Posted by: kateinpanama | April 21, 2010

Consultation with the Embera Stylist

Embera Stylist

The weekend after I became Barbie I decided to go and  visit one of the Jungle girls in the Embera Puru village. I always enjoy my visits up to the jungle as I consider the jungle my country house. However there is quite a bit of preparation that is needed before you make the trip. A visit to one of the lovely supermarkets is always in order to stock up on non refrigerated foods to eat while up in the jungle. I have also started bringing the Jungle Girls fun treats like fresh fruits and veggies as well as brinigng  fruit for the kids of the village. I also must make sure Yucky the Yaris is prepared for a trip down the not Yucky friendly roads by tightening the small wire pieces that are currently holding on Yucky’s underside. Once all of this is complete it is time to go to the Jungle!!

As it is currently dry season all the rivers are very dry…. as a result this means you have to push the boat up the river at some points. I am not a pro at pushing boats up the river so i just watched as jungle Elena pushed….

 

The village had a new Embera who had just returned to the village from living in the city. This Embera happened to work at a hair salon while living in the city. While visiting the village he offered me a consultation for my hair. Upon careful inspection in the community house of the village my Embera Hair Dude informed me that I could recolor my hair but the blonde looked pretty. He then asked me if i had a box of color with me. As visions of me sitting in the sun to develop the color and washing my hair in the river passed through my head I informed my Embera stylist that I had left the box of color in my other mountain back pack and thanked him for his services.  However next time I go up to the country house I will be sure to pack my hair color and some foils.

The weekend was a whirlwind of naps in the hammock, playing  in the river, shopping for masks, and hanging with jungle kids. However the highlights of the weekend were as follows:

-Hiking through the jungle or in my case falling through the jungle

-Floating down the river or in my case trying to keep my butt in the too small intertube through rapids

-Meeting fun jungle animals like Kevin the kinachoo and taking the river otter out for the daily drag

-Getting my back painted

One thing that was super awesome to see was the school that the village built so the children would not have to go to another village. However in true Panama fashion, the school bored told the village if the built the school they would provide a teacher and the supplies. The village has been waiting 3 months for the teacher and every time they ask the school bored about the teacher they always say that the teacher will be there next week…. i have a feeling that they will be waiting for the next week until the end of time….despite there being a teacher who is very interested in wanting to teach in the village…. Welcome to Panama.

I came back from the village fully rested , tattooed, and sunburned… a perfect weekend in my book!!

Things you can find at Dorian’s Part 905

An “I heart Panama” shirt from a brand from the States (Target Mossimo) for $1.99. Clearly the “I heart Panama” was added after the shirts were purchased from Target.

Tommy Hilfinger flip flops for $7.99

Ways I know I am turning Panamanian

– I crave patacones

-I voluntarily order a plate a meat and fried goodness aka patacones

– I am liking my blonde hair

-I no longer use turn signals while driving

-I have bought an “I heart Panama ” shirt

– I can stomach drinking an Atlas beer without wanting to throw up

-I buy things from my car window while at a light

-I honk if you do not move within 1 milisecond of the light turning green

-I shop on the Central.. the pedastrian street where you can buy shoes for $1

– I know the place to get discounted Native Kuna Indian and Embera fabric

Posted by: kateinpanama | April 7, 2010

Biggest Gringa Fit and the Rules of Panama

Gringa Fit

People who have been reading my blog for sometimes can attest to me having quite a few “Gringa”fits during my travels in Panama. My Gringa fits normally result from bad service or having trouble dealing with the cultural gaps. However my biggest Gringa fit to date was very justified….

Lets go back in time so I can recount this day for you…. It all started when I decided that my roots had grown far to long and I needed to get my hair recolored. All my previous attempts  have resulted in me walking out with blonde hair and orange hair. I had finally decided to go back to my natural color as my fear of getting my hair colored hair had resulted in me rediscovering that my natural hair color is light brown.

I decided to go back to the one guy, Italo, who had originally dyed my hair orange but he had managed to fix it and not charge me for fixing it. I was very prepared for my hair appointment as I had my spanish teacher write out exactly how I wanted my hair colored in Spanish. Happy on the thought of getting my hair redone I left Corporate Slavedom in a happy mood. My happiness soon faded as I realized that half of the streets were blocked!!! The streets were blocked due to a large group of protesters who were gathering to protest everything from wanting cheaper school uniforms to some people who had gotten arrested the previous day for throwing bricks during a construction protest. What should of taken me 20 minutes took me over one hour. Luckily I had left work early because i had wanted to change before my appointment. However as i inched along in traffic all thoughts of going home to change vanished and I focused on trying to get to my appointment on time.

Luckily I was able to make my appointment on time and walked into the salon of Italo my hair guy. I explained what i wanted and he said he needed to go and give a blow out to someone and then he would start on me . For those that are not familiar with a blow out it is when most of the Ye Ye Panama women are too lazy to wash and dry their own hair so they pay someone to wash and dry their hair smooth. Some women will get 2 blows outs a week because they don’t want to do their own hair This one particular blow out took over 30 minutes to complete as I sat in the chair waiting. Finally the Ye Ya ahead of me managed to get her hair dry only to have another Ye Ye walk in the door and Italo started on her!! I still continued to sit in the chair patiently. However once i hit the one hour mark of watching other women I started getting frustrated. Just as he was finishing ANOTHER Ye Ye walked in and he started working on her. I finally got out of the chair and asked what was going on. His response to me was that these clients were regular so he needed to work on them first!

After sitting there for an hour and half and not being helped I asked if I could reschedule the appointment because it was getting too late. Italo said he did not have anymore openings for another 2 weeks. Frustrated I stomped out of the air salon much to the surprise of some of the other Ye Ye’s who had walked in for their blow outs.

