Our latest Adventure….

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Our latest adventure isn’t a fun one or an especially happy one. I thought about calling this post “Live & Learn” or “Lesson’s on Trust”, or possibly “How we Learned our lesson”…Pfffffft! But, although we trusted someone and that trust was betrayed, it wont stop us from continuing to be trusting people. This experience may just serve as a reminder of the necessity to be more discerning as to who we give that gift of trust to, but we wont stop trusting people. It’s just not the kind of people we are. Both Scott & I have a natural tendency to trust people until they prove they don’t deserve it. This mindset could be called a gamble or it could be called foolish by some. But I’ve found that most of the time its proven to be more of a benefit than not. Although there are times when we get let down and face disappointments, even feel rocked by how wrong we were in our assessment of someones character, I’d rather put out positive, generous energy than walk around feeling suspicious of everyone I come into contact with.

What happened? Well, I must preface this post by saying that I wont be mentioning any names, I would never want a blog post I’ve written to hurt feelings or cause embarrassment to people involved. I realize that there are people who live in this small community who may read my blog and although I like to share my experiences It’s important to me, especially in this instance, to be mindful of not creating a post that would publicly humiliate anyone. So, I’ll be keeping the names of people and a few small details out. Most of my readers would never know any of these folks but, it matters to me if anyone in our little town should read this and know who I’m writing about.

I’ve written before about what a challenge it’s been to get construction materials up to our property. Well, as you know, delivery trucks can’t get up to the very top of our property because it’s not yet paved all the way up . So they drop gravel and sand at the entrance to our lot and then we have our workers shovel loads of material into the truck and drive it up and unload it . Scott’s been doing this and when, on a couple of occasions, we’ve had to go out of town for a day or two, we have entrusted one of our workers, let’s call him Marvyn, with the keys to the truck. Marvyn is the only one who has a driver’s license and so he’s been very good about following our instructions to continue driving material up and down and he knew he was to NEVER take the truck off our property. Can you see where this is going?…..

While we were away, in California Marvyn got drunk and decided to take our truck on a drunken joyride, and off course, crashed it. Yep! He took out a guardrail and the front passenger side went down into a deep drainage ditch. We don’t know all the details but we have been told there was another car involved, luckily no one was hurt. The truck was towed to an impound lot in David. Now, I must tell you that this is a very familiar experience for us because a few years back my daughter did nearly the exact same thing to Scott’s car! Hah! Yep! Well, maybe not ‘exactly’ the same…there was a tree involved instead of another vehicle! And she managed to actually total his car, Marvyn merely crunched the truck, leaving it drivable, which was very nice of him. Pffffffft! Poor Scott! He’s thinking we maybe need to stop leaving town! Ugggggg!

Marvyn had kindly gotten the truck out of impound and changed the blown tire. He put the spare on and drove it back up to our property, so the poor broken little truck was waiting for us when we returned. He has expressed his remorse and has told us that he will pay for it, but honestly we don’t see how that could possibly happen. Like most of the local laborers here, he has so little and works to feed his two small children and wife. The one thing that would be nice is if he decides to decline taking the large “liquidation” payment we are required by the labor board to pay him as a result of discontinuing his employment with us. It just feels so wrong to have to give him a check considering how much this is going to cost us. The labor laws are very much skewed to benefit the workers, and even though we feel strongly about abiding by whatever is the right and legal way they do things here, in this instance it just feels so wrong. We have arranged to have our attorney deal with it. Marvyn will go to our attorneys office to sign the liquidation papers and they will cut him a check. But, we shall see where that goes. To us, the financial implications, though a serious bummer, is not the part of this situation that is the most unfortunate to us. It’s the betrayal of our trust in this person who we really felt deserved to be trusted, that really hurts.

So now we get to learn all about how car insurance works here in Panama. When we bought the truck from Toyota they offered a good deal on insurance through them. They insurance company is through a company called Banistmo. We called them when we got back and they told us they would need the police report. So we arranged for Dani, a Panamanian friend who speaks English, to come with us to the Police station here in Boquete. I have to tell you about how funny I found the office…the way they have it set up, (I’m assuming, to cause people to feel inferior or intimidated by the police), they have the guy in the front office sitting wayyyyyy up in a perch that one must look up about 6 feet to talk to him. The desk, if one can call it that, is built like a guard tower inside the office of the police station. Requiring anyone who walks in to crane their neck to talk to the guy who looks down from his perch. I thought it was pretty funny. But anyways….of course he told us we would have to go down to David to the main headquarters to get the police report…annnnnnd….here we go….deep breath. Time to channel some serious tranquilo!

Yesterday, Monday, we got the crew working and headed down to David in search of the police report. We had a feeling this was not going to go well. And we were not wrong about that. Of course the officer we spoke to at the police station in David told us we needed to go to the Transito office at the Chiriqui mall. Okay….off to the mall we went. The nice lady at the Transito office told us that we needed a little paper that Marvyn must have received, she showed us an example of it, I took a picture of it with my phone and texted it to Marvyn. We decided to go ahead and try to find the insurance office and go talk to them. Lucky for us, Google maps works great and given the fact that there are no street signs here, it’s great to be able to navigate our way through the maze that is David, Panama. We were able to find the office with no problem.

After being ushered to the English speaking person in the office we began to try to tell what we knew about what happened. Which, as I mentioned, we don’t have all the details. We have yet to get the Police report. Mind you, from our perspective technically, the car was stolen. It was taken off our property without our permission and I don’t know, it seems like that constitutes stolen property? No? Well, It’s not looking good for us. Mind you, they still have to send our report to the main office in Panama City for review, but like any other insurance organization they are going to argue that what happened does not qualify for coverage. Talking with the insurance representative in the office yesterday they indicated that because Marvyn had access to the keys to the vehicle, it may be our responsibility to deal with the damage. Now, given that there was another vehicle involved, I sure hope we don’t end up being responsible for that as well! And how about the damage to the guardrail? Uggggg!

After Marvyn called us back and told us the number on the little piece of paper that the Transito office wanted, we left the insurance office and drove back to the Chiriqui mall to see if this magic number would miraculously get us the Police report. But…Nope! She took the number, shuffled through a pile of papers and said, “no, it’s not here”. Okay….so apparently it can take awhile for the officer to file the report. “How long?” I ask….”Two weeks, Three weeks, maybe a month” is the answer I get from the nice lady. Silent eye roll! Ohhhhhh Panama! :) Well, so continues our Adventure with car insurance. Nothing new, insurance is insurance, no matter where you live. So, for now, our little truck limps along looking pitiful.

Another new development resulting from losing our only driving employee, Scott has tons of things to work on and without a driver he would have to spend all his time driving the truck up and down. So, being the kind, generous caring wife that I am (ahem), I volunteered to be the driver. Right now, as I write this post I’m sitting in the truck, backed up to a huge pile of gravel as Edgar shovels it into the truck. To be honest, I’m happy to have a way to help. So far there hasn’t been much that I could do and I’m more than happy to feel productive. And, I get to spend time writing while I sit and wait for the truck to be loaded and then unloaded. In the end, even though this truck situation sucks an we’re both very disappointed in Marvyn and in losing him as an employee, our Adventure goes on. We wont be giving the keys to our vehicles to anyone again, lesson learned, and hopefully Marvyn decides to learn a lesson as well. I still think he’s a good person, he just made a stupid mistake and now he’s living with the consequences. We always told Mariah, when she made stupid mistakes that mistakes are never a bad thing as long as you learn something from them and never repeat them. Life goes on….

Back in Boquete, It’s Good To Be Home….

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We had a great trip to California, but isn’t it always good to be home? The nicest thing about being back in California was seeing our friends and family, of course. And taking care of getting our container packed up was something we’ve been waiting to get done for a long time, so that was an accomplishment we were pleased to finally make. The logistics of seeing to the packing of the container was a bit of a challenge, and, I might even say, a pain in the you know what. !@# But in the end we were relieved to finally have it all done. Read the rest of this entry

On The Bus To Panama City….

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We’re 5 hours into a 7 hour bus ride to Panama City and the beginning of our journey to California. The busses here are not bad and the ride to the city, although looooooong, is comfortable, enough. We could opt to fly the short 45 minute flight from David to PC (which I would MUCH prefer ) but its hard to pass up the savings of a $15.00 bus ticket compared to a $250.00 plane ticket. The bus stops about halfway, in Santiago for a little lunch break. They stop at a cafeteria style place where we can stretch our legs and have a little lunch. It’s a really long day but we have our kindles charged and, as you can see, my iPad too.

Panama has been in the process of lots of construction this last few years. They have recently completed the construction of a brand new metro system in the city which is really quite impressive. When I was in the city with Emma she took me on a trial run ride so I could familiarize myself with it. So last time Scott and I were in town, just last week, we had our metro cards ready to go with money on them and knew how to easily go from the Albrook bus terminal to El Gongrejo neighborhood where The Hotel Milan is conveniently located. Its only about 4 stops from the bus terminal and is really fast and easy.

Another big project that’s currently underway is the expansion of the Interamerican highway. They are in the process of widening the highway and at the moment its quite a mess but this road is sorely in need of a makeover. This is the main road that goes all the way from Panama City to Costa Rica. For many years this road has been in pretty bad disrepair with big potholes that make it a very bad road to drive at night or during bad rain storms. Since we’ve been living here they completed the improvements and widening of the main road that goes from Boquete to David. This too has been a huge improvement when traveling down the hill from where we live.

