Well, this evening was interesting.  I ventured to the Veneto Casino and after perusing the Poker room I decided on a Texas Hold-em game at a table where you put up an Ante then bet on whether you were going to beat the dealer and bet double the Ante.  Also you could deposit a dollar when you put up you Ante to bet whether the flop matched you two cards to win.  If that happened , you would win a bonus depending on what the hand was…a flush, full house or even an Ace of Spades would return you a bonus regardless of whether you beat the dealer or not.  If you didn’t bet and felt you had a losing hand then you lost your Ante only.  A Mining Engineer from Augusta , Georgia was next to me with his team on the other side.  They were mining Panama for gold and had to fly the equipment into the jungle to dredge the rivers along the Mosquito Coast .  I was winning so stayed with the game until I started losing but felt a winning streak coming on so went to the ATM machine and returned to get beat down by a lucky dealer.  Back and forth I went until I lost over $400 then called it quits.  I decided to return by cab but the driver wanted $10 when the going rate was $2.  I walked.   I decided to take a “short cut” but I noticed I was in a dark area with nobody around.  I took out my wallet and removed my credit cards along with the driver’s license, Medicare card, Insurance card and $100 dollars I managed not to spend and put them in different pockets just in case I was robbed.  Within a few minutes my shortcut proved right and I ended up back on my block. 
     I decided to have the twin tenderloin steak dinner for $10 at the local restaurant around the corner. Being almost the only customer at 12:30 at night I sat outside on the patio and placed my order for Steak and Scotch.  Two Scotches’ later  my Steak arrived and at the same time an invite to join a young couple behind me on the patio.  I jumped at the chance and joined Huny and Carolina for a conversation that lasted until 4:30 am and a few Scotches. We Huny’s family is in construction and are developing a lot of these Hi Rises.  He was sidetracked with a Cocaine addiction that cost him Carolina’s love.  Now, a year later she is starting to date him again and giving him a chance but as of now, she only remembers him the way he used to be.  She is in Marketing and Real Estate and sells a lot of the condos his parents build.  Both of them were born in Panama.  She has a ear disease that affects her balance and makes her violently sick.  She may have to go to California for special operation or she will lose her ability to function.  This is a rare disease and the doctors here haven’t been able to help.  Her family went to Breckenridge, Colorado on a ski trip but she had to stay in the lodge.It was what I came to Panama for.  Huny gave me the number and name for his family Dentist to take care of my toothache. Both gave me their phone numbers if I needed a ride or wanted advice.  They were very genuine people with a big heart. I hope to meet more Panamanian people from all walks of life.
      I returned to Anita’s. crashed and awoke to major construction just outside my window.  After closing the window, putting in my ear plugs, and returning to bed, I awoke at 2pm with my alarm going off since 1 pm.  A shower with no hot water (you have to go upstairs for that) was welcomed.  Joseph, the manager called the Dentist and arranged an appointment for the next day at 10 am.  I only hope I awake in time so I won’t put in my earplugs tonight. 

     I walked over to the pharmacy to buy some forgotten razors that I didn’t pack as well as a script for my testosterone and chantex.  I got the razors and a blank look. Then I hiked back to the Casino area (with my back turned) to find the Marbella Hotel to book a room for the month.  $45 was the best I found…times 30 is over my limit so decided to leave Boca Del Toro and head for Boquetta in the North before returning to the hotel I booked the first day I arrived. I would catch the tail end of the Carnival Celebration and have time to find something in this area or I could stay where I was if it wasn’t too seedy.
    I found out I had to visit immigration a week or two before my 30 day tourist card ran out in order to extend it.  You have to arrive early in the morning and get in line with the Colombian prostitutes and plan on spending the day there unless you hire someone for $20 to guide you through.  The immigration office was close to the hotel I had booked so decided to keep the reservation. 
    As for my trip to Fort Clayton, I was told it is in the middle of no where and bring food and booze for three days. 
    I did have dinner of Panamanian Paella at the Trapechi before returning to Anita’s for drinks with my American and Canadian friends that have been living here for months.  Dentist tomorrow so bed tonight.
  I awoke to the construction so didn’t need an alarm. The Argentina breakfast at the Trapechi was excellent. A Taxi took me to the Dentist for $1.25 and it was full of Panamanians.  There were three Dentists that worked the clinic and I had made an appointment with Juan Carlos Diaz who was a young but very personable English speaking Doctor.  He recommended a through cleaning and explained that I was suffering from Gingivitis and needed and antibiotic mouthwash as well as a special toothpaste.  He cleaned my teeth with a high pressure water pick then took an ex-ray to be sure there was no decay or infection.  It was $25 for the cleaning and $5 for the ex-ray. 
     I then stopped at the Euro Hotel to get a price of $38.50 a night before taking a $1.25 cab back. I stopped at the Trapiche for a Tropical Fruit Milkshake make with fresh Pineapple that was excellent.  When I arrived at Anita’s, she was waited to move me to an air-conditioned dorm room just for me on the upper level.  I asked about returning here in February but was told it was booked. Joe and I watched the rain from the balcony then ventured out to eat.