Determined to get my hair done I drove home and noticed the hair salon near my house was still opened. I parked the yucky and walked in and asked if they could color my hair. They said they had time so I showed them my paper with my hair instructions written in Spanish. The lady started with my hair and I noticed she was putting some strange stuff in my hair but as I have seen some strange things in Panama I did not really think anything of it. Finally the time came for the big reveal after my hair had been washed. The towel was removed and my smile quickly faded as I realized the hair lady had taken my light brown roots with grown out blonde highlights and transformed me all over to bright yellow bleached BARBIE BLONDE!!!! Upon seeing this the tears started rolling down my cheeks as I started yelling in my best Spanglish that I had not asked to be blonde and along with every curse word I knew in Spanish. Her response was that I looked good and then gave me the bill of $55 . With tears streaming down my cheeks I hand her the money and run out of the salon with my hair wet. Of course I walked out of the salon and was greeted by hissing and kissing noises from some Panamaian dudes walking past. At this point it was 9pm and I was tired from the emotions of what it took to get my hair colored and not having eaten. After a few tearful phone calls I decided there was nothing I could do and took out my contacts from my swollen eyes and went to bed.

I woke up to find that I had managed to rip my last pair of contacts and could not find where my maid had put my glasses. A frantic search resulted in me realizing I had no back up pairs of glasses or contacts. My only option was to email my boss an tell him that I would be in late as I needed to go to the eye store and see what they could do for me. This being Panama the eye store did not open until 10AM so I tried my best to work from home with the computer about 4 inches from my face. I hailed a cab practically blind to the eye store where I had ordered contacts from 5 weeks earlier ( see post about Opticolor). I managed to get to the store and my contacts had just arrived!!!! Suffice to say it seemed like things were getting better. Until I opened up the box of contacts to discover they had ordered the wrong type of contacts. They had ordered me yellow contacts!!!! The Eye Doctor encouraged me to try them on and that they would like nice and match my hair. At this point I broke down into tears in the shop saying that I was going to look like Barbie as cat women –Muejer Gato- and that would not work.

Luckily they were able to find a pair of contacts that was close to my prescription and told me there was another brand of contacts they could order that would be close to my old kind and they could be ready by the evening. I was sent on my way with my vision blurry but I was at least able to slightly see so I went into the office to try to work.

In an act of NEVER BEFORE EXPERIENCED customer service in Panama, Opticolor actually called me when my contacts were ready. I drove over to the store in Friday Rush Hour traffic and walk into the store. The eye doctor hands me my contacts and I carefully check the prescription to make sure they were same as my old prescription. I notice a slight difference in the diameter numbers and the eye doctor told me that number did not matter. I put the contacts in my eyes and they were too big for my eye balls as the number that I noticed was wrong was the diameter. I informed the eye doctor I could not take these contacts and would not pay for them as they were not what I asked them to order! I love how the eye doctor did not even understand the importance of the numbers that make up your perscrption.. very scary! Upon hearing this, the eye doctor got an attitude with me saying that she could not longer help me and that I needed to pay for them. I informed her that I would not be paying for them and asked if she could just order me plain contacts? She finally relented but I would have to wait. Of course they were not ready when they said they would be and I had to wait 2 weeks wearing blurry contacts!!

Suffice to say in the period of 24 hours my appearance was altered completely. Adding insult to injury when I went to try and get my hair fixed the colorist recommended that I wait a few weeks because if I tried to recolor my hair there was a good chance it would turn orange the bleach had severely damaged my hair. So now I am Barbie with super dry hair and have to do deep conditioning treatments every other day.

I am  half tempted to start an NGO that will teach Panamaians how to dress for their body type.. note someone should not be able to count your fat rolls through your shirt and to educate the locals that just because someone is Gringa does not mean they want to look like Baywatch Barbie!!

For the time being I am trying to enjoy being Barbie and have even received a lovely Barbie doll from some of my loving friends!

I used to recommend Italo to my friends but he is now going to be placed on my bad list. As his lack of customer service I maintain is why I look like Barbie. Something that most local vendors have not realized is that if you give a Gringa good service they will give you a tip whereas most Panamaians won’t!! You loss Italo on all the extra income from Gringa tips!

Empanada Heaven

An amazing restaurant just opened up in Costa del Este.  It is called Caminito de la Empanada or as I have started calling it, Empanada Heaven,   and is located just down the street from the Super 99 in Costa del Este. This place specializes in Argentinean Empanadas but also has a huge selection of quiche, salads, and breads. The Oreo Cheesecake is the best Oreo Cheesecake in PCITY. I can easily eat about 6 of these empanadas and still want more. If you don’t live in Costa del Este the delicious food really makes the trip and associated tolls worth it. They also have a nice area with couches where you can enjoy an empanada and a nice glass of wine!! I promise you won’t be disappointed unless you hate empanadas and if that is the case then you are just psycho!

Rules of Panama

I would like to share with you something another Gringo has referred to as the rules of Panama.

Rule #1: JUEGA VIVO! play life wild. Gamble, bet, and cheat everyone. Live a self-centered life all about you.

Example; This is why people cut you off because they don’t care if they almost cause an accident as long as they don’t hurt their own car. It is not their fault you were in their way! This is why people use driving lanes as parking lots because they really wanted a coke and were to lazy to park and walk to the store.. they want it so they don’t care if it inconveniences  anyone else

Rule #2: Don’t mess with anyone else’s JUEGA VIVO.

Example: See above… everyone does this because everyone is trying to cheat everyone else and only care about their own Juego Vivo.

Rule #3: It’s better to earn a little money dishonestly then alot honestly, because it’s all about one-uping and screwing someone.

Rule #4: There is no such thing as win-win in Panama. If you won, I lost and should have cheated you out of whatever you won.

Gringos the sooner you understand these rules the better your experience in Panama will become!! Sooner or later you will start to realize you might be living by these rules as well.

Posted by: kateinpanama | March 16, 2010

Caving, Cavity Count, and Cuisine

Caves at Lago Bayana

The jungle girls and I  went to go and visit another Peace Corp volunteer ( Jungle Boy) at his site near some caves  on a lake in Panama called Lago Bayana. The lake was roughly a 1.5 hour drive towards the Colombia border and then a 20 minute boat ride. We were clearly in the countryside as a police officer was very surprised to see 4 gringas in a car together and asked a bunch of questions to figure out why were in the area. Lukcily our boat driver was there to vouch for us and our reasons being there.

