Monday, July 31, 2006

Panama Trip Part 3 - Los Mercados

Daily Food Shopping:
While there are supermarkets in Panama, my family members, for the most part, shop at the many little corner stores that can be found all over Panama. Some of these stores are like little mini marts where you can walk around. Some of them are fenced in (for the shop keeper's safety) so that you can go up and ask for what you want but you can't walk around to browse. In Panamá Viejo and in other poorer areas in Panama, people tend to shop just for the meal they are about to eat. At my Tía's house we sometimes shopped for a meal later on in the day but only if we needed to work on it throughout the day. The reason for this I believe is because the refrigerators that my family have, as well as other poorer families, are smaller versions of what we use here in the U.S.

Yaya's refrigerator is stocked much differently than my refrigerator here. In my refrigerator I have a bunch of junk that hopefully I will use but realistically I know that a bunch will get tossed out after a while. Yaya's fridge stores mostly water in various types of pitchers so that there will always be something cool to drink. There is also a bit of butter for bread but it really doesn't hold much more than that. The freezer portion of the fridge at my house stores tons of frozen meat that I buy in bulk at Costco. At Yaya's house it stores some ice and that is it. They wouldn't dream of buying meat to freeze it - it wouldn't be fresh when they ate it!

Where my Tía Yaya lives in Panamá Viejo, there are 3 different little stores that we shopped in throughout the day each and every day. The store that we frequented the most is the one across the street. It is the Panadería Azul.

Panaderia and Store in front of Tia Yaya's House

At one point in time, you could walk around the Panadería Azul and then go up to pay for your purchases when you were done. Due to the high volume of crime though, it has been boarded up on one allowing people to only enter in one area. At the entrance, you are greeted by a counter with iron bars that reach to the ceiling. You have to order at the counter to get what you want at this store. The store opens at 6:30 am and we are there shortly after that to get piping hot bread and juice to have for breakfast. One morning as I was buying bread, a man was buying his breakfast foods. His order included 1 egg, 2 pieces of bread, and a pint of juice. Shopping like this is so different than how I usually shop! My order was 4 pieces of hot yummy bread, 2 small juices - jugo de manzana y jugo de pera, a package of galletas de limon for Sabina and I think the total was 55 cents - wow!

The second store that the family shops at in Panamá Viejo is at El Rambo. This store is 1 block away. A rougher crowd is to be found here since it is a bus stop and there is a laundromat next door to it. Purchases made at El Rambo include laundry detergent and meat.

The third store is 3 blocks away and that is my store. It was the only place that I could find in Panamá Viejo where I could find bottled water! Yaya's fridge stored lots of water but I opted for the bottled water instead. I ended up storing it in the freezer section of Yaya's fridge since it was mostly empty.


There are plenty of big supermarkets to be found in Panamá that are very similar to our grocery stores here in the US. In fact, at one point I completely forgot that I was in Panama when I went down the cereal aisle at the Super 99.

I couldn't tell that I wasn't in the U.S.!

You can choose from Rey, El Machetazo, Super99, and a fancy one called Riba Smith. I had to check Riba Smith out because I remembered that Melissa mentioned that she liked this one! My family does do some shopping at these supermarkets but only if they happen to be out and about around town.

The Specialty Markets:

El Mercado de Abasto:

This market carries all kinds of produce.


Not only does it carry a big variety but it carries VOLUMES of each item. I couldn't believe that there was SO MUCH of EVERYTHING there.

Lots of Produce

The market has a slight smell of rotting produce but if you can get over that, there are lots of good finds both in price and quality. We bought a bag or oranges to make chicha de naranja with. A bag of 100 cost only $2.50!


There were so many amazing deals here.

El Mercado de Mariscos:

Mercado de Mariscos

This is the Seafood Market. I was very eager to go here to see all of the seafood. I was especially excited about checking out the langostinos or HUGE SHRIMP that I love to eat in Panama.

Mercado de Mariscos

This market also had an "interesting" odor (you can imagine!) but I loved it. As soon as I figured out that I need to tread carefully on the slick floors and neede to make sure I didn't let my clothes brush up against the fish, I fully enjoyed this experience.

Mercado de Mariscos

There were more kinds of fish and seafood than can even remember for sale. There were HUGE fish and smaller ones.

Mercado de Mariscos

Vendors were hard at work trying to persuade customers over to their booths to sell their fish.

Mercado de Mariscos

It was a loud and busy place and I couldn't get enough of it.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


I just received the following e-mail. It is so true...

