Tuesday, November 22, 2011

RIDING THE BUS

Ever since I've been back in San Antonio I've been car-less.  My car is in Panama, rented out for a few months to some friends who need a second car for a while. San Antonio is a big city, the seventh largest in the US. Too big to cover on foot.


So by necessity I've become a regular bus rider.  As an environmentalist, I've been wanting to do this for some time but didn't have the incentive until now.  Perhaps it was class-ism or snob-ism that prevented me from riding with "the common people".  But now I am one of them.  And in reality, have been one of them always, whether I realized it or not.  Now, with no other choice for the time being, I'm riding the  bus.


Fortunately San Antonio has the best public transportation system in Texas, and probably one of the best in the US.  Its buses are new and clean, its drivers courteous and competent.  Most buses are equipped with hydraulic lifts that lower and raise the entire bus to make it easier for the mobility-impaired.  Every bus has devices to strap wheelchairs into place securely.  Besides the regular buses, VIA also has downtown "streetcars" (old-fashioned looking quasi-streetcars but with regular wheels) that run on tourist routes:
San Antonio Downtown Trolley
(Credit:  http://www.san-antonio-daily.com/4208.html)
Many of the bus stops are clean and shiny, covered and with lights:


Some of the older ones are quite picturesque, such as this "Tropical Theme" stop in Alamo Heights:


Alamo Heights Bus Stop - All Concrete
In case you don't know how to ride a bus, VIA has video instructions, broken down into four parts for those of us who are simple-minded.  At first I was quite intimidated by the whole process, but now am getting comfortable with it. 

Here's another good thing.  Because I'm a senior citizen, I am eligible for a Senior Discount Bus Pass.  One of the first things I did after arriving here was to visit one of the VIA Customer Service Centers to get my pass.  This entitles me to ride during non-peak hours (9:00 am - 3:00 pm) for $.25 plus $.07 if I need a transfer.  Peak fares are half off.  And it's totally free on the weekends:
VIA Senior Bus Pass - Now I've Arrived.
To help plan your trip, VIA has an interactive trip planner based on Google Maps on their website.  And if you zoom in enough in Google Maps, you can see little bus icons showing where bus stops are.  Clicking on one of these icons triggers a pop-up window that lists all the bus routes at that stop:
Google Maps Bus Stop Icons
Colors on route numbers have meanings.
You can get to them directly in Google Maps.
I don't know whether or not these bus icons are available for every city that has buses, but I suspect they are.  I just checked my old neighborhood in Baltimore, and the icons are there.  I had never paid any attention to them before they became a necessity.


And here's the best part.  The Alamo Area Council of Governments sponsors an on-line program called NuRide to encourage people to use more environmentally-friendly modes of transportation.  It seems to have been designed to establish car pools for commuting employees and has various corporate sponsors for this, but anyone can use the program.  Many restaurants and shops are sponsors and offer rewards for participating.


If you take the time to record trips you make by walking, car-pooling, bicycling, and of course bus-riding, you earn points for each kind of trip.  You can save frequent trips so you don't have to re-enter them from scratch every time.  It also calculates the pounds of carbon dioxide emissions saved in comparison to driving cars with no passengers.  And if you want to find a car-pool partner for regular trips, it can help you do that too.


So far, in the short time I've been here, I've received three coupons for $5.00 off grocery purchases at the largest grocery store in town.  I'm also getting a coupon for a free burrito at Chipotle.  And I have many points left to cash in.  Because of my senior discount, I've earned more in rewards than I've spent in bus fares!  


I love NuRide because it provides material incentives for people to be more friendly to the environment. It is one of the most creative programs I've seen in a long time.  NuRide is also available in other regions of the country, including the metropolitan New York City and Washington DC areas. DC-area friends, please take note!  


And NuRide is making a difference.  Here are some summary statistics on their impact:
NuRide Stats
If I'm still in San Antonio and eventually get a car, I'll still take the bus for trips that are not time-sensitive.  And the extra walking back and forth to the bus stop is good for me too.


