Mail Call


For the record we don’t have mail delivery in Panama, nor do we have addresses.  The closest thing I have to an address is, “the gringos with two Dalmatians on the road to the cemetery.”  My electric bill comes monthly delivered by a guy on a motorcycle who sticks it somewhere near the front gate and if it doesn’t get blown away or washed away, we find it.  Regular mail is picked up general delivery at the post office in town.  If you are lucky you have a post office box.  There are not nearly enough postal boxes.  When we came to Boquete, every time Nikki would see a funeral procession she’d run to the post office to see if the box was available, which is how we got box #4.

But most our mail, of course, is electronic!  So on with mail and comments …

People come and people go … and I’ve entitled one of the chapters in THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING AND RETIRING IN PANAMA, “Leaving Paradise” since I’ve always been as interested in the reasons why people leave, as well as why they come to Panama. Jackie Lange, who leads Panama Relocation Tours, sent me a link to an interesting post by some folks in Costa Rica about the reasons why they decided to leave Costa Rica. If you are thinking of adopting an expat lifestyle in either Panama or Costa Rica you might find this interesting, as, of course, the chapter in my new book.

Richard, I love your blog and cannot wait to get your new book. I will traveling in Panama in 2014 and look forward to your helpful hints.

Medical information

I received this interesting comment from bluzeguys . . .

Regarding the medical information, I have traveled extensively in Europe and the Americas and received both excellent and poor care experiences in the same countries. Poignant anecdotes can be provided to support any viewpoint, so, while they reflect sincere and meaningful personal experiences, they do not necessarily provide greater understanding.

My former physician is Canadian and has practiced in his home country, Panama and the U.S. (He is the one who suggested I would like Panama.) His comment was they all have good care, but, you simply cannot compete with the range and quality received in the U.S. His nation suffers a shortage of MRI centers. He has seen 50-year-old men die on the sidewalk from heart attacks because they could not get to a hospital quickly enough. These are sights, he says, you rarely see in the U.S. Trauma center training is existent, but minimal in most places.

That does not mean the U.S. system does not have its faults. It does. There are some greedy MD’s, overpriced insurers and now our new federally mandated exchanges follow the old HMO model that Congress outlawed in the 90′s because they provided such poor coverage.

Perhaps the message is you really have to wade carefully into the medical waters. Look for recommendations and, if you have a chronic condition, you might want to consider the facilities, costs and skills capabilities available in the area before moving.

One fallacy to clear up is the often mentioned assumption that since life expectancy is higher in some nations than in the U.S. that means they have better health care than the U.S. Unfortunately, the two do not equate. Overall life expectancy in any nation is based on many factors such as lifestyles, eating habits, work stress and even driving fatalities. Americans generally live much different lifestyles then our neighbors. The quality of healthcare does not become the major factor in life expectancy until the later years when medical attention is more in demand. In fact, at age 65 and beyond, where medical care really counts, the U.S. is number one in life expectancy by a wide margin.

And in answer . . .

I see you are selling your coffee plantation. Have you had enough and want to move on?

I’ve gotten a number of these questions since we are putting our coffee estate and house on the market.  The answer is we’re not going anywhere.  We love Panama and are happy here, but with my wife’s health and my plans to go back to working on ships, the farm and our dream house are just too much for us at this point in our lives.  We’ve had a great seven years raising coffee.  There is a lot of interest in the States and elsewhere in “single source” coffee, but I just don’t have the extra energy or interest to take our coffee business to the next level.

The Grind

From James Davis . . .

Welcome back, Richard. Glad your brother is now in good hands. Now we’re all hanging on to the edges of our seats wondering WHICH COFFEE GRINDER you bought!  The coffee grinder I have is the “Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder” which I’ve used here for over a year without trouble. Not the cheapest, but has been very reliable. Look for it on Amazon.

Also Bonnie Williams …

Yes, please, tell us which coffee grinder you settled on. I’m due for a new one, too, and am traveling to the States next month.

Drum roll . . . Baratza Virtuoso Burr Espresso Grinder. It seems to work well, so far, but don’t take this as any recommendation or endorsement. I’ve discovered with coffee stuff your initial impression isn’t worth much. Ask me after a year, and if it is still working, I might recommend it. Funny how most customer satisfaction ratings are based on customer evaluation right after purchasing, not twelve months later when whatever you purchased might be falling apart or stopped working.  Some of the purchases which we’ve initially loved, turned out to be the most wasted purchases of our lives.

