, 11/16/10 – Wednesday, November 17, 2010. I have discovered so much on this trip that I wanted to share five lessons I have learned so that when you go on your overseas or out of country trip, you might want to take advantage of this knowledge:

1. Plan ahead. Now it goes without saying that you must decide where you are going to go, how you are going to get there, and where you are going to stay. What I am talking about here are the day to day details of living in another country. Like, check the weather before you go into town. I failed to do this today. I started out on a bright and sunny day and before I was halfway to the bus stop, it had started raining. Of course, I had my umbrella so it wasn’t a bad trek but if I had known it was going to rain, I would have waited for another day. Another thing I did was not burn the trash last night. I should have because now I have to wait until it stops raining. In addition, I have one towel and I decided to wash it this morning, so of course it is hanging limp and wet on the clothesline. Guess I’ll have to wait another day for a shower too!
2. Be flexible. One day I went to the Mailbox, ETC. store in town and it was closed for a holiday. So, instead of getting upset, I waited until the next day and called with my question. Another example; today when I was shopping, there was no ground beef in the meat section. I think most Latin Americans go to the butcher counter and get it there. So that’s what I did even though it was different than my norm. Finally, I had found a good website to download my TV programs. The only thing bad about it is that it takes forever to download one show and the waiting was making me crazy. On a whim, I decided to check out the network sites. Did you know that you can watch pretty much all of the popular shows online and streaming so that you don’t have to download?
3. Be disciplined. Now I must say that I am not good about this. Sometimes, especially with the language barrier, it gets frustrating. But just keep your cool and don’t act like the “Ugly American.” These people are already jealous of us because they think we are all rich and probably in comparison, we are. Sometimes they will act like they don’t understand what you are saying. Like today I stopped at McDonald’s to have a sundae. At the counter, I said, “Chocolate Sundae, por favor.” I think she was trying to tell me they didn’t have them. So I asked her what did they have and the second one she named was chocolate. Now, I think she understood me the first time and was just messing with me. But I have learned that a smile goes a long way.
4. Be teachable. This is muy importante! The way I figure it, these Latin Americans have a lot to teach me and I need to remember that. Whatever I am doing or wherever I am going, I do so with an open mind. Everything is different so leave your expectations at home because they aren’t going to be met. For example, I hate the phone I bought here for emergencies. All the instructions are in Spanish and since I can’t remember my number, I put it in my contacts. Well guess what? When I went to access it today, the number wasn’t there. But, I let a local give me a lesson on how to use my phone. Simple, everyday stuff can make you crazy if you aren’t willing to learn to do it the way the locals do. One thing I haven’t learned is not to overshop. Dang, it’s like I have to put that one more thing in my basket then I end up suffering on the walk home carrying too-heavy bags.
5. Enjoy! You go on trips to have a good time, right? So enjoy yourself and go with the flow. I have had some pretty bad accommodations on this trip because I have a budget I have to stick with. Did I let that spoil my venture? No! I spend most of my time outside my room anyway. Even the lovely house I am in now has its shortcomings. There is no hot water for showers, there is no washer for laundry, the dogs next door sometimes get into a barking jag and I am a looong way from the grocery store (or any kind of store for that matter.) But, I look at it as an adventure I will never have again and enjoy the days as they come. Remember, wherever you are, there you are. In other words, the place doesn’t determine if you have a good time, you do.

Well, I hope you benefitted from my little message today. It helps me to remember these things when I put them down on paper too. Until next time, hasta luego!

Posted by Jan Foster 12:04 Archived in Panama Comments (1)

Learn Spanish the Easy Way

Answer to the question, "Is it cheaper to live in Panama?"

sunny 84 °F

Saturday, 11/13/10-Sunday, 11/14/10. If you have ever wanted to learn a new language, do I have a deal for you today! I met up with some ladies from the States on Saturday who now live here in Panama. Over a wonderful pizza lunch at Carlito’s in San Carlos, I was lamenting about how hard it was to learn Spanish at my age, especially since I was living out in the boonies with no one to study with.

One of the ladies, Barb, said she had the same problem until she met a man who gave her a simple formula for learning Spanish. She passed it on to me and now I am passing it on to you. This method will work for any language but for this article, I will use Spanish as the example.

Remember flash cards? Well, this uses the same concept. You can use any kind of paper or cardstock; just make sure you cut strips into 1 inch by 2-3 inch pieces. This is so they will fit in the palm of your hand. On one side, write in English the word you want to learn and on the other side, write the word in Spanish. I use a free website called StudySpanish.com and I imagine there are similar sites for other languages. There is an online translator on this site, so I look up the word and convert it into Spanish. I also have the Webster’s Spanish/English Dictionary. Doesn’t matter what source you use as long as it is a good one.