That evening I went for the tenderloin dinner with Joe from Seattle and Jim the retired Merchant Marine.  Joe had worked with the FBI and was trained as a private investigator but had bought lots of property when he was young in the Seattle area and was now just selling off parcels and living off his smart investments.  This was his second time in Panama and knew quite a few developers and Real Estate people. He was returning to Washington to develop a ranch in Eastern Washington that he planned on living at and retiring at 45 years old. We returned and had a few drinks on the balcony before retiring. I plan on sleeping in tomorrow and my tooth now feels great.  
I slept in …and in …and in until the smell of bacon woke me at 11:30am. Last night I remember a vivid dream where my father walked in.  He appeared disheveled with his tie messed up (something you never saw) but his expression was one of understanding (something you never saw).  He asked me sincere questions (something he seldom did).  Unfortunately that is all that stood out in the dream.  Now I’m  checking my email on my laptop at the New York Bagel Company while enjoying a breakfast sandwich and the Sunday morning parade of beautiful people…one in particular!
    My bags were packed and I caught a taxi to Fort Clayton but my directions weren’t all that good.  The taxi driver, with his girlfriend in the front, stopped at the gate to ask the guard directions but went off in the wrong direction and had to stop two more times.  He tried to kick me out at an address that looked like the one I gave him but I refused and while he was unloading my bags, I approached a couple and asked them.  They pointed around the corner and up the street so I asked him to repack my things and return. It was about three blocks away and he wanted $10 when he finally dropped me off.

    On entering the hostal, the  desk clerk refused Visa and directed me to an ATM machine on a map he issued all new check-ins.  It was 4pm and HOT outside. The road was uphill and I was in a sweat within 10 minutes but kept at it.  A mile or two later I saw a policeman on a motorcycle and flagged him down.  I showed him the map and he explained it was another mile and a half without offering me a ride on the back of his bike.  Another quart of sweat later I encountered an old man with his grandchildren playing in a makeshift pool and wanted to ask if I could join them.  His daughter spoke good English and the Cafe was only a short distance. When I arrived the waitress offered me some water as soon as she saw me.  I had three glasses before I noticed the ATM machine so ordered a Coffee and roll then discovered it was broke and there weren’t anymore for another 3-4 miles further down the road.
     Exhausted I walked out and flagged the only taxi I had seen all day to return to the Hostal empty handed. I explained that I would take a taxi or walk to the Mira Flores Locks in the morning when it was 5% cooler to visit the museum, lunch and get some money from their ATM machine to pay the hostal and buy some food.  Food was something I forgot and the Cafe only had muffins.  Nicolas, a Colombian young man who interpreted to my Panamanian Desk Clerk offered me any of the food he had and a beer.  I told him I might have a banana later just to satisfy my appetite and thanked him. 
    My computer hooked up to the Internet beautifully and I have the best connection since I arrived. Now it is time to test my Magic Jack free phone calls to anywhere in America or Canada from anywhere in the world. I called Mom three times before I realized I had to turn my headphones on. Mom sounded great over the phone.   I was having so much fun using this free service I called Chris in Phoenix to find out how she was.
    Later I joined the crowd on the back patio.  It is almost a full moon and this area is quiet.  I joined Nicolas 