It's by changing that we grow.  Riding the bus has been a new and rewarding experience for me, and it can be for you too.


-bjd
PS:  Rode the Express bus today up to the UTSA campus.  Still $.25 during the off-peak hours.  Fancy-schmancy upholstered seats and free WiFi.  What's not to like?

PPS:  I now have my old American car back, but still take the bus sometimes, especially when going downtown.  It's cheaper than driving and there's no hassle about finding and paying for parking. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

MORE REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK

So I went to Fuddrucker's today and had the first burger since returning to the States.  I believe it was only the third burger I've had this year.  Yes, it was excellent - cooked rare with bacon and blue cheese and mayo, and sweet potato fries on the side.  I don't remember Fudd's having sweet potato fries, but have to confess that I didn't visit them very often when living in the States previously.


You must try sweet potato fries if you haven't yet.  When properly made, they are just a bit crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside, so naturally sweet they don't need ketchup.  A light dusting of salt perfectly complements the sweetness. And they need to be cooked to order and served really, really hot.  Yum.


But that's not what I want to talk about.


Instead, I want to bring you, my dear readers, up to speed on the new Coca-Cola dispenser.  I was fascinated by the two dispensers sitting side-by-side in the restaurant.  Truly I felt like a country bumpkin going to town for the first time.


These new dispensers have a bit of a "Retro" shape, but are ultra modern and computer-controlled.  The customer touches the screen for the drink selection.  At first I didn't know what to do after getting the ice, but after a few seconds figured out to touch the screen.  There were 18 different kinds of drinks to choose from.   I selected "Diet Coke", my usual.  This was also the first Diet Coke I've had since returning to the US about three weeks ago.


But wait - instead of pouring out Diet Coke, the machine took me to ANOTHER screen, where I had a choice of different flavors of Diet Coke:  Cherry, Vanilla, Lime, and I've forgotten what else.  I think there were about six different choices of flavors.


I went with plain Diet Coke, and the machine automatically knew how much to pour in my glass.


Golly Gee Whiz!


I was so excited I tried to take a picture of the machine with my cell phone, but couldn't figure out how to do this.  There were no other customers there at this odd time of day, so I didn't make a total fool of myself.


Later I looked it up on-line:
The New Coke Dispenser -
Coming Soon to a Restaurant Near You

It turns out this was still experimental as late as 2009, so I haven't been that much out of touch after all.  And - get this - when Coke wants to test market new flavors, they can program the machine to create them.  Customer selections are also uploaded to a central server, to keep tabs on the ever-changing market. 


Yes, I thought this was a bit too much like Big Brother too.


If you want to know more, here's a link to an article with technical information.


And here's a YouTube video of the machine in action.


OK, there you have it:  consumerism at its finest.


-bjd

Thursday, November 10, 2011

REMEMBERING TEACHERS

Yesterday we attended the funeral of Mr. Pierce Grisham, who taught us Texas History in junior high.  Mr. Grisham died at the age of 92.  After a long teaching career he became one of the most popular docents at The Alamo.  Here he is in his "Alamo costume" about ten years ago at the age of 83:


It was good to be reminded of our past and of some of the people who had a big influence on us.  I was doing OK until my junior-high homeroom teacher's widow went up to the front to speak at the service.  I didn't know that Mr. Brehm, my teacher, and Mr. Grisham were friends.  Mr. Brehm also taught me typing, a skill I use every day.

When Mr. Brehm's widow mentioned that he had died, I choked up.  I had been hoping to see him at the funeral.  I wanted to go up to her after the service and say something, but I was still too emotional to speak.

Later, at the graveside service in the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetary, I did approach her.  I was doing OK at that point until his daughter came to me to introduce herself.  I could see Mr. Brehm in her.  We hugged each other and had a nice talk.

I never knew that Mr. Brehm had married, had children, and died.  I'm so sorry that I didn't see him again after I was all grown up.


Somehow we think of our teachers as being immortal, not mere humans like the rest of us.