While driving through Panama one can see many new housing developments and huge shopping malls and new hospitals and police stations under construction. There’s a lot happening here and it’s exciting to see. I can only imagine that there must be a lot of employment opportunity with all this work going on everywhere you look. Not to mention the huge expansion of the canal that’s been going on as well. What a lot of infrastructure improvements for Panama. Yea! Panama!! It’s great to see changes that are making life here even better for everyone.

We’re probably an hour or so outside the city now and I think I’ll do a bit of reading now. Cant wait to get on that plane in the morning and be back in Californina .

Going Back For A Visit For The First Time…

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Going back where? Going back to California. We’ve been gone for nearly 14 months. Sigh… Can I be honest? I’m feeling a bit torn between excited and a little nervous about this first trip back to our old stomping grounds. I don’t really know why…but maybe by the time I finish writing this post I’ll have figured it out.

We’ll be in California for 10 days. Our biggest mission is to meet with the shipping company at our storage unit in San Jose and oversee the packing of all our belongings that have been patiently awaiting this day. We’re hoping this will take up only three or four of our days . But we also have to deal with a bunch of paperwork and things that we need to take to the shredder and dispose of. Do I really need to hold onto 30 years of tax returns? I think not. And it might be okay to let go of all those carefully filed receipts for the remodel we did on the house in Los Altos. I may not need to ship old PG&E bills and Water and Garbage bills either. I think the coast is clear to dump all those papers in that big shredder and just walk away…or runnnnn! Hah! The other job we have amidst the packing is to hold back a few things that we’ve decided are not absolutely essential to bring, just in case all our goodies don’t quite fit in the shipping container. We have a list of items that we will then need to figure out what to do with. Anyone wanna have a garage sale? Read the rest of this entry

The Casita project update…

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All this traveling and leaving Boquete has created a bit of a difficult crimp in our project, but progress continues in spite of it all. Luckily for us, we have a very dependable crew of hard working guys who we can trust to continue doing what they are supposed to do even when Scott isn’t there to watch their every move. It’s not everyday that you end up with men like that. It means a lot to us that we can leave them unsupervised for short period of time and come back to see that they kept working hard and doing a good job. And our neighbors are also a huge help when we have to go out of town. Al has very kindly taken care of giving the guys their pay when we are gone for a payday. It is something that is more helpful than he even realizes. We are so blessed to have such amazing neighbors who I can tell will be like family to us when we live there. I often marvel at our good luck. :) Read the rest of this entry

One Big Step Closer To Being ‘Legit’ In Panama…

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Our trip to Panama City was a mix of good and not so good. The good is that we’re now ‘officially’ in the system and we have our temporary Panama ID’s in our hot little hands….Yes! Our permanent ID’s should be in our possession in a few months time. The bad part of our trip was the disappointing realization that our plans to fly to California had to be cancelled at least temporarily. This due to a tiny little detail our attorney neglected to make perfectly clear to us clueless Gringos…. When I asked our attorney if it would be okay for us to plan to return to the states as soon as our application was in process she said,”yes, as soon as your application is in process you can leave Panama”. Okay, that seemed clear to us so we booked the trip for the day after meeting with her. But when I mentioned we were leaving on Saturday, (the very next day) I got…”What?, you cant do that!” SCREEEEEECH! (this is the sound of our plans coming to a screeching halt!) Read the rest of this entry

Our Tranquilo Is Being Tested ….

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We’re in Panama City to officially begin the application process for our residency visa. Our attorney told us to bring copies of our passports, copies of the last entry stamp in our passports. Copies of a bill or contract that shows proof of our address in Boquete and five passport photos along with cash to pay for application. No problema….

She seems to have been very thorough except for one tiny little detail…. We must have a multi entry visa before leaving Panama when our visa application is in process! Which we knew , what we did not know is… This visa takes two business days to process..Gasp !! This little bit if information somehow didn’t get explained to us when I very clearly asked about leaving the country when the application is “in process”, which she very clearly answered, “YES you can leave as soon as it is “in Process”. If we had left panama we would have been fined $ 4,000.00! Deep breath…. Okay… So, my mistake was not asking extremely specific questions . When I asked if we could leave after our application was officially ‘in process’ I should have asked ‘WHEN” we could leave. Ugggggg! Oh Boy! Gotta chalk this one up to yet another lesson learned. Be more specific Holly.

We should have known better to plan things so tightly. This is Panama after all, right. Things just seem to get done much differently than one would expect. It would have been so nice to have had a list of important things and this whole entire process has been such a trial and error for us. You would think this was the first Residency Visa ever to be applied for. I mean come on! When someone asks about leaving during the application process why not include in your answer,”Be aware, you must not leave the country until the multi entry visa is processed which takes TWO days!” Uggggg! And our attorney specializes in immigration law. Well, I cant put the blame all on her, I am the one who didn’t ask the right questions. As a matter of fact, even besides our mistake of planning to leave the country, we couldn’t even return to Boquete if we wanted to until Tuesday because the immigration will have our passports. So no matter what, even besides the snafoo on the trip back to the states, had we planned only to be here in Panama City for Thursday & Friday, we would have been in for a big surprise because we wont have or passports back until Tuesday. So, We sit, time to start the fun of canceling all the hotels, the rental car, the airline itinerary, and oh yes…letting all our friends and family know the bad news.

We have already arranged the shipping company to meet us at our storage in San Jose, to pack our container. Right this minute we are thinking about sticking with that part of our plan. We might just have to get to Ca on Wed, meet with the shippers on Thursday and fly home on Friday. But, nothing is set in stone at the moment. We are relaxing and recovering from our crazy morning, I’m pretty sure Scott is fast asleep, a nap will cure everything. In a little bit we will regroup and strategize about what to do. There must be an upside to this dilemma, I just haven’t seen it quite yet. But, don’t you worry, I’ll figure out why its a good thing and get right back to ya….For now my mantra is ….Breath…Tranquilo….Breathe….Tranquilo…..Ahhhh feeling better already! Whew…what an Adventure! PFFFFFFT…

A Whirlwind Day…

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Yesterday, (Monday) was a crazy day. We had made plans to go to Panama City on Wednesday so that we would be there in the morning on Thursday to meet with Mayra, our Attorney. She had emailed us to let us know we need to be there to sign paperwork to start the application process of our residency visa. At long last all the documents we’ve been working on gathering are all acceptable. They’ve been processed and now we can go To Panama City to meet with the Attorney and begin the official application process for our visa and then to California to prepare our container to be shipped to Panama. In the morning Scott said,”Why don’t we go ahead and try to get our trip to the States in while we’re at it.” Oh Boy, that’s gonna take some organizing…. Read the rest of this entry

That illusive residency visa may be in our hot little hands soon!

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Our attorney in the city has received all our documents for our application for the Pensionado visa. She says they have processed them and that we need to come to the city this Thursday & Friday to sign all the paperwork and get the application process going. Wow! I cant believe it’s finally almost there. This news has started a whirlwind of activity for us because we’ve been patiently waiting to begin the process of shipping our belongings from California to Panama. Read the rest of this entry

I notice myself adapting more and more, and it just makes me smile…

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As I sit at the dining room table and gaze outside at the gray, breezy morning. I’m trying to decide what to write about today. So many different things come to mind. I just returned from running a few errands and can’t help but think about how much easier it’s become to get things done. Not that anything in Boquete has changed, but I can feel myself changing. My perspective is changing and I notice some things that, in the early days of living here, seemed a little complicated or frustrating, are just my new ‘normal’. Does that make sense?

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Did someone say, “Pie”?

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I’ve done something extraordinary! Extraordinarily uncharacteristic for Holly, that is. Not Actually, something that anyone but me will think is so special or strange or amazing or stunning or CRAZY FANTASTIC… okay but, maybe those who know me well will understand! Are you dying of curiosity? Well….I made a PIE! Yep, you read that right…I actually baked a homemade pie…from Scratch! Crust and all! Yes!! I really did! Who knew I had it in me? Well, certainly not me, I’ve never even wanted to bake a pie…it’s just not something that ever even occurred to me to even attempt. I mean, other people like to bake and to make pies and treats but not me. I’m the one who keeps all those Frozen food companies in business! I used to frequent that area of the grocery store, in the day’s before Scott. And now, what’s happening to me? I mean, sheeesh! I’m baking now? HUMPH!

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Learning the In’s & Out’s of renewing our car registration….

