BOCA DEL TORO

Last night Mirko and I had a pot luck with tomatoes, noodles, ham sandwiches, eggs and
bread we had left over.  It was a quiet evening of packing and downloading some new music
for my MP3 player.  He flies to Bouquetta and I to Boca Del Toro. I was surprised it never
rained the three days I’ve been in Clayton but Mirko said it never rained the whole week yet it
was a downpour in Panama City every afternoon.  “Smiling at the World” proved good
bedtime reading.
    I have been in Panama 8 days and have had only two hot showers.  That is not to say I have
been not showering, but the weather is such that of the last three places I’ve stayed, only one
had hot water. A cold shower definitely wakes the mind and body. Today’s horoscope reads
Wednesday, January 23
Old and new friends alike could be of great benefit to you today. Just be aware that any new
contacts you make at this time will probably be able to assist you in achieving some of your
goals and aspirations. And there should be quite a few opportunities for you to make some
new friends and increase your social circle today.”  Great start!
    I took a taxi to the Albrook Airport to catch the flight.

..notice the military.
The Puddle Jumper we took to Boca was not air conditioned, full , and about 120% one hour
flight.

They did serve Doritos and Sprite! The seats were designed for Panamanians. Short small
Indian Panamanians.  You could view the canal on take off

and the new canal they are building.

I saw Boca Islands from the air.

You could see the beaches and the surf.

I finally got my seat belt fastened when we landed.

We disembarked on the tarmac and had to wait while they loaded out bags on a trolley then
brought them to a fenced in area where only one person at a time had to claim their bag. 

…and was the flight?

…great rates?

A van was loaded with our bags and about 8 of us sitting on top of each other while they drove
us about two blocks the the Main drag and we all had a hotel within a block.
  

  I checked into the Cala Luna

which turned out to be fairly nice. $55 a night but it’s the high season and the owner, Alberto
from Italy

, told me they have been booked since December.  The menu is Pizza or Pizza in his downstairs
restaurant.  I have an Internet connection in the lobby, Air Conditioning, Cable, but NO HOT
WATER.  I think I’m going to enjoy this week.  I had to add a day to my reservation because
the plane I waited to book to Bouqette was full.  Mirko sent me a message from Bouqette that
he was unable to book me a room there but offered to try at the place he was staying. He is
going to try again tomorrow but if he can’t, I told him to book at his place.  He is climbing the
highest mountain in Panama and camping there near the volcano.  You can see the sun rise
over the Atlantic side and set on the Pacific side from there.  I would join him but at 11500 feet
I am going to pass.
    The Gorgonola cheese and Anchovy pizza was great with the left over in my refrigerator for
breakfast I should be fine.  Locked my money and passport in the safe and am off to enjoy the
wild night life.  The horoscope may be right? 
Well Mirko did help by trying to get my reservation in Boquette and Alberto did call
Panama City and confirm my reservation in February for me but as for expanding my Social
Circle, it was a bust.     The town was like walking down the Midway at an old 50´s Carnival.
There were vendors selling hand crafts like jewelry, necklaces, clothes, bags, and all different
types of food.  There were Caribbean hamburgs, coconut drinks, fruit shakes, hot dogs, and
assorted Panamanian snacks I´m not sure of. 

        I left to return home when a black man asked if I wanted some weed.  He wanted $20 and
I told him I would sleep on it.  Just as I was getting close to home he pulled up on a bicycle
and offered it to me.  It wasn’t enough to roll two joints.  I told him a dollar and he said $10.  I
said I would never buy anything from a person that tried to cheat me like he was doing.  Later
I discovered Panama Red goes for $400 a half ounce. 
     I was back at the Cala Luna

in 15 minutes for another beer on my second story veranda. 


my veranda was painted bright orange like my living room at home.

Then the guard dog started barking just below my room.  He barked from 9:30 until it started
to rain about 1 am. I fell asleep to the torrential rain storm.  It was comforting. 
    I awoke to what I thought might be an earthquake.  My bed was moving back and forth. 
Then I realized it was the couple in the room behind me rocking my bed.  The beds are
attached to the walls and they going at it. I was horny enough without that. 
    I awoke again at 7am to the rain again.  Then the rain stopped and the dog started barking
again so I decided to take my cold shower and check out the breakfast. Surprise…HOT water. 
I had checked the sink when I arrived and it was cold but the shower was great.  My first hot
shower in days.  I didn´t want to get out. Now everything is complete thanks to the hot water.
  They even accept Visa. I was told when I booked that only local currency was accepted so I
made a special trip to the ATM and drained my spending money account of $400…now in the
safe. 

Now if the dog would stop barking! 
    Alberto´s wife took my order, cooked my breakfast and served me. A very European meal
with cold …you guessed it…ham and cheese with bread.  I did manage one egg that was
actually cooked right.
I never did get to use the ping pong table though many did.
The maids came up to clean the room next door.    The maids had been cleaning the room
for over 2 hours and were still cleaning it when I left.  They polish all the woodwork, pull out
and wipe down all the furniture too.  This is definitely the cleanest hotel in Boca Del Toro. I
was relieved that the guard dog stopped barking when the workers arrived next door, until
they started building cabinets with saws buzzing at 100 decibels until I had to leave. 
    Walking the perimeter of the Island another storm came in.  I took shelter in a coffee shop
along the water and had my espresso while photographing the rain  I need to meet some locals
that aren´t drug dealers tonight. 
    Boco…I ventured back out along the main drag looking for a comfortable perch to observe
the town. After checking my email at the local Internet café, I bought a map of Boca for $2 and
found my perch across the street on a covered patio.