Rest in peace, Mr. Grisham and Mr. Brehm.  

"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." - Henry Adams

-bjd

REDISCOVERING SAN ANTONIO

Its thrilling to see the changes that have occurred in San Antonio during my twenty-year absence.


The arts are even more prominent now than before.  They have always been important here, because of the rich Spanish and Mexican heritage, but now the arts seem to be everywhere.  This may be due in part to my increased awareness, but there is no doubt that San Antonio is a mecca for the arts.


Run-down neighborhoods are being revitalized around the arts:


  • SoFlo (South Flores street near downtown) now features loft condos and restored and remodeled houses.
  • The King William Historical District just south of downtown is almost totally restored, and what a jewel it is.
  • The South Side, where I grew up, used to be considered "The Other Side of the Tracks" but is now known as Southtown and is becoming more and more upscale.
  • The Deco District on the West Side features original Art Deco storefronts in its mainstreet section along Fredericksburg Road.


And the traditional tourist attractions have continued to be developed into a unique, pedestrian-friendly destination centered around the famous San Antonio Riverwalk.  The Riverwalk has been expanded to the north and south.  It now connects Downtown with the San Antonio Museum of Art and will go all the way down to the Spanish missions in the near future.


All in all, San Antonio is a unique blend of history, art, great food and wonderful people.  I encourage you to visit San Antonio and see for yourself.


Here is the first image I took in San Antonio after my return.  It is of the Central Library.  It was designed by the renowned Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta, I've tweaked the image to make it look more "Mexican". It is my gift to the city that I love. I hope that you will discover San Antonio and love it as much as I do.


San Antonio Central Library
-bjd

Monday, October 31, 2011

ALAMO HEIGHTS AND OLMOS PARK

What can one say about Alamo Heights, the urban enclave where my friend Sarah lives and where I am living until I figure out what to do with my life?


Alamo Heights is a slice of the past surrounded by the San Antonio Metropolitan area.  It's right next door to another enclave, Olmos Park, where I used to live twenty years ago:
Alamo Heights - Bigger in Google Than It Really Is

Alamo Heights has lots of old and beautiful houses.  We are in the "Cottage District" where houses are often small, dating from the 1920's.  But many of them are being turned into McMansions to occupy virtually every square foot on their lot:

A McMansion in Alamo Heights - formerly a cottage
Not the house where I'm living
Olmos Park is where the "old" money is.  Needless to say, we were not among that elite group.  We probably had the smallest and cheapest house in Olmos Park.  McMansion-itis  has struck Olmos Park too, as you can see in the "Old" and "New" photos of our old house:

What our old house in Olmos Park used to look like -a comfy, homey cottage
What our old house looks like now.
There's actually room for about three more gables -
don't know why the speculator didn't go ahead and put them in.
On the market for $850,000 - and no garage.

Here are a few things I've learned about Alamo Heights in the week or so I've been here:
  • People still wave at each other.  This is an old Texas tradition, part of my childhood, where strangers passing each other smile and wave.  And I thought Panamá was the only place left that did that.  It actually brought tears to my eyes when I first was the recipient of a wave this last week while walking the dogs around the neighborhood.
  • People don't lock their houses or cars.  There has been a spate of about four thefts of laptop computers left in unlocked cars.  (DUH!)
  • Neighbors speak to each other and are friendly and made it a point to tell me my barking dogs wouldn't bother them.  (This is in stark contrast to Baltimore.)
  • The only commercial area in central Alamo Heights is on Broadway, and many of the shops look exactly the same as they did fifty years ago.
  • But there is a huge new upscale shopping center - Alamo Quarry Market - built on the site of the old Alamo Cement works:
Quarry Market - Consumerism within walking distance
  • And another large strip center nearby contains a huge supermarket, more restaurants, etc.
  • Alamo Heights is still pretty much white  - very white (95.3% according to the 2010 Census).

