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.


You’re Moving Where – Again?

Between vacation visits, long stays and moving, we have been in Boquete about 7 years.  It may be time to check out some other places.  We went to the typical expat haunts – Cuenca-hated it, Lima-too far, and Costa Rica-too much crime.  Our next stop is Medellin, Colombia.

We visited there last year and it was beautiful.  A variety of everything – restaurants, museums, theater, festivals, malls, everything a city of 3.5 million people would want.  Also, (like him or not) Pablo Escobar made his hometown the jewel of South America.

Several months ago we bought airline tickets and planned for a 9 week visit.  During that time we decided that there’s nothing hold us here, except 3 big dogs, 3 cats and a house.  The 9 week vacation has evolved into an apartment hunting, visa getting adventure.

Three years ago today our container arrived at our house.   Now we are packing very much the same way.

Pile 1. What we are taking in October for 9 weeks   For who will only take a carry-on regardless of vacation length, this is hard.  We have 2 carry-ons and 3 checked bags.  Mainly because I must bring almost all of my gym clothes and sneakers.

Pile 2. What we are taking in February for at least a year.  We plan to live in 2 places.  The first will be a furnished AirBnB but they are pricey.  Then we will find a good unfurnished place and begin buying things to fill it.

Pile 3.  What is staying for the tenants, and

Pile 4. What we are taking in shipping container in a year or so. Furniture, lamps, beds etc.  We will fill a 20 foot container.  Not real big, just enough to keep things that have meaning to us.  Good thing we have a separate-entry for a bedroom and bath which is now a very packed storage facility.

We have a tenant already for our house in Boquete so we are packing or getting rid of personal items.  The stuff you accumulate in a short amount of time is astonishing.  Boxes are getting numbered with a list of their contents.  Deja vu all over again.

As with our last international move, the pets  are a somewhat difficult and time-consuming task.   The dogs are 100% Panamanian Street Dog.  Molly, who weighed about 50 lbs when we got her, now weighs in at 74.2 lbs.  Sasha is about 50 lbs and Rosa is about 40 lbs.  That’s a lot of dog to move!  We drove to the David Airport got specifics from Copa.  The cats are easy and we have experience and flight bags for them.  Every coach cat needs a human escort so our good friend B has volunteered to help us out.  We get our 3rd cat to Colombia and she gets a few days to see Medellin.

So Hasta Luego Panama, Buenas Dia Medellin!  Our viaje comienca manana en la manana