Our friend’s community was a fishing community that happened to sit on the outside of the caves. The community is known for fishing and having some chickens. The caves are not super popular yet. In order to access the caves you had to walk in the middle of the river as you entered into the dark hole of the cave. I was of course a perfect example of being graceful as I kept on slipping on the wet rocks and falling on my butt. Once inside the cave the rock formations were super big and cracks in the top of the cave let in natural light in some places. There was one scary portion of the cave where everything was pitch black and bats were literally flying a few inches from your head. We got caught in the bats migrating to another section of the cave and found ourselves screaming like little girls as we crouched down in the water. We ended up spending a few hours in the cave and serenading each with Lady Gaga as we climbed out of the cave. Once we were out of the cave we swam in the lake and then treated ourselves to a dinner in our friends hut. I opted to sleep in my hammock for the night and quickly learned that a hammock is much more suited for an afternoon cat nap as opposed to a full sleep.

I would honestly recommend the caves for anyone that is looking for a nice change of pace from the beaches and jungles in Panama. There is a smaller cave where you can go spelunking in should you dare. However I think I was super lucky to get to share this with a Jungle Boy who aims to have the cutest chickens in his community. I think I might head back down to the community for the chicken beauty pageant!!

Spa Thursday

Fun fact I have learned. You can pay $10.50 and go use the Spa and Pool facilities at the Sheraton. The Sheraton is one of the oldest and most respected hotels in the PCity even though there are newer and fancier hotels in the city. My group of City friends and I have started a tradition of Spa Thursday. Spa Thursday begins with gossiping my the pool, dinner/drinks pool side, dip in the pool followed by 20 minutes in the steam room and 20 minutes in the sauna. All of  us emerge relaxed, caught up on the week’s gossip, and ready for a weekend’s worth of patying! However I would watch out for the valets as the wrecked on of our cars ( not the Yucky although I think it would of just given him more character.)

Fun things you can find at Dorians Part 4:

– Ohio State T-shirt for $9.00 with an original price tag of $50

-I-Phone 3G T-Shirt that is what was worn at Apple Stores for $2.00

-Calvin Klein dress ( sooo not my size) for $15.00

-Michael Kors dress for $19.99 in my size

-7 jeans for $4.00 ( soo not my size)

Dorian’s Feature Creature:

Cavity Count

I reported a few weeks ago that my teeth cleaning resulted in the discovery of 9 cavities.. yes 9. I have 5 of them fixed and have 4 more to go. Here is a fun fact for you.. they won’t give you novicane unless they are really bad. Apparently none of mine have been that bad but i beg to differ as I am the one with the drill in my mouth. However the dentist speaks English and they are pretty through… beggars can’t be choosers. Suffice to say I will be happy when the final 4 are filled and I don’t have to return.

Panama Restaurant Week

Panama Restaurant is week is awesome because it features all kinds of yummy restaurants that on a normal day are slightly above Gringa Kate’s price range. However the reduced prices during restaurant week give me the opportunity to sample the upper level of Panama cuisine. I suggest you check some of them out!!!!

http://www.panamarestaurantsreview.com/panama-restaurant-week-2010.html

Posted by: kateinpanama | March 8, 2010

German Fun and Beach Time

Rincon Aleman

My happy hour crew and I discovered an amazing new place to hold our weekly “Yay it is Friday!!!” Happy Hour….. Rincon Aleman in the Bella Vista area of PCity. This place was awesome because they had a huge beer selection and awesome sausages… a little slice of heaven. As I was working on my second liter of beer in an authentic beer stein I began a friendly conversation with the Manager. He offered to open up the Beer Garden right next to the restaurant so the happy hour crew could have some more space to hang. The beer garden had huge tables that you could dance on and the wait staff was quick to bring us more beer. All in all this was an great location and has made it onto the top 5 list of Kate in Panama’s favorite places to drink beer! You must check it out!!

Beach Fun

As it is summer time in the Pcity you must go to the beach as much as you possibly can. That being said I opted to spend the weekend in mountain house that over looked the beach as well.. best of both worlds. This house was great because the top portion which contained the living room and kitchen was all open air. You could lay in a hammock and overlook the mountains and the beaches at the same time!! After mimosas for breakfast the jungle girls and I went to El Palmer beach for the day. El Palmer is known for the surf school that they have in addition to having a black sand beach.

We rented a Cabana for $25 for the day that included a waiter that would bring you food and beer from the restaurant located next store. Nothing is better than not having to get out of your hammock to get another beer.. a little slice of paradise if you ask me! Some other Jungle folks opted to join at the beach creating a full cabana and lots of fun times! All was going perfect until I opted to go into the ocean one last time. As I was riding the waves a very unfortunate thing happened…… a huge wave came from out of the blue and knocked me over… in the process of knocking me over it managed to take my very very nice sunglasses with it. After the initial shock wore off I frantically began looking for my sunglasses. After about 10 minutes i resigned myself to the fact that a dolphin was probably swimming around with my nice shades and i got out of the ocean in a sad mood.

Despite the sunglass loss the weekend ended up a great weekend complete with a mountain house dance party and a BBQ.

Fun new things I have learned about in the Pcity:

– You can pay $10.50 and go use the Steam Rooms and Sauna at the Sheraton Hotel

– Burgues in Bella Vista has 2 for the price of 1 martinis on Thursdays

-It is easier to play the tourist Gringa card and pay $20 to the police rather than trying to figure out why they are pulling you over

– The police will arrest you if they ask for ID and you don’t have it… (disclaimer.. happened to a friend not to me)

Posted by: kateinpanama | February 23, 2010

Isla Iguana

The day after Saturday Carnivales the Gringo Group opted to recover from out hangovers ( Carnival post will be coming as soon as I get the photos developed) on a gorgeous beach near Pedasi called Isla Iguana.

Isla Iguana is a 30 minute boat ride from the mainland and another world. The water is crystal blue with the sand being white and soft. The mainland beach is brown with muddy water. Depending on when you take the boat the waves can be rather harsh getting out to the Island. We of course went when the waves were at their highest point causing out boat to be airborne followed by a hard thump!

However once you get off the boat the the trip was worth it to get to the island. The island is a protected island by Panama. You have to pay $10 for non residents and $4 for residents to gain access to the island.  For the more adventurous folks you can camp on the island. During World War II the island was used for target practice. There are trails around the island that take you across the island to check out beaches on other side.  Of course the Island lives up to it’s name of having Iguana’s roaming around the island. One Iguana apparently wanted some privacy in the Latrine when I tried to use it. I of course gave the Iguana some time to do his thing!

it is important to note that you need to bring food, water, and adult beverages as there the only thing on the island is a Latrine.  I think the Island makes for a great day trip but I think you would need to be  hardcore prepared to camp on the island….. this is not a Gringa Kate speciality.

