I Must Be A Masochist

Boy oh boy, did I get beat up for the previous post on charities. I must be a little masochistic or I would not post anything that might provoke thought or discussion. The post obviously struck a nerve with several people and I seem to have ruffled more than a few feathers. I received hate mail, was called names, and some mail bordered on threats. WOW. What a reaction.

Still, I think anything that encourages discussion is probably a good thing. I am thick skinned and can take it if I dish it out.

It is my opinion that people moving to Panama from a foreign country, and are planning on living in Panama, need to assimilate into the community. To me, that means making an effort to learn the language, understand the culture, and trying to give back to the community.

I also realize that the older we get, each of these things become more difficult. Not all of us can do as much as others.

Let me address some things from the previous post in the order I consider most important.

My primary motive in writing the post was to make people aware that there are charity organizations outside of Boquete that need support. B4B gets so much press, that it is easy to forget about other needs or not even be aware they exist.

Certainly my post was not intended to disparage B4B or Boquete Hospice. I have supported them both in the past and will continue to do so. Yes, I do question administrative decisions of both, if I don’t think they make sense.

Let me address the request for a hospital bed that I made in behalf of a U.S. veteran. I realize that organizations have to establish rules in order to operate. I have managed organizations of thousands of people and I know that sometimes rules need to be bent. “Rules were made to be broken” was not originated by me.

I will also plead guilty to getting emotionally involved in the Embassy cases I have been involved with. At the time I requested the bed, I was absolutely convinced the individual would die without a hospital bed and proper care. He had no friends in David. He had no family in the U.S. that could come to Panama or assist him in any way. For several weeks it took 100% of my time getting past the hurdles.

Prior to calling Boquete Hospice, I had contacted Tom McCormack and he told me all of his beds were currently out and he would have more coming in in a couple months. It was only then that I contacted Boquete Hospice, knowing that my need was short term.

Luckily, a week or so after getting turned down by Boquete Hospice, Tom called me and said a bed had freed up and did I still need it.

The bed was used for a couple of months until I was able to get the individual moved into Hogar Santa Catalina. At that time I returned the bed to Tom because the Hogar had their own hospital beds (some probably provided by Tom).

However, let me make this perfectly clear. The one Boquete organization that I am aware of, that helps people outside Boquete, is the Boquete Hospice. If I am not wrong, I think they have recently provided training in hospice care in David. They also maintain a blood donors list and have always provided blood when asked. Unfortunately, the Panama donor regulations at each hospital are unique and often restrict donors over a certain age or because of the date they last entered Panama.

My post was not intended to disparage anyone. However, I did hope it would encourage those in decision making positions to reevaluate how decisions are made.

My past post was primarily intended to make people aware that there are worthy causes outside of Boquete and they should be considered when making donation decisions.

If you live in David, it is good to learn your area needs and support them.

If you live in Bugaba, it is good to know your area needs and support them.

If you live in Volcan, it is good to know your area needs and support them.


As a result of the post, several raised the question of why don’t you set up your own organizations if you think they are needed.

There are already plenty of organizations and I don’t know that more organizations are going to make a difference. Awareness of existing needs and organizations will make a difference. B4B does an outstanding job of getting their organization needs known.

Maybe B4B might consider having a section on their website which tells people about other Chiriquí organizations that are outside B4B’s ability to support. I am sure their website gets plenty of hits. and all by people wanting to make a difference. Awareness is the key. How about it B4B?

Any organization can only do so much. I believe the foundation of any community is built on the individuals in that community. It is up to individuals to care and be involved in helping others in need. If individuals are apathetic, nothing good happens.

Let me say one last thing. B4B has their largest event of the year coming up. Anyone that buys anything in the auction, should not think that they just bought a vacation, or a chair, or a printer or a painting. What they should think is that they just helped a child have a meal or they just a helped crippled child get therapy, etc. Think of it in context of people and not in the context of things acquired.

Now moving on to another subject.

I mentioned that people coming here need to understand the customs and practices in Panama.

