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There are seven indigenous peoples in Panama: Emberá, Wounaan, Guaymí, Buglé, Kuna, Naso, Bribri

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Living in Panama

Max┬┤s Last Day of Kindergarten

Sunday, December 16, 2007

We officially finished school this past Friday.  Wow and I needed a break.  Max and I left each morning for school by 6:30am.  School began at 7:00am.  Quick kiss and a wave goodbye and I would head home to get a few things done.  Then back on the road at 11am for an 11:30am pickup to return home at noon.  The drive itself isn't that bad, but 5 days a week for 9 months is a bit tiring.

Max attended Kindergarten at a private Catholic school in Penonome called Santo Domingo.  It includes Pre-K through Highschool and probably has close to 500 students.  It costs about $50.00 per month and it truly is a bilingual school.  He made some great friends this year and we met a lot of great parents.  And they definitely know how to have a party at the school.  It seemed there was some kind of celebration every couple of weeks, whether during the school day or for the parents.  One party for the parents required me to get a Peter Pan costume made for Max.  I still don't understand what that was all about.  But all the kindergartners marched onstage to really loud Latino music, sang a song and then marched off.  Max was really sour the whole time and I guess I would be too if my mom had put me in that costume.  He said later it was because his friends said his costume shoes were too big.  I told him to turn around and tell his friends that their shoes were too small.  (See Peter Pan pic below).

Last week was Mother's Day in Panama.  They had a Mother's Day celebration.  I dragged Coley along.  He looked around and soon realized he was one of two men in the entire outdoor auditorium.  I never know what the men are supposed to attend or not.  We watched the Pre-Ks do their thing on stage and then Max and the Kindergartners took the stage.  They sang a song and danced.  Max had a huge smile on his face this time.  When they started exiting the stage, Max put his hand to his forehead in a salute and marched off like a soldier.  Oh great, look at the little American soldier in the middle of all the tranquilo Panamanian kids.

So last week was the teacher's conference.  I didn't fully understand what I needed to do but they said to bring Max.  We drove to the school for our 3:00pm conference.  I sat in front of the room while Max and his Spanish teacher worked at the chalkboard.  For about 20 minutes, the teacher gave directions in Spanish as Max wrote on the chalkboard, described the parts of his body, counted and Spanish.  He did a phenomenal job. 

Then we went with the English teacher.  The teacher provided the directions in English and he answered everything correctly...and in a Spanish-English accent.  As I explained later to Coley, Max is learning 3 languages....English, Spanish, and English with a Spanish accent.

The school seems  to be working out and Lila is excited to start in March (school year is March to December).  We're watching it to make sure the kids are progressing and I supplement with some homeschooling several days a week, but so far so good!

Posted by on 12/16 at 06:47 AM
Living in Panama

Walking the Pan-American Highway

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Every few months or so, I see a few interesting folks walking the Pan-American Highway.

For those who don't know, according to Wikipedia:

"The Pan-American Highway is a network of roads nearly 48,000 kilometres (29,800 miles) in total length. Except for an 87 kilometre (54 mi) rainforest gap, the road links the mainland nations of the Americas in a connected highway system. According to The Guinness Book of World Records, the Pan-American Highway is the world's longest "motorable road".

The Pan-American Highway system is mostly complete and extends from Fairbanks, Alaska in North America to the lower reaches of South America. Several highway termini are claimed to exist, including the cities of Puerto Montt and Quellón in Chile and Ushuaia in Argentina. No comprehensive route is officially defined in Canada and the United States, though several highways there are called "Pan-American".

The Pan-American Highway passes through many diverse climates and ecological types, from dense jungles to cold mountain passes. Since the highway passes through many countries, it is far from uniform. Some stretches of the highway are passable only during the dry season, and in many regions driving is occasionally hazardous.

Famous sections of the Pan-American Highway include the Alaska Highway and the Inter-American Highway (the section between the United States and the Panama Canal). Both of these sections were built during World War II as a means of supply of remote areas without danger of attack by U-boats."

I'm on this highway at least daily and every so often I see a few interesting folks, non-Panamanian, usually American, sometimes Australian or European.  They're biking the highway in pairs with bicycles loaded down with their gear, traveling on motorcycles and oftentimes just walking.

