Tuesday, June 23, 2009

5 months of being 23…Yikes!


       Today is June 22nd, 2009 and I am sitting on the plane back to Maryland for three weeks to see my family and friends.  Since I started this blog so much has happened.  I’ve moved to Panama, fell in love, developed an idea for a business in a foreign country and with that person I love am turning that idea into a reality.  It’s been almost 5 months since I’ve turned 23.  I think this year might be one of the most amazing years of my life because of these risks that I have taken to try something different.  I have been so fortunate to do this with the support of my family and friends.

       It will be a full three weeks back in the States.  Justin and I return to Panama July 15th with much optimism and excitement to start out our business venture.  We have already purchased some of our equipment and are anxious to do our first project.  Since being in Panama City we met with several realtors and owners of real estate companies that are interested in hiring us to do HD quality video tours for their properties.  For those who are unaware, I worked in Maryland with my father at ReMax selling real estate and am a licensed realtor there.  Though I did like the area and the job, I knew it wasn’t my passion.  Going to school for 4 years in New York City, studying communications, journalism, the arts, and having two internships in the television industry, I wanted to incorporate my other skills into a job that I would enjoy.  That is how I came up with the idea of starting up a video tour business, specializing in Panamanian real estate that features not only that individual property, but also gives a look into the surrounding area’s unique neighborhood and amenities.  I’m not going to go into too much more but what Justin and I have put together as a business plan and have set up so far is extraordinary and something that we are so proud to create together.

    When we return to the States we have some equipment to invest in (electrics are insanely expensive in Panama) as well as spend some quality time with friends and family.  We know that when we return we plan to be workaholics with this project of ours as well as continue our studies in the Spanish language. 



      We found a place to live in Panama City for a really good deal.  The area is called Casco Viejo and it’s the older part of town surrounded by the ocean.  IMG_9538 Some of the buildings are restored and beautiful while others are falling apart but it’s a different feel than the high rise monstrosities of what most other neighborhoods in Panama City entail.  We love it.  The community feel in this area is unlike anywhere else in Panama City with cafes, bars, restaurants, and parks.  The cobblestone streets and city skyline views are remarkable.  What Panama is doing day to day to attract tourism is amazing and we are so excited to be a part of the neighborhood of Casco Viejo.


      Since we have found an apartment to live in when we return we feel a lot more settled in than we did almost three months ago when we first entered Panama together April 7th.  We spent one month in Bocas del Toro, on the Caribbean coast near Costa Rica, almost two weeks in Boquete, the beautiful highlands of Panama, and about a month in total in Panama City.  The beaches, mountains, and the city were all very beautiful and interesting in their own unique way.  Though I did LOVE living in Bocas and hiking in the mountains of Boquete, the city provides the most opportunity to be successful in our business.  I’m looking forward to our friends and family coming down to visit because that will give us an excuse to explore more of Panama as well as return to the beautiful towns of Bocas del Toro and Boquete.  So now is the time to start figuring out your schedule and planning your next vacation down to visit us.  Surely you know Justin and I will be more than excited to play tour guides to our friends and family!  : )

    My schedule for the next three weeks are June 23rd-29th in Maryland, June 30th-July 3rd in New York City, July 3rd-6th in Massachusetts with Justin visiting his family, July 7th-10th back to Maryland, July 11th-12th Pennsylvania to visit my cousins, July 12th-14th back in Maryland, and then July 15th-? Panama!

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  I really look forward to seeing everyone back in the States!  : )



Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sendero Los Quetzales

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            Long story short, Boquete was wonderful…my brother met up with us the last weekend we were there.  We stayed at a really interesting hostel called Pension Topas which is owned by a German couple.  Being a few blocks from the park, it made it super convenient and incredibly cheap ($12 a night for a private room).  Also, this hostel has a pool, which was an awesome way to cool off after our long mountain hikes.


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   Monday, the 8th of June Justin, Evan and I went on the Sendero Los Quetzales.  We started the hike from a town called Cerro Punta.  To get there we took the bus from Boquete to David, then, out of our own stupidity and lack of fully being conscious from getting up at 5am we ended up taking another bus that went to the Costa Rican boarder missing our stop by about 45 minutes.  Evan, not having his passport or even a copy on him lead for a very scary feeling that we might not be going on our hike and possibly spend the day detained in some Costa Rican jail for stupid travelers….But, luckily, the bus that we hopped on to head back in the other direction was a local bus which I don’t think boarder control stops very often.  The Tica bus (mostly foreigners) in front of us got stopped and we sped right through.  It was a glorious feeling.


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  After three hours of being on the road, we made it to the start of the Quetzal Trail.  The beginning was mostly uphill, being very steep.  After about an hour and a half we stopped for our first snack (Justin and I packed a few apples, some granola bars, and some cereal while Evan was solely adamant about his meat and cheese).  While stopped we saw the only other people of the day that did the trail starting on the Boquete side ending in Cerro Punta.  They were on such a hiking high it almost scared me.  They were giggling like little girls and all jumpy about the trail.  They warned us about how some of the path got destroyed by the rains in November and that it’s quite difficult in parts and pretty dangerous.  They didn’t scare me too much but I did get a little concerned, with reason.


