Amigos and Vecinos and our busy weekend

View from our new covered patio

View from our new covered patio

Our social calendar has been just packed lately. Phew, exhausting (but fun!) , not at all like us. Friday, one of our neighbors arranged a neighborhood get together, for old friends and new ones. It was rainy, no surprise, since it’s June in Boquete, but we have a new covered patio area that allowed us to proceed with our plans, rain or shine. One of my blogging friends stopped in with her husband. They moved to Boquete just two weeks ago, but she’s been blogging about their preparations for more than a year, so I suspect that many of us here feel like we already know them! (Her blog is http://www.hollycarter184.wordpress.com, if you want to see the care and thought they put into their preparations. Not like SOME people we know. Ahem. )

Towards the end of the evening (8:00, moving to Panama hasn’t changed the fact that Mark and I still like to call it quits early!) the mix of Spanish speakers to English speakers had changed from 30-70 to 75-25. I did my best to keep up my end of the conversation, in Spanish, and people seemed to understand me — yay, those Spanish lessons are paying off! Of course, they may have just been humoring me, like you do with an old aunt who is partially deaf but still wants to be part of things…doesn’t matter, I still I enjoyed it!

Then,  on Saturday, another neighbor told us that his band was going to be playing at one of the expat watering holes in town, and that it was their “birthday night” — cake for everyone, and anyone with a birthday in June(Mark’s is Friday) gets a bottle of champagne. Hmm, good music (and we can hear our neighbor playing sometimes, so we know he’s good), AND free food and drink?  Of course we had to go, even if it meant being out past our normal curfew!

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How fitting that the place is called “Amigos” — we saw many of our neighbors there,  past and current (And there was Phillies memorabilia, something that Mark may feel called upon to comment on!) Once again Mark and I found ourselves surrounded by fluent Spanish speakers. It’s a little tougher to hold a conversation in a foreign language with a great band playing loudly in the background, but we did our best, and they took pity on us and had conversations in English too. I tried to take some pictures of Mark up with the birthday cake. Actually, I did take some pictures of him, but somehow did it with a stranger’s camera, which I only realized when I went to put the camera back into our already occupied camera case. Luckily, as I approached the owner to let her know I had someone’s camera, a very laid back young American was telling her that he thought maybe someone picked up his camera by mistake.

We enjoyed our night out on the town, and as it turns out, it was a great bargain too  — champagne, birthday cake, nachos, and two beers for $6. Wow, where else can you find that sort of deal?? We will definitely return on a non-birthday night, to make sure the restaurant gets a chance to recoup some of their money!

MARK SAYS:

You may be able to take this man out of Philly but you’ll never be able to take Philly out of this man!  One of my less endearing qualities, in Valerie’s perception, is my constant espousal that everything is better in Philly/South Jersey.

From the beginning of our relationship she has heard a constant refrain spouting Philly’s superiority in just about everything.  Jersey shore beaches are the best-admittedly a tough sell to a Florida/Caribbean girl.  Philly street food is unequalled- nothing compares to soft pretzels, cheesesteaks and panzarottis (look that one up).  Philly sports fans are the greatest-take the unbiased word of a die-hard member, ME.   And on and on it goes!

Only 2, but Amigos displays its pride

Only 2, but Amigos displays its pride

So, it was with great delight that I prepared for our Saturday evening out to a bar/restaurant with ties to the Delaware Valley.  The owners are from South Jersey and maintain a close bond to their heritage.

They actually have cheesesteaks on the menu and, of course, I tried one on a previous visit.  Much to my surprise, considering the distance from Philly, it was quite delicious.   Without a doubt, it was the best one I ever had outside of a 25 mile radius of the Delaware Valley!

Amigos showing faith in Chip

Amigos showing faith in Chip

However, the most endearing quality of the establishment, to me, is the Philadelphia oriented memorabilia that is strewn throughout.  I realize that the Professional Sports Franchises in Philly right now are suffering through a severe post season drought.  The Phillies, Eagles, Sixers and Flyers all failed to make the playoffs following their most recently completed regular seasons.  Even for a city that has historically suffered through some prolonged periods of losing this current dry spell is hard to take and who knows when it may end?

Local hero during better times

Local hero during better times

Nonetheless, one of my favorite past times, as I have walked and run through the streets of Central America, has been taking note of the allegiances to American Franchises that the local inhabitants proudly display on their clothing, vehicles and homes.  Begrudgingly, I must admit that I have seen a preponderance of enemy insignias throughout my travels.  Unfortunately, loyalty to the Yankees seems to dominate among baseball fans, football enthusiasts seem to have a preference for the Cowboys, and NBA followers have jumped on the Heat bandwagon.  Not surprisingly, I haven’t been able to get much of a consensus on ice hockey.

Undaunted by being outnumbered by such front runners, I take great pleasure in seeking out and enthusiastically acknowledging anyone that displays, and shares, my affinity for all things Philadelphia.

Phillies Phever in the mountains of Panama

Phillies Phever in the mountains of Panama

There was the Philly expat who now owns a Finca on Ometepe whom proudly sported his retro Mike Schmidt jersey as he assisted his Nicaraguan workers in digging a trench.  There was the Panamanian family that winded their way up the mountains above Boquete, in their SUV, that affectionately displayed their love for the Phillie Phanatic.  And, there was the young man confidently strolling the streets of Granada attired in a Donovan McNabb jersey.

McNabb support still alive in Nicaragua!

McNabb support still alive in Nicaragua!

But, I think my most satisfying encounters are those when I come face to face with non-English speaking Panamanians wearing a Phillies hat.  I good naturedly point to the logo on their forehead and give them a quick thumbs up accompanied with “Go Phillies.”  This has happened on several occasions and every time we have both left the encounter with smiles on our faces.

In my mind, as I walk away, I envision that, like me, my Panamanian compatriot is lamenting that wins may be hard to come by right now but better days are just around the corner.

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