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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Picking a Picanto

We’ve reached the point where we needed to become a two car family again.  Our interests and appointments were always conflicting, or so it seemed.  About 3 months ago, I began “pre-car” shopping – figuring out what kind I wanted, what the average price should be, etc.  I knew it had to be small since I can’t judge distance.  P1000373My last car was a Mini Cooper.  I loved that car but that wouldn’t do well for us in Boquete.  It seems that a lot of cab drivers choose a Kia Picanto.  The hunt began.

We went to the City to see if we could find one.  Car shopping in Panama is not like any place in the US.  First, new car lots do not sell used cars.  Those are purchased from other lots or private owners.  After about 3 stops in Panama, we yelled “uncle” and called the Car Guy Keith.

The second huuuuge difference here in Panama is that the car sales people ignore you.  Not like ignore you for a few minutes so you can look around.  I mean like if you dropped dead on the lot, they may notice the smell in 4 days or so.  Ignored like we were invisible.

Three days in Panama City proved to be unproductive.  Keith began the hunt in earnest.  He faced a dozen problems, all beginning with me.  I had to have a Picanto because  1. it’s small enough  2. it doesn’t have that little dust container that the Spark has 3. it should have low mileage and, finally, 4. I it couldn’t be any shade of white, beige, cream, gold or silver. kia yellow I would have loved a yellow car again but in Panama, only taxis can be yellow.

After several weeks of looking, Keith concluded (and we agreed) that we should purchase new instead of used.  Most good used cars with low mileage come from rental agencies and are boring white.  He made an appointment for us at the dealer in David.

Another difference is that because Panama is a small country, there’s only one dealership.  Grupo Siliba handles most of the car sales in the country.  That means that there’s no haggling – which is good and bad.  The worst part of buying a car is the ridiculous haggling games played by salespeople in the US.   Last week we went to Kia in David.  My choices were what model and what color I wanted.  Time consuming but easy.

We got to the dealership before Keith and looked around the showroom.  Not a soul came up to us to ask us if we needed help, information, directions to the bathroom, nada.  When Keith arrived, he asked for our salesman – who wasn’t there.  TIP  After waiting about an hour for him to arrive, another woman helped us with the sale.

Another big difference.  There isn’t a car lot in David.  There was a silver Picanto in the showroom but not one like I wanted.  I chose a color using a color swatch.  I wanted the cranberry color but that wouldn’t be available until after Christmas. kia blue I chose a blue color that she kept saying had purple in it.  We gave them them a deposit and proof of insurance and …. we wait.  All cars are shipped from Panama City.  My car was suppose to be delivered on Friday, then Saturday, then she called as said Sunday.

Another difference.  Car lots are not open on Sundays or holidays.  November has about 10 holidays so if she didn’t open on Sunday, I would have to wait until the following Friday to pick up the car.  But on that Sunday, she came in and with two signatures, I was in a car.

I stopped on the way home to get my Panamanian Rules of the Road book which is mandatory to have in every car.  I know my windshield wipers work since it poured rain the entire trip back to Boquete.

My new car sits in the driveway.  Thanks Keith for cutting through the endless red tape. Thank you David for trying to get this done before my birthday.kia mine

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Disfrazes for Halloween

Halloween in Panama is not a big holiday, especially for children.  I saw a news clip on NBC today that Americans will have spend $6.9 Billion on Halloween (costumes, candy, make up, etc)  just this year.   That’s more than the budget of some small countries.  I saw pictures that our granddaughter had 3 different costumes this year.  I love Halloween and always made my own costumes for me and my children.  But as kids behavior changed, I began to dread Halloween in Florida because it became a night of thrown eggs, scratched cars and general vandalizing.  So we became the house that locked up by 8 PM and turned the lights out so the older kids would just walk on by.

Halloween in Panama is not a children’s holiday but is becoming very big among adults.  There were several local parties yesterday.  Most of the gringo parties were for our growing number of children in town.  One adult party was a fundraiser for Amigos de Animales.  We ended up going to  Mike’s for about an hour before heading to our final destination.  Mike’s was for adults and almost everyone was in costume.  Excellent music and dancing.

halloween 1Getting a costume is no easy feat in Panama.  You can order from Amazon for a pre-made costume, gather parts and make-up if you are creative or you can be just be super creative to be able to use only what is available here.  We planned ahead and brought many items from the States where everything is available.