Last Saturday, I was at El Rey at the pharmacy and I watched a group of 4 gringas pass through the grocery checkout. One after another they paid for their items as they talked between themselves, paying little attention to the cashier or bag boy, The bag boy placed all of their purchases in a bags as they went by. Each proceeded to take their bags never saying anything to the cashier and not saying “thank you” to the bag boy. None gave the bag boy a tip.

In Panama, the bag boys only work for tips. Neither PriceSmart nor the supermarkets pay these young men. Since that is not the case in the U.S., it is easy for newcomers to Panama to not be aware of this and to think nothing of ignoring them.

If I have a large amount of items carried to the car, I make sure to tip a dollar. If I decide to carry a small bag or two myself, I try to give a minimum of a quarter and maybe more depending on what I spent.

Another topic related to tips is for restaurants. In Panama, the standard tip for good service is 10%. More and more restaurants are posting that the suggested tip is 10% on their menus. Also you need to be aware that some restaurants include the tip in the bill. It pays to look at the bill and see if propina (tip) is listed. I realize that this is probably less than is the normal tip in the U.S., but I have had Panamanians criticize gringos tipping extravagant amounts saying they were showing off.

Well that is it for today. Bring on the slings and arrows.

31 thoughts on “I Must Be A Masochist

  1. Don don’t be ruffled by this incident. On the balance you do a fabulous service not only for the expats living here but also for those thinking of coming to Panama. Maybe you could on this occasion have got your message over in a more diplomatic form but there is no journalist of merit who has not put his/her foot in it. You have said sorry and now it is time to move on.

  2. Thanks Don for not being afraid to say what you feel is important. After all it is your blog.

  3. Thank you for being willing to speak up, too many people will not do that. You are an awesome community resource already, you do not need to become another “Organization.” Muchas Gracias for all you do!

  4. I agree with you 100%, Don. There are so many so called “do gooders” here, so they say. They NEED their names up in “lights”! Big deal! We never let anyone know about our donations. I don’t feel we need to be patted on the back for something that comes from our hearts. You are so right about giving tips to those bag boys. We have seen many gringos walk away and give them NOTHING! Not even a gracias or a smile! We NEVER do that and always make sure we give them a “gracias” as we hand them their tip.

  5. Thank you Don for keeping us up to date and informed about all things in the David area. It’s a shame that some expats are “thin-skinned” and oblivious to their surroundings. They probably weren’t considerate or tolerant up North, so why start here? I believe that I tip more than normal to make up for those who are unthinking or uncaring, and my appreciation for service is very much appreciated.

  6. @MalcoIm: I don’t think that Don has to apologetic for anything. The people that need to apologize are the Hate mail writers who have sent their hate mail to a fine gentleman, one who has helped more people in a month than all the hate mail writers together. I and others believe that he has hit the nail on the head in his previous blog. Boquete organizations are ruled by clicks and all these clicks stick together and if you are a Panamanian you just don’t fit in. Oh sure, there might be a few exceptions, but not the average Panamanian I live in Boquete, have for many years and I am married to a much younger Panamanian lady, together over 10 years. We used to go out to eat at the restaurants in Boquete but stopped doing that because all the stares we received while dining. We volunteered to help the animal rescue group at the Chiriqui Storage facility on the first Sunday of each month. On our first day, we arrived before everyone else and helped set up the tent, then the people with the dogs arrived and we were requested to man the back table selling the children s books. My 14 year old Panamanian daughter would have loved to be one of the dog handlers up front but wasn’t given the opportunity. OK, the next month we arrived before everyone else again but nobody from the group showed up. It seems everyone else in the group was notified, except us, that the rescue group presence was cancelled. OK, I got the drift, we didn’t return, there was so many other foreigners handling things. On one occasion, B4B was selling a computer on the Ning forum, I immediately responded to the ad before any other respondents and when I didn’t hear back called the poster who said that it was sold and there were several other
    people before me (in my opinion a friend of the poster called the poster and got the item). On another item posted, a hearing device, I was the only respondent and I got to buy it and when I got it home I discovered a missing connection cable. I went all over trying to find a cable that would work but was unsuccessful. OK, I just wrote that up as a gift to B4B. On another note, the Boquete Library has done as much if not more then other volunteer groups to help out Panamanians so you want to cut out any funding. That makes a lot of sense!!! OK, let the arrow commence, I’m thick skinned also.

