And Here’s What We’ve Been Up To…

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I’ve been working on getting a bank account established here. This has been my next big project. As I’ve told you before, they make you jump through hoops to open an account. I wonder how hard they make it in the states to open an account if you aren’t a citizen? Hmmm? So I went into Scotiabank (on the advice of both our attorney and our realtor) to give Ana all the documents she requested, Two years tax returns, copies of passports and U.S. drivers license, copy of utility bill for the house we rent, copy of rental agreement, a letter of recommendation from my bank in the states just stated that we have been customers in good standing for at least two years, a letter from my attorney here in Boquete vouching for our intention to settle here in Panama, and a copy of the deed to the land we purchased…whew! I also had to fill out an application that included three panamanian references, which was pretty funny because the bank manager who I was dealing with, Ana, happened to know personally all the people who we know. Funny, it’s a small town. This was helpful because she knew how to spell their names and what their addresses were, ha! And she saw where we currently live and it turns out she’s my neighbor as well! The final thing the bank needed was to contact the bank manager in California to confirm her letter of recommendation. So I email Susan at my bank in Los Altos to give her a heads-up that she would be receiving a correspondence from Panama, hoping to make it go as smooth as possible. Good thing I did that because they contacted her via email immediately yesterday and she forwarded me her response. Looks like we should be good to go, I hope! I’ll go down to the bank on Monday and see if there’s any other information they need, but I feel pretty organized.

Now, our documents for our Pensionado are still in Washington DC getting Authenticated. We mailed all that via DHL and it should be returning to us soon, I hope! As soon as that get’s back here we will then add our FBI report to it (which was already authenticated so didnt need to be sent to DC) and mail it off to our attorney in Panama City. Sadly, we are just a couple weeks away from needing to make another border run. Darn it! I was really hoping not to have to do that again, oh well! Soon after our documents are in process we should be able to get a multi-entry visa and then we can plan our trip back to California to take care of shipping our container…Yea!!

I’m crossing my fingers that Scott’s going to be able to make that trip with me. He’s got four workers now and his crew just keeps growing. It’s surprising to me, nearly every day this week he’s had a Panamanian guy walk up to our job sight asking if Scott has work for him. It’s Amazing because our property is so remote and off the beaten path, but most of the guys who have wondered up there live in the neighborhood and I’m certain word spreads quickly that there’s a gringo hiring full time workers! Before we started this project I must admit, I was wondering how we would ever find people to work with us…now that seems like a silly thing to worry about. As you’ve probably seen from photos Ive posted, the retaining wall is coming along nicely. They have nearly finished building all the wall sections and now they are starting on the posts and the top part of the wall. Scott made forms out of metal and their getting about 2-3 posts poured each day. I think they have over 20 posts to pour, so they’re getting very close to completing it. I think we will leave the finish work until later, he just wanted to make sure to get the wall up before the rainy season started. The final part of the wall to be done will be a concrete drain along the bottom of the wall all the way down. We get some pretty intense rain here and drainage is a very important thing to consider when you build here. Scott has plans for drains in many areas in order to make sure water is directed where he wants it to go, very important consideration.

We’ve finalized the design of the casita as well as the electrical plan and we’ve chosen all the window sizes and the ceiling design as well as the roof. Scott has asked Richard, (the architect) to email us the details of the foundation so that he can start to strategize his plan for that part of the build. Today he’s planning to steak out the measurements of the building. Our new Neighbors Alan & Kat, have been really helpful. I don’t think I’ve told you about them yet. They own the property just below us. They already built their casita and plan to build a larger house for themselves down the road. Alan & Kat live here for three months at a time and live in Virginia three months at a time. Soon they will be relocating here permanently. They invited us over to their house a few weeks ago for ‘Happy Hour” and it was sooooo great to get to know them. They walked us around their house and gave us all sorts of great info about their experience of building a house here. We learned a lot and feel so fortunate to have such neat people as neighbors. Alan gave us the name and contact info of the guy who he used to do his excavation , we will be needing someone with a tractor to come up and level out the area where the casita is going to be built. The next big thing we need to figure out is how to get materials delivered up there. We need to find a guy with a four wheel drive dump truck who can actually get all the way up to the property. So far Scott’s been Schlepping the concrete bricks, sand, gravel and cement up little by little everyday. He’s developed a good relationship with the guy who owns the material yard because he’s back and forth to the place a few times a day. Schlepping material for a retaining wall is one thing, I don’t’ think he’s gonna be able to do that for all the material it’s gonna take to built an entire house….no, a 4 wheel drive delivery guy is a must!

