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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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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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.

Drive-Through Shopping

Yesterday we were driving to PriceMart in David and there was a guy selling furniture on the other side of the road.  On the way back, I insisted that we stop and look.  In Florida, I would never stop.  Ever so often people sold things on the street but it was usually some tacky rugs or stuffed animals.  This guy had just driven his furniture from Guatemala and set up shop on the Pan American Highway.  Several cars were already lined up and packing things in their trunks.  There was even a cab driver with a truck waiting for a buyer who needed help getting their purchases home.

I’ve been looking for furniture in David but the pickings are slim.  Furniture City is a large store but there’s not much selection.  It changes frequently so if you have the stamina to check in at the store all the time, you may find something.  Besides, after my fiasco trying to buy two loves seats from them makes me not too eager to shop there.  There’s EP Furniture in town which carries Ashley Furniture.  Again, it’s hit and miss.  One time you walk in and love everything and the next time it looks like a rummage sale.  There are other places in David but they are smaller with even less stock.

I needed a few specific pieces.  We have a lot of internet and TV cables in the living room that just looks tacky.  I wanted a small cabinet to hide them in.  We needed a narrow table for the TV.  And I wanted something for a long wall in the bedroom.  These are the pieces I found on the Pan American Highway.

furniture1I love this kind of rustic furniture that’s made by hand and then stained a dark color.  I picked out three pieces and began haggling with the price.  When we began he wanted $380, which is a great price.  But I am cheap and love the back and forth for the best price.  We ended up getting all three for $300.

This is the little cabinet that hides our  cables.  It will be moved a little once the Christmas tree is down.

furniture2The TV table has the same carvings on the front and legs.  With our tiny living room, we need to save as much space as we can.  All the hardware and accessories can be stored under the front panel.

furniture3The chest below is the piece I really wanted.  I saw it as soon as I got out of the car.  Another man started looking at it and I let him know that it was going to be mine.  It’s the same theme as our bed.  The top lifts for storage and it’s just a fun little piece

It’s pretty odd shopping for furniture on the street but I got what I wanted and you can’t beat the price.

I need some additional pieces.  For that I am waiting for the Feria in David in March.  They also have carved wood furniture that artisans bring in from all over Central America.

Shopping in David and Boquete

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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.