My First Day in Boquete

Friday, December 28, 2007

My first full day in Boquete. Bit of a crazy one. Sonia had helped me shop yesterday. I bought a coffee maker ($7), cream, sweetener, and coffee. Went to brew coffee this morning and what I didn’t buy was filters. So much for my morning Java fix. I was starving so I headed off to the Panama House – the one that was closed yesterday.

As I came out my gate Harland was standing in front of his place, on his cell phone. I said a quick Buenos Dias and kept walking. He called me back and asked where I was heading. When I said coffee he asked if I minded if he and his son and his son’s girlfriend joined me. Obviously no.

We were there in two minutes and he knew the owner well. We sat outside to smoke, but his son and girlfriend sat at a different table. My first thought was how gorgeously warm it was and I harkened back to standing in Westbank waiting for the bus. Quite the contrast now. Harland and I started yacking. He has been here four years and he is a fountain of information about relocating to Panama. It was excellent for me because he covered all the ins and outs of what is really the truth here – who you know and who you pay what to to get things done. He will no doubt prove to be a valuable resource for me.

I was really struggling with the no hot water issue, and I got my first, expensive lesson in dealing with the Panamanians. I was talking to Karinthya online and told her I could simply not live without hot water, so I would be moving and hoped her Mum would treat me fairly on the rent and my deposit. She called her Mum and a few minutes later told me her Mum had agreed to “fix” the hot water. Knowing things are all too easily “lost in translation” I said I wanted to be perfectly clear on what exactly “fix” meant. She asked what I thought it meant, and I replied that replacing the water heater that they removed was my idea of “fixing” it. She agreed, and told me Sonia would meet me at the house.

When Sonia got there she proceeded to turn on the infamous “suicide” heater in the shower to show me that it worked, as though somehow this is what I wanted. When I said, no, I wanted hot water to the whole house they started making calls to find out the cost. Garcia was totaling up some numbers on a piece of paper and wrote what looked like $760.00, which came as a shock to me. When I reacted Sonia showed him his “1” looked like a “7” and we laughed. But they were obviously waiting for some indication from me that I was going to pay the $160. At this point it was either pay or find another place, possibly losing my deposit in the process. Harland had said there were nicer places, but they were not in town, and they were around five hundred a month – more than my limited funds would allow. It also looks less and less like I am going to be able to afford a vehicle, at least not until the house sells, so moving out of town is not an option at this point.

Garcia agreed to drive us to David to get the water heater at the Do-It Center and we would install it tomorrow. Still not sure what “fix” meant to Sonia, but at least I will finally have hot water. They are also going to replace my broken taps.

On the way out we stopped at their house, which was very nice. I met one of their daughters, Deanna and her daughter, Michelle. I had mentioned to Garcia that I was mucho humbre (hungry) and hoped we could stop in David when we got there. Before I knew it Garcia and Sonia were cooking away. They made the best spaghetti I think I’ve ever had, along with fried bananas and fresh pineapple juice. We sat outside on their patio and enjoyed a great meal. Deanna lives in Costa Rica and her English is better than Sonia’s or Garcia’s, which isn’t saying much, but it was nice to be able to have more than broken word conversations.

Off we headed to David – one guy who hardly spoke English and one guy who hardly spoke Spanish. It was an interesting drive, but somehow we managed to talk all the way there and back. At least I know my numbers in Spanish now, well, up to ten anyway. I got a big kick when, if there was a moment of silence, he’d start with “uno” and we went up to ten.

We got the water heater, a better coffee maker and a toaster, of course both of which I have at home. I hate spending money like this, especially when I don’t have it, but I have to live. And the way things are going I certainly cannot afford to eat out, despite the lower prices. The money has to last or I’m in bigger trouble than I was. It would have been incredible to have sold the house and everything I owned and came here with the money to be able to do what I wanted to do. Maybe it’s just not my destiny to be “stress free”.

I was writing this at Roxane’s, The Grill House, salivating over trying my first steak. The place was packed and there was a line-up outside. I asked a waiter if I could sit at a table outside to smoke and got a “si, senior”. I was going to try my first beer, but no one came to serve me. The window behind my table was open so I asked a waiter to come. Again, “si senior”. Fifteen minutes later, still no one. Two girls who had sat down only a few minutes earlier got service from a guy I assumed was the owner within minutes. I was not impressed.

Then through the window I hear a group of about ten Americans place a very large order, so I knew even if I did get served it would be an hour before I saw food. I got up and left.

Sonia and I had eaten at a very nice place, the Rendezvous, yesterday, so I thought I’d see if it was still open, which thankfully it was. The owner greeted me, but spoke zero English, so I was struggling to order from the all Spanish menu. Just when I thought we had got it straight, he comes back babbling away in Spanish. I thought maybe he was asking me what kind of steak I wanted. After my “no comprende” he went in and came back with the girl who served us yesterday. She broke out in a big smile, obviously recognizing me from yesterday, which was nice. I told her about my horrible experience at Roxane’s and she said they were all family here at this place, and she would take good care of me. She’s cute and had no idea what I thought take me of me meant to me. What he was trying to say was to ask me how I wanted it done. Language is always an adventure.

Karinthya is a big fan of what happens does so for a reason. Not only did I have a fantastic steak but I met two wonderful people – Paolo and Samuel. She was from the Bahamas and he was from Switzerland. They spoke Spanish but more often French, so I got to dust off my grade 10 French. After dinner I invited them to walk back to the house, which they did and we had many drinks and laughs and good conversation. I wish they lived here in Boquete as I think we would have become great friends. Paolo gave me her email address and asked me to let her know how I was doing. Now if I could only meet someone my own age that is as nice as her.

Tomorrow we install the water heater and I can hopefully have a shower, one without zapping myself. I am supposed to take Karinthya, Hossman, Garcia and Sonia out for dinner tomorrow night to thank them for all the help they have provided. With not having a car I would have been lost without them. Karinthya and I did speak about me going with them to Bocos del Tora for New Year’s, which would have been a blast, but the way I’m spending money I didn’t count on, I can’t afford to go anywhere.