We ended up at Mi Jardin where people wore the best costumes went since there were some big prizes awarded.  It was primarily a Panamanian party and people came from as far as David dressed in some awesome stuff. halloween 3

halloween 5One very tall guy painted himself blue, added a loin cloth and some braids and was one of the creatures from Avitar. He ended up winning Second Place. There was an elaborate angel, many Day of the Dead people, a samurai, pirates, lots of cats and devils, and an array of others.  My friend, Julian, handmade his own mummy from latex.

The party technically began at 10 PM.  In reality, people really began coming about midnight.  The costume contest began – probably long after we were home, showered and in bed.

halloween 2There were few gringos at the party and Latin music prevailed.  Everyone took pictures and asked strangers to take pictures with them.  Drinks were free flowing and people came by with shots – Rum and vodka only.  No glasses needed, just open your mouth and they pour it in.  Lots of fun with great music!

The site, Mi Jardin, has a new owner.  Gone are the free gardens for people to admire.  In it’s place, there’s a lovely garden coffee shop by day and a modern nightclub for nights like last night. I don’t know how long the party went on but it was just getting started at 1 AM.  We drove by Mike’s on the way home and it was very quiet – a big difference between gringo parties and Panamanian parties.

Who won the BIG prize?  Julian!!!  Congratulations!!!

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Yea, It kinda is Your Fault

panama2For the last several months, we have had an influx of new residents in our little pueblo.  We’ve heard that as many as 200 families may be moving here because …..  Well, that’s a good question.  Why are they coming?  Few are of retirement age so do not qualify for a pensionado visa.  They brought their young children.  I’ve heard of several that brought their 45 foot containers with them on their move without visiting first.  Most, it appears, have had some religious intervention and been sold a bill of goods to flee the US quickly.  Some left family members behind without a word that they even arrived safely in Panama.  The whole thing has many of us apprehensive about their future.

Because they arrived so quickly, the housing market is stretched to its limits.  This is driving rent up and up, which will make it even more difficult as they continue to live here.  They apparently were not told by their gurus that they cannot work in Panama without a work permit, which takes time and more than a little money.  The point of this is, we have lots of new people who have no idea what they are doing but thought moving to a foreign country was a good idea.  Actually, it was mortal men who told them and those men had only been in Boquete about five minutes before encouraging these people (for profit) to drop everything and come to Panama.

Now many are here, so what’s new?  First, they can’t make a living here.  It is illegal to work without a permit, which takes a few months and several thousand dollars to complete.  Next, no one can work in professions that compete with Panamanians.  You can open a new business and employ Panamanians, but not other expats.  Several have started to advertise their skills but will be turned in quickly to the mitradel for prosecution.  Now they are offering services for “free”.

Second, they don’t know how things work.  I don’t mean things like the pump on your tanks of water.  I mean like “Don’t drink from the tap”.  So they and their children are getting intestinal parasites which causes vomiting and severe diarrhea.  It’s bad enough being gullible enough to fall for this scam yourself but when it harms your kids, you’ve gone too far.  But they only listened to their gurus instead of talking to locals, reading blogs or just asking a few questions on some of the expat sites. I say to their leaders:  When you market yourself on the internet as a ‘We Can Help Gringos – for Money’ service, telling your naive flock about the water should be a top priority.

As much as they complain about the impure water now, wait until they have none during the dry season.  Many areas do not get much public water from January until rainy season begins in May/June.  People who know better have tanks.

Because they do not have a verifiable, monthly income, they do not qualify for a permanent visa.  They must do border runs every six months.  This means going to Costa Rica, spend the night or two and then return with a new passport stamp.  People who want to drive with their US license must do this every 90 days or get a temporary Panamanian license.  Thankfully, we only had to do this once and that was way more than enough.

The reason for this rant is that the complaining about Panama has begun and they want to blame Boquete and Panama rather than themselves and lack of preparation.  They made a hasty decision.  They didn’t do research on their own or ask people who live here how things work.  This is not the fault of Boquete or Panama.  It is their fault but they are blaming Panama. This is a developing country – it is not Chicago, or Memphis or St. Louis.   We don’t have a modern infrastructure.  The difference is that most people know that before they move here.

