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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Doing the Lawn

I was reminded today by my friend Kris, that sometimes we get so involved in our lives in Panama that we forget to write about what’s going on.  I know I read every blogger word I could find before we moved.  Even if it seemed mundane to the writer, I was salivating – waiting for our big move.  Now that it’s here, even though we still love Panama, the writing is more and more sporadic.

So, the activity for today –  I spent most of the day on the lawn.  Luckily we have a gardener who does the unfun stuff like cutting, clipping and disposing of grass and weeds.  David used to do most of that when we lived in Florida.  Now I can do the lawn things that I enjoy.  Planting, trimming, fertilizing and such.  One of the big draws about Boquete is its fertile soil.  Put it in the ground and it will probably grow.  tree fence

Panama has tree limb fences.  Along the highways you can see that people have taken tree limbs and put them in holes and then run barbed wire from tree to tree.  Before long, the branches begin growing into new trees, creating a beautiful fence.

We are nearing the end of dry season so it’s time to get things ready for rain.  lipstick palmTwo weeks ago I planted some bulbs I got at the Chiriquí Flea Market.  They are already about 8 inches tall.  I also got another Lipstick Palm for the front lawn and a couple of vines for the back fence.  The native flowers are beginning to blossom so they need to be watered.

Scottish-ThistleToday I also planted some seeds.  Vegetables and herbs for the green house and flowers in the garden.  I got some Scottish thistle seeds and I hope they grow.

The native plants are beginning to bloom.

It’s also time to weed and feed the lawn.  We get some very unusual weeds.  Many have roots that run down to China and have some pretty nasty thorns.  Apparently they do very well during the dry season but their life expectancy is coming to an end.

It’s time to fertilize the trees I planted in the fall – right before dry and windy season.  They are alive and still look healthy but they need to see a major growth spurt from now until November.

I also planted some kind of pod seed that is suppose to keep leaf cutter ants away from my roses.  I replanted some lilies in the front near the cool trees that went in a few months ago.

In another month or so we will be making the trip to Conception and Volcan for fruit trees and other vegetation.  Our yard is pretty large and needs more plants.  We found a small sapling in the lot next door and replanted it in our yard.  We planted several hibiscus a few months ago and they are big and blooming like crazy.  The fruit trees are in blossom.  Another pineapple top is almost ready to be put in the ground.   I routinely throw my papaya seeds in the back lot, hoping that a few will take root when the rains come.  I still have passion fruit seeds that I need to plant.

Everything grows in Boquete.  And I just heard thunder!!  Rainy season is almost here!

 

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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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My Hospital Experience

I’ve had ongoing issues with the mesh that I had implanted many years ago.  My US doctor ignored my complaints for years and denied that the pain was from the mesh he implanted.  For over 4 years the pain got worse and he continued to deny that it was from the mesh that, by now, was getting a lot of media attention.  He gave me lots of drugs and finally left me with Vicodin, which I am allergic to.

I gave up running and most activities at the gym.  The pain on some days prevented me from even walking more than a few blocks.  That’s when I went to our local Boquete internist, Dra. Digna.  A quick exam confirmed what I had thought for years.  Parts of the mesh had rippled and others were pulling on my internal tissue.  No wonder it hurt.  She recommended a specialist, Dra. Roxana in David.  Dr. Roxana advised me to visit Dra. Hernandez in PC.  This is so unusual to me.  In the US, doctors seldom refer patients to other doctors.  Not true here.  They really want you to have all the information you need to make a good decision.

My surgery was the past Monday.  All of my pre-op tests were done last week, including a visit to a cardiologist.  The total cost was less than $100.  I asked for a private room at Hospital Chiriquí.  Dra. Roxana asked to have a plastic surgeon to assist since the tissue she was dealing with is so delicate.  I was told to get to admitting at 10 AM.  By 10:30, I was in my room with IV attached.  Amazing!