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Getting Scott’s truck registered…

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Well, its already been a year ago that we bought that shiny new truck for Scott . (That truck is no longer even remotely close to “Shiny” anymore! LOL! ) Which means it’s time to renew the registration and the insurance. No, you don’t get to just do it online. Things get done altogether differently here in Panama. And renewing a registration is not at all the same as what we’re used to. We’ve…Okay… I should say ‘I’ve’ been expecting the whole process to be somewhat stressful and possibly even a giant pain in the @#$. But, here’s the big surprise…it was so darn easy! I think a year ago when we got our cars and we were told that next time we renew the registration we would need to go to Dolega to do it, it sounded a little daunting to me because it was an unknown. At that time we had never really been to Dolega aside from driving through when there was a detour during road construction. And we have had some limited experience dealing with government offices and all the frustrating bureaucracy that one must endure most of the time. So I’ll speak for myself when I say, I wasn’t looking forward to dealing with getting the registration renewed. Read the rest of this entry

We love a party…I may have mentioned this before…

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Scott and I really do love hosting casual gatherings and last night (Well, Sunday night) was the second gathering in our ‘partly’ built casita. We wanted to have a small “Happy Hour” and just have a couple friends who wanted to see the progress and celebrate our new home with us. When we hatched this plan we had two couples in mind but somehow before we knew it, more and more couples came to mind. Suddenly that ‘small Happy Hour” became a party of 15… “Whowsa!” She say’s with a huge smile on her happy face!

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Poco a Poco, Still….

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I haven’t written about my spanish progress for awhile. There’s a good reason for that…It’s slooooow going! I’m trying, EVERYDAY, I’m trying! And I gotta tell ya…its a bit discouraging at times, not devastatingly discouraging, just a bit frustrating . Don’t worry too much, that sounded rather discouraged, not to worry, I promise, I’m farrrr from beating myself up too much. I have moments of wonderment when I actually get something out that is understood and I realize I have actually communicated to someone in SPANISH! Whoohoo! My heart soars when that happens, and I think its beginning to happen more and more, it’s true! Read the rest of this entry

Here’s a lesson I’m Learning…

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As I’ve probably mentioned from time to time, this whole “domesticity” thing is new for me. So I’ve never been the “Laundress from Heaven”, far from it. I’ve ruined my fair share of clothes and Yes, Scott has occasionally had to live with pink underwear that some how ended up in the wrong load of colors. I personally think he looks very manly in Pink, but he’s not so sure! Pffffft! And shrinking things….can you see my eyes rolling now? Yes, I have a habit hence a dread now, of shrinking my clothes! Consequently I hate using the dryer and I almost always use cold water, except for Scott’s filthy work clothes…those need to be BOILED or maybe even tossed each night into the trash!! Hah! For all my clothes I mostly like to air dry them. So I hang my clothes wherever I can find a place to hang them. Here’s where my norma M.O. has run into a snag….it’s a bit more humid here than I’m used to. Gulp! Have you ever smelled mildewed clothes? Well, Um…I’ve got a little problem…My clothes all smell kinda…..Oh hell…. terrible! They just don’t dry nearly as fast as they did hanging in my bathroom in California. And apparently when you let wet clothes hang to dry for three or four days, well, lets just say, yuck! There’s no fresh clean smell commin’ from my freshly washed clothes, that’s for sure. I do believe I have a mildew problem. Sooooo back into the washer goes my laundry and a new plan has been put into action. I noticed a little rope hanging outside with some clothespins on it…Hmmmmm…could that be a better place to let my clean laundry hang to dry? Of course, its the rainy season up here in Boquete. And that means that everyday, usually anywhere between 2 to about 3ish, it rains like crazy! But the early part of the day is just as sunny and warm as can be. And theres always a nice breeze. Which means I’ve gotta keep a close eye on the weather outside. So today I’ve got my clothes drying outside but this means I need to be on top of it and make sure I grab them and bring them all inside soon, right now its 2:45 and I can see the sky beginning to get a little grey. Probably a good idea to go out there and see if my formerly smelly, mildewy clothes are dry. This has been my newest, and rather critical new housekeeping lesson…how to clean my clothes and not let them get mildewy. I got this! Humph! Learning something new everyday!

That Scott…He’s Quite The Mulit tasker!

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I’m up at the job site everyday at lunchtime. I love to walk a round and see what’s new from the day before and what they are working on that day. It’s usually a flurry of action. Guys working on so many different things, my head sometimes spins wondering how Scott keeps a handle on all the projects that are going on all at the same time. Richie and Ricardo have been installng the gutters and Javier and Federico have been working on the repello inside, while Arquiles and Leo were working on the septic system down the hill from the casita and edgar was assisting them.

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Stopping to hear, to listen and to appreciate so many things…

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Sounds…
(I know,..,.Two post in one day!! Ayyyy! What can I say, I was feeling inspired today! Hah!)

I hear roosters, various birdsong, more roosters, dogs barking, drums in the distance, a mariachi band at my neighbors house (which has taken a break so I can hear all the lovely sounds of nature all around me). The occasional sound of a car driving by on the road below. Lot’s of different birds, there are so many different and unique sounds all over. And the nearby buzz of the Hummers as they take turns chasing each other from the feeder, all demanding it belongs to them! They sound so fierce as they chase each other, darting so fast and often buzzing right near where I sit. Then the peaceful sound of many hummers flittering around the feeder as they gobble up as much of the sugary nectar as they can before the day is over. Read the rest of this entry

Father’s Day….Sigh…

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It’s been some time since I’ve celebrated Father’s Day. My Dad’s been gone for twenty years. He left us way too soon, he was only 47 years old. My age, give or take, sigh. I was 28 when you left Dad. You meant the world to me. Because you came into my life when I was about 4 or five years old some would label you as my “step-Dad”, but I beg to differ. You were my Dad. The only Dad I ever wanted or needed. I can remember when my mom brought you to meet me and Rora. I remember sitting on your lap and I remember you doing a trick where you took off your thumb. You adored me from the very start, and the feeling was mutual. You loved being a father. I always felt loved, adored, cared about and safe with you around. You gave me advice, you were very protective of me, you punished me when I needed to be punished and you rewarded me when I made you proud. And you were always so proud of us. You deserved that pride. You taught me so much. You taught me manners, how to behave in a fancy restaurant, honesty, integrity, you taught me how to embrace my creativity. I watched you express your creativity all the time. You loved to decorated the house, you were always redecorating something. Making valances for the windows or wallpapering or rearranging furniture. I remember you surprising me with a newly decorated bedroom when I was about 10 or 12, new furniture and drapes with a matching comforter on the bed. I remember when Rora wanted a canopy bed and you surprised her with that. You loved surprising us. You loved seeing us happy and you especially loved spoiling us (me, Rora and Mom) rotten. You taught me to be generous and kind and to express my love and to always always laugh. I think the single most “stand out” thing that everyone who knew you will never forget is your sense of humor! No one, and I mean No one ever got more satisfaction from embarrassing people and making people laugh! You never ever tired of finding the humor in life. I can hear that loud all encompassing chuckle! Hah! Makes me smile just to think of it! What a joker you were. I have endless memories of being embarrassed as an adolescent! And underneath all the eye rolling and yelling I did while being embarrassed….I would be smiling inside, trying like hell not to let you know that I loved it! I was so proud of you. You were so handsome and so cool and so talented and successful and you were so fun to have around. All my friends thought you were so great! Even when your antics affected them, they just couldn’t believe how funny you were. None of their dads behaved like you! You were crazy! And I was proud of you. All my girlfriends liked being at our house because you were always so fun. I miss you so much. I often think about how badly I wish you and Scott could have met. My sweet quiet man would not have known what to think of you Dad! Hah! And I don’t think Mariah would ever want you out of her sight! She loves to hear stories of how you would totally embarrass me in public. And she wishes you could have embarrassed her. Oh Dad, how I miss you and wish everyday that you were here. I would trade anything just to have you back. But life doesn’t work like that. And so, I am just grateful to have had you as my Dad! You came into my life when I needed you most and embraced me with love and adoration and cherished me and made me feel loved. And I hope you felt my love right back. One thing that I know to be true, even now in my life, Family is not defined by blood but simply by love and love was the most precious gift you ever gave to me. You stood by my side during some of the most crucial times and guided and directed me while offering support and unending devotion. I may not be able to spend the day with you Dad, but just writing these words makes me feel as though I’ve celebrated Father’s Day and given you a gift. I miss you everyday but I know you’ll always be with me. And, I’m certain your wishing you could do something from up there to embarrass me! Hah! Happy Father’s Day Dad……..

Happy Birthday To Scott!

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Today is Scott’s Birthday!

Happy Birthday to my best friend! He’s finally the same age as me and cant call me the ‘old’ lady anymore! For six whole months he loves to point out that I’m older than him and today is the day that nonsense comes to a halt! HUMPH! We’re spending two nights at Boca Chica. We were here in April for Easter but we stayed at a different hotel last time. I tried to get reservations at the same place, Seagull Cove Lodge, but they were booked. So I found this one , it’s called Bocas Del Mar. And what a nice place it is. It’s actually very near the other place and we both agree we like them both. It’s really nice to have a place like this to visit, it’s only about an hour and forty five minutes from Boquete which makes it a very easy place to get to for a weekend away. For my friends who don’t know, this wonderful spot is on the Pacific side of Panama. The Gulf Of Chiriqui is a beautiful area to visit, although , for us, it’s a bit hot! Today we plan to have them prepare a picnic lunch for us and we’ll take out one of their kayaks and paddle over to one of the nearby islands to relax and read for the day. Last time we were here we paddled over there and discovered a lovely little beach with lots of shade trees and not a soul around. We’ll bring out kindles and just have a lazy afternoon, we might even bring a bottle of wine along….who am I kidding “Might?” Hah! We’ll definitely bring a bottle of wine along! :) Yesterday when we arrived and were having lunch in the restaurant here at the hotel, I told the proprietor who we were chatting with, that today was going to be Scotts birthday. This is something I do every year, which My Sweet, quiet guy just hates with a passion and which I could care less how much he hates it! (said with an evil smile!) Because I made that announcement (lovingly, I may add!) to the management, she said she would instruct the kitchen to prepare him a cake tonight! Hah! So, to his horror, and my delight, I’m certain he’ll get sung to this evening and all will get to celebrate his special day. It really is a special day to me, because it marks the day that my most favorite person came into this world! That, and the fact that he can finally put a lid on that ,”your older than me crap!” hah!!! :) Happy Birthday My Love!!

