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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4 bathrooms AND 4 toilets!

banoTwo of our bathrooms have just gotten a complete remodel. They both needed it badly and were on the chopping block before we even moved in.  When a major leak was found under the shower floor in the guest room,  the remodels moved quickly to the top of the to-do list.

Then we wished for a Home Depot or Lowes, but settled with Elmec, DoIt, Novey, Cochez and Franklin Jurado.  Definitely not the one stop shopping we once enjoyed.  If a store had what we wanted, it had to be ordered from Panama City – which must be on the moon because it took 3 weeks for each of our orders to get here.

Except for the shower floor in the hall bath, all the sinks, hardware, tile, toilets and accessories came from several intense shopping trips in David. I brought the hall bathroom shower floor from the US.

P1020223The guest bathroom was completed first since we had people staying in the guest room. It was u-g-l-y!   Once the leak under the shower was repaired, the rest of the job was pretty standard. Hot water was added to the sink. It is a small bathroom so white and grey tile makes it seem larger. Replacing the toilet and sink was super easy since we hired out everything.  Towels, rug and knickknacks = done!

The hall bath did not have hot water going to the sink either.  Typically, Panamanian houses do not have hot water at all, even in the kitchen.  Since the walls were being totally cleared, it seemed like a good time to correct that.  The tiling was finished a few weeks back. We chose to tile floor to ceiling with decorative accents.  The granite guys cut holes for the sink and faucet and then the plumbing was complete.

Installing molding and hardware was on us (by “us” I mean David).  Curtains, towels and antique Berber tent poles (a whole other story) are hanging and the hall bathroom is complete

With only a fireplace remodel and a few kitchen cabinets to go, we say that we are coming close to the end of renovations.  But, is any homeowner really ever at the end of renovations?

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My Hospital Experience

I’ve had ongoing issues with the mesh that I had implanted many years ago.  My US doctor ignored my complaints for years and denied that the pain was from the mesh he implanted.  For over 4 years the pain got worse and he continued to deny that it was from the mesh that, by now, was getting a lot of media attention.  He gave me lots of drugs and finally left me with Vicodin, which I am allergic to.

I gave up running and most activities at the gym.  The pain on some days prevented me from even walking more than a few blocks.  That’s when I went to our local Boquete internist, Dra. Digna.  A quick exam confirmed what I had thought for years.  Parts of the mesh had rippled and others were pulling on my internal tissue.  No wonder it hurt.  She recommended a specialist, Dra. Roxana in David.  Dr. Roxana advised me to visit Dra. Hernandez in PC.  This is so unusual to me.  In the US, doctors seldom refer patients to other doctors.  Not true here.  They really want you to have all the information you need to make a good decision.

My surgery was the past Monday.  All of my pre-op tests were done last week, including a visit to a cardiologist.  The total cost was less than $100.  I asked for a private room at Hospital Chiriquí.  Dra. Roxana asked to have a plastic surgeon to assist since the tissue she was dealing with is so delicate.  I was told to get to admitting at 10 AM.  By 10:30, I was in my room with IV attached.  Amazing!

At 2 PM I was wheeled into the operating room, got my jugo de felicidad (Happy Juice) and I woke up back in my room.  Dra. Roxana was right behind me explaining everything she did and handed me a vile of the nasty mesh that caused me so much grief.  I need the contents to help in my lawsuit against the manufacturer.

For the rest of my stay I was given great care.  The nurses came in for their usual blood pressure, temperature, etc. I am really glad that I have a working knowledge of Spanish however.

The next morning I was released.  My total bill for everything including the surgery and specialists?  $2600.

People ask about health care in Panama.  I tell them I have never had better care.  Better than that, it’s affordable.  I have my doctor’s cell phone number and she answers my texts almost immediately. I can see a doctor, even a specialist, usually within 24 hours if I need it.  None of my doctors have ever rushed me through an appointment.   I am very comfortable with all of them.  I feel that I am getting more competent care here than in Florida.

Anyone who is considering moving here should do their own research to make sure they have doctors here that meet their individual needs.  Our needs have been rather simple and we have been very happy.

 

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What’s New @ Casa Calibri?

We have been in the house for just over two months but now it seems like it might finally be coming together.  Many of the big projects are completed.  There’s still a lot to do, but progress is everywhere.

