One of my sons is still in Boquete and he decided to do a time lapse of the clouds moving on 10 June. This was shot from with an Apple iPhone, pretty amazing.
A Resident and Tourist Guide to Boquete Panama
This is a journal of discovery of an ExPat living in Boquete Panama. The
posts are opinions, experiences and observations. Thousands of people
read this blog each day. I welcome your feedback, comments and opinions.
One of my sons is still in Boquete and he decided to do a time lapse of the clouds moving on 10 June. This was shot from with an Apple iPhone, pretty amazing.
When I first arrived in Boquete I did a lot of exploration in Chiriqui, later when I was writing for Live and Invest Overseas, I did a lot of travelling throughout Panama. Recently I have logged miles only between Bugaba, David and Boquete. Yesterday I went to Volcan, just on the other side of Vulcan Baru.
I made the trip to Volcan to do a presentation at their monthly community meeting. I went because I wanted to see, compare, contrast and donate my time and knowledge. It seems that someone who tries to find good speakers for meetings in Boquete should be willing to speak in another community when asked. The topic was the same as I most recently presented in Boquete, Internet 101. My speaking however is not the motivation for this post.
Although I have driven through Volcan to Rio Sereno several times in the past years yesterday was the first time I stopped and looked around since July 2010. Volcan is changing, slowly.
In Volcan they meet monthly, not weekly as in Boquete. This meeting was in the Artisans center which has shops and a restaurant integrated. The Volcan meeting is focused on US expats. One topic yesterday was about a new bill in front of the US House of Representatives, passed in the US Senate already as SB1813. In the US the controversy about the bill focuses on this section.
(a) Mandatory Event Data Recorders-
(1) IN GENERAL- Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall revise part 563 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, to require, beginning with model year 2015, that new passenger motor vehicles sold in the United States be equipped with an event data recorder that meets the requirements under that part.
(a) In General- Subchapter D of chapter 75 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by adding at the end the following new section:
‘SEC. 7345. REVOCATION OR DENIAL OF PASSPORT IN CASE OF CERTAIN TAX DELINQUENCIES.
‘(a) In General- If the Secretary receives certification by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue that any individual has a seriously delinquent tax debt in an amount in excess of $50,000, the Secretary shall transmit such certification to the Secretary of State for action with respect to denial, revocation, or limitation of a passport pursuant to section 4 of the Act entitled ‘An Act to regulate the issue and validity of passports, and for other purposes’, approved July 3, 1926 (22 U.S.C. 211a et seq.), commonly known as the ‘Passport Act of 1926’.
‘(b) Seriously Delinquent Tax Debt- For purposes of this section, the term ‘seriously delinquent tax debt’ means an outstanding debt under this title for which a notice of lien has been filed in public records pursuant to section 6323 or a notice of levy has been filed pursuant to section 6331, except that such term does not include–
‘(1) a debt that is being paid in a timely manner pursuant to an agreement under section 6159 or 7122, and
‘(2) a debt with respect to which collection is suspended because a collection due process hearing under section 6330, or relief under subsection (b), (c), or (f) of section 6015, is requested or pending.
‘(c) Adjustment for Inflation- In the case of a calendar year beginning after 2012, the dollar amount in subsection (a) shall be increased by an amount equal to–
‘(1) such dollar amount, multiplied by
‘(2) the cost-of-living adjustment determined under section 1(f)(3) for the calendar year, determined by substituting ‘calendar year 2011’ for ‘calendar year 1992’ in subparagraph (B) thereof.
If any amount as adjusted under the preceding sentence is not a multiple of $1,000, such amount shall be rounded to the next highest multiple of $1,000.’.
(b) Clerical Amendment- The table of sections for subchapter D of chapter 75 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by adding at the end the following new item:
‘Sec. 7345. Revocation or denial of passport in case of certain tax delinquencies.’.
