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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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.