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Jan 17, 2014 So Far So Good

Posted 1/17/2014

The last I wrote things were moving at a snail’s pace. As it turns out that is normal for Panama. Immigration took all morning since there are so many lines to stand on to get something stamped and signed in triplicate.

For instance

When you get to Immigration you stand in a line to get a number. Then you stand in line for your number to get called. Then onto another line to pay the filing fees and get a receipt stamped and signed in triplicate. Then back to the previous line to submit your trice stamped receipt. Then back to the “get a Number” line for a photograph. Then stand on another line for a photo of yourself when your number is called.

When I bought the car both the owner and I had to go to the “Ministry of Cars and Lines” to transfer ownership. The normal way to handle things there is to get a number wait on lines, run to the bank across town, get another number, go to another “Ministry of Cars and or Lines” (never did figure out the difference) get another number and so forth. The process literally will take the entire day with chance of returning mañana. But this owner was more savvy than your average bear. He knew there were guys there that had connections inside that would, for a price, cut thru the lines. I’m not saying his friends on the inside were in on the take but this guy did not seem that charismatic to be otherwise. This strategy took only 2.5 hours and I owned a car for a mere $40 in “Official” fees and $40 to the guy who cuts to the head of the line.

By the way… Getting insurance took less than an hour to sign up for but it took a day for the paperwork to be done so we had to go back the next morning to get the finished paperwork. The good news is that to insure the Nissan Pathfinder 2003, with the max plan, cost $172 for the year. It did not include collision because in Panama it isn’t offered on 2003’s, yep they just won’t do it.

So now we have a car suitable for the boondocks of Panama and we are headed for Boquete to join up with Melinda’s sister and hubby. The next few days were nice and semi relaxed except for the nagging problem of the car we sold to a friend back in NJ. Seems we gave her the wrong Registration and title and the mistake was not caught until we were in Panama. Do not let this happen to you! It seems it is an impossible situation to handle remotely, so I had to send Melinda and her sister, Laurel, back on a plane to take care of it. At least she can pick up some good peanut butter to bring it back with them. Hey, trust me on this one, it’s a big deal this peanut butter run.

Just before they flew out we found a small three bed, three bathroom home to rent. Nice big carport and covered patio, decent size kitchen and covered back alley for the utility sink and washer/dryer. Yes, in Panama the laundry room is out back. The dryer runs on propane as does the stove and the on-demand hot water heater. Two of the baths have hot/cold running water and the other has an on-demand hot showerhead. Around here they are called “suicide showers” because it is wired directly to the electric system. I’m not worried because ours is wired to a ground fault circuit… Yeah, I’m still worried.

So this leaves my brother-in-law, Jim, and I alone to fend for ourselves. We found a little Hostel across the street.

 I just want to take a moment here to explain what passes as a “street” around here. Picture a rocky streambed full of dust and boulder wanabees. With lots of foxholes, ruts and a three foot deep trench on either side.

So anyway, the hostel gives us coffee, orange juice and toast/butter/jelly in the morning. We sit outside in the garden surrounded by flowers and plants and a view of on of the mountain peaks that surround the town. Afterward we meet at the Kingdom Hall to go into the surrounding areas and bring the good news to all the pagan gringos. Then home to head to the rental home to get it ready of human habitation.

So far we caulked the windows and doors, killed a giant spider, purchased a stove, fridge, microwave and washer/dryer stacked combo that will be delivered sometime on Thursday, which, in Panama, means between 8am Thursday and 6pm Friday. We are hoping that our container will be cleared from Customs by then. This container is another debacle that I may blog about in the future but not before the resultant PTSD it caused subsides. It is also planned that all this will be finished before Melinda and Laurel are finished in NJ and come home. This is, in Panama, like saying “I am planning that this and that will be done before I die of old age”.

Oh by the way

So now I sit and type out this rendition of events as I remember them hoping that things do not go too awry yet expecting the perfect expression of Murphy’s Law to rear itself. But even with all that Panama throws at you it is still typically Panama. This is how things are and taken in context is not that bad at all. The people are friendly and helpful and do the best they can with the tools at hand. They are patient with you when language keeps you from being able to communicate precisely. The weather is breezy and temperate and the 360 degree vista of high hills and an 11,000 foot dormant volcano capped by a permanent tropical cloud forest is unmatched by anything Google has been able to map themselves.

When things get settled and there is nothing that needs to be done on a deadline I am sure this blog may begin to be a bit boring. That’s why I plan to go the “Gringo Flea Market” and try ”something completely different” in Monty Python vernacular. I hope that piques your interest.