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Our Stay in Boquete comes to an End

In late February, about six weeks after we arrived in Boquete, Karen’s son collapsed at work. He was 19. At the hospital, they found his heart was only pumping 10% of normal. He was rushed to Dallas so his father could care for him. It was not at all clear he would survive: he had evidently caught a virus that had caused his heart to enlarge. In fact, his best friend in Marble Falls, TX had died the previous year of the same cause.

Karen returned to the US. Mindi and I remained. Mistress said she could only focus on her son, now, and she would let me know when we could return. In October, she said we could return with our pre-scheduled departure date of December 19. Patrick’s heart was being “assisted” by a battery-driven power pack that he wore around his waist. If the batteries were to lose their charge and he was away from the charging unit, he would die within three minutes. He was on the heart-transplant list for Texas, but he was very young and had a very slim body. The wait would last nearly two years before he had a heart transplant.

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Our Spectacular Frog Holiday

b 18 red frog stem

We took one spectacular four-day holiday. I had told our main guide, Moty (who is actually an Israeli who had lived in Panama for 25 years and spoke very good English), that I really wanted to photograph poison dart frogs. He arranged a trip for us to go by bus from one side of Panama to the other side across the Continental divide. It was about a three-hour bus ride. Of course you had to then add the hour that it took to get from Boquete (up in the mountains) to David (down by the sea).

Once we arrived at Bocas del Toro, Moty left us alone to settle into our rooms. When we next saw him he said he'd found a guide for us. He said that he found a guide who specialized in taking photographers around the islands to photograph poison dart frogs. I was delighted. Moty had the clever idea of incentivizing the guide by offering him five dollars bonus per species for the two days he had with us.

As a result of this, I was able to photograph something like 23 differently colored poison dart frogs. It was perfectly amazing. Sometimes when would we get to the island our new guide would run off and find a local person to help guide us just to speed things up. The locals knew which color frog was where. You might start down one path and find blue frogs and go down a little further and find yellow and black frogs. Truly an experience of a lifetime.

 

b 19 dime   b 20 blue frog   b 21 on hand

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Setting off four our New Life in Boquete, Panama

Mistress had wanted to limit us to three bags each.

But we were not sure when we’d be back. Packing the bags was very stressful, as I wanted enough of our formal dinner clothing to feel “at home.” Now: that’s a fundamental schism between Mistress and me: she wanted to “go native” and I wanted to live as I lived, just in a different place. Thus, our ideas of what to pack differed.

Without going into gruesome details, here’s a picture showing how heavily we were traveling.  Had I to do it over again, I wouldn't do this.  Mistress was right. Just take three suitcases, not three duffle bags.

b 01 our luggage

We flew out of San Antonio directly to Panama City. Fortunately, an ex-pat person in Boquete was guiding us through this process. I assure you, without that help it will be very hard figure out how to get from the International Airport in Panama City across town to the national airport, have the bags taken by van up to Boquete, be met in the city of David, receive the car we had pre-purchased from another ex-pat from Boquete who did this as a full-time job, and follow him the hour trip from sea level to Boquete—at 3,900 feet. 

This image was taken in the middle of this little community. It gives you a sense of the place.

b 02 in town

We stayed in a motel for a few weeks while our ex-pats’ contacts found a place for us. It was stunning. Here a couple of shots of the two-bedroom bungalo where we stayed for the year.

b 03 distance shot  b 04 rainbow over house

The town was lovely. It is the center for high-altitude coffee plantations for Panama. It was settled in the early 1900s by some Swiss couples. In the 1980s a wealthy American developer began what is today a five-star resort and spa called the Valle Escondido Resort and Spa. You can look it up on the Internet. It’s actually a mostly-American community that exists separate and apart from Boquete. Guarded gates, secure walls.

I mention Valle Escondido because it was the catalyst for what became the explosive growth and development of Boquete. Now, it’s rather like living in Vail, Colorado. It’s inexpensive to live there and you can dine at marvelous restaurants or at local dives and cafeterias. In fact, you can get far more food than you can eat for about $6 in these cafeterias; there are three of them in Boquete.  Here, slave mindi are at our favorite restaurant.

b 05 dining out

They also had a good number of festivals in Boquete: here is a selection of images:

b 06 festival   b 07 festival   b 08 festival   b 09 festival

Lower left: Mistress (Karen) and slave mindi.

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How we Decided to Move to Boquete, Panama

b 00 boquete

This is the view of Boquete from the Visitor's Center at the top of the hill just before you drop down into this valley. Boquete is at an elevation of about 3,800'.  The bungalo we rented for the year was about a thousand feet higher. The 5,000' elevation point was about two miles up the road past our lovely home.

Summary post: It happened on a Sunday evening. We were all in the living room of our spacious 4-bedroom apartment leading an undisturbed life of high protocol M/s and traveling the country making presentations. As it was February, we had a fire going in the fireplace. We had finished a lovely full-formal dress dinner and were in the living room. Out of the blue, Mistress made a declarative statement: “I’ve decided to move abroad and teach English, preferably in an orphanage.” Looking directly at me she asked: “Are you coming with me?”

“Well, yes, Mistress. Of course, Mistress. Where are we going?” I said, realizing that I was at my absolute peak of my conference presentations around the country; I was in high demand. I’d already been out to three that year and had something like nine to go.

“You will help decide that. You have two months to prepare a briefing book for me. You are limited to five choices. I want pros and cons for each. Remember, I like to boss around little oriental men,” she said.