  7. What do you give a sadist for his birthday? A whip.
    What do you give a masochist for his birthday? A sadist…with a whip.
    When is your birthday?

  8. I always appreciate the calm, logical manner in which you post and reply. You discuss the facts, offer suggestions and constructive criticism in a way that allows the reader to gain information and learn. When the slings and arrows attack, you maintain your calm, logical manner without becoming defensive or argumentative. I for one find it refreshing, regardless of my personal opinion on any given post.

    Don’t worry about stirring up the bees nest – you can’t get to the honey if you aren’t willing to get stung.

    As for the bag boy and the cashier – the cashier gets a complementary word from me and the bag boy gets a tip every time. I always enjoy the surprised look and big smile.

  9. For what its worth, your take on the situation seems right on. What’s the line from the old song, You see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself. The Other one is so true, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.
    Thanks for the Tip (pun intended) about the Bag Boys, I had no idea.

  10. @Patrick, your comments are exactly right. I have been married to the same Boquetaña for 44 years, visited every year, never felt the need to meet with most of the expats.

  11. All opinions are welcome here it seems. Keep on doing whatever suits your mood and ideas. The rest of us should read and learn and become wiser therein.

  12. Don, I thought your blog about B4B was right on. I know they provide a good service for Boquete and they put a lot of work into the auctions and other events to raise money for the different organizations or persons in need in Boquete. But yes, they advertise everywhere, not just Boquete. I guess that’s okay, but people do need to recognize there are others in need all over Panama. There are several orphanages for example.

    We donate at PriceSmart for the school children. We met the man that has one of the orphanages in David at PriceSmart and donated to him right there in the line. We tend to help out people we see in need in our our circle however, rather than “organizations” for the most part.

    I had taken 5 people that had helped me move out to dinner at the Oriental Palace. I tipped the waitress more than the 10% because she did an exceptional job. She took all 6 of our orders without ever writing a thing down and we all got exactly what we ordered with no mistakes or asking which was ours when she served. I was very impressed with her. Her face showed me the biggest smile I’ve seen in Panama when she understood that the money on the tray was for her. She danced all over the restaurant and told every other waitress. It made her day. The next time we were there was a lunch and we ordered to go. She remembered us. ;o) The place was packed to the max and again, 3 orders and no mistakes. She is just amazing!

    I think the service you provide for David is outstanding Don. You have such a big heart and so much compassion for those in desperate need. Thanks for all you do.

  13. I didnt think people would react like that. It was good that you made us aware that there are other charities so we can choose to donate to the one we prefer. Some people like dogs an cats more than hungry kids; others like to feed hungry kids; others prefer to help the elder;others prefer to donate to environmental causes. The larger the list of charitble institutions the better.

  14. Keep up your insights, Don Ray. I always appreciate what you have to say and your well thought out comments. We don’t all live in Boquete. There is a whole lot to Chiriquí province and I am happy to be a part of it. Thank you for your opinions.

  15. Don, Good for you….. You are entitled to you opinion since this is your blog. I think you were spot on. What you said was not meant to “screw” B4B….. Just bring up the point that there is “other” options out there. You are might not be spot on to “everyone’s” views, but HELL who is? Keep up the good work. Don

  16. DON, como chiricana, que soy, gracias departe de todos las personas que has ayudado y de las que ayudaras en el futuro, personas como usted, es que mi provincia nesecita, and , I have a question, how is your Spanish?.

  17. Johanna, In 2003 I didn’t have much of a vocabulary. I can get by now and give chiricanos a good laugh.

    I understood what you wrote without having to pull out a dictionary.

  18. Excellent post Don! Don’t worry about the arrows! You have lots of “thick skinned” friends out here who know and appreciate what you were trying to say and support you in that! You are spot on and we all need to remember, WE are the guest here! We need to learn all that we can about our “home” here and in doing so, be mindful of the needs and the feelings of all that live here. We are one community and if one suffers, we ALL should feel and care about that!

  19. Don, you do great work but you are wasting your time. They are quite willing to accept donations from all over Chiriquí even as far as Volcan aren’t they. So their minds really kind of one sided.