Amazon of course!

Where can I purchase your book on retiring to Panama? Jerry Reidelbach

You can buy the books either from CreateSpace directly,  Kindle or the general Amazon site.   If you buy a book on Kindle, and later decide you’d like a paperback copy you can get it for just $2.99.

Embera Tourism

Responding to the post Exploiting The Natives? Nelva writes . . .

Excellent conversation about the effects of tourism on Emberå culture.For greater understanding of that effect we need to hear the Emberå voices.

Allison adds . . .

This is a marvelous trip to take. The Embera people are beautiful. I resent the lack of money they receive from the ship tours, and I resent all the tourists taking candy. If you must, take books, pencils etc. Buy their handicrafts that are so beautiful and well made. I often wonder how these tours are effecting them and I do hope it is because they want to do them.

Then there was this from Margot . . .

Thought provoking piece. A variation and overview of this whole theme should be part of every port lecturer’s talk, especially when tours include indigenous people.
The financial equity of the tours IS troubling. One of the reasons I try to book tours through local tour companies rather than the ship’s whenever possible.
Having said that, what can we, as passengers do to urge ships to share more with the people who make this and other tours even possible?
And, on another topic? The photo of the author with HER top on amidst a group of bare-breasted women screams inequity and feels patronizing and condescending to me, especially when that photo is published for a western audience. Though I am convinced that wasn’t her intention. Margot

Margot, Anne is a gringa woman married to an Embera guy and the gals in the picture with her are her in-laws.  I know Anne has on occasion tried the dress code of the older Embera women, but is happy with who she is.  It seems to me that it would be “patronizing and condescending” if she went native!  I know her Embera family and they love and accept Anne just as she is.  Like everyone else in the village she bathes in the river when she is home in the village. And, no, I don’t know if they use an “approved” brand of bio-degradable soap!

The tours are the only source of income for the Embera in Chagres.  Since the turnover of the Canal the area in which they live has been made into a national park.  The Embera are allowed to live in the park, but they can no longer hunt in their traditional ways or practice agriculture within the park.  So the need tourism, but they also really enjoy meeting and interacting with people from all over the world.  Where in the past they may have been looked down on as “savages” or “ignorant Indians”, Panamanian Latinos now recognize the Embera as a national treasure and realize the importance of preserving the traditional Embera culture.

How big is too big?

Richard. You are completely right to simplify your living in Panama. We built a large home in Saint Lucoa and sold it fortunately in 2009. Then we built in 2010 a small one of 1550 s.ft. with everything on one level, plunge pool, small pool deck and a covered veranda.
It is made of tropical Greenheart wood like part of the old canal locks. Ideal insulation.
We just sold it finally to British people and will move in June or July to Panama. We will
rent a home between David and Boquete. El Frances maybe. We will see. For the two of us it is simple, but to fly with our 4 doggies with transit in Trinidad requires quite some paperwork. Looking forward to meet you in the near future. Greetings to Nikki. Helen just had for the second time Dengue fever. This time bad for 10 days and another 20 days feeling weak. Robert & Helen

Relocation Tours

Hola Richard. Are you still doing the relocation tours and if so, where can I get more info to give someone that needs to do your tour, not sit in a hotel ballroom for 4 days listen to others sell them something. Muchas Gracias! Sunny

The Panama Relocation Tours are actually the project of my friend Jackie Lange.  Sometimes, when my schedule permits, I tag along on the tour.  In fact I’m finishing up on the current tour right now, and will write a report when it is over.  The tours are a great introduction to the country and will help you in your decision if Panama is right for you.  The tours fill up quickly, so if you are interested, don’t delay.  Everyone on the tour receives a copy of my book THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING AND RETIRING IN PANAMA,,which is required reading before the tour.  The Panama Relocation Tours, like my book, are not designed to “sell” Panama, but are intended to give you an honest look at what expat life is like in Panama.  The real scoop on the real deal!  Jackie and Doug, just like Nikki and I, LOVE living in Panama, but we also recognize that Panama is not for everyone.  Both the book and the tour will help you decide if Panama is right for you.