Mariah Went Back Home…Sigh…

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Sigh! I just realized, because many have been asking me, that I’ve neglected to write about Mariah’s departure. She went back to California on June 3rd. Sad Face….I think she would say that her visit was a really good time. This was her first vacation as a grown up, and her first journey outside of the U.S. Well, to be honest, her father has taken her to Mexico, but in my mind, it really doesn’t count because it was a resort, she never really ‘saw’ Mexico. When you spend time in a plush resort, surrounded by swimming pools and fancy restaurants, can you really feel as though you’ve experienced a different culture and seen a new place? I don’t really think so. But on this vacation to Panama Mariah really and truly saw Panama and experienced a different culture. Read the rest of this entry

Mornings…. this is what mine look like, not that it’s especially noteworthy, just started typing and here’s what came out…

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Hmmmmm….at night, when we go to bed, we set the alarm for 6:15 A.M. My mornings go like this…I get up and Copper is usually meowing and meowing at me to give him some food. This is a new behavior from my 14 year old cat who used to be very independent and aloof. He’s somehow decided to be very talkative, especially in the morning. As soon as I open the bathroom door, there he is, sitting right by the door, looking up at me expectantly and meowing. Okay….So I give him a little bit of food and start to make breakfast for Scott. I may have mentioned in past posts, and those who read this who know me well may be aware, I’m not normally the one who uses the kitchen much. That area of our house has traditionally been Scotts area. But, things have begun to shift a bit in our lives…I now make breakfast…every morning. I know, I also had to read that sentence twice. It’s true. I wouldn’t lie to ya. My repertoire is not extensive, but Scott never ever complains, this could be due to the shock of seeing me preparing food, or maybe its fear? Who knows, possibly fear of what he’s going to have to eat! Hah! Naaaa, I’m choosing to believe that he’s just grateful and hungry! His favorite breakfast food is pancakes. I’ve actually mastered making pancakes… from scratch no less! Yep! Milk, egg, butter , sugar,salt,baking powder, vanilla and cinnamon! I hope your sitting down as you read this…cuz’ it’s fairly unbelievable, but true. One batch makes enough for two days for him, I’m not a big fan of Pancakes so I zip lock the remainder and voila! I have two meals! Hah! Read the rest of this entry

The Poor in Chiriqui

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The Poor in Chiriqui

hollycarter184:

I’m reblogging a post written by my friend Cindy, who also lives here in Boquete. If any of my readers are interested in donating anything to this little organization please contact me personally and I will give you an address to send things to. I just love those sweet little faces and would like to help as well. Thanks…Holly

Originally posted on Chapter 3: Loving Retirement in Panama:

This morning I went to the Volcancito Mission with my friend and head knitter in Boquete.  She was delivering over 100 knitted articles, from blankets to booties.  She organized a group to do this, which originally was made up of expats.   Now it  includes Panamanian and indigenous women – learning a skill and building their self-esteem.

This group does not get a lot of attention in the community.  Their fundraising has been limited.  But the ‘jefa’ of the group, Brandy, is about to change that. Arecela 3 I went to the mission with her today to take pictures of the children who get the caps, sweaters and blankets her group knits.  The children (or their moms) were waiting to be seen by a doctor.  The kids were absolutely adorable.  When a sweater was brought to them to try on, their eyes just lit up.

Samuel and momTheir culture is much different than ours.  They rarely smile, even…

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A new road to our property! Yippee!

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When we first bought our property the brush and plants on the ‘road’ were taller than our car. There really was not much of a ‘road’ to speak of, just kind of a general ‘direction’ that we knew we were headed to get there. I remember feeling a bit nervous, (well a ‘bit’ is an understatement) about the lack of infrastructure for this lot we decided to buy. Our neighbors Alan and Kat, who had built their home a few years before, had installed a beautiful road that went as far as their house. You see, our property is accessed through a public easement and we are at the very end of that easement. So after A & K’s house we were in the wild as we made our way to our property, our future home. Along this way to our place we could see that there is a coffee finca on our left hand side ,where we would often see workers caring for the plants as we drove on up past them. We learned from Alan that the owner of that finca is a Panamanian man named Senior Aldo. I believe he lives in Panama City and works at the canal as a boat captain. He has been here to visit a couple of times and we have gotten to meet him , he’s a very nice man. Read the rest of this entry

A Party For The Roof!

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Today is a first for us… Celebrating the completion of a brand new roof! We had no such celebration when we built our house in Los Altos. These Panamanians just love to celebrate and they seem to find any excuse for a Fiesta! This is just one small thing that I love about living here in Central America. Scott & I fit in just fine here, we too love a party! Although, truth be told, I could do without the Cow stomach soup! This could have fit in nicely for our Halloween Parties thought! Hah! Actually, I jest, I also really love the fact that they not only have a traditional celebration for a new roof, but a traditional dish to serve for the celebration! We too have certain dishes that are often reserved for celebrations, Turkey for Thanksgiving, Ham for Easter, and Hamburgers and Hot dogs for the 4th of July. So who's to say a little cow stomach soup is so odd for celebrating a shiny new roof! I'm really excited to do something special for our 7 workers who show up 6 days a week and work side by side with Scott to build our new home.

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Time For Our First Mondongada! The Traditional Celebration Of A New Techo…

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Well, the Techo (Roof) is nearly complete and I’ve learned from my new Panamanian friends that it’s customary for us to throw a celebration for our workers. It’s called a Mondongada! I just love a good celebration so I’m READY! Apparently this is a tradition here in Panama. At a Mondogada one serves a traditional dish called Mondongo. It’s a soup that’s similar to the Mexican dish called Menudo, basically tripe or cow stomach soup. Gulp! Here’s a recipe I found… Read the rest of this entry

Our One Year Anniversary Of Living In Panama!

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Wow! A year has already gone by! How the heck did that happen? I have no idea, but it’s certainly been a wild ride!. It’s funny how the year ‘before’ our move seemed to drag on and on, but our first year living here in Boquete seems to have flown by like the blink of any eye. Anniversaries are usually a good time to reflect on many things about the previous year and the experiences that we had. I’ve tried to share the good, as well as the not so good or especially challenging parts of my first year of adjusting to living in another country and adapting to a totally different life. I’ve shared my story and my own personal perspective on my expat experience. We’ve accomplished a lot in the first year of our new adventure. We’ve managed to create a new life here that suits us and is making us very happy. Building a new life takes a lot of time and energy and the great news is, we have all the time in the world! We’re in no hurry and our adventure is moving along at a pace that suits us just fine.

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My Time So Far With Mariah…

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For months I’ve been counting the day’s until Mariah got to Panama! She arrived on May 11th and today she has 10 more days of her visit left, she goes home on June 3rd. We’ve had so much fun exploring together and reconnecting in a way that we never have before. I must say that I ‘m enjoying the company of my daughter as a mature, (mostly! :) Hah! ) young women, for the first time. It’s been so incredible to get to know this independent, young women and to discover and renew a relationship with her like I’ve never had before. We’ve been working on putting the past travails behind us and on establishing a relationship based on who we are now. The past is long gone and although we all three went through a lot of pain and sorrow together , it’s time that we all let go and forgive. We’ll just chalk it up to a nasty adolescence and move forward from here…

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Casita Progress…

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As I've been running around with Mariah enjoying every second with her, Scott continues to slave away up at the property. He's determined to get the roof on the casita before the rainy season begins in earnest. We've had a little rain, but not too much yet. He thinks by next week we should be pretty close to having the entire house covered with the first part of the roof. Yea! I was up there this week having lunch with him and was very impressed and not a little overwhelmed just watching all the different projects that he's overseeing all at the same time! While Two guys are up on the roof doing all the welding, another two are setting forms and pouring the concrete pillars on the terrace, and then two are working on making a retaining wall and one other guy was digging the long ditch for the septic system. Whew! And Scott must oversee all these different projects simultaneously while he's running back and forth with materials and planning what comes next. I tell ya, it's darn right exhausting just thinking about all the forethought it takes to make a project like this happen, and he's doing it all in a language that he has just learned! That guy! (big, proud smile!) Read the rest of this entry

