Current Location: Living room of apartment, Boquete, Panama
Price of beer in a bar: US$0.60 to US$2 for the same bottle of beer depending on the establishment
Song currently stuck in my head: Holdin On To Black Metal (My Morning Jacket)
Our Chitre/Los Tablas/Pedasi hunt was a bust; we were unable to find a 30 day furnished rental in any of the towns, save the aforementioned US$200 room and a fantastically overpriced hovel in Chitre (I think it was US$580, cooking gas/power/cable included). We saw a nice house in a development just outside of town for US$400 (3 bedrooms), but you would need a car to make it workable and even then it wouldn’t be suitable for a short stay (unfurnished, no utils included). Pedasi was a total non-starter with nary a 30 day rental to be found or even rumored. Joe, an American and long time Panamanian Resident who was opening a restaurant in Pedasi, offered to try to arrange something for us using a storefront that he’s rented and is no longer using, but it didn’t sound like the results would be quite what we were looking for. His restaurant, by the way, will serve American style breakfasts. That’s a severely under served niche in these parts.
So we hopped the bus to Santiago, caught another bus outside of town to David and then took an old school bus to Boquete. The Gringo contingent here is off the charts; American Boomers have been retiring here in droves for years, attracted by the pleasant climate and cheap cost of living. I want to say it’s like a huge outdoor retirement home, but that really doesn’t do them justice. These older gringos are more like the people in retirement home advertisements than the people in the actual homes; they really are vibrant and active and all of the other adjectives that Ensure uses in it’s ad copy. I’m half convinced they’re 40 year olds in disguise.
For her birthday, The Girlfriend set to work in finding the most expensive restaurant in town (her words). I think she equates high cost and celebration, which is by no means an unusual association. This is what she came up with. The meal was very good and they offered two craft beers, a “light” and a “dark”, both of which I sampled and both of which were better than anything else I’ve had in the region. The light and dark descriptors were all the waiter could tell me and I’m no where near skilled enough to nail down exactly what they were, but since I openly encourage any of my beer snob friends to come down and prove me wrong, I’m going to say the light was IPA-ish (perhaps a double, but I’m leaning away form that) and the dark was a Stout-ish (though I’m less familiar with dark beers).
Speaking of a dark beer, I noticed ~12ounce cans of Guinness at the grocery for US$0.75 (plus, I think, a 10% tax). You get used to everything imported being mind bogglingly expensive here and then it’s little things like a seventy five cent Guinness that really brighten your day. The Girlfriend even pretended not to see them when I got home, thinking they were a birthday surprise.
We’ve settled into an apartment here, a very nice 1 bedroom with hot water, kitchen, cable, internet (about 2MB, I’d estimate), good furniture and great linens for US$400/month, all in. We found it via an ad posted to http://www.boqueteforums.org/. The advertised property was rented, but the proprietor, an American named Randy, asked what we were looking for and offered to make some calls and see what he could find. We’re now living in the apartment that he and his wife lived in years ago as their current house was being built. As far as I know he has no financial interest in referring us, he’s just a helpful guy with connections. You run into a lot of that among both expats and locals in these countries. In the span of 2 hours I had called him about the posted apartment, he’d offered to look around, he’d called back, we’d met up with him and he’d driven us out to this apartment where we met the landlord and toured the place. Having looked around a bit before deciding, we certainly feel like we’ve found a great deal. The girlfriend immediately began to talk about staying additional months.