However all good things come to an end especially when you boat comes back to pick you up! The Gringo Group climbed in slightly sunburned but having a new appreciation for a good beach day!! Our  boat cost roughly $68 because we had 8 people and must of taken the upgrade of the life jackets… although it seems strange that a lifejacket is considered an upgrade!

Fun Panama Rural Panama Facts

-If you lose a hubcap on your rental car it is $10 to replace it

-In rural Panama you can get eggs and fried bread for $1

-Panama Beer is really hard to find outside of the PCity

-If there is a holiday in Panama book your hotels early because every single hotel near a beach gets booked

– Restaurants in rural Panama have a tendency to close during Holidays even if they are on the main road

– If anyone asks you if you want to go to a Panama Party say yes… you will get free stuff

Posted by: kateinpanama | February 18, 2010

Worst day in a very long time

Lately I have begun to notice that I am more accepting of some aspects of Panama culture and my Gringa fits have now been limited to one per week as opposed to one per day. However last week I think I had one of those days that just makes you want to run home and pull the covers over your head and not emerge for a few days.

The day all started when I was trying to leave the Corporate Slavedom kingdom. I was treating myself to actually leaving the Kingdom after only 8 hours of work as opposed to my normal 9+ hours in order to run a few errands and be productive in my personal life. As I was trying to leave the Kingdom some of the workers of the Kingdom decided to go on strike. Yucky the Yaris was apparently trying to cross the very beginning of their picket line. Several of the Kingdom workers surrounded my car and got in my face yelling at me to re- enter the gates of the Kingdom. Of course they were yelling at me in Spanish and I kept on repeating that I don’t speak Spanish but this of course did not stop them from hitting my car and continue yelling at me. Normally I am a pro at Mexican Standoffs when it comes to getting what I want but I opted to surrender this time and reverse the Yucky back through the gates only to have the gates into the Kingdom locked in front me. Of course all of this was being videotaped so somewhere out there is a video of me freaking out . I sat there for 20 minutes until the management of Kingdom decided to open up another gate to let people out. Of course all the guards who watched the confrontation with the workers opted to do nothing to assist me.

Finally I escaped the Gates of the kingdom now only to hit the rush hour traffic I was hoping to avoid by leaving slightly early.

I finally reach the Multiplaza Mall and proceed to go to Opticolor to pick up my contacts that I had ordered. I had already been to try and pick them up 2 separate times each time waiting a few days longer than what they told me as this is Panama and nothing is ever on time. The girl who I ordered the contacts from who had subsequently told me 2 different pickup times informs me that it is going to be another month until my contacts are ready.. this puts it at 6 weeks to get a pair of contact lenses. In my best Spanish I ask her why she has clearly lied to me on 2 separate occasions. She of course had no response and looked at me with a ” Go to hell and die Gringa look.” I asked for her Managers name and she looked at me like I had grown a second head. She asked why I needed his name and I said well because one of two things are going to happen: I was either going to try to get her fired for lying to me twice or she was going to pay out of her paycheck for my lenses to be expedited. Her response was then ” Her manager only speaks Spanish” in which i replied that I had ” I have lots of friends that speak Spanish and a Venezuelan boyfriend.” This of course brought many lo sientos , I am sorry, from her which I told her at this point she was just wasting her time as she had already wasted my time. The Venezuelan boyfriend is still working on getting a resolution with Opticolor but I do not recommend using this place. There are other places to get Glasses and Contacts that I don’t think have a policy of lying to their customers.

As I was already fired up I decided to go to and do the errand that originally brought me to the mall which was to pick up the Pandora charm that my Boyfriend had reserved for me for Valentines Day. However when I arrived to the Pandora store they were closed! Yep that is right closed.. all the lights off.

At this point in time I decided that for my safety and for the safety of other Panamanians it was best for me to go home so no one else would have to fall victim to my fire-breathing Gringa fits.

Just when i was starting to love Panama it of course set me 2 steps back but that is something that a few beach trips can most certainly fix!

Update: I did finally get the charm and he didan AMAZING job picking it out and figuring out the Logistics of trying to get me a special Valentines Day present.

Posted by: kateinpanama | February 9, 2010

Beach Shopping and Kate in Panama Best of Night Life List

Beach Jewelry Shopping

This past weekend I was going Psycho in the city and needed a day trip to the beach in order to ensure I kept the Gringa fits to one per week. I rounded up some other members of the Expat family and we took an excursion to my favorite beach about 1.5 hours away from the Pcity,.. Santa Clara. Armed with coolers of beer and hammocks we stopped at the best empanada place , Queso Chela, to pick up some cheese empanadas to help wash away the after effects  of the previous evening and be fueled for a full day of laying in a hammock and drinking beer.

One of my favorite things about going to this particular beach is that it is one of the more developed beaches. However when I say developed you need to think about this term in a very different definition from what you are probably used to thinking of. When I say developed I mean there are rough tiki  huts and a flush toilet that may or may not flush depending on the day. However this beach has vendors that will sell you stuff while you sit in your hammock and drink beer.. this is the true version of lazy shopping. This particular time one of the sellers had a strand of black pearls. As I go to the beach fairly often I am pretty familiar with the type of Jewelry that they normally have for sale… and this is the first time i have ever seen Black Pearls. Having always wanted a pair of black pearls I did  a happy dance in my hammock. The seller was asking for $50 but knowing that everything is negotiable I started practicing the limited negotiation skills that Corporate Slavedom has taught me.  I manage to get Jose, the sellers name, down to $35, a can of Heineken, and a picture with a Gringa. Not too shabby of a negotiation if you ask me.

While I was chillin in my hammock making sure i was not getting too sun burned I could not help but be reminded of everyone back at home while I observed a car getting stuck in the sand. This reminded me of all the folks back home who are having to dig their cars out of the snow…. I suppose the sand and snow are pretty similar if you have to dig your car out of them but personally I would prefer to get stuck in sand as opposed to snow….I think getting a tan while digging your car out is much better than getting hypothermia.