Making the authentic "Panama Hats" in Manta, Ecuador.

Making the authentic “Panama Hats” in Manta, Ecuador.

There is a lot of interest in Ecuador as well.  I think the stability, economic growth, infrastructure, etc., etc., etc., of Panama far outweigh Ecuador, certainly for me, and for many prospective expats.  But, if you are interested in Ecuador, Nathan, a good friend of Jackie and part of her extended family, has started Ecuador Relocation Tours. My only experience in Ecuador has been mostly along the coast stopping on cruise ships.  It’s not for me, but if you’d like to check it out, Nathan’s tour is a good place to start.


After seven years of blogging and over 1,400 posts things had gotten pretty disorganized on the site, so I’m in a continuing progress or reorganizing and making things easier to find.  You note on the drop down menus above, that it is getting much easier to find information on my site.


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Easter is the “big” Christian celebration because it is what the Christian faith is all about . . . being born again and lifted up to new life! It was my favorite day as a pastor . . . a day of celebration, of hope, of new life . . . and, of course, parking problems.

When I was pastoring a church in Milwaukee . . . New Life Community Church . . . we started doing an Easter sunrise service a a local drive-in theater. It was a wonderful idea and got a lot of press coverage . . . particularly when it snowed in Wisconsin on Easter morning. But we always persevered . . . snow and all. I had long underwear and fleece jackets under my robe and wore gloves . . . but we did it, even in the snow.

So today as I travel across Panama with the Panama Relocation Tour I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite arrangements of two traditional Easter hymns. Enjoy! Happy Easter . . . “The Lord is risen!”

“He is risen indeed!”


It’s about an hour bus ride from Haifa to Jerusalem across the Holy Land. Once in a while you get vistas which if you use a little imagination still look a bit like those of Biblical times. Israel is of course a growing, modern country, filled with history, but not “stuck” in Biblical times. There are car dealerships, shopping malls and of course what guides the world over jokingly refer to as “the American Embassy” a/k/a Mc Donald’s. It may be a tired line, but the tour passengers faithfully laugh each time they hear it. So rather than “walking” to Jerusalem, we whisk down the super highway to Jerusalem.

The first glimpse of the “Holy City” as I mentioned earlier, is from the Mount of Olives and it is just like it looks in all the tour books and posters.

There are five possible options for the “traditional” site of the Garden of Gethsemane. The tour operators pick the one that is the most convenient, the site of The Church of All Nations. Miraculously we get forty people from the bus across a busy road and into the line up of groups crowding our way through several dozen old olive trees and into a modern church commemorating Jesus’ prayer in the garden while his disciples slept of the wine of the “Last Supper” Passover celebration. A hustler on the street is selling twigs of olive branches for 1 Euro. Incredibly people are buying them! It is easy to forget all about why you are here. An elderly monk, or a character actor – one can never be sure here – wanders amidst the old olive trees providing a photo op. Then it’s back on the bus and off to the Old City.

Security is tight here. Lots of police and army vehicles. Scanners. Young, plain clothes Israeli security agents making eye contact. It is Friday afternoon. Muslims are heading to the mosques, Jews are preparing for Shabbat, and tourists are flocking in by the busloads.

Tourism in the Holy Land strikes me as . . . well, for want of a better term, “Mc Holyland”. Neatly packaged, zillions sold, all identical, another day another zillion burger . . . I mean tourists. Mass produced pilgrimage. Making a buck or shequel off the faith of others. I guess it is really no different than televangelism, but something about the whole thing sets my teeth on edge. I told you previously about the Yardinet baptismal operation which to me comes off the same as if I packaged food, called it Kosher, even although it wasn’t, and passed it off to the Jewish faithful justifying the deception by saying, “Well, they’re buying it, not complaining. I’m making a buck. So it’s not kosher; do you see anyone complaining? Who knows? Who cares?”

So we’re here at the Wailing Wall . . . which I already told you about and which, despite the best efforts of Israeli tourism, was for me a meaningful spiritual moment.