The birds have to use potholders to pull worms out of the ground.
The trees are whistling for the dogs.
The best parking place is determined by shade instead of distance.
Hot water now comes out of both taps.
You can make sun tea instantly.
You learn that a seat belt buckle makes a pretty good branding iron.
The temperature drops below 95 and you feel a little chilly.
You discover that in July it only takes 2 fingers to steer your car.
You discover that you can get sunburned through your car window.
You actually burn your hand opening the car door.
You break into a sweat the instant you step outside at 7:30 a.m.
Your biggest bicycle wreck fear is, "What if I get knocked out and end up lying on the pavement and cook to death?"
You realize that asphalt has a liquid state.
The potatoes cook underground, so all you have to do is pull one out and add butter, salt and pepper.
Farmers are feeding their chickens crushed ice to keep them from laying boiled eggs.
The cows are giving evaporated milk.

Ah, what a place to call home. . . God Bless Modesto !!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What Famous Work of Art are You?

I just found this on The CincySundevil's Site. The results of my test are too funny because I LOVE Piet Mondrian's work. Just check out my FLICKR pics here and a post I did about doing Mondrian type art with my students here.


You Are Best Described By...

Composition with Red, Blue, Yellow
By Piet Mondrian

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Deadly Heatwave

People are literally dying in this horrible heat. Click HERE for the Modeasto Bee articles related to the recent deaths and pending deaths realted to this nasty heatwave.

Stay cool and drink penty of water my friends. Maybe this picture will help to cool us up!


Monday, July 24, 2006

Random Stuff

1) Our A/C is up and running again. Apparently the drain pipe on the bottom floor was plugged up therefore causing the drainage to come out of the drain pipe upstairs. For $180 we were able to have someone come out to look at it and poke his finger in the drain to clean it out and we were back in the A/C business.

2) It is HOT! It is has been between 110 and 112 since Saturday. It is MISERABLY hot here. Help!

3) I learned today that I should never again go to the gym at 5:00 when it is hot outside. I did a hard cardio workout today and then attempted to walk to my car. The heat from my body mixed with the heat outside almost knocked me over on the sidewalk. Thank goodness I was parked close to the door. It took me about an hour to recover from that. I am going to make a good effort to go to the gym at 5:00 tomorrow morning. It will probably be about 90 degrees outside but that is still cooler than it is right now!

4) I love the $1 spot at Target. Teacher supplies are available there right now. If you are a teacher - go and pick some up. If you know a teacher - be a good friend and go and pick some up for them!

5) Plus Size Girls Clothes:
Did you know that there is a PLUS SIZE section at Sears in the girls department? I was shocked to find this out. Whenever I am in or nearby a place that sells girls clothing I always check it out in search of decent looking clothing for Sabi. Decent clothes are hard to find so I am always buying something her and something there to make up her wardrobe. Anyway, as I was searching through Sears I found that they have allocated a portion of their girls section to PLUS size clothes for girls. I am a bit disturbed by this. It makes me sad that young girls have to start their isolation from the rest of their peers at such an early age. They have to go and shop in the corner. They get a tiny area allocated to them. The clothes offered there don't come in all of the varieties and options that the rest of the clothes come in. Self esteem is such an important thing and I fear that this won't help to encourage self worth. How sad.

That's all. I am off to take a cool shower and then go to sleep and dream about snow! That will cool me off for sure!

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Last night my mom noticed water leaks around the top edge of one of her walls and in a concentrated area above her tv. After some investigation in the attic, it appears that we have an air conditioning unit leak. We immediately turned the AC unit off. This morning I called the company that makes the unit and installed it. They informed me that they would be happy to come out on AUGUST 8th!!! Can you believe it? They also wanted to remind me that I shouldn't use the AC until then. I reminded them that it is JULY and the temps have been in the neighborhood of 108! I don't want to mention any names but they are idiots!

After my irritating call with that company, I called several local companies. Each one of them said they could fit me in but were apologetic about the fact that they couldn't come out until tomorrow or next week. I grabbed the appointment for tomorrow. Interestingly enough, this company went on to further apologize to me because since our visit will be an attic visit, they only do those at 7:00 or 8:00 in the am. Problem? I don't think so. We are early birds. By tomorrow morning we will be sweaty early birds who will be MORE than happy to have a visitor at that time.

