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Mano Basilio Escalante – 13 April 1925 – 11 August 2013

Today I went to the funeral of a man I wish to call a friend,  Mayra’s  father,  Mano Basilio Escalante. He died yesterday  from Metastasized  cancer. He had a long and fruitful life and judging from the overflow group of mourners in the Bongo, Bugaba church he left a big positive footprint with family, friends and neighbors.


I knew Mano Basilio for almost four years, even when I could barely speak Spanish he would sit me down ask me questions and tell me about his life in Bongo. As I understood more, I appreciated the man and my respect for him grew. He and his wife raised nine children and they believed education was the key to their future. They insured that their children had the opportunity to attend primary and secondary schools which meant having a place for them to live in the town of Concepcion. The farm was and still is too rural for public transport, their home still does not have electricity.

Mano Basilio Escalante on the horse surrounded by family and me.

Mano Basilio Escalante on the horse surrounded by family and me.

Over the past four years I spent many days visiting the Escalante family farm in Bongo and each visit broadened my understanding of Panama and the campesino culture here. I know the Escalante family will miss their patriarch, so will I.

Later this week I will write about some of the moral, legal and ethical issues that his death and form of dying raised in my mind, but for today, just  tribute and thank you to a friend I will miss.


TCM: The sound of one hand clapping, Whoosh

Well not exactly, but after we listened to Doc explain his experiences and heard a few announcements we surrendered to the difference between Gringo Standard time and Panama Standard time and cancelled the meeting that needed to happen.

Our speakers did arrive eventually wondering why the room was empty. Lourdes Serracin and I tried explaining that the expat community does things “a punto”, at the time scheduled. They thought we would wait, now they know differently,, Whoosh and because the topic is so important they asked to return next week at 10am a punto. I said yes.

So next week at 10:30 we will have chance to hear two hands clapping, I hope.

Next Tuesday, 13 August, at the TCM: Coffee diseases and solutions, more about coffee.

 We will have a speaker from MIDA (Ministry of Agriculture) he  will speak about Roya and the other diseases of the coffee . This meeting is VERY important to anyone who has coffee plants even if it just for personal consumption. Roya is an airborne threat and will do great damage to the economy of Boquete if it is not controlled.

The Bistro Boquete, an update

Few Boquete Panama restaurants have the history of the Bistro Boquete. Some like El Sabroson have been here longer, but the Bistro was the first local restaurant catering to the expat community. If you search for Bistro Boquete on this blog you will see a great deal about it several years ago and then as others opened and management changed the Bistro fell off my radar.

The Bistro is back, it now operated by a local couple doing high quality local foods.
Bistro Boquete1
I have visited three times in the past few months and think the current Bistro has one of the best quality to value formulas in Boquete. It is not the Rock, nor the Panamonte, but provides very good food at very reasonable prices.

If you enjoy salads I recommend giving them a try, I eaten the greek salad there twice and it was excellent and consistent. I went back and tried their $3.50 mini burger, nothing mini about it. This cost less than a McDonalds 1/4 pounder in David.
Bistro Boquete2

Mayra tried their corvina and she said it was good, fresh and well prepared. I don’t think she liked the sauce.

Bistro Boquete3

The service each time was very good, courteous and efficient.

I think many locals have missed a good restaurant because we did not know what the current stat of the Bistro might be. I think you should try it for a good, medium priced meal in a convenient location in the center of town. The 11pm closing also makes is one of few palces open for a late night snack.

The Bistro is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11am -11pm. They accept credit cards and provide the jubilado discount without any problem.

I will return, you probably want to see what you enjoy from their rather large varied menu.

Spanish School in Antigua Guatemala

At 2AM Friday morning I arrived in David Panama after two weeks in Antigua Guatemala. I went to Antigua to enhance my Spanish language skills, I could have done this in Boquete at Habla Ya which is one of the best Spanish schools in the Americas, but I wanted a change of environment and Antigua is very different.

I cannot emphasize enough how important learning Spanish is if you plan to relocate to a Spanish speaking country. Not only will speaking the language open closed doors but it will help keep you alive and mentally alert.

The school I selected in Antigua was not my first choice, my first choice was already booked up when I made the commitment. I was not disappointed by my choice.