Adventures in Shopping

I went to the one of the only stores I shop in  Pcity and actually managed to find some things that I liked… shocking I know.. don’t worry they were American clothes with no spandex and glitter involved. I went up to try and pay and my check card was not working. I told the sales women in true Panama fashion  failed to look at me and had about 2 pounds of makeup up that of course matched her lime green shirt that I was going to run to the ATM and get some cash and I would be right back. I tried 2 ATM machines from different banks before I realized that CLAVE network system was down. No cash could be dispensed and you could not use your check card to pay for anything…. MAJOR FRUSTRATION… one of the few times I did not find crap clothes  I was unable to pay for them. Man Imiss having immediate access to my money and not having it depend on the crack pot banking platform that Panama chooses to run on…. major GRRRRRRRR

Istmos Brew Pub

Besides the National Brewery that produces Balboa, Panama, Atlas, and Sobrana there is one, yes one, Microbrewery in Panama. I am fortunate that the location of this brewery is in rather close proximity to the neighborhood that I live. This place has become my “go to” place for when people want to grab a drink. The Microbrewery features 4 beers names after the different provinces of Panama. However this past weekend my “go to” place severely let me down. Upon arriving to the brew pub I asked for the normal sampler platter so my fellow amigos could chose their favorite province/ beer (Colon is the best). The waitress informed me that they were OUT OF BEER? OUT OF BEER!!!!!!! How does a Microbrewery run out of beer? That is like a Grocery store running out of food or KFC running out of Chicken. One of my fellow amigos attempted to convey this frustration to our waitress but in true Panama fashion she did not care. Of course the Microbrewery does not sell any of the National beers so everyone had to take an import beer as one of their first beers in Panama. Following true to the form once we finished out first round of beers the waitress did not come back and ask if we wanted another round. Suffice to say between a Microbrewery running out of beer and true to form horrific Panamanian service, I am now on the hunt for a new “go to” place. Hence this bar is not making the Kate in Panama Best of Nightlife guide……

Speaking of… It is the Kate in Panama – Best Nightlife Guide 

Best Times to go out

The Friday immediately following the 1st and 15th of the month. Everyone in Panama gets paid on the same day so the bars are crowded. If you ask me it is the opposite of these days, but I do realize that some people go out to meet people rather than just hang out with those people you already know.  Bars do not start getting crowded until around 1 AM.

Best Chill Bars

Relic- Located in Casco Viejo  at the top of the ramp to the right

This bar has an awesome courtyard with tons of room to chill. The music is not super loud so you can actually hold a conversation.  The outside courtyard walls are from the old city walls and the inside has a dungeon feel to it. This is definitely one of the can’t miss places in the PCITY. The drink are on the cheaper side – $2 for a local beer and $6 for a jaggerbomb. There is normally a pretty diverse crowd here and they totally support females wearing flip flops as opposed to 4 inch heels.  Plus no Cover Charge!

 

Mojitos- Located in Casco Viejo- Plaza Herrera

I just discovered this bar but have already been back twice. This bar has the same chill feeling at Relic but on a smaller scale. Earlier in the evening they serve great $5 hamburgers that they grill for you on a BBQ grill to the side of the patio. Local beers are also $2 and you still get the feeling of partying in the old city ruins. I think a good night would be to start off at Mojitos for some burgers and beers and then transition over to Relic.  Also no Cover Charge here as well.

 

Best Casino

Casino Veneto- Located in Cangrejo

This is one of the bigger Casino’s in PCity. In my opinion this is one of the better ones because they have a lot of tables and are quick to replenish your free adult beverages. They also have a show on the weekends of live music as well. However, this place is very crowded as it is also one favorite casinos of locals as well. As mentioned in the Kate in Panama- Best of Restaurant List they also have a great $2.22 breakfast.

Best Disco

PURE- Located just off Calle Uruguay on the street that Gauchos is on.

This is one of the few discos I will willingly go to as they play a nice mix of House Music and minimal Reggatone. The crowd at this bar is normally of a higher caliber as there is cover charge of $10-$20 depending on the night. There is an inside room and a big courtyard with VIP tables. If you get there early ( 1030ish) you can normally score a table with bottle service. A Bottle of Smirnoff Vodka will cost you about $70 but if you split this among others is normally works out cheaper than everyone buying single drinks. Local beers are more expensive here $4 with jagger bombs being $8 apiece. This club stays open very late and does not begin getting crowded until 1 or 2 AM.  This is one of the places that you need to normally dress to impress.  Guys can get away with a nicer shirt, jeans, and shoes but females need to wear a dress with nicer shoes ( wedges, heels, or very very nice flat sandals).

Best places to check out “The Game”

Hooters -end of Calle Urguray and Calle 50

Beer and Good wings all you really need to have in order to enjoy the game. I recommended the Daytona wings.. totally worth the extra $1and ask for a bucket of ice and water to put your pitcher of beer in.. yes one of the few places that has DRAFT beer!

 Bennigans Tavern near Multicentro

Lots of TVs and a good selection of bar food. Get there early went futbol games are being televised as the Brazilians have a tendency to show up with entire armies and drums! Get the boneless wings and you won’t be disappointed.

 Best place to grab a nice drink

Decopolis- Right next to Multicentro

 If you are looking for a place to grab a nice cocktail and lounge on a couch without the hassle of a disco then this is the place. If the poolside bar is open go up to the terrace and sip on a cocktail while your dip your feet in the hot tub. Guys can’t wear shorts so considered yourself warned.

 Best place on Causeway

Cayuco- Last island on the Causeway near the boats

Buckets of beer and a good selection of fried Panamanian food. Get there early on Sundays as it has a tendency to get crowded.

 The following is input from the male member of the “Expat Family”:

 Best Pick up lines to use on a Local Girl:

“ You want to go take a walk on the Cinta Costera”

“ I am from..(insert any non Latin Country)”

Best place to pick up a girl that you pay for:

Very obvious- Havana Club- right across from the Marriott. They literally line up for you

Not as obvious- Guru Night Club- They dance with you for awhile and then tell you their rate

 Best place to see a  bunch of beautiful women who may or may not be available:

Very Obvious-Golden Time- There is a parade

Not as Obvious- La Palace- Show every 15 min with supporting actresses mingling around

Kate in Panama is heading off to Carnivales this weekend in Las Tablas… should be interesting!

