Archive | July 2015

The Container Arrives!

The container was picked up from the storage units on Monday, July 6.   The paperwork we had in hand indicated two weeks in transit.  Seems like a long time to go from Galveston to Colon.  A cruise ship could make it in a day or two I’m thinking.

A follow-up later from Panama indicated we should have the container on July 22.  What we actually got on the 22nd was a request for more money.  Something about fumigating and storage.    We made the deposit in the local branch and sent a copy of the deposit slip the same day.  The following day an email told us to expect a call on Saturday, the 25th, to discuss where to land the container.  On Friday, the 24th, we received a call that said the container was in Boquete!  We needed to find the driver and direct him to a landing spot.  Needless to say, we were a bit unprepared.  The guy and his brother that we were going to use for the unloading were off on another job.

We drove up to our neighbor’s place soliciting his aid.  He’s been here a number of years and knows his way around.  Also, he’s truly bilingual.  Not just a smattering of English or Spanish.  After considering the facts and the circumstances he recommended we talk to a local car repair shop owner.  He was known to have a large flat-bed wrecker that could unload the container “in two trips”.  I knew the guy from previous service work on our car and was well-pleased with him.  Turns out he was amenable to unloading and delivering our goods.  He wouldn’t give us a price as he didn’t know how long it would take.  But he would be “fair”.

Now we had to find the driver with our container.  He was a long way from where we were originally told he was, but we did manage to find him.  We drove to a landing spot recommended by our neighbor with the wrecker driver in tow.  It would be about 5 km from our home but we all agreed there would be nothing closer.  We live above and beyond a very winding and fairly steep road.

I was reasonably pleased with the first load of goods up to our place.  It took scarcely an hour to fill the flat-bed and get to our house.

IMG_5028     IMG_5041

Unloading was a bit faster than loading.  By now word had gotten to Carlos, our young neighbor that handles all sorts of small jobs for us, and he and a cousin were up at the house when the first load arrived.  We asked the wrecker man if he wanted two more helpers, in addition to the one that he brought along, and he enthusiastically did.  It took not one more but two more loads on the flat-bed to empty the container.   And by the time they’d unloaded at our place, it was 7:30PM!  I don’t know where the time went.

Later, I was pondering why the first load went so fast and the second two took so long.  I may have gotten my answer when I got the bill.  He was charging $80/hr for nine and a half-hour’s work!  That’s not even counting the two laborers that we provided.  Actually, he tried to charge me for ten and a half hours, figuring that was the time between 10:30AM and 8:00PM.  When I called him on it he said that he would re-figure.    Nope, that was right.  10.5 hrs.  I gently but firmly said, “No it isn’t.  It’s 9.5 hrs.”   Again he referred to his watch and started counting.  Again he came up with 10.5 hrs.  He was going to “show me”.  He counted from 10AM to 8PM and came up with 10 hrs.  I agreed that was correct.  He said, “then add 1/2 hour” because it was 30 min “more” than 10:00.    I said, “No, you subtract 1/2 hour, because  it’s only 30 min from 10:30 to 11:00. ”  He was quiet for a while then agreed that I was right.  This ranks right up there with an event I remember years ago on St Croix.   I got $8 worth of gas at a self-serve gas station and paid with a $10 bill.  The clerk pulled out a calculator to figure my change!  Incredible?  Yes, but it actually happened.

The quality of the work was somewhat disappointing, but I guess it could have been worse.  Over  the years international symbols have been developed to get around language barriers and to accommodate, well, … the mentally challenged .  But sometimes it’s just to no avail.

IMG_5045      IMG_5043

Several items were broken, even more were damaged.  Only the expensive stuff, of course.   Some was broken in transit, some was broken by the wrecker driver’s crew and some was broken by culprits unknown.

The decision to move our stuff down here was not made lightly.  And we knew that some damage and loss was sure to occur.  We’d heard stories of others who went through this before.  Some were overall happy with things, some said they’d never do it again.   For our part, we’re happy to have our stuff down here but we’d never do it again.


Moving a Container of Household Goods to Panama from Houston

We had been in Panama almost a year before I acquiesced and agreed to shipping our worldly belongings here. By that time we had spent on storage an amount approximating the cost of shipping.  Also, maybe primarily, it was increasingly looking like we were in Panama to stay.  We lightly considered selling our possessions while still in the states, but that didn’t happen.  And at this point that was no longer an option.

We made this decision shortly before an already-booked trip back to Texas, the purpose of which was to make ready for sale the last of my airplanes, vestiges of my days in the Caribbean.

iPhone052415 436

By now we were aware of the requirement to have all boxes numbered and inventoried, something that made the whole shipping process considerably more difficult.  I guess it should have been common sense, but it never occurred to us.   On the earliest boxes stored, we had listed the contents,  but none of the boxes were numbered.  And scarcely half of our possessions were properly boxed for shipping.