I think the most interesting one I saw was late 20-something guy walking along with a donkey packed down with his gear.  The first day I saw him he was in between Penonome and Anton.  The next day I saw him nearing Rio Hato traveling in the direction of Panama City.  Ok, I thought, I just have to stop and ask.

I pulled off the road onto the shoulder and stopped about 25 yards in front of him.  "Hi!" I shouted.  He replied.

"I just have to ask," I said.  "In 2 minutes, what's your story".

Well he proceeds to tell me that he's been walking from the state of Washington for about 1 1/2 years.  He picked up the donkey in Mexico to help him carry his stuff and he was going to keep walking to Panama City. 

I told him we lived just a few miles off the highway.  He was welcome to bring his donkey, rest a night, clean up, eat, etc.

His response, "Well I'm in kind of a hurry."  He couldn't say it with a straight face and I cracked up.  "Oh really?", I asked.

He went on to explain that he needed to get to Panama City within 8 days so he could fly to the Middle East for a friend's wedding.  He was hoping a farmer would take his donkey for a month or so and then he would be back to continue on his trip.  I gave him a granola bar and wished him luck.  Now that's a free spirit.


Posted by on 11/27 at 01:58 PM
Living in Panama

Another visit to the pediatrician

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

So during our visit to Bocas last week, my daughter Lila cut her foot on one of the many starfish while playing in the water.  There was actually a small puncture wound with about an inch long slice.  No big deal.  When we got back to the house that day, we cleaned it up, put on a bandaid and off she went.

Well yesterday we noticed it looked a bit infected.  There was redness down to the middle of her foot.  By the afternoon it had reached her ankle.  Decided it was time to make the phone call to our pediatrician in the city.  He recommended an antibiotic that I could pick up at a local pharmacy but suggested that we make the drive in the next day if it hadn´t improved.

Today, it hadn´t improved.  In fact it looked a bit worse.  So we made the drive into the city, my daughter and I, with me promising McDonald´s, candy, new toy, anything to get her to stop crying.  We finally pulled up to the doctor´s office on Balboa Avenue and she had pulled herself together.  We waited about an hour in a small 4 room office for our turn.  The doctor prescribed a stronger antibiotic and some cream.  The doctor´s visit was $45.00.  That´s without using any insurance.  The medicine totaled less than $20.00 and we were on our way.

While some things are more difficult to accomplish while living here, we´ve had nothing but positive experiences with the medical field, both with our interactions with the professionals and in the cost associated with visits and medicines.  More importantly, cutting your foot on a starfish, not a bad problem to have.


Posted by on 11/13 at 07:05 PM
Living in Panama

Ziggy Comet Hudgins

Monday, September 03, 2007

Ok so we got a puppy.  She´s very cute, 12 week old Black Lab, and after 1 day she already knows how to sit.

Here´s what happened.  We went to XS Memories Thursday night for dinner, the restaurant I wrote about a few days ago.  We´re finishing up our dinner and the owner brings out a 4 week old kitten who has no mother.  Black and white, very cute.  He set us up because immediately the kids were begging us to keep him.  (I guess our turtle, Baby, just isn't cutting it anymore.  Although he did run away twice, which in my eyes, counts as a real pet.)  So a few minutes later we´re walking out with a 4 week old kitten in a crate and I don´t even like cats.

The kids are very excited and start thinking of names.  Lila shouts out her suggestions "Napkin! Table! Tree!" 

Max offers his "Venus, Mars, Moon".

We decide that since he is black with a white tummy he should be named Sylvester, even though, as Max points out, the coloring doesn't exactly match Sylvester.  For example, he has a white foot or something like that.

In any case, we take him home and put the crate in Max's room.  We feed Sylvester, clean off the towel where he did his thing and try to play with him although he keeps running under the bed.  After we settle everyone down, Max explains that he's going to have to sleep in his room all night because if he lives, Sylvester will be scared.  Why didn't I think of this sooner???

Max wakes me up at 5 am because Sylvester is crying for food.  We feed him and hang out until the sun comes up about 45 mins later.  Max is really attached. 