Croc’s are everywhere.


Chinese
gawkers.

    I wanted some food but the waitress explained they don’t open for food until 7pm, so I
settled for what came to be six Panama beers.  I noticed a guy sitting the next table down
doing the same thing I was doing so introduced myself and asked about the local scene.  His
name was Chuck and he was from Cincinnati via Chicago. He had been in Boca two weeks and
his friend was playing in a band tonight that backed up the main band of the Lemongrass Bar
on the Ocean.  He also recommended Refugio, a bar a passed this morning on my walk.  He
said the food was great and they have a guitarist from Austin, Texas that is top notch.  He
starts at 7pm or in an hour from what is now. 
     I spent the afternoon taking photos from the porch and reflecting on the diversity in this
small town population 1500.  I felt I was in Key West one minute and Chiquita, Costa Rica
the next, then Haight-Ashbury in the 60’s.  I saw Chinese, Japanese, Blacks, Mulatto, Muslims
,Hippies, Tourists , Bicycles, ATVs, Jeeps, Trucks, Skateboarders, Backpackers, Motorcycles,
Buses, Skaters, and people going by in vehicles I had never seen. Everybody was friendly and
cheerful.  Chuck left then returned later with Chris from San Francisco and a beautiful Panama
nian girl who was his friend’s girl. Later he showed and explained he was only playing back up
to the house band that was REALLY good.  I explained I can only handle one nightclub a night
and then I left. I stopped for some Rum and water I returned to Cala Luna just before the
evening rain started.   Passing through the  Park I  noticed the  trees…climb one of these:


    Alberto was there to greet me and asked how my first day in Boca was?  He said so many
people get off the plane (which is a block away in the town) and expect a big city with all the
amenities.  Some call and ask if he will pay to have them delivered to the hotel.  I always tell
them yes.  Then they get in the taxi, drive one block and drop them off…it cost him $1.  You
can actually walk into town in 10 minutes from the airport. I like the atmosphere and enjoy
the laid back attitude of the residents and guests. Tonight I hope to find out more about the
night life than last night.
    I went up to my room to prepare for this evening. Alberto and his wife have two young girls
and three boys. They have been in Boca for 13 years and saw it grow into a surfer and hippie
haven. Both are anxious to move elsewhere. One boy is about fourteen and the other children
are young.  They have Nintendo and sit for hours playing video games. Tonight I was
pleasantly surprised to find them playing war games with an elaborate set of Union and
Confederate soldiers.  The South was winning. I explained that the South actually lost the war
when the older boy corrected me, “Not this battle”!
    A young attractive couple just checked in the room next door to “rock my bed again tonight.”
  I’m sure they are from the States after he greeted me with Good Afternoon.  I’m finishing my
fresh Pineapple and Rum drink and heading out for some food and music. The rooster that
woke me with the guard dog at sunrise was crowing as I left at sunset. 
    The streets in the evening are full of little children, big children, dogs running free, families
walking, chatter and music everywhere. I never was hassled to buy crap or approached
(except once) to buy drugs. This is a very safe place that reminds me of Rocky Point in ’76.  I
took the back road to Refugio and went one block North to run into a dead end at the Airport.
  Alberto was right that it is only one block to the Airport.  I will walk it when I leave.  Some
children gave me directions to go back one block and just continue up the same street that
Cala Luna in on. 

I did so then rounded the corner and ended up returning down the Main Street of town…Calle
3.  I asked a hippie that was American and he knew nothing of the place.  I asked a man that
looked like a policeman but turned out he just dressed like that.  He in turn asked some
women in the street and they sent me back where I came from.  It appears I walked right by
the place.  I was listening for music because I was told the band started at 7pm and it was
close to 7:30pm when I finally arrived.  I needed a Bano and asked the waitress.  She was
directing me when a man in a Western shirt came by and said, “I left the door open for ya”.  I
ordered a Rum drink with fruit and upon returning I had a sweet drink with Kiwi and Rum
that was delicious. I asked the barmaid from Vancouver , B.C. , who traded in skiing for surfing
if I could eat at the bar.  She gave me a menu and I ordered Pork Meatloaf.  I then noticed the
guy with the Western shirt sitting with another wearing a 10 gallon Texas hat. 