(c) Authority for Information Sharing-
(1) IN GENERAL- Subsection (l) of section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:
‘(23) DISCLOSURE OF RETURN INFORMATION TO DEPARTMENT OF STATE FOR PURPOSES OF PASSPORT REVOCATION UNDER SECTION 7345-
‘(A) IN GENERAL- The Secretary shall, upon receiving a certification described in section 7345, disclose to the Secretary of State return information with respect to a taxpayer who has a seriously delinquent tax debt described in such section. Such return information shall be limited to–
‘(i) the taxpayer identity information with respect to such taxpayer, and
‘(ii) the amount of such seriously delinquent tax debt.
‘(B) RESTRICTION ON DISCLOSURE- Return information disclosed under subparagraph (A) may be used by officers and employees of the Department of State for the purposes of, and to the extent necessary in, carrying out the requirements of section 4 of the Act entitled ‘An Act to regulate the issue and validity of passports, and for other purposes’, approved July 3, 1926 (22 U.S.C. 211a et seq.), commonly known as the ‘Passport Act of 1926’.’.
(2) CONFORMING AMENDMENT- Paragraph (4) of section 6103(p) of such Code is amended by striking ‘or (22)’ each place it appears in subparagraph (F)(ii) and in the matter preceding subparagraph (A) and inserting ‘(22), or (23)’.
(d) Revocation Authorization- The Act entitled ‘An Act to regulate the issue and validity of passports, and for other purposes’, approved July 3, 1926 (22 U.S.C. 211a et seq.), commonly known as the ‘Passport Act of 1926’, is amended by adding at the end the following:
‘SEC. 4. AUTHORITY TO DENY OR REVOKE PASSPORT.
‘(1) ISSUANCE- Except as provided under subsection (b), upon receiving a certification described in section 7345 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 from the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of State may not issue a passport or passport card to any individual who has a seriously delinquent tax debt described in such section.
‘(2) REVOCATION- The Secretary of State shall revoke a passport or passport card previously issued to any individual described in subparagraph (A).
‘(1) EMERGENCY AND HUMANITARIAN SITUATIONS- Notwithstanding subsection (a), the Secretary of State may issue a passport or passport card, in emergency circumstances or for humanitarian reasons, to an individual described in subsection (a)(1).
‘(2) LIMITATION FOR RETURN TO UNITED STATES- Notwithstanding subsection (a)(2), the Secretary of State, before revocation, may–
‘(A) limit a previously issued passport or passport card only for return travel to the United States; or
‘(B) issue a limited passport or passport card that only permits return travel to the United States.’.
(e) Effective Date- The amendments made by this section shall take effect on January 1, 2013.
I often wonder if anyone in the US Congress reads the bills they vote on, or considers the impact. It is clear the US government wants more tools to take what they think is due to them. This IRS has often been used a tool to deal with matters the were otherwise untouchable, remember Al Capone. His jail time was not for murder, it was for tax evasion. My advise to US taxpayers, file your returns, file your FBARS, file whatever is needed and sleep better at night.
I spoke on the Internet and the final presentation in a meeting spanning two hours, was regarding smash and grab robberies that are occurring in David. There have been a string of these all focused on people leaving the HSBC bank in the El Rey Shopping center in David. The targets are people who withdrew large sums of cash, left the cash in their cars went elsewhere, return to discover a broken window and no cash. It is pretty obvious someone is observing transactions in the bank and has associates on the outside doing some very profitable smashing and grabbing.
The group was small between 20 and 30 people. People were from Volcan, La Barraqueta and Bugaba, large distances.
After the meeting I visited a few places, some familiar one new. I had lunch, a executive special for $4.50 at a place new to me, a large, multi faceted place call La Cava of Volcan, it was a good lunch and I ran into some Boquete people returning from their quarterly pilgrimage to Costa Rica.
Then off to Berard’s back door to pick up some goodies, they are about 20% less expensive there than in the markets. Finally across the highway in Collegio San Benito to the Lands End outlet. Sadly the selection for June was too heavy on inexpensive down coats. I wanted a rain coat, they had many but all were lined with something making them too well insulated for here.
After Volcan I drifted down to Concepcion, a detour motivated by a lust for some cigars. (Note to my children: Your father is still vice ridden.) I stopped in the Caribbean Tobacco facility and bought direct from the ladies there, it took some negotiating but what started at $7 ended up at $4, so advice is never say yes on the first offer.