We decide we have to play with him only in the bathrooms because he can't hide so easily except behind the toilet.

My nanny arrives a bit later and lo and behold, she has a severe allergy to cats.  Oh darn, I'm not going to be a cat owner.  So we break the news to the kids.  Max begins sobbing, oh so sad.  Lila tries to eek out a little tear for affect.  This is really hard for her.  The crying continues off and on for 45 mins.  Coley, who has always been the one to say no more dogs, finally caves.  "Fine, get a dog."

I promise the kids that I will not come back from the city that day without a puppy.  Ok, to keep this very long story short, I found a breeder in La Prensa, called, located the puppy, last of 13, bought all the gear and headed home.  Arrived home at 6pm carrying the puppy.  Max looks over and says "That's not a puppy."  "Yes it is."  "Well it's bigger than Sylvester."  Oh geez.

The kids quickly decided on a name, Ziggy after Ziggy Marley, Comet, because Max likes space.  So our newest addition is Ziggy Comet Hudgins!


Posted by on 09/03 at 11:39 AM
Living in Panama

Life Living Abroad

Thursday, August 30, 2007

We´re often asked by those back in the States as well as expats living in Panama City "How do you LIVE in the middle of nowhere?" and "Don't you get BORED?" and "How long do you plan on STAYING there?"

I've answered these questions so many times that I can acutally sum it up in about 5 seconds.  "We like living here.  We have hobbies and plenty of things to do.  No idea."

The more accurate answer is much more complicated than that. 

How do we live in the middle of nowhere?
I think like anywhere you live, you settle into your daily life and it becomes normal life.  My husband and I have had the fortune to travel and live in many different countries.  Our favorite ones have always been the 3rd world countries.  But living with kids in the 3rd world would be difficult.  That's part of the reason we love Panama.  It's not 3rd world no matter what anyone tells you.  But it has that good feeling of being a developing country.  It's got the excitement of growth mixed with the strong feeling of authenticity.  Living here definitely isn't for everyone and even less so for families who really like and enjoy the luxuries of the States.  While our daily life is significantly different than a similar family in the States, it's become normal life for us.

Don't you get bored?
Of course we get bored!  Doesn't everybody?  I remember some of the most boring weekends in one of the most fast-paced cities in the world...Washington DC.  Oh wow, those long, boring, rainy, cold weekends would kill us.  Ok, we'd say, another trip to the Smithsonian museums.  When we get bored here, we can easily spend 2 hours at the beach, I can take my kids to go run around the Equestrian Center and ride the horses, we can feed the animals at the zoo, pick fruit from the tree, give the kids their swimming lessons at one of 3 pools around here, bbq on the beach, go fishing at the lakes, tube down one of the rivers at low tide, check out the sting ray that washed up on shore.  That's just to name a few things within 5 minutes of our front door.  Expand that to watching the sea turtles come in at night, go to the zoo at El Valle, take weekend trips to the mountains, islands or other reality there's not enough time to do everything we want to do!

How long do you plan on staying there?
Oh how I wish I knew that answer.  I guess we'll stay until we feel like moving on.  That's the great part about having the freedom to live how and where you want to…

Posted by on 08/30 at 12:34 PM
Living in Panama

Shopping in Penonome

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I picked my 5 year old son up from his little school in Penonome today with 2 things in mind:

1.  He needs a haircut.

2.  He needs a new bicycle

So we headed into the wondeful town of Penonome to do a bit of shopping. 

Penonome is one of Panama’s last undiscovered treasures. It is the capital city of the province of Cocle and boasts beautiful mountain views, crystal clear rivers. Penonome plays a very important role in Panama’s agricultural industry, and is home to many ranches, and orchards.

We headed down the main street as I drove about 2 mph looking for that bike shop I know I had seen before.  A lady honked at me for going too slow.  That's their version of road rage out here.  Ah-ha!  I found it! 

We hopped out of the car and went inside.  The selection wasn't enormous but they had a bike that fit his size.  And I even found a little pink one with a basket and training wheels for my 3 year old daughter.  As I inspected the bike, my son wandered next door to a movie store.  After a bit of adjusting by the owners, the bikes were ready for my purchase.  My son's bike was $40.00 and my daughter's was $25.00.  I never know if I'm getting the real price or not.

