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Restaurante Amigos and our trip to Costa Rica

Boquete has a bar for the ex-pats that was as close to “Cheers” as you could ever come. A number of the ex-pats would gather around four in the afternoon and eat and drink well into the night. I knew one man who often used the place as his office.

I mention Amigos because I had taken slave mindi there on Mother’s Day (May 10). As we eating our meal, I couldn’t help but notice a Scandinavian-looking woman who was clearly signaling from her poise (and from the particular table that she had picked) that she desperately wanted to be picked up. We invited her to our table.

She explained that this was her last night in Boquete; she was going home the next day. “Home” was a few hours north of the Panama / Costa Rica border on the Atlantic.

I asked about where she lived and she told us that she lived in such a remote and inaccessible community that it requires a 4-wheel-drive vehicle to reach it and you can’t even make the drive if there have been heavy rains. She lived in some kind of nature retreat. She said she was taking the bus down to David to transfer to the bus that would take her to the border. In all, about a 7-hour process.

I wondered whether we might have an opportunity, here.

I had wanted very badly to do some touring and photography in Costa Rica but we couldn't figure out how to get across that border. On the Pacific side of Panama you can get into Costa Rica on the Pan-American highway simply by driving 35 miles north of David. However, on the Atlantic side, there was no road across a substantial river. There was only a railroad bridge built by the Germans in World War II. I suppose I could write two or three pages about our experience getting to and then crossing the border, but I will tell you this: you would certainly not want to do this without somebody who’d done this many times and who spoke fluent Spanish. It was fairly harrowing.

She accompanied us to the town of our destination — which was where some friends of hers would come the next day to take her home.

She selected a (rather cheap/sleazy) motel for us and we went in town for drinks and dinner.

mindi totally didn’t think about the “don’t drink the water” rule and had ice with her drink. She didn’t have a reaction while on this trip. We spent three days in this little village, mostly just walking around.

At the end of our stay, we took a bus back down to the border. There, as we were going through the customs process, we were forced to purchase a “return ticket” from Panama to Costa Rica (“rules” and all that”). You can’t enter Panama without proof that you’ll leave.

By the time we returned to Boquete, she was starting to feel ill. Within a few days, she was seriously ill. The story of our hospital experiences with this would fill pages.

For those of you who don’t know us, Mindi is an RN in real life.

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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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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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