9 Months Later

We have lived in our new apartment since January.  Medellin is so different than Boquete.  First, we live in a highrise with no yard.  The population in Medellin is about 2.5 million where in Boquete it was about 25,000.  You would think that we would never see people we know like we did in small Boquete, but we rarely go out where we don’t run into someone.  Two days ago it was friends from Boquete, N&T.

We moved here with our 3 large dogs and our 3 cats which wasn’t as horrible as it could have been.  Luis A drove us to PTY with muchas malletas, 6 animals, 6 cages, 3 humans and a bunch of nerves.  Luis is the absolute BEST!  Things that could have been a disaster, he took care of before our early morning departure.  I recommend him to anyone who is in Panama City.

While visiting in Oct-Dec 2017, we rented an AirBnB apartment.  In that time we got a lease, ordered appliances and furniture.  We wanted the apartment completely outfitted for our return with animals.  We told everyone in November and December that the delivery of orders had to be on Jan 14.  And it was!!!!  That’s another huge difference between Medellin and Panama.

Few Colombians speak English, unlike Boquete where Panamanians want to practice their English.  We finally enrolled in a real university.  After years of Spanish CDs, Habla Ya and private tutors, my placement level was A2.  That’s just above beginner.  David was A1, which IS beginner.  But we figured that if we were going to learn, we would follow their instruction.  We go to Eafit University.  They are professional, their courses are well planned, and we are learning everyday.

We are also starting classes to get our Colombian driver’s license.  Everyone, including adults with  US and Panama licenses, has to take the 38 hour course.  Then the 6 hour practical, which is driving.  Unfortunately, it runs 4-7 pm and Spanish class 9-11 am.  And the driving lessons are all in Spanish.

We don’t plan to buy a car but would like to be able to rent one occasionally so we can take the dogs out to the country.  Medellin is really, really dog friendly but pets  aren’t allowed on buses or the Metro.

Zumba here is problematic.  Beto Perez, the originator of Zumba, is from Colombia but we still have very few Zumba classes.  Instead, they have Rumba.  Rumba is  very easy to do so I don’t get a good workout.  It has no pattern and ends up being whatever random steps the instructor wants to do.  I find that we do the same thing way to much and it’s boring.  I don’t know why Rumba is so popular because it really sucks.

Because of our pet menagerie, we still need a housesitter when we leave.  One of the great things about Medellin is that everyone wants to visit.  We have had 2 different sitters and have another arranged for Christmas/New Years.  Our next sitters are 2 girls from Brazil who work online.  They are going to love Navidad in Medellin.  The city is gorgeous!

Shopping is another plus.  Clothes fit gringas and are well made.  Even Extra Large items were too small for me in Panama – and I am size 8-10 US.  Colombian women dress well.  They would never leave their house without hair done and make-up.  Men wear long pants.  Workers have various uniforms.  Everyone looks neat and I find that really nice.

A huge difference that we found is that every time someone asks us if we live here, they as “Como te  gusta Medellin?”   We tell them that we love it.  One hundred percent of the time, 100%, they are so happy we are here and welcome us.  I am embarrassed that the US doesn’t always make foreigners feel welcome.  Colombians could not be nicer to us.

We have already renewed our lease for another year with no hesitation.  Medellin is a nice place to visit but an awesome place to live.

 

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Wow, It’s Been A While

So much has happened in a short time.  Last spring, I told David that I wanted to check out Medellin to maybe split our time from Boquete.  As time moved on, we decided to just jump in and give Colombia a try.  We found a nice AirBnB for 9 weeks and got renters for our Boquete house.

We arrived in October and did our best to live like a local.  It was so easy.  Medellin has an excellent transportation system with its Metro, taxis and buses.  They are super user friendly even to newbies.  The grocery stores are filled with just about anything an expat would want.  Jumbo and Exito are large food and department stores with clothing, appliances, school supplies etc. in addition to their well stocked grocery store.  Restaurants from every part of the globe are here.  Arab? Yes  Seafood? Yes  BarBQue? Yes  The Colombian people are very, very nice.  They put up with our lacking Spanish with no sign of impatience.  They are helpful and accommodating.   They are determined to be fit.  Gyms are everywhere and there are gyms in most apartment complexes.  On Sunday, Avenida Poblado is closed to traffic for people, kids, dogs, bikers, runners and walkers.  Zumba and Rumba instructors also have found places along the avenue to  play music while leading the dancing crowds.  And there’s so much to do.  Every neighborhood has at least one park.  The streets are sometimes hilly, but easy to navigate for walkers.  Malls are plentiful and modern.  There are many language exchange nights around the large city.  The Christmas lights were gorgeous.  Family is everything here. We have seen that at malls, during holidays and just walking in town.  Dogs are everywhere and they are adored.  They are allowed in malls and outdoor restaurants.  The number of people  who stop their day to pet our dogs is still amazing to us.

