Monday, November 18, 2019

Why Life in Panama City Keeps Getting Better

Since deciding to invest in a place in Panama City, Panama, Brooke and I have been asked endlessly why would we invest in a "THIRD WORLD" country. We have visited Panama City 3 times over the last 10 years and it is not at all what the people who have NEVER been believe it to be. The following article by Jessica Ramesch published in International Living Postcards details exactly what we have come to discover about Panama City.

 



Why Life in Panama City Keeps Getting Better
By Jessica Ramesch
Visit Panama City today and your jaw will likely drop. Even after 14 years living here, it's sometimes hard for me to believe I'm in Central America. This shining city on the Pacific offers every convenience and amenity I could possibly want. Unlimited entertainment and fitness activities. Excellent internet and cellphone service. You can play golf and tennis...attend the opera or rock concerts...and delivery services will bring you everything from electronics to wine and beer.

Panama City's skyline is undeniably impressive.
When I first landed in Panama City, however, things were a little different. Admittedly, the skyline was far more impressive than I'd imagined and the supermarkets were very well stocked—but there were definitely some challenges.
There were no decent malls, and no big furniture or home improvement stores. And, as a vegetarian, I had a hard time eating out. Even in Panama City, where there were plenty of good restaurants, they just weren't equipped to deal with special requests.
Finally, getting around could be a challenge. Though there were lots of taxi cabs and fares were cheap, the service was awful. Rush hour and rainy days were maddening. I'd grown up somewhere walkable and bikeable, with an excellent bus system. I missed that more than anything.
Today, life in Panama couldn't be more different.
Don't get me wrong. The things I've always loved about it—the people and the cultural activities, the quiet little beaches and mountain towns—are still very much in play. They're the reasons I've stayed so long. But I've also had the pleasure of watching this city become increasingly more progressive...
Now, our malls, specialty shops, and department stores run the gamut. I can buy brands I like from the U.S. and Europe, or I can take advantage of stylish, inexpensive products made in Panama or elsewhere in this region.
And as for dining out, this is one of Latin Americas top foodie destinations. I can find vegan or gluten-free options...ethnic cuisine from India, Russia, Thailand, and Lebanon...and the local markets offer an excellent variety of fish, fruit, vegetables, and more.
Best of all is the increased walkability. Every administration has done its part to make this city easier to get around and hence more attractive. The new Cinta Costera or coastal belt widened tired old Balboa Avenue and now we have a network of roads, walkways, bike paths, and recreation areas all along the Panama Bay.
Our two metro lines have helped reduce car sales and improve traffic. From 2014 to 2019, Mayor José Blandón prioritized public spaces and walkability. Popular areas with heavy foot-traffic got refurbished parks and wide new sidewalks.

Panama City's smooth walkways and bike paths make getting around a breeze.
I enjoy this city so much more now. I live just a seven-minute walk from a metro station, so I hardly use my car anymore. I can hop on a train and be in downtown El Cangrejo in 10 minutes, no matter what traffic's like. From there I can easily walk to a big El Rey supermarket and an upscale Metro drug store...several nice clothing and department stores...and more pubs, cafés, and restaurants than I can shake a stick at.
Take last Friday, for example. I took the metro to Via Argentina ($0.35) and, from there, walked to everything I needed:
  • I got my back adjusted at the Royal Center medical complex ($15).
  • I had a delicious quiche and salad at French café Petit Paris. (The price was $9, but I paid about $6. I frequently take advantage of weekly discounts at great restaurants.) 
  • I took a walk along the bay, enjoying the ocean breeze ($0).
  • I met up with a fun group of expats and Panamanians to watch the new Downton Abbey movie. (In English, with Spanish subtitles. Regular tickets were $6.25, resident retirees paid $3.25.)
So yes, there were challenges along the way, but life here just keeps getting better all the time.
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Saturday, October 26, 2019

By George, He Got It!

"Don't ever take what I say too personally because I am an equal opportunity offender; though you do need a lot of work."
-- George D. Carameros III (said to me in 1996)

 

GEORGE DEMETRIOS CARAMEROS III - May 27, 1954 - October 25, 2019

To Nancy, Brittney, Courtney, and George IV - our thoughts and prayers are with you during this very difficult time...

My journey with George Carameros III began in 1996 when I took my 2 youngest daughters to a church retreat at Wilderness Ridge in Bastrop, TX (sadly WR burned down in a forest fire several years ago). It was an "open church weekend" verses a specific church retreat. We were grouped together alphabetically and so it was destined that the Candelaria's and the Carameros' would share a cabin and then proceed to compete in numerous daddy daughter events throughout the weekend. Team Candelaria (Greg, Tahni and Bayli) against Team Carameros (George, Brittany and Courtney).