The terrazzo bedroom is almost finished, needing only a few pieces of fuguest room finishedrniture.  We don’t have any before pictures but this is its history.  It is outside the main house and has an iron door that locks from the outside.  That’s because years ago it was a maid’s room and they would lock their help in during the night so they wouldn’t steal.  Then hot water was added to the bathroom when it was intended to be a mother-in-law’s quarters.  The mother-in-law never came so it was basically a storage room.  It took a lot of scraping off the moisture damage, applying waterproofing and painting.  New curtains, rug and bed – voila!  It’s a guest room!!

The guest bath is usable but not terribly pretty.  The hall bath isn’t much better.  Both will get gutted in January.  New sinks, toilets, hardware and tile.  It will make a world of difference.

Travel room beforeThe Travel Room is where all of our travel souvenirs go.  It houses snow globes, furniture, photos and mementos from all over the world.  The Zanzibar bed and corner unit arrived safely but need to be assembled.  But first the room had to be cleaned and painted.  travel room afterDavid had to do a lot of work to get this room together.  Besides reassembling the furniture, he made shelves, hung masks and a spear, made window treatments and hung chair rail.  We only need a bookshelf.  We are calling the room 95% finished.

The living room has been repainted since the yellow that went well with our big US furniture was not a good color choice for our size-appropriate Panamanian furniture.  The new, 10″ deep, black granite sink is installed!  The moldy mess that served as a kitchen sink is gone.  We have glass block in the bathroom that only needs granite facing.  The gardener is getting the lawn and flower beds under control.  We hired a backhoe to level the back lot.  In January we will need to get 30 mts. of fill (whatever 30 mts might be) and Gabriel, the backhoe driver, will come back and make it ready for our hen house and chickens.

The office is still a hot mess and the terrazzo bar still needs a cabinet for the sink and ice maker.  The laundry room needs some organization, the greenhouse could use some work and landscaping is just beginning.

And finally, Casa Colibri has hummingbirds.  Lots of hummingbirds.  (Colibri means Hummingbird)  I have several feeders around the property.  They fly in the terrazzo and even the deposito.

Life has been extremely busy but very satisfying.  A baby pink house now has many bright colors.  The overgrown yard is being planted with trees.  Fish can be seen swimming in the pond.  We have people over for drinks and/or dinner frequently.  We are even have a Thanksgiving turkey in a few days since our new oven is  million times better than the Easy-Bake at our old rental.

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“Find my IPhone”, an Honest Politician and the Tooth Fairy

During our break-in two weeks ago, the thieves stole and IPad and a Kindle.  Both of these devices had apps installed so they could be located if they were lost or stolen.  In theory, as soon as either devices was turned on, we could use a Google-type map and find our electronics.  We tested them and they worked – as long as they were turned on and in our house.The new Kindle has “Find My Kindle” and even a remote alarm feature.  We were sure we would at least be able to locate where our stuff had gone.

burglar2This would be the perfect paragraph to say, “We tracked our electronics and gave the information to the police.  They entered the thief’s home and arrested the culprits.  All of our stuff was recovered and the thieves will spend the next 20 years in jail.”

That was not to be.  According to our apps, neither of these items have been turned on.  That is total BS, because we know otherwise.  I turned on “Find my Kindle” within 2 hours of it being stolen.  On the second day, I got a big surprise.  While Amazon was supposedly “searching”, my Kindle, the thieves had deregistered from me from my device.   Even the icon disappeared from my Amazon account.  It had never been turned on but eliminated me as its owner.  Wow!  I called Amazon immediately and their only solution was to deactivate the tablet.  They had no answer as to how someone could electronically remove me from my property while their “Find My Kindle” app was suppose to be FINDING my Kindle.

David had even less luck.  He searched for days using “Find my IPhone” with no results.  His IPad was never turned on.  We know that’s crazy but that’s what the app reported.  Someone is happily using his IPad since it has been wiped clean.

We were some of the millions of people who thought these apps worked.  We know better now.  If technology can be hacked in the backwoods of Panama, we were delusional to think that these apps would work as advertised.

So like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, the Find My Electronics app is just another myth is busted.

Grade for Find My IPhone and Find My Kindle = f-

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Burglars

Halloween!  The night that gringos dress up in silly costumes and Panamanians shake their heads.  We went to a big party last night.  David looked like an 80s porn star and I went as a prostitute.  Good fun!

