Cyprus to Panama – Anita’s Diary – Part 3

Introduction by Margaret Sheard….

Anita and MalContinuing Anita and Mal’s adventure, they have had a whale of a time for Christmas and the New Year in Panama and what an exciting new year it is going to be for them.  When I note all of the South American countries they want to visit, I feel sure we are all going to be treated to a wonderful account of these travels.  Envious or not!  Keep the diary going Anita, it is so interesting to read and follow your adventures.

 

By Anita Green

Christmas and New Year in Panama

One of the things we did before leaving North Cyprus was to check out whether our favourite restaurants in Fallaron, Panama, was going to be open for Christmas dinner and made a tentative booking.

Christmas is a very important time for Panamanians. Being predominately a Catholic nation, it is a very important religious festival and the churches are elaborately decorated and most houses also have nativity scenes amongst their lights and decorations.

Anton Post Office is in the same square as Anton church, so when we went to check for post we stopped to admire it. The church had a decorative archway along the walkway into the church and a life size nativity outside. The square outside the church was also decorated with a Christmas tree and another nativity scene.

Chinese take-away
Chinese take-away

On Christmas Eve, the expats in the gated community where we are living at the moment, invited us to join them for dinner. About 16 of us headed into Penonome, which is the town nearest to Anton.  Here we went for a Chinese meal. It was probably the best Chinese meal I’ve ever had,  We started with vegetable rolls (spring rolls, but large and cut into 4 pieces each, 2 large rolls per serving, so Mal and I shared) we followed this with vegetable fried rice, pork chow mein and chicken chop suey. The others had warned us that the portions were very generous, but we were amazed at just what this meant.  Each dish could easily have served 4 people!, luckily they were very used to people taking home what they couldn’t eat and came to the tables with boxes for a take-out.  It was very strange ordering Chinese food in Latin American Spanish, a very odd combination of language. All this food plus a couple of glasses of wine and a couple of beers came to $38!  At about 1.5 or 1.6 to the pound, this is incredible value.  Whilst we were at the restaurant, there were frantic phone calls from a taxi driver and our next door neighbours, because the taxi had turned up to take us to Fallaron for dinner.  It took several phone calls and a message to the restaurant to get everyone to realise that our dinner reservation was for Christmas Day, not Christmas Eve. Bets were then placed by everyone at the Chinese as to whether our driver would turn up again the next evening, most guessed he wouldn’t.  When we returned to the community afterwards, we all headed to the communal pool and brought drinks and they let off fireworks, it was a really lovely evening.

Christmas morning, I sent messages to my sons in the UK and then decided to head to the communal pool for a swim. Our next door neighbours came out as we were passing, wished us a Merry Christmas, and said why not come and use our pool instead and visit with them. So the next few hours passed at their place with drinks and nibbles, until it was time to get ready to go to our dinner at La Fogata, Fallaron. We weren’t sure after the fiasco with the taxi driver the previous evening if he would arrive, but we got ready anyway and were quite prepared for the idea that we were we probably staying in for Christmas.  But he arrived and was extremely relieved this time that he was at the right house and going to the right place.

When we got to La Fogata it was beautifully decorated and with a gorgeous Christmas tree. Luckily here we are allowed to call Christmas – Christmas and Christmas trees – Christmas trees, none of this nonsense about holiday trees etc. Mal opted for the fish special instead of his usual Sexy Lobster meal and I had the Panamanian Christmas dinner.  This consisted of chicken and coriander soup with garlic bread, followed by potato salad, then the main meal of ham (gammon) which had been seared and had some sort of spice to it (maybe cinnamon) with salad and chips, the meal was finished with a choice of flan (more a creme brulee type cheesecake) or fruit cake. I had the flan and Mal had the fruit cake. Then coffee completed the meal. We also had a bottle of very good Argentinian Malbec Reserve and some water and the whole thing came to about $80 plus the cab was $30 return and he waited for us whilst we had dinner, not bad at all. The journey back was quite magical in the taxi, relaxing and looking at the carpet of stars and the houses lit up with Christmas lights, add in the lorries which are always decked out with lights like the Coca Cola advert.  Beautiful.

Anton River full of little fish
Anton River full of little fish

In the intervening days up to New Year, a neighbour from the other end of the road asked if we would like to go to the river. So off we went, to Anton River. It is very close to the gated community but you have to go off road to get there. Luckily Mark drives a 4 x 4 when not on his motorbike. It was lovely when we got there, a river with rocks and waterfalls, overhung by trees and we had it to ourselves, as we went on a week day. Mark said that at weekends it got quite busy with locals.  This place is a bit like going for a spa.  In the lower river we had hundreds of little fish eating our feet (you pay a fortune for this in a spa), and then when we went a little further up we sat under cascading waterfalls that massaged just like a jacuzzi, the water was cool but not cold like I had expected. It was a wonderful afternoon and we left just before sunset as negotiating the off road in the dark was more than even Mark wanted to do.

Some of Las Villas gang
Some of Las Villas gang

On New Year’s Eve the Las Villas gang invited us to join them going to the beach at Santa Clara. We all paid $4 dollars and gave $20 per house towards fireworks. The beach at Santa Clara is lovely and soft sand into shallow warm sea. The $4 pp meant we got a bonfire built for us (on which marshmallows were toasted) and tables to put our drinks and nibbles on. Periodically during the evening fireworks were let off by us and

Mal and marshmallows
Mal and marshmallows

other groups on the beach and at midnight more fireworks were let off plus we could see the display all the way down the coast from Panama City and from a hotel a short way down the beach in the other direction, so we watched whilst we drank fizz.  Following this we all headed back to the communal pool for more drinks and laughs before heading back to our houses.

So a week of celebrations ended, a New Year has begun. It is time for us to find a car to buy, now that we have accumulated enough cash from the numerous trips to the cash point to draw out $500 at a time, and also time to start looking for a new rental to live in, perhaps one that is a bit more permanent this time and less of a holiday home. This year promises to be exciting and new and to have adventures waiting. A new car, a new home, we need to try and set up a local bank account (which won’t be easy), we have a stay at the Decameron in Fallaron booked for a week’s time, to meet up with Canadian friends made 2 years ago whilst on holiday here, and we Our fireworkshave booked flights to Nicaragua for February to stay with American friends made last time we stayed here.

Hopefully, this year will bring about the sale of our house in North Cyprus and we can then be free to buy somewhere when we decide where we want to live. We are not going to do residency here for a while, but instead leave every 3 months to explore (we can stay 6 months at a time, but you can only drive for 3).  Maybe we will also go to Ecuador and possibly to see my sister in Chile or over to LA to see my brother.  We also want to see Belize, and Cuba and Argentina and Colombia, not to mention Uruguay and so many places in the USA and Canada.  All are so possible now.  And next year I want to do New Year in Panama City. It’s going to be busy for a while, but amazingly exciting too.

To be continued……….