Archive for » August, 2013 «

Amazing August 2013

What a month this has been! Hectic as all get-out and I have been running like a mad woman trying to get so many things done and so much accomplished. I have actually felt like I was back in the United States with a schedule so full that one could collapse………

…………that is exactly the reason I came to Panama- to relax and enjoy life. But as someone explained to me, once in a while we really do get caught up in the web again and have to unwind it and re-learn what our goals and dreams are and learn once again to live by those rules. After all, in Panama, manana is manana or the day after that or WHENEVER. So why am I trying to accomplish what I am supposed to get done when I say it is to be done? Crazy. But this has been a really full month and I will get to it without further ado. One of the first things I promised myself was that I was going to drive to the city with a friend, going over the new bridge and getting myself to PriceSmart!. Well, that was definitely accomplished!. Thanks to my friend Debby, we got into my car at 9AM one sunny morning, and at this time of the year, you want to avoid driving in the rain (this is rainy season). We drove over the bridge and Panama City welcomed me!!!!! At least it is only about 2 – 3 Kilometers to PriceSmart, so that bit of city traffic I could tolerate and it is a straight shot. WE MADE IT!!!!!

Phyllis finally arrived at Price Smart!!!!!

Phyllis finally arrived at Price Smart!!!!!

View from Centenial Bridge- Entry to Panama Canal

View from Centenial Bridge- Entry to Panama Canal

I was totally exhausted from the tension alone, but did a lot of shopping for things and found the prices really do save you money! However, one has to split with a friend on many items that you would never really use up but the value is worth buying. As you all know about Costco and Sams, so now I am back in the business.

When we finished shopping – I turned to go back towards the beaches and just across the street is a McDonald’s where we went for some ice cream and then next door is a gourmet coffee shop and next to that is a whole area of stores – TV, Hardware, and those types, but convenience stores that one needs. So I have now learned that the ride is not that bad and I could have a lot at my finger tips if I just made the trip. It does take about an hour and fifteen minutes, and it is not a trip I want to do alone at this point, but with a friend, this is truly a breeze. I can say that now that it is over- the tension after that day really did me in. I know I have a big car so that was not a worry – it is the driving of maniacs in Panama and the city driving is absolutely not to be believed – very few lights and people just do their own thing. You have to be extremely aggressive to drive and survive. It is not for the faint of heart. Now you might understand WHY it really took me so long to decide to do it.

Starla, King and Nivea

Starla, King and Nivea

I was delighted that my neighbor Nivea Sampaco along with her magnificent daughter Starla were here for a short visit with husband, King. They are my next door neighbors and Nivea is quite the cook and fabulous baker. They were only here for a while as Starla needed to get back to Seattle for college. Nivea will be back in December, hopefully for good. King is a manager for the Copper Mines here in Rio Hato (the area where the new Airport is going in) and I hardly ever get to see him. However, he did entertain a few of his co-workers one Sunday and I had the privilege of meeting these wonderful people and spending some time with them. They are all engineers in different positions but it is fascinating listening to them and what they are doing.

Sampacos entertaining co-workers from the Copper Mines

Sampacos entertaining co-workers from the Copper Mines

Then one afternoon, I drove them to Punte Chame for lunch at Fritango out on the water in that area, about an hour from here. In fact I did that trip the next day after Price Smart and then realized why I was so exhausted!. But a good time was had by all and I was so happy that I had the chance to spend some time with Nivea. She is a dear and I cannot wait for her return.

Fritango at Punte Chame - Starla, Nivea, Debby and Phyllis

Fritango at Punte Chame – Starla, Nivea, Debby and Phyllis

Then friends, there is always Wednesday nights at Picasso for Happy Hour!!! I do not go that often but occasionally I do go to see old friends and acquaintances and just to say hello and catch up on the news of the day. It is always fun seeing people and meeting new ones. Picasso has always been the “hangout” for everyone, new or old and everyone gets to meet everyone else. Fun, but only once in a while for me. Claire, the owner is a real doll and I have known her from when I first started scouting the beach area of Panama. She is quite the entrepreneur and I do admire her many talents (her looks are terrific too – but then she is nice and YOUNG)!!!!!

