An Update On This Crazy Adventure…

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Boy, oh , boy, so much has been going on in our Adventure but nothing seems especially exciting. Our adventure has begun to sorta resemble, I don’t know… Our Life. While it’s still pretty exciting to be living here in Panama, and still so much of this relocation to Panama is new, my days seem to be flying by without time to sit and write about it. It’s funny, we called this ‘retirement’, but , ahem….I don’t really think we actually ‘retired’ per-say. I think we actually just left a place where we were working to ‘support’ a lifestyle, and traded it for a life where we happily work to ‘create’ a lifestyle of our choosing. Together we’re building a new life of our own personal design. We’re no longer living to work. One of the many things that Im enjoying about this new life we’re building here in Boquete is the fact that we’re able to work together to create something that will be a reflection of us as a team. This entire new life is all about living it the way we’ve chosen to live it, not how we just sort of feel like we are expected to live our life. We no longer feel driven to work in order to pay a mortgage or, work to pay taxes and credit card debt and car payments and health insurance and more taxes…nowadays we’re working hard, but we’re working hard for our own enjoyment and our own pleasure.

We get up everyday at 6am, ugh! Getting up that early is not such a pleasure… It’s dark at that ungodly hour, and I hate getting up that early, but we do it for us. We do it because together Scott & I are working towards a goal that’s actually tangible and we’re working towards something that we can see will benefit us and our future, you know…. the future when we’re ‘actually’ Retired. When we can actually sit around and do other things and not have such a schedule. But boy, even though we’ve got a schedule these days one that seems a bit grueling at times, its one that we set and one that we (mostly joyously) trudge through with one another and we know we have an end in sight. We really like being able to see an end to our hard work. Unlike where we moved from, we can actually envision our retirement here which is something we never could have envisioned in California. We would never get to be debt free and enjoy the freedom to live our life the way we do here. We did this move at an age where we hopefully have plenty of time to still travel and be active and enjoy all the things we really love. But, at the moment we’re pretty pooped. And time’s been flying by, so fast that I’ve not had a moment to just sit and write .

I’ve been busy with much more than just the house project. I’ll update you on that first. As I think I’ve written about already, the foundation for the main house is underway. It will be finished by next week. After the foundation is done Scott will begin to start doing the sewer and gas lines as well as water lines that will be running through the foundation. This means that while he’s working on all that he’ll send the majority of our crew to different areas of the worksite to do different things. Ricardo(Sr.) will be finishing off the installation of the tile on the roof of the casita. At the moment the casita only has the metal part of the roof on it . We have all the terra-cotta tiles just sitting up here near the casita, waiting to be installed. While thats going on the other Richard will be finishing off the tile installation on the terrace here at the casita. The tile on the terrace will be the same as the tile inside the casita. Then Javier and Daniel will work on some of the hardscaping on the outside of the casita, there are walls and walkways to be done.

We’ve also still been working on completing much of the details of the interior of the casita that needed to be ironed out since we’ve been living here. The shower heads in the shower hadn’t been installed. Believe it or not, this was a real pain. While Scott didn’t mind standing under a pipe sticking out of the wall with water pouring out of it, I much prefer using a shower with working shower heads. This may sound a bit winy or bitchy, but may I explain….you see our shower has one regular shower head and in addition to that one shower head it also has two body sprays at about mid torso height. Can you imagine this configuration before the heads are on? That means there are three pipes just sticking out of the wall, and when you turn on the shower water just pours out, but I forgot to mention the only pipe that had water pouring out was one of the body sprays. So, for some reason that I don’t really understand, this one pipe, at about waist height was where I had to bend over and put my head under to wash my hair. Well….not to worry, today was my first day using the shower completely functional! Yippeee! Wow! What a luxury. I never realized how much I like shower heads!

