Without a permanent visa, all visitors must leave Panama after 90 days for 72 hours. We found the quickest crossing was to drive the pleasant 2 hours to Rio Sereno, where we left our car under the promised care of local Panamanian police. Then, it's a quick walk across the border to Costa Rica, stamp in, then a 15 minute ride to the town of Sabalito ( the name, Sabalito, refers to a little fish that used to be abundant in this are of Costa Rica.)
The taxi was a rugged jeep where William and I sat in the back, Larry in the cab, stopping only to photograph a fantastic tree that rises outside of town. (Can't recall the name of it.)
Sabalito is a rinky town with few shops. Mostly local bars, a few eateries, a park. Very Ho Hum. We stayed at a Hostel (the Riviera) owned by Ana and, while I approached the edge of panic about what to do with a non-stop energetic kid. Then, Ana told us about her sort of adopted sister's Tilapia Farm nearby. S-a-v-e-d!
The farm is about a 15 minuted ride out of town, and we walked it the second day because the view was so lovely. The farm is owned by Meyer & Mary, both Costa Ricans. They've had it about four years now, when they found coffee farming was not as profitable as it was proved for them.
They have several acres where they farm Tilapia in a system of nine pools. They have to be fed frequently and sometimes burrow holes into the soft silty sides of the ponds. Meyer catches his fish by hand net (see photo) and cleans them himself. They are served two ways: filleted, or slashed and deep fried. Both come with fried plantains, salad and rice.
The family also have row boat, a family horse, a waterfall, and a swimming pool. The pool is big, shallow and adjacent to a large, open air restaurant with 11 picnic style tables and a kitchen.
Mary and Meyer, along with their children and a few helpers, do all the cooking and serving. The get away is popular with locals and they can clean, cook and serve up to 100 Tilapia on a good Sunday.
We made fast friends with Maryand Meyer and their children. So much so that we spent all three days at the farm, boating, riding the horse, trudging through jungle to the falls, sharing life stories, eating abundantly, and even dancing (that would be me, a total spectacle and embarassment to William, because Mary played all of Michael Jackon's "Thriller" album). .The photos at left illustrate our very pleasant long weekend.
Three days later, back in Boquete, Larry's permanent visa had come through, which allows William and me to move forward with processing our residency as well. Once that is secure, we won't need to make mandatory border crossings. However; we plan to visit Meyer and Mary again nonetheless.
The one challenge we seemed to face consistently during our little trip was around ordering food at local eateries. Larry said it was like watching a skit from Saturday Night Live.
Picture us in a Chinese/Costa Rican Restaurant with one of those daunting menus that has maybe six flippin' pages and over 165 selections and lucky me... because when it comes to ordering food...."Tag! I'm "It!"
So my head is spinning over maybe 20 Chow Mein recipes because William wants noodles. Just noodles, right? So I explain to our Chinese/Costa Rican server in perfectly polite and grammatical Spanish tAnd he's cranky because he's hungry. So... mom to the rescue to secure a plate of just plain noodles.
Eliz. Alright. I think we like to have one order of just the noodles?
Srv. What? Noodles? You want noodles? Chow Mein. Look (she's stabbing my menu). Number Three..... Noodles. Noodles with chicken. With Vegetables. You like that?
Eliz. Well, nooo. Just the noodles. Maybe with some sauce.
Srv. WHAT? (she's nearly shouting) SAUCE? What you want? SAUCE? No. Can't do sauce!
(She begins the stabbing again, pointing out various orders.) Chow Mein with beef. You want beef? What you want? Meet? You want Vegetables? What you want to order?
Eliz. Hmm, I see here it says you have Spagetti. Ok. Just an order oforder Spagetti. But NO sauce?
Srv. WHAT? No SAUCE? Okay. Here, number 3. Noodles. Vegetables. Chicken. You want Chicken? (William is not a fan of chicken.)
Eliz. Well, no. We ...just ...want ....some ....Noodles....on a plate.
Srv. O-Kay. You like this one (pointing again to number 3). It come with noodles.
Eliz. Alright. We'll order the Number 3 (I look pleadingly at a cranky William and practically hiss "William... Just eat the NOODLES... Oh Kay.???")
Srv. O-KAY. YOU want order number 3. Good! I get you Number 3.
Eliz. Well, Nooo. You want me to order number 3....
This exchange took maybe five exhausting minutes. By the time Larry got around to ordering, I think he just looked up at her and stabbed at any old thing that seemed to work. By then, my brain was on hold so I gave up and ordered a beer. William proceded to eat the Number 3 .... Chicken, vegetables and All.
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