Having Fun at Picasso's -Seated, Deb, Debby, Larry Back: David, Me, Claire (owner) and Diana

Having Fun at Picasso’s -Seated, Deb, Debby, Larry Back: David, Me, Claire (owner) and Diana

Many have asked me about my phone and how come I don’t respond to calls or e-mails right away. Well, when I moved to Panama, I moved for a simpler life style without frustrations and worries. I opted OUT of the “smart phone” and got myself the simplest little phone that I can receive and make calls from – that is it. I do not want to know what is going on with e-mails all day long and I can’t text and be wound up in all of that. I go with friends to lunch and we “talk” to each other with no one listening or watching to the phone so they can see what is happening!. It is wonderful. You guys all ought to try it!. At least while you are out to lunch or dinner. RELAX and learn to converse with the person(s) you are with. You might find it enjoyable to be free for an hour or so! I carry the same little phone with me when I travel to the states and just change my sim card. Then I have the stateside cell number. Simple, convenient and no payment monthly. I just buy phone cards for a dollar amount and use them. I think I once told you that whoever initiates a call in Panama is the one who pays for the call. If you receive the call, you pay nothing and no minutes to deduct. Yes, many of my friends still have the I-Phones or the smart phones of another brand and are always checking. Many of these people are retired here – not even doing business but they cannot see themselves unattached to the world!. So be it!!!!

Riba Smith, the fabulous upscale grocery store in Panama City finally opened an outlet in Coronado, and so now I have FOUR stores to do my shopping in. Because this is a smaller Riba Smith, I was introduced to the Manager of the store immediately (one of the owners knows me and wanted me to feel comfortable with shopping and getting things) and told me if I wanted anything that wasn’t there, just let this manager know and it will be brought in. They do this for everyone, not just me, and they will deliver for a nominal charge right to your door. I did not want that as I don’t need to pay for it, but I have already ordered things they do have in the city stores but not here and it has been delivered the next day to the store and ready for me to pick up. How wonderful and how convenient. So now I have the best of all worlds with grocery shopping!. You would all be hysterical. There are basically FOUR little “malls” in Coronado for us to shop at with varying stores including the food stores. Picture a square and at every corner one of the four grocery stores. Therefore you have two across from each other and the other two across the street, basically near each other. But to get to these stores – since there are NO cross “streets” you need to drive down the road about 1/2 kilometer and turn around and then you are on the other side of the street. So you do all of your shopping in the two malls that are across from each other but side by side, and then you go to the other side of the road to finish with the other two stores in those two malls. Great fun!!!!! A challenge at times, but now it really is all here. Not that I want to throw a monkey wrench into this, but truly, when I need anything “Jewish” or “kosher” – I really do have to go into the city to the Super Kosher store. I told you about that in one of my previous blogs. There are three Super Kosher Supermarkets in Panama City – and they are truly huge supermarkets and have everything Kosher (Glatt Kosher because everything is Chabad here). That is where I buy Gefilte Fish, Kosher Chicken for Chicken Soup and now Brisket that I bought for the holidays. That was frozen – sent in from the United States at $19.00 per pound!. I only hope it turns out to be good (heaven help those US butchers and that meat)!!!!! So everyone – I know you all have a few favorite stores to get some different things, but I need FIVE to survive – and I mean that in its truest sense!

I have been to Panama City several times this past month for different reasons, and much of the time I do stay over and spend the night at my friend Isabel’s so that I don’t have to run back the same day. One of the times this past month, I did go to the Rabbi’s house for Shabbat Dinner and did have a wonderful time. Because he was not feeling well, he did not go to his Synagogue, but to one nearer to his home, so I therefore did not go to his Shul as he would not be conducting the service. So I went to the house early and lit candles with his wife, Fradel, and we talked and played with Shlomo, their 18 month old son who is truly adorable. Everyone got home from services by 8:30 and we proceeded to eat, and do the meal services. It was all over by 11 and I then went back to Isabel’s. Yes, a long evening, but fun and I learn a lot of new things we don’t (or did not) do in the states that can really save time. For instance, after the beginning prayers and blessings, the Gefilte Fish plus salad is already on the table. Serve yourself all of what you want on one plate and you have had two courses in one – all at the same time. I have to tell you that Fradel Laine (Rabbi’s wife) is a doll and even makes her own Challah which is fabulous!. I remember those days of long ago, but just cannot do it anymore. It was a joy for me to be there and I feel very comfortable and know that I am always welcome to come.

Linda, Chef Ivin, Phyllis, F&B Director William, Lloyd

Linda, Chef Ivin, Phyllis, F&B Director William, Lloyd

I think I have mentioned before that I met the new Executive Chef and the new Food and Beverage Manager of the Coronado Golf and Country Club and we have had a good and a close relationship since they arrived. Well, they are working hard on getting that club up to proper standards food wise, and they are particularly trying to get the Specialty Restaurant there going with great food, wines and entertainment. I was asked to come as a guest with two friends a few weeks ago for a sampling of what they were trying to do. Well – I think the pictures will show you what kind of fabulous food was served. They did 6 tapas courses and I thought I would die before I finished. I have never seen so much food and the course before the desert was 2 Baby Lamb Chops – to absolutely die for. All of the courses were presented beautifully, the food absolutely the best, and we all agreed that this restaurant could be given 4 1/2 stars alongside anything in New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco. Food and presentation were exceptional!. We all raved about the experience. Turns out, they are having a 12 plate dinner with wines in a few weeks for only about 35 people and we were invited to bring friends, but they are charging! To make a long story short, we have a table of 12 going and we are looking forward to this dining experience. This is a private club and they are definitely going to have to work out all of the logistics about getting people from around the area in easily. Seems that the membership is not happy about people coming in that are not members. However, bottom line is: do you want to make money or not?????? It will eventually all work out I am sure.

