Tag Archives: building a house in Panama

A couple days in the city and back home again…

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We had to take a little three day jaunt to Panama City to take care of our final application process for our Cedula. We took a 5:30 flight on Saturday and just got home last night, Tuesday. Getting a Cedula is not required to be a resident in Panama but its just a good thing to do. As I understand it, the Cedula is sort of like a Social Security card in the States. You are assigned a permanent ID number that never changes. This is important because having a Cedula takes you out of the immigration department completely. When you have a Cedula you no longer have to go through the immigration line at the airport, you are actually a legal Panamanian resident. Our attorney told us we can now put our passports away, we only ever need our Cedula as ID now. Another little detail that makes having a Cedula so good is that many legal documents here like car registration and your drivers license are linked to your Passport number which will change when it expires and you get a new passport. The changing number of your passport is just a hassle because you then have to go through the process of changing all the things that had that old number on them. Once you use your Cedula number for your ID you never have to worry about changing anything, this, in my opinion, was worth one more trip to the city and one more visit to a government office with our attorney. Plus it only cost us $65.00 each and $150.00 for our attorney. Well, I guess you could say that it also cost us a trip to the city but we combined the trip with shopping for things for the main house that we are now beginning to build.
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A little progress report…

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We’ve been living In Panama for nearly 18 months now. After spending so much time researching and then planning for this move, it feels so good to feel ourselves settling in more and more with the passing of time. Never having made a move like this in my lifetime, Its been quite an adventure for me. As I’ve said before , I had never moved away from Northern California where I grew up, so this transition has been all encompassing for me. I can’t even begin to express what a huge life change our move to Panama has been. And its a change that’s creating endless opportunities to learn and to grow in countless ways. I’ve never really thought of myself necessarily as a ‘risk-taker’, but I imagine most of my friends and family may beg to differ with my opinion of myself in that regard, Hah! My life before moving to Central America was pretty ‘normal’, and I felt very secure in the lifestyle I had worked so hard to create. Well, ‘normal, aside from being an Entrepreneur, because I know that owning a business isn’t always something everyone is interested in taking on. I think my life was pretty ‘run of the mill’ so to speak…..well, not anymore! Read the rest of this entry

Yes, I’m Still here…

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I realize I haven’t published a post in some time! Sheesh! My life is really beginning to feel as though it’s taking on a sort of Rhythm. And it’s hard for me to discern when I should share what’s going on. I don’t want to bore you to death with the same ol’ same ol’! To be honest, what started out as a big adventure has somehow begun to just feel like a normal, everyday life! Nothing so special so share. Shrug! But I know my friends and family get a kick out of knowing what’s going on , so….

Here’s what’s going on in our life, not especially exciting or even very interesting, but here goes…Let’s see, well, I’ll begin with our construction project, since that’s what seems to dominate our lives these days. Our workers have been making good progress on the roof of the workshop. They’ve got the majority of it nearly framed with the cariolas. Which means the walls are all done as well. So, In about a week or so they will begin to put up the zinc part, which is the big metal sheets that go on top of the metal beams, (for those of you not so familiar with this type of roofing procedure!). Earlier in the week we went down to David to a place our friend Keith told us about, a place called Kame. This is THE place to find the commercial-type, roll up garage doors that we wanted to install in the workshop. We need three of them. We got a quotation which seemed fair and so Scott drove back today (Saturday) to order them. Check that big thing off our list! Just when I begin to wonder,”How are we gonna find that?”, someone here who’s in the ‘know’ shows up and saves the day! Now, the next big thing we need to find is an electrician who will actually follow through and get our power run up to our property! Ugh! This is proving to be a hard one. Read the rest of this entry

Workshop/Man-cave progress…

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This is the computerized rendering of the workshop. We use a program called 'Punch" to do all our designs...