My Best Ever Mother’s Day Present…

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Well, all the waiting and anticipation is over and my precious daughter is finally here with me in Panama. I had the best Mother’s Day ! It’s been almost a whole year since I’ve seen her and to have her right here next to me makes my heart so happy. Her journey went well and she arrived in Panama City without having any problems with her flights from California. I must admit, I had a bit of a panic attack when she told me that her friend was arriving at her house in San Jose at 6:30 to drive her to the San Francisco Airport for an 8:30 P.M. flight! “WHAT!” Oh my god, I was quickly texting her that she needed to get to the airport at least 2 hours early for an international flight. She had a layover in Vegas but her bags would have to be checked in for the international flight. The drive from San Jose to SF is at least 45 minutes, which means she would not get to the airport until after 7:00 for an 8:30 departure. This is her first time traveling internationally and I was very nervous, I know….”Where’s that ‘tranquilo’ Holly?” Humph! The possibility of her missing the flight had my stomach in knots! My daughter has a natural ability to have that affect on me…hah! Some things never change… Read the rest of this entry

We all have such different views, all spectacular in different ways…

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Spending time here in the city with Emma and experiencing a little bit of how her life plays out in Panama City, has been a lot of fun and pretty interesting. She’s lived in Panama City for about 3 years. What brought her here from Arizona was a job as a music teacher at an international school. As much as I’m enjoying the tranquility of life in the highlands of Panama in a small town, I must say, Living in the city is much more conducive to being an active, ambitious 20 something career women with a social life. She lives in a beautiful high rise apartment on the 16th floor (27 floors in the building), that has a spectacular view of the skyline of the city. I’m struck by just how safe it feels living in an apartment like this with a very secure parking garage and a security guard in the lobby. Of course, that’s the “mom” in me thinking about safety, hah! Read the rest of this entry

Isla Iguana 07/05/2014

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hollycarter184:

This is Karens post from our day on the beach..short , and to the point….Life soooooo doesn’t suck!

Originally posted on In Da Campo:

Isla Iguana 07/05/2014

On Sunday I met a young lady who asked me a common question; “What do you do all day.?” With mis amigas Kris and Holly visiting this is what Girls Day looks like in the campo. Life sure sucks…not.

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A Girls Getaway on My Way To Get Mariah….

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Yesterday (Tuesday) was a smooth travel day on our way to Pedasi. We left David around 10:00 a.m. and after changing buses in Diviso and then in Chitre and then Las Tablas, Karen picked us up at about 5:30. I know it sounds like a complicated series of buses but it was actually quite easy and incredibly smooth with each transfer. Even the very start of our journey turned out super easy because just as soon as we got our backpacks out of Joel’s car a guy kinda grabbed us (well, not ‘grabbed’ exactly, but you know, approached us intending to get us on his bus) and asked if we were going to Panama City, Kris said, “No, Las Tablas”, and he told us to get right on the but that was about to leave instead of going to stand in the long line for the bigger, double decker bus. (No Problem, we’d much rather get on your bus than stand in that line!) So… we marched on over and gave the guy our bags to be stowed under the bus and found our seats. We made sure he knew we were traveling to Las Tablas and he was diligent about letting us know when it was time for us to exit at Diviso which was really just a little bus stop on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere. There were two Panamanian women also waiting at that stop and they asked us where we were going and made sure we got on the right little van , the same van they got on, and we heard them tell the driver that we were going to Chitre. We had only waited for a few minutes at that little stop before the van drove up and we were once again swept away to the next leg of our little journey. Once we got to Chitre, the driver gave us our bags from the back of the van and kindly directed us to the Bus for Las Tablas ,right around the corner, second bus, that was just about to leave. Geesh! This whole day we felt so taken care of by all these kind, generous Panamanians who seemed to help us at every turn, even when we didn’t even ask for help. It was really very touching and heartwarming. Even though we were on buses and vans for about 7 hours Kris and I both felt like the day just flew by so fast (could that be due to all the chatting and playing on our iPads?, maybe!) . We only waited a few minutes before Karen showed up and Whisked us off to Pedasi, just about a 20ish minute drive from Las Tablas.
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I’m Off To Pedasi This Morning And When I Return To Boquete It Will Be With Mariah!!!! Yipeeeeee….

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This morning My friend Kris & I are taking the bus from David to Santiago and switching buses to get our selves to Las Tablas and our friend Karen will pick us up there and drive us to her home in Pedasi. She lives in a small town on the coast, going towards Panama City. Both Karen and Kris are fellow bloggers who I’ve met through writing my blog, well, I haven’t actually ‘met’ Karen yet, we’ve been corresponding through our blogs for a couple of years now. So I’m really excited to be finally getting a chance to spend some time getting to know her in real life. Kris & I will spend two nights in Pedasi and hopefully get some beach time in while we’re there. Then we get back on the bus on Thursday and make the remainder of the journey to Panama City to meet up with another blogging friend Emma, who teaches music at an international school in the city. She invited us to attend a production that her students are performing in on Friday night. Emma has arranged for a driver to entertain us on Friday while she’s at work and he will show us some of the touristy spots that we haven’t seen and then get us to the school in time for the show. Kris will head back to David on Saturday and then Emma & I will go to the airport on Sunday morning to pick up my Daughter, Mariah!!! If it werent exciting enough to have my baby here in Panama with me, It’s also U.S. Mother’s Day and Emma arranged for a Champagn Brunch at a nice restaurant that she knows, in an area of the city called Casco Viejo. You can imagine how excited I am for this next couple of days. I’ve been fluttering around my house for the last two days just getting ready for her visit and making everything just right. We will take the bus back here to Boquete on Monday oh how nice it will be to have her here with me and to show her around our new home. I hope she likes it as much as I do….

A Quick Trip To Houston & Back To Our Peaceful Mountain Home…..

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A trip to Houston Texas to personally deal with getting documents notarized and authenticated as well as getting our new set of fingerprints for our new FBI background check, was a success. And it was also time for our border run so we got that out of the way at the same time. Mind you, we already went through this whole notarize, authenticate, apostle process once before and we knew from experience that mailing it all would take way too much time. Not to mention we were in serious need of a little shopping spree! (Insert Happy Dance Right Here!) So Flying into Houston and walking over to the Panamanian consulate to deal with it all in person was a much more efficient way to do it. Getting our fingerprints done there was also much easier although the ‘runaround’ that we went through was very reminiscent of Panama. Before we even arrived in Houston we had gone online to Google maps to locate the nearest Police station to go for our fingerprints. When we got there the guy told us we would need to go to the Main Police Station downtown Houston….Okay. Off we went to the Main Police station. After searching for a place to park and paying $10.00 for the precious spot, we went into the building only to be told by the friendly man at the reception desk that we would have to go to the Permit office in a different area of town…..Okay….off we went AGAIN, laughing all the way because it’s not just Panama that makes you pull out your hair! Hah! At least it was all in English so even though we were getting the ‘runaround’, we felt just a tiny bit less clueless just understanding how to get someplace and what we were supposed to do. After finding the permit office we again had a “Panama” moment when we were told to take the elevator down to the basement then the guy down there told us to take the elevator back up to where we had already been to pay at the window and then come back down to the basement! HAh!!! Okay…..down, up , down again… We had to laugh at how similar to Panama some parts of our trip turned out to be. Of course, finding your way around a strange place when they have actual street names and addresses on buildings is an amazing experience! No problem! Oh! And GPS is a dream come true! YEA for GPS!! The smartest thing we did on this trip was to rent a car from the Hertz office in the hotel for a day. We had planned to take taxi’s but Sheesh! The taxi from the airport to the hotel was $45.00! We’re not in Boquete anymore! The rental car was only $65.00 for 24 hours, not bad. We were really glad to have it, especially given the fact that we ended up doing so much running a round. Read the rest of this entry

Familiarity is Blooming…

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I may be strange (I’ve accepted this fact about myself!) , but I really thrive on the connection I feel when people around town begin to recognize me and remember who I am. This is just beginning to happen and when it does It just makes me so happy. I’m getting to know several of the people who work in some of the places I frequent, like the butchers in Romero’s, the lady who pumps my gas at the gas station, the guys at my favorite stalls in the produce market and the security guards at my bank, just to name a few. Yesterday I had a great chat , (well a ‘chat’ of sorts) with both the butchers at the Chicken side of the meat counter as well as the nice man on the sliced lunchmeat counter. The chicken guy who is normally pretty serious looking, not a big smiler, suddenly became very very smiley and friendly when I apologized to him for my lousy Spanish (in Spanish!) and told him that in a year my Spanish would be much better (Mucho Mejor!)! He told me that he has learned a little English and agreed that it is very hard to learn another language! I suspect from now on I will get many more of those nice smiles from him when I go to buy my Chicken. Then the guy at the sliced meat counter helped me learn how to say 1/4 Libra of Canadian Bacon. I normally stick to ‘un libra or media libra’ but was not prepared to throw in 1/4 libra…he gave me a very good lesson and I wrote it down on my little pad of paper I always carry with me. I told him he was my new Profesor de Espaniol! He laughed and said something I didn’t understand one bit!! Hah! I got “Nada”! Oh well! Again, very ,very friendly and helpful! At first they seem kinda annoyed and not happy but when I attempt to talk to them boy do their faces light up! Oh, and I must tell you about the sweet teller at the cash register and the bagger. Again, they are always nice enough but not especially friendly. Yesterday I was buying one of those great big 5 gallon jugs of water and It was my first time buying one so of course I didn’t know what I was expected to do as far as , do I lift it out of my cart and put it with the rest of my groceries to be scanned, or just leave it in the cart? I asked and I thought she said yes (meaning, yes, put it up here), so I lifted it and she and the bag boy both quickly stopped me…’No!, No! No Necesasita!” OOOOPS! I laughed really hard and immediately put it back down. The bagger even sort of dashed over to help me..oh boy, another embarrassing moment! So I said..”Oh Loco Gringa!” and they looked at each other and we all laughed! Just today, I ran in to Romero’s to get some Cilantro and there was that bagger, saying Hola! Como Esta? to me like we were old friends! Love That!! The lady who pumps my gas is beginning to remember me when I go there. Just this week we had a little chat (again, of sorts!) about our Hair! Hah! She asked me if my curls were natural? She’s so sweet, I really like getting to know people. Do you remember how nervous I used to be when I went to the Mercado, (the produce market)? Well, today I ran over to find some Jalapeños . I marched right up to my favorite guy, Benjamin , and said, without any hesitation (mind you, I had said it at least a hundred times in my head before I got there!) “Tiene Usted Jalapeños picante ?” And dontcha know…I got a smile and a big bag of Jalapeños! Whoot! Whoot! And there was a time, not so long ago , when I very nearly had tears welling up in my eyes trying to make myself understood. He was very clearly pleased by my progress too.
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Today’s Casita Progress Photos….