Alamo Heights is the dream to which many American families and communities aspire.  But right next door, in Olmos Basin where Olmos Creek meanders, the sex offenders still hang out just as they have been doing for years.  These are often prominent, upstanding people who become very embarrassed to see their pictures in the newspaper after their arrest.


And there is a raw sewage leak somewhere and garbage piling up in Olmos Creek, that neither the City of San Antonio or Alamo Heights wants to take responsibility for.


Maybe the American Dream is a bit tarnished here.  But you'd never know it from the housewives driving their Mercedes SUVs back and forth from the hair salon.


Alamo Heights lives on in the minds of its residents as the quaint village it always was.  It's a rather strange reality here.


But, to be totally honest, I love it.


-bjd

Sunday, October 30, 2011

HOMAGE TO WALMART



Well, I never thought I would say this, but I love Walmart.


We went to a relatively new Walmart in Alamo Heights, and it was wonderful.  (There will be another post on Alamo Heights, the urban enclave where my friend Sarah lives.) 


Perhaps this is still reverse culture shock, but their groceries were fabulous - fresh strawberries bursting with flavor, gourmet bread, tremendous variety.  One-stop shopping for everything you need.  I guess I'm still recoiling from not being able to walk into a store in Panamá and find everything on the shopping list.


Yes, Walmart has oppressive practices such as driving Mom-and-Pop businesses out of small towns and discriminating against women in their employee practices.  But hey, this is the Land of Plenty, the Home of the Brave and the Free, the Culmination of Capitalism in All Its Glory.


So now I'm faced with a moral dilemma - shall I shop at Walmart and save money, or do I seek out those vendors with the most ethical corporate practices?  Or is "Ethical Corporate Practice" an oxymoron now?


On the other hand, my old retail friend Target still gives five percent of its income to community services and now has similar fresh groceries, so perhaps I'll remain loyal to my formerly favorite big box store.


Needs more research.  Oh, the complexities of capitalism.  It was so much simpler living in Panamá where the choices are so few.


In the meantime, I have closed out my Bank of America accounts and transferred to a large local credit union in anticipation of November 5 Bank Transfer Day:


Guy Fawkes Mask
Symbol of the 99%

(Guy Fawkes led a rebellion against the British government on November 5,  1605.)
-bjd

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

COMING HOME TO AMERICA

After much hassle from American Airlines about flying my two mini-wienies together in one box as checked baggage, we arrived safely in Miami on Wednesday morning.  There was another four-hour delay to get the rental car, we made it to our friends' house in Coral Springs to spend the night.  (Note:  rental car agencies don't accept cash, which I thought was legal tender in the US of A.)


Then on Thursday, October 20, we were on the road for the two-day drive to San Antonio, up Florida's Turnpike to I-10, and then straight across I-10 to our destination.


Here are some impressions from the drive:


  • Florida's highways are amazing.  No potholes, totally clean, perfect condition.  This was my first culture shock, after learning to drive carefully and changing the steering every day to avoid the continually forming potholes in Panama.
  • Other infrastructure is so impressive to be overwhelming (see pictures of highway interchange in Houston below).
  • Billboards on I-10 are now two-sided, so drivers can see them on both sides of the road coming and going.  I tried to get a picture of one stretch on I-10 in Florida where there were constant billboards on both sides of the road, along with one 18-wheeler after another, all as far as the eye could see.  I can accept the 18-wheelers (which by the way don't seem to speed anymore), but the billboards are sheer ugliness and a visual blight on the landscape.
  • I-10 was thoughtfully designed in the rural areas with buffers of trees along both sides and, where possible, in the median.  These trees not only help to purify the air from the vehicular emissions, but also hide whatever ugliness might be behind.  The trees also block the sunlight at low angles and oncoming headlights at night.  Kudos to whoever thought of leaving those strips of trees.  Now if we could just get rid of those billboards...
  • It takes a long time to get out of Florida when you're coming all the way up from Miami and then all the way across the panhandle.  After driving 12 hours we made it as far as West Mobile, Alabama to the Motel 6.  I had printed out maps and phone numbers of all the Motel 6's along the route and had called ahead to the one in Mobile to hold a room on the ground floor once I knew we would make it that far.
  • Motel 6 is not just your family-friendly place anymore.  Maybe it never was.  This particular one seemed to be filled with construction workers staying there long-term and one poor woman who was so high on drugs she could hardly function.  She seemed to know the desk clerk well.  I guessed she was a regular guest there, working as a Woman of the Night to support her drug habit.  Sad.
  • I saw billboards advertising programs to clean people up from methamphetamine addiction.  Evidently the meth problem is not going away in the South.  Sad.
  • There is a beautiful old wooden bridge partly fallen into the water in the Pearl River basin at mile mark 133 on I-10 in Louisiana, just north of the highway.  Didn't get to stop to take a picture of it, but will someday.
About midway in the second day we crossed the state line into Texas.  Here are the dogs and I by the new iron Texas state markers at the visitor's information center.  We are all happy to be here!