This is the computerized rendering of the workshop. We use a program called ‘Punch” to do all our designs…

The workshop/man-cave is really coming along. This week they’re starting work on the roof structure. We purchased and had delivered, all the cariolas and the metal zinc . It’s going to be a pretty big roof! So I think Scott’s expecting it to take around 3 weeks or so to complete it. As you look at the photos of the workshop you’ll notice as you face the front of the building there is a room with a black water tank in it. This will be the water storage room. We have enough room for four huge tanks. We plan to collect water from the aqueduct to filter and purify for drinking water and we’ll be collecting all the gray water from the bathrooms as well as rainwater from the gutters to use for agricultural water.

The water storage room. This is a small tank, we have not gotten the big ones yet...

The water storage room. This is a small tank, we have not gotten the big ones yet…

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I think Im in yet another ‘transition’!

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I haven’t had much time or energy lately to write many posts. I’ve written quite a bit when I’m sitting in the truck waiting for the next load of sand or rock or bricks to be loaded or unloaded in between driving Edgar up and down our road, but for some strange reason I haven’t posted them????? I don’t really know why, but today I was thinking and I realized…”Hey!I think I’m having a bit of a transition!” 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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Friday, Treat Day…

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Friday…

It’s Friday and Scott decided that given the fact that his crew kicked but this whole week and got the entire floor of the casita poured, he would give them tomorrow off ….paid(mind you, Saturdays are a short day, they only work 7:30-1:30). He had expected to only finish the first two pours this week, which were the bedroom/bathroom/closet and then the living room/kitchen/entry. But they managed to work so efficiently that they were able to do the terrace today, which is the last part of the floor. And so he asked me to round up a case of beer and get it chilling in the cooler so they can have a little “Friday Treat” after they finish work for the day. He’s such a nice Jefe! I must tell you, that guy really is building a pretty good relationship with his crew. I wonder to myself if they’ve ever worked with a guy like him (sounding just like the proud, biased wife that I am!). He isn’t the kind of guy who stands around giving orders, oh don’t get me wrong, he gives plenty of orders, but he gives them while he’s sweating and working right along side of them. I could tell that at the beginning the guys were a bit baffled by this foreigner who was working just as hard as they were working. One time while they were unloading a bunch of stuff from Scott’s truck, one of the guys tried to take something from Scott and Scott said, “no” and pointed to the bed of the truck where there was a lot to unload. The guy just kinda shrugged and went to get a load out of the truck. It’s just not in Scott’s nature to do it any differently, he’d never stand aside and watch as others did all the work. In the states I don’t think he had a crew any larger than 3 or 4 guys at one time. He’s up to six employees now and I sure hope they’re appreciating how good they have it working for someone like Scott who is honest, generous and hard working. Even though he always treated his employees in the states with the same kind of appreciation and respect that he’s treating these guys here, It always made me so mad to see them lie or steal and work as half-ass as they possibly could get away with until Scott had no choice but to fire them. It was very frustrating at times to go through workers time and again who were just plain lazy and many times pretty dishonest. Scott’s just a good guy and he conducts himself with such integrity I often worry he’ll get taken advantage of (although, I know he’s not gonna let that happen). He told me this week that one of his guys didn’t have any rubber boots, which they needed to wear when working in concrete. So he asked him what size shoe he wears and he went to Melo and bought the guy a pair of boots! Ahhh…that Scott! Of course one of the other guys saw this and proceeded to show him the big hole in the bottom of his boot! Uggg! No, He didn’t run out and get that guy boots! He may be generous but he’s not a sucker! Humph! These guys really do work hard. And Scott appreciates it and makes sure they know it by being fair and by treating them with integrity. I mean, come on…A cooler full of ice cold beer on a Friday!! Whataguy!!! I think he’s building a good relationship of mutual respect and appreciation and that’s never a bad way to deal with people in life. Hopefully it pays off with a crew of guys who are loyal and who appreciate Scott as much as he does them. So far, so good.