When we got home, everything appeared normal.  We didn’t notice anything different for several minutes.  In fact, I was already in the shower when David noticed that his nightstand was open and things were strewed on the floor.  Then he noticed the bedroom curtain tied in a nice knot, covering the open window and slit screen.  At that point, we knew we had been invaded and looked to see what had been taken.

They even took off some of the molding to break the lock.

They even took off some of the molding to break the lock.

IPad, my Kindle (both with ‘find my stuff’ electronics app) IPod, and some jewelry.  I had taken off my wedding ring and another ring while putting on my Halloween make-up.  I just put them in all the bathroom costume mess so they weren’t seen.  My purse was overlooked.  My cats and dogs were not harmed.  It could have been so much worse.

They may have been in the house when we got home since the laptops and other small items weren’t taken.  Molly, the smart dog, was crazy when we got home.  Now we know why. We’ve only had her about 3 weeks and she is deserving of a steak dinner for saving many of our possessions.

The police arrived shortly after we called Rodny at Alto al Crimen.  The chances of getting our stuff back are somewhere.  They told us that there is an electronics theft division who are very interested in the Find a Phone type features of our electronics.  We should get location notifications as soon as they turn on our things.  The police told us that they used a crowbar-type tool to break the locks on the bedroom window.

Long time residents say that you’re not a true local until you’ve been robbed.  But what makes me really mad is:  We ordered security bars for every opening in our house about 8 weeks ago.  They were delivered last week.  The bars for the patio and the carport were installed.  The bars for the windows are still sitting in our front yard waiting for installation.  The company did not show up yesterday to finish the job.  What’s worse is that the thieves used one of the uninstalled security bars like a ladder to get back over the fence.

We did everything we could do to prevent this from happening short of never leaving the house.  The dogs should have been in the yard but they both were spayed last Sunday and are recuperating with their cones of shame, so they were in the patio.  This was no crime of opportunity so the dogs were probably lucky that they weren’t out in the yard.

Metal covering the huge hole in the fence until it can get fixed

Metal covering the huge hole in the fence until it was fixed today

The thieves got on to the property by cutting a huge, 6′ high hole in the chain link fence, avoiding the barbed wire.  Crowbar and wire cutters – these guys were prepared.  Almost like they had been inside our property recently.  Just sayin’

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Garbage.

Garbage is not usually a topic one talks about in the US., however, the subject comes up frequently in Panama.  Whether it’s the tremendous amount of garbage on the streets of Panama City, if a location even has garbage collection or the lack of a responsible recycling program for all the plastic, Styrofoam and beer cans.  I don’t think I ever talked about garbage collection in Florida.  But This Is Panama.

Garbage collection is very different here than in the States.  In Florida we had two big, black cans with flip-top lids and everything inside got picked up twice a week.   My town  paid a little more so we didn’t even have to drag the cans out to the street.  And if were any big items, the garbage collectors would pick that up too if it was placed on the curb.  Once a week our recyclables were collected in the green can.  If needed, the free dump was only about 10 minutes away for all city residents.

In Boquete, garbage is picked up once a week – usually.  ‘Usually’, because when the one and only garbage truck broke down a few months ago, we got pick up about once every two weeks.  No garbage collection (or re-scheduling) if pick up day is a holiday.  Everyone (not in a gated community) has some type of individual garbage holder.  Many are big basket type things on top of a metal pole.  This prevents dogs, cats, and rodents from getting into the garbage during the week.

New Gate with Sasha inside

New Gate with Sasha inside

We have a ground-level collection bin that has a metal grate opening on the street side.  The garbage collectors open the grate and take everything that is bagged.  Not bagged and it will not get picked up.  Ours is really ugly.  So ugly that it was among the top five things to be replaced/remodeled when we moved in.  Today we had a side gate installed so we can toss our garbage from the front yard and do not have to go out to the street.

Boquete garbage collectors do not take large items like boxes.  Large items must go to the dump.  The dump is about 30-40 minutes each way.  We recently hired someone to make our dump runs for us.  One more run and we should have our trash under control.

Side entry being installed

Side entry being installed

Some garbage bins are quite attractive.  Ours is not but it will as soon as the concrete cures.  Once the iron grating is done, I will pressure clean the entire structure and put plants on the top. The mildew will be gone. You can see the original front gate on the left.  The new grating will be black and the rest will be the same as the house color.

