Wow! I didn’t realize that 2 months have passed since I wrote something on this blog. How time flies. I can’t say I have been too busy, but I can say life here in Pedasí continues to be just life. Sometimes it is hard to know what to write about.
I’ve written about Carnival in the past years – not much has changed other than the queens and floats. The only difference for me was that I helped selling koozies and license plates for an Animal Advocates fundraiser during the day on the street in town during the celebration. Here’s just a few highlights.
I’ve written about our ongoing car problems. The Ford Explorer is still in the shop in David (major fix). We did finally get the Honda Passport back from the shop (minor fix) and now we have sold it, although we are storing it for the new owner until she returns from the states in July. Once we get the Explorer back, we have decided to sell it also and be without a car for awhile as we have been for many weeks and months at a time. We live in town, so we can walk just about anywhere; take buses or catch a ride to Las Tablas or Chitre if we need to, as well as Panama City; or we can rent a car if necesary for the business. I personally am done with cars for now.
So what’s new & different I can write about. Well, Mikkel underwent surgery at a hospital in Chitré a couple of weeks ago, our first experience with a Panamanian hospital stay. Last November while in California at the VA, the doctors discovered that Mikkel had skin cancer on his right ear. It was a non-aggressive, slow-growing small form of cancer. He had already been there 2 weeks beyond his planned visit due to emergency eye surgery, so he opted to have it taken care of in Panama. The VA doctors sent him the biopsy results and he finally made an appointment with a dermatologist at a private clinic in Chitré. The doctor ordered various blood & lab tests, an EKG, chest X-ray, and also a 3D tomography for which we were unable to find a hospital or facility in Chitré, Las Tablas or even David that had the equipment for such. So the doctor went ahead and scheduled the surgery without the topography. Due to Mikkel having Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, he was scheduled to be administered general anesthesia and stay overnight for monitoring afterwards. He was first admitted on March 13th, but when the doctors discovered he had been taking baby aspirin regularly as prescribed by his VA doctor and his blood sugar numbers were high, he was rescheduled a week later with specific instructions to not take the baby aspirin and try to lower his blood sugar numbers. So for the next week (and beyond surgery), we have been walking daily around town for exercise and he has been on a low-carb diet. The next week he was re-admitted with lower numbers and did stay overnight at the private hospital which is attached to the clinic. The surgery was a success, although it took awhile for him to ward off the affects of the anesthesia. Last Monday, the doctor told us that he was cancer-free, but to start wearing a large-brim hat and use sun-screen daily for the remainder of his life when he goes out. And the continued walking and low-carb diet has brought his blood sugar numbers down. Praise God! The only drawback we had was that the medical costs were a little more than expected (over $3000 total including the 15-20% jubilado/pensionado discount), but compared to what the same medical service would be in the states (outside of the VA), it is low. We opted to self-insure when we moved here anyway because available medical insurance in Panama was too expensive due to pre-medical conditions we both have. We have been fairly healthy; $2 urgent doctor visits, free flu shots, & $46 annual mammograms are definitely within our budget. Mikkel admits he should have asked about the costs beforehand. This was a private facility and it would probably have cost less if he went to the Regional hospital. It would have definitely cost a lot less if he had decided to have the VA take care of it, even if he flew back another time. But this is all hind-sight and we have now experienced the good quality medical care available in Panama. The blessing is that he is cancer-free. Mikkel now has a distinct ear shape.
A week after the surgery, Mikkel and I joined our friends Jim and Abbe on a trip to Boquete and Santa Fe. They had never been west of where the Pan-American Hwy. splits off south to the Azuero Penisula where Pedasi is, and we had never visited Santa Fe. So off we went for 5 days in Jim & Abbe’s Ford Ranger. They were amazed when they saw the hills and jungles throughout Panama. We first stopped in David to check on the progress of our Ford Explorer. (It may be a few weeks more before it is ready.) Than up the mountains to Boquete for 2 nights. We ate at a few of our favorite restaurants, shopped at the Tuesday Morning Market while checking in our business retailer, visited the Flower Gardens fairground, had coffee at one of the coffee plantations, and watched several people zip-line from tree to tree 1000 ft. high over the ground while we ate lunch at Boquete Tree Trek Mountain Resort. As always, Boquete is cooler than Pedasi and it even rained for about 30 minutes one afternoon.
Afterwards, we drove to Santa Fe, outside of Santiago, stopping at PriceSmart in David first to purchase items we want for home. None of us had ever been to Santa Fe, so this was another new adventure for us. We are happy we decided to add this to our trip. It is a small town near the Continental Divide, not quite as high in elevation as Boquete. We stayed at Casa Mariposa above the town; glad the truck had 4-wheel drive. But what a beautiful place with gardens, a lily pond, a spring-fed swimming pool, wild toucans and many other birds to watch, overlooking the valley below and the mountain jungles beyond. Each bungalow had a fully-equipped kitchen where we were supplied with breakfast foods to cook and eat each morning. Our bungalow actually had a separate full bathtub, something very rare in Panama (usually only shower stalls in homes and hotels. After eating pizza at a local restaurant and a very quiet night’s sleep (no roosters crowing), Mikkel prepared a breakfast for all of us of bacon, eggs, toast, coffee, and fruit Then we took a ride across town and beyond over the mountain and the Continental Divide where only huts with thatched roofs occasionally dotted the steep hills and along a windy road. This is the real jungles of Panama. An hour or so later we came to the town of Guabal and the end the road for now. Just beyond a bridge is being built which will connect to a road that will continue to the Caribbean. After turning around we stopped to explore a waterfall we had passed and then a “mirador” (viewpoint). We returned to accomodations at Casa Mariposa for about a 45-minute rest. This was all the first morning.
Jim and Abbe had made arrangements to meet up with a couple, Mitzi and Bill, who had a 10-acre farm on the other side of Santa Fe for lunch at a local restaurant in town. They had met them at an International Living Conference in Panama City, both couples being speakers at the conference, and were invited to visit their farm if they had ever come to Santa Fe. Of course we tagged along. Mitzi and Bill, both in their 70’s, have lived in Panama for about 12 years. We followed them to their farm after lunch, and spent the whole afternoon at their home. What a fun and interesting couple! They took us on a walk around the farm, which is bordered by a river and a stream on 2 sides. They raise chickens for eggs and meat. and sheep for meat and keeping the grass down on the property. They have planted just about every kind of fruit tree throughout, including grapefruit, apples, and peaches along with cashew, cinnamon, and moringa. And they grow various vegetables in a fenced garden (keeps the chickens out), of course, all organic grown. Their 2-bdrm house was designed with the ideas from the architect Buckminster Fuller (geodesic dome house inventor) with all walls of more than 90-degree angles to allow the air to flow around instead of directing hitting and bouncing off a 90-degree squared corner. We had cake and herbal iced tea while chatting about several subjects regarding Panama. Jim and Abbe thought we would only stay for about an hour, but it turned into about 4-5 hours before we left, after having made new friends in another part of Panama. We stopped at a Cooperativo market (owned and run by the local indigenous people of Santa Fe) to pick up a few groceries before returning to our bungalow to have a enjoyable evening on the patio with wine, crackers, cheese, and leftover pizza.
So now we are back in Pedasí and our third life as we know it goes on. There have been so many memories made, so many adventures and experiences, so many challenges, so many new friendships formed since we have moved here, going on 4 years this August. But no regrets, no sorrows, no wishes to return to the U.S. permanently. Actually there is no home to go back to. This is home. I did forget how much I love writing and will try to write more often again so I don’t end up writing too long. In the meantime, I’m still here, alive and well in Pedasí.