Feeling just a little homeless…

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When we signed the lease for the house that we’ve been renting we agreed to this one week away at a hotel payed for by the home owners. That was back in June when we did that . So We gladly agreed to this and knew is was coming. You know how it is though….it felt at the time, like March was so far away. And here we are, all packed up, living out of our suitcases again. Hmmmmm….how time does fly by! It sort of feels like a subtle reminder of our semi-homeless state in the beginning of this adventure. That nomad, gypsyish state of living that we so gleefully set off for nearly a year ago. I can’t believe it will be one whole year in May since we arrived in our new home and started an entirely new life. This new home in Boquete, Panama, that we’d dreamed about and planned for for such a long time. It had been seven long years of research and travel and preparing not only us but also preparing all the people around us as well for what would be a major shift in our lifestyle. When we first arrived we spent the first two months living in a temporary apartment, not unpacking all our belongings because it was just a short stay until we secured more permanent lodging, no need to get too comfortable. It was so wonderful to make ourselves comfortable and unpack everything once we moved into the house. Even though it isn’t our house, it was ours for at least 10 months. And ten months back then felt like a long time. We’re nearing the end of our lease on the house, the owners are relocating from the states to begin their retirement in July. So, now what? Well, we don’t know exactly quite yet. Here in Boquete there’s a fairly large amount of people who rent out furnished casitas to snowbirds who love to escape the harsh winters in Canada and other similarly snowed in spots in the States. By July many of those snowbirds have flown back to where they live and there’s a good selection of places available. We shouldn’t have too much of a difficult time finding our next spot to live. Except that we’re a bit limited due to the fact that we have a cat. There’s a lot of landlords who, understandably, prefer not to rent to us poor suckers with pets so it can be a bit tricky. Read the rest of this entry

Sometimes…

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Sometimes…I look around and think to myself, “Did I really do this?” I think back to my life before I moved to Panama and what it used to be like and I’m just a little stunned that I’ve made such an enormous life change. I mean, Man! I actually picked up my entire life and let go of all that I had built, all that I had worked so hard to create, and I just got rid of it and walked away. Sheesh! And I did that solely because I wanted to! Not because I had to or needed to for any life shattering reasons. I didn’t leave because I hated my life. No. I made this enormous life change simply because I was ready to do something completely different and I wanted to redefine my life and to do it all a bit differently. I wanted to have a different reason to get up in the morning. I wanted to make different choices about what was important in my day to day life. I had a strong drive to discover different priorities and work towards different goals together with Scott. I had gotten what I wanted and much more from all my hard work and in my mind continuing down the same path wasn’t bringing me anything different. In many ways continuing to do the same things and not making this move to another country to start all over again, would have been a much easier route. And in many ways staying in the life I had created and ignoring my longing for something different and new would have been the hardest thing to do. I sometimes wonder what my life would be like right now if the idea to move to another country and have a big adventure together with Scott hadn’t come into my mind. I have the occasional day when that thought will pop into my head and I begin to reminisce about my day to day life ‘before’. I think about the people and the familiar walk to work ,those are two things that usually bring me a sense of longing for my past life. And other times I remember the heavy burden I felt trying to maintain that life I had worked so hard to create. Yes, I remind myself, I worked tirelessly everyday for 30 years, spending most of my waking hours trying to make enough money to afford that life. The house, which included the insurance, the PG&E, , water bill, the garbage bill, the taxes, the mortgage, the second mortgage, the pest control, maintenance,gas , just to name a few things and leaving out all the other expenses that are required to live in the states….Ugggg! The bills, soooo many bills in that mailbox everyday! The weight of all that financial responsibility was really heavy, much heavier than I could handle for much longer. It was all beginning to make me rethink what I wanted in my life. And one thing I knew I wanted more than anything was to rid myself of that feeling of sacrificing my days and a huge chunk of my ‘life’ simply to ‘have’ a house, and many other material things of which had previously been what I had wanted. I know, I may sound whiny. For the majority of people all that is just ‘life’. It’s what we all work for. And I see nothing wrong with that, after all why else do we work , if not to have a home and to create a life for ourselves and our families? But then, after seeing my daughter all grown up and heading down her own life-path Scott and I both just knew it was time for us to go down a different path.