“Yes, Mistress. And when will we be leaving and returning?” I asked.

“We will let slave mindi have the Christmas Holidays with her family and then leave. I want to be out of the US by the third week of January. I have no plans at this point to return.”

Wow. As in we have a two-car garage packed with “stuff” and a storage facility out in Liberty Hill and a 1,700 square foot apartment.

At the end of the two months, I’d prepared a briefing book. It said: South Korea—best ESL salaries, very risky because of North Korea. Would have to teach away from Seoul for best salaries. Mainland China: our kink would not be tolerated, too risky. Taipai—very sophisticated and upscale, but we’ll still have troubles with our kink. Tailand—very possible. It would be a lot of fun and a great home base for photography all around that part of the world. VERY hot and humid. Boquete, Panama—recommended by a close friend who had lived there many years and was a former special forces guy. Said that knowing us, we’d integrate better there and it has a solid ex-pat community.

Extensive research into Boquete gave us a favorable impression. There seemed to be ex-pats who would help smooth the way.

Mid-summer, we took a one-week trip down there, accompanied by Jac (owner of The Jungle, already mentioned). He knows a lot about a lot.

We loved it; he hated it. We said we thought we’d do it; he said that the savings from living there would be eaten up in round-trip airfares returning to the US.

I worked out a time-and-task chart and got to work. I purchased all the tickets, found out how to rent a 10.5’ x 40’ cargo container, and Paul let us install it on his property far out in the country southeast of San Antonio. It was in place by early December.

In early December we had Rose and Blake (our favorite movers ever) transfer everything.  

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Retrospective: About my Photography

b 10 photography

Here I am with my 100-400mm zoom lens connected to a 2x tele-extender with the sun-shield in place. You can see that the lens is attached to the tripod with a "long-lens" Kirk "sidekick" mount. This enables you to pivot the lens in all positions without any effort.

+++++

I have always had a passion for photography. The photographic process slows me down and enables me to see in ways that I don't see in the same using a camera. 

Even before college I had a Kodak retina reflex with three lenses. A 35mm wide angle and 135mm telephoto and 50mm standard lens. I have literally thousands of slides stored in the garage in carousels of 70 slides each. Some of the carousels hold 140 slides.

I actually only changed cameras on my trip around the world when I was 21. When I got to Hong Kong I bought Nikon F. At that time Nikon was the Cadillac camera. For me, the problem with a Nikon, is it it's huge. I had trouble managing it. I sold the Nikon and bought an Olympus 0M2 with those same lenses: 35mm, 50mm,135mm. The Olympus is a much smaller camera and it was much easier for me to manage it. I bought a second OM2 as a backup camera, and as I got better and learned more about shooting on a tripod, I bought an OM1.

I’ve added a nice array of lenses for my Olympus system. I bought an amazing lens through eBay. It was a 100-400mm macro zoom lens. Someone in Britain was selling it. I later found out that it was never commercially available. Essentially, I had a one-of-a-kind Olympus lens.

I used these cameras from my early 20s until 2002, when Alpha introduced me to erotic and fetish art photography. Through Alpha, I was given the opportunity to be the still camera photographer for a soft porn producer here in Austin. He had brought in some models (a couple were professional fetish models) and was photographing them playing in things like cake mix, a big mud pit, Jell-O, putting, and whipped cream. (Here are a couple of those shots.)

b 11 mud pit   b 12 pudding

I had a great time and shot five roles of 35 mm slide film. I took the film into one of our two local professional photo printing companies and dropped it off with Nate. I told him to develop the slides and scan them. I was regular at this place, because I was custom-printing some of my nature photographs.

A few days later I went back to pick up the slides and the DVD of the scanned images.

I gave my order receipt to the guy at the counter but he said he had to go and find Nate. I thought that was somewhat unusual, but figured he was new. Nate came out and pulled me aside and said in a hushed voice: “We can't print these, they are showing nudity and our owners are very strict that we cannot print these kinds of images. They are against the law in Texas.”

I was at a loss. I explained to him that this was a commercial shoot. He went back and spoke to the manager and came back out with the manager. The manager said that he could personally come in and do this run over the weekend when they were closed but there would be a 50% surcharge and that I was not to bring images like this in for processing in the future. Right.

I had to pay the surcharge, because I been paid $450 for the shoot.

Once all was said and done, I bought a Nikon Coolpix so that I could work on the images and print them myself.

After I became comfortable with that little point-and-shoot camera, I spent a lot of time researching Nikon versus Canon digital cameras. These cameras had only been out about three years. Ultimately I chose the Canon line because they had a bigger mount for the lenses. I reasoned that the larger mount on the camera meant that the lenses would be more stable. Nikon had stayed with the same sized lens Mount as their manual cameras in order not to anger their loyal customers who would have collected a lot of lenses over the years. Canon looked at this differently. They felt that they could build lenses that would be more sturdy. Also the larger lenses enables Canon to put Zoom motors in those lenses that made them far faster and quieter than the comparable Nikon lenses.

My final decision concerned the way I use my camera. I do a lot of close-up photography, particularly of butterflies and insects on flowers. After much research I decided to buy 85mm tilt shift lens. At that time Nikon did not make that lends. Also all these larger lenses in the Canon line were image stabilized. At that time Nikon did not have image stabilization either.

So I started collecting lenses and over the next 12 years kept upgrading and changing Canon bodies to the point where I currently have a Canon 5D as my backup camera in the Canon 7D as my primary.

b 13 self portrait

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