While enjoying life in the big city, we also had to get a place to live.  Most apartments are unfurnished.  That means no light bulbs, no appliances, no drapes, nothing, nada.  We used an agent and eventually found a great little, brand new, apartment near Parque Lleras.  We began to fill our place – 3 bedrooms +1 (servicio) 4.5 bath place at Exito.  We bought a refrigerator, TV and washer/dryer during Black Friday and Blue Samsung sales in November but arranged for delivery in January.  Then mattresses, sheets, towels, plates, pots and pan, every little thing a well equipped kitchen need, bath mats – yikes! lots of shopping.

Furniture was the problem.  Things in the store were odd to us.  Most sofas became beds at night.  Most was wood painted black.  Most were very small pieces.  So I went to the best local resource ever – Facebook.  Within minutes, I learned to travel to El Retiro, about an hour by bus from here.  What an amazing little town.  Each tienda had a small showroom with what could be made in the back.  We took pictures of things we liked and then returned home to think.  Then back to El Retiro.  We ended up buying from 4 different stores but most came from Muebles Oriental.  We bought a sofa, 2 chairs, 2 bedroom sets, a dining table with chairs and a tv table.  We returned 2 weeks ago for a buffet, plant stands and a bar.  The first order was delivered the same day as the appliances.  They came on the day and time they said they would be there.  David and I dropped to the floor in shock.

With apartment contract signed and orders to fill said apartment done, we headed back to Panama.  Our next chore was to get our house ready for our adorable renters.  Some big things went into storage but most stayed.  We sold a lot of things we had no plans to use again.  We packed as much as we could and then, Jan 10-14, back to Medellin.  During those 4 days our orders were delivered.  We got the kitchen in order, beds made, clothes put away and then returned to Panama.  On Jan 17, wonderful Luis Arce drove us, my good friend B, 3 large dogs and 3 unhappy cats to Panama City for our flight the next day.

The flight was uneventful.  Even though I did a ton of research about importing animals, I never saw the words Airway Permit.  Thankfully Luis (did I mention that he’s better than awesome?) knew and after driving us 7 hours to Panama City, he took David to cargo and begged the people there to open and get us the Airway.  The next morning, Luis returned to take everyone to cargo with the dogs and their crates, the cats and their carriers, 6 huge bags, 3 carry-on bags and 3 adults to PTY.  I can’t recommend Luis Arce enough.

We arrived in Medellin and our taxi was waiting for us.  Actually a van and a taxi were waiting but it was not nearly enough space for our stuff.  Multiple return trips to the airport, finally we were at our new home.

The people here have been wonderful and so helpful.   We’ve met our neighbors and others on the street.  Last night, Mohammad,  a local rug seller invited us to his first restaurant opening.  A group of expat living here had also lived in Cuenca, Ecuador.  We went to their get-together and found that there were more ex-Boquete expats than those who came from Ecuador.   Not surprising, a lot of people are interested in our move and we have had several visitors with more coming.

We knew that there would be less English spoken here than in Panama.  Even at tourista bars and restaurants, English is rarely spoken.  We had to deal with a woman who made all of our window treatments,  an electrician to hang lights, documents written in Spanish,  delivery people, and even joining a gym.  Our Spanish has improved tremendously proving that old people can learn a foreign language if they want to.

Paisas (people who live in Medellin and surrounds) frequently ask us how we like their country (Love it!) and they are so happy when we tell them that we have moved here.  They are genuinely open and glad foreigners are choosing their country to reside in.