Doug Moreland
    I approached and asked if they were from Austin or Dallas…Houston and Austin!  They had
their wives and very young children with them and had been here many times before.  Chuck,
the guy from Cincinnati-Chicago that I met early showed up and joined me at the bar.  The
music started with the Cowboy shirt guy announcing that he was single and if anyone else
wanted to meet him he would be at the bar later.  Then he proceeded to talk about the
featured entertainer with the Cowboy hat that was with his wife. She was the one that had her
tit out feeding her baby.  He didn’t apologize for that and just started singing. He was old and
bad.  
   I ordered another drink while chatting with Chuck. He is planning on retiring after he
completes a job with GE back in Chicago.  He is an Electrical Engineer who, if he solves 300
problems on this GE project, will have enough money to finally call it quits.  My Pork Meatloaf
arrived and Chuck went to the other bar to hear his friend play. 
 I suffered through the first set before Doug Moreland took the stage and put on a great
act.  I finished the delicious meal with garlic mashed potatoes, fresh mixed vegetables, and my
Pork Meatloaf. 
   I finished two of the Rum drinks, now it was time for the house Special …Caiparana.  I
watched B.C. mix a couple of them and I was convinced she did it right.  A gallon of Caciaco
Cane Liquor, some limes and sugar.   
    A couple joined me at the bar.  They were from Eugene, Oregon and sold out three years ago
to buy a retirement home just outside of San Jose , Costa Rica.  Since then, they have been to
Boca a couple of times and are enjoying their retirement.  She was originally from Plattsburg ,
N.Y. and knew of Attica.  Then three young Panamanians, around 8-10 years of age, came in to
sell some jewelry and stuff.  Two had large boards with the earring and necklaces on them and
the other had just a small box full of the same.  He was charming and had a personality. 
Earlier today he asked if he could shine my sandals for me and I almost let him. He would
disarm people with his smile, sense of humor and laughter and they would immediately invite
him over to look through his box.  This gave him a chance to sell them.  Every they picked up
something out of the box, he would comment about how that was perfect for them.  The other
boys were growing impatient but he just ignored them and went right on talking to the
Gringos with his head cocked and a big irresistible smile on his face until he sold them
something.  I finished taking some photos and headed back to Cala Luna.
I came out the door and there were three guys sitting at a table across the street playing
Dominoes under the dim street light.  I proceeded down the dark street until I reached my
Hostel. 
     When I arrived, Alberto was doing a BBQ on the open dining room/patio so I asked if this
was in addition to the Pizza.  He explained they did it every night and the huge T-Bone steak
on the grill looked great.  I vowed to eat one before I left and then ordered a Pineapple drink
for mix back in the room.  I would sit on the patio,hoping to meet my neighbors before I
retired. I wanted to tell them that when we enter these rooms we turn on the switch to turn on
the lights.  The problem is, the switch is for the outdoor light and we don’t know it.  After your
in the room we pull the light cord hanging and think that the switch powered it, then go to bed
with the outside light on all night shining in the window.  It takes a day or two before you
realize that.  Last night my neighbor left it on all night and I want these people to know so both
of us don’t keep waking up at 3 am thinking it is daylight outside.  
    The following morning I saw them having breakfast while I was finishing my coffee and
introduced myself.  They explained they were leaving today so my spiel was pointless.  Right
after that, the lady next door was going into her room and asked if I thought the clouds would
clear so they might spend some time on the beach?  She was from Holland and her husband
was from Portugal.  They lived by the beach there but are so busy at home they hardly have
time to enjoy it.  They took a break from the cold and flew from Lisbon to Caracas then to
Havana and on to Martinique before flying into Costa Rica and Panama.  They had hoped this
would be the first day of sunbathing on the beach as the last week had been rainy everywhere. 
The day cleared and I think they left there bags to take a trip to the beach before flying out this
evening.
Please ignore the following Rant…Explanation will follow after….
    I’m struggling to get this all down…I left at around 5 pm to go to a happy hour near the
water.  After visiting a few places and meeting Americans from Costa Rica, I went on to the
local place for one two many Cuba Libras. Then I went back to this bar where I met Don and
Pam from Ontario that ran a restaurant here in Bocas a few years back and now have their son
here staying at their condo. They did recommend I take the sunset tour on Bocas for $2 . Later
I met Bob from Teluride , Colorado that was in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive and was
assigned to MACV when I was there.  He worked at the docks and knew the places I used to go.
We decided to buy some smoke but the first guy turned us off with his high prices and
small amount.  We decided, for old time sake, to buy some but to negotiate.. I went to the
bathroom and on returning he told me he struck a deal with the guy and the Smoke was in the
cigarette pack.  I only saw a small amount but agreed with him that we only wanted to taste
it and shared that old experience.  We got to his room to find there was zero in the pack ….the
man pulled a fast one and he paid for nothing.  I told him not to worry but he returned and
paid $5.00 for what he thought was A OK.  We returned to his apartment and there was his
Vietnam buddy he grew up with and a young girl that was really cool.  We popped some hole in
a coke can and proceeded to smoke the little bit he had….It was good then later we decided to
go to Beerbohm Fuck bar that was having a party.  A downfall later we were totally lost . After
asking the Police where we were, we finally found the Bheahm Fucher bar and had drinks with
a guy from Newburyport Mass that just married a 21 year old Paaaaaanamamnaian and ran a
bar in David called Panama Bills.  I was totaled when I arrived at Cala Cuna and bought some
Chicken for $1 from a street vendor with the special sauce.


DID I TELL YOUR THAT BOB LEFT US AFTER WE ARRIVED TO CHASE PUSSY.  HE GOT
DRENCHED IN A RAINS STORM BUT VIETNAM VETS NEVER COMPLAIN.

It was 4:30 am when I was trying to get everything down that happened that evening.  I was
afraid I wouldn’t remember when I woke in the morning.
                       
The following is an interpretation of the  preceding.