I attended the ANTIGUEÑA SPANISH ACADEMY, to say I attended would be a misstatement. The school connected me with an excellent instructor, an excellent place to live and provided transportation to and from the Guatemala City airport. The actual classes were held in a park rented by the school for classes. Learning in a garden was fun, but much of my education was walking through the town with my instructor Carolina.

Carolina, my instructor

Carolina, my instructor

Prices were very reasonable,

2 weeks of classes, 5 days, 4 hours (including a 30 minute break) $ 120 x 2 weeks = $240US
2 week room and board with a private bathroom, (7 nights sleeping 6 days, 3 meals a day except Sunday).    $125US X 2 weeks = $ 250
Transportation from Guatemala City for 2 people one way  $50

The experience for me was excellent, but it is 100% dependent on the right mix of student and instructor since this is a one on one relationship.

As I have written earlier I think visiting Antigua is amazing. The city lives on teaching Spanish, over 100 schools, thousands of teachers and a very tourist environment.

You can find out more about the school at  www.guatemala365.com 

Antigua Guatemala

Spanish 102 my return for more Spanish and a strong dose of culture has begun. My classes are in park and my first day was shifting locations, getting oriented and learning how to make Chuchitos a Guatemalan version of Tamales. Cooking classes in the park, yum.

The wifi Is hawful here so Movistar to the rescue with a local SIM and I am updating from my cell phone.

A few photos from the streets of Antigua, very different than Panama.




Cooking class


The finished product


In case you wondered where all those Diablos Rojos went.


Making breakfast

Getting to Tocumen the Metro way

I took the 6am bus from David to Albrook and arrived ahead of schedule so I decided to see if I could avoid the increasingly expensive taxi ride from the bus terminal to Tocumen airport. I used a Metro bus.


First the long queue to buy a card and charge it up, all this next to the demo of the impending Metro train.


Coming soon Panama’s first subway. It will not go to Tocumen but it will go to El Congrejo saving many taxi rides.

Then find the right bus. If you follow in my tire tracks you want bus E. the Corredor Sur Tocumen bus. The wait was 15 minutes, the ride was only 45 minutes and the fare $1.25. Of course this was not during rush hours and hours and hours in the capitals traffic chaos.


The interior of the Metro Bus.

I saved enough for two overpriced lunches at Carl’s Jr in the airport.


The bus stops outside the airport but is only a five minute walk in. I only had carry on luggage I am doubt I would try this pulling big suitcases.

Walking from the bus stop was not far.


The interior of Tocumen has changed a lot over my seven years here.

Exercising your brain makes a better quality of life

I was not surprised to read this:

“In a US study, 294 people over the age of 55 were given tests that measured memory and thinking, every year for about six years until their deaths.

“The brain that we have in old age depends in part on what we habitually ask it to do in life” 
Dr Robert WilsonRush University Medical Center

They also answered a questionnaire about whether they read books, wrote letters and took part in other activities linked to mental stimulation during childhood, adolescence, middle age, and in later life.

After death, their brains were examined for evidence of the physical signs of dementia, such as brain lesions and plaques.

The study found that after factoring out the impact of those signs, those who had a record of keeping the brain busy had a rate of cognitive decline estimated at 15% slower than those who did not.

Dr Robert Wilson, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, who led the study, said the research suggested exercising the brain across a lifetime was important for brain health in old age. BBC

This is not really new news but just another re-enforcement of what has been said many times.

Learning language keeps the brain agile. Many of us who have moved or are moving to Boquete are in our post career lives, the third life. Andrew Weil, doctor and author has written that one of the ways to fend off dementia is to learn a new language.

The more education you have, I think, the better your memory is and the better it stays as you get older. I think there are some kinds of education that are particularly useful, like learning another language, so I urge people to make an effort to learn another language. You don’t have to master it; it’s just the act of trying to learn it that seems very useful. ” Interview Dr. Weil

It has even been claimed that learning a second language can delay the onset of Alzheimers.

Therefore this week I am off with a handful of other brain exercising Boquete residents to Antigua Guatemala to learn more Spanish. I did this in 2008 and it was stimulating.

My message to many who are here is often repeated. Learning Spanish in Boquete is easy, go to Habla Ya, no travel necessary. You will have a far richer life in Panama if you can expand both your mind and language skills. I answered the why I am going to Antigua question in 2008, at this link’. The School I attended is gone, so this time another school and living with a local family, total immersion.