The state has done away with the old limestone markers.  Too bad.  I think they had way more class than the new iron ones.




Here are two more welcome signs seen along the highway:


As the day wore on we arrived in Houston.  I had lived in Houston for several years, so could thread my way through the downtown expressways to get through town heading west:
Houston skyline - pretty much unchanged.
(Note:  Taking picures while driving in freeway traffic is probably not a good idea.)
Again the extent and the newness of the infrastructure were impressive.  Here is a relatively new highway interchange on the west side:


Lots of concrete

Some of the new architecture is underwhelming:

What were they thinking when they built this monstrosity?

The countryside was greener than I had expected from a recent rain in the all-time record drought.  We passed through familiar scenes, including my all-time favorite, Woman Hollering Creek.  This most interesting name apparently comes from the famous legend of La Llorona in Mexico and the US Southwest.  It seems that the ghost of a single mother who drowned her baby in the creek haunts the area with her mournful cries.


After what seemed like an eternity we finally saw the skyline of San Antonio:
First view of San Antonio - welcome home

The route took us through downtown past the Alamodome, home of the San Antonio Spurs:
The Alamodome - not the "Cesar Chavez Alamodome" as the roadsigns imply
We reached our destination - my friend Sarah's house - about dark.  Sarah and I went out for Tex-Mex food.  


All is well with the world.
-bjd

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

INTERLUDE

After much thought and planning, I'm leaving today with my three dogs to go back to the States for an extended visit. I expect this to be on the order of three to four months.


So these posts will morph for a while into how this Gringa will be dealing the with culture and sticker shock of being back in the States. Should be interesting.  I'll be in San Antonio, Texas - my home town and still my most favorite city in the world.


Those few of you who are my faithful readers know that I've been homesick for a while.  I think this is normal to some extent for any ex-pat.  My homesickness, however, was profound.  Need to get it out of my system.


If all goes well, I'll be back in Boquete in January - February, and will be able to go back to San Antonio - or wherever I want - once or twice a year.


The rain here is almost daily for several hours. So far today, and for most of last night, it is a gentle one - the famous Bajareque mist.  I don't mind the rain at all.  It is relaxing and makes the green beauty in the surrounding hills.


But the all-pervasive mold is something else again.  When I return I will crank up the dehumidifier and likely get one for every room.  This, I have found, is the secret of living here in the rainy season.


Wish me luck in flying the dogs out.  Hopefully American airlines will allow the two mini-wienies to go together in one kennel, as they did coming down. I'm armed with a print-out of the IATA regulations saying this is permissable. We have all the supposed necessary documentation to get back into the US:  current original rabies certificates showing vaccination within the past year, and a Certificate of Health signed by the veterinarian for each dog, which must be within the past ten days.  We went to the vet yesterday, the latest possible moment, just in case we can't fly out to Miami because of heat or flooding in Florida.


Today we're flying from David to Panama City for our 7:00 am flight tomorrow morning.  My man-on-the-ground in Panama City will take us to Tocumen and go into the airport with me to bribe the ticket agent if necessary.


Hey, this IS Central America, after all!


