5 Things I Wish We Were Doing Again in Panama


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5 Things I Wish We Were Doing Again in Panama

I’m so glad to be back in Boquete, Panama again. We really thought that we weren’t going to be able to get back here so that’s a wonderful wish that came true for us.

You know I love the temperate weather here in the mountains (hard to beat daily 75 degrees temps!). However, we had a rough week here due to the effects of Hurricane Eta. Although Panama doesn’t directly get hurricanes because it sits outside of the hurricane belt, that doesn’t mean we don’t feel anything here.*

We’re currently in the rainy season here, but these past few weeks have made that extremely true! I heard that in our area we got 25-30″ of rain in just one week because of Hurricane Eta… that’s a lot of water falling from the sky! Luckily, Hurricane Iota didn’t give us too much grief.

I’ll take the rain over the cold any day though. Northeast Ohio’s already had a light dusting of snow and, although they’ve had some unusually warm weather over the past few weeks, it’s in the mid-’40s this week. That’s too cold for this freeze baby!

But even though I’m happy to be back here, we’re still limited in some of the things we can do here. Most of the limitations have been lifted, with a few exceptions like an 11 pm – 5 am curfew and prohibiting of gatherings of over 10 people. However, the effects of the pandemic have still caused a lot of disruption overall.

We’re blessed to be in the position we are with many people still struggling for work or even food due mostly to the pandemic. Even as I type this, I’m wondering if it’s even fair to write a post like this.

That said, the more each of us can contribute to the economy, the faster the country can continue to rebuild. As a side note, we’ve donated a few times this past year to help the needy here and will continue to do so while times are tight.

Ok, hopefully, that didn’t bring this post to a grinding halt. I think I’m just going to stick with this awkward transition and move right on!

Here are some of the things I miss and wish would get back to the way they were before the COVID train wreck…

Wish #1: Enjoying a nice swim or time in the hot tub

One of the perks we have living in Valle Escondido is access to two pools and a hot tub here. The outdoor pool is nice, but they don’t heat it and it’s way too cold for my taste!

5 Things I Wish We Were Doing Again in Panama - Valle Escondido Outdoor Pool

But the indoor pool is rocking at almost bathwater temps! Even better is there never seemed to be anyone there – even during the tourist season during the first few months of the year.

5 Things I Wish We Were Doing Again in Panama - Valle Escondido Indorr Pool
We almost always had this big pool to ourselves!

They have a rule that kids aren’t allowed in before 6 pm but that still worked out ok for us. Faith could do her homeschooling during the day and then we’d look forward to heading over there in the evening. It was a great way to have a little fun and then be able to enjoy some time in the hot tub afterward. And again, it was almost always just us there.

More importantly, it was a great way for Faith (and us) to burn off some energy. It’s much easier to fall asleep at night after an hour or two of swimming!

But when the pandemic hit, they shut things down here just like a lot of places. I think the last time we were able to enjoy the pool and the hot tub was back in early March.

I’ve heard rumors that things will start opening back up here again soon (hopefully in the next week or so). Assuming that pans out, that’s one wish we’ll be happy comes true. During the rainy season, we’ve mostly been holed up inside playing the Wii or card games in the evenings. With the pool and hot tub, the rain doesn’t matter!

Wish #2: Working up a sweat in the gym or playing racquetball

I’m glad that I’ve hung in there on working out. I started in 2019 shortly after I retired but had a rocky year as we were so busy getting ready to move here to Panama… Would You REALLY Work Out Once You’re Retired?

Then we got to Boquete and I was able to go full-speed while in the gym here at Valle Escondido. Things were going well and I was finally starting to see some results.

And then COVID hit. I stopped going to the gym in March and had to start working out in our condo. I didn’t have much to work with except for a set of resistance bands, so I had to make do with all sorts of weird exercises… including bench pressing my daughter! My Home Workout during the Lockdown in Panama

I didn’t know what I was doing so I just kept doing the best I can. But then I came across the Fitbod app and loved it! You just tell it what you’ve got to work with and it puts together your workout every day. I’ve been using it religiously 5 days a week for about 6 months now and it’s phenomenal.