    I went out to check out the local Happy Hours I saw advertised.  Barco’s on the water was
the first place but the Rum and Coke was $3 and I thought it a rip though the view from the
dock bar was beautiful.  There were water taxis next door taking people back in forth to
Cararios Island across the way for $1. 
    The Buena Vista, just down the street was crowded so I sat next to a couple of Americans
that were living in Puerto Viejo , Costa Rica and were visiting Panama.  One was from
Brooklyn and the other from Florida. They had just finished these HUGE Caribbean
Hamburgers but I was thirsty not hungry. My waitress was from Panama City and spoke
excellent English. I inquired about the Happy Hour special that said all mixed drinks for $1.50
but after 3 I got the bill for $3.  She explained that a Cuba Libra is a specialty drink?  I left for
the best Happy Hour in town at the Pirates Cove.
    I was the only one there but  a two for one drink special worked, so I sat out on their dock
watching the sunset when Pam and  Don arrived. They had lived here a year ago. Pam ran a
restaurant and Don ran tours on his boat.  They sold out after dealing with Panamanians that
never showed for work but you couldn’t fire them.  They had to hire Panamanians and pay
medical…etc. They sold the business and returned to Ontario, Canada so Don could have  a
hip operation.  He ran an Apple orchard and a boat tour business on Georgia Bay.  They kept
there small home here so they could return for the winter.  His son was there now while they
rented a small room.  He said he hired Mexicans in Canada to pick Apples, then he tried
Jamaicans, and now had Romanians.  They had to pay the prevailing wage, buy their tickets
back and forth, pick them up at the airport, provide a place for them to stay, etc.  They told me
about the $2 sunset cruise everyday that went around the Island and recommended I eat a 
Pulled Pork sandwich at Bohmfauk’s bar near the park. 
    They departed to meet their son and his girlfriend and Bob showed up. Bob was from
Kansas and living in Telluride, Colorado where he is a journalist-photographer for a small
local Western paper.  Bob said he did that yesterday, got drunk and fell into the water trying
to get in the boat on the return trip.  It wouldn’t be so bad but he lost his eye Contacts, wallet
with credit card and money,  and to top it off his passport.  He emailed his doctor to send his
contacts so he can see…because now he can’t write, which is his job .      We were in Saigon at
the same time during Tet Offensive  in 67-68 .  He was with MACV, as I was, and was
stationed at the docks.  We shared some stories and a few drinks  .  Bob invited to meet his
roommates.
    When we arrived there was a beautiful lady from Toronto, who was renting a room for the
week from him for $100, and his roommate that he grew up with from Kansas.  Greg
MacDonald, his friend, now lived in North Carolina and was also in Vietnam when I was.   We
went to Refugio’s to see if the guitarist was still played but he wasn’t.  We returned to his
apartment passing a Caribbean band of about 15-20 people dancing in the street.    

    Bob decided he could do that.


 We got DRENCHED in a downpour while wandering the streets.  We all went to Bohmfauks
but it was now 1:30 am.

MR BOHMFAUK

I had no clue what day it was.  I should have realized when I inquired
about the party that was supposed take place that night and was told that was yesterday!  It
took us forever to find the place though I think we walked right by it three times.  Bohmfauks
is a real person and that is his name.  He came from New Orleans a few years back and bought
this Expat hangout, restaurant and sports bar.  We drank a lot of beer chatting with him.  I
also found out that Greg knew the lady that owns the Photo shop in Tombstone where my
friends from Holland, Peter and Jeannette had there photo taken in old western clothes for
the cover of the CD they gave to everyone at their wedding. Small world. Panama Bill showed
up to join us.  He was from Newburyport, Massachusetts, been here a year or so and was
around 50 years old.  He bought a bar in David and just recently married a 21 year old
Panamanian girl. Bob had left us after the first beer.  He never said anything but I thought he
was going to pass out and then just walked out the door, never to return.

    Finally Greg and I left and I stopped at a kiosk for some fried chicken.  It cost $1 and they
put it in a bag then you add some hot sauce in the bag and shake it to season it.  I must say it
was delicious but it was the first food I’d had in 12 hours.  I did sleep well and late the next
afternoon.


    The kitchen at the Cala Luna has been closed over the weekend with a sign on the door. 
Every night since I checked it the place was full with everyone eating Alberto’s great Pizza and
now in the middle of season the restaurant was closed?  There was a very official looking man
that confronted Alberto and his wife just before they closed.  They had a long and heated
argument  then the man left very angry.  He must have had something to do with the closing
because they closed that day.  Neither of them have been happy since the closing.  I don’t think
it was because of a health code violation.  This is the cleanest place I’ve ever stayed.  Maybe a
lapsed permit or one never obtained.
    I was supposed to meet Bob and Don at Lillie’s for breakfast but didn’t arrive until 2 pm and
they weren’t there.  I had the “Kill Me Man” Chicken and Salad for lunch.  I thought I was
going to burst into flames.  The waitress came over to ask if I was done using the condiments. 
  My eyes were watering, my face flushed,  and I couldn’t talk.  The next day it was like I had a
firecracker up my ass.
    Avoiding the bars I returned to my room and read.  That evening, I walked over to
Bohmfauk’s and had an excellent pulled pork sandwich with Cole slaw.  Bill the owner was
there and I asked him why he didn’t throw us out last night. He said we were all friends and
having a good time.  Besides, he had a door man that watched the outside and thought he
would come in and ask to go home. He would then announce that we had to leave.  The
bouncer-watchman had fallen asleep on the porch.
    I watched a good movie and retired early.  
    Today I wanted to visit the Starfish Coffee house. I’m sick of Sanka in a country that
produces some of the best coffee in the world.  They were closed as was the Pharmacia next
door where I vowed to buy a decent map of Boca.  It was Sunday.  Breakfast on the docks next
door was good and cheap.
    There were only three more evenings left before departure to Boquete.
Carnival started in five days and so far I haven’t received a confirmation from the Hostel that
Mirko was staying in.  Alberto called for me and confirmed Mirko had booked the room for
me.  Now it is time for me to call Mom and book an air flight to Panama City before that fills
up.  On the way up to the room, I showed Alberto a large Crab that passed in front of me and
inquired if that was going to be on our menu tonight? 
    I was planning on playing Texas-Holdem at a hotel out on the mainland at 4 pm.  I just
finished calling my Mother in Attica on Magic Jack over the computer network here when I
heard a band in the distance. I learned to follow my instincts and grabbed my camera. 
    My first impression was that it was the beginning of the Carnival celebration but after I
arrived on the street, I realized it was a funeral. 