What happens when one of them gets sick enough to be hospitalized?   What happens when they run out of money?   Or their children do not learn any marketable job skills?  They can try a GoFundMe site (like some of their leaders did) but they shouldn’t be surprised if it’s not successful.

What should people do before uprooting themselves and their families to another country?  First, visit and spend some time here.  Take a tour or two, buy some literature written by people who live here, talk to locals (not people who just want your money).  Come back and rent for a while.  Learn the area.  Some areas will meet your needs better than others.  Learn about the availability and costs of water, electricity, television, internet, roads, proximity to transportation and town, medical costs and other things that are important to be known before moving.  Because moving back will be a lot more expensive.

Rant over.

Mooch and the Vets

A few weeks ago a tiny kitten showed up in our carport looking for food.  Because cats can get through our bars and we leave the doors open, she made herself at home eating our cats’ food.  Then she got more demanding about what kind of food she wanted.  Fancy Feast please, meow meow.
mooch1She’s a calico and probably about 3 months old.  We took her to the Animales Spay and Neuter Clinic at the end of the month and got her spayed.  I told the Vet #1 that she would be outside and to give her a few extra stitches.  Then I told the post op crew to please give her a little extra super glue.  Yes, we use Super Glue to hold the skin together.  We kept her in a back bedroom to keep her quiet and inactive.

About 5 days later I noticed a large bulge under her superglued belly. Her internal organs were about to pop out.   Unfortunately, we’ve been through this before, so she went right to the Vet #2 in David. Only the Super Glue was holding in her internal organs.  Dr. Sam, from Happy Vet, put her back together and gave us antibiotics.  Giving pills to cats is like catching jello.  Some went in but I am certain that most were deposited elsewhere.

Anyway, a few days later she had an infection.  This time we went to Vet #3, Dr. Gonzalez, in Boquete.  He gave her an antibiotic and she felt better within a few hours.  This doctor gave us a choice if we wanted more pills or if we could inject her for the next five days.  I’ve given some shots at the clinic so I knew I could do it and we would know for sure that she was getting the medication she needs.

A quick trip to the tienda de mascota (pet shop) and less than $5 later, we had medicine and syringes.  She got her first shot from me today and all is well – at least all is well with us as it was a simple process, however, she was more than a little pissed.  The swelling is already down, she’s eating like her moochy self and is doing well.

We do not have veterinary care for pets like in the US.  Far from it.  Care is basic.  We had a cat several years ago in Florida that was getting old.  Our vet recommended that we take him to an animal psychiatrist.  That’s was just bizarre.  Here, they get shots, bones set, simple surgeries and that’s pretty much it.  There’s very little specialty food for kidney problems or whatever.  You get about 5 choices of pet food and none are natural.  We make our own dog food to supplement their Kirkland dry food.  Cat food is too difficult to make so they get Kirkland dry and (now) Friskies.  My importing Fancy Feast days are over and they like Friskies.  But with all of this, I find the care to be good.  We haven’t had a major problem.

However, veterinary care is a lot cheaper in Chiriqui.  Our visit to the vet yesterday, exam, antibiotic shot and prescription was $15.  The antibiotic for us to use was just over $4. Syringes are 20 cents.  Dr. Sam put Mooch back together, kept her overnight, gave us the pills and gave her all of her kitty shots for $103.  This would have easily been in the $500-600 range in South Florida.

Mooch gets along well with the other cats and dogs.  In fact, last night she laid down next to Rosa, the dog, and she began licking her like a mom.

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Crime in Chiriqui

For the last several months, Chiriqui has been experiencing a crime wave.  This isn’t pickpocketing or even snatching a cellphone from an unaware person.  It’s not even the breaking and entering that is fairly common.  This has been violent with people getting beaten, shot and killed.

One of the major problems is that juveniles are not held accountable for horrendous crimes.  Two mid-teens that shot and stabbed a woman during a robbery last week were released to their fathers just two days after their arrest. Older criminals use young kids to commit crimes knowing they have a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

This is affecting both the gringo and the Panamanian community.  Small stores have been held up with one owner killed.  One bandit was only 8 years old and his gun was almost as big as him.  None of the victims have used a gun.  In most cases the ladrones were on them before they would have had time to reach a weapon anyway.