When we were back in the U.S., I had bought a couple of dumbbells sets and that worked great. I even took (and used!) them religiously on our 40-day road trip over the summer. But there’s no way I could have brought them back here to Panama.

Now I’m back to being stuck with only body-weight exercises or using my resistance bands (the ones that haven’t snapped yet). That means I get a lot of the same exercises repeated on a regular basis… that gets a little boring.

I’ve considered buying dumbbells here but why spend the money? We have a full gym here in Valle Escondido that I have access to that should be opening its doors soon. And even better, I usually have it to myself or maybe there’ll be one or two other people there. So now I just have to wish upon a start that it opens back up sooner than later.

Also, connected to the gym is a racquetball court. I used to love playing racquetball in college and even played a few times again a few years ago in Ohio with a friend. But now we have easy access to a court and I have a daughter who loves it.

5 Things I Wish We Were Doing Again in Panama - Playing Racquetball

I started teaching Lisa and Faith how to play before the lockdown here. Sometimes, Faith would go with me to the gym and she would practice hitting the ball while I was working out in the gym.

Star light, star bright, hook a brotha up with my wish tonight… my wish is to have the gym and racquetball court open up again soon!

UPDATE 11/24/20: I was told by a loyal reader that they have a friend living in our complex who told them the gym is now open here. I’ll be scoping that out later today – if that’s true, that’s excellent news!

Wish #3: Lounging at the Cantina

Oh, the Cantina… we love the Cantina!

Bar La Cantina is just a small little bar here in Valle Escondido with a bar inside and a handful of tables outside.

So, what’s so special about it?

  • It’s in our gated community so we don’t have to walk far to get to it.
  • They serve beer for cheap and you can order food from the nearby restaurant to eat there.
  • You’re sitting outside just enjoying the wonderful weather of Panama.
  • It’s usually an opportunity to meet and get to know other people in Valle Escondido.
  • It’s casual and gives us a chance to enjoy a happy hour periodically.

Essentially, this is almost like your neighborhood bar… except we’re in the beautiful scenery of Panama enjoying the great weather. Plus, they don’t care that Faith’s with us, and she loves it when we go there.

5 Things I Wish We Were Doing Again in Panama - Cantina

We’ll generally play cards (we always carry a deck!) and have a beer or two. Faith usually orders a limonada (lemonade) or fresh pineapple juice made like a smoothie. And sometimes we’ll order dinner there. No matter what, it comes out to be a cheap bill for 2-3 hours of fun!

5 Things I Wish We Were Doing Again in Panama - Playing Cards at the Cantina
Uno, anyone?

The Cantina has been shut down since the spring along with everything else here in Valle Escondido. I just keep sitting here twiddling my thumbs waiting for this to be open again… soon, my friends.

Wish #4: Partying it up at Big Daddy’s Grill

So here’s the deal – Big Daddy’s Grill is an Americanized restaurant here in Boquete. It’s owned by a great guy named Chris Young who also owns the fancy Boulder 54 restaurant and Tap Out sports bar, (Browns games!) all of which we love. So he’s got a little of everything in the mix.

But Big Daddy’s is special in its own right. The food’s great (Boom, Boom Shrimp Tacos… mmm!), the atmosphere is cool, and they do fun events periodically – sometimes karaoke and sometimes something bigger. Faith made herself known when we first moved here last year by heading up on stage with no fear and singing…

Make her day and click on the “Subscribe” button on her channel.

After that, when we would walk around town, it seemed like every stranger we walked past would say “Hi, Faith”… our little Boquete celebrity.

But Big Daddy’s would also throw parties with music and dancing for Halloween, New Year’s Eve, etc. Faith even won “best dressed” during last year’s New Year’s Eve party. She won a $25 gift certificate to Boulder 54 so she was ecstatic.

5 Things I Wish We Were Doing Again in Panama - New Year's Eve at Big Daddy's Grill
Happy New Year!

I’m not big into dancing but I do enjoy these parties regardless because they’re just a lot of fun. Big Daddy’s is back to being open (we’re there probably every other week!) but, as it is everywhere here, they’re not allowed to have big gatherings as they did before.

This wish is probably one that isn’t going to come true for quite some time, but I will say that we had fun with the parties while they lasted!

