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BCP Tuesday Talks

There was an interesting Tuesday Talk, actually a discussion at the BCP yesterday. It was an open question and answer for those who attended and wanted to learn more about Boquete. A lot of new faces where there.

The major thrust was about healthcare. Healthcare is a frequent topic for expat and locals alike. It is even more important to expats who have retired here, as we age we accelerate the process of physical disintegration. Although in this Shangri-La it does appear to slow down for many people.

Because this topic has been discussed many time before want to point to all the past articles and do a fast summary. If you want to pick and read from years of posts try this link.

This is the fast summary of medical care options in Boquete Panama.

Panama has a three tier healthcare system all paths are open to all people. There is the MINSA or Salud system which offers low cat services to all. A doctors visit is $0.50 and the Salud clinic in Boquete is located next to Romero; the green building. Expect a long wait and limited resources.

Caja de Seguro Social has a clinic across from the Bomberos in Boquete. It is Blue building and if you pay into Seguro Social you and your family can get free healthcare there. If not you can still use it a very low cost, again $0.50 for a consultation. Except long waits but good service. It closes early about 3pm and is being replaced with a new larger clinic in Alto Boquete which will have emergency services. Hopefully the political change will not prevent this from happening.

Finally there is a parallel private system with an increasing number of private doctors in Boquete. Office visits vary from $5 to $12 depending on doctor. Some still do house calls at a higher rate.

If you need more it will be in David. The Private hospitals are Mae Lewis and Hospital Chiriqui. There are two public hospitals,  Regional and Obaldia, a children’s hospital. More here. link.

For those who want health insurance in Panama, it is easy to get if you are young and do not have preexisting conditions. For the rest it can be a challenge. More on that at this link.

With all of that said other topics discussed were about US veterans  and water. I ended up speaking a bit about the water issues here. I have written so much about water I will pass on adding more for now.

With that the discussion moved to a close and I will have an announcement later this week about the much debated future of the Tuesday Meetings.

 

Tuesday Meeting: Alto al Crimen

When Alto al Crimen hosts a Tuesday Meeting a lot of people come to the meeting.  We had a good meeting and the best part is that reported crime in Boquete has once again fallen off to a very slow pace.

The meeting had three speakers, over one hundred attendees and covered the realities of trying to keep a lid on crime in a growing Boquete. Caesar Sherrard, the founder and current President of Alto al Crimen explained the purpose of the foundation.

In summary Alto al Crimen was created to help make all of Boquete a hard target for criminals. This is a challenge when Boquete is one of the more affluent areas in Panama and we have many non Panamanian residents who do not understand the language or the culture they live within.

The discussion went from securing your home through how to defend yourself and not end up in jail.

The next evolution of Alto al Crimen (AAC) is to be sure those arrested in committing crimes in Boquete are prosecuted. This is easier said than done. AAC needs to retain a lawyer in David to push any Boquete arrests through the system so they do not fall off a desk into a trash can. The system here different than up north, here some cases disappear rather than making them to trial. AAC wants to be sure people arrested for crimes against persons or property in Boquete are prosecuted.

This and increased expenses for the 7×24 hotline are forcing AAC to push for more donations.

As a guest or resident you can call the hotline, 6477-6662 seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day to report a crime, a medical emergency or for assistance if your car breaks down on the highway. The operator is bilingual and will do his best to get help to you. This is a free service, the hotline is funded 100% by donations and it is being copied in other parts of Panama because it works here.

AAC is asking for a donation of $100 per household, per year to help maintain the service. If you can pay more great, less also great but the monthly expenses have grown to where they need money to keep it going.

You can leave a donation at Mail Box Etc, Box 13112.

TCM: Crime in Boquete, an insight

Today Caesar Sherrard one of the founders of Alto al Crimen in Boquete spoke about the increasing crime problem in Boquete.
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The theater at the BCP was packed for the presentation.

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Caesar made his point that the driver on increased crime in the increased cost of living without commensurate increase in salaries. When people earning $16 a day cannot afford to house and feed their families, some will resort to any means to do fulfill the need.

Boquete has a small police force which has about 15 officers on patrol for the entire district, and that is to cover 24 hours a day seven days a week. So maybe five on the street at any one time. The population according to the 2010 census was 22,435.[1]The district covers a total area of 488,4 km². Those police paid about $690 a month in wages try to do the best they can with one patrol car and occasional motorcycle support. They cannot prevent crime, they have a difficult time investigating crime.

