Our First Thanksgiving Weekend

This past weekend was a long holiday weekend for Panama. Thursday was Independence Day from Spain, but Monday was the official government “Monday” holiday. So many took off all 5 days. We started with a Thanksgiving celebration with many of our expat friends at Christine and Wayne’s house, including friends from Canada. Most everyone brought their own place setting and a side dish or dessert. The traditional turkey meal with all the trimmings and a NFL football game playing on the TV definitely gave our first Thanksgiving in Pedasí a feeling of normality and reminded me of the many family get-togethers. I am so thankful for the many friends we have here, as well as my family and friends in the US.

Thanksgiving with friends
Thanksgiving with friends

Mikkel's Pumpkin Pie
Mikkel’s Pumpkin Pie
Lining up for Thanksgiving dinner
Lining up for Thanksgiving dinner
Caiman in river
Caiman in river

Although we were taken by surprise about a future change we will be making soon (I will explain in another blog when it becomes more official), our weekend continued with spending more time with friends and exploring. Friday I joined four other women at Villa Esplenderosa in Los Destiladeros to plan a yard sale this month to raise more funds for a spay/neuter clinic in Pedasí. On the way back while crossing a bridge, we discovered a caiman sunning on the riverbank. Then we stopped in Limón and with permission of the owner, we picked a very sick dog along with two of her pups and took her to the vet in Pedasí where she will stay and hopefully get better to be spayed and adopted. The pups are at Christine’s house and up for adoption now. That evening we went to Smiley’s (a local expat hangout restaurant) for dinner and live music. Some of the local expats come together, including the restaurant owner, and entertain their audience with some good jam sessions.

Hangin' out at Smiley's
Hangin’ out at Smiley’s

Saturday we joined some friends at Playa Arenal, sitting on the beach for awhile and waiting for three of the men to return from their fishing expedition. Later we all met at another local restaurant, El Lago. Mikkel and I had heard that the restaurant served very delicious gourmet, but inexpensive meals, but they were closed each of the 3 times we went. They can be a little hard to find depending on which way you go, located next to a small swamp with a crocodile and snakes. But finally this time they were opened. The chef will cook your fish you caught and serve it with specially-prepared rice and vegetable side dishes. This evening he cooked the fish two different ways, one fried with a light coating of shredded plantains, the other baked with a cream sauce. Both were superb and the rice and vegetables were excellent as well. Afterwards some of us went back over the Smiley’s for dessert. It may be difficult loosing weight here in Pedasí with all the good restaurants we have discovered.

The next day was a day of exploration. We took off in the car with our dog and headed south. We had never been to Punta Mala which is outside of Limón, close to Pedasí. Instead of turning right to Playa Destiladeros, we continued to the left. We came upon a single lane steel bridge crossing a river. The first woman former President of Panama, Mireya Moscoso, lives at the end of the road in a huge guarded fenced estate, but you can turn left down a small dirt road just before and go out to where a river meets the ocean at a cove. It was high tide, so there was no beach, but we did walk down to the river/ocean’s bank. Afterwards we went back to the bridge and drove down a dirt road to the river. While I was taking pictures, Mikkel took Bella to the river. For some unknown reason, although Bella loves the water, she got freaked and quickly jumped up the muddy bank pulling Mikkel who was holding her leash and causing him to loose his balance and falling in the river. Luckily he was wearing his swim trunks, but one of his good sandals slipped off and floated down the river. The river was shallow there, but very rocky. So since I had 2 shoes, I ventured out across to a rocky island to see if I could see Mikkel’s sandal which had disappeared from our sight around the bend. Surprising I did find it floating upside-down among some river debris on the other side, but the river was very deep at that point to cross and get it. I did not have a swimsuit on, so I returned to Mikkel who borrowed my flip-flops and crossed the river to the island, swam across the river to where his sandal was floating, used a stick to retrieve it through the debris, swam back to the island and then walked back to Bella and me. All this time, we are looking around for caiman or snakes. Luckily there were none. Mikkel claimed it to be his first dip in a Panamanian river.

River joining the ocean at Punta Mala
River joining the ocean at Punta Mala
Punta Malo view from road
Punta Malo view from road
Presidente Moscoso's Fishing boat docked in cove at her compound.
Presidente Moscoso’s Fishing boat docked in cove at her compound.
Mikkel & Bella at River
Mikkel & Bella at River

If that wasn’t enough, we went back to the highway and continued south. After driving through the small beach community of El Ciruelo, Mikkel decided to make a turn onto a dirt road, thinking it would lead us to a shrimp-processing plant that we had heard was located near there. He was definitely testing our 4-wheel drive down the deeply-rutted road until we came to an opened gate and guard shack with a sign prohibiting unauthorized entrance. So Mikkel turned around on this road and for a moment I thought we were going to get stuck, but we made it out. We were not sure if the shrimp plant was there or down another dirt road we came across, but I asked Mikkel to return to the highway instead. I had enough of this road for now. Continuing on, we stopped at Playa Venao, a beautiful cove with great surfing. There Mikkel went body-surfing while I played with Bella on the water’s edge. We have been here a few times before in past visits to Panama, but not since we moved here. Today, the tide was in and there were a lot of surfers riding the waves. After about an hour, we headed home, stopping at the local market for a snack and drink. It was a very enjoyable weekend of friendships and exploration.

El Ciruelo
El Ciruelo
Swimming at Playa Venao
Swimming at Playa Venao
Bella & Mikkel love the beach
Bella & Mikkel love the beach
Surfer at Playa Venao
Surfer at Playa Venao

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