And for whatever reason, I feel obligated to show you the Meto Reto burger. If you finish it, you get your picture on the wall of fame. We’ve talked about just ordering it for the three of us for a regular dinner. For $25, that really wouldn’t be a bad deal to feed all of us!

2 beef patties, a fried chicken breast, chili, onion rings, 6 slices of cheese, between two buns… holy crap!

Wish #5: Bus/Taxi shopping trip adventures

Ok, this might seem like a weird wish to be on my list, but it is what it is. Boquete is wonderful, but periodically, you’ll probably need to make the 45-minute drive to the bigger city of David for some of your shopping. That’s where you’ll find malls, PriceSmart (a Costco equivalent), Conway, (a Target equivalent), Do It Center (a Home Depot equivalent), and all sorts of other stores.

But for folks like us without a car, it makes it a little more of an adventure. The first time we got on a public bus here to go to David, we had no idea what we were doing, where to get off, or anything you might consider sort of important for the trip… yet it was still kind of fun.

5 Things I Wish We Were Doing Again in Panama - School Bus
It’s a game of roulette as to which bus you get. We’ve been lucky to get the nice air-conditioned buses every time except the time I flew solo and got the school bus. However, with the windows open, it really wasn’t bad at all.

Since then, we’ve become much better at it. We know what to expect, a bunch of the different stops, and the cost ($1.75). Sometimes we would take a taxi or Uber back once we had bags full of groceries and other items… and other times we’d still take the bus.

Regardless, figuring out the public transportation and taxis here has always made for part of the adventure. But now, there’s this whole COVID thing. Ugh. We’ve been erring on the side of caution since day one. And as such, we’re still leery about getting on crowded buses for sure. We did take a cab one time since we got back over a month ago so Faith could see a friend of hers and celebrate Halloween. The ride was fine and the kids had fun trick-or-treating so all was good.

5 Things I Wish We Were Doing Again in Panama - Trick-or-Treating in Santa Lucia
A little bit of rain can’t stop Trick-or-treating…

So now what? Well, our neighbor just headed back to the U.S. for a while and is letting us use her car while she’s gone. Chalk one up to convenience! By the time you’re reading this, we’ll have already made a trip to David to stock up like mad!

But… as awesome and easy as that makes the trip, it still leaves out some of the fun. I kind of like strategizing how we’ll get from A to B to C… it’s almost like a game figuring out the logistics. My wish here is that sometime at the beginning of next year, we’ll be comfortable enough to get back on the bus!

Here’s a Bonus on Faith’s Behalf: Horseback riding

I know, I know – why does Faith get a wish on this list? Most of the other items on this list were stuff she loves anyway!

Well, here’s the deal – Faith looked forward to horseback riding at the Boquete Equestrian Center every week when we moved here. The price was good ($25/lesson) and the instructor, Jess, was great with the kids. It was also the only place where Faith had an opportunity to meet other kids here and she made a few friends along the way.

Lisa and I also made some new friends of our own while there. It’s nice to be able to hang out with other people with kids again. Life was good.

Any idea what happened? Yeah, that stupid pandemic again.

We stopped going in the spring when things started getting tight here and so did a bunch of other families. Faith was disappointed but what kid was happy with everything going on at that time? She at least understood why which made it a little easier.

Then we took a humanitarian flight back to the U.S. on July 1. The plan was to start lessons back up once we got back to Boquete. Well, while we were gone, Jess, along with tons of other businesses, closed their doors. Jess sold off most of her horses and stopped doing lessons.

That was a tough one. Faith was sad and still is. This was the only activity that she was super excited about doing here.

There are other places to go horseback riding, but those are more touristy-type of options. As far as I know, the Boquete Equestrian Center was it as far as regular lessons go.

So on Faith’s behalf, I wish that another option for horseback lessons creeps back up.

In the meantime, we’ll have to keep our eyes and ears open for other sports or activities for kids once they start rolling again. One option might be martial arts. That sounds fun to me and is supposed to be relatively popular in this area… time will tell!


Most of these wishes should be coming to fruition soon and I’m excited about that. We’re also going back to start hiking again soon, which is something we really enjoy doing. We just need to get our timing right for this one.