I am crossing my fingers that the damage won't be too huge...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Panama Trip Part 2 - The Royal Decameron Resort

During this trip to Panama, we did something that we haven't done in the past. We stayed at a fancy resort called the Decameron on Playa Blanca. Sabi, my mom, my dad and I all stayed there one night before my mom left Panama and then my dad, Sabi and I went back and stayed another two nights there after my mom left. It was an amazing place.

The Decameron is a chain of resorts and hotels that can be found in Panama, Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador and Jamaica. The one that we stayed at in Panama was HUGE. There are condo/villas for people to stay in as well as hotel rooms.

The only grandaughter

There were so many hotel buildings that I stopped counting them. There were so many buildings that there are three different lobbies to handle all of the guests and their needs.

I was amazed at the cost of the Decameron. It is pretty cheap. The cost per adult is about $80 per night and $40 per child. (It is cheaper if you are Panamanian to stay there)

One of the 7 pools

The price includes almost everything that you can think of such as meals, unlimited drinks, games, horseback riding, tennis, exercise classes and a gym, snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboats, adult programs, kids programs, 7 pools and unlimited cigarrettes. (if you like to destroy your lungs like that!) There are also things that you can do for an additional cost such as golf, jet ski, scuba dive and go on guided tours of Panama away from the site. We were at the Decameron for a total of 3 nights and 4 days and didn't take advantage of half of the things that they had to offer because there was so much to do and too little time.

It was paradise

Food is served at the Decameron from 7:00 am all the way to 2:30 am the following day at different areas on the grounds. There are 2 large buffet rooms where breakfast, lunch and dinners are served.

The buffet

I usually hate buffets but these were great. There were fruit bars with all kinds of tropical fruit beautifully displayed. There were also bread bars, dessert bars and veggie bars. There were also two large buffet areas with the main course entrees for each meal. I enjoyed lots of yuca, platanos, chicken, fish, rice and best of all sancocho de pollo and caldo de pollo with ñame and yuca in them - YUM!

My lunch

In addition to that, each of the buffet rooms also had an area for specialty items to be cooked on the spot. The Pacifico buffet room was a more traditional Panamanian themed room. Two items that I enjoyed from the Pacifico were pastelitos, carimañolas and patacones. The Atlantis buffet room had an Asian inspired theme for their on the spot cooking areas. In addition to the buffet rooms, there are also 6 restaurants where you can eat as well. Reservations have to be made in advance but it is still included in your fee.

Each morning, we got up and ate and then spent the better part of the days between the pools and the beach. They were very close to each other so it was quite easy to hop back and forth. One morning Sabina spent 4 straight hours in the sun playing.

Sabina made a friend - Carolina

At night, we went to the children's program. One night they showed the Scooby Doo movie. Another night all the kids came on stage and played a hula hoop musical chairs type of game.

The Two of Us

All of the hotel rooms were located on top of a hill and the rest of the action (bars, restaurants, beach and pools) were located down the hill. The walk down was always an easy one. Going back up was not as fun. We tried to take different routes each time to esploe our surroundings. We found so many paths. They were all so beautifully lined with plants and flowers. I kept snapping up shot after shot in an attempt to remember it all.

A view from the room

I will definitely go back to the Decameron the next time I go to Panama. I heard that one is being built right now close to Coiba. That should be a nice spot too.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Panama Trip Part 1 - Airplanes and Airports

I don't really enjoy plane rides anymore. In the past, I wasn't bothered one bit about being so high up in the air. Now , it makes me kind of weak in the knees. I couldn't not be open with my fears though because I had to be strong for Sabi who was a bit nervous at first. As it turns out, I did ok on the plane. The take offs were a bit shaky for me but after the initial nervousness, I got over it. I did have one moment of stress somewhere over Mexico though. I was in line for the bathroom and happened to glance out of the window. We were WAY above the clouds and all I could see was blue sky. There was nothing natural to me about standing up that high in the sky and I almost lost it on the plane!

What I hated about the plane trip
All of the rude idiots who pushed their seats back on me during the trip. I was so squished and have bruised knees from being banged up by their chairs. I also hated the dude sittting across the aisle from me who for about 2 hours or so ate sunflower seeds and spit the shells into an empty coke bottle. GROSS!

Flight Attendant Observations:
Oakland to Houston - 1 man and 3 women all young, chipper and cute in their 20's or so.
Houston to Panama - 2 men and 2 women, athletic looking and in their 30's.
Panama to Houston - 4 men in their 30's. They provided the BEST service of all.
(Oh yeah, they were cuties!)
Houston to Panama - 3 women. 3 large, loud and none under 45 years age. NO JOKE. They were cracking me up with comments like "Thank you for flying Continental, if Oakland is not your final destination, it is NOW!" (as we
were taking off) These ladies didn't mess around either. They snapped at
people who didn't put thier seats or trays up on time etc. (I was a bit scared of them!)