He died of a brain aneurysm.
Everyone was marching to the cemetery for his funeral. I came home and called a cab to get to
Hotel Rumba for the game.  On the way out we encountered the “Wake” for the  dead man. 
The driver explained he was a young man that owned a disco we passed.  He was dehydrated
and before they could help him, he expired.  After the burial everyone went to his bar to
celebrate.  He had been a musician so all of the musicians from Boca came to play and pay
homage.  The streets were lined with people along the beach area on the way to the Rumba.
    I asked the taxi driver to wait.  The Hotel was a distance from the town and I didn’t want to
get stuck on the mainland if I couldn’t get into the game.  I arrived just in time and sent the
Taxi on his way.     
    It was a $20 buy in and the man that organized the games was the owner Blake.  I lost
within three hands.  I never even got to put up a blind…the ante.
    Their signature drink, La Rumba for $4, was named after the bar.  It was similar to a Long
Island Iced Tea but here they measure everything.  It was good but a beer was a better bet for
$.75.  I waited and played the second game.  The games go quick because they play with
$2200 in chips and in New River we play with either $4000 or $5000 so obviously it takes
longer to lose.  I seem to be the exception to that rule. The view was great while I waited for
the next game.

 I joined in on the second game and took it right up to third place so I won back my $20.  Second place was $40 and first was $140.    The owner was there with all the employees and nobody cared.     I called a taxi and refused an offer to play again. I think that’s why they offered me the joint…get stoned and get him in the game.  The whole table was stoned and bid me goodbye.
     The taxi showed and it was another DOWNPOUR that I got caught in on the way to the taxi.
  I asked him to take me to Bohmfaulks for a drink. 

  Bohmfalks

Panama Bill was there when I arrived.  He remembered me and we chatted before he paid his $68 tab and left.  I was talking to an Emergency Physician from Lancaster , Pa that had worked in Pittsburgh. He just decided to take 2 months off and travel. This was his first trip overseas.  He had rented a bike that day and driven to the Main part of the Island then all over the Island.  We were having a great conversation when Bob and Greg showed up. It had been two days since I’ve seen them. 

Bob and Greg

    We introduced everyone and were buying each other beers.  I found out that Greg was Greg
McDonald and Bob was Roberto Cerveza…or Bob Beer.  A very apt name for him.  I didn’t
have all my names right two nights before.
    A man named Bobby came by bragging about he was from N.Y.C. with his “shades” on and
a vest with bare chest and a sharks tooth necklace.  I asked where in N.Y. he was from and he
said Hudson.  That’s not NYC.  I questioned him, as he was spouting off about all he knew
about Panama.  We started talking about the 30 day Visa that I have to renew.  He told me it
was 90 days and not to worry.  I bet him a drink and he took me up on it so I went over to Bill
Bohmfaulks the owner to discover Bobby was right.  I bought another round…Bobby ordered
a drink and insisted I deliver it to his table while he gloated in front of his friends.  It was all
in fun.
     When I went over to ask Bill  the question, I ran into Austin Everett that said he was from
Plymouth , Mass.  When I mentioned I opened my first restaurant just outside in Manomet,
his girlfriend Maggie Mac Rae introduced herself as being born and bred in Manomet.  She
lived at White Horse Beach and knew all the places and the people I did.  She used to work at
the Lobster Pound at the tip of the point where I used to hang out and buy lobster.   We all
exchanged e-mails and I told them I would visit this summer.  They are planning on returning
to Boca to build a home and figure in five years they can sell and travel.  They were in their
early 20’s.  

Austin Maggie David
We took some photos, had our last calls,and took off to the Fried Chicken place across the
street.  I decided I wanted to try the Caribbean Burgers and noticed they served the chicken
too.  I ordered both and returned to see how Greg was doing.  They were out of Chicken at the
Kiosk so he order beef Shish Kabobs that were to die for.  He had met a guy from the States that just came from Costa Rica where
his wallet, passport and credit cards were lifted in Heredia.  It was his first time traveling out
of Military duty and he got taken.  I ate my burger on the way back.  It was 2 am when the
watchman let me in the gate and I retired to eat the Chicken. 
Best burgers and chicken in town…and packed every night.
It was great and they gave me a bag full of fried Plantains.  I ate some and through the rest out.
   We are all supposed to meet for the 5:30 Island Sunset tour tomorrow….we shall see.
    I slept in, as usual, then got my Boca Map at the Pharmacia before having breakfast at the
Starfish Coffee house on the water. While there, a lady from California came in. She was
studying Spanish.  Her and her husband had a place in Mexico they visited quite often and
decided to go somewhere different. I passed some homes and businesses while returning.


The fire engine is a 1918 something
and they still use it!

One business caught my attention. At night it was the lady’s home.   In the front she ran a
clothing shop then had curtains to separated the front from the back.  The whole home
/business was covered in tarp to keep the rain out and I doubt she had running water or a
toilet.


I don’t think I’d like living there.


    I returned for Siesta then went out to meet Bob and Greg for the 5:30 Sunset tour at Barco’s. 

