Here’s a bit of what’s on my mind. Our Adventure living here in Panama is feeling less and less like such a huge adventure and more like , just ‘Life’. As the newness of this expat life has begun to fade its really hard to think of things to write about that seem interesting or share worthy, Hah! I know all my friends and family back in California like to keep up on our happenings and I really like the feeling of continued connectivity my blog seems to provide. Its always so great to hear from people and to know that we haven’t been forgotten about. Here are just a few things we’ve been up to and things that just came to me as I typed. Nothing especially earth shattering, but just a bit of this n that!
My registration for my car expired last October so I’ve been attempting to get it registered ever since. Once you know the procedure for this its no big deal, but I’ve had a little ‘glitch’ in my process. The reason for this little ‘glitch’ is because I bought my car used and it was originally registered in Panama City. So It was necessary to have the registration transferred from Panama City to Dolega. Dolega is a small town about twenty minutes down the hill from Boquete and this is where the Office for car registration is located. Having the registration changed seems to have caused a big lag in what is normally a pretty straight forward process. Every year when you re-register your car you get a brand new license plate for your car and Its good for a year. But this year, in my case when I went back in October they didn’t have my plates so they gave me a very official paper that was a three month extension. So, I’ve gone back every three months only to be given another extension , Ugh! Until yesterday! I finally got my new plate! Yeah! I very happily took it, got back into the car and as Scott was backing out of the parking lot I noticed that the date of expiration on the little sticker on this plate was July! What? We decided to go back today to ask if this was a mistake. And apparently it was, so they looked all over for a new sticker but could not find one. They printed out an extension that I can show to the police if they pull me over because they just scraped the sticker off my new plate. eye roll! We shall see what happens when I go back in October to attempt the registration process again. Sigh…
The next thing we need to deal with is to renew our drivers licenses. They expire in July because when we originally got them we only had our temporary residency cards which meant that they used our passport number as our ID. For some reason that only gave us one year for our drivers licenses and so now we’ll go back and have our permanent Cedula numbers linked to the drivers license . I believe this will give us several years until we have to renew them again. Anytime one has to deal with any sort of government process here you just really never know exactly what to expect. It doesn’t matter what your experience was like the last time you did it, or what your friends experience was like last week. It seems to only matter what the particular person on the other side of the counter decides to require at that particular time. You can talk to several people about their experience and try to figure out what you need to do, but things seem to change all the time making it really hard to accomplish any task unscathed. When planning to deal with any such official documentation the one thing that’s certain is that you had better have your ‘Tranquilo’ firmly in place! Just know that whatever you do, don’t ever have expectations at all, and then you’ll be fine.
One must always be prepared to make at least two trips in order to accomplish a simple transaction, not always, it is possible to occasionally experience efficiency , its rare, but it does happen on occasion! Honestly, ya just really never know for sure how it will go. We make sure to bring copies of everything we can possibly think of , like copies of our passports, our cedulas, our drivers licenses, our car insurance, our car title, our registration, blood type, first born… oh, well I’m beginning to over exaggerate just a touch! ….blah, blah, blah. We now have several copies of nearly every document we can think of and take them with us anytime we need to accomplish anything with any official office here. And we never go to any office without cash, checkbook and credit cards, just in case. We prepare ourselves as best we can but there still seems to be times when a seemingly simple errand gets thwarted by a workerbee who’s agenda seems to be to find a way to sabotage our purpose for disturbing their peaceful workday, by trying to make them work, hah! There’s no need to be angry or to let your day be ruined by such happenings, nah, we find humor in learning yet another way in which we can be unsuccessful at accomplishing what should be a simple transaction.