Posted by: kateinpanama | January 31, 2010

Kate in Panama – Best of List

Dental Fun

After a rather bad experience at the ER in Panama I have been rather scared to go back to the Dr in Panama. I know this sounds horrible and you are supposed to take care of yourself…blah blah blah but I just could not shake the vision of someone taking my blood with no gloves on and me having to act out my symptoms. However, in a rare  moment of courageous I called and booked a dentist appointment. The dentist I selected at least knew English so I already knew that this was going to be a step up from my last experience.

6 cavities in a year.. yep 6. In my entire lifetime I have only had 1. I asked the Dr if Panama infused their water with straight sugarcane and he said no. He then asked me if I had changed my eating habits since arriving…. the only  major eating habit that I have changed is the amount of pineapple I eat has tripled…(however as i was telling this story to my friends over cocktails I did notice that i was sucking on a piece of sugarcane that came with my mojito so perhaps there might be other culprits. ) I asked the dentist if Panama put fluoride in their water and he gave me a strange look so I am going to assume that is a negative. I walked out of the dentist feeling dirty… 6 of my teeth were rotting in my mouth…

I now have 3 separate dentist appointments to look forward to and then we can discuss the wisdom teeth issue. In true Kate in Panama fashion I did get a price quote on how much it was going to be to get the disgusting rotting mess out of my mouth… roughly $100 per cavity… there goes my fun money budget for awhile. So i guess the moral of this story is.. Never underestimate how awesome fluoride is in your water and even though they put the sugar cane in your mojito you should probably just consider it a decoration and not suck on it.

Don't suck the sugar cane

Officially called a Gringa

Building in which I live has a security guard. In order for guests to get in the building they normally have to check with the guard ( unless you are member of the immediate Expat Family and they just recognize you as one of my friends). In the book that contains all the names of the residents next to my name there just happens to be a nickname…. My official name as far as the guards is concerned is ” The Gringa”. Glad to know that I have now graduated up from people calling me butchered versions of my name ( kathy being one of them) to just having a nickname that essentially means white foreign girl.

The Official Gringa

Kate In Panama Best of Panama City

After living here for awhile I thought it might be beneficial to give everyone a list of places that I consider “Gringa” approved. In an effort to keep people interested I am going to divide my Best of List into 4 separate categories which will be posted over the coming weeks: Restaurants, Nightlife, Services, and a Worst List. Keep in mind that Kate in Panama is a pretty average Gringa so some of my restaurant selections reflect this.  This week is Restaurant week….

Restaurants

Best Hamburger: The Market

Located on Calle Uruguay… get the Executive Burger complete with Bacon, Onion, Cheddar Cheese, and Avocado..little slice of heaven

Best Chicken Wings: Peskito

2 Locations one in San Fransisco and one near big HSBC building in Marbella. Make sure you ask for them Mixtado with the wings tossed in the sauce and get a bucket of beer to accompany it.

Best way to impress Guests: Casco Viejo and Manolo Curaco

Take your guests down to Casco Viejo around late afternoon and check out the setting sun over the Bridge of the Americas and the Causeway. The setting sun makes some great shadows on the old buildings. Once you have walked around go to Manolo Curaco for some dinner based on the fresh ingredients from the daily market.

Sushi: Matsui

Panama City has lots of Sushi restaurants but most are what I consider “fast food” sushi. Fast food sushi is poor quality fish that is covered up with lots of filler ingredients like cream cheese and sweet sauces. Matsui has some of the freshest Sushi in town and offers a great selection of Sashmi. In addition to Sushi, Matsui has a good selection of other Japense dishes

Best Late Night Food: There are TONS!!

Taco Cart outside of Pure Nightclub… he can even make them para llevar “to go” for you

Del Prado on Tumba Muerto.. hands down the best late night sandwich i have ever had.. pork and cheese deliciousness and they have milkshakes for those of you that crave sweet while drinking adult beverages.

Casino Veneto- If you can hold out until 4 AM you can get the $2.22 breakfast

Best Breakfast Joint: NY Bagel Cafe

Located in El Cangrejo and by far the best breakfast in the Pcity. Get the Breakfast Burrito you won’t be disappointed.. and they have unlimited coffee!!!

Best Sandwich: Deli Gourmet

Several locations around the city. This Deli/ Gourmet store offers an AMAZING assortment of deli sandwiches ranging from a Club to my personal favorite  the California Pani. They also have a great selection of prepared salads… get the Curry Chicken and you won’t be disappointed.

Best Bakery: Don Pan at Allbrook

I normally try to refrain from having to go to Allbrook but Don Pan has a great selection of Latin Pastries and amazing cakes you can order. They also offer sandwiches, pizza, and traditional Venezuelan food as well.

Best Milkshake: Fruit Stand on Calle 50

There is always a line for this drive thru fruitstand. In addition to milkshakes they offer fruit salads, fresh juice, and sundaes! Secret insider tip: You can park your car and walk up to the window and order so you dont have to wait in the long car line.

Best Salads: Greenhouse

2 locations one on Via Argentina and Calle Urguay. Very good selection of soups, wraps, and sandwiches in a cool atmosphere. My personal favorite is the Ensalade Griega con Pollo.

Best place for Panamanian Food: Nikos Cafe

Great cheap place to get a taste of semi traditional Panama food served cafeteria style. There are locations all over the city and you can get tons of food for under $5. The location near the Port of Balboa is one of my personal favorite: standing in line next to a banker and a dock worker is a rather surreal experience.

Stay turned for other “Best of” Lists.

Posted by: kateinpanama | January 20, 2010

Panama Jazz Fest- 2010

Panama Jazz Festival

Over the weekend I attended the the Panama Jazz Festival. The festival lasts all week but the finale is a free open air concert in the Cathedral Plaza in the old portion of the city called Casco Viejo. Having arrived very late last year i knew that you needed to get to the festival early and bring chairs. This year they decided to bring people in via bus from a remote location which was something that impressed me about Panama.. they actually thought ahead!!! The Panama Posse armed with chairs and cooler of adult beverages promptly staked out a claim in the shade. During the course of the day we listened to great and got to do some awesome people watching. As the Jazz Festival is not a stereotypical hang out for a normal Panamanians it was a rare treat to observe a huge bunch of Ye Ye ( wealthy Panamanians) and I think just about every Expat living in Panama City. During the course of my people watchings and after the second beer run to the Chino convenience mart the following thought dawned on me….