I will continue to post my mind expanding experiences from Antigua. Including of course some trips to the fantastic market and savoring cerveza Gallo.


Boquete relocation Consulting

After many years of writing and observing Boquete I receive many requests from newcomers to Boquete and people considering Boquete as a home asking for my time. I have always been willing to meet and help anyone who asked. I am glad to help but my time has become scarcer over the years.

Many people have told me I have saved them thousands of dollars, so I am going to now turn this into a service. I will now offer two hours blocks of my time for one on one meetings at a cost of $100. For those who consider this a value, I will be there for them. But I can no longer give free consulting. Monetizing my time has become essential since I incur costs providing my time.

If there is a demand I will create monthly seminars at a reasonable price to share all contacts and information that I have acquired over the years.

I have a bilingual Panamanian associate who has many years of experience in both Panama City and Boquete. She has an extensive network of contacts in Panama and will be a part of our meeting.  Myrna can add the insight of a native and she the ability to aid in negotiations that can be best handled by a local. Sometimes it makes a difference when a local is the face seen by a seller of real estate and other large items.

If you are interested in one to one time please email me at: BoqueteGuide


Mango, a stellar restaurant

The President of the Republic of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, was not at the opening of Boquete’s Mango Restaurant. I suggest that when he is in Boquete to cut the ribbon on the new highway to David, he might find Mango worth a special visit. We have a long anticipated gourmet restaurant in Boquete.

Mango Restaurant Boquete Panama

Craig, formerly of Rancho Caldera and his wife Maureen, with the support of Eva of Isla Verde have created a winner.

Mango Restaurant Boquete Panama

I and forty five others had the opportunity the enjoy appetizers and five courses of cuisine and beverages. All of this set in a comfortable but elegant indoor and outdoor environments.

Our food ranged from the simple, like caramelized onions and zucchini and an organic green salad, through the savory like a Beef Ragout served over Polenta and a radiant and surprising Macaroni and Cheese, made with blue cheese and fresh Rosemary. Dinner ended with something aromatic  and sweet,  a desert pizza.

The wine  flowed all night, but for me the liquid high point was the fantastic Boquete Microbrew beer.  Once found at the Rock, the Bennett family beer is now at Mango, and it alone is worth a stop.

Mango Restaurant Boquete Panama

The art of a gourmet restaurant is being able to take food,  simple or complex, prepare it well, and then to serve it with elegance to a clientele that is enjoying the entire dining experience. The staff at Mango did all of the above; for a first evening at work they excelled.

Our entire experience was worth repeating. The food was excellent and creative, the beverages intoxicatingly good and the service the best I have experienced in Boquete. Forty six people were served appetizers, five courses and drinks in virtual synchrony. I want to congratulate Craig and Maureen on providing an excellent dining and social experience.

I can eat at home, but when I want to dine, not eat, I look for the synthesis of food, drink, atmosphere and company. That combination can make a simple song into a melodic symphony. Mango has all the elements to be a local success story, you should try it.

Mango is located in the Isla Verde Hotel and is currently opened only for Breakfast and Lunch, a dinner menu is coming in a few weeks. Breakfast is served from 7-11, lunch 11-3. You can reserve a table by calling 720-1539

Some news things on the short term horizon

As we enter the final fiscal year of the current government in Panama we are seeing many projects come to completion. Most like the Metro bus and subway are in the Capital, others like the new David Boquete Highway are more visible to us in Boquete.

There are two more very close but not so visible, yet.

One is the new massive municipal market in David. It is not completed yet, but as you can see from the photo above, it is getting close and will be a major improvement over the now demolished old David Municipal Market.  The market is located very close the the Prison in David, just off the road to the Airport.

When complete the new Municipal Market will have three different sections. One for meats, seafood vegetable and fruit sales. Another area for restaurants and a third for general commercial spaces.

Initially there will for sixty commercial stores, fourteen restaurants, eighty stalls for the sales of food products and in traditional fashion, ten stalls selling fried food.

While this market in David is being finalized work has started and stopped on the new Municipal Market in Boquete. The former Mothers Park and part of the old market have been removed and the land is ready for development.

Perhaps they are waiting for July 1 when the new budget becomes available. There are images of what was proposed for Boquete posted at the Municipo, it will be an improvement over what we have now.

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