Here is a list of some observations Sabi and I made about the airplane rides and airports.

Tocumen Airport - Panama

1) Sabina REALLY thought that it was cool that Pizza Hut is in the Oakland airport and that they serve cinnamon rolls at 5:30 am.

Oakland Airport

2) We learned that you might not want to bring your bottled water into the bathroom stall with you as it might fall in the toilet and ruin your desire to finish up what is left in the bottle.

3) It is better to just sit and wait for your plane seat to be called when boarding a plane than hovering around the line. (especially if you have heavy backpacks!)

4) Planes that don't show movies are boring. (flight from Oakland to Houston)

5) Planes that show boring movies are boring too! (flight from Houston to Panama)

6) Planes that show 2 movies are VERY cool. (Houston to Oakland - Ice Age 2 and The Pink Panther!)

7) Plane food is hit or miss.

8) We don't recommend that you play card games such as Skip-Bo or Uno on the plane. It is too messy as there is not enough space to spread out. The people behind you might not enjoy retrieving your cards either!

9) If you bring a portable DVD player, make sure to plug in your headphones before you turn it on. Other people may not like it.

10) If you get bored waiting in the airport, take funny pictures of yourself to make the wait go faster.

She really wasn't mad - just bored!

11) There are too many lines and stops to get through customs.

12) Not everyone in Texas (Houston) says "y'all" (Sabina was REALLY sure that all Texans spoke with accents!) :-)

13) The best landing is the last one when you are back home.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

We're Back!

At El Nispero

Last night Sabi and I returned from Panama. I am SO tired!!! The trip took almost everything out of me. I have been working on uploading pictures. It is hard because I took over 1,000 pics! I am trying to organize them before I upload them.

Girl With Flower

Check out what I have posted so far on FLICKR here. For more pics, check my mom's Panama pics on FLICKR here.

Sabi and I will be posting about our trip soon...

Thursday, July 06, 2006


WE are here! I am having trouble with the keyboard so will apologize now.

WE spent the first in Panama Viejo and then went on to the REsort Hotel Decameron the next day. WOW! What a place! I didn´t want to go...

Last night we stayed at my dad´s cabins. They are a bit rustic. We slept with the mosquito´s and some other creepy crawlies that I couldn´t identify! One of them was in my suitcase!!!!

Today we are in Chitre, a bigger town getting some shopping done.

I am taking LOTS of pics. Will post when I get home.


Sunday, July 02, 2006


Sabi and I will be boarding a plane to Panama on Monday so this will be the last post for a while. See y'all later!

Saturday, July 01, 2006


The school year is over - YAY!

Our Spelling Bee yesterday was fabulous. The students REALLY got into it. They studied so well with each other. We went many rounds before finally coming up with a winner. The student who won came up to me after the Spelling Bee and he told me "Ms. V., you know what? My mom already knows that I am a winner!" How cute! I gave all of the kids prizes for working so hard. It was great fun.

We also played multiplication "Around the World." They LOVED that too. I was very impressed at how well they know their multiplication tables. My stomach is also hurting from laughing so hard while playing this game. The kids crack me up with their fast responses. One kid (the Spelling Bee winner) figured that he wouldn't know any of the answers so his blanket response was "20!" for whatever question he was asked. Others respond so fast that they pointed at me when they responded or jumped and answered at the same time, one fell out of a chair! The funniest one though was a kid who would yell the answer and jump at the same time and then finish with a goofy deep throated laugh. I wish I had that on video.

At the end of the day, I pulled the kids over to me one by one and reviewed their report cards with them and said personal good byes. This went over very well except for with one student. I am never teary eyed at the end of the year. I am happy to see my students move on to the next grade and start fresh with a new bunch. Well, one of my students, Ana, (remember her from here and here?) brought me to tears yesterday. As I was reviewing her report card with her I noticed that her eyes were watery. I smiled at her and hugged her to help her to feel better. As I was hugging her I started to get misty. I know how hard this little girl has worked all year long to acquire a new language and try and reach the grade level benchmark. I also know how much she appreciates all of the work I have done for her. I asked her for her phone number so I can contact her in the summer to play with Sabi. I hope that she sticks around town so that I can follow her progress through the years. What a moment we had, the two of us. Those moments are what I live for and why I keep teaching.