Our days have begun to take on a distinct rhythm and they seem to fly by much too fast. Scott works from 7:30 to 4:00. I’ve been making him breakfast every morning then going to the gym to get a little exercise in. It seems like I’ve had a ton of running around to do, between organizing our documents, dealing with our new book keeper, grocery shopping , laundry, general housekeeping, and Spanish practice, my days somehow fill up and before I know it, it’s time for lunch. I drive up to the property everyday around 12:00 and bring lunch to Scott. I really enjoy sitting in our folding chairs and sharing lunch with him. It’s great to see the progress of all his hard work everyday. Today I’m joining a group of women to learn more about playing Mahjongg , I’m really looking forward to this and hoping it’s going to become a regular gathering.

I also just discovered that our spanish school offers a free Conversation practice every Saturday at 11:00 , which I signed up for, I need all the practice I can get. I’ve been really struggling with learning Spanish numbers. Since I’ve been in charge of all our grocery shopping It’s important for me to understand how much things cost. The best, most fresh produce is usually found in the produce market across from our grocery store. The Grocery store has adequate produce but not nearly as fresh as buying it from the guys at the market. It’s very difficult for me, and not a little intimidating, to shop over there because unlike Romero’s, where I can simply look at the amount on the cash register, I need to know what they’re saying! Yikes! This isn’t an easy thing when I don’t know my numbers past the number 10!! Grrrrrrr! I’ve been guilty of just holding out a bunch of money in the palm of my hand and letting the vender take what he wants!! Not the best plan, I know. Sometimes they’ll just hold a calculator up for me to see but I really want and need to understand! So I’m working on this. I’m tired of constantly saying “Lo Siento, mi numeros espaniol es muy malo!” I’m doing my best to attempt to communicate in Spanish every chance I get and I must say, for the most part, I’m really beginning to at least make myself understood. And I’m getting a little bit better at actually hearing what is being said. I can at least pick out a few words and get a general idea of what’s being said. This is progress, slow progress, but progress all the same. The other day I had a small victory when a man walked past me and said, “Buenos Tardes, como esta?” and I actually responded for the first time without having to “Think” about it..”Bueno, gracias, y Tu?” Whoot! Whoo! It just came right out!! Wow! It felt soooo good!! Usually by the time I’ve responded correctly the person has already walked on by and I find myself responding to no one! LOL! Yes, I’m slowly , very slowly, learning and feeling pretty darn good about it. Poco a poco is my mantra and the theme of our life now. Little by Little our life is becoming more and more settled and I’m slowly beginning to feel at home.

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14 responses »

  1. Thanks Holly for giving us details on opening your bank account. Did you only need one letter of reference from your bank back home? I had heard you had to show two letters so we wondered how we would do that since we only have one bank account.

  2. Wow! It looks like you found your rhythm…or should I say “mojo”? lol The retaining wall looks great. Hope you can find a big 4-wheel drive truck to deliver all your supplies up the hill. This is so exciting for me to watch the progress. I can’t imagine what it must be like for you. Buenos suerte mi amiga. If it makes you feel any better, I still have trouble with my numbers. I don’t know why, but the numbers just don’t stick in my head like the otra palabras.

  3. I had many staff who learnt English as second language they all said the first time they did what you did was when they knew they where well on way.. So Congratulations … the numbers will come.

  4. Wow! You guys are sure getting a lot done! I’m proud of you for answering in Spanish without even thinking! Way to go Holly. You’ll get comfortable in no time, especially after practicing in your conversation class. Keep up the good work!

  5. Thank you for sharing. I’m looking forward to following the progress of your construction. I hope everything continues smoothly for you.

      • Thanks Holly! I didn’t realize you were in Boquete until after we returned home. Bummer! We will definitely connect when we return. My husband is also from SoCal. I’m looking forward to following the construction of your house. I’m curious though, what is the benefit of a bank account in Panama? I wasn’tplanning on going that route but I haven’t really investigated it at all so I’m open.

      • Oh, sorry we missed you guys. About the bank account…for us it makes life much easier when we have to pay out large sums for our house project, like for instance, the electrician or the architect. We will be able to just write a check instead of having to go the the cash machines. the maximum you can withdrawal per day is $500.00 each. So there are days when we both have to go get cash to pay the four workers that we have. It just makes sense for us, but maybe your situation will be different.

      • Oh yes that makes a lit of sense! I think we will have to consider that option. We’re working on getting our pensionados right now. It certainly is a fun adventure and I appreciate all the great info people have on thier bligs.

      • Thank you Holly! It will be a great adventure for sure. I’m looking forward to meeting you too. Good luck with your building project.

  6. Holly, I’m really enjoying your blog. I’m in a similar situation and I’m particularly interested in your efforts to build on a slope. I bought land in Puerto Armuelles and your are correct; drainage is the key to success!
    I’d love to see more pictures of the retaining wall and the drains when you start them.
    Buena suerte!!
    Veronica

    • Hi Veronica! Is Puerto Armuelles on The coast? I’ll be sure to post good photos of all the drains…yep, we get lot’s of rain here in the rainy season! How is your building going so far? Gracias for the comment!! Cheers!

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