And, lets see, the other little kink that needed to be ironed out was hot water, washer and dryer and stove, actually this is the sum of the gas installation. Which we’ve been waiting for the bombero’s to inspect. Really the only inspection that needs to be done throughout this entire building process. We had originally thought or had been told that one needs a permit to hook up gas, period. What we were misinformed about was that we need no permit if we used the smaller gas tanks, only if we used the larger ones, which was our oringinal plan. The guys who install the larger tanks wont even come up here until we have a permit. So We already had two of the small tanks and Scott simply hooked one up and guess what…Voila! We had a working stove, and potentially hot water. I say “potentially’ because one must first complete the installation of the hot water heater before the hot water will actually work properly. So, I got a stove and cooktop but then had more of a wait for the hot water heater to be installed. ugh! I keep getting closer and closer to having all the parts of this place in working order.

At the moment we have nearly everything working. We had to pull the washer/dryer out one more time because Scott noticed a small leak from the water hookups. You see we had a tiny little issue with the water pump that helps pump the water down here from the storage tank up near the workshop. The pump was creating way too much pressure without having a regulator on it, so consequently we think the high pressure of the water may have caused one of the water connections to leak. We had the water guy install a regulator tank to the pump and then we redid the water connection to the washer. All is well now, and we can now push the washer/dryer back into place and get this huge pile of dirty clothes washed! Phew! So, we have both kitchen and bathroom sinks up and running, a totally functioning shower, a hot water heater, stove and fridge. All the major things inside this casita are working splendidly, now, if we could just get electricity!

Oh! I didn’t tell you about that, huh? Well, you know we’ve been using the generator for our electricity, which, to be honest is working just fine. Aside from Scott needing to go outside at night and in the morning to turn it on and off, and the minor inconvenience of needing to keep the gasoline tanks full , we’re just fine with using the generator. But, once again the architect is the one in charge of procuring the permit from Union Fenosa (the electricity company) and has messed up. We specifically requested 200Amps and he got permission for us to have 150Amps !! Ugh! This will not do! You see, many of Scotts big woodworking tools require a higher amperage, Sooooo back to Union Fenosa to amend the permit. Once we get that little kink ironed out we can have the electrician come and pull all the wire up the hill through all that conduit that Scott installed several months ago. All the conduit is sitting there in the ground, ready to go, all we need is for the electrician to do his part and get us all hooked up and we’ll be in business.

Internet is one other little element to get ironed out. We had Planet Telcom come up here and install a dish on the workshop for our internet connection. We are now paying for our internet but we have one tiny problem. The plan is to have only one central spot where the internet comes from and it will provide connectivity to both the main house and the casita. We’ll see if this works out , and if not we may have to have them do a totally separate hook up down here for the casita. For now though, we can only get internet up at the workshop when the generator up there is on giving power to the router. We have a cable coming down the hill to here but there’s a box mid way down that needs power and also needs a water proof box to keep it protected from the elements.. We bought the little box and we (we meaning, yooou know who) still need to install it. But, the internet will still only work down here in the casita when the generator up there is on. So, if I want to use the internet on my computer I have to go up there, turn on the generator, plug in the router and sit up there…needless to say, I manage to make due with just using the data plan on my iPad at the moment! Eye roll! This little ‘kink’ will eventually need to be worked out.

This is a little peak into our building project as it stands at the moment. I think the biggest thing that will really make us feel as though we’ve crossed a big hurtle is getting the electricity run finished. There are many things that we (and when I say ‘we’ I mean ‘me’), have to do without, like using the blow dryer to dry my hair and vacuuming the house. Both of these household appliances suck up too much power for the generator and the poor thing just dies! So, I go without drying my hair or vacuuming this dirty house! ugh! But, somehow life goes on and no one dies, so, I think I will survive with wet hair and a dirty house.

