Mooch and the Vets

A few weeks ago a tiny kitten showed up in our carport looking for food.  Because cats can get through our bars and we leave the doors open, she made herself at home eating our cats’ food.  Then she got more demanding about what kind of food she wanted.  Fancy Feast please, meow meow.
mooch1She’s a calico and probably about 3 months old.  We took her to the Animales Spay and Neuter Clinic at the end of the month and got her spayed.  I told the Vet #1 that she would be outside and to give her a few extra stitches.  Then I told the post op crew to please give her a little extra super glue.  Yes, we use Super Glue to hold the skin together.  We kept her in a back bedroom to keep her quiet and inactive.

About 5 days later I noticed a large bulge under her superglued belly. Her internal organs were about to pop out.   Unfortunately, we’ve been through this before, so she went right to the Vet #2 in David. Only the Super Glue was holding in her internal organs.  Dr. Sam, from Happy Vet, put her back together and gave us antibiotics.  Giving pills to cats is like catching jello.  Some went in but I am certain that most were deposited elsewhere.

Anyway, a few days later she had an infection.  This time we went to Vet #3, Dr. Gonzalez, in Boquete.  He gave her an antibiotic and she felt better within a few hours.  This doctor gave us a choice if we wanted more pills or if we could inject her for the next five days.  I’ve given some shots at the clinic so I knew I could do it and we would know for sure that she was getting the medication she needs.

A quick trip to the tienda de mascota (pet shop) and less than $5 later, we had medicine and syringes.  She got her first shot from me today and all is well – at least all is well with us as it was a simple process, however, she was more than a little pissed.  The swelling is already down, she’s eating like her moochy self and is doing well.

We do not have veterinary care for pets like in the US.  Far from it.  Care is basic.  We had a cat several years ago in Florida that was getting old.  Our vet recommended that we take him to an animal psychiatrist.  That’s was just bizarre.  Here, they get shots, bones set, simple surgeries and that’s pretty much it.  There’s very little specialty food for kidney problems or whatever.  You get about 5 choices of pet food and none are natural.  We make our own dog food to supplement their Kirkland dry food.  Cat food is too difficult to make so they get Kirkland dry and (now) Friskies.  My importing Fancy Feast days are over and they like Friskies.  But with all of this, I find the care to be good.  We haven’t had a major problem.

However, veterinary care is a lot cheaper in Chiriqui.  Our visit to the vet yesterday, exam, antibiotic shot and prescription was $15.  The antibiotic for us to use was just over $4. Syringes are 20 cents.  Dr. Sam put Mooch back together, kept her overnight, gave us the pills and gave her all of her kitty shots for $103.  This would have easily been in the $500-600 range in South Florida.

Mooch gets along well with the other cats and dogs.  In fact, last night she laid down next to Rosa, the dog, and she began licking her like a mom.

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Crime in Chiriqui

For the last several months, Chiriqui has been experiencing a crime wave.  This isn’t pickpocketing or even snatching a cellphone from an unaware person.  It’s not even the breaking and entering that is fairly common.  This has been violent with people getting beaten, shot and killed.

One of the major problems is that juveniles are not held accountable for horrendous crimes.  Two mid-teens that shot and stabbed a woman during a robbery last week were released to their fathers just two days after their arrest. Older criminals use young kids to commit crimes knowing they have a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

This is affecting both the gringo and the Panamanian community.  Small stores have been held up with one owner killed.  One bandit was only 8 years old and his gun was almost as big as him.  None of the victims have used a gun.  In most cases the ladrones were on them before they would have had time to reach a weapon anyway.

Our police department is woefully under manned and under funded.  If they manage to arrest a criminal, they are likely to get released before the paperwork is complete.

Last night there was a meeting in Porterillos, where last week’s victim lives.  She’s a widow who was shot twice and stabbed during an early morning attack in her home.  Local officials spoke to a group of about 300 very upset residents.  One elected official appeared bored. They had ideas that could be implemented now, like a curfew, and plans to ask the government to strengthen laws regarding minors.  We signed a petition for Diputada Athenas Athanasiadis to take to Parliament in hopes of more stringent legislation.  I was extremely impressed with this young woman (even if she did go to FSU).

So it is still up to us to protect ourselves as the first line of defense.  We have a fence, bars on the windows and doors, motion detector lights and 3 dogs.  We also know our neighbors.  One told us a few weeks ago that he called the police because he saw a few young men just hanging out on the street.

A few people want the government to relax our fairly strict gun laws to make them more available, like in the US.  I hope they don’t.  In one robbery the criminals were only looking for guns he heard the man owned.  He did not but the man was killed anyway.  In none of the robberies would a gun have been useful but would have been stolen by the thieves.

In the meantime, we wait to see if the government will stand up to people who believe the human rights of juvenile felons have more rights than law abiding residents.

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Happy 3rd Year of No School!

jptYesterday began pre-planning days in Broward County for teachers. This is the third year that I wasn’t there.  And I still don’t miss it.  How is that possible?  A job that I did and loved for well over 30 years just vanished from my life and I never think about it.  Ever.

One reason is that schools begin in February here so the back-to-school sales and ads are in winter and not in August.  There’s nothing to remind me of this time of year.  Also, my friends here don’t work either so no one is getting ready for the new school year.  I see posts from former colleagues but it’s so far away when it doesn’t apply to you.