In all a nice day trip and nice view of beautiful Volcan, a great place to visit but I would not want to live there. Some people consider Boquete boring, I heard that again last week from an expat. Boring is a state of mind, but I am convinced that there is little community interaction in Volcan, Boquete has a critical mass and that makes for activities that can fill in for social interaction many of us need.
I was not sure what to expect from Dr. Bormann when he offered to do a pair of presentations for our meetings. Today he established that he is both knowledgeable and does an excellent job of presenting his experience. Those in the almost full room had a clean explanation of the reasons for both earthquake and volcanic activity in Central America.
In simple terms there is a geologic plate under the Pacific that is expanding at about ten centimeters a year and pushing down under the continent. As it pushes and meets resistance the earth moves under our feet with small earthquakes off the coast. The more we feel the earth quakes the more stress is relieved and the lower the probability of a big quake. Dr Bormann spent minutes on the shifting plates He spent almost an hour on the volcanoes that are produced as the plate is pushed deep below the land mass and liquify under pressure. That liquid magma of melted Pacific ocean floor is what is vented through Central America’s string of active volcanes.
After the presentation many people asked about Baru and Dr. Bormann said with great candor, no one knows when it will wake from it’s slumber and how violent the awakening might be. In 2007 the University of Panama and US Geological Survey did a study of our sleeping giant. Iff you are interested in reading it this is a link to the downloadable PDF file.
Should you be fleeing from the possibility of an eruption, in the opinion of Dr Bormann, no; he suggests sticking around and taking good photographs. I agree, if we fled from any possibility of natural destruction we would find few places safe for shelter. However if Baru does start steaming it might a time to consider the nice new four lane road to David.
I have rarely written about construction projects in the Boquete Panama area. I wrote once about Montanas de Caldera and if I were to write again the story would be very different. Still, because I know there is a need for quality condos, built to North American standards in Boquete I am going to discuss what I saw at Boquete Condo Homes in Volcancito.
If you have not had a building experience in Panama you might wonder why this is so exciting or worth a posting here. Building in Panama is not easy. Finding people who can build to North American standards is a challenge. Finding people who know plumb, level and square is a challenge. Preventing building materials from sprouting legs at night is a challenge. Building is a challenge, so when you find someone who builds them, then sells them so that you actually know that you will receive what you paid for it is a lucky find.
These Condos are located very close to town in lower Volcancito, but far enough to avoid the noise that sometimes floats from the fair grounds.
Building number two of a planned eight is currently under construction, each building has four units, two on each level. Each unit is 1440SF as measured in Panama, meaning everything under roof, inside space is 1000SF. That 1440 SF number provides a large covered porch and laundry area, both important essentials in the Boquete lifestyle.
Construction techniques are evolving as the project progresses. Building two is M2 construction, the next will be steel and concrete panels, engineered for a 9.5 earthquake. Short of Baru loosing it’s top that building will survive about any shake possible.
The project has it’s own water storage, pumps, active septic system and all the basics. All the inside plumbing is Pex, which means fewer fittings and fewer problems with leaks in the future. This becomes very important to those who know how local plumbers work with PVC, the standard of all Panama plumbing and source of geysers in all areas.
If you are looking for a good investment the ROI on these units is excellent, they are renting for about $750 a month, that would be about 8% a year ROI. If you are interested in more information follow the breadcrumbs to Boquete Condos at this link.
Volcan has become closer to Boquete Panama with the Ruta Sur completed from Potorillos to just below Volcan. Mayra and I decided to escape from the rain in Boquete and try the rain in Volcan for some variety. The rain felt the same, but I was introduced to Collegio San Benito and it’s unusual stores.
San Benito is a Catholic High School dedicated to providing an education in agriculture for the poorest of the poor in Panama. In its long history it has had many students pass though it’s gates. In the past many from remote areas lived on campus, now there are only five resident students and they earn their lodging, meals and education working on the large campus. The campus is a dairy farm and a high school. It is also home to three stores open to the public that provide revenue for many projects. You enter from a drive way directly across from Berards market in Volcan.
One store was laden with over the counter pharmaceuticals, chocolate and lots of other goodies.