  20. I have a challenge for everybody who thinks B4B should give the money from their hard work to whatever charitable causes you think they should give to in your area. Don’t go to their sale or bid on line or go to their golf tournament. Instead, put as much effort into your cause as the B4B’s volunteers are into theirs. It doesn’t have to be an organization that you donate time and money to. It can be done as your individual service. Just remember, some of the volunteers are putting in 20 to 40 hours per week for many weeks and some work on it all year long. Disclosure: I am not affiliated with B4B, I do live in Boquete, but my real interest in defending them is that I volunteered for many years in the U.S. and don’t like to see volunteer efforts slammed unjustly. One of my volunteer jobs was working one day a week for several years for The Volunteer Center in Fort Worth, writing a column that was in the Fort Worth Star Telegram. It was a column that was written like a group of help wanted ads, highlighting different volunteer jobs at 275 charities in Fort Worth and surrounding areas. I appreciate just how much volunteers do. I appreciate the volunteers at B4B, other charities around Boquete, charities in Volcan, David, Panama City, the U.S., Nicaragua, Russia, Chad and anywhere else that people are doing some good. I also appreciate individuals, not working in an organization, but doing good. Any takers, or just a lot of whining bitchers?


  21. I tell every newcomer that the bag boys only work for tips. They are amazed and give tips after that. Each day is a learning experience. Let’s make every tourist our friend if we can, help them understand the culture if possible, so they can pass it on. Most people are good. I start with that premise. They just don’t know stuff or how they look to others. Thank You Don Ray for all that you do. No slings or arrows necessary.

  22. One of the things that B4B does that none of the other very worthy charities appear to do is take anything in the form of a donation. They only want money. We don’t have extra money to donate to charities. We do occasionally have something still useable or wearable that we no longer want. As far as I can find out, no one but B4B will take things and turn them into money. I agree with 004143 that Boquete is not open to outsiders coming in unless they are spending money there. We rarely go unless there is a reason, like picking something up from e-shop. The only other reason is to donate stuff to B4B, which we have done several times. We will continue to do so until one of the David area charities starts up a similar thing. At least I feel we are doing something that will help someone, even if that someone isn’t in the David area.

    Don Ray, you are doing so much to help so many that anything said against you or what you do is an insult. Both Ray and I admire your dedication and hard work to help so many.

  23. @Connie Grant I have a challenge for you. You seem to have a lot to say about volunteering, you live in Boquete, yet you do not volunteer. Nowhere is there anti-volunteering comments in any of the statements made. This blog is about transparency of funds collected and disbursement of those funds. By B4B declining to assist the Boquete Library and their VOLUNTEERS (by the way, an entity that provides Panamanian and ex-pat students help in Math and other studies, provides a place for Panamanian and ex-pat women to learn how to make quilts and bedspreads, sponsors artistic fairs where local people can sell their artistic creations, provides Internet access to students and adults that cannot afford that access, etc… all handled by unheralded VOLUNTEERS) and in my opinion, under-funding the Hospice program and local children programs by over-funding the stray animal program (seems that animals are more important than children here). How long have you lived here, I have a cedular dated July 1999, I see more stray dogs now than i did then. Why, people from all over come here to dump their dogs, they know that they will be well taken care of. Some people are also dumping children, my Mother-in-Law (a Panamanian) was offered an Indian baby while waiting outside the public clinic, she declined. She already had taken in a 15 year Indian girl a few years ago to help her get a better education and now she also has a 15 year old Indian boy living with the family going to a much better school than in the Camaca. That is volunteering. So, come on down from your White Horse, join one of the clicks and enjoy the infighting. Are you a taker or just a “whining bitche”?


  24. Patrick,

    Challenge met. I do some sort of charitable service just about every day. I just don’t “toot my own horn”; I keep a low profile. Sometimes it is an individual act, sometimes it is organized charity. I could do more, but I do try to make the world a better place. We don’t know each other, Patrick. What made you think that I didn’t? All I said was I was not involved with B4B.

