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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Happy New Year for Procrastinators

Feliz-Ano-Nuevo-2015-05OK, so it’s not New Year’s Day or even the day after, but at least it’s close.  Having just returned from Florida, we had a lot to do.  The animals required hours of attention and affection – which they got.   Then celebration parties of all types began the day after we returned.

All bloggers who use WordPress got a year end summary of all kinds of statistics.  The one that astonished me was not just the number of people who read my ramblings, but that they come from 87 different countries.   I first assumed that many are hoping to move to Panama one day.  Eighty-seven countries – Hello to Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Cambodia, Ghana, India, Jordan and other countries.  Most come from the US and Canada.  But when I look at the blogs I read, they are from pretty exotic places too.  I do not plan on moving to Asia or Africa but I love to live vicariously through the people who write about them.

Our New Year’s Eve was hardly exotic. Our flight from Miami was late – hardly surprising since American Airlines is always late (unsolicited tip here)  *If anyone is flying on Air Panama and has a lot of luggage, you will pay dearly to take it on the plane with you.  We use one of several courier services, Fletes Chevales, to bring our luggage to Boquete.  For this service they charge $5-6 per bag.  It is delivered within 2 days.  When we got to Fletes, they were closed for NYE.  (another unsolicited tip here) *Having a dependable driver in PC will save hours of headache and mucho dinero.  We use Luis.  Luis anticipated that Fletes may be closed so agreed to hold our 4 50lb. bags until Jan. 2, when he would drop them off for us.We’ve used Luis for our Jubilado and Ecedula pick-up, getting our driver’s licenses approved and handling our visas from India.  Luis is the best.  Our bags were delivered to Boquete Jan 3.

Why did we have 4 50 lb bags?  Each time we go to the States, we have a shopping list.  Since American Airlines allows each passenger to have 2 free checked bags up to 50 lbs each, we take advantage of it.  This trip I brought back 60 lbs of tile that I want in our guest shower, new sheets/towels, Amazon orders, new shoes and Fancy Feast cat food.  Certain things are just impossible to get here or they are astonishingly expensive.

We finally arrived home about 6 PM because of horrible traffic in David, our closest airport.  After getting a debriefing by our housesitters, we ate.  Airlines do not feed you and all restaurants were closed for the holiday so we had coffee and nutrition bars all day.

We thought we may visit friends to celebrate NYE but at about 8 PM all the power in Boquete went out.  We considered that a sign and stayed home.  But we didn’t miss the fireworks.  Professional grade fireworks are sold to anyone and Panamanians love their fireworks.  And a  lot of gringos like their fireworks too.  The sky lit up at midnight and kept going for hours.  And again on Jan 1 and 2.  Panamanians love their fireworks.

As usual, it’s always great to be home.

Gringo Thanksgiving

Last year I decided that I was done with the typical American Thanksgiving meal and I would prepare something more ‘local’.  Chicken and rice was a possible option.  But since we moved and we have a great place to sit many people, we decided to go for the turkey again.

My Spanish teacher told me that Panamanians rarely eat turkey.  They don’t even have words for “stuffing” or “gravy”.  When my Habla Ya classmate and I described to her how we make gravy, you could see her stomach start to turn.  Turkey is quite expensive in Panama, certainly not the 79 cents a pound you find in the US grocery stores.  Here it’sabout $2 lb. and you get Butterball.

Some of you may recognize the woman in the middle from www.ThePanamaAdventure.com

Some of you may recognize the woman in the middle from http://www.ThePanamaAdventure.com


We got the turkey, made the stuffing and mashed the potatoes.  Others brought a feast of deliciousness.  J & J brought a huge ham.  We had spinach souffle, rice with spices and fruits, baked squash, roasted vegetables. lemongrass soup, pumpkin pies with real whipped cream and banana bread.

We ate and drank all afternoon and early evening.  It’s amazing how close you get to your expat family.  Of course, I did Skype my real family.  Technology makes it so much easier to be away from Florida during holidays.

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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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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.

Man Plans, Panama Laughs

Adapting an old, historical quote but it sure seems true this week at Casa Colibri.  Our timing was perfect.  Close on the house on Wednesday, meet with skilled laborers on Thursday, paint the living areas of the house and then have our belongings delivered on the following Wednesday.  This is when Panama began laughing.

Our electrician was suppose to show up but did not.  When I called, he said he had “some problems” and would be there in two days.  Two days later, no Luis.  Another phone call and he says he has “some problems”.  He will be here tomorrow.  Bets anyone?  We tore down the patio ceiling so that he could get the minor project done.  But he has some problems.

Our gardener has decided that he can’t work if it’s raining.  This is rainy season!  It rains from noon until dark.  It’s raining now.  Gardeners don’t stop working, they wear a poncho.  We are going to have a “hombre a mujer’ talk tomorrow.  A replacement gardener is already in the wings and is doing some work for us on Sunday.