Team Carameros smoked team Candelaria 10-0. I mean, not a single event was even close, in spite of the fact George was older than me and his daughters were younger than mine. After what he called the "ultimate spanking in family sports history", he invited us to come to his restaurant where he would buy my lunch to help heal my wounds and perhaps increase my strength. George would never let me, nor the city of Houston for that matter, forget the Carameros dominance as he retold this story countless times to friends and strangers whenever we dined at his restauarant over the last 23 years. It should be noted that over these last 23 years, George never allowed me to pay for my lunch. A generosity that I neither deserved nor required, but it is a large part of who he was as a human being. Generous to a fault, ALWAYS.

Proud Grandparents Nancy and George
My girls grew up affectionately calling him Uncle George and his appeal to thousands of people during his life was legendary. He never held his tongue when passionately defending positions he supported and held; yet he still endeared people on both sides of whatever issue he supported and freely communicated. It was a rare gift. Related, I must say that he could raise the temperature in a conversation faster than anyone I have ever known and that meant that no one would ever want to be on George's bad side. No one could out debate him nor out-smart him. He was a man of deep conviction who could not be swayed and could support his positions with facts and good old fashioned common sense. 
 

Lastly, he loved God and his family very much. I have such great saddness for his grandchildren who will never know what a great grandfather he was and would have been had he lived longer. I love you George Carameros and I will miss you always. You inspired me greatly with a wonderful sense of humor, an endless appetite for generosity, and the unfailing love that you had for those that you truly loved unconditionally. Rest in peace my brother.

Love, Greg 


Brooke Candelaria hugging on George
My brother from another mother, 60th BD










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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Getting Your Asian On in Houston, TX


 Chinese Community Center

"Join us on a guided bus tour and discover the best cultural, dining, and shopping experiences our community has to offer! All tours will begin at the Chinese Community Center. Go to ccchouston.org/tour to see upcoming tours." 
Cathy Podell, Asian Heritage Tour Coordinator
tours@ccchouston.org
(713) 271-6100 Ext. 129
   

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (Temple) in Stafford, TX
This past Saturday (June 8, 2019) we had the pleasure to take an Asian Heritage Tour with a focus on Indian culture. We visited the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (Temple) in Stafford, TX (suburb of Houston) and we were educated in Hindu history plus participated in an Arti: The Hindu Ceremony of Light. This was followed by a visit to the Anjali Center for the Performing Arts where we learned about Indian dance forms (styles) and then enjoyed several dance demonstrations performed by an amazing young lady.

We then proceeded to an Indian buffet meal at Mezban Indian Buffet on Harwin (the Tandoori chicked was my favorite). After lunch we went to Parivar Grocers and picked up some Indian Curry and Indian Red Chili to be used in future meals at home. Lastly, we briefly popped into the Roop Sari Palace where they sell elegant and beautiful Saris.

As members of the #HoustonInsider group, we strongly recommend the Asian Heritage Tours as a part of a unique and diverse Houston experience. Not a Houston Insider yet? Go to visithouston.com/insider to join.
 
Selfie in front of the Mandir and grounds





Anjali Center for the Performing Arts
              
Anjali Center for the Performing Arts


Parivar Grocers
Parivar Grocers

Mezban Indian Buffet


#HOUSTONINSIDER

 
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Thursday, May 23, 2019

FOMO Relief Alert - Become a Houston Insider




"This is a place where you really are what you achieve in Houston, and that's a tremendous boon to this town. I think you'll find people who have succeeded because of that kind of open culture." 
-- Richard Kinder 

From the Houston Insider Sign-Up Page (link below):

Houston Dynamo Event - #HoustonInsider
Get on the List: Become a Houston Insider

Houston has a lot to offer, and nobody knows that better than those of us who live here. We’re on a mission to educate, engage and excite all Houstonians about being the best ambassadors for the city. To do that, we’ve created the Houston Insider program to share insights and experiences to make sure our Insiders are in the know on the latest and greatest.

What’s in it for you? Besides all that insider knowledge, which is sure to impress your friends and neighbors, Houston Insiders will have access to FOMO-inducing (fear of missing out) special events, sneak previews and experiences, networking opportunities, giveaways, bragging rights, and more.

Houston Dynamo Event - #HoustonInsider
 #HoustonInsider Event at Miss Carousel
Visit Houston has made it super easy for you to get started. Simply complete their short online overview course made up of two modules, which take approximately 15 minutes each to complete. You don’t have to complete them all at once, you can save and come back to them later. Once you’ve completed the course, you’ll officially be on the list, and you'll be added to the monthly newsletter list full of special Insider event details, contests and hot tips for the month.