I was sitting at Ye Ye Carnival!!!!

Many Ye Ye Panamanians do not go to Carnival as it is a little pyscho for them. If they do chose to go to Carnival they go to a much smaller carnival than the big one held in Las Tablas. So Jazz Festival was their version of Carnival. Here is the comparison:

Normal Carnival                   Ye Ye Carnival- Jazz Fest

-Seco and Atlas Beer             – Wine and Imported Beer

– Partyin in a Plaza               -Partyin in a Plaza

– Bikinis                                      -Sun dresses

– swimming trunks                 – Embroidered shorts with lobsters

– Temporary tattoo vendors – Arts and Crafts Vendors

– Hamburgers                           – Gouda and Brie
There were only 2 things that seemed to be missing from normal Carnival at the Ye Ye Carnival: Water Tanks and every other person wearing Sequins.

Highlights of my Ye Ye Carnival/ Jazz Festival included:
Realizing that the Beer sellers were buying their beer at a Chino ( Chinese owned Connivence mart) located on the edge on the Festival. The beer sellers where charging $2 per beer whereas if you went straight to the source of the Chinese Market it was only $. 50 per beer. Suffice to say the the second beer run was considerably less expensive than the first one.
A cute street kid who was trying to earn a few extra dollars by dancing with people from the Posse.

The creation of the Flaming Iguana drink while having a Jazz Festival after party at my house

Having a perfect opportunity to hang out in my favorite part of the city

Be reminded that Panama on occasion actually is more than just an annoying place to drive and old senoras that frustrate me at the store

My Panama hat being used as the subject in my pictures as the night progressed

Gringa Fits

Since i have been back i have had 3 Gringa Fits

Gringa Fit 1. Bennihana

A member of the Expat family and I might as well have VIP membership at the Bennihana. We go there roughly twice a month. We actually go to Bennihana so much they have stopped doing the show for us. One Sunday we were meeting a group of friends a Bennihana and wanted to grab an appetizer and drink before everyone arrived. We go into the nearly empty restaurant and ask to have a table for 5 people but we wanted to order drinks and appetizers. The hostess refused to seat us until the rest of our party arrived. I could understand this if the restaurant was super busy but it was almost empty!!! In my best Spanglish I informed that that they were going to seat us right away and we were going to order appetizers and drinks. It took the manager coming over in order for to be seated. Even after this the hostess shot us dirty looks during the duration of our meal. Every time she did this we held up our drinks to her for a virtual toast.

Gringa Fit 2: Pandora Jewelry Store

Having just been up on the States i grew accustomed to having lots of options and choices for things. If one store was out of things then you just went to the next one to get what you wanted. I collect charms from a jewelry store called Pandora. A few months ago i was very happy when a Pandora store opened in Panama. I love this store so much i managed to also get all my friends interested in Pandora as well. Well i suppose the trend has hit all over Panama because when i tried to go and get another charm the store had practically nothing left. They were even out of the ugly charms that you wonder why in the world they even made it.  My first fit was about the fact that had nothing. This fit involved me marching angrily around the store talking to myself about how much I hate Panama and why was it so backward The store manager sensing the the Gringa frustration told me the next delivery date for their shipment and offered to take down the charms that i wanted. This bringing my spirits up i agreed to calm down so she could write down my wish list. However when she pulled out a big book of everyone else’s wish lists my spirits fell as she turned to the back of a huge book and wrote down what i wanted. I asked her if she knew what would be in the shipment and she said she has no idea. All previous sense of calm evaporated as i went on a tirade about how inefficient all of Panama is how could anyone live in the place , etc, etc…. luckily i had gone to Pandora with some friends and they were able to calm me down with the promise that I would get my Pandora some way, some how.

Gringa Fit 3: Mailbox Place

I have one of those services that in which you have a PO Box in Miami and then the mail is air mailed down to Panama. Panama does not have a very trust worthy local mail system so this is the safest way to receive anything. However this service is also slightly expensive as it is air mail…. a letter will cost you roughly $2.50 with packages being upwards of $10 depending on the weight. The place that have my mail i think has very unfriendly hours for someone like Panama Kate who works and has a tendency to sleep in on the weekends. Suffice to say my mail built up and i was starting to get charged storage fees. I made a point to leave the day job early so I could pick up my mail. I presented my postal number to the lady working the desk and after waiting for 15 minutes she comes back with mail that is clearly not mine as it has a different postal number on it and a different name. Once  I explain to her that this is not mail she then tries to tell me that I had already picked up my mail. Luckily i had remembered to bring my invoice in with me and showed her were they were charging me for storage so i clearly had not picked up mail.  She then tried to take my money for payment of the mail I have yet to receive. I inform her that I refuse to pay for the mail until i physically holding my mail. She asks me to wait while she searches for my mail. After 25 minutes she comes back empty handed. She then tells me she will look again tomorrow and call me regardless of the outcome. I have been waiting for 2 weeks for this phone call and it has yet to come. I am trying to gear myself up for the battle to get the charges erased from my account… If it is anything like my HSBC battle I am sure it will make for some delightfully frustrated moments!

I DO NOT recommend using Air Box Express for your postal needs. There are several other companies that provide this service and so I suggest you check them out. I say this because i could of easily taken someone else’s mail home so by using this service so they evidentially do not have  a focus on the security of their clients. Perhaps if they tried to give me someone else’s mail and it was good mail like fun magazines i would of felt different but the mail they tried to give me was just a bunch of junk from my perspective.

Posted by: kateinpanama | December 23, 2009

Feliz Navidad-Attempts at Christmas Cheer in 90F

Feliz Navidad- Panama Style

Although I have been trying to put myself in a festive Christmas mood since roughly November when I put up my Christmas Tree I still have yet to feel like it is actually Christmas. I am surrounded by festive type objects that many Panamanians enjoy posing with ( scary polar bears, aliens, scary looking Christmas carolers, big presents)  and despite  I have too done the hip cocked, breasts thrust outwards, one knee bent pose with these items the Christmas spirit has yet to hit me.