Entrance to Barko’s

They weren’t there when I arrived and as it turned out, there was no tour on Monday.  I left to
look for them stopping in about 5 bars before finding them at Bohmfaulks talking with
Victoria.  She had been a Stewardess for World Airlines and traveled the world.  Three years
ago she came to Boca are rented a place on the water with no hot water but a cute place.  Then
her cat of 15 years died, she fell and cut her head open and needed 20 stitches, then contracted
Dengue and almost died.  The neighbors bought her a new cat.  The hospital charged her
$1.25 for her stitches and did such a good job that she has no scars.  She suffered for a week
with Dengue.  Throwing up everyday, running a high fever and chills, couldn’t eat anything but
survived.  She said it was the worst she had ever been through.  Victoria said that many
Chinese moved to Boca after the Canal was built.  Most of them moved from here later but now
are coming back to Boca and investing in Panama. I had an Italian Sausage sandwich then we
all went to Bob and Greg’s apartment to try and figure out how to run this $1200 video camera
he bought for the trip.  None of us could and I returned home with a promise that we would go
on the sunset cruise tomorrow.
   I was going to meet Bob at the Pirates Bar for breakfast at 10 am but he didn’t show.  Don, the
Canadian was there finishing his coffee when I arrived.  After a great breakfast for $3.50. As I
was returning to the Hostal I heard someone yell at me and I saw a man across the street
waving at me.  I got closer and recognized him as one of the Poker Players.   He invited me
out this evening for another game at 7:30 but I explained I was off on the Barco Sunset tour
and couldn’t make it.  There will be a second game later if I decided to join them.   I thanked
him and went back to Cala Luna.  Today was  the best weather.  It was sunny and breezy with
no rain.. 
    This afternoon I was playing with my computer and asked Alberto to tally up my bill to pay.  I was signing the charge for close to $400 for 7 days when I looked on my computer screen and realized one of my stocks tanked today when the company announced a divided cut.  It went from a $12000 investment to $4500!  I’m going out  tonight on that sunset cruise.  I thought the casino in Panama was bad, duh!  I did manage to book my ticket from David back to Panama City on Air Panama so got that out of the way.
    Barco’s was empty
when I arrived to meet Bob and Greg.  The bar was closed but I was told the tour leaves in a
half and hour so I went over to Bohmfalks to have a beer on the porch.  I could see if they
came by to meet me.  I returned to find that the tour was canceled and they weren’t there so I
took a water taxi to the Island to watch the sunset.

The taxi took me to a boat landing near the Aqua Hostel so I stopped in.

I took some photos and realized there were no clouds and would be no sunset today.

Bob, Greg and roommate Sharon were waiting on the dock.  Bob sent me an email to join them
for a party on the Island that they were invited to.  They had their guitars and were going to
play and make a night of it.  I bowed out, knowing that if I went they would stay and I would
return by myself. 
     The stars were out in force tonight.  I went to Bohmfalks and had his famous Turkey and
Sausage Gumbo.  There I met Neil Saunders from Montana who arrived here four years ago to
help open a restaurant.  He worked on that for a year until the people that hired him had a
row and he left to open a Paving Tile business.  He bought the rights to the formula and taught
Panamanians how to make the tiles.  Now he is the only one in town with these special tiles
that hold up in this humidity. 
    Leaving Neil, I looked for my Caribbean hamburg place to open…not yet.  I sauntered to the
Refugio and had a beer on the dock.  The sunset was my last in Boca.

   

A musician was singing Mike Knopfler songs.  Upon returning to the main street I noticed
band stands being set up for the start of the Carnival.  The Hamburg place was open with a
line as usual.  I bought two and returned to set up a wake up call for the morning. 


PANAMA CITY TO FORT CLAYTON

  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!

PANAMA CITY PANAMA

  
     
    Five-thirty in the morning is new to me but I was packed and ready when Don showed
up at my door to drive me to the Phoenix airport for my departure to Miami then on to
Panama City, Panama.  It was chilly and dark as I loaded my one carry on bag with my
computer on the side into Don’s truck.  He made good time and I was at the American
Airlines counter at 6:30 for my boarding pass, through security, and having breakfast by
6:45.…two more hours before departure.  I wanted to sleep.  I did on the way to Miami
with a row of seats to myself. 
    The view while landing at the airport was not of the Atlantic beaches I expected but I
could see the rows of skyscrapers and hotels that bordered the beach in the distance. 
Phoenix could take a lesson from the food concessions in Miami.  I started with some
great Cuban coffee and pastry (Guava and Cheese).  It would be three hours before
boarding so I would pass the time people watching and reading Joyce Major’s travel book
Smiling at the World.  That is easy to do in this multi lingual, multi cultured airport. 
Spanish is spoken a LOT.  The departure schedule reflects that…Cartagena, Caracas, 
Bogotá, Panama City, Rio, Havana…I wish I could live here and just fly to a different
Country every other month until I’d experienced them all, but until then I’ll just observe
their citizens.
    The flight to Panama was non eventful as was the $30 taxi ride to the City. The heat
was welcome after 15 hours of air-conditioned airports and planes…the humidity wasn’t.
  It is a dry heat in Phoenix and that is what my body is accustomed to.  The taxi driver
dropped me at the Hotel Residencia Texas and I met a drunk man from San Diego that
told me not to worry about safety.  He had been here a year and invited me to stop at
Fernando’s for a drink.  I unpacked in my 3rd floor walkup room and ventured out to
Fernando’s. 