Then the container that was suppose to be here on Wednesday, then Thursday, then Friday, will be here on Saturday morning.  Bets anyone?

But these delays have given us time to get the house ready and painted.  foyerThe patio may even get painted.  It’s much easier and faster with no furniture.  We have two lawn chairs in the living room and a dining room set.  Our bed is complete and we have an almost full kitchen.kitchen2   Most importantly, we have internet – 9 mgs for $49 a month – so we can watch TV on the computer.  It’s comfortable enough.

Because of all the delays, tomorrow will be a free day.  By free it means that I can go to the gym in the morning, then we will head to David for more paint.    And we can continue to unpack.  Since dumping a lot of stuff in the soon-to-be-den, it looks like a trash heap. dumping ground

The cats made an uneventful move.  Not difficult since the move was about 2 miles.  Alexander was happy that his food bowl was full on arrival and our bed was made for his afternoon nap.  henryHenry has barely left the closet.  He will come around though as he has before.  Sasha is a 4 month old puppy that hasn’t even realized she has moved as her world is just one big playground.

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Home Buying Process in Panama Pt. 5

How can buying a house take so long?  We are not getting a mortgage or buying a property tied up in some legal problem.  And we still have weeks and weeks to go.

The progress is slow but moving.  We finally were able to pay off the seller’s small mortgage.  It will take about 2 weeks for that bank to deliver the signed papers that allow the sale to continue.  We are looking at a mid/end of September closing.

Other progress though is in our hands so is going smoothly and as quickly as can get things done.  We paid for our container delivery.  It will be loaded in Florida on September 8 and be delivered at our new house in 2-3 weeks.  We only have a 20′ container but it will be pretty full.  amazon logoThanks to online shopping, I’ve been shopping, shopping, shopping.  Patio furniture, a bed, some tables, appliances and a few other smaller items.

 

Logo Lowes Company I will also shop when I get there.  A few friends have asked us to bring back some of their online purchases too.  We should have plenty of room.

This week we also met with a contractor to do some of the remodeling we want done.  Nothing major – replace a window with a door, put in a hot water system, expand some cabinets and closets – jobs that need professionals that a contractor would know, but we do not..

We confirmed with the woodworker that our bed will also be ready when we move in.  It should be beautiful.

conwaypricemartToday we got some things in David that we need/want.  Fans, a security system, surge protectors and other little things an empty home needs.

Our spare room looks like a storage locker.  My mom’s spare room, where are online stuff is being sent, looks like a storage locker.   It’s time for us to move already.

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ve already.

 

Home Buying Process in Panama, Part 4

Today we signed the contract!!!!  Yeaaa.  And we gave our attorney a bunch of money.  We should be only about 6 weeks from closing – or, according to the contract, up to 90 days away from closing.

In Panama, there are a few ways to purchase property.  We decided to go the corporation route.  This way, if something happens to either or both of us, our property does not go into a complicated legal system.  David and I each own 50% of the shares for the property.  If we both kick the bucket, my daughter gets to deal with property she doesn’t want.  Happy Birthday, Kelly!!  You are the Secretary of Casa Colibri!

hummingbirdWe named the corporation and our house, Casa Colibri, which means Hummingbird House.  It won’t take much to attract hummingbirds since they are everywhere.  Put out some nectar and plant a few flowering bushes and they are there, by the hundreds.  We have had them fly in our house.  They scream by our heads if we are on the porch.  Hummingbirds are everywhere.

We had hoped to return to Florida next month to make arrangements for our container.  Now it looks like we will be returning in September.  It takes about 3 weeks to get our stuff from Florida to Boquete.  That means moving in about October 1.  This process began May 31.  A process that we thought would be completed by the first part of August.

tranquilo

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Home Buying Process in Panama Pt 3

Roof gets the OK

Roof gets the OK

Inspection Day!!  In the US, that would mean that we would be tripping over appropriately labeled, packed boxes because moving day would be right around the corner.  But TIP. This is Panama,

First, there are no inspectors in our neck of the woods.  To inspect plumbing, you turn on faucets and flush the toilets.  We did, and got our first surprise – no hot water in the guest bath.  It’s not a hard fix, just unexpected.  I can’t believe that it exists in a gringo house, but TIP.

Door to the guest bath

Door to the guest bath

Another thing that was shocking, and I cannot believe I didn’t see it on our first visit, is that the only solid interior door is to the master bedroom.  The other two bedrooms and both bathrooms – even the master bath – are glass.  I knew one was glass and it had already been assigned to the den, so no problem.  The others will be ordered ASAP.  Who has a glass doors for bathrooms???