It still amazes me that I don’t miss my job as an American History teacher.  And I really, really liked my profession, especially when I began teaching Advanced Placement classes.  But the demand from school administrators and our County officials began to wear me down.  They had to make ridiculous demands of us so that we could get our appropriate checkmark to prove we were a good teacher.  Any evaluation that relies on checkmarks would obviously suck – and it did.  Stupid codes on the white boards, elementary bulletin boards, lesson plan details that only took up our time but proved worthless, and the list of craziness never ended.  Actual teaching became a side note to the side show we had perform day after day.

teacher2

I was lucky in that when the worst of this came about, I was in my last years.  Since it takes 3 years to fire a teacher who doesn’t get enough checkmarks, I could actually do my job and ignore the demands.

teacher eval

I feel for the teachers left behind, the students who are only being taught what can be measured on a scantron, and even the administrators who must blindly follow the politicos who have never taught.

But year 3 of no “this is going to be the best year ever” speeches, endless (and mindless) meetings, making sure those meaningless codes are on the boards, taking more time to write the lesson plans than it does to teach the lesson,  and having to keep Johnny in my class because he has an IEP – no, don’t miss it!

teacher1

For my friends who are back at it this year, good luck!  Only 180 more student contact days.

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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.

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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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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Homeowners at Last

This morning we signed the paper (singular) that makes us homeowners.  It took almost 4 months for this to happen.  We learned you must have a lot of patience to complete the process without losing your mind.  In fact, you must have a lot of patience for most things or you will go crazy here.  Someone told us long ago that the more you can do yourself, the easier your life will be.  Absolutely the truth.

IMG_0291

Getting painted ASAP

I signed (since I am the president of the Casa Calibri corporation that owns the house) one piece of paper in front of a notary in David.  I told our attorney how buyers and sellers sign maybe fifty papers to complete the same process in the States.  I was just as shocked only having to sign just a single piece of paper.

We met our attorney (who is the BEST) at the notary office at 9 AM and were on our way out by 9:15 AM.  After waiting so long, it was very anticlimactic.  With our early start in David, we made our first stop – Sherwin Williams.  I wrote before that Panama is not big on paint chips and I am a huge fan of them.  While in the States a few weeks ago, I got a full collection of both Sherwin Williams and Behr’s paint chips.  We bought 5 gallons of wall paint and 1 gallon of waterproofing.

Houses in Panama, and most of Central America, are not built with a moisture barrier under the foundation.  Because of the amount of rain that we get, after a few years water seeps up into the cement block walls.  We will paint the bottom 12-15 inches with the water-block and then put the color over it.  Problem solved.

At the house, we met the electrician, Luis, and the guy who will weld our wrought iron bars, Carlos, and, Amilcar who will do some basic handiwork.  Tomorrow the gardener comes again and the pest control guy exterminates inside and out.  It took a long time to close but we are moving quickly to get things together.

I painted the foyer this afternoon.  Not a big room but one room closer to being done before our container arrives.  Tomorrow I will paint the hallway and then our bedroom.  Once the electrician tears up the living room wall and it gets repaired, it will get paint too.  Then the kitchen.  With 3 more bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, we will be painting for a while.  But I have a ton of paint chips to pick colors.

We also got news today that our container is in Panama City awaiting inspection.  Depending how long that takes, we could have our stuff as early as Saturday or as late as Wednesday.  I am hoping for Monday.  But as we have learned so many times in Panama, it will be when it will be.

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Sasha!

Almost two weeks ago we agreed to foster a puppy who had little chance of survival.  Her mom and two siblings died on the operating table, but after the doctors worked on them for over 45 minutes, the mom and one pup survived.  Our little fopuppy day 1ster pup was in bad shape and the doctors refused to operate on her until she was healthier.  She was terribly under nourished, dehydrated, covered with sores and was having seizures.  Although starving, she couldn’t stand to eat her first meal of chicken broth and smashed rice.

After three days, it looked like she may have to be put down.  She would seize and then howl.  It was horrible to watch.  We knew she was suffering.  But then Dottie, from Amigos de Animales, told us to feed her pedialyte with sugar using a syringe.  By the next day, no seizures.  Then no seizures the next day.  She began getting stronger.  By Sunday, just 1 week after we took her home, we broughyt her to the Amigos de Animales Chili Cook-off Fundraiser.  Her public debut.  She was definitely going to live.

Then we had the task of finding her a forever home.  I could see that David wanted to keep her longer but we are leaving in 2 weeks for almost a month.  So David asked our housesitter if she would take care of the puppy.  She loves dogs so she agreed.  There is no reason for the puppy to stay here while we are gone, she needs a permanent home.

Question:  Does David get to keep the puppy?

Sasha 2Sasha 1

 

 

 

 

 

Long story short, her name is Sasha.

She is terribly spoiled and already has more toys than most kids in Panama.  But she has found her forever home.

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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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Scorpion? We Got This

Not surprising, at 5 AM this morning Henry, the cat, and Alexander, the adorable cat, began meowing for food and for the screen door to be open.  They do this every morning and every morning they know to go to David’s side of the bed because I will ignore them.  But David spoils the cats.  For those who know him, you are not surprised.  So at 5 AM, he got out of bed to make his way to the kitchen to warm their homemade cat food.  Have I mentioned that our cats are spoiled?

This morning, though, he saw something in the entry to our bedroom and kicked it out of the way.  Ouch!!!!!  He just kicked a very large scorpion and the scorpion showed his unhappiness by stinging him.  But the scorpion was just in another location and still very much alive.  Fortunately, we have a larger brain and opposable thumbs which makes us smarter than a lowly bug.  With one whack of a flip-flop, dead scorpion.

scorpionThis is my first up-front-and-center meeting with a scorpion so I am not familiar with size but this one seemed gigantic.  Considering he’s headless and stinger-less, he’s still about 4 inches long.

By now my mother is gasping for air that we live in such a dangerous place.  Trust me, everything is fine and David’s foot doesn’t even hurt anymore.

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