    The streets aren’t well lit and prostitutes, drug dealers and bums are everywhere,
including my new found “friend” and his pals at Fernando’s.  It was a pleasant bar with
an outdoor patio on the street and full of Panamanians as well as Gringos.  I met them
all including Johanna.  She offered me a massage and I bought her a Corona.  We chatted
then after helping me order a sandwich she left to find a paying customer.  Only five
minutes away and $20 but I didn’t want to let the jet lag get the better of me.  She was
gorgeous, young and personable.  Her American friend Tilly owned a bar in Mexico and
Key West before taking his boat from St Augustine to Panama City and falling in love
with Panama.  Tilly lives in a big high rise condo with a roof top pool for  $500 a month
and knows the “local” whorehouses” where you can fuck “Pamela Anderson” for $30. 
He will take me there as you never go alone to the local places. His friend John bought 
and sold property in San Carlos Mexico and in Boca Del Toro  Panama.  “Irish” came
here three years ago and bought a property in the ghetto.  He renovated it into a nice
three story home but no one else did so he was the only one in the Ghetto with such a
nice home and locals took note.   Three times they busted his door in and one time
threatened him with a knife to which he replied with a Machete and then sold out. 
    Marijuana can be smoked on the street and someone offered me some when on the
way home to eat my sandwich, but I just kept going.  I couldn’t bring myself to eat the
sandwich of all bread, American cheese , dried ham and I have no idea what the sauce
was.  Plenty of time to enjoy Panama after a good nights rest in my $16 a night
air-conditioned , hotel with cable that includes a porno station.  I left the
air-conditioner on when I arrived but now the room was chilly and there were no
blankets but just two sheets. I later discovered that all rooms came with 2 sheets and
no blankets.  I had a restless nights sleep.  The mattress and pillows had a “musty”
odor with a hint of urine.

     I awoke about 8am as the room was now getting hot.  The air-conditioner  has only
two setting….high cold or off. I heard of a place around the corner that served food
24/7 and headed there.  It was an open air cafeteria that was packed with people
eating and chatting.  I passed by a “refresca”  drink station where fresh fruit drinks
were made to order.  I can live off of those.  I expected to see all kinds of breakfast
items on the buffet at 9am but it was all Panamanian meats, chicken, fried corn bread,
fried bananas, fried polenta, fried fried, rice, empanadas, those things wrapped in
banana leaves, stews, gravies, and things I didn’t recognize.  I told her to give me what
the woman in front of me ordered.  I paid the $1.65 for my plate full of food and coffee.
I found a comfortable table when I realized what I thought was beef stew was all pieces
of liver or heart or kidney.  It had the texture and looks of liver.  If I didn’t have to look
at it or think about it, it would have been delicious. The coffee and fried cornbread was
great.  
    The Acapulco next door was serving breakfast when I sat down at the counter and
ordered fresh orange juice, café, and ham and eggs.   After two café leches.  I paid my
$6 and left to check out hotel prices.   The Acapulco was $28 and the one next to it was
$20 but both appeared to be full for the month of February.  After a brief siesta, a taxi
took me to Anita’s Inn where I was to spend the next three nights before moving to Fort
Clayton where my Dad had been stationed in the US Army 33rd Infantry Regiment from
1935-1941 before being sent to the war in the Pacific.  I think I’m going to like Panama.
    I thought it best to  book  a room for 10 days at the $20 Hotel so I will have something
to return to after visiting Boca del Toro.  Crossing the streets in Panama City is dangerous.
  They are all mostly one-way so you only have to look in one direction but the streets can
be four lanes and there are no stop signs or traffic lights on most of them.  As I was
looking for the traffic to slow or go by, I noticed a small black cat under the car parked
next to me.  He waited patiently watching the traffic until it passed then darted across
four lanes.  Who said cats are dumb?
    I hailed a Taxi and he drove quite a distance then dropped me right at the restaurant
Trapiche near Anita’s.  He asked for $2 and I knew it was $1 too much but I liked him
and gave him $3.  The directions said the Anita was right down the street 150 meters. 
Well that is a football field and a half in length but before I went that far the street  met
another and I didn’t see any building that looked like an Inn.  I went around the corner
and was heading back up the other street when a torrent of rain broke through the skies.
  I took cover under an awning with another man, also waiting for something.  I inquired
as to the direction of Anita’s but he spoke no English.  He ran inside the building and
returned with his 7 year old shy son and explained he studied English and might be able
to help.  He was very nervous while I questioned him.  He had spoke English in school
and was studying it but never had a situation one on one with a Gringo.  His father was
proud and he wanted to prove to his father he could do this but between my hearing
and the street traffic and sirens, we couldn’t communicate.  The boy ran into the
building and returned with his mother.  She motioned me over and held the door
open while I talked into an intercom with a neighbor upstairs that spoke English.  I
told her the directions I had and she instructed me to go back to the street, make a
right then another right by the restaurant.  That is where I just was!  I thanked her
and noticed the rain was subsiding so decided to have a Coke across the street in a
café until it stopped.  I was getting ready when the man came up to me and offered ,
with his wife and son to drive me there in the rain!  I declined and after my Coke the
rain stopped and I took off again. 