Before you start asking for more police think about how much tax revenue the government earns from you.

Crime in Boquete is mostly amateur, now a bit enhanced by some gangs from David using the new highway that makes escape easier and faster than before. The solution to crime in Boquete is not the police. The solution is a smart population and proactive preparation. The message is be a hard target.

Most crimes here are crimes of opportunity, theft of visible high value items through open windows, unlocked doors or penetration by local workers who observe patterns of availability. Caesar made the point that most neighborhoods here, unlike the US and Canada are economically mixed. You might have a home that cost $200,00 built next to a tin shack. This economic disparity coupled with television sold examples of the good life motivates crimes.

There have been a few high profile home invasions here and in Volcan. These are usually groups of armed men who beat their victims. Sometimes they are caught, sometimes prosecuted, sometimes convicted and sometimes jailed. None of this helps the victims.

The solution is to harden your home. There is a reason even poor locals have bars on their windows and doors. There is a reason even poor locals have dogs and fences. The defense perimeter of your house is your fence. No one should be allowed into your fence without permission. Alarms, dogs, bars, automatic flood lights and fences are all perimeter defenses that make your home a hard target, unless you have been targeted the bad guys will pass you up for something easier.

The vocal advice from Caesar was, you are not in Kansas anymore. Unless you are willing to secure your own home you should leave now before you become a victim and statistic.

Discussion went on to the questions of guns and laws about guns in Panama, again this is not Kansas. You need a license to own a gun and then you need to find a gun. Panama is not currently importing guns so legal guns are expensive and need to be resale from another licensed gun owner.

Bottom line is you and you alone are responsible to secure your home and protect yourself. The police cannot protect you, even if they capture the perpetrators it will not undo the crime and terror of being violated.

 

TCM: Dr Maria Ruiz on Boquete history

Dr. Maria Ruiz, presented a history of Boquete with the personal framework of her family and their multigenerational history here. She discussed the roots of their coffee business and the ecology of this unique valley as it effects us all. Explaining in part why the people in this community are the most ecologically activist in Panama. Maria discussed the waves of immigrants and how they have effected Boquete and used them as a backdrop to explaining Boquete as it is today. Using some wonderful anecdotal stories she painted a vision of past, present and a possible future.

The first inhabitants appear to have been the indigenous people, I use the word for appear, only because that statement comes from cemeteries and archeological remains in the Boquete area, not from settlements that existed when the next groups arrived.

The Spanish first arrived in Chiriqui at Remedios, Chiriqui and then later settled in Dolega.  Dr. Ruiz explained the interaction with the indigenous people in a story that may be enlightening. As the Spanish came with their guns, horses and steel they first warred with the indigenous. A indian chieftain had what was clearly a brilliant idea. He suggested that the Spanish would not kill their own families. Since the original Spanish invaders were men he encouraged native women to engage them, literally. Hence the mixed blood lines that dominate Chiriqui. True or not, the anecdote says a great deal about the people here in Chiriqui. The first non indigenous peoples to move into Boquete came from the Dolega area.

The third group that came and actually settled this valley included people leaving from the construction of the Panama Canal. This group in the early 20th century was a mixture of North Americans and Europeans. They also left their legacy and genetics in the families and business in Boquete. These immigrants developed farms, most for coffee.  Boquete has always been an agricultural community, coffee was and possibly still is the major crop here.

During World War Two Panama became a strategic point for defense of the Panama Canal. Dolega was a training ground and many US soldiers were stationed here. Most left, but many left their genetics in the next generation, adding to the diversity of the people in Chiriqui.

The fourth wave included me, and perhaps you. We, the retirees are adding to the culture and evolution, and occasionally and often surprisingly to the donor, we add to the gene pool also.

Another thread in the discussion was for all of us who live here about climate change and how it is impacting the coffee industry. Coffee is the distilled  essence of Boquete Panama and we need to take notice of it and environmental impact to it. Climate change is real and it is affecting the very roots of Boquete and will continue the evolution and changes in this very special gap in the mountains of Panama.

If you missed this presentation you missed a great opportunity to learn.

TCM: Some Local Foods

This is the presentation I used at the meeting on foods. It isn’t snapshot not including all there is locally. I am own the road and will post some short travelogue themes for the next twomweeksmof travel and exploration.