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Ummmm…..I’m not proud of this….

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Okay, I’m gonna share a gross thing that happened but, remember….I warned you, it’s gross! I don’t know if this is a normal thing that just happens to everyone… no matter where you live or if it’s a function of my being just an incredibly lousy housekeeper (which could quite possibly be the case!) or could it be that this occurrence was a function of living in a more humid, tropical climate? Of course there’s the possibility that this gross development occurred as a direct result of my lack of proper knowledge in the area of hand washing dishes (a domestic Goddess, I am not!) . Specifically , the maintenance and care of the hand dish washing “equipment”, the drying rack , (eye roll!) this could quite possibly be part of the reason this awful, disgusting event occurred in my kitchen! My inexperience of living without a dishwasher (I KNOW!, No Dishwasher….JEEESH!) therefore requiring me to own that darn drying rack thingy, conveniently located on the counter next to the sink . That little black drying rack sits right next to the sink at all times, just waiting for the clean, wet dishes to be stacked up there to dry. Oh how I miss my dishwasher…Sigh! Anyways, as I was saying….I had a rather traumatizing and deeply upsetting, even disgusting (you get the idea…it wasn’t good) event that has to do with my lovely new friend, the drying rack. Have I caused enough suspense? Or have I just managed to be terribly annoying and whiny? Well, that’s because I’ve been trying to give all of my sensitive readers enough time to run fast away from the screen that your reading these words on….okay, here it goes….

It happened several months ago and I’m only just now able to talk about it. As I was cleaning the kitchen , putting away all the dry dishes I casually noticed that the little black tray that sits under the drying rack to catch the dripping water off of the clean dishes was full of water. I had not really ever paid much attention to that before, just letting all that water sit there. “Hmmmm? I wonder how long that water’s been sitting there?” After emptying the rack I decided to pour that old water into the white sink and as I dumped the water I was horrified to discover that along with the water came a bunch of little, tiny black worms!!! YIKES!! UGGGGGG! BLAAAAAA!!! !@#$ EWWWWWW! Gross! Oh my gosh! And my clean dishes were just sitting above all those worms! How long has that been going on???? Well, has this ever happened to you? I just about lost my breakfast! I of course opened up the cabinet below the sink and grabbed the bleach and soaked that dish rack in Bleach! And then I had to rewash everything in the kitchen!! I gotta admit, I’m not the most fanatical clean freak but…. worms!!! Ya, that discovery really necessitated a major cleaning and sanitizing binge! Ewww! (shiver!) Needless to say, I now have a very clean drying rack that gets rinsed off and thoroughly dried after every use now. Now, that’s what I call a ‘Live & Learn’ experience! Things really seem to grow fast here, even worms! But who knows how long I had let water sit in the bottom of that drying rack! (looking up to the heavens…) Oh how I’ve learned sooooo many interesting things on this Adventure! But, I’m hoping future lessons don’t’ include worms!

As you can see, I have a few things to learn about being in charge of the house cleaning! It just may be about time for me to hire someone else to do such things! I’ve just never been destined to be a homemaker, of this I am most certain. I’m not bad at going to the market to buy groceries or working in the garden, and I can set a beautiful dinner table, I like to think of myself as a pretty good decorator too, but my cleaning skills, I will readily admit, are greatly lacking! I can fake it and tidy everything up just before someone comes over but that day to day, regular deep cleaning….ya….I’ve just never been one to spend much time stressing over that sort of thing. This fact may be a function of being a full time professional and single mother for most of my adult life. I never had the pleasure of spending all that much time at home except for after a long day at work, only to get home and figure out what to feed my daughter. And then of course, when Scott came along (when Mariah was 7 years old), we would all get home from our long day and roll right into preparing dinner. The house was a place to eat and sleep. This new Adventure has really changed all that for me. I gotta admit, I’m actually enjoying all this domestic junk that I’ve never had time or energy to do. Of course, I could use a little work on keeping the worms from growing in the kitchen, but aside from that little drama, I’m feeling pretty good these days.