    When I arrived at the main street I decided it was best to ask the local shop owners
as they did business with Anita’s guests and would probably know.  I stopped into a
bakery to ask the owner and her husband.  They had no idea but noted a couple of
gringos that spoke English at a corner table might help.  I approached the three of
them and inquired as to the location of Anita’s and one turned and wanted to know
if I had reservations and what my name was….his wife was Anita.  I had walked right
by the place before but this time he phoned ahead and Anita was sitting on the step
to check me in and show me around. 
 I met a few of the guests, Jim and Ron I think.  They are travelers and have been
here some months as well as having spent time in Venezuelan last year.  We talked for
a while about where to eat , gamble, drink and the sites to see in Panama.  They were a
great help though it was hard to hear them over the din caused by the construction
right across the street…which is right across from my room.  It appears Panama City
is both under destruction and construction.  It is everywhere.  I think there  is still
money to be made here.  Retiring to my un air- conditioned room, I quickly put on
my shorts, short sleeve shirt and sandals.  Now I’m ready to roll

Strolling through the neighborhood the New York Bagel Company caught my
attention. There is internet access, bagels and good coffee. I will return. The Trapiche
offered an open patio to sip a beer and browse the menu.  Joe and another from
Anita’s sat nearby devouring a great meal at a cheap price. I will return.  Back at
Anita’s, I dressed for an evening at the Veneto Casino with long trousers and shoes. 
Good luck David!

2006 SEPTEMBER: SLOVAKIA RETURN TO AMSTERDAM

SLOVAKIA

Thurs:  Observation: Not a lot of sit down bars.  The bars have tables where people sit together but few “bars” to sit at if your by yourself.  Most people arrive or meet friends to drink with.


I emailed 5 SERVAS Hosts to meet and advise me on what and where I should be going to enjoy Slovakia.  Only Sonika responded with a meeting but not until Sunday. Two others said they were busy.

I started with a bad impression, was tired and returned to the room for a few Vodkas.

Fri: That evening I started getting sick….and sicker…real fast. I took all the meds I had, hot tea with honey….slept on and off with a fever and chills…

Sat: Breakfast and back to bed…that afternoon I had to get meds so walked to local shops where the front desk directed me.  Bad language barrier and I didn’t walk far enough and couldn’t find anything that resembled a pharmacy. I took the Bus to the centre bought what I thought were cold pills but just cough drops.  The other medicine was drops you put in your water and drank.  That was a mild antihistamine I think. Again I drank tea and stayed in bed.

Sun: Breakfast and front desk gave me a message to meet Sonika at 3pm that afternoon in front of the Presidential Palace. Stayed in bed until 1:30pm then took the bus with my Meds to show Sonika. 

She had the same cold I did and gave me some of her Meds and explained the ones I had. We laughed that maybe I caught the cold from her over the internet. We walked around the gardens then she recommended we meet her sister Zora…another SERVAS host. She said Zora didn’t want to meet us in the garden because the last time she joined her with another SERVAS traveler, her dog died and she just got another from the animal rescue shelter but doesn’t want to risk losing that dog.


     We met at the bus stop and I was impressed with her.  She was attractive and VERY fit with her hiking boots and jeans. The dog would nip at anyone and barked at everything. We boarded the bus for a nearby town in the Carpathian Mountains.  I thought I can handle a little hike and it is probably good for me.  Sonika was NOT fit, overweight, balding and in poor health. Both her and her sister transcribe documents from Russian to English. Sonika works for the state and Zora works as an independent contractor.  We stopped at an outdoor Café to have a beer, a BIG BEER, before starting the hike. They also had wine cider which is only at this time of year and very special.  We climbed this mountain overlooking the Danube with Austria on the other side.  There were watchtowers the Soviets used and of course barbed wire fences.  We then proceeded to hike a trail through the woods along the summit to the next mountain and so on.  It was getting dark around the time we arrived an hour and a half later on the other side at this famous castle, now in ruin. Zora had hiked along the river for 5 hours the day before.  I tried to use the bathroom at this tourist spot that sold stale sandwiches, drinks and postcards but the proprietor wouldn’t let me.  We took the bus back to Bratislava then walked through the street while they explained to me the different sites and what it was like during the Russian occupation…all fenced in.  She told me about her son and his ambitions.  How he earned a scholarship to U of British Columbia and is in his first year.  He hopes to transfer to Princeton and loves Cowboy hats. I took them for tea at an outdoor sidewalk café, then we parted. I walked back to my bus stop to return to the Hotel 7 hours later….I slept well that evening.

I did my own walking tour of Bratislava the next day that took me up a hill to a castle overlooking the city and river. I did a few churches, lunch at a Viennese Café, hot Chocolate at a Chocolate House, a few museums and finally a few pints.  I had wished I rented a car and drove around the countryside while in Slovakia but really don’t think I missed much.  I hope to visit Slovania this year which I’ve been told is much nicer than Slovakia, which is still being run by Communist lackies left over from the Soviet Union.  Bribes and mafia. 

        I made arrangements to take Sonika to a Slovakian restaurant that she recommended and I had heard about.  Old wooden tables, high ceilings, pasta stuffed with cabbage and a hearty soup but mostly broth. Beer.  Then we walked to a wine bar where we had the wine cider that is so popular at that time of year. I bid goodbye and flew to Amsterdam on Oct 5th , my birthday.

 Took the train from Schiphol into the Centre and  then hopped the tram to Jeannette’s. 

I arrived to a bouquet of yellow roses, wrapped presents to include Men‘s Cologne, Dutch Chocolate Bar, Rum filled Chocolate Kisses, a book on Holland, and my Hash I left from the last visit with a glass of red wine to accompany it. Then they took me out to dinner at a really nice restaurant in the neighborhood. Lovely Birthday with my Lovely Special Friends!!


The next day I had a nice lunch at my favorite Coffee & Jazz Indonesian Restaurant on Utrechtsestraat…the first restaurant I ate at with David Lavington my first time back in Amsterdam in 1987.

Good to be back home in Amsterdam.