One odd occurrence is that our neighbor seems to be using our bin.  The former tenant told us to expect it but I was still surprised.  Mostly because the woman who lives next door seems to go out of her way not to meet us.  Her kids are friendly and we have spoken to them (mostly because they also have dogs) but she will turn away or go inside as soon as we are nearby.  She does not have a garbage bin so her bags have to go somewhere.  It’s not like the two of us can fill the entire bin every week, but its weird to this gringa.

Making a House Our Home

We’ve owned our home now for 2 1/2 weeks.  We got our container a week ago.  Mucho trabajo for the last 19 days.  Much progress too.

Paint makes an immediate difference.  Most of the living areas were painted a light pink.  We chose to go in a much different direction.

Foyer before

Foyer before

Foyer After

Foyer After

The foyer was easy and we are really happy with the results. Then we moved to our bedroom. We painted the walls and the ceiling. There are no pictures yet since I can’t put on our new duvet cover due to our cat.
Side note: Henry, the cat, spent the first several days here in the closet. Then he moved to the bathroom cabinet. Finally he came out and disappeared. When we saw him again, he was really dirty. Then he disappeared the next day, reappearing even dirtier. We knew he was going into the fireplace so we tried to block it. The third day he went around our makeshift blockade. We found the he was going high into the rafters of the chimney. He returned the next day completely filthy. So no new linens until he is cleaner.  And the chimney?  An effective blockade has been installed until a fireplace grill is purchased.

Henry covered in soot.

Henry covered in soot.

chimney

 

 

 

 

 

Patio beforeThe patio is being transformed. Since outdoor living is most important in Boquete, the patio was among our priority tasks.  The ceiling was made with drywall.  That doesn’t work well with this high humidity but is more common here than one would think.  When we moved in, there was a large hole in the ceiling where an entire section of drywall had fallen out.  It was painted a very dark color that wasn’t appealing to us.

patio in progressWe went with a lighter color and installed a new ceiling.  New fans and a bar light and it is coming together.  We still need to add shelves for liquor and glasses and a cabinet for the sink, icemaker and a refrigerator.

We also ordered enough dinner seating for 12.  We have 5 barstools and other seating left by the former homeowner.  Our first party is currently being planned,

Tomorrow we begin priming the rooms that will become our travel room and our office.  Once those are ready for furniture, we can move stuff out of the guest room and begin decorating that.

I have spent many hours on the overgrown lawn and hired gardeners for several days.   Still much more to do.  It looks much better and I’ve planted about 12 new trees.

What have we learned so far? 1-10:  Nothing is more valuable than a skilled handyman.  11.  Speaking Spanish imperative.  12.  Gardeners don’t work in the rain (even though it’s rainy season) or don’t work at all if something else comes up on their assigned day.  13.  There are weeds that grow here that defy all attempts to remove.  14.  Glidden is better than Sherwin Williams in Panama.  15.  Going to David several times a week is our new normal.  16. Moving furniture to Panama is a waste of time and money.  17.  The more you are able to do for yourself, the happier you will be.

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Busy Homeowners

Since closing on our new house five days ago, we have been really, really busy.  The electrician will be wiring our outdoor tv and bar light, the handyman will be putting in another exterior door and fixing the garbage receptacle, the welder is working on our iron gates, the exterminator has made sure we have no 8 legged surprises, and the gardener has already put in 3 days to get the lawn back in shape.  Our bed was delivered this afternoon.  I cleared the greenhouse of the overgrown weeds.  David and I have been painting as much as we can before the container comes with our boxes and furniture.  And we have brought a ton of our belongings to the new house with about 3 more tons to go.

Tonight we stopped for a nice dinner – one that included taking a shower before and wearing dress clothes.  After several days of take-out or just missing meals, it was a much needed break.

If we didn’t have a network of Panamanian workers, we would never get things done.  Today we got another surprise.  Since it’s rainy season, we found a roof leak.  Roof leaks here are not catastrophic.  Our roofs are made of metal and just need a coating of something.  We had a roof leak at our rental and it was fixed in no time.  Good thing it doesn’t mean an entire roof removal like in the US.

The container won’t be delivered tomorrow but it will be here Wednesday.  That gives us one full day to complete the painting and fix the roof.  We hope to move in on Wednesday but probably it will be Thursday.  We promised the new renters they could move into our rental on Friday.

For whatever reasons, I cannot get the photos or my shameless plugs to load.  All for now