    As far as the library goes, I only know what I gleaned from some posts on Don Ray’s other thread on the subject. As I understand it, all the charities who benefit from the proceeds of B4B must contribute volunteers to B4B in order to be eligible for part of the money and the library chose not to do that this year. If I have it wrong, I hope someone will explain.

    You don’t think they should give so much money for stray dogs and should give more to the programs you deem to be more deserving. I’ve got news for you: I, too, would give less to the animals and more to the others. Now, I have some friends who will kill me for that statement. However, I do think Amigos de Animales de Boquete is a worthwhile cause and deserving of some of the funds. It is up to B4B to make that judgment and I am not part of B4B. If you are, Patrick, then I suggest you make your argument to them. The thing of it is that when there are multiple people involved there are multiple ideas about how money should be spent. There has to be compromise.

    I commend all volunteer work and your mother-in-law is certainly worth tons of praise from lots of people for doing what she is doing. Wow! That is quite a contribution.

    If you will reread my earlier post, you will see the challenge was aimed at those who are putting down volunteers who are making a difference. It was not aimed at people who do not volunteer. Negative remarks might affect how many people come to events and how many people who will not receive help because there isn’t enough money. I was challenging them to quit bitching and make a difference in their own communities. It doesn’t matter whether it is Boquete, or Hornocito, or Bugaba, or if it is even in Panama. If a handicapped person’s family receives the help it needs to care for the person, does it really matter where in the world it is? The world is still a better place. It is just easier and more efficient when you do it in your own community like B4B is in theirs. Having said that, I doubt these negative remarks will affect B4B much. People come to the garage sale and other events, not for charity, but for fun and bargains. People who like garage sales know that this is the biggest one in the area and they like that. It is just icing on the cake to them that it also makes the world a better place.

    Now that I have answered your questions, would you please answer one for me. You mentioned joining a clique and their infighting and others have mentioned how the cliques suppress freedom of speech in Boquete. I have only been here since 2006 and these cliques sound scary. Could you please give me the names of a few members so I can found out what their rules are? I’m kind of scared to venture out because of these militant cliques.


  25. In reading all these comments, I am in awe that Boquete survived as long as it did before B4B arrived. I watched Boquete rebuild after the 1970 flood (and the other floods that occur ~10 years). I watched families care for each other, dogs roamed as they pleased, and except for the yearly Coffee and Flower Festival, Boquete was a quiet place with almost no crime.
    Then, a guy wandered over the border from Costa Rica looking for his next fortune.

    As for cliques, you betcha. How do you find them? Attend any expat function, stand in the corner, and watch the groups gather to discuss the other groups. This isn’t my idea, the Panamanians who have visited the BCP Tuesday market told me that is what happens. Another way to find cliques is ask to which organizations do people belong. If they don’t belong to any organization, they are their own clique. It seems impossible to survive in Boquete and NOT be a member of some group.

    I would be interested in B4B (or any charity organization) publishing the guidelines for distributing the monies they collect. Some to the people running B4B are also on the committees of other beneficiaries. I think that could be a conflict of interest?

    My view of B4B is more of a country club where folks collect and distribute other people’s money. The folks directly involved in helping the poor and hungry are the ones doing the real good.

    As for Don Ray, he is one of the very few bloggers with real information about Chiriqui who pays for his own blog. Most are posting ad space to cover their costs and their blogs are never going to post any bad news for fear of losing customers. It is also important to remember that Don Ray uses this blog to keep his kids and grandkids informed about his activities in Panama.


  26. Connie Grant:
    It’s nice that you do some charitable service every day and that you do not”blow your own horn”. That is commendable. Keeping a low profile is important too, if you don’t speak out then others don’t hurl arrows at you, commendable. No, we don’t know each other but I know your type and I wouldn’t want to know you. In your previous post you painted all that have a different viewpoint as you as “whining bitchers”, sounds like troll talk to me.

    Now volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity and is intended to promote goodness. The Library Volunteers do all that, they are small in number unlike other volunteer groups. They have families and other responsibilities outside of their volunteer activities. I’m sure that B4B gets by just fine without their presence, remember, they are already volunteers. Maybe you should ask the question to B4B who insists on making volunteers into non-volunteers by twisting their arms for any funding?