On our way to the Lands End store, we needed to purchase a cell phone case from this local vendor.
The Store was busy, but Mayra found space to dive into things.
I was lucky enough to find this treasure for a new raincoat.
And our little cell phone bag seller was warmer and with some cuddly company be the time we left. We provided the bear, another person the down coat.
The third store was low key featuring used items of household goods, new furniture and art for sale. If you want to explore for yourself the hours are, Closed Monday, Tuesday to Friday 1:30- 4:45 pm, Saturday and Sunday 9:30am -11:45am, 1:30pm- 4:45pm
Driving from Boquete Panama to Volcan is a day trip, but we decided to stay overnight. Lorena stayed with family and Heather and I contacted a friend of mine, Marukel.
Marukel is the proprietor of a new Hostel in Volcan, Hostel Dona Mirna. The hostel is named after Marukel’s mother who operated the first hostel in Volcan and who prepared a wonderful breakfast of fresh fruit, Orange juice, Volcan coffee, breads and pastries for us in the morning.
Hostel Dona Mirna is located just outside Volcan on the road to Cerro Punta, it is small, currently three bedroom, quite, secure and although lacking curb appeal a great place to spend a night.
To find Hostel Dona Mirna you drive from Volcan toward Cerro Punta until you see the Taller Pitty sign, then turn left into the compound.
Once inside the hostel has a guest common area
and private rooms with a shower and bathroom.
Marukel is often booked by word of mouth and I guess this is just a more public expression of the same. These are the rates for the Hostel and you can make a reservation by emailing Marukel at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her cell phone at 65 63 30 52 Remember this is not the Hilton but a small family business and savor the experience.
Individual B/. 27.50
Double B/. 33.00
Triple B/. 44.00
Breakfast B/: 4.00
In Chiriqui Panama there are two wonderful highland communities with temperate weather, Boquete Panama and Volcan Panama. The route between them is currently long going through David and taking at least 90 minutes by car. Soon, we hope the 7.7 Million dollar Ruta Sur project will reduce that travel time to less than one hour. For now the communities are isolated not by distance but by roads.
My friends Lorena and Heather accompanied me on a trip to Volcan this week. Among our other adventures we visited the Il Forno restaurant in Volcan.
Il Forno is operated by a transplanted American from New Jersey and after eating there twice I believe they have the best Italian food in the Province, including veal something not often found on a menu in Panama. To find Il Forno drive into Volcan past Romeros and continue straight toward Rio Serrano, and you will see a sign on your left shortly after passing Romeros.
Your will discover excellent Pizza, great Chicken Parmigiana like this one below.
Or something different like this shrimp and bacon in a white sauce I enjoyed.
The food is excellent, the service is very good, the environment warm and woody.
I recommend a trip to Volcan and a stop at Il Forno, they are open for lunch and dinner Thursday through Sunday.
The menu is below.
I have house guests in Boquete this week. My son Sebastian arrived Sunday with an old friend, Danyal. Another of Seabastian’s friends arrives today and my older son Nicholas will arrive on Friday. It has and will be a busy distracted week. A lot of road trips and scant time to record them.
Yesterday was a redux of a trip to Volcan, I went Saturday with Susan Thoms and Bob and Maria Boyd to do a radio program. It could have been mundane if not for the company of Lorena from Amigos and Melissa from Valle Escondido who came along. Through their eyes and those of the less initiated I saw and learned a great deal on the route.
Currently driving to Volcan is a two hour ride through David. While in Boquete last week the President of Panama reiterated that he has funded completion of the Ruta Sur, a road that will make Volcan only 25 -30 minutes away. When that happens this entire region will become even more compact.
With Melissa along we made this a culinary adventure. Our first stop was the Mirador on the road from David to Volcan. Lorena is a native of Volcan, she wanted us to see the cheese available there and taste a very interesting corn beverage. Mirador means view if there was a view, I missed it. Sebastian was distracted by an empanada de pollo asado. His friend Danyal was far more interested in the young women racing about; that could be interpreted as a view. The cheeses looked good but the day was young we left them undisturbed.