Pssttt... You need to open this in Chrome on your desktop. For mobile visitors - the link below will direct you to the app store so you can download the Houston Insider app and take the course from your phone!


https://visithouston.travpromobile.com/login
CLICK BANNER

"It really started cooking when I moved to Houston. I bought a house and got my own barbecue pit." 
-- Earl Campbell 

#HoustonInsider

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Monday, December 10, 2018

When A Rising Tide Floats All Hopes

"On Board with Houston" by John Ross Palmer


"In crucial things, unity. In important things, diversity. In all things, generosity." 
-- President George H.W. Bush  
(June 12, 1924 - November 30, 2018)

Artist John Ross Palmer is a fifth generation Texan and a native Houstonian. As a means to help him heal after seeing the devastation to his hometown that was caused by Hurricane Harvey, Palmer created "On Board with Houston". Watching the relief efforts, Palmer was most captivated by the men, women, children and pets that had to be rescued from the horrifically high flood waters by boats. A veritable armada of mostly privately owned boats used to save neighbors and fellow citizens.

The painting features seven interlocked boats symbolizing the coordination, communication, teamwork and generosity of first responders who came, not only from Houston, but from all across the United States. "On Board with Houston" paints a positive and uplifting message about the power of communities coming together to help each other. These combined efforts have led to the rebuilding of a stronger Houston since Hurricane Harvey.

Starting in 2017, Palmer has worked closely with the George H. W. Bush Foundation to create artwork for the 20th Anniversary of President Bush's library in College Station, TX. In the wake of the storm, Palmer met with the former President at his summer home on Walker's Point to share the painting. He loved it! President Bush and Palmer hatched an idea to sell prints of the painting to raise funds for the Points of Light Foundation's Hurricane Harvey relief effort, including the Foundation's plans for a long-term volunteer program throughout Houston. 

To honor the former President and also add another inspirational element to the painting, Palmer infused small white dots amidst the letters of "Houston", representing the 41st President of the Untied States' Thousand Points of Light initiative and its ongoing efforts to support and encourage volunteerism. The painting was signed by both President George H. W. Bush and Artist John Ross Palmer on Thursday, August 31, 2017 in Kennebunkport, Maine.

We purchased this print and so can you. "On Board with Houston" prints are created, packaged and shipped from Houston, TX.

John Ross Palmer Art
713.861.6726
http://www.johnpalmerart.com/





    

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Road to Forgiveness and Peace



 "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." 
-- Mahatma Gandhi


If you happen to be one of the millions of viewers of the NBC hit show "This Is Us", you have no doubt taken notice that the plot has regularly taken nearly every character on a journey to find peace at the crossroads of forgiveness. The program is extraordinarily powerful at stirring deep emotional reactions in every single viewer. And not because the patriarch and nearly perfect protagonist dies, but because every single person who has followed the series journey can personally relate to the pain and suffering in one or more of the character's "lives".

In my own personal life experience I have discovered that nothing good ever comes from anger or the lack of an ability or desire to forgive. More often than not, the two are deeply intertwined. It is like a virus that everyone suffers from that inevitably flares up from time to time. I wish that I could say that I am immune to this condition, but I am not and neither are you. Look, I realize that there are simply some circumstances that we mere mortals just cannot find a way to get past. Sadly, as a result, ideal peace and happiness will never quite be achieved. 

This truth is known, peace and happiness are not static conditions, but rather dynamic places that we all arrive at and depart from with endless regularity; regardless of age, experience, education, faith, health, heritage, physical strength, or socioeconomic status. The characters in "This Is Us" ultimately become their best (sometimes only temporarily) when they reconcile with their own "demons"; oft times self created. I implore you, in your very real life, to pursue the best reconciliation you can muster with the people, places, circumstances, conditions, and things that keep you from being your best. I can assure you that happiness, peace, and strength will be excellent by-products. Indeed!   







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Friday, January 26, 2018

So, What Do You Do?




 "There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want." 
-- Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbs 


It is official: I have finally ordered my new "so, what do you do" cards allowing me to continue my retirement in a stress and drama free lifestyle, to which I have become accustomed. Well, not counting the fact that my wife Brooke alleges that I have discovered new and improved ways of getting on her nerves. To me, I feel as though I have mastered new skills to demonstrate my undying love to and for her; all in only 10 short months.

But, I digress. 

I have said previously that I believe one of the greatest by-products of retirement is flexibility. I have become a wanderluster, I have expanded my foodie palette, and most importantly, I have become a formidable professional sleeper-inner. I am quite literally available for practically anything at anytime (after 10:00 am local time of course). Folks, these are significant skills I am talking about!

Brooke and I often get out and about in Houston attending art gallery openings, checking out new restaurants, or going to our regular haunts. We are very social and friendly, and as a result, we meet many interesting and engaging strangers. Inevitably, the number one question that we are asked by new people we meet is, "So, what do you do?"

Brooke has mentioned to me that she prefers that I NOT say, "Well, I was just released from prison and I am trying to adjust to restaurant food and a free society!" I have solved this perplexing and difficult question to answer by simply ordering my own cards that are self-explanatory. Not to mention what it has done for my street cred!
     

"When a man retires, his wife gets twice the husband but only half the income." 
-- Chi Chi Rodriguez





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