Medellin had a very violent period but that is ancient history.  The city is clean and beautiful.  Education is important as is family.  Health care is excellent and affordable.  Eight of the best hospitals in South America are in Medellin.  It’s very safe, even in the areas that were hard hit with cartel history.

We have no plans to buy an apartment or a car.  Rent is low and public transportation is excellent.  We are close to Parque Lleras (the go to tourist area) but seldom go there.  Returning to Panama is doubtful though I miss my yard and orchids.  Our patio will be filled with plants soon.  Not the same but it seems better – at least so far.

No pics as I did 1+ hours in the sun for Zumba and painted the kitchen today.

 

 

 

 

The Terrible Week That Wasn’t

What a week!  After we got our apartment contract notarized and returned to the realty office, we got a horrible call.  Our realtor told us that the woman who owns the property rented ‘our’ apartment to someone else.  We bought furniture for this place.  It is a very open house that is not typical in Latin/South America.  We were devastated and panicked.  With only 2 more weeks in Colombia, we had no where to live.

Our realtor, Edgar,  listened to me yell (not at him) about “How could this happen?”  Since the owner hadn’t signed anything, she used us as her back-up contract in case something better didn’t show up.  Her problem was that she wanted us to rent beginning in December although we didn’t plan on moving until February.  We thought we compromised by renting in January.

As it turned out, the renters for our Panama house sold their house in the States and wanted to move sooner  So we changed our move date to mid January.  But now, no place to live.

Edgar took us to several places that paled in comparison.  Small places, noisy places, no amenity places – we were pretty grim.  I kept telling myself that something similar happened to me in 1979.  We were selling our house and buying another.  As our closing date arrived, our buyers (from another state) needed 2 additional days before closing.  But OUR realtor had written a back-up contract on the house she sold us (unethical but not illegal).  One week to go and no place to live.  Then we met Hap.  He found us a similar house on a better street with an extra bedroom.  Sweet!  Then about 6 months later, the house we almost bought caught on fire.  Things turned out for the best.

So I kept reminding myself that things are suppose to happen.  And did they ever.  Edgar brought us to a new building in an awesome neighborhood.  It is so much better than the original place I can’t believe it.  Today the contract was completed and rent was paid.

Olga, our drapery maker, is meeting us tomorrow to measure the windows.  Hopefully our friends, M & T, will arrive in time to see the place.  But it’s officially ours,  for at least 13.5 months!

Pictures tomorrow.  I was so excited about this place, I forgot to take pictures.  The one above is the model but same floor plan.

Another Country, Another Cedula

Countries south of the border commonly require cedulas, a government issued ID card.  We got one in Panama.  It took about 5 months and a lot of paperwork.  We really don’t get anything extra for it but it means you have closer ties to the country.  It is used as your official ID for many things including domestic flights.  More importantly, it is not required.

When we came to Colombia, we knew that we had to get a cedula here.  Since we are moving here in February, we thought we could complete it then.  No, we need one yesterday as everything is tied to the Colombian cedula.

 

David saw that a local grocery store has cooking classes during the week.  He was told that it was not a money program, it was a points reward program.  No big deal, just join the points program.  Except you can’t without a cedula.  no

We have to buy minutes cards for our phone because you cannot get a phone plan without a cedula.  You cannot get a Metro pass without a cedula.  This is an important card.

We want this beautiful apartment but, as extranjeros, we need a fiador.  A fiador is a person that promises to pay our rent if we don’t.  I don’t know how many people would sign up for that task.  Obviously, we do not have one so we said we could pay several months in advance.  Our realtor said we could get by without one if we have a good balance at a Colombian bank – except – you can’t get a bank account without a cedula.

So we wait for the little card and the special stamp in our passports that will allow us to be participating members of Colombian society.  We were told it should only take a couple of weeks.

As disruptive as it will be for the next few weeks, I can’t stop thinking about this topic in the US.  Panama and Colombia require official proof that every new resident has enough funds that they will not become a burden on society.  Panama does an FBI background check to weed out felons. Traffic checks, of cars and buses, are frequent and the officers look at either your passport or cedula.  Without either, you are ordered to appear in court.  Yet, the US says there is not way this can be done.  If there is a necessity, then it can be done.

Getting a cedula is not free.  If you are a natural born citizen, getting one is cheap and fast.  But, for expats,  immigration takes a few weeks and the cost is several hundred dollars.