Dinner at Coronado Club- First Course - Mushroom, Mozzarella, ETC

Dinner at Coronado Club- First Course – Mushroom, Mozzarella, ETC

Shrimp in Egg Roll Shell

Shrimp in Egg Roll Shell

I am trying to find a night when these two gentlemen are free and able to come to the restaurant here on my property. Everyone knows about our French chef, Pascal. He has worked in the city and has been here for over 20 years. He is a doll baby and all love him and he is very well known. These two guys from Coronado Golf, Ivin and William only know of him and I want them to meet Pascal. So one night soon, they will come as my guests for dinner and will meet Pascal as well. Nothing like having Chefs get together and discuss their work, etc. Should be very interesting. But they will all converse in Spanish and I will know nothing of what is being said!!!!

Baby Lamb Chops

Baby Lamb Chops

Speaking of Spanish, I am taking private lessons, once or twice a week as time allows, and believe it or not, although coming slowly, I am learning to speak in sentences for things I need to convey and it is working. For the people that know me well since I have been here, I get broad smiles and great encouragement as they knew my struggles for a while and all of a sudden I can converse a little bit. My maid, who speaks not a word of English is now enjoying me as I asked her recently to do something for me and did it all in Spanish- she was full of smiles. The Panamanians are so happy when you are trying to adapt to their culture and will make the effort to fit in. They will give you the world on a silver platter and of course, that makes me happy to know I am trying and am being appreciated. So altho slow – it is definitely coming and even I am proud of myself at some times.

And to tell you what I am most thrilled about this month is my ROKU BOX!. I know this is absolute greek to you all, but for months now, I have been going around and about with guys in this building who are very knowledgeable about TV and how we could get United States Channels for me. It was never accomplished for one reason or another and many doubts about what would or would not work. One night I am at a social hour with a bunch of friends down in Coronado and I meet up with old friend Ray and his wife Addy and I tell him how unhappy I am. After all, Baseball season and I can’t even watch the Tampa Bay Rays unless they are on National TV and I can catch it that way (and in Spanish, of course). Ray just looks at me and says you need a Roku Box and I will order it for you and take care of it. BINGO – just like that. So I let him do his thing – 10 days later the box arrives, he comes over and hooks it up with a special cable he also ordered so I would have better reception and VOILA, it was hooked up in no time. But it took hours to register as the network was down for maintenance, etc and then he would not leave me until it was all set up knowing I can do nothing on the computer. Bless you Ray for all of your help and persistence in getting me going.

Addy, Phyllis and Ray (sorry for the finger and the dark)

Addy, Phyllis and Ray (sorry for the finger and the dark)

So now I have most of the Channels on U. S. TV and I even became a subscriber of Major League Baseball (MLB) and can get ALL of the games – any that I ever want to watch – LIVE!!! I was never so happy in my life.!!! Can you imagine what it takes to make me happy?? Unbelievable. But I do also want to thank all of you guys (Bill, Gerry and Lorry) for your assistance and guidance to get me thinking about what could be done. I know it wasn’t easy, but I was persistent that I was not using the computer to do this – it had to be on its own thru the TV. And so it is!.

And while I am thanking, to you Drew, thanks for helping me solve my “mold” issues with the A/C. It was Drew who suggested that I need to put ultra violet lights in the A/C. I am so mold conscious after all of the trouble I had in the states before I ever sold my home, that I know when I smell mold. So Drew told me to get these lights, which I ordered, and then he got John July, another ex-pat to come and install them in the units for me. So now that this is all done, I THINK I may just be finished and ready to really start living the “dream” !!!! It truly is coming together and I realize that I am now in this Condo for 7 months and it is FINALLY finished for me and my comforts. Hallelujah! It sort of feels really good.

As this month comes to an end, I turn to the High Holy Days and realize that immediately after Labor Day is Rosh Hashonah – very early this year. I have started cooking for the very few guests I will have. I need to get my bearings here and what I can or can’t do easily. Buying foods you are used to is not the same and my entertaining has been limited because of room constraints and the like. So I will do my little dinner for the holidays this year and see how my food turns out and branch out from there. I have already sent greetings to all who do celebrate the holidays, but again, let me just say – I love hearing from all of you who continually call and e-mail. We always remain connected and always will.

Reservations are always accepted graciously, and you know you all are always welcome to my home to visit. With love and best regards to you all. Until next month…………………………………

Category: Dispatches  Comments off