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    For the most part the path was “mild” according to Justin.  It was definitely pretty hard for me with my clumsiness and lack of sneakers with proper grip.  I ate it a few times and found myself having mud in places there shouldn’t be.  But, it was very fun falling, sliding, slipping and climbing.  The best fall goes to Justin who flew off a hill bounced off a tree on his butt and jumped into the air almost flying off a huge cliff….it was amazing.  I saw the whole thing thinking this was the end!  I don’t think it fazed him too much but I saw the whole thing and it scared the bejesus out of me….  he laughed afterwards…I laughed nervously with him.  Boquete June 2009 100 Evan had a bunch of nice slides but never managed to get in a good spill.  It was a great team, the three of us helped eachother out at all different parts of the trail.  Actual hiking was about 8.5 hours but the day spent between the three of us was about 12 hours which was fun, thrilling, scary, and exciting.  I’m a little disappointed we didn’t see any of the famous Quetzals but I think the day couldn’t have been any better.  It was beautiful, we didn’t get any rain, and we had amazing company.  Plus, I felt like a million bucks making it through that long hike alive.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Breath of Fresh Air


Spanish by the River, Homestay, Gardens, Mountains, Coffee, Los Amigos (almuerzo del dia), Hiking, Canadian Bakery Pastries, Gringofest, Pollo/Arroz/Frijoles, Batidos, Fresas….

Welcome to Boquete!

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         As I explained the last time I was here in Boquete, Panama, there is something about being here that gets me all weirdly happy and giddy inside.  People always ask that question, “Mountains or Beaches?”  Without a doubt beaches I answer but coming here my second time I don’t know.  I love them both and having them both to come to in such a short amount of time and being easily accessible from Panama City ($12.50 by bus) makes it such a cheap easy get away from the hustle and heat of the city.

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        One thing I really wanted to do while here on this leg of the trip was a homestay while taking Spanish language in Boquete.  My brother Adrian did it last year while spending the summer in Panama and Costa Rica and LOVED it.  I went through Spanish by the River, the sister school of Spanish by the Sea in Bocas del Toro.  Being only $15 a night including breakfast, dinner and laundry, the deal was a little too difficult to pass up for Justin as well.  Plus, since he had to take a break from taking actual classes it made him practice what we’ve learned thus far a lot more than a hostel situation would.  The homestay wasn’t as ideal as I wanted it to be.  With that said, the older couple were very nice and warm to both Justin and I.  They were in their early 70’s in age and have been housing travelers for a little while now.  Their family is all grown and it’s only them two in a good size house for Panamanian standards.  Also, the house was literally right across the street from Spanish by the River.  We stayed at the homestay for a few nights really enjoying our downtime chatting with the couple about mostly food, family, and pets.  The food was typical Panamanian (meat of either chicken or beef, rice and beans, and some sort of vegetable).  There wasn’t a whole lot of variety or change within the dinners but for the most part we were very satisfied and appreciative.  Melba and David are the names of our host couple.  It was really nice to see them giggle with eachother and flirt that late in life.  The love that they share for eachother was really cute and reassuring that there is hope out there!  : )    Lastly, they just got a 4 month old puppy named Manchita.  She was super cute and Justin was very much her best friend everytime he went out to play with her (she got so excited she peed on him a little a few times haha).

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        Other than the homestay, I continued with my classes this week at Spanish by the River.  As much as I’m against the private lessons (I hate all the attention on me!) there aren’t many people in the school on my level to make a class so I had to give in and take the private lessons.  I got through it with frustrations along the way but feeling like I learned a lot and am way more comfortable with some of the things I was unsure about before.  Melina, my teacher all week is very nice and incredibly smart.  For being 28 years old she speaks 6 languages and has a masters degree in communications with a focus on languages.  When I meet people like her it really makes me feel like I’ve done NOTHING with my life.  haha, but I had a great time learning with her and chatting about our lives in Spanish.

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   Everyday Justin and I try to make the most of the day and the beauty around us.  On Wednesday, the weather was gorgeous so we decided to do a hike called the Bajo Mono loop.  It’s a 20 kilometer hike with a ton of uphill inclines.  The sun was strong and I think my neck and shoulders got the best burn I’ve ever gotten (obviously not something to be proud of).  We’ve done a bunch of other walks as well and even a run thrown in there (absolute torture going uphill).  Boquete is such a great place to rejuvenate the body.  My Spanish language classes stimulate my mind, the natural beauty and mountains stimulate my body, and Justin being here with me makes it all really fun to share that with. 

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     As for the coffee mention, I’ve become pretty much obsessed with the coffee here.  You can get a cup for 40 cents in the stores here that literally tastes like the best coffee I’ve ever had…and I’ve had expensive coffee. 

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     Los Amigos Almuerzo del Dia is the restaurant Los Amigos daily lunch special of $2.89.  That comes with an awesome soup and a big plate of chicken, rice, beans, plantains, and veggies.  Yum Yum!


I’m going to continue the Boquete experience on the next post….