I’ve always told myself that I hated cooking and cleaning and caring for the maintenance of the home. But realistically, when did I ever in my life have a lot of time to do such things? Never! I’m gonna tell you something that may shock you, if you know me at all….I’m actually doing more cooking that Scott is!!! Yes! You read that right! (eye roll!) Now, don’t misunderstand me…I did not say I was doing it “WELL”! I’ve managed to keep the guy reasonably fed, and he hasn’t even gotten sick or anything….although…..just yesterday my friend Andrea did just say..”Boy, Scott’s really lost a lot of weight!” Well…..I don’t think that has anything to do with my cooking!! (HEY! No laughing!!!) He’s just getting a lot of exercise lately! I get up every morning with him at 6:00 and I make him a nice breakfast…And then, everyday at 12:00 I four wheel it up to the property, set up two folding chairs in the shade with the cooler and bring him a nice lunch! Crazy, huh! But I’m really enjoying it! I do all the grocery shopping and come up with menu’s for the week and your not gonna believe this…I even bake him homemade peanut butter cookies all the time!! Yep!!! It’s true! This retirement thing has been a major shift in my life in countless ways! It wasn’t long ago that I was bemoaning figuring out what my new “Path” was gonna be….well, my day’s are quickly filling up and a rhythm is beginning to set in. This new rhythm is quite pleasing to me in so many ways.

Many of my fellow bloggers and expats have assured me that a day would come when I would wonder where the time was going….well, here it is! Between being in charge of keeping some semblance of order in our home life, keeping laundry done, making sure there’s food in the house, feeding Scott, attempting to keep the house at least sorta clean (eye roll!) And then being the only one of us who can run around trying to get all the banking and visa busywork done, and let’s not forget my new exercise routine (Zumba 2 times a week and soon to be working with a trainer to up my routine!) and my new English students which is a couple hours every day but Friday. Whew! I tell ya….my days really fly by! So can ya give me a little slack on my negligence with the kitchen worm farm?? No? Ya…I gotta agree, that was kinda over the top disgusting…..”What?”…. did you say I need to get a cleaning lady? I could not agree more wholeheartedly! I’ll get right on that! But first I’m committed to doing a bit of schlepping for Scott today….remember, sand, gravel, concrete? Ya, that’s today! But before I leave the house I’ll make sure that damn drying rack is clean and dry! Ugggg!

