Signs in Panama

More signs that caught our eyes…

Steep incline although not really as steep as this shows usually

Transportation

Bus stop on the road to Bocas Del Toro

Buses of all types are used extensively in Central America. Everything from small vans to school buses and even modern buses. Taxis in Panama are shared and the taxi drivers are restricted to charging what the bus would cost someone. They are all “yellow” cabs, either compacts or crew cab trucks.

The local buses don’t run on a schedule because they wait to get filled before they head out on the route. Sometimes you pay when you get on, mostly you pay when you get to your stop.

Bus stops can be anything. Some are well constructed with seats and roofs, others are barely anything and may also function as a produce stand at times. As we drove to Bocas Del Toro we saw quite a variety and I took some pictures.

Water taxi between Almirante (mainland) and Bocas Del Toro
Aperture: 2.2
Camera: GT-I9195I
Iso: 50
Orientation: 1

Bikes are also used a lot in various areas and even modified bicycles are used for commerce.

Healthcare in Panama

Invoices from Clinic visit. Note the charge for the “consultation”, $5 to see the doctor.

We’ve had more occasion to check out the Panamanian healthcare system in our travels than we would have preferred. First Dan had allergies or a virus and saw a local doctor who was raised in the USA but got her medical training in Panama. I saw her to see if she had any different suggestions for the chronic insomnia that I have (some help).

Then last week when we went to Bocas Del Toro on the Caribbean coast I got “amoeba”. The water in Bocas is notorious but from what I can tell, the incubation period for amoeba is 1-2 weeks so I can’t blame it on Bocas. Amoeba seems to be the underlying problem causing dysentery. Gross bloody mucus stools, intense cramping. It came on quickly and I went to the Bocas clinic the next morning.

The clinic is in a large old building. Staff was professional but not overly friendly. The wait for care wasn’t long. I saw a doctor with a face mask on who asked me about symptoms and allergies. She ordered basic blood work, two IV antibiotics, and medications to take home.

It is obvious that sanitation is not a very high priority in this area. While we didn’t encounter mosquitoes in spite of some standing water in some ditches and the doctor wearing the mask, the rest was cursory. Not a single restroom was fully functioning with paper, soap, and flushing toilets. There was some combination of those things in the various restrooms but the only soap was in the treatment room.

The prep of my arm prior to the blood draw or IV insertion was a very quick swipe with a piece of cotton that had alcohol on it. It must have been adequate though.

I went home with two oral antibiotics, antacid, and probiotics. I was shocked (and grateful) that the doctor ordered the probiotics. The IV antibiotics started working within a couple of hours and I am now back to normal.

The entire cost of my test and treatment? $37 which included the medications. I would have gladly paid more to have more sanitary conditions but I know many of the locals couldn’t have afforded that.

Aside from these “adventures”, Dan has seen a skin doctor and will see her again this coming week. The office visit was $40 and the skin biopsies will be about $150 each. I plan to see a dentist locally in the next week or two for cleaning. My understanding is that the dentist himself/herself does the cleaning and that the cost is in the neighborhood of $50.

And in case you are wondering, I really have no idea how I got the amoeba. We have been really careful and use the reverse osmosis water to drink, brush our teeth, rinse many of the dishes, wash veggies/fruits. I had gotten a little lax and drank water in a restaurant in David but so did Dan and he didn’t get sick. We have gotten stricter again, just to be sure.

Raquel’s Ark and Cat House

Raquel has a wicked sense of humor. The cats include a jaguar and house cats. She used to have a margay but it died.

This is a small rescue center in Vulcan, Panama. The animals currently include chickens (Raquel is vegetarian), a jaguar, an owl, two-toed sloths, baby howler monkeys, a tayra (member of the weasel family), raccoons, white-nosed coati, a weasel and some house cats. Continue reading “Raquel’s Ark and Cat House”