To see this full screen click on the square with arrows on the lower right of the presentation above.

TCM: Seminar on BoqueteNing.com

I had several people ask me to do a seminar on how to use BoqueteNing.com I agreed and was surprised by the number of people who were in attendance.

BoqueteNing.com was developed as a community communications tool and has been online for about six years, it has 3300 members and and many more who visit read it daily without ever joining. It is a good source of information for visitors and residents, as well as often a source laughs and entertainment.

The goal from the beginning was a free flow of ideas. Of course children will always be children, regardless of age, so we needed to set some guidelines to prevent food fights and flame wars.

The rules are simple:
“Boquete.ning.com is an open community forum
Neither the admins, nor anyone else posting on this forum is responsible for the posting, ranting, raving or good things posted by anyone else. It is not our intent to censor or delete any discussion relevant to Boquete, Panama. Just keep on topic, Boquete, and do not abuse other members.”

The goal remains No Censorship.

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BoqueteNing.com is free to all users including business who are encouraged to post activities and things of interest to the community.

BoqueetNing.com has two administrators, Fran Hogan and I, we both work for peanuts or pizza, when offered, otherwise we volunteer our efforts.

The costs for keeping BoqueteNing and this blog online are paid by me. Those costs are subsidized by people who place ads and most importantly by people who make Amazon purchases through BoqueteNing by using the Search Box for Amazon.com on both sites. That is a painless way for people who planned to buy from Amazon.com to keep us online.

If we ever get ahead of expenses I plan to buy a big bag of peanuts and maybe a pizza for Fran without whom we could not keep Ning somewhat sane.

This is a copy of the presentation

TCM: Dr. Ted Harrison on Stem Cell Therapy, no Snake oil here

As an avid reader my book list includes a lot of Science fiction. One of my favorite authors years ago was Robert Heinlein, recently I reread many of his books, including the Lazarus Long series about life extension. It is nice to see that despite the obstacles placed in the way of embryonic stem cell research in the United States, there has been growth in the knowledge base in the rest of the world. There is both research and practice that is making some of the fiction I read into reality. Modern medicine is now  investigating some of Heinlein’s fantasies, like growing new organs in a laboratory and using them to replace failing body parts. It can be done in a lab today and  in time, hopefully  be done on a practical basis in a hospital, but not yet.

I expected a full house for this presentation, one by a doctor, not a snake oil salesman. Once again I was disappointed, it appears that snake oil, pseudo science and it’s electronic derivatives sell better than reality to many people in Boquete. I do believe those who came and listened are better educated for the experience.

This was a presentation about advances in an area of medical research that can even now in it’s early stages can enhance your life if you have any of a number of serious medical issues.

Stem cells are the undifferentiated cells that when developed and differentiated can become any part of your body. Over the last few years medical science has learned how to use stem cells from non embryonic material which has opened many new lines of research without legal restrictions. As Dr. Harrison explained your own body can now be the source of the stem cells that can be used to heal your ills. A new play on physician heal thyself.

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If you want to know more about what a Stem Cell is, this is a link to a tutorial done by the University of Michigan. LINK

We learned that there are currently therapies using stem cells that can resolve some health issues. Some of the areas that are well established are cosmetic procedures, others can eliminate the need for more drastic surgery like a knee replacement. The research continues in many other areas and in time as the knowledge grows Stem Cell Therapy might be the root of a medical revolution; one not encouraged by big pharmaceutical companies.

Dr. Harrison pointed out that Stem Cell Therapy in the US, where he is a licensed doctor, has been limited by the FDA. By the nature of stem cell therapy the FDA considers it a drug therapy and has refused to approve the use. His theory being the multibillion dollar pharmaceutical industry, which does provide much of the FDA budget, has much to lose when your body can generate what you need to cure your ills.

Other countries have no such restrictions and clinics have opened in other venues, including Panama. In Panama City you can find the Stem Cell Institute and Dr. Harrison said they have treated about 1,800 patients to date. This is the LINK to their website.
Their website has a trove of information for those who want to know more about the present and hopes for the future.

In summary, real medicine is advancing faster than the laws that regulate it. There are new solutions to old health issues and they should be investigated before traditional intrusive treatments are used. It is also critical to investigate the claims of doctors and clinics and be sure they are no selling false hopes today for technologies that have not yet been tested in double blind studies on humans, not lab rats.