Now, every day, pick out some words you want to learn. It was recommended to me that I do 10 words a day. Write them on your pieces of paper and hold them in your hand. Read the word in English, then read it in Spanish, then put the piece at the back of the pile. Do this three times. On the fourth round, try to say the word in Spanish without looking. If you get it right, set that piece down. If you don’t, put it once again at the back of the pile. After you have gone thru the whole pile, put the pieces that you didn’t get right into a separate pile and add that pile to the words for tomorrow. Simple, right? Yes, it is. I have learned 30 new words in the last three days, and I review all of them every day just so I make sure I am retaining them. I was able to use some new words today already! And it’s fun.
Try it. You will be amazed.

Now for the answer to the question I posed the other day about whether it is cheaper to live in Panama: Unless you are moving from California where you had a house that you sold for big bucks and can afford to pay cash for a house in Panama so that you don't have house payments or rent, the answer is pretty much no. There is a 20 year property tax exemption for buying a house and you do get a retired resident's discount at restaurants and movies and such. But that is really the only savings. All other expenses, i.e., food, medical, gas, are the same or more than the States. And flying back to the States is not cheap. Most people from the States move here for the weather. If you live in a state like Texas, stay. Unless you really want to live in a foreign country and I would have to say, Panama is a nice place to live otherwise there is no savings.

Posted by Jan Foster 10:35 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

Is it really cheaper to live in Panama?

Answer coming soon

sunny 85 °F

Thursday, 11/11/10-Friday, 11/12/10. Well, I saw my first lawnmower today. Every time I have seen a lawn being mowed, it has been with a weedwacker. I was told that the reason for that is because they don’t put topsoil on lawns here so it’s difficult for lawnmower use because of all the stumps, rocks and debris. So needless to say, I was surprised when I saw the gardener mowing the lot in front of my house. His partner was trimming the trees and after about three hours of working in this heat, I took pity on them and gave them a glass of lemonade.

The police are supposed to show up in a while. There is a pack of stray dogs on the road to the beach. I had notified my landlord several days ago about them as they seemed to be getting more aggressive as I walked past them and he called the police. They were supposed to pick them up but obviously they didn’t because they were still there when I walked by this morning. So I emailed the landlord and shortly after he called to tell me that the police claimed they came out before and couldn’t find them. So they are coming back out today and picking me up so I can show them exactly where they are. I don’t know how they missed them if they came down the correct road, because they all coming running out from the abandoned house where they live and barking whenever anyone passes. I’m not sure if the police do anything here in Panama.

I’m taking the bus to another little town tomorrow to meet with a lady I met on the expat website. I started this trip with the intention of finding out for myself if it is really cheaper to live in Latin America like I have heard from many sources. People who live here claim it is 30-40 percent cheaper. I saw savings in Ecuador, but that is a case of you get what you pay for. In Panama, I’m just not seeing the savings. Maybe if these people came from California it would be cheaper, but Texas is a pretty reasonable place to live and I think groceries, utilities and rent are about the same price. I’m going to pick her brain and find out why she lives here. I will let you know what she says.

Posted by Jan Foster 08:18 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

The Art of Buying Groceries

Spending time in town

sunny 85 °F

Tuesday, 11/9/10-Wednesday, 11/10/10. I have designated Wednesday as my grocery shopping day. It gives me a chance, midweek, to take the bus into town and gives a change to my daily routine. Today I had several things on my agenda to do so I started out semi early. When I arrived in town, I went first to the Mailbox Etc. store to see about getting some things printed out. They were closed. The sign on the door said they were closed because of the Holiday. I don’t know what the Holiday was and all the other stores were opened. Oh, well. Then I went across the street to the other mall to check out the food court I had read about. I had been to this mall several times and did not know they had a food court. I didn’t miss much. All they had was a Chinese food, a Sushi place and a Dominos Pizza. Once all the spaces are filled, it will look just like the food courts in all the US malls.

My next stop was for lunch. I wanted to check out the restaurant where the expat meetings are held. I ordered langostinas which are large shrimp that are supposed to taste like lobster. They still tasted like shrimp to me and the lunch was expensive. Get this: regular tea is .65, iced tea is $1.25. I guess ice is expensive in Panama.

Next, I did my grocery shopping and as I have done so much on this journey, I learned another lesson. I should never buy more than about 10 items at a time because otherwise carrying the bags is too cumbersome. I had three bags and not only was it inconvenient on the bus but I had to schlep them the ½ mile down the road to home. Must have been all that stuff I bought to make tacos. Ymmmm!

I did notice that I am in better shape as I was hardly winded when I got home.

Posted by Jan Foster 15:56 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

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