, Kim from Seoul Korea and ran a cement plant…just back from Guatemala where he saw two people shot dead on the streets in Guatemala City…Antonia 

from Chicago now living in NYC that took some great photos for me and Mirko

from a small village East of Koln Germany.  He had been an exchange student in Dayton,Ohio when he was 16 and spoke fluent English.  He had hiked across the tundra near Cape Horn in Chile, camped there naked and been just about everywhere. He was a Landscape Designer in Germany.  The lady was working on her PHD in English education and Nicolas was a Computer Guru as well as an Economist who had lived in Madrid, Barcelona, and Rome.  We decided to have a contest to see if anyone could determine the difference between Heineken and Budweiser. 

I jumped on that and was the only one that blindfolded could tell which was which.  I think that is because they already when through a case of beer before I arrived.

Santiago joined us but never learned where he was from or going.  I’m supposed to hike to Mira Flores tomorrow morning with the Korean to spend the day., saw the movie, had a $30 lunch at the fancy buffet restaurant.  The lunch was first class and we stuffed ourselves. Then we visited the ATM machine, negotiated a cab, stopped for some beer and food, then arrived back around 1pm.

    The landscapers instead of construction workers woke me up this morning mowing the lawn outside my window.  After another cold shower, it was 9am so I looked for Kim to go with me to the Mira Flora Locks and Museum.  Al introduced himself in the lobby and offered a ride to the Café and we took it.  A nice breakfast sandwich and coffee started the day and we started walking to the locks.  It was hot…always during the day…as we sweat our way out of Fort Clayton and into Mira Flora Locks. Kim and I talked on the way.  He runs a Cement Plant near Seoul, Korea and has been traveling for two months.  He flew into Toronto , then traveled by bus to  Buffalo, Rochester, Boston, NYC, Washington, D.C. then flew to Mexico City and on to Havana, Cuba.  He returned from Havana via Guatemala City before arriving in Panama. Next week he goes to Lima, Peru to see Machu Pichu, then a bus to Brazil, etc .etc. He is in his early 30’s, has a good education and a good job.  He told his Mother he now wanted to travel around the world and she said he was crazy.  She suggested he find a nice woman, marry and giver her grandchildren.  He said that it is such an obsession with Koreans to keep a close knit family, it puts pressure on him all the time.  When I travel, I enjoy everything so much.

We purchased our tickets and did the tour(Panama sure has some big bugs)

, then we had a great buffet lunch with a cold salad table, and rows of hot items, then of course , the dessert table.  We walked back through the old Ft Clayton before taking a taxi back.  We stopped to stock up on beer and food. 

  I offered to pay the $90 I owed for the room and the desk clerk handed me a bill for $110.  I already gave a deposit but nowhere did it day anything about a 10% high season surtax.  I argued with the clerk until he just threw up his hands and said…OK leave.  So I paid him. 

    Now I’m on the Internet browsing my email and get one of those nasty emails from “one of the guys”.  When I open the attachment, porn web sites start popping up as fast as I can close them.  Then the whole site shuts down and my computer is singled out from the network and I can’t get on the computer the rest of my stay.  I go to use the one computer in the lobby.  I guess I will catch up on my reading the next two days.
    We all share a few beers and some food and I retire early to discover…I’m back on the Internet.  See y’all tomorrow.   
    I arose early in hopes that Al was going to go to the Cafe again and could give me a lift but he was gone.  Just Mirko, Nicolas, and myself were left.  I started my walk for breakfast and a taxi showed up…yeah.  I sat down in a booth at the restaurant , ordered breakfast then visited the Bano to freshen up.  When I returned, someone was sitting in my seat and reading my magazine!  He was an expat American living in Panama.  There are a LOT of them.  He apologized and returned my magazine.  I found another booth had breakfast and went for a walk.  I took a few photos of the old barracks, bought some supplies, hailed a taxi and returned to spend the afternoon reading and playing on the computer.  Nicolas was leaving to move to Panama City and Mirko went with him to buy some beer.  I choose to relax.  I’ll have a few beers tonight with Mirko and both of us fly out in the morning. Mirko is flying to David early and I am flying to Boca Del Toro later in the afternoon.  See you in Boca!

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