Now we’re walking the Via Dolorosa, the “way of sorrows” where Jesus carried his cross to Calvary . . . through the Jewish Quarter and Muslim Quarter [LOTS of Israeli soldiers here with machine guns] and the Christian Quarter. Lots of temptations: shops selling every kind of souvenir and religious trinkets. Me like a good sheepdog herding our group along. In any group there are a few folks who never should have booked a group tour in the first place; a few people you’d like to lose, but can’t. And there is no question that the Old City is fascinating, and would even if it didn’t have any religious significance, but it’s still fun to try and find some religious significance . . .

We make a few stops along the way. Our guide explains that there have been a couple of dozen suggested routes that Jesus took over the years. Finally the church, the city, the shops, the tourist board and the tour operators decided that this was the route that Jesus took and so it is sold as such. Who knows?

One of the most fascinating things I learned in four years of seminary came from Dr. John Piet a no-nonsense, brilliant theologian, and good teacher who was able to cut through a lot of the bull that was being served up and make sense. ‘History as a living fact consists not so much in what actually happened, as in what people believe to have happened.” That’s more essential to touring the Holy Land than bottled water!

So we’ve pushed through most of the Stations of the Cross with most of the group still intact and we reach the Church of The Holy Sepulcher. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, also called the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is within the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is probably the most likely site of Golgotha or the Hill of Calvary, since this has been the tradition since around 300 AD, and it is said to also be the place where Jesus was buried and from which he arose from the dead. Today it also serves as the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem while control of the building is shared between several Christian churches and secular entities in complicated arrangements essentially unchanged for centuries. Thank you Jesus! Who controls what is very important in the Holy Land. Finally these folks have agreed on something! Well at least the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Roman Catholic. Anglican and Protestant Christians are left out in the cold with no permanent presence in the church. Really, what difference does it make? If we are all Christians who cares who has the keys to what: but apparently in Jerusalem it is a big deal. Gonna be interesting when we all get to heaven!

Rent-A-Cross – Conveniently pilgrims who wish to carry the cross along the path of sorrows of Christ can rent crosses at either end.

And this church is the place of the final stations of the cross . . . Covering the place where most traditions accept as the hill of Calvary, and the place where the borrowed tomb was in which Jesus was buried which is of course what everyone wants to see. Except that that your guide will tell you there is a “2 hour wait” to get into the actual traditional burial tomb, so a visit to the sepulcher is not included. On the “Mc Holyland” tour things are neatly packaged and timed. This disappointing announcement is delivered just before the guide announces we are heading back to the bus to go to a kibbutz for lunch. Ah, food! We’ve all be starving on the ship so the promise of food, wine, and rest rooms trumps not seeing the traditional spot of the Resurrection.

Old bomb disposal bin outside Church of The Holy Sepluchre. It was so much easier before people decided to blow themselves up.

Forget the images you had of a kibbutz back in college. This is a highly evolved giant wedding and bar mitzvah palace! Hundreds of tour bus passengers. “Mc Holyland” efficient and tasty as well.

Now it’s back on the bus and off to another country . . . The fallout of what you get when God gives away real estate to one group of people without telling the people who are living there that it’s no longer theirs. Kinda like with the American Indians . . . And not to get political, but when you get to the giant wall Israel built along the border with the West Bank you realize that the Palestinians and Israelis may be cousins, but they are certainly not kissing cousins. Through the ugly wall (one thinks of the Berlin wall, and the US wall with Mexico) and into Bethlehem, the City of David, the birthplace of Jesus, the Christ.

We shift guides. Israeli guides are not permitted to talk about Bethlehem, only Palestinian guides allowed, which is OK, because both guides have professional spiels. So we arrive at the famous Manger Square of Bethlehem.

Traditionally on Christmas Eve Manger Square in Bethlehem comes alive with security forces and tourists from all over the world who want to be here to celebrate what probably wasn’t exactly the actual night of Jesus’ birth. We know that December on the hills outside of Bethlehem can be cold and windy and it is unlikely that “shepherds would be in the fields keeping watch over their sheep by night” in the midst of winter. More likely they would be hunkered down in a cave or barn in town to keep warm. Because the Romans celebrated their pagan festival of Saturnalia on December 25th, the early church, burdened by persecution, decided that when the Romans were all drunk and whooping and hollering, it would be a good time to hold their celebration of the Savior’s birth, and nobody would notice. And so it came about that the western Christian church celebrates the birth of Christ on December 25th.