Funny, I am already missing Boquete even though I'm not gone yet!


See you soon,
-bjd

Thursday, September 29, 2011

AZUERO PENINSULA - EAST

After covering the Western part of the Azuero, which is green and hilly, we ventured over to the Eastern side.  The Eastern Azuero is where the small Spanish towns are with their lovely architecture, churches and plazas. 


It was very hot here.  We'd been spoiled by the perpetual springtime weather in Boquete.  The air conditioner in my car konked out from the overload of being run for eight hours straight.  So we rolled the windows down for the rest of the trip and sweated a lot.


In general, I didn't care for Chitré and Las Tablas, the larger towns.  You won't see any pictures of them here.  Noted for their huge celebrations during Carnival, they were congested and busy.  We did find a great bargain in a hotel in Las Tablas for $15 a night (including our 50% Jubilada discount).  No hot water in the shower, but after being in the heat all day the cold shower felt good.


Did I mention it was hot?


But there are several smaller towns, some off the beaten path, that provided lovely views.  Some of these towns date from the 1500's - settled within one generation of Christopher Columbus' voyage to the Americas.  The houses were built in traditional Spanish colonial style, with covered front porches going the entire width of the house, tile roofs and elaborately carved doors and transoms.  The people there were friendly and laid back.  Here are a few of my favorite sights:

La Elena, one of the first towns as you come south off the Interamericana.  Basically a tourist trap, but there are some lovely old houses there.  What were they thinking when they installed that electric meter on the front column?  Where is their sense of historic preservation?


A lovely house with green door in La Elena

Crab tracks scribbled in the sand at a beach near Las Tablas
These are tiny crabs, maybe half an inch across.  The sand balls up as they scurry across it.  You can mash the balls back into granular sand easily.  Beach was at low tide; tides can vary by 15-30 feet here.




A charming beach house we looked at on Playa Estero.
Yes, that's the beach on the left, just outside the door.

View from the Carretera Nacional near the turnoff for San José.
This is cattle country - note the windmill. 

San José was on a by-way off the main road.  They had just had a fair and rodeo in the town square.  Here is their church:


Church on the Plaza at San José.  Euphemistically described as "Modern Spanish".  I do like the  two-story bell tower, but that modern arch at the entrance needs some ornamentation, don't you think?
One gentleman came over from the beer hall, where several regulars were gathered, to tell us all about it.  We nearly sat down to have a beer with "the guys" but decided against it.  Everything was so peaceful, beautiful and fun. We had a great time during the short time we were in San Jose.  They are probably still talking about the two American women who stopped to talk with them.

Then, on the way out of town, a young man pointed a huge silver automatic pistol at us as we were driving by.  Scared the Bejeezus out of me.  We had wondered how so many people could live with no apparent means of employment.  Maybe we were naïve - perhaps this is a route for drug trafficking.  Seems fairly far inland for that.  Sad if it is true.


Heading on down the peninsula, we stopped at Pocrí, another lazy town.

Church and town plaza at Pocrí.
A lovely, artsy town.  I could live there.
Pocrí rocks.

Charming cottage on the town square in Pocrí.
The satellite dish and cell phone tower kind of spoiled the view for me. But, as they say, that's progress.

On a Panamanian friend's advice, we decided to go to Purio, another pueblo off the beaten track.  We were not disappointed.

Purio is filled with old houses, many in a sad state of disrepair.  Here is one of my favorites:

Purio:  La Casa de Marcelina Sanchez
I was fascinated by this old house with the dirt walls showing through.  I harbored a fleeting thought of restoring it to its former glory.  While we were standing in front of it, a lady from across the street came over to talk to us and explained that Señora Sanchez had been her aunt.

I so regret not having known Tía Marcelina.

Then, on the porch of the house next door, we saw this friendly woman (likely another Sanchez relative), who gave us permission to take her picture.  I love how her hair rollers are color-coordinated with her outfit and the walls of her house are two different colors:

This, my friends, is the real Panamá:
kind, gentle, friendly people.
I feel privileged to see them.