 

First Week in Medellin

We began apartment hunting this week.   Almost everyone in Medellin lives in apartamentos and they range greatly in size, amenities and height.  They also come unfurnished – like so unfurnished you have to bring your own refrigerator.  We planned to find an AirBnB for a few months when we return in (hopefully) February but then found it would be simpler to just jump into a small apartment.

The first thing we did this week was scout out places for appliances and must-come-first furniture.  Falabella, Jumbo and Exito are have appliances, tables, chairs and mattresses.  Most deliver for free!

Then we started the online search just to narrow down the neighborhood.  There are literally thousands of apartments for rent. From rooms to rent, to studio, to penthouses with gorgeous views.  Since we aren’t bringing our furniture fro Panama until at least 2019, we think  a smaller place would be a good place to begin.

We have already found that ‘working’ with a realtor is an impossible task.  I don’t know how they earn a living.  Multiple agencies have told us that they don’t have any rental listings when we’ve seen several online.  One guy told us the the paperwork is difficult.  Isn’t that kind of the job a realtor does?  So we decided to try on our own.

This idea would not be advisable for people who have limited Spanish but we did great!.  We actually had a conversation with a woman on the street today.  Good thing as most people do not speak English at all.

We found a location that we thought we would like and started banging on doors.  All the properties we looked at have 24 hour guys in the lobby.  Two of them yesterday just gave us the keys to the empty units and let us take a look.  One was just weird but the other was gorgeous, but it was far from public transportation.  It also was huge – 3 bedrooms plus maids quarters and 5 bathrooms.  The patio was like another room.

Today we took a look  at apartment buildings closer to the Metro.  The AirBnB that we are at now is in a good location but on a very noisy street.  We hit the inner roads and found another 24 hour guard that gave us the scoop on a pretty place overlooking a park.  He didn’t have the keys but gave us the owner’s name and number = no realtor!  Go us!!

We also got on a random bus today to see the outskirts of Envigado.  It was a waste of 2 hours but it felt like we were climbing to the top of the world.  We are pretty close to the Andes Mountains.  Nice area but I wouldn’t want to live so far away.

Tomorrow we will call the contacts and see what we can accomplish.  We still have 2 months here so we aren’t in an stress-filled jam.

I also found a Zumba spot this week.  It’s at the Museo de Castillo, which is an old estate that was deeded to the city.  museo de castilleThere’s a nice group of rooms and a small restaurant on site.  Suzy is the instructor and I can Zumba three times a week.  Cab fare from our place is about $2.  With the amount of walking we’ve been doing on some strenuous hills, we should both be skinny.

One of the local grocery stores offers cooking classes so David will be signing up for a few.  The markets are full of fruits and vegetables, many that I have missed while living in Panama.  There are fresh apricots, tangerines and peaches in the markets now.

So far we are loving the big city.  It’s so clean, there are a million restaurants there are theaters and museums, the people are fantastic and a cab will take you almost anywhere you want to go for 2 bucks.

 

You’re Moving Where – Again?

Between vacation visits, long stays and moving, we have been in Boquete about 7 years.  It may be time to check out some other places.  We went to the typical expat haunts – Cuenca-hated it, Lima-too far, and Costa Rica-too much crime.  Our next stop is Medellin, Colombia.

We visited there last year and it was beautiful.  A variety of everything – restaurants, museums, theater, festivals, malls, everything a city of 3.5 million people would want.  Also, (like him or not) Pablo Escobar made his hometown the jewel of South America.

Several months ago we bought airline tickets and planned for a 9 week visit.  During that time we decided that there’s nothing hold us here, except 3 big dogs, 3 cats and a house.  The 9 week vacation has evolved into an apartment hunting, visa getting adventure.

Three years ago today our container arrived at our house.   Now we are packing very much the same way.

Pile 1. What we are taking in October for 9 weeks   For who will only take a carry-on regardless of vacation length, this is hard.  We have 2 carry-ons and 3 checked bags.  Mainly because I must bring almost all of my gym clothes and sneakers.

Pile 2. What we are taking in February for at least a year.  We plan to live in 2 places.  The first will be a furnished AirBnB but they are pricey.  Then we will find a good unfurnished place and begin buying things to fill it.