Quakery abounds in medicine with miracle cures based on pseudo scientific mumbo jumbo being offered by people who sell fantasy cures to those who need real help. Stem Cell Therapy is real, but beware of someone at the Tuesday Market offering a magic stem cell pill that when swallowed will fix all your ills. That pill does not exist, yet.

TCM: The Petroglyphs of Panama

Our speaker at the Boquete Tuesday Meeting was Dr. of Anthropology, Luz Graciela Joly Adames, Tenured Professor of Anthropology at the Autonomous University of Chiriquí. One Panama’s most professional has excelled in anthropological research. She has just returned recently from a conference in Cuba about the Petroglyphs of Panama.

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She gave us a brief and interesting history of the many stone carvings that have been discovered in Panama. These rock carvings are a written historical record of early Panama. Although the rocks can be dated the carvings cannot.

Petroglyphs can be found through Panama and this a map of known sites in Chiriqui.

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One place you can see petroglyphs without a guide book is in Volcan at the Sito de Barriles.

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The video below was posted on Youtube by Jere McCormick of Boquete

TCM: Prof. Peter Bormann on Tsunamis on Fat Tuesday

If you missed the meeting today you missed another excellent presentation by Dr. Bormann who travelled from near Jaco Costa Rica to educate us. The quality of many presentations like this is excellent and I am dismayed when half the seats in the BCP are empty. It is makes me question if the effort of those who organize and present is worth the effort for a disinterested community.

The presentation on Tsunamis was a good university survey level presentation. The summary is that if you are on the coast, any coast and feel an earthquake for over 10 seconds in duration put away the surf board and head for higher ground and stay there until you hear an all clear. It can take hours for a Tsunami to hit and they are usually multiple waves, the first not being the largest. Another signal of an impending Tsunami is if the ocean retreats further than normal, then run for higher ground because it indicates a tsunami wave is in route.

When asked if he had any knowledge of Tsunamis in Panama Dr. Bormann said no, but there is little written history. He commented of an island which had an old legend of tsunami flooding and that that legend coupled with observations of nature saved many people when the island was hit by a tsunami. The residents had fled the coast already. It might be of interest that I spoke to locals in Pedesi a couple of years ago. I asked why no one built on the beaches there until recently, they had similar local folktales of waves sweeping the beaches clear of earlier structures.

This is Fat Tuesday, it is also the official Carnaval holiday in Panama so don’t expect much to be open. The exodus from the national Carnaval fiestas will start later today and end tomorrow as people head back into real world again. Be careful drinking and driving, in fact don’t do it.

Here in Boquete the big event is at Fuzion Grill starting at 5pm. I hope to see you there.

Wow, from Chile to OSETI, the optical search for intelligent life

After almost a month on the road it is great to be back in Boquete. Although I never felt the need for ruby slippers, I did need to return to the tranquility of Boquete. After living all my life in Cities, I retired to the hills overlooking Boquete, I love the sounds of Panama including the crowing of my roosters. My holiday schedule was mostly cities, they are a great place to visit for culture, cuisine and energy but I prefer living here and visiting there.

My efforts at a real time travelogue were dashed by a failed power supply and then a loss of some data. I was going to move forward without more about the month away, but several people asked about the trip and wanted to see photos. I will do a post on each city we visited with photos and occasional suggestions for the traveller based on our experience and then a cost of living comparison to Panama.

Yesterday, I thought I had returned to earth after almost 24 hours of sleepless travel getting back to Boquete. Then I went to the Tuesday meeting and listened to Ben Schuetz a Boquete resident discuss his search for intelligent life someplace far beyond Chile.  Ben has been a resident of Boquete since 200, a retired physicist/engineer and amateur OSETI investigator.

The presentation was about the history, current work and future outlook for SETI and OSETI. Everyone knows what SETI is, but few know about OSETI,  “Optical Search for Extraterrestrials”, that is, searching for laser signals from ET.
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Ben has created his own OSETI observatory, the Boquete Opera House and Observatory here in Boquete. It is probably the only one chair opera house with a telescope in the world. Ben has also developed and built his own optical search tools. As Ben admitted to a packed crowd in the newly remodeled BCP theater, his search is a exercise that is unlikely to bear fruit or discover ET. It is however his way to enjoy life after his career, we all find our own paths if we look for them.

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