I had no unrealistic plans or goals for accomplishment in the day or two I would have available to address this situation, but I could get a good feel for what was involved.  Started with major items that were not yet boxed, it soon became apparent that this would be no walk in the park.  I got maybe the first 30 boxes numbered and inventoried on a spreadsheet before my available time was all gone.

It was to be another six weeks before I could get back to Texas.  Not intending to leave until I had the container ready for loading, I left Panama without a ticket for the trip back.

Anxious as I was to get the packing squared away, dealing with the airplane was still the number one priority.  I ended up devoting my first two weeks to the plane.   A pattern was soon emerging.  Everything I tackled was taking about twice as long as expected.  When I left Panama I thought vaguely of returning around the end of April.  In fact, by late April I was just finishing with the plane.   To add to the pressure, still light at this point, my lady had scheduled a trip of her own for the 22nd, more than three weeks away.  Shouldn’t really be a problem, I thought.  Yeah, right.  About a week before her scheduled departure things were looking really iffy for me.  Not wanting to wait until the last minute to buy my airline ticket, I booked a flight that put me in Panama the day before she left.   As the departure date neared, I thought just one more day would see me finished.  But alas, rescheduling for me would be easier than rescheduling for her.  At this point, the boxes inventoried and labeled numbered exactly 400.

Five days after she returned from her trip, I was on my way back to Texas.  I allowed two weeks for what I thought would be, at the most, one week of work.  In fact, I was hoping to be finished in only a day or two.  Uh uh.   Clearly, I would finish within the time I’d allotted but the 2 week allowance was prudent.

I decided it wasn’t excessively reckless to take two days off on the  first weekend of my trip.  My grandkids had planned a gathering at a lake house with my son, all three of  his kids and all of their mates/significant others to be in attendance, as well as the first grandchild and great-grandchild that I’d seen on only one other occasion.


The reunion was a rare opportunity these days.  Everyone is scattered all over the state.  And beyond in my case.  Too bad my daughter and her family weren’t there as well.  Except for the kids in Austin, her family will remain 2,000 miles away until early fall.

Not coincidentally, our storage units were very close to the house we moved from.  (Yeah, I know.  that should be “the house from which we moved”.   Please see disclaimer under “About the blogger”.)  Our former next door neighbors were kind enough to provide me lodging until I returned to Panama.  Only 1/2 mile away from the work,  their home was extremely comfortable, convenient and efficient.

We had four storage units in total.  Three 10×10 and one 10×20.  They seemed filled to the gills.  Thinking that I was almost finished with box number 400 turned out to be just a bit optimistic.  The final count turned out to be 655.  With the end of packing in sight, I began to wonder whether or not  everything would fit in a 40 ft container.  After careful consideration, I concluded that if the container were properly loaded, ie with boxes to the ceiling and absolute minimal voids, it could be done.  Turns out the guys loading it did a great job and I realized early on there would be no problem with space.  And there wasn’t.

The container was to be picked up the following Monday and I was soon on my way back to Panama.  In a few weeks, more or less, the whole process would be repeated in reverse.  Oh, joy.



Getting the (temporary) Pensianado Visa

July 8, 2015, and we’re meeting our attorney at Chiriqui mall in David to hopefully get my temporary pensianado visa.  Having finally gathered all the required documents,

  • Apostilled FBI background check  (far and away the most time consuming)
  • Apostilled verification of income (in my case, as in most, this is SSI)
  • Certificate of Health  (a joke, but still a requirement)
  • Six passport photos
  • A copy of our lease agreement in Panama
  • A copy of our electric bill

I was ready to go for it.  My lady love could only watch as I went through the procedure.  Her FBI application had  bounced because of unsatisfactory fingerprints.  She had to start the whole process all over again.  Three months or more lost.

Many if not most people apply in Panama City instead of David.  Everything of real importance happens in “the city”.  But if the stars line up right and the government folks in David are of  good humor, it’s possible to get the temporary visa there in a matter of hours.  Instead of 2 or 3 days in Panama City.  I was told to bring $150 in cash for various charges  if indeed they accepted the application today.

The immigration people are located in Chiriqui mall, immediately west of PriceSmart, the Sam’s Club of Central America.  They occupy two levels of an office that has about 2500 sq ft on the bottom and 2,000 or so on top.  I’m told the top is basically the IT department.  Four cubicles below and three free-standing desks support more than a dozen federal workers.