Pile 3.  What is staying for the tenants, and

Pile 4. What we are taking in shipping container in a year or so. Furniture, lamps, beds etc.  We will fill a 20 foot container.  Not real big, just enough to keep things that have meaning to us.  Good thing we have a separate-entry for a bedroom and bath which is now a very packed storage facility.

We have a tenant already for our house in Boquete so we are packing or getting rid of personal items.  The stuff you accumulate in a short amount of time is astonishing.  Boxes are getting numbered with a list of their contents.  Deja vu all over again.

As with our last international move, the pets  are a somewhat difficult and time-consuming task.   The dogs are 100% Panamanian Street Dog.  Molly, who weighed about 50 lbs when we got her, now weighs in at 74.2 lbs.  Sasha is about 50 lbs and Rosa is about 40 lbs.  That’s a lot of dog to move!  We drove to the David Airport got specifics from Copa.  The cats are easy and we have experience and flight bags for them.  Every coach cat needs a human escort so our good friend B has volunteered to help us out.  We get our 3rd cat to Colombia and she gets a few days to see Medellin.

So Hasta Luego Panama, Buenas Dia Medellin!  Our viaje comienca manana en la manana

Cuba

We just returned from a 2 week Cuban vacation.  I wanted to see Cuba before the Americans flooded there and changed the ‘real’ Cuba.  It didn’t take long before we realized that a few more tourists were not going to change the island.  That will take decades at best.

We asked our first taxi driver from the airport about the beautiful old American cars.  He doesn’t believe that most Cubans would sell their prized possessions since they are a source of personal pride and most are taxi drivers and need their car to work.  I was surprised at the number of these gorgeous autos.  – probably 40% or more of all cars on the roads.  Old Russian cars are the second largest number but they are just boxy transportation that can’t compare to an Edsel, Jaguar or Fairlane that’s more than half a century old.

We expected to rent a car.  Since we couldn’t hold a car with our US credit cards, we reserved one once we got to Havana.  But when we went to take care of the paperwork, there were no cars available.  No problem as they must have a bus system comparable to Panama.  Not even close.  All seats going south and east were sold.  Enter the car taxi system.  For just a few dollars more we got an old Dodge and a driver to take us to our next destination.  Whoop!  We also got a private taxi for our following destination as Cuba apparently doesn’t add buses for popular routes.  The private taxis were trip savers for us.

Cuba is unbearably hot.  Even the top hotels rarely had air in their bars and lobbies.  We went through water like crazy.  We called their only choice of water C-14, in memory of a canal that was the southern border between our former home in Coral Springs and the city to the south, Tamarac.  The water was foul!  In 2 weeks, we still couldn’t get over the nasty liquid they called agua. That said, it was a far cry better than drinking from the tap!In 2 weeks, we still couldn’t get over the nasty liquid they called agua. That said, it was a far cry better than drinking from the tap! There was only one brand so if you got water, it tasted like it came from someplace bad.  The bottles said the water was collected at “the source” but the source was obviously a secret.  There was no indication where the ‘source’ was.  We think we found it, however.

cuba water source

The Source???

Havana is a lively place with music in every café, bar and street corner.  Cuban music uses a lot of big band instruments.  If there wasn’t a nearby band, the boom boxes blared music from homes and streets.  One night there was a power outage and the residents didn’t miss a moment to move outdoors with music.  I found it odd that the music was strictly Cuban, not Colombian or even popular Cuban singers in the US.

The streets around Havana are in good condition.  The streets within Havana, particularly Habana Vieja, are uneven, dirty and filled with garbage.  Some are pedestrian-only walkways but still, in not great condition.  In Habana Centro they are in the middle of installing an underground sewage system.  It will be great when it’s done but now it’s a mess and it is really smelly.

Our second stop was Playa Giron, more commonly known as the site of the Bay of Pigs invasion.  We went to the museum.  When I used to teach American History, we barely touched on the event in class, usually only commenting about it being JFK’s biggest mistake but there was so much more to it in Cuba.  It was used as a massive propaganda campaign against the American Imperialists.  The US played right into Castro’s hands.  We stayed at Casa Particular Norma and we asked Norma about the invasion.  She told us that she was just a kid but her house was blown up by the Americans.  We went scuba diving in the Bay and it was beautiful.  No fishing is allowed and it’s a short walkout dive on white sand.  It looks like an aquarium the water is so clear and filled with reef fish. Apparently, Fidel Castro has a secret hideaway on an island not far from the Bay of Pigs.