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Well ,just in case the photos of the cement art was too boring for you, how bout some exciting construction photos? Whoohoo! I know, you can hardly wait!! Go ahead, roll your eyes now! With each day that passes the walls get taller and now I can make out windows and doorways. They’ve been making forms to pour the parts (forgive me for my lack of construction vocabulary!) that go over windows and doorways. Given the fact that they cant use the concrete bricks in those areas they actually make wood forms to pour the cement into. I know, there’s many reading this who know all about this stuff, but I gotta make sure some of my less knowledgable readers get my easy to understand narrative on all the technical stuff, right? Cuz’ I’m just the gal to describe all this to em’. Pfffffft! :) Well, now you can see where windows and doors will be and the one where you can see my car out the door is the entry. Yes, we do have a big dirt cliff right outside the front door…I noticed that too! We plan to cut into that and build steps up to the parking area. And then on either side of the steps there will be terraced areas with retaining walls, we will plant lovely tropical things and ferns and make it look beautiful, who knows I may even be able to find some sort of leaf Birdbath somewhere! Hah!

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The Finished Products…

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Many of my friends and family asked me to post photos of my finished pieces so here they are. My first attempts at working in Cement to create figurative sculpture has been quite challenging. The most challenging aspect of using cement has been the fact that it eats up my skin on my poor hands! Sheesh! This aspect of working with cement is nothing like clay! The lime in the cement just soaks up all the moisture in the skin and man, is it painful! I had bought a big box of latex gloves for doing my hair color and tried using them instead of kitchen gloves. The kitchen gloves just get holes in them too easily but if I wear the latex gloves under the kitchen gloves while I’m mixing up the cement it really works well. Also, while I’m sculpting I can wear the latex gloves because the cement doesn’t stick to them like it does to the kitchen gloves. The process of sculpting with cement requires layers and drying in between the layers so there’s really not the same instant gratification that you get when sculpting with clay, which is not fun! But I think as I get a bit more experience and have more than one piece in process I’ll have more to work on and wont have to wait until the next day to work. Another aspect of creating figurative sculpture that I’m going to have to get used to is not having a live model to use as a reference! Hah! They don’t have a lot of people who pose nude here in Boquete! Darn!! LOL! I’ll just have to rely on photos and memory. I really enjoyed making the birdbath and the little leaf plates make fantastic gifts, they are perfect to be used as a soap dish or a place to put your jewelry. I got this tip from Mindy! Thanks so much! As a matter of fact all these are gifts for certain people who will remain secret! If I mentioned your names it wouldn’t be a surprise….but… I’ll be seeing you three friends soon!! Hah! You may know who you are!!! I’m just horrible at keeping ‘secrets’! Sheesh! So, as you can see, I have finally found a medium to play with and I’m looking forward to making lot’s more fun things. Chris McCall, the artist who taught the class, also gives classes in Stained glass! I’ll be learning that next! I’m envisioning a couple of pendent lights for our casita!! I’m excited to learn yet another new art form that looks like lot’s of fun! In my mind, there’s really not much that is more fun and gives me more pleasure than making something beautiful, especially when it’s something useful! This Adventure just get’s better and better! And now, it’s only 16 more day’s until Mariah is here in Panama with me!! I can barely wait!!! Cheers!

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Here we go….Jumping through more hoops! (and trying like hell to hang onto my Tranquilo!)

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We seem to get no where with our permanent residency visa at each turn. This week I finally had all our required documents ready to mail to our attorney in Panama City. They had all been authenticated, notarized and Apostiled, and to the best of our knowledge all was in order. Schreeeech! Nope! I received an email from Mayra, our attorney, that our FBI reports are three weeks too old! They cant be older than six months and we went three weeks past that, unknowingly. We knew that the Apostile on them was too old so our attorney had told us that if we simply had them ‘re-apostilled’ all would be in order, which we did do. But no one told us about the six month requirement (big eye roll here!). This seems to be our biggest problem, not knowing the little rules like that. If you don’t know the questions to ask then you end up making mistakes. We had a big hold up when we sent all the letters of authentication and our marriage certificate and bank statements to the Panamanian Consulate in Houston to be authenticated. We were notified after waiting weeks for them to acknowledge that they had received them, that they were not able to authenticate documents that had been notarized in Panama, so they could authenticate only about two out of the six that we sent them. Uggggg! So we then learned that the U.S. State department could Apostille the remaining documents. After receiving them back from the Panamanian Consulate we put them back in the mail to Washington DC to be Apostilled by the U.S. State department. Then waited, and waited and waited. My heart leapt with joy after we finally received everything and we were finally ready to mail it all off to Mayra. Then my heart sank last night after receiving this email from her…
“I am very sorry to tell you that your FBI records are too old to be used in the application of the visa. According to the latest rule immigration issued the FBI or any police report is only good for 6 months. You FBI reports have a date of 9/3/2013. The bank statements are too old.”

?!#$!!! DEEP BREATH….where’s that good ol’ TRANQUILO? More deep breaths and a good nights sleep and here I am getting in a little blogging therapy. We spent the majority of our evening trying to strategize about ‘what now?’. Back to the beginning. By the time we get this straightened out all the other documents will also be too old so we may as well just have it all redone. Deep Sigh… So, we are due for a good ol’ border run once again. We are thinking about just doing a really fast and furious flight into Houston and visiting the Panamanian Consulate to re authenticate and notarize all our documents and also having our fingerprints done while we are there and just mail them to DC while we are in the states. This way we get our border run requirement out of the way as well as having a much easier time getting fingerprints that the FBI will accept. (I sure hope my cement injured fingertips heal quickly! ) And a personal visit to the consulate should make things go much faster. Of course we will make sure to make all the proper appointments and to ask lots of questions, hopefully the right questions , before getting on the plane.

All this right before Mariah is due to arrive!! Geeesh! And don’t forget, we have six Panamanian employees who are depending on us for their living. So we need to keep them working or we will have to pay them for working while Scott is gone even if they don’t work, It’s only fair. So, this should be interesting. We have found flights , luckily we have plenty of miles on our airline points so we wont have to spend a ton of money. Some of you may be reading this and wondering why we didn’t just get all this paperwork done in the states before our move….well, in case you haven’t read earlier posts let me explain so we don’t’ look completely idiotic, (only slightly idiotic). Well, you see, it’s all because of the requirement of having proof of a “lifetime income”. Most retired people can satisfy this requirement with a pension or social security which would show that you do indeed have a lifetime income of a minimum of 1,250.00 per couple, per month. We have chosen to make this move a bit earlier than traditional ‘retirement’ age, which means , no Social Security and we also have no pension, so our only other option for this proof of ‘lifetime income’ was to purchase an annuity which would pay us that amount for the rest of our lives. We could not afford to do this until after we sold our house in California and then after purchasing the annuity we had to wait three months to have bank statements to show proof of payments. Also, they wanted authentication from the company that the annuity is from as well as proof of the validity of that company, it got a little more complicated than we expected but we were able to acquire all the necessary documentation that our attorney told us we would need. All these documents are part of the Authentication, notarizes and Appostille issue. Not an issue really, just a process of getting all these ducks in a row within the right time period, which we seem to have so far failed to do. So let’s try it all over again, shall we?

There are other different residency visas that we could have opted to apply for but one of the big perks of this visa allows us to ship our container of belongings from California to Panama without paying any import taxes which could be fairly hefty. Of course, in my mind, by the time we pay for all this time of storage in the states and all the other costs involved in flying to and from Houston now and because Scott doesn’t have his tools we have had to purchase many things for our project that we already own, I’m questioning weather or not it’s even worth it all just to avoid paying ‘import taxes’? But Scott seems to think it is , so given the fact that he’s the one who has done the bulk of the research, we will march forward and just keep jumping through hoops until we have jumped through enough of them and see if we actually get this visa. I’m getting a bit discouraged, can you tell? It really helps that Scott is such a calm, focused and sensible person. I get frustrated while his mind is spinning on what is the most logical and realistic step to take next. And yes, he’s always that calm! I must admit, I am one person in his life who can get him a bit ruffled but he’s pretty darn good at tuning me out! Humph!