Next we went across the street, down a hall where I found a salon.  We popped in and the wonderful woman placed my boy up on the chair.  I'm very very picky about my son's haircuts and she did a really nice job.  Mid-way through, she asked if my husband had visited her the week before.  I told her yes.  It didn't really surprise me though.  I think we're the only American family with no Panamanian roots living out this way.  Her cost...$3.00...and I think that was gringo pricing.  But you can't beat a $3.00 haircut.

Posted by on 08/15 at 10:48 PM
Living in Panama

Sunday in the City

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Contributed by Donna Wilkins 

We all know Panama has some of the best beaches around and you would think that ever Sunday you want to rush out of the city to take them in but let me tell you there is nothing like a beautiful sunny day in the city. Yes you heard me right! Well for one thing I don’t have to get into the car and drive instead I just have to pack a picnic and off to the pool you go.

It rained cats and dogs yesterday so most of the day was spent in avoiding getting wet but today brought on a whole different day look to Panama. That is the good thing about Panama.  It never really rains more than one day in a row. If you get a down pour one day for sure the next day will be bright and sunny.

So with pool bags packed down we headed to the pool to take in the sun and get wet. Our son Kyle loves to do cannonballs into the pool followed by his father. Mom on the other hand is the referee deciding who has the best splash and who made the most noise. Now take this and add a couple more kids and adults and you soon forget who the kids are and who the adults are.

When pool time came to an end we all dried off and changed and headed off to the Causeway for a drive. The Causeway is a very popular area for the Sunday drive. It is a located on the outskirts of Panama City. The Causeway connects three small islands to the mainland. It is basically one long road from the main land out with the ocean on both sides. As we drove down the Causeway we passed people running, on bikes, roller skating and just out taking a walk. The breeze is amazing as you don’t have anything to obstruct it. The city is in the background and frames the view.  It feels like it is a day’s drive away but really within 10 - 15 minutes you are back in the city.

Kyle is always amazed seeing the large ships that pass by. Funny thing that even for us living here for the last 8 years I am too still amazed with the Panama Canal and the large vessels you see pass. One of the those views you just don’t get tired of seeing.

There is a new Bennigans at the end of the Causeway so we stopped by for a cool drink and something to eat. Kyle always asks for the same thing, calamari so a plate later and a cool one inside we finished our afternoon off with a stroll around to look at all the beautiful boats at the marina before heading back to the truck and home.

School starts early here, 7:15 am and for a 6 year old that means getting up at 6am so it is dinner, bath, book and then bedtime.

So our Sunday in the city...while it isn’t the is nice!

Posted by on 08/12 at 08:34 PM
Living in Panama

Back to Riding!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Yesterday was my first day of riding horses again since I have returned.  Unfortunately my horse Canelita, a beautiful young Peruvian mare, has been sick so she´s not able to be ridden for the next few weeks.  So I took out one of my friend´s horses, a handsome older Peruvian named Lucero.  We immediately headed down one of my favorite trails following a meandering smaller river. 

We passed a mango tree where all the of the mangos had fallen and were beginning to rot.  The mango season ended about 6 weeks ago.  Passed a colorful blue butterfly.  As always, I looked for crocs in the river.  I have an obsession with crocs and sharks for some reason.  I saw a very small one about 10 months ago.  It must have been less than a foot long.  Nothing since then.

And then the trail opened up to the beach.  I looked to the right and didn´t see anyone.  I looked to the left and saw one person.  Wow, it´s crowded today.

We did our regular loop of riding and headed through the development.  A lot has building has occurred since we left and it´s amazing to watch.  I stopped to talk to one of the guys cleaning the paddle boats on the river.  Any crocs in there I asked in Spanish?  Nope not in this one he responded.  Ok good.

We turned back to the Equestrian Center and Lucero picked up speed.  He's a beautiful horse and likes to "dance".  So we danced our way back to the barn. 

I dismounted and soon realized that I was going to be a bit sore after today.  Not a big deal though.  I'm heading back out this morning.

See Canelita below....


Posted by on 08/11 at 08:49 AM
Living in Panama

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