Again two churches, one Orthodox and one Roman Catholic. Different worlds. And yet again there is a “2 hour wait” to see the supposed cave where Jesus was born. By this time everyone has a glazed-over look and accept that we will not see what it is we thought we came to see. Time is of the essence here since we have an obligatory 45 minute shopping stop at an overpriced tourist shop that has a marketing agreement with the “Mc Holyland” tour operator. This shop has an ideal location: there isn’t a competitor in sight so they have a captive audience.

Almost everyone is back on the bus long before the allotted time, but the tour guide holds out hoping that someone will spring for the $25,000 olive wood, hand-carved crèche. Alas and alack, no sale. Just a few post cards, an olive-wood-look-alike plastic Rosary, and a few candles scented with the authentic smell of the West Bank.

Red Moon Rising

OK, it seemed like a good title for something. A little research and I find it’s been used on everything from predictive apocalyptic theology books to gay romance novels. But, anyway, I saw a spectacular view the other night of the lunar eclipse and the red moon. A lot of times I wake up in the middle of the night, go online and work. It’s quiet. There are no interruptions. And then, maybe around 4:30 a.m. I go back to bed for a few hours. Wacky, I know, but it works. I knew there was to be a lunar eclipse the other night, and around 2 a.m. I checked to find out what time it would occur. 2:07 a.m. Perfect. Went outside the sky was crystal clear and there was the red moon! If I had a telescope with a good camera I could have gotten the shot. But the one on Wikipedia works fine.

It was such a clear view I woke Nikki up to take a look.  Nights in Boquete are wonderful for star gazing when the sky is clear and it was one of those nights.  The palm trees with the stars in the background … wish I knew how to capture that image.

Although lunar eclipses aren’t that rare, this particular sequence of lunar eclipses won’t   happen again for another fifteen or so years.  But a reference in the Bible gets the creative imaginations of some who have an apocalyptic, predictive view of Scripture running wild. A verse in acts, echoing a passage in the book of Joel, says, “And I will show wonders in Heaven above and signs in the Earth beneath, the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.”

There’s an interesting article [What's up with the blood-moon prophecies?] by Kenneth L. Waters, a professor at Azusa Pacific University, about Christians who see these natural phenomena as predicting the “End Times”.  He concludes,

The Bible often speaks of astronomical signs indicating the End Times, but they are ambiguous and non-specific. And Jesus discouraged Christians from setting timetables and questing after signs.

“No one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows,” Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew.

The Apostle Paul also talked about signs of the End Times – not to establish a calendar, but rather to comfort members of the church who thought death would deprive them of the opportunity to see Jesus’ Second Coming.

In times of widespread fear, insecurity and uncertainty, religious leaders and secular theorists, some well-meaning and some who are not, will exploit the need for hope and assurance by declaring exclusive discovery of some secret plan hidden in the disorder.

We have seen this before: the fear of Y2K in 2000; Harold Camping’s predictions of the apocalypse in 2011; the “Mayan” Apocalypse on December 21, 2012; and now the blood moons.

But instead of looking to the heavens for signs of the future, Christians should focus on the hope and promise of the gospel message and seek to reflect Christ in word and deed.

And especially as we enter Holy Week and anticipate Easter, may each of us look within our own hearts for those shadows that keep us from enjoying the fullness of relationship with the Creator of the sun, the stars, and yes, the blood moons.

And that’s a good thought for Holy Week.

Santa Semana

Panama is officially a Christian country, although there is absolute religious freedom and Jews, Muslims and persons of other faiths, and no faith, live happily together.  But there is no official separation between church and state.  The Catholic hierarchy advise politicians in the current hot presidential race to “play nice” and the politicians give lip service to the plea, and then go off and do their own thing.  Voting is coming up on May 4th which means one party will have a blow out celebration on “Cinco de Mayo” and the other two main parties can drown their sorrows.

But Santa Semana, while deeply religious for some, for most is another opportunity not to work for much or all of the week.  Good Friday is an official holiday, but a lot of companies just throw up their hands and close up shop, or have limited hours of operation.  It is a time for family get togethers and vacations.  Santa Semana is the final event in the “limited work” cycle that began with the patriotic holidays in November, continued with Mother’s Day (a BIG deal in Panama!), Christmas in December, New Year’s and the Boquete Fair in January, then Carnival, now Holy Week, and then we get back to work.  Well, after election day since everyone is busy getting the last bit of campaigning in before the election.