In our life we often choose to do things a little out of the box, unfortunately this time it’s proving to be a headache. Although I know plenty of other people here who have experienced just as many headaches in their process as we are being confronted with. Rules change, lawyers aren’t always especially , uh, shall I say, ‘reliable’? I know many who have had their @#$! together and still end up jumping through endless hoops only to be told that , oooops, the rules have changed. So, everyone has their story, some have lucked out and it goes smoothly , others , like us, have their ‘tranquilo’ tested! But in the end I’ve seen many many people who endured through all the BS and now carry that little cedula and Panamanian Drivers license , and no longer need to run to the border ever 3 months to re-validate their drivers license. Our day will come, I’m sure and like all those others we will really really appreciate having it all behind us. And The advise I’ll pass on to those of you applying for residency…don’t try to do something a little ‘out of the box’ when it comes to dealing with government officials and lawyers. Just go with what everyone else is doing and save yourself a little trouble, oh there will still be trouble but maybe, just maybe, not quite as much as we seem to have created for ourselves! Hah!

Sculpting with concrete…

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Well, after learning how to properly mix the cement, what proportions of sand cement and fiber to use, I’m beginning to get the hang of it. I’ve made a beautiful birdbath from a giant leaf I got on my property up in Jaramillo, and I made a bowl using a stainless steel bowl as a form and placing small leaves in the cement to create a leaf pattern. I also made the stand for my birdbath . Yesterday we learned about staining the cement. Chris (the instructor) gave us notes on all the formulas for the tints and dies, thankfully because he already had all the colors all mixed up and Geesh! The guy is like a mad scientist when he’s working and not especially great at teaching how to actually do what he’s doing. I can totally relate to how hard it is to teach, It’s near impossible for me to teach someone how to do a haircut! I don’t really have the words to describe to someone in great detail , exactly what to do, I have to just do it and show someone. Chris is much like that when he’s trying to teach what he already has in his head. It’s all just such second nature to him and I notice he’s best at showing rather than talking. He has provided us with some great notes on all the formulas and all the important procedures for working with concrete. So, as I said, we colored our pieces yesterday and I had a great time watching all the other students pieces come to life as they painted the different colors onto them. We really have a great group of people in our class, which to me has made this experience even more fun! You know how much I love making new friends and I met some great people as well as got to know someone I already knew. Everyone ended up making some great pieces, all very different and all just beautiful! I’m going back today to finish up a few things. I also started trying to create a figure, which was my whole goal in taking this class. I was really hoping to learn how to do my figurative work that I love so much. The torso that I started is not looking so good! Yikes! It seems as though working with cement is not quite as forgiving and its not the same immediate gratification that you get when working with clay. I just hate that I have to work in layers and wait till the next day to add any detail! I’ll work on it some more today and see where it goes. I suspect I just need to get used to this new medium. Another thing that’s not so great about working with cement is “Ouch!” it’s terrible on your hands!! Sheesh! I’m all cut up from bending the chicken wire and my poor fingers have areas with no skin from the lime in the cement drying it out so badly!! Yesterday I experimented with working with my latex gloves that I have for doing my hair color and that seems to have really worked pretty well! I can buy them at Price Mart in bulk and they aren’t too expensive so as they tear I can just dispose of them and get new ones. I’m going to keep trying to acclimate myself with using cement and I may even set up a little space here at the house, under the carport to work on making a few things. It’s really nice that you don’t need a kiln and the pieces just dry up on their own. There are so many cool possibilities, I’m psyched to explore what I can do and what I can create with this new (to me) medium. I just hope my poor hands will forgive me, Yikes! Latex gloves are my new best friend!

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Our Very First Happy Hour At The Casita…

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Life is GOOD! And it’s even better when it’s shared with good people! And I tell ya, we do have sooooo many great people in our lives! Last night our friends A & S joined us for a Happy hour up at our new Casita. We really had a great time sipping wine and chatting and enjoying the spectacular view from our new place.

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Someone Has A New Hobby….

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Day two of my cement art workshop and I’m hooked!! On the first day we learned all about cement mortar and concrete and how to properly mix it to make different figures and pieces of art. We’ve been mixing a mortar like consistency with sand cement and a little fiber and water. We practiced by making our first project which was a bowl. We simply used a stainless steel bowl placed upside down on the table and added moist sand around the lip to hide that part of the bowl and create a wide rim on our bowl. Then we covered the bowl with wax paper to assure that the cement will easily release from the bowl. We also walked around the yard and collected cool looking little leaves and placed them on the bowl over the wax paper and before adding the concrete which will give a pretty leaf pattern inside the finished piece. Another option , in place of the wax paper some used plastic wrap which gave the piece a shiny surface after it dried. I decided to scrunch up my wax paper and this gave a wonderful texture after it dried. Then we added the mortar and completely covered the bowl and the sand around the lip. I then added more leaves on the cement to give the outside of the bowl the same leaf pattern. We used a trowel to flatten the very bottom of the bowl giving it a level base so it sits nicely. Then we covered it with plastic wrap and let it dry over night. This morning , first thing we unwrapped our bowls and removed all the wax paper and leaves and used a file to smooth out any rough, pokey edges. Then rinsed it off and put a little water inside the bowl, wrapped it in a plastic bag and put it away to finish slowly drying. If it dries too fast it may crack so keeping it a little moist is important. I just love my bowl, its very organic looking, which I love. The next step will be learning to tint and die and all that good stuff. It will be very interesting to learn about all the different dies and tints and chemicals to use to create color on concrete.

Day two (today) we learned about sand casting. We were told to bring a big leaf with us to class. I went up to our property and got some huge leaves to bring. I decided to use one of my giant leaves to make a birdbath. First we placed damp sand down on the surface about the same size as the leaf, the leaf then goes on top of this small form and then on top of the leaf is the mortar. He instructed me to make it about 2-21/2 inches thick and to make the edges a little flatter so the birds would have a place to sit while they drink. This will dry tonight, we shall see tomorrow what happens with that. I also made the base of the birdbath by rolling up some wire mesh and covering it with a scratch coat of mortar to be added to tomorrow. I cant wait to finish this piece. My mind is just racing, thinking about all the different possibilities! One thing I’d really like to consider trying is making concrete countertops for our casita! The most important part will be learning where we can buy all the chemicals for tinting and adding color. Here’s a few photos of the progress so far….. Read the rest of this entry

A Day To Explore A New Medium To Create Art With…

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Today I’m starting a class taught by a local artist who has an art studio in Caldera (a town about 30 minutes from Boquete). He teaches several different classes and I hope to go another time to learn about stained glass. But today is the first of three days of a class to learn about making cement sculpture. Before I left the states I had spent about 3-4 years participating in a figurative sculpture group. This group got together every week to create figurative sculpture and had been doing so for many years before I was invited to join them. There is a local art league in Palo Alto, called the Palo Alto Art League, and through this organization we were able to use a wonderful studio and hire amazing nude models to pose for our classes. So once a week I took off from my busy schedule, as did all the other sculptors , and we spent about 3 hours losing ourselves in our art. We would also have a great time chatting and sharing stories as we worked on our pieces, stories of our lives, our kids, our travels, our work , our spouses, food, whatever happened to bubble out! The group had a core group of about 5-6 of us that consistently attended and there were others who would occasionally join us when they had time or were in town. We liked to call ourselves the “Sculpturistas !” As time went on we grew into a great little social group, gathering for a yearly Holiday extravaganza and attending one another’s art openings as well as just getting together for organizational meetings that were really a nice excuse to get together. I got so much inspiration and support from this group of artists. Before I joined them I had never sculpted and I was looking for an outlet, something other than my own woe’s to focus on. I will never forget the first time I walked into that studio with my bag of clay and my brand new tool box filled with shiny new sculpting tools that I had no idea what to do with. I was filled with such a mix of emotions, I was nervous and excited, but mostly I remember wondering If I would be able to create anything remotely resembling a human figure. I mean, I had never studied anatomy or sculpture. I didn’t know the first thing about what to do or how to do it. But right away these other sculptors encouraged me and helped me and gave me confidence. When the model dropped her robe and stepped up onto the little platform to hold her pose I remember feeling a little shy about looking at her, I mean….She was Naked!! I just followed the lead of all the others and took out my clay, put it on the sculpture stand and began to let my hands accustom themselves to the clay. Almost instantly all my inhibitions melted away. It was as though none of it had ever been there. I began to work and shape the clay and as it warmed under my fingers shape began to emerge. The others were chatting and there was gentle classical music playing in the background , but it all disappeared as I let myself become a sculptor. The feeling I got from my very first introduction to sculpture was one of losing myself while simultaneously finding myself as I created something from the raw clay. To me, there is such a Devine feeling of pleasure in making an ugly lump of clay into something beautiful. Now, I’m not ever going to be a professional sculptor, the other artists in my group were actually selling and showing their work and had reputations in the community of artists as accomplished sculptors and continue to do so. It’s not my desire to do anything but enjoy having my hands in clay and creating shapes and designs and enjoying that wonderful feeling of losing myself in something other than what’s going on around me and in the world, it’s an escape. I have several bags of clay in my container to be shipped out here, although who knows if it will survive the journey. But, sadly, I haven’t been able to find any sculpture clay here in Panama. I’ve asked around and I’ve learned that I will have to have it shipped in from Florida which would be very costly. So when I discovered this cement workshop my heart leapt! My sculpture group in the states had actually done a workshop with a visiting artist who taught them to work in concrete. I was not able to attend this workshop in the states and now I miraculously have the opportunity to learn here! Yea!! So this morning as I type this, I find myself once again feeling that same familiar feeling of trepidation. Will I be able to make something from Concrete? Something beautiful? I hope so. I have printed out a few ideas of some things I might like to try to make but I have no idea what is possible with concrete. I’ll keep you posted on this new adventure. One thing’s for sure, I’ll meet some new people and hopefully make a new friend or two!