At 2 PM I was wheeled into the operating room, got my jugo de felicidad (Happy Juice) and I woke up back in my room.  Dra. Roxana was right behind me explaining everything she did and handed me a vile of the nasty mesh that caused me so much grief.  I need the contents to help in my lawsuit against the manufacturer.

For the rest of my stay I was given great care.  The nurses came in for their usual blood pressure, temperature, etc. I am really glad that I have a working knowledge of Spanish however.

The next morning I was released.  My total bill for everything including the surgery and specialists?  $2600.

People ask about health care in Panama.  I tell them I have never had better care.  Better than that, it’s affordable.  I have my doctor’s cell phone number and she answers my texts almost immediately. I can see a doctor, even a specialist, usually within 24 hours if I need it.  None of my doctors have ever rushed me through an appointment.   I am very comfortable with all of them.  I feel that I am getting more competent care here than in Florida.

Anyone who is considering moving here should do their own research to make sure they have doctors here that meet their individual needs.  Our needs have been rather simple and we have been very happy.

 

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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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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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Home Buying Process in Panama Pt. 2

Wait.  That’s all we can do now.  Wait.  We have a list of people that we need to involve in our move, but until we get a closing date, everything is on hold.

PatioWe signed our Letter of Intent weeks ago.  In the US, I would be writing this from our new patio.  But this is Panama, so we wait.

Our attorney has established our corporation for the property.  Everything on our end is as done as we can be at this point.  The problem seems to be that the seller has a mortgage at a credit union and, even though it is a small amount of money, banks don’t like to get their loans paid off early.

We still have not written the contract and have not had the inspection.  No, we just wait.  Tranquilo.

I asked the realtor if there was a projected closing date.  He hemmed and hawed for a few seconds.  So I asked him for a projected closing month.  He “hopes” August.  However, since we are leaving the country at the end of August, the projected month may be September.  Tranquilo.

And we wait.

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Retirement @ One Year

I can’t believe that it’s already been one year since I retired.  I retired from a job that I really loved – although I began to hate the turn in education that teacher’s still have to endure.  For 33 years I taught, beginning in Grade 2 (not my thing), then Grade 6, then Grade 8, then Grade 10/12, and finally found my niche in Grade 11.  I was also lucky to end my final year with such a great group of kids.  They graduated this year, most at the top of a very large class.  It was nice to see them so excited about graduating and going to college.  I was lucky to make a trip through S. Florida and saw many of them just a few weeks ago.  Again, I was very lucky to end my career with such wonderful classes.

retirement 3Now it’s been one year after leaving my chosen profession and I am still shocked how little I think about teaching.  I don’t miss it at all.  I miss being around teenagers – am I mildly insane?  I know some people that teach until they die, some that teach long after they should have left and some that teach 40+ years because they are excellent and love it.  Some have no hobbies or friends outside of school, so they stay year after year.  I thought I would stay a few more years and I really thought I would miss it.  Wrong on both counts.

I thought about volunteering at a school but that would mean a regular schedule.  There is an orphanage nearby that I may investigate.  But for now, I stick with adult groups.  Within a few months of moving here, I joined a bunch of groups (against the advice of the long-timers) anbut I’m pulling out of manyretirement 2 of those too.

After one year of retirement I can honestly say, it’s the BEST! And  I know  I am very fortunate to have been able to retire earlier than expected.

Question:  Why do they always make retired people look like they’re 100 years old on posters??????

 

 

 

 

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It’s Raining, it’s Pouring….

Finally rainy season has arrived!!!!  Most people aren’t happy when they hear “cloudy skies with a 90% chance of rain” but the people of Boquete are thrilled.