Aside from working on house stuff I keep busy with a variety of other things. I’ve been volunteering with a group of people who organized a ‘Kid’s Camp’ every thursday from 9-3. It’s a really fun day camp, they do sports and art and have a delicious lunch . I’ve really enjoyed spending time with the kids. There’s a large group of kids from the local Orphanage who come and , Gulp!, they just steal my heart. I dont know why they ended up in the orphanage, some say they may have either been neglected or abused or often if a family just cant support them they give the children to the orphanage. There are about 40-50 kids from there and every one of them are so sweet. They seem very well cared for, healthy and happy. I have such a great time doing art projects with them and the smiles just melt my heart. One day I made origami airplanes for them and sheesh! You would have thought I’d had given them an iPhone! Seriously! These kids were so darn excited about paper airplanes! Again….my heart is melting. This Kids camp only lasted for 10 weeks and It ended this week, so I’ll look forward to helping next year.

This last several months has been summer break for all the kids here and School resumes next week. So I get emails from all sorts of charitable organizations asking for donations to help some of the poor families in Boquete. They help to provide school uniforms and school supplies for the kids who cant afford them. While I really appreciate the good that these organizations do in our community, I personally much prefer to help my nearby family than helping people I don’t know. Does it really matter how you help? I don’t think so. I decided to talk with the parents of our indigenous neighbors just down from our home to see if they would give me permission to take their school age kids shopping in town for whatever they needed for the new school year. The dad told me he had bought some of the books and pens and things but that they needed shoes and backpacks and he was very happy to let me take care of that. So I took Ana & Andrea into town for a little shopping trip. Mikel and Nicole had to stay home for some reason that I didn’t understand and they did not look happy as their older sisters got to drive off with me in my car. I was sad to leave them behind but the two older girls seemed to have been in the know about the shoe sizes for the two younger kids and so all would be well. The local department type store in town La Reina had all the necessary things for the school uniforms. The girls picked out black shoes for themselves and their younger siblings and they told me they also needed white tennis shoes for P.E…..okay…I was expecting to buy four pairs of shoes but I guess it’ll be eight pairs, no problema. They picked out new backpacks for themselves and for Mikel and Nicole and then Ana said she needed a new uniform skirt and Andrea said she needed one too….I could see they were going to see just how much they could get me to buy…not unlike my daughter at that age, so I let them get skirts but drew the line there. I spent wayyyyy less money getting these four kids all ready for the new School year than I used to spend on my one daughter back in the states! Its just amazing to me that eight new pairs of shoes, four backpacks and two uniform skirts was only a little over $200.00! But the smiles that were on the faces of my sweet little neighbor girls faces as they carried the bags to the car were priceless! And when I asked them if they wanted to go out to lunch after shopping…well….I doubt they had ever been to a restaurant in their life! We just went to one of the local typico restaurants, a buffet, that has all local food and they really seemed to enjoy lunch. And, what the heck, after lunch you gotta go get an ice cream…right? So off we went for ice cream to top off our girls day out. They were so sweet , we drove home as they slowly ate their ice cream cones, and I could tell they were trying not to eat them too fast because I suspected they wanted to share with their little brother and sister. And of course when we got back to their house Mikel and Nicole came running to the car and they handed them the remaining ice cream! So damn sweet! Again…heart melting. And I wish I had taken a picture of Nicole’s face when I gave her her new backpack! She was just overwhelmed. As I started my car and began to drive away, Mikel came running up to the drivers side of my car to tell me Gracias! Did I mention….melting heart? Yep! It’s moments like this that really make me glad to have worked so hard to move here. I haven’t ever spent a couple of hundred dollars on something that meant so much to me.