Our police department is woefully under manned and under funded.  If they manage to arrest a criminal, they are likely to get released before the paperwork is complete.

Last night there was a meeting in Porterillos, where last week’s victim lives.  She’s a widow who was shot twice and stabbed during an early morning attack in her home.  Local officials spoke to a group of about 300 very upset residents.  One elected official appeared bored. They had ideas that could be implemented now, like a curfew, and plans to ask the government to strengthen laws regarding minors.  We signed a petition for Diputada Athenas Athanasiadis to take to Parliament in hopes of more stringent legislation.  I was extremely impressed with this young woman (even if she did go to FSU).

So it is still up to us to protect ourselves as the first line of defense.  We have a fence, bars on the windows and doors, motion detector lights and 3 dogs.  We also know our neighbors.  One told us a few weeks ago that he called the police because he saw a few young men just hanging out on the street.

A few people want the government to relax our fairly strict gun laws to make them more available, like in the US.  I hope they don’t.  In one robbery the criminals were only looking for guns he heard the man owned.  He did not but the man was killed anyway.  In none of the robberies would a gun have been useful but would have been stolen by the thieves.

In the meantime, we wait to see if the government will stand up to people who believe the human rights of juvenile felons have more rights than law abiding residents.

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Having People.

In movies the rich and or important are always saying,”Have your people call my people”.  OK, it’s arrogant and self-important and us peons sometimes say it in jest.  However, in Panama, if you don’t have people, your life is hard and expensive.

When we first moved here, we needed an attorney to get our pensionado and cedula.  There were horror stories of terrible attorneys who took lots and lots money, wasted lots and lots of time and their clients got nada in return.  Our friend, LV, gave us the name of Erick Quintero.  He became our first “person” and LV gave us a great recommendation.  We’ve used Erick for not only our residency, but our house purchase and now our employee contract, our wills and handling property.  We have a legal person.

Everyone needs a car repairman.  We use Hausman.  What he may lack in speed, he makes up for in skill and honesty.  His last repair was our back fender that has hit everything solid in Boquete.  It was ready in about 2 weeks for under $100.  We have a car repair person.

Our next person wasn’t needed until we bought our house.  We had some major modifications and we turned to our friends M&M.  They allowed us to use their employee for several weeks.  A is fantastic!  He replaced doors, windows and got our house looking presentable in no time.  Of course A is ‘their’ person and we had to reluctantly give him up.

handymanWhen a group of workers came to finish the house, we found La.  He is one of the most talented, hard-working men in Panama.  He became ‘our person’.  I think of him as part of our family in Panama.  A few weeks ago he asked when was the last time we cleaned our water tanks.  Like dumb gringos, we looked at each other and then replied, “never”.  Without insulting us – which at the time would have been so easy to do – he returned the following day to clean our water tanks.  Yes, we had things living inside.  He also installed an additional filter.  He did comment that we were very lucky that we didn’t die from some terrible parasite and then he laughed.  Actually the water in our area is very good but I’m glad nothing is swimming in it anymore.  We have friends that actually have fecal matter in their water.  La is definitely our most important person.

We have our housekeeper, Lo.  She is wonderful.  Again, she was highly recommended by a friend.  She’s hardworking, honest and extremely pleasant.  Both Lo and La attempt to correct our Spanish.  I suspect both know more English than the let on but they speak only Spanish to us because they know we want to learn.  If I have a local question, Lo or LL will give us a honest answer.

We have other business people.  We use Anavilma for our travel and has more patience that most people I know.  We have great doctors when we need treatment or referrals.  Lu is the best electrician in town.  We have a welding guy, a lawn guy and people at all the utility companies.

Not all of our people are Panamanian. Some are gringo and equally important.  We have car people, D and K.  W have Spanish translators.

We would not have met them without the experience and advice from the expats who arrived before us.  Going in blind would have resulted in many problems.  Having people is so important and we have been very lucky to have gotten the very best.  We are also lucky to have made friends with some of these people and our lives are richer for it.