Perhaps my melting chocolate based Christmas cookies as I transported them into office to give away has taken away the Christmas spirit or the turning on the Christmas tree as I apply aloe  to my burned Gringa Skin or having my love for old Christmas movies ruined as I watch poorly dubbed versions have robbed me of my Christmas spirit. Christmas is as much about the lead up and traditions as it is about the actual day. This year I have missed out on the Ugly Sweater parties , all you can drink Festive Charity fundraisers, in Store Christmas shopping,  Starbucks Peppermint Mochas, Dirty Santa Present swaps, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, hearing Christmas carols on the radio so much that you want to puke… all things that in the past have helped to get the Christmas spirit juices flowing.

However. in an effort to get into the Christmas Spirit I would like to summarize the activities that I have done in an effort to make it feel like Christmas in Panama:

Chiva Boat Christmas Party

This year my Corporate Slave party was on a Chiva boat. A Chiva boat is just like the Chiva party buses.. but instead of driving around you sail around. The drink choices are exactly the same- rum and seco with some beer. The boat sailed from the mainland to one of the islands located on the coast of Panama and back again. However what made this party interesting for me was the games that were played during my work Christmas party. The first game that was played was a pole dancing contest in which people could get up in front of their co workers and show their best stripper moves. I opted to not participate in this contest as pole dancing is not something I excel at. The final contest was a beer chugging contest… I of course had to participate in this one. I was the only girl to sign up for this contest. I did not win this contest as the beer was my least favorite Panamanian beer but I did get the distinction of being the only girl to participate. The boat eventually left us back at the dock with visions of co workers performing pole dancing and bellies warm with spirits. In true Panamanian fashion an attempt was made to go out to a disco after the boat but or course people slowly disappeared and passed out.

In Store Christmas Shopping

In an attempt to not have my family members be my personal online shopping mailbox I at one point in time had the idea to actually buy my Christmas in stores in Panama. However, I failed to consider the following aspects in my thought process:

  1. I do not think my mother would enjoy getting a gift basket of cleaning products in Spanish ( Allbrook Mall)
  2. As much as my family members do like department stores I do not think they would enjoy items from last year that most likely have holes or missing buttons ( Dorians)
  3. Although my Nephew does like Dora the Explorer ,or at least used to the last time I saw him, I think books all in Spanish are a little above his Spanish comprehension level (El Costco toy department)
  4. Even though my boyfriend does like Empanadas and Arroz con Pollo I think customs would confiscate his present at the border and the other option was to buy him a Monkey but I think I would also have a hard time convincing customs it was just my very hairy child with a tail.
  5. The things that I would buy my family for Christmas and can actually find in stores in Panama have an Import mark up on them or are Black Market- ( DVDs, Apple Products, Wii accessories, Black Market Bath and Body Works lotions).
  6. The one item that I did find that did not have a mark- up associated with it was Pandora bracelet accessories BUT not too many people in my family are into Pandora and I think I would have a hard time selling the idea of a charm bracelet to the dudes on the Christmas List.
  7. At one point in time I did just consider going down to the local Kuna lady and buying out her stock of Mola Bags, Cocoanut Jewelry, and shot glasses but I know a big portion of a Christmas present is the thought you put into it…

So family I am sorry you have had to be my personal PO Box but at least you are not getting any of the above mentioned items for Christmas. However, in my pursuit to find Christmas presents I did get to partake in some of my favorite past times in Panama:

-Fighting with old Senoras over the La Ropa American (American Clothes) at the stores

-Getting a good chuckle at all the Panamanians posing with items such as the Giraffe and Gorilla that they have posed with before but this time the animals are wearing a Santa hat. 

-The new Albrook mall light and sound show in the new food court that is so loud you cannot even order your food… hence I accidently super sized my lunch for $4 more and only got a slightly bigger coke

-Experiencing a new level of Panamanian festive dressing in which the extra  tight Christmas bling clothes are worn and makes you wonder if some of the items are actually painted on.

-Tripping over the big bags of Christmas Presents that people chose to drag on the ground rather than carry through the mall

Christmas Celebration with Jungle Girls

My Jungle Girls and I had an awesome Christmas celebration. The night kicked off with a few adult beverages followed by a dinner at a super awesome restaurant in Panama called Manolo Curaco. The concept of this restaurant is that you pay a fixed price of $25 per person and they bring you out multiple different courses of whatever was available at the market that day.  Some of our courses included the following:

Fish in a passion fruit sauce

Ceviche with Pineapple

I would totally recommend this restaurant for someone who enjoys being adventurous with food. After dinner we went to check out the Union Club which is where the party scene from the Quantum of Solace was filmed to hear some live music.  It was neat to party in the ruins but the band was a little slow for our liking. In the end we had the grand idea to go back to my house to re-group and change shoes. However our grand idea ended in all of us falling asleep on my couch in our cocktail dresses but at least we have full stomachs full of AMAZING food!!

Christmas Cookies

Trips to 3 separate grocery stores and I finally had the ingredients or at least similar ingredients needed to make my Christmas cookies.  This was after many of the recipes I wanted to make had to be filtered out due to have ingredients that I knew would be impossible to find in Panamanian Grocery Stores:

–          Any type of specialty chocolate besides Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips

–          Filo Dough- they had it a couple of times but of course the supply ran out so god knows when it will be replaced

–          Cookie Cutters- no sugar cookies for me because my free hand cookie cutting is not the greatest            

However, I will be home for Christmas and I am confident that as soon as I take a sip of a peppermint mocha/munching on a Mom baked Christmas cookie  while covered in multiple layers of clothing/ missing my flip flops and watching a Christmas movie with my family that has not been dubbed over I will be hit with the Christmas spirit just in enough time to watch my 3 year old nephew experience Christmas Joy and finally meet my newest nephew all being surrounded by the family love that gives me the strength to  battle through the fights with Diablo Rojos  and old Senoras in the grocery store line and inspire to me make the most of my Expat experience.

Feliz navidad..  Kate in Panama will be back in 2010 with some fun experiences on the books that I am sure will make for entertaining blog posts! If anyone has ever seen the website www.peopleofwalmart.com I am contemplating doing a Panama version just so everyone can see the some of the craziness that I reference.

Gringa Tip: If you are going to try to write Spanish on your Christmas Card have a native speaker proof read.. last year when I tried to write Happy New Year in Spanish (Feliz Ano Nuevo) I accidentally wrote Feliz ano Nueve.. Happy Nine Ass.  Hence this year the card is in all English!

“There are few things pure in this world anymore and home is one of the few.”- O.A.R

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