Scott has also been busy with a little neighborhood water project (in his copious spare time, hah!) . I’ll see if I can summarize this because I know I’m nearly writing a novel here! Hah! This is what happens when I don’t write for awhile. Our main water source is a spring way up the mountain from where our property is. This spring provides water for about 150 houses, as I understand it. Its a pretty simple collection set-up way up in the jungle and is made up of several different pipes that take the water to a large storage tank built up there. I’m certain my explanation of this is lacking a complete understanding of exactly what’s going on, but I’m just trying to give you a small picture of the kinda, simple almost rustic way that we get our water. Well, we often have days when no water seems to be coming to our house as well as many of our neighbors houses. We have large storage tanks so it doesn’t usually effect us much. Sometimes its just a simple problem of someone turning off the intake valve or a small break or leak in a pipe somewhere up near where the main valves are right up above our property. But most recently this was not the problem, the valves were all on and no small breaks were found, but there was very little water coming. So Scott and two other neighbors decided to hike up to where the main source is and check all the pipes up there to see if there was any problem, maybe a broken pipe or what have you….yes, the pipes are just sorta laying there in and along the river, and all above ground so consequently sometimes a tree may fall on a pipe, which naturally kinda kills the water pressure to our storage tanks. Long story short, after a strenuous hike into the mountains , off trails and into the jungle, they located the main source and found that there was one area needing repair and while they were up there they also devised a plan to add an additional section of pipe to collect more water from an area of the stream that seemed to be much heartier. This additional run of pipe would, in theory give us all a much better collection source adding much needed pressure to our water supply. Scott and our other two neighbors worked together to come up with a list of needed materials for this additional section of pipe and then one neighbor went around and talked to other people in our neighborhood and got donations to help pay for all the materials. We, along with Allan and Quincy volunteered to loan a couple of our workers to aide in this venture and off they all went, with about 5 laborers into the jungle schlepping about 10 huge, heavy PVC pipes , backpacks full of handsaws, glue, machetes, and drinking water for the wimpy gringo who cant just scoop up unfiltered water from the river hah. I think this undertaking was thrilling for Scott, he really loves that sort of thing. It seems to have been a worthwhile attempt to provide a little bit better water flow to our neighborhood, for now. Until a tree falls or someone creates a damn and we lose our pressure again….Ohhhhhh the joy of living in Central America! Hah!

I could go on and on but I bet your ready for this post to end. I’ve been doing so many other really fun and interesting things like, A Pakistani/Indian food cooking class at Terry & Munzers house, Hiking with Bond & Luana, And trying like hell to spot the elusive Quetzal who we can hear but can never ever see! This is quite frustrating because they are a rather large, brightly colored bird and I just cant believe that I can hear their call but never actually get to see them! GRRRRRR! One off these days!! Also, next week I’m going to a luncheon at Kat’s house for our newly started Garden Club, We had a BBQ a couple weekends ago and Scott finally got to crack out his smoker for the first time since moving here, Feeding my hummers up here in the casita has been a really fun thing. I’ve had to attempt to attract a whole new bunch of customers at my hummingbird feeders and I get so excited every time I spy a new species eating from it. So far I’ve seen three different types.

I’ll have to post some more photos as soon as I can get up to the workshop. The photos don’t seem to want to download to my blog without internet, darn it. Everyday is an adventure for us and we just never really know from day to day what may pop up. Could be an invitation for a hike, a new hummer coming by to say “Feed me!”, a water problem to fix, a dinner invitation or a New craft brewery to go check out (this just happened last week! )….But one thing we know for sure is, everyday when we get out of bed we’re living each day with joy , embracing every moment as it comes and although it may be lots of work right now, at the end of each day when we lay our tired heads on our pillows we drift off to sleep with smiles on our faces. Our Adventure has not only Begun, it’s continues with each passing day…

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7 responses »

  1. I always enjoy reading your blog Holly and following the progress on your casita/s. We were lucky to find our perfect little house here in Volcancito so we avoided all the building challenges. It sounds like a lot of work but so rewarding as each step (of the many steps!) in the process are completed. Just remember to take breaks as often as you can to enjoy this beautiful country. We took a half day hike this morning and saw quetzals! They are just beginning to nest now so they are easier to spot. i love the idea of a garden club here and would like more info if you could email me sometime.
    Life is the adventure! suflyn952@yahoo.com Susan

  2. Holly, thank you for your blog. My husband and I are planning on retiring and relocating, probably to Panama. We will make an extended visit when our house sells and we wrap up things here. All the blogs have given us so much information on what to expect and we are really excited about starting a new life and adventure! Hope to see Boquete soon. Lin

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