    Your statement “I’ve got news for you: I too, would give less to the animals and more to the others. Now, I have some friends who will kill me for that statemeht”.
    Those are not friends, those are fanatics and if you search the Ning blog you will see how those fanatics have attacked me in the past. You see, I don’t keep a low profile. You say you’ve been here since 2006, I can’t believe that you have never scanned the Ning.com blog. It all about Boquete. I assume that you are an intelligent person but if you can’t see the cliques responding in mass whenever a different view is presented then you must be blind. They have rules for posting but those rules are not equally enforced for everybody. You want to know their names, post something contrary to their popular opinion and see the hate that is spawn.

    You sould like a big girl to me, I don’t think that you would be “kind of scared to venture out because of these militant cliques”. Now, this is my last reply on this particular blog. I have a life: a Panamanian Wife, a Panamanian adopted Daughter, a big Doberman and a half breed Rottweiler/who knows, 13 Love Birds, two Goldfish and more Panamanian relatives living in Boquete than you can shake a stick at.

  27. Don, keep doing what you’re doing. I’ve never disagreed with your opinion. For those that got offended, they need to take a long look at themselves and consider if some of the decisions they are making/made are for the right reasons.


  28. Some final thoughts:

    A purchase at a charity garage sale is not a donation. Look up the definition of “donation” on any of the on-line dictionaries.

    Some, but not all, of the rest is in answer to Patrick’s last post.

    Yes, the people who work and volunteer at the library have lives and families. Don’t the volunteers at B4B and the other charities have lives and families also?

    If I understand it, your definition of a clique is a group of friends as evidenced by groups of friends standing around talking to each other when they happen to meet at the market. By that, I suppose when I went to KM 35 (a tipico restaurant today) and there were groups of Panamanians sitting and talking at other tables, we were being excluded from Panamanian cliques because they didn’t invite us to join them at their tables.

    I am not a troll and I don’t think anyone who has read Yahoo Panama forums for a couple of years or more would consider me one.

    When I called people “whiny bitchers”, I was making what I thought was a humorous attempt at “trash talk” like that between competitors before some type of competition. For you, I now change that to “the last one in is a rotten egg”. I hope you think that is better.

    “My friends will kill me” was also tongue in cheek. In fact, I had lunch with one of those “fanatics” (your words, not mine) husband today. I guess some one cannot be forgiven for having a passion and is therefore a fanatic. By the way, I did post something controversial, saying my own preference would be to have a less of the money going to them. I’m still here and haven’t had any hate mail yet.

    I scan Ning and, yes, there are heated discussions. I don’t particularly see any “cliques” responding, but I do see individuals disagreeing. Maybe I should apply the “cliques are groups of friends rule”.

    The worst case I have heard of about an expat trying to suppress speech was about a man in David, not Boquete.

    I don’t hear people in Boquete talking bad about other areas and the expats there, but some people who don’t live in Boquete talk bad about Boquete and Boquete expats. Usually, it is the same few who over and over dis Boquete expats and Boquete and have never found a single good thing to say about either. Some of you probably say there is a reason for it. I wonder if it doesn’t say more about many, not all, of those who are making the negative statements than about the Boquete expats. Something interesting to ponder, anyway.

    You are right. I am not afraid of anyone. That statement was also tongue in cheek to try to lighten up the conversation. Evidently my attempts at humor failed. Oh, well, not the first time. Some people understand my humor, others don’t.

    No, you don’t know me, Patrick, and you do not know enough about me to know my “type”. It’s too bad that you wouldn’t want to meet me. I would have loved to meet you; I love hearing other people’s views even when I disagree with them and it sounds like you have a nice life that it would be enjoyable to hear more about.

    For the life of me, I will never understand why anybody would ever be so critical about anyone who is trying to do something good as what I have seen from commenters here.

    Now, since I have been assured that expats have not done anything good for anyone in Boquete and that Boquete was doing just fine without us, I will go unravel the baby blanket that I was knitting for an Indian baby with yarn I purchased and was using my time to make. Whatever baby was going to receive it will do just fine without it and I can use the yarn to knit myself a sweater. I have a life too.


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