On the road again first to drop Lorena close to her home it was too muddy to get to her front door and off to Berard. Berard is a local meat processor in Volcan that serves much of this part of the country with fresh and cured meat products. We arrived at Berards at noon just as the outlet store closed for a two hour lunch. Berards back door was a new find; I learned about the outlet from Bob Boyd on Saturday. Behind the Berard market in Volcan you can buy most Berard products for far less than you can find them in any grocery, including theirs.
Without achieving our shopping goal we went to go visit a new friend in Volcan. Last Saturday I was on METO radio discussing Lifeflight Panama. The program was broadcast from a small gourmet restaurant called Cerro Brujo in Volcan and I thought Melissa might enjoy meeting the owner and chef, Patricia, so off we went.
Saturday at Cerro Brujo was a jazz night, music and food. Tuesday afternoon was casual and not open for lunch. Patricia showed us around her lush gardens, her kitchen and after some conversation and a promise that we would return for a dinner sometime in the future we started a search for lunch.
Patricia recommended Il Forno, Bob and Maria took Susan Thoms and I there on Saturday and we though it was excellent also; unfortunately they were closed. We went to the Acropolis and had lunch with George. Fresh rabbit stew was a top choice, Danyal and Melissa said it was very good. I had a trout and it was also fresh and tasty. Sebastian tried the Moussaka and it was devoured despite the previous empanadas, a good omen. The hungers of youth can not be filled by food alone.
After lunch back to Berards. They did not have all of what we wanted on display. Melissa discussed a fresh pork shoulder for a roast, we asked and one was produced in minutes. Melissa smiled and off we went shoulder in hand. Good thing to remember if you live in Volcan, visit Volcan or plan a big event you can save 25% at Berards back door.
More later on this road trip as I get ready to pick up number 3 of 4 house guests in David today.
In Arizona we suffered extreme heat and harsh windy storms, in California earthquakes, on the east coast hurricanes. We have none of those in Boquete Panama, except a bit of seasonal wind. However we do have a slumbering giant, Volcan Baru.
Jennifer and I had the opportunity to fly in a small plane over Mount Saint Helens in Oregon about one year after it exploded; the devastation was beyond description. Here we live in the shadow of a dormant, note dormant NOT extinct volcano.
The USGS and University of Panama just completed a study of Baru and it is available as a PDF download here. I am not a volcanologist, never even studied geology and did not even sleep in a Holiday Inn Express still the report is of interest.
Perhaps someone with knowledge can add to my interpretation. The Panama Newspapers published that Baru is safe for 100 years. I missed that statement, what I read is a history of the past eruptions and a recommendation for continued monitoring. There do seem to be some very clear recommendations for monitoring, sensors have been installed and recommendations for local action if triggering events occur.
My read says that there are no imminent danger signs but just the observation that the giant is a sleep not dead.
We have been to Volcan before, we have been to the Sito de Barriles before but this was a an opportunity to see something we have never seen before, Ngobe Bugle dancing.
“event because it gives people a chance to learn about their culture and see a truly special ceremony not normally seen in Panama. The male dancers are dressed in animal hides with feathers adorning their hair. Women are dressed in native gowns. There are 4 traditional dances performed by competing teams involving whistles, conch shells, horns and the courtship of women from neighboring tribes. There will be snacks of fresh cheese, marmalade and wine that are made on the farm. Lunch (“comida mono”) of chicken and rice will be served on bijao leaves. The festivities start about 12:30 P.M. Admission cost is $5 per person.
We packed the car, took some friends from Panama City and headed around the Mountain, to the Sito de Barriles.
We arrived late, but not an issue they were still organizing, not dancing.
The dancers were tooting, the narrator was narrating and we were anticipating.
There were feathers, conch shells and horns made of coke bottles. Any animal skins were well masked but still it should be fun. Then after a long introduction they started dancing.
We watched as they huddled and sort of walked in a circular direction.
I really do not want to seem culturally insensitive and I am sure any anthropologist reading this will find more PC way of describing this dance. I have seen it before, in Buffalo NY at a fraternity party after a few kegs of beer. I think I was a dancer but I am not quite sure, if we had any animal skins we never wore them either.
Our attention span was exhausted quickly and we left rather quickly.