“Where’s the dumpster?”

Depending on which party wins we may all be playing 52 Pickup after May 5th.  Panama does not have an entrenched civil service.  If the current government remains in power it will be business as usual.  If a new government is elected all of the bureaucrats, except maybe the janitor, will be looking for jobs as the party hacks of the new government take over.  If you have business with the government, sitting on someone’s desk awaiting approval, and the government changes, chances are that your paperwork will end up in the dumpster,  you go back to “GO!” and do not collect $200.  After all, who wants to leave a messy desk stacked with paperwork when they leave office.

Mea culpa!

I know that I’ve been a very erratic blogger for the past few months.  I’ve been busy getting my two new books into print and available on Kindle, as well as working on a third book due out in May or June, reorganizing this blog, and going to Seattle to get my brother into an assisted living home. Busy, busy, busy … whatever happened to “retirement”?

You can be as busy as you choose in Panama, or just sit back and watch the coffee grow, or play golf. I guess I just happen to be a guy who “makes work” wherever I go.

This week I’m heading off to Panama to join a Panama Relocation Tour and I will post blogs as we go along, so be sure to watch.


The Wall

I’ve been all over much of the world, but I’ve never been to Washington, D.C. Why? I just never had reason to go, and, deep inside I felt that I would be very disappointed. I would like to see the Wall, but only if I could go at night when there aren’t many people there, and the Wall is open 24 hours a day.

I’ve never been to Viet Nam. Not as a soldier nor as a tourist. My daughter, Rebecca, spent time in Viet Nam last year and loved it. Almost the entire Vietnamese population alive now was born after the Viet Nam War. For me “Viet Nam” has always represented horrible foreign policy, misguided and politically motivated decisions by old men in positions of power, and the total loss of an estimated 1,102,000–3,886,026 people on both sides. For many of my generation it is still an open wound. The Wall memorializes young Americans who did what they were called upon to do, served their country, and died in the process. It is also a tribute to those who served and were physically and or emotionally wounded. Hopefully as a country we will never forget and learn from their sacrifice.

Thankfully the names of my friends who served are not on the wall. One of those friends, who still bears the wounds of war, forwarded this valuable post.

The Wall

A little history most people will never know.

Interesting Veterans Statistics off the Viet Nam Memorial Wall.

There are 58,267 names now listed on that polished black wall, including those added in 2010.

The names are arranged in the order in which they were taken from us by date and within each date the names are alphabetized. It is hard to believe it is 36 years since the last casualties.

The first known casualty was Richard B. Fitzgibbon, of North Weymouth, Mass. Listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as having been killed on June 8, 1956. His name is listed on the Wall with that of his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, who was killed on Sept. 7, 1965.

There are three sets of fathers and sons on the Wall.

39,996 on the Wall were just 22 or younger.

8,283 were just 19 years old.

The largest age group, 33,103 were 18 years old.

12 soldiers on the Wall were 17 years old.

5 soldiers on the Wall were 16 years old.

One soldier, PFC Dan Bullock was 15 years old.

997 soldiers were killed on their first day in Viet Nam.

1,448 soldiers were killed on their last day in Viet Nam.

31 sets of brothers are on the Wall.

Thirty one sets of parents lost two of their sons.

54 soldiers attended Thomas Edison High School in Philadelphia.
I wonder why so many from one school. 8 Women are on the Wall, nursing the wounded.
244 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Viet Nam War; 153 of them are on the Wall.

Beallsville, Ohio with a population of 475 lost 6 of her sons.

West Virginia had the highest casualty rate per capita in the nation. There are 711 West Virginians on the Wall.

The Marines of Morenci – they led some of the scrappiest high school football and basketball teams that the little Arizona copper town of Morenci (pop. 5,058) had ever known and cheered. They enjoyed roaring beer busts. In quieter moments, they rode horses along the Coronado Trail, stalked deer in the Apache National Forest. And in the patriotic camaraderie typical of Morenci’s mining families, the nine graduates of Morenci High enlisted as a group in the Marine Corps. Their service began on Independence Day, 1966. Only 3 returned home.