Life is great… but there’s always room for improvement and that’s where this wish list comes into play!

What’s on your wish list that the pandemic screwed up?

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

*After doing a little digging, it looks like the only known hurricane to ever make landfall in Panama was Hurricane Martha in 1969.

10 thoughts on “5 Things I Wish We Were Doing Again in Panama”

  1. As a public transportation fan, I enjoy its planning and occasional uncertainty, especially for leisure travel. You cannot beat its low cost, intent to reduce environmental impacts, and ability to take you to tourist, business, and non-tourist destinations. In February, I spent a week in/on O’ahu for business, and enjoyed its wonderful, reliable, frequent and clean buses several times every day to get to/from my meetings and all my days off – I even went to a few yard sales via bus. I still have an hour of bikeshare time leftover. My coworkers rented a car and complained about traffic and parking daily. I love reading maps, so I studied them for several weeks before my departure and locals were stunned at my grasp of the entire island’s geography. Its rail line is nearly completed, so looking forward to a return trip to try that out. My local public transportation has been grossly underutilized this year, so I’ve been enjoying empty rail cars and sharing buses with 2-3 other passengers, plus all bus fares have been waived because passengers board via rear doors. Cars’ popularity has caused them to lose their key characteristic (freedom) because they’re mostly operated under crowded, constrained conditions. I’m happy to make the time/cost/speed tradeoff of public transit vs. car ownership & operation, while reducing environmental impacts. I hope your family doesn’t reach for the key cars every time you need transportation, but instead uses it wisely for your occasional longer trips to David.

    1. That’s awesome that you’re able to take advantage of public transportation so much, Mary! I’m also a little jealous because I’d love to check out Hawaii sometime, but I don’t think on can handle being on a plane for that long of a time… I start to get anxious and antsy by the 4-hour mark for some reason. The 3 1/2 hour legs to Panama are about my max.

      No worries about the car situation here. Even if we got a car sometime down the line, it would only be for long trips to David or the beach or exploring other parts of the country. We love being able to walk everywhere here – the town’s “walkability” tied in with the wonderful weather makes it perfect for skipping the car most of the time. 🙂

  2. I never pictured you as an equestrian, but perhaps it is a business opportunity for you. The expat Caballero. You could engage Jess, or just be her bridge lender.

    Philosophically, I learned many years ago that just because I could do something cheaper, there was value in hiring someone else (think landscaper) to provide an opportunity for others to earn a living. Here in the states, writing a check for a service is more gratifying than just cutting checks to the food pantry. Even though we still need to do both.

    1. Haha, I’ve never gotten on a horse in my life – I’ll leave it to Faith to be the equestrian! 🙂 I don’t think it was all a money issue with her shutting down or that idea might have been an interesting thought to consider.

  3. I think everyone is missing their usual outlets right about now — myself included. Life has been a bit dull this year, but hopefully we’ve only get 6 months (or so) to go before this thing starts to get under control.

    I’ll be excited to see friends I haven’t seen in nearly a year! Hope you guys are doing well!

    1. I’m glad to hear your take on things, Mr. Tako. I know most of my working friends are feeling a big upheaval in their normal routines but I’ve been curious if other retirees are feeling out of sorts as well. Like most everyone, I can’t wait for 2020 to just be in the rearview mirror. I’m sure next year will take a while to get going like you said, but at least we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel.

      Hope you and the family had a good Thanksgiving!

  4. I think we’re all worn out from the pandemic. I’m hopeful, though. Life should get back to mostly normal by summer. I used to play racquetball when I was young too. Haven’t played in years so I’m super rusty.
    As for the things I miss…
    – Alone time. 🙂 Mrs. RB40 and Junior are home all day, every day. It’s hard for me.
    – Travel. I really miss traveling. It’s like the movie, Groundhog Day. Same thing over and over.
    Enjoy the nice weather! It’s cold and rainy in Portland now.

    1. Wow, this really hit home, Joe. Those points all ring true over here as well for me. Groundhog Day is the perfect comparison. If we ever meet up one day, we should pull out the racquets, head to a court, and pretend we’re 20 again! 🙂

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