We arrived prior to their opening at 8AM and waited 15 minutes or so for everyone to get settled before going in.  Our attorney walked up to a clerk, presumably to tell him why we were there, and we were asked to take a seat.  No other customers at all were present.  Before long we were asked for $5 for the application fee.  More waiting.  Then I signed some forms, at my attorneys bidding, and waited some more.  Then my attorney had me sign five copies of another sheet of paper, and we waited.  It was about now that the attorney said we were home free.  The application would be received and processed here.  No trip to the big city would be required until the permanent visa was issued.  How wonderful that simple bit of news sounded!  Two or three days in Panama City dealing with slow-moving bureaucrats held no appeal for me.  None at all.

I was asked for more money, $100 this time.  $50 was for a multi-entry permit and $50 was presumably for the temporary visa.  Unless one has the multi-entry permit, which is a stamp in the passport that says “Residente en Tramite”, one cannot leave the country after obtaining the temporary visa until the permanent is granted, typically 4 months.  Don’t ask me why.

After a bit more waiting I was called in to sit for my visa photo.  A Skype-type portable camera was hung from the clerk’s computer monitor.  On his desk to the left was a small machine that prints out a professional-looking card that says really nothing of consequence that I could tell, but it’s the temporary pensianado visa.  It has the full force of the permanent visa but it expires in one year.

The whole affair took about two and a half hours.  All things should go so smoothly.

Rico, the Feral Kitten that Won the Lottery

Just 8 days ago my love presented me with a kitten for my birthday.  She didn’t have to spend much time shopping.  He was found at a monthly spay & neuter clinic that we both work at.   Many times feral animals are trapped and brought in for this minor surgery so as to keep the hungry and starving population down to a minimum.  There are always cats and kittens, dogs and puppies, available for adoption.  And many are adopted, but more are not.  Rico was one of the lucky ones.  He won the lottery.


It didn’t take long for him to irreversibly worm his way into our hearts.  Maybe a few hours.  He came to us with a couple of good-sized wounds on his head and throat, probably from other, bigger cats.  The little guy we brought home was maybe 5 wks old and 3 lbs or so.

He loved to eat, every few hours suited him admirably.  And did he woof it down!  Reminded us of another cat we rescued 4 years ago as a starving kitten.  Cinco could not and still cannot get enough to eat.    Rico needs to constantly look back over his shoulder when eating.  A lesson learned no doubt in the feral cat community.  There was always some bigger guy looking to take over what he had.

Late morning today my lady commented that Rico must be growing up.  He’s not in her lap or otherwise right at her side as he usually is.  We thought little of it.  A couple hours later we realized he hadn’t made his presence known for a while.  Surely he must be hungry by now.  We called and got no response.  We called again and got no response.  He ALWAYS responds when we call as invariably that means food is at hand.  But he didn’t answer.  We looked all over the house and couldn’t find him.  I began to think the worst.  Many years ago a young kitten that we had taken in managed to kill himself in a most freakish accident.  I’m fearing the same thing again.  Rico is NEVER quiet for long.  I began pulling out and looking behind electrical appliances.  Refrigerator, dishwasher, laundry room appliances.  No Rico. Pulled apart the couches, recliner, furniture.  No Rico.  We did this not once but MULTIPLE times.  No Rico.

My love realized that the sliding window above the kitchen sink was open just a bit.  This was a new arrangement for the “big” cats when we brought Rico home.  Up to then we left one of the sliding doors open for their happy ingress and egress.  But I never saw Rico even up on the kitchen counters much less near the open sink window.  Still, my gut told me that if he was still in the house he was somehow dead.

We went outside in a light drizzle looking and calling.  Calling and looking.  I knew our only realistic chance was to lead him into answering our call.  He always did that readily.  We live on the edge of a rain forest.  A jungle if you will.  We never realized how many sounds came from the surrounding woods that COULD be, MIGHT be, a cat.  But they always disappeared before we could track them down.

We came back in the house and repeated the search procedure we’d done already several times before.  Then we went outside and repeated that search procedure, covering our entire perimeter and beyond.  No Rico.  We were both just sick, almost physically sick.  It had been fully 6 hours since we last saw him.

I went down the drive to do some gardening work with the added hope that I just might hear him meowing.  After maybe 20 minutes my lady called to me. “I have him!”

Could it be?  I thought not.  The poor woman is just imaging something she wants so dearly.  But when I got to the house, there was Rico in her arms.  She had been sitting in her favorite recliner when Rico just came sashaying up.  She has no idea where he was all that time but she was confident he hadn’t been outside.  He was clean and dry.

We will puzzle over this for a long time.  We repeatedly searched our home from top to bottom without success.  Where could he possibly have been?

Predictably, Rico was ravaged.  He ate with gusto the canned tuna we opened for him.