Rainy season means a few things.  First, it means the windy season is over.  When people talk about “eternal spring” of Boquete, they never mention the 2-3 months of wind.  Not a gentle spring breeze.  We are talking howling, never ending, 40-45 mph wind that blows day and night. tree Fence and roof panels clang and trees get a new shape.  It blows dust into houses, blows over trees, dries out every living thing.  It does not rain during windy season.  The dry wind comes over the mountains from the north.  Dry air that saps every bit of moisture from everything.  People set fire to their lots to clear brush since everything is so dry.  People lose water in their homes if they don’t have sufficient reservoir tanks.  Usually windy season ends in early March.  This year it went through April.  When the first rain drops finally appeared this year, people cheered.

rainbowRainy season also mean barjareque,  a mist that allows us to have the most beautiful rainbows on the planet.

Now that it’s rainy season, we make sure we have our rain jackets, umbrellas and rain boots handy.  You need many of these things – for your purse, your car and your house – because you never know when it will begin pouring.

Rainy season turns everything green almost overnight.  Because of the great soil here,P1010601 a little bit of rain allows grass to grow so fast you can almost see it.  The reservoirs get filled, dust disappears and schedules are adjusted.  Rain generally appears first in the early afternoon.  So people get all their errands done early.  During the afternoon rain, we relax or have a leisurely lunch.  By late afternoon, the rain has stopped and people are gathering for dinner, drinks, games or whatever.

Do people complain about the rain?  Not in May and usually not in June, July, August or September.  But as the amount of rain increases and the hours it rains increases through the season, by October and November, people are tired of the rain.  By then, it rains almost all day and night.  But right now, people love the rain!

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Our Own B&B

One of the very first things we did when we came (not moved) to Boquete three years ago was to join the BCP, Boquete Community Players.  Through the hard work of expats who came before us, Boquete has its own community theater.  The building is used for many activities, from yoga to the Tuesday market.  Recently, the BCP got new ‘management’ and improvements are happening quickly.  The parking lot and entrance are being refurbished and the building is being painted.

Joining the BCP means giving them $10 and getting a membership card.  But we wanted to become active members.  As soon as we moved here, we jumped in.  We played in short parts in the Cabaret show last fall and the Comedy show the previous summer.  Now, this season’s plays have been announced and practice has started for the first show, Sex Please, We’re Sixty.  Paul and Hope are the artistic directors and have many years of experience bringing theater to small communities.

We won’t be in Panama for the actual performance but built the set for this play.  David took a Stagecraft class before we moved in anticipation of doing this. Thank you Lori Sessions!!!   Since this is our first experience building a set, we aren’t sure if this is considered elaborate, but is seems like it.

The play is set in an older woman’s B&B.  That means the set must have bedroom doors and two garden doors.  It also needs two additional exits, a registration desk and a buffet.  I thought it would look like a feminine B&B if it had rose and white stripes with chair rail.  Yikes!  Then the walls needed something on them to make it homey.

constructionWe started from scratch – plywood, 2x4s and some paint.  Then we needed hinges, knobs, tape and a million other items requiring trips to the DoIt Center and Novey in David.  David made thirteen flats.  Flats are 48 inch wide panels that become door framewalls and doors.  Once the individual flats are constructed, they have to be joined together and painted.  Problem areas – 1. making the doors close properly 2. hiding all the wires showing on the ceiling of our little theater 3. matching all those pink and white stripes and 4. fitting 7 entrances on our little stage.

patio doors

As of last Thursday, the set is complete.  Mrs. Stancliff’s Rose Garden B&B has 3 bedrooms, 2 gardens entrances, a lobby entrance and a kitchen entrance.  We also made or converted a reservation desk and a buffet for drinks.

Additional furniture was brought in and accessories are in place.  We were lucky enough to get artwork by the famous Robyn Cole for the reception area.

reception2

stripes, stripes, stripes

stripes, stripes, stripes, stripes

We will be traveling so we won’t see the show.  We have seen a lot of the rehearsals with Bud the Stud, Henry, Victoria and the others.  If you’re in Boquete, I hope you have the opportunity see the show.

door frame 2

Door Frame

reception 3

rehearsal

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