Its almost like a standing joke between the two of us as we set off to get something done. hah! Case in point….Our custom made transformers that we special ordered from the electrical supply store in David. Scott ordered those transformers over six months ago…yep… over six months! They are very expensive and we had to make a large deposit in the bank of the company in Panama City who are fabricating them for us. We were told they would take several months and were not in any hurry at the time because we had yet to have gotten our permit from Union Fenoza (the electric company here in Boquete) for beginning our installation. At this time, as I’m writing this post, we’ve had our permit to begin our electrical run for several months now. Our electrician is waiting for the transformers to begin the job. Scott goes down to David every week to check on the transformers and every week he’s told they will be there next week! hah! Its become a weekly ritual , Scott drives the thirty minutes or so into David, talks with the same guy at Electrista and is told each week to come next week….unbelievable, and quite humorous! Again, I’m so glad Scott doesn’t anger easily and seems to roll with it with grace and kindness. I love that man! I don’t think we could survive here if Scott didn’t have an unending amount of patience in the face of such constant inefficiency .
Meanwhile we continue to live just fine with our generator producing electricity for our house. Its a pain in the butt, but we’ve managed to adjust to needing to take the gas can to the gas station each day for more gas for the generator, and each night Scott puts on his shoes, grabs his flash light and goes outside to turn the generator off, then again in the morning gets out of bed, goes outside and cranks that baby up! So one of these days we will appreciate having actual electricity, and when I say “appreciate”, I mean we will REALLY know and understand, how luxurious it is to have electricity to our house. And I remind myself that we are spoiled.
Our Indigenous neighbors who live just down the road from us have never had any electricity to their shack where they live with six kids and three adults! I’m pretty sure they would love having even a generator providing them with electricity, so I can’t complain or feel sorry for myself….our lifestyle often feels kinda spoiled now that I live near such an extremely different way of life. I must admit that adjusting to living amongst people whose lifestyle is entirely different from mine has required me to try to think differently. At first I used to look at that dirt floor, shack and feel deeply sad for the family. My American way of thinking that everyone wants to live the same way that I live has been deeply engrained in my way of perceiving others. But, I’ve come to believe that Im wrong in thinking that I should want to make their life ‘better’, I mean, those kids are happy and healthy and loved by their family. They have food, water, a shelter that keeps them dry and warm, they have beds and blankets and lots of toys. When I drive by I see them playing outside, laughing and smiling as they happily wave at me and shout “Holly”!
I know they see me as the rich gringa and they like to come over to my house and see what I might give them. I like to give them treats like apples or mangos and then there are times when I just give them a hug and a kiss on the forehead and that makes them just as happy. Of course they have begun to occasionally take advantage of my generosity and I’m learning the importance of establishing boundaries. I don’t feel especially generous or affectionate when I am woken up by the sounds of the kids on my terrace yelling my name, over and over and over again…”Hooooolllly!” “Hooollly!” “Hooooolllly!”…..eye roll! I’m learning how to say “Go Home!” in very clear Spanish….and they are learning not to come over every single day! Grrrrrrr! Of course Scott thinks I need to establish boundaries for all the neighborhood dogs who come for food two times a day, but….I disagree about that! hah!
Yes, we moved to Central America to create a new and different life for ourselves, and that’s exactly what we’ve gotten! New and Different! We often think of our neighborhood in Los Altos and we can’t help but compare our life on Orange Avenue with our life in Jaramillo Centro. Just last night as we were hiking down the hill with a bottle of wine to share with Kat & Allan, we said…”We really hardly ever got to do this with our neighbors in Los Altos”. Heck, we hardly even knew many of our neighbors and very rarely even saw them out and about. Much of the reality of this truth was just a function of everybody needing to work so hard in order to be able to afford the lifestyle that we had there in California. Everyone we knew , including us, were very committed to working hard to maintain the life there. And I don’t mean to say that there’s anything wrong with that life. I only feel glad that we’ve opted to create a different way of living. Like life in California, life here in Panama is not perfect, there really is no such thing as Paradise, but we’re having so much fun here. We’re learning so much and enjoying the freshness of a life that’s different and new. We’re still working hard but managing to maintain a balance with work and fun. And of course the work that we’re doing with each passing day is work that we’ve chosen , not work that we feel bound to out of necessity to do day in and day out.