The Buddies of Midvale – Leroy Tafoya, Jimmy Martinez, Tom Gonzales were all boyhood friends and lived on three consecutive streets in Midvale, Utah on Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues. They lived only a few yards apart. They played ball at the adjacent sandlot ball field. And they all went to Viet Nam. In a span of 16 dark days in late 1967, all three would be killed. Leroy was killed on Wednesday, Nov. 22, the fourth anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s
assassination. Jimmy died less than 24 hours later on Thanksgiving Day. Tom was shot dead assaulting the enemy on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day.

The most casualty deaths for a single day was on January 31, 1968 ~ 245 deaths.

The most casualty deaths for one month was May 1968 – 2,415 casualties were incurred.

For most Americans who read this they will only see the numbers that the Vietnam War created. To those of us who survived the war, and to the families of those who did not, we see the faces, we feel the pain that these numbers created. We are, until we too pass away, haunted with these numbers, because they were our friends, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters. There are no noble wars, just noble warriors.


IT’S ALL HERE … Everything You Need to Know

It’s 4:30 a.m. – When I am on the bridge giving commentary as we make a passage through the Canal this is when and how the day begins. You’ll get inside information on what’s happening on the bridge of a ship passing through the Canal and pictures on the bridge showing perspectives that guests never get to see.

The Bridge of Life – Millions of years ago there was no Panama! The waters of the oceans flowed freely between the continents before the “bridge of life” liking the continents was created.

New Granada – Eventually the Spanish arrived and conquered, and then as the Spanish Empire dissolved, Panama struggled to find it’s place in the New Word.

The Dream – Columbus, King Charles V of Spain, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Simon Bolivar all shared the same dream.

At work: bridge commentary during Canal passage.

At work: bridge commentary during Canal passage.

A Century of Expansion – Voyages and expeditions of discovery opened up new areas of the world, and the fledgling United States of America began expanding to the west.

The Panama Railroad – Although many cruise passengers will take the excursion on today’s Panama Railroad, few realize how important the original Panama Railroad was not only to Panama but also to the United States. This was the “little railroad that could” and carried billions of dollars of gold across the Isthmus.

The French Effort – Riding high on the success of the Suez Canal, Ferdinand de Lesseps came declaring that a canal across Panama would be easier than building the Suez Canal.

Banana Republic – The term “Banana Republic” was coined to describe the Republic of Panama created with the assistance of the United States, who in return got a path cross the Isthmus dividing the new country in two.

Let The Dirt Fly – Theodore Roosevelt, like Caesar, came, saw and conquered. The United States undertook the greatest project the modern world had ever seen and finished the Panama Canal ahead of schedule and under budget.

Dr Richard DetrichaHow It Works – In theory quite simple: up, over, and down, but achieving that was and is quite a marvel! Here’s what you need to know about how and why the Canal functions.

A Complicated Marriage – Panama’s relationship with the United States was complicated from the start. Many people read David Mc Cullough’s wonderful history, The Path Between The Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914, failing to realize that it covers only PART of the history. A lot has happened since 1914, in the world, in Panama, with the Canal, and with Panama’s relationship with the United States.

Moving Forward – Time moves on, and so has the Canal and Panama. What about the future role of the Canal? Nicaragua? The Northwest Passage? The Canal expansion project?

Panama 101 – What is in Panama and why are people so excited about visiting the country itself?

Booking Passage – The questions everyone ask … What is the best time? How to find the best price? Which side of the ship is best? What about shots, passports, etc.?

I do change my shirts!  This is just my traditional Panama Canal day shirt!  It's more fun if there is another ship in the locks next to you.

I do change my shirts! This is just my traditional Panama Canal day shirt! It’s more fun if there is another ship in the locks next to you.

Seeing Panama – If you are lucky enough to actually stop in Panama and not just barrel through the Canal, what are the shore excursion options? Which one is best? How do you choose? Should you book through the cruise line or go independently? What are the independent options? Included are actual photos from most of the tours.

Your Voyage – Mile by mile guide of your cruise through the Panama Canal. What to expect and what to look for? Facts that you should know along the way.

Questions & Answers – Probably half of these are the same questions that you’ve been asking?

Our Ship & Our Bill – Everybody’s question: how much? A hypothetical ship and how the toll and fees are charged.

Key Dates in Panama History

U. S. Military Installations in Panama 1904 to 1999