We looked around this fascinating town of Purio some more, and found this classic scene.  I don't know what the machinery is used for, but it seems to be the real thing.  No other tourists were here.


Old machinery on a porch at Purio

Private chapel on the Carretera Nacional near Purio.  We weren't allowed to go in.  Note the lovely spiral staircase going up to the bell tower, and the beautiful turquoise trim next to the cream walls.  ¡Qué estilo!
Then it was on to Pedasí, the southernmost town in our journey.  Pedasí also has the charming houses and town square, and boasts one regular restaurant owned by a Chinese family and featuring Chinese-Panamanian food.  Restaurants other than fondas and typicos were next to impossible to find anywhere on the peninsula, even in the larger towns.  I was beginning to realize how spoiled we Gringos are in Boquete, which boasts French, Peruvian, Mexican, and American-style restaurants among other cuisines.  We even used to get Thai food on a regular basis at the Gringo market until that family moved back to Thailand.

But I digress.

Pedasí is on the verge of being ruined by huge California-style developments.  They are in sight of the ocean but not directly on it.  The beaches are still public.  Million-dollar homes and huge, out-of-proportion gateways dot the previously unspoiled countryside.

What a shame.  I wonder what the native people will do after the prices for daily commodities go up.

Here is a doorway in Pedasí.  I didn't show the hole in the dirt wall, but it was there.  Another project begging for sensitive historic preservation, while the outskirts of town see ticky-tacky McMansions that look like they could blow away in a strong wind.

Pedasí Doorway

Finally, my favorite picture of the whole trip.  This group of elders was engaged in conversation on the porch of a house in the town square, probably as they have been for many years.  I love them.  I hope to return someday soon and give them each a copy of this picture, with grateful thanks for helping me to see "The Real Panamá".

Pedasí:  "The Conversation"
-bjd

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

AZUERO PENINSULA - WEST

This is the first of two posts about our road trip to the Azuero Peninsula.  This is the part of Panama that sticks out into the Pacific Ocean.  It is known for its beaches and colonial Spanish architecture.  I went with a friend who was looking for a place to live on the beach, while I was looking for the architecture.  These are merely brief, fleeting impressions.  It is difficult to get ideal light for pictures when one is just passing through.  Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy these.

Not sure if the bump to the left is considered part of the Azuero or not, but we didn't go there anyway.


We started out at Atalaya, a lovely little town just south of Santiago known for its  Jesús Nazareno de Atalaya  pilgrimage church.  Some 200,000 people descend on this little town during Lent.  Frankly I liked it better in the old photos, where the trim is a beautiful shade of purple.  Any way you color it, this is one of the loveliest churches in the country.

Eglisia Jesús Nazareno de Atalaya

We ate dinner at a typico (a small restaurant serving typical Panamanian food with limited choices on the menu).  I was impressed with the lengths they had gone to prevent their TV from being stolen and watched:

TV in Atalaya - rather difficult to watch
We stayed in one of the nicest hotels in town, a boutique hotel where nothing worked, including my toilet, the Wi-Fi and the shower.  The shower was so complicated I couldn't figure out how to turn on the water:

The beautiful but too complicated shower.
I was able to get those vents near the floor to work,
but couldn't stoop that low to get thoroughly wet.

I don't know about you, but this shower reminds me of Woody Allen's "Orgasmatron" from his movie Sleeper:

Wood Allen's Version
We did see some lovely sights, however, some of which are shown here:

Caballeros on the Beach

Beach View at Torio

View at the restaurant
where we ate freshly caught fish by the sea

 And my favorite sight of all: giant grasshoppers on the beach.  These whoppers were several inches long:

The feeling of being watched.
Nice view, but I wouldn't want to live here.

By the second night a plumber had come to work on the toilet.  He had lengthened the rod from the handle inside the tank but hadn't attached the rod to the float.  In other words, the toilet still wouldn't work on its own.  But the receptionist did show me how to work the shower.

Then it was time to move on.

-bjd