Scott’s making some serious progress…

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I thought I’d post a few photo’s of Scott working right along side his workers. That guy just never ceases to amaze! He’s really in his element
giving everything he’s got to create something beautiful! And I think you’ll all agree, that foundation wall is mighty beautiful, indeed! I think the only thing I’ve heard him complain about so far has been the fact that he has to wear jeans to work instead of his customary shorts that he almost always wears! Oh, Poor guy! He really hates to wear ‘big boy pants!’ But honestly, he’s already seen several snakes and here, you really don’t want to risk having bare legs for poisonous snakes to have access to! So…..Jeans it is! And I gotta tell ya, one reason he’s movin’ along pretty productively with the foundation may just be so that he can get busy working on the interior of the project when he can go back to wearing shorts again! Ha!Ha! Just today he actually said just that…”I can’t wait to start working on tile and cabinetry and interior stuff so I can get rid of these Jeans!” As I lovingly roll my eyes! We had to buy him three pairs of jeans from Price Mart because he didn’t bring any. And I already need to take them into town and have them mended, ( NO I don’t sew!) One pair lost a belt loop and another pair managed to get a huge hole in the knee after getting snagged on a piece of rebar….so one more good reason to have been wearing jeans. That tear in his jeans could have been skin!! On this wardrobe note, I gotta just make mention, about the fastidiousness of the workers here in Panama! They are very talented in managing to work an 8 hour day without getting even remotely close to as filthy as my sweet hubby! I swear! Its funny, Scott says they bring an extra pair of jeans that they put on ‘over’ their good pants and then at the end of the day they take off the dirty ones and clean themselves up a bit before going home! They really are neat-nicks about their appearance! I cant imagine what they must think of this Jefe they are working for! Scott is “Pigpen” ! Ha!Ha! That guy comes home looking as though he had rolled around in dirt and cement! There have been a couple of occasions when I had to drive a worker home at the end of a day and I swear he had put on cologne! Well, tomorrow I get to get in on the action up there, kinda! Scott has been making trips back and forth from Ivan (the supply place, not quite Home Depot, but sorta kinda) to get truckloads of sand and rock and bags of cement. So tomorrow they need to start building the new form for the next side of the foundation which Scott needs to be there to help with. So I will be doing the driving back and forth. I’ll go with him in the morning for his first load so that I can meet everyone and they will know who I am. They will load all the materials into the truck and I’ll just deliver it up to the property and keep going back and forth. I’ve got a good audio book loaded onto my iphone and I’ll be happy to do a little something to help so that Scott can focus on what needs to be done to get rid of those damn Jeans….BUILD THE FOUNDATION!! LOL!! The Adventure Continues….

The Fun Part Of Building A House…

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The fun part of building a house is when you get to go shopping!!! Yipee!! I’m right, right?? Faucets, sinks, floors, light fixtures, whoooohoooo! Here we go!! We’ve been slowly researching where to purchase all these wonderful materials locally for our casita. There are plenty of places to find nice fixtures and even many brands that we recognize. For our bathroom we got Hansgrohe fixtures and a Toto toilet. We were glad to see so many familiar brand names. All of the fixtures we found at a really nice store in David called Elmec. We had already been on the Hansgrohe web sight and written down the style numbers of the things we liked, which made our shopping much easier. Dina (our saleslady) just showed us what they had on the showroom floor and then looked up other things on the computer and if they didn’t have the exact model then she found one that was comparable. Right now we are just purchasing materials for the casita and down the road we’ll go back for all the things we want for our house.

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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. Read the rest of this entry

Getting prepared for a big project…

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I think its safe to say that building a house is a pretty big project. We’ve done it before but not quite like this! Last time, although it was a very big project for us at the time, it doesn’t even begin to compare to what we are preparing to do here. Not that we’re planning to build a great big, fancy house , but here in Panama there’s just so many things to consider, from actual building materials to labor laws, the installation of actual infrastructure (water & electricity), dealing with a different language and even getting a bank account established, we have so much to investigate and research not to mention tons of questions to ask (often in Spanish!). Our house building project in the States was a totally different experience but it has prepared us for many of the aspects of building and designing a home. I suspect much of the process will be familiar to us but much is already proving to be very new and different.

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And…The Obsession Begins…

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It’s time to start planning, strategizing ,designing,shopping,researching,brainstorming, dreaming, and planning some more. Wait a minute….I’ve been here before!! Remember? We did this in our past life in Los Altos! Yes, I remember this stage of the game. We were so excited (just like now!) about all the possibilities and we had such a great time dreaming together about all the things we could do. The only catch was, the only way we could possibly afford to attempt such an endeavor as designing and building our own house was to do it all ourselves. We just didn’t have the budget to hire professionals to design and build a custom home. We could do the building and heck, we ended up really enjoying the designing part of the project as well. We hired an architect to draw all the details and submit it to the city for all the permits but in the end, we both agreed that if we ever did it again we would feel comfortable not spending the money for the architect. “Screeeeech!” That was before we realized that our next house project would be in a different country! Yea, we’re gonna need to utilize an architect. We already hired one and we’re looking forward to working with him.

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