Having no official inspector, we were very, very lucky to know Bob.  He is quite possibly the smartest person I know.  He also has spent decades buying and renovating property and he became our inspector of the day.  He was knowledgeable and thorough.

Most problems were very minor and many can be fixed by

The room is screaming, "Paint Me!"

The room is screaming, “Paint Me!”

cleaning the place.  I think the owners will literally cry when they see what has happened to their property.  The gardens are overgrown and the greenhouse is in shambles.  The owners loved their gardens but they are in desperate need of a lot of TLC.

The water system is fine.  Plumbing, electric, roof are all fine.  Those are the big ticket items so the inspection was almost all good news.

Soon we will be serving Balboas and Abuelo

Soon we will be serving Balboas and Abuelo

Not surprising, the smaller ‘needs’ are many.   It needs paint, in and out.  It needs new lighting fixtures. The patio needs a complete overhaul since no one has ever touched the really cool bar.  It needs a door in the kitchen.  It needs a thorough cleaning.  It needs a new trash bin.  It needs screens.  It needs a patio ceiling.  It needs wrought iron security bars.  Except for the security bars, it’s just some minor work.

We have a great cleaning lady and we have already lined up a gardener.  They have their work cut out for them.  We also have been promised several days of labor from an awesomely great handyman.  We can use every hour they can provide.

So Part 3 of house buying in Panama is complete.  Our contract should be sent to the owners next week.  You will probably be able to hear the screaming as soon as they read it.  Unfortunately for them, the pristine house that they left is not the house that we are buying.    The only thing I can promise them is that we will put it back together.

Other good news!  Our current rental is rented!!!  People who visited a few months ago saw our place and liked it.   They will be moving to Boquete in about 2 months and renting this place.  Perfect timing for all.  The renters in the house we bought are not so fortunate.  Even though he’s a realtor, he can’t find a place to live.  Good rentals are rented before they are advertised (like ours) and prices are going up quickly because of such a short housing supply.

Greenhouse is really green, oh my

Greenhouse is really green, oh my

Workshop

Workshop

Great entry

Great entry

 

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Money

This weekend I did something different. I met Irene Haines (the Book Lady) at the Fundacion Pro-Integracion Capitulo de Boquete, commonly referred to as the Handicap Foundation.  She had invited me there to show me what the foundation is all about. As I pulled into the driveway, I noticed a number of people arriving by taxi.  Inside the facility on this Saturday morning were about 40 people, including children, management, therapists and volunteers.

By coincidence my friend, David, was volunteering at the foundation. He was sitting with a 10 year old boy named RRonald2onald.  Ronald was born with misshaped legs that made it nearly impossible for him to walk.  This is Ronald before his operation in Louisiana.  Again by coincidence, Ronald was met in Louisiana by Perry, a friend of David.  Both of his legs were operated on to make them straighter.

ronald1This is Ronald at the airport after his surgery with his mother and Perry.  You can see the tremendous difference.  Even with this amazing improvement, this was not the Ronald I met on Saturday.  The Ronald I met was still smiling but he was also walking, running and playing too. P1020196

He was very proud to show off his straightened legs and how well he walks.  Then he went outside to play with some other boys. The more he exercises his leg muscles, the stronger his legs become. It’s hard to believe that these pictures were taken only a few months apart and they are the same child.

P1020203

I talked to Irene for a long time at the center.  I told her how impressed I was at Ronald’s progress.  She told me about the work the center has been doing.  Although I’ve lived here for a year and visited for 4 years prior to moving to Boquete, I had never heard of the Foundation, their work, or their fundraising efforts.  The Foundation is very lucky in that their need for wheelchairs is met by the main offices in Panama City and other equipment comes from Tom McCormack’s Foundation and Hope for the City.  However, there are a great many needs that the Foundation has for which they try to raise funds. They hold several clothing sales throughout the year – the next one is in August.  If you have some good, used clothing, they would love the donation.

I asked Irene, “What do you need?”  Very frankly she replied, “money”.  Most of the families at the Fundacion are recipients of food from Buenos Vecinos de Boquete.  Everyone receives lunch while they are there on a Saturday.  That is not their biggest expense. The biggest expense as I mentioned in the opening paragraph is transportation – taxi fare. Many of their clients live far up the mountains and have no way of getting to the therapy that they need.  Many cab drivers won’t even pick them up.  Irene sends taxis to bring these people to the Fundacion.  That is their biggest expense and that is why she is asking for MONEY.  The foundation not only pays for transportation to the facility, but transportation to medical appointments, therapy and school.  They also pay for medicine, consultations, examinations and $4 a night for hospital stays.  The Foundation paid out $1300. in May for these expenses.

If you would be generous enough to help, you can find Irene at the Tuesday Market or you can drop by the Fundacion Pro-Integracion Capitulo de Boquete.  Their facility is a blue building near the new clinic on the east side of the main highway.

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