Casa Particulars are private homes that are allowed by the Cuban government to rent rooms to travelers.  Many are available on AirBnB.com.  The homeowner keeps half of the rent which is usually about $40 a night.  Any extra charges, for breakfast, dinner, drinks etc. stays with the homeowners.  It’s a wonderful way to get money directly into the hands of the Cuban people.  All regular hotels are owned and operated by the government and employees make a small salary.  But all in all, people are poor.

We went to Cienfuegos and Trinidad, both smaller than Havana, cleaner and much more picturesque.  Again we stayed at Casa Particulars and they were a more homey experience. The internet hotspot was easy to find in Trinidad (L).  The Cienfuegos skyline (R).

Shopping is unusual.  Tourist shops carry the traditional t-shirts, ashtrays, and other tchotchkes.  Markets are another matter.  There were more empty shelves than shelves with merchandise.  Typical stock was usually oil, powdered milk, cartons of juice and rum.  Lots and lots of rum.  Not lots of anything else.  The places we stayed had to keep meticulous records of all guests and they received additional food allotments based on that number.    In the private community, people get food allotments based on number in household.  People with children get extra juice and milk.  But we saw more than one child with extremely bowed legs looking much like extreme calcium deficiency.  We never saw a grocery store.

Major hotels have wireless internet for about $4-5 an hour.  But locals and cheap tourist go outside areas around those big hotels or a large park. You looked for a bunch of people staring at their phones and then find  guy that seems li
ke he’s selling crack.  From him, you buy 1 hour’s worth of internet for $2-3.  However, even with wifi, the phone portion of WhatsApp and Facebook would not connect.  Most Cubans don’t own a cell phone but some Casa Particulars have desktops with internet access.  The wifi hotspot in Havana was easy to spot.
cuba hotspot

We are glad we went to Cuba but now I realize that it won’t be changing anytime soon.  Much of their transportation still relies on horse and cart.  Their internet is basic at best. Electric blackouts are frequent and their water is not safe to drink.  People rely on government assistance for even basic needs like juice.  Garbage and trash pick-up is a luxury that most do not have.  But by an large, Cubans are extremely proud of their country and their government..Castro and Che’s face are painted everywhere but they are also in private home.  We saw busts of Lenin and larger that life paintings of Castro and Che in private homes.  Private cars often have a likeness or two of the same individuals.

 

 

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No Luz, No Electricidad

Losing power is not a rare thing in Chiriqui but it’s usually for only for an hour or two at most. Usually losing power is no big deal even in a restaurant.  Iphones have flashlights and businesses have candles so life goes on in the dark.   Our stove is gas, we have lots of flashlights and candles and we have surge protectors to save our more expensive electronic goods from blowing out with the surges.
lights out

Last week our power left us at about 6 PM.  We already had plans to pick up a pizza so dinner was no problem.  As the sun set, I lit candles.  We read with our Kindles so everything was good.  Until we realized that one Kindle was almost dead, our cell phones were on life support and the laptops couldn’t get wifi.  Those were the minor inconveniences.  A very big problem for us is that our water system uses an electric pump to distribute water into our showers, toilets and every other faucet.  We were very lucky that we had already showered after a sweaty day at the theater.  We used bottled water to brush our teeth.  We are also very lucky to have a spigot in the back yard that is not connected to the pump so we used a very large pot of that water to flush.

Then we noticed that the streets around us were lit while ours was black.  We hoped that our small small problem only involving a few houses didn’t put us at the end of a long, long list of power failures.

This week had been very windy.  There was a storm in the Caribbean that dumped a lot of rain along the Gulf coast.  We are getting rain (yay, it’s dry season so I love every drop) but also, really strong winds.  It’s like feeder bands before a hurricane arrives.  Rain and powerful wind and then beautiful weather to be interrupted by more wind and rain.  The gusts blew over some very big trees onto power lines, affecting hundreds who are living in the dark.  The wind just howls at night.

