March 9-12, 2020
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever. Psalm 125:2
Our tour bus continued on the Pan American highway until we arrived at a stunning small beach resort popular with ex-pats. Guests relaxed beside the sparkling pool and gazed at the Pacific Ocean. Thatch roofed shelters provided shade as they chatted with one another or read a good book. Many of us took a stroll on the huge empty beach before we were served a delicious lunch poolside.
We boarded our bus again and rode further along the highway to David, the second largest city in Panama. We parked at a mall and took an hour to peruse the pharmacy and department stores. I showed my list of meds to the pharmacist. She had all but two with prices similar to the USA except for one which was $6 for each pill. At home, I only pay $2 for 30 pills. If I come to Panama for any length of time, I will definitely bring a good supply of it.
Our anticipation heightened as we passed fields that looked a little brown since it’s near the end of the dry season. Finally, we passed the colorful sign of BOQUETE in huge 3-dimensional letters and arrived a few minutes later at our hotel. I received my room key card and took the elevator to the third floor. I opened the door and immediately went out on the balcony. I gasped with delight at the view of the mountain and the gurgling brook below surrounded by flowers and shaded benches. The breeze and 75 degree air immediately refreshed me. “Thank You, Lord, for bringing me to this beautiful spot!”
The next morning we attended the weekly English market for ex-pats beside the colorful flower gardens.
We passed some of the 71 restaurants, quite the haven for foodies. A number of retirees walked on the uneven sidewalks. As in all of Latin America that I have visited, it is not accessible to people who have trouble walking. I never saw anyone in a wheelchair or using a walker. I’m thankful that I can easily walk at this time in my life.
We looked at a beautiful rental home in an American style resort and had another great lunch beside an expansive canyon. Our guide told us that during the rainy season the steep slopes turn brilliant green with rushing waterfalls.
With my afternoon free to further explore Boquete, I walked to Movistar to see if I could get a chip for my phone. Success! He said my Motorola android phone was unlocked. Ten minutes later I had a Panama phone number and 200 minutes with messaging for $22. What a great deal. This should last me the month I’m here. Now I can use What’s App like all the locals. I carefully put my USA chip in the zip lock bag so I wouldn’t lose it.
My kind tour leader met me for coffee and then took me to the local doctor they recommended. After he wrote her a script for a refill he reviewed my meds and supplements. I can get all except one med and one supplement. He then gave me the name and number of a pulmonary specialist in David so I could ask them about the brands of breathing machines they carry here. Those with a retirement visa only pay $12 to see a generalist physician and about $20 to see a specialist. Many people self insure since the rates are relatively low. The friendly doctor impressed me with his expertise and excellent English.
The next two days were full of touring other mountain towns. I especially enjoyed a delightful cloud forest tour. We rode past the famous Geisha coffee bushes. This is the most expensive coffee in the world selling for $1100 per pound. (I couldn’t afford a cup.) Our tour concluded at a coffee farm with spectacular mountain views. Even though I generally do not drink coffee, even I enjoyed a cup here.
During our optional afternoon cooking class, the American chef from Boulder 54 introduced us to a reputable man who taught us how to spot a fresh fish caught in the Pacific that morning. A farmer served us juicy pineapple and watermelon picked from his fields that morning, truly the most flavorful I ever tasted. They say the rich nutritious volcanic soil gives the fruits and vegetables such outstanding flavor. Nearly everyone’s health improves here with no fast food, less stress, and daily walks.
With sadness, our tour ended Thursday evening and we bid farewell to the majority of our group who were flying home the next morning. Coronavirus has arrived in Panama City this week with 12 people infected. A popular high school principal died so the officials closed all the schools in the capital to protect the children.
Little did I know how rapidly things would change hourly over the next few days.