Our First Easter in Boquete…

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Easter weekend….
Today when I went to Rosemary’s house for our language class we talked about the Easter holiday which is upon us. I must admit I had not even really thought much about the fact that it’s a holiday weekend. Our workers do have two paid days off, Friday and Saturday so Scott will also have a couple days to take it easy. Because of this fact we decided to take advantage of the time off and made plans to go to Boca Chica for one night. Rosemary was telling me that she and her family have given up eating Chicken and Beef for Lent. Not being an especially religious person myself, I’ve of course never participated in this observation and I am very interested in learning how they celebrate this Holy Week here in Panama. It is a very important week for this Catholic country and there are many processions and gatherings to celebrate as a community. It’s during holidays here that I really enjoy observing how all the town comes together to put on huge displays that they seem to all enjoy with great gusto. Rosemary tells me that for three nights they have a long procession that marches all throughout the town and either begins or ends with a service at the church (remember she is telling me all this in Spanish and I’m doing my best to understand but I’m sure I’ve gotten some of the details totally wrong, forgive me for those of you who know all about this holiday). I would love to see this and I may try to go into town on Friday night to see if there is anything going on. Here is where my total ignorance comes out…remember, this is my first year living here so I’m still learning! I had to ask if they had the Easter Bunny and Easter Egg hunts and she shook her head and laughed ,”Noooo! ” “No Bunny!” hah! okay….I had to ask, feeling a little dumb. But now I know! That may be why It hasn’t really occurred to me that it’s actually Easter time, I haven’t seen any Easter egg dies for sale at Romero’s and come to think of it….not one easter basket either. Hmmmm….Okay. Got it! So it’s strictly a religious holiday, as I’m pretty sure it was originally meant to be. As many of the new customs I’m learning about this year, it’s refreshing that it’s not as commercialized as it is in the States. It’s very personal and it brings the entire community together as a big family to observe something that’s holy and a tradition all of the town gathers to participate in. We, heathens will be relaxing in a kayak exploring the coastal town of Boca Chica and likely enjoying a refreshing cocktail. If we happen upon an Easter egg hunt I’ll probably join in, but I suspect that isn’t the most likely thing we’ll see this weekend!

Casita Progress…

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This morning I went up to the property to help Scott with the Electrical plan in the casita. We needed to decide on where all the light switches and plugs would go. Here’s where I get to do some actual helping, finally! I know, bringing lunch up there everyday is help, but this is much more fun! As you can see the walls are getting taller and taller and they are really beginning to look like rooms. Its interesting to see them chipping away at the concrete walls to make room for plumbing and electrical installation. Not quite the same as building with wood, huh? Scott’s really wishing he had his tools right now. He’s got lots of great grinders and things that would make the work so much faster and easier, but these guys seem pretty comfortable with a hammer and chisel. Watching them chip away, you can tell that they’ve done this many times before and are very experienced with this type of construction. Scott has his hands full trying to manage six guys who are all tackling different tasks. One guy, Ariquiles, was pounding metal rebar stakes into the dirt for something Scott had told him to do and he just couldn’t seem to do it right. Scott kept telling him no and to do it differently then finally after trying to tell him several times Scott just walked up there and did it himself. And others kept coming over to ask this and that…boy, Scott is really getting very good at this construction Spanish, that’s for sure! I don’t spend too much time at the construction site, I’m just in the way, walking around with my camera. When I am there while they are all working its very overwhelming, I gotta tell ya I really admire Scott for being able to manage such a huge project. He really is good at this. I already knew that, but normally when I’m there it’s lunch time and not much is going on. When all those guys are working the job site takes on quite a different feeling. Lot’s of hustling going on and each guy seems to have a task that they each are very intent on doing. So, here are the photos of the progress today….Tenga Fin De Semana!

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Learning all the in’s & out’s of employer responsibilities here in Panama…

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Poco a Poco we’re getting the hang of this Panamanian employer gig. We were very concerned in the beginning, before we hired any workers about making sure we knew and understood what we needed to do to be totally above board when employing people here in Panama. We went to an attorney and got information about taxes and social security and learned about the best way to make sure we don’t get into any trouble. The attorney sent us to a woman in town named Clavdia, who will do our bookkeeping and take care of filing all the necessary paperwork with the Social Security office in town as well as making sure all our employee taxes are paid. She is a treasure and we feel good knowing she’s got that part taken care of, and for $10.00 per month! We’ve read about some of the issues one can have when hiring people to work for you as well as talked to friends about their experiences and we felt it would be prudent to get ahead of the ball and learn as much as we could learn to hopefully prevent any nightmares in the future. Even though we sat down with an attorney and asked as many questions as we could think of to ask, we find ourselves still learning things that she didn’t tell us. One little thing just came up this week. One of our employees was asking Scott about his Decimo pay….Huh? What the heck is that!! We went down to Clauvdia’s office and she set us straight on that… Apparently this is a bonus they get three times a year April 15, August 15 and December 15 …8.33% of their wages. Other important things we had already learned are that they also have about 10-12 Official “Paid” days off each year. Plus,we’ve also been informed that the best way to structure the hiring of employees is to have them on short contracts that last only a few months at a time. This is to avoid any issues if we need to let someone go. It can be very tricky to fire a worker here so it’s much easier just to tell them the contract for work is over and not to offer them a new contract, this is very important if you find yourself with a particularly unreliable, or lazy worker. “Sorry, no more contract for you”. No need to fire them, the job they were hired to do is just over, easy breezy. As a matter of fact Scott has two workers who seem to have a hard time getting to work on Mondays, so this week was time to renew contracts and he told these two that if they continue to miss work on Mondays this would be their last contract. Another interesting little ‘required bonus’ is each time a contract ends, we are required to give them a project termination fee which is sort of like a severance payment and that is 6% of their pay. So, lets see, these employees work for $23-29 per day and they get 10-12 legal paid days off per year, they also get paid for sick days if they bring a note from the doctor, (which they seem to be very diligent at doing), a bonus at the end of a contract, and a bonus every three months….Whew! These are the rules we know of, but I’m wondering just how many other “bonus’s” we don’t yet know about? Hah! We still need to find out from a Panamanian guy we’re friends with in town who is in the construction business about the validity of what one of the workers told Scott about it being ‘customary’ for the Jefe to purchase rubber boots for the entire crew…..Hmmmm? That seems like a funny one, but ya just never know! If it’s the way they do it here, then we’ll be off to the store to buys some boots!

Scott may be a generous and fair Jefe but one things for sure, he’s not one to be taken advantage of. He’s always had a very consistent code of ethics that he deems very important and to be sure, those who know him know that he’s never one to lose his cool, there’s never any yelling coming out of his mouth. He’ll be fair and honest and often generous to a fault but don’t let him down or betray his trust or respect because your day’s of working with him will end and he wont look back. It’s like a light switch just goes to the off position and he’s just walked away. No, there’s never any drama or games, probably one chance but definitely not two. So, when his workers bust their butts on an especially physically exhausting week like they did last week, Scott will always acknowledge that, maybe not always with a Friday treat of cold beers and a paid day off, sometimes just a hearty thanks, but they will feel appreciated to be sure. And if an employee is just not living up to Scott’s standards he’ll let them know that they can go now. So, as we are just getting started with our project, because we still have a long ways to go until we’re done building, I’m sure we’ll go through a few workers along the way. But the smart one’s will be able to see that they’ve got a good thing going with this particular Gringo Jefe. Scott’s trying his best to strike that balance of being a good Jefe but not feeling as though he might be thought of as a sucker. Hence the time spent getting the low-down from people who know the actual rules and laws. We have a lot to learn and Poco a Poco we’re learning about what it takes to do things right and to give and receive a mutual respect with the guys working on our house. We’ll make mistakes and I’m sure a day will come when we’re let down somehow by a worker we trusted and liked, that’s just the way it goes. But so far we have a pretty solid crew of guys who seem to be consistent, hard working and glad to have a job to go to everyday. It’s all part of the Adventure!

Progress Report…

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This week the focus on the casita project is building walls. What that means for Scott is that he’s driving back and forth from the supply store with brick, brick, and more brick as well as bags of cement. Luckily the delivery trucks have been managing to get to the entrance to our lot with loads of rock. This has really been a great help to Scott. The delivery trucks can carry about 3-4 times the amount that Scotts little truck can carry which means quite a few trips less for him. We got a big surprise on Monday, it seems that our neighbor who owns the finca right next to our lot has decided to improve the road and he had a tractor and a crew of workers up there clearing trees and brush an leveling out the dirt, maybe they will pour an actual road soon! It’s already so much better and I cant wait to see what they do next. Read the rest of this entry