In the morning the power was still off so David did some investigating.  One of our neighbors had already called Union Fenosa to let them know.  David then went to where we pay our electric and they explained that it was already on the list and we would have power back in 2 hours.  I don’t know if it was actually 2 hours since we weren’t home, but it was on when we returned.

When we first moved to Panama, there was probably 30 gallons of water stored inside the house in various types of containers.  We lived there well over a year and never needed them.  Although we also got our water using a pump, the electricity had never been off very long to worry about it.

All is well now.  The winds continue but with less moisture.  But the toilets flush on demand, and that’s always a good thing.

 

 

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Three Weeks in Kenya

Several months ago, my daughter caught a real good airfare rate to Africa – $406 round trip JFK to Nairobi.  Who could take a pass on that?   Especially when it’s about $600 just to fly 2.5 hours from PTY to Miami.  Bargain!

We’ve been to Kenya before so I figured that I could plan our entire trip.  The airfare was cheap but it included a short layover in Abu Dhabi and we chose to get a room to relax, take a shower and get some sleep.  Unfortunately, the layover was from late at night to early check-in in the morning so no time for site-seeing.  We only saw enough to make us want to return.

IMG_0078[1]I arranged a 9 day safari.  We went to Samburu, Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha, Masai Mara and Amboseli.  We saw lots of the Big 5, some very close to our vehicle.  We also saw more common animals, jackals, hyenas. crocodiles, gazelles, and warthogs.

The elephants in Samburu are a reddish-brown, unlike the ones further south, which are typical grey.  We wanted to get a picture of elephants wit Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background.  Lucky for us, the elephants cooperated.  Kenya amboseli

Our safari guide, Livingstone,  was great.  He studied animal prints to follow in the vehicle.  Because of this, we saw multiple lions, giraffes and more elephants.  The elephants were outside our patio that overlooked the river.

Kelly had to return to go back to work 😦 after the safari.  We dropped her at NBO and we headed to the domestic terminal for our flight to spend a week in Mombasa.  It was not what I expected.

We were in Kenya about 13 years ago or so.  The improvements to their infrastructure was nothing short of amazing.  On our first visit, there was nothing but dirt roads.  Today, all but the ones in the parks are paved.  Internet is still in its infancy but the city of Nairobi is now modern and much safer.  Gone are the days when it was called NaiRobbery.  I expected Mombasa to have kept up.  wrong.  Mombasa is the 2nd largest port town in all of Africa.  The amount of money that this port is worth is probably close to the net value of a small country.  The poverty we saw is shameful.  Their roads are terrible, the amount of garbage everywhere is disgusting, kids begging instead of in school – certainly not what anyone would expect from one of the oldest ports in the world.

So these mature, yet oblivious, travelers flew to Mombasa for our final week in Africa.  Our 45 minute flight was 3 hours late so the driver took us to the resort in the dark.  The next morning we saw that Mombasa is far from modern. kenya bahari We chose Mombasa so we could go scuba diving and the dive shop was right in the resort.  The shop and crew were great. The shop itself is carved into the coral shelf under the hotel. The dive was very nice.  We went into town the next day.  Not much to see but boy was it hot, humid and dusty.

We returned to Nairobi to see the David Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary.  They take in orphaned baby elephants and raise them until they are about 3 and can be returned to the savanna.  Not too far away is the Giraffe Center which allows you to feed giraffes.  Both are awesome and a highlight of our trip.

The trip back to Florida was long.  Five hours to Abu Dhabi, 13:40 to JFK and another 3 to Fort Lauderdale, along with over seventeen hours of layovers.  We shopped in Fort Lauderdale – Lowe’s, Home Depot and Publix are high on the sites to see) and picked up our Amazon orders and began the trip home.  Finally, now we are home in Boquete.  The dogs and cats were so happy to see us.  Even the neighborhood dogs were anxious to see us and get some loving.  The unpacking is finished and the laundry is done.  No matter how much fun a vacation is, it’s always great to be home.  The next trip is already planned for January!!

On a side note, we flew on Etihad, a Middle Eastern airline based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Eremites.  While watching where the airplane was during the flight, we saw we flew over some war torn countries.  We also noticed when we flew south, we detoured completely around Yemen.  Obviously, there’s danger in this area, even at 37,000 feet.

flight

 

 

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