12-24-15 Today we received our Panamanian drivers licenses! Yesterday, in Panama City, we received our permanent residency cards! We can hardly imagine better Christmas “presents”. It was a long time coming and fraught with more difficulty and setbacks than , well, than we deserved.
We left for Panama City yesterday morning bright and early. Got up around 4AM and before 5AM we were on the road.
We had appointments in the city starting at the US Embassy at 9:30, to get our Texas drivers licenses “notarized” prior to acceptance by the Panamanian agency called the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was reasonably tight scheduling but the best that was available to us. Our plane was 15 minutes late leaving David
and our contact in the city was 15 min late meeting our plane. At 9:30 we were just leaving the Albrook airport. I was tense. Jan, not so much. Que será, será.
The advantage of having a “handler” who knows his way around became immediately obvious. At the embassy he took us first into a security control building where we left our cell phones and other “potentially dangerous” articles. Then a short walk to a first floor room in the main building that was somewhat on the crowded side and a bit intimidating. But he knew right where to go and with minimal wait, and no fuss about our being 15 minutes late, we soon had our notaries in hand. This cost us $50 each. For a notary. From our own embassy.
From there we went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Actually, we first went to a bank where our handler gave us a pre-filled deposit slip and instructed us to make a $4 deposit to the account named on the slip. The government agencies that perform any variety of functions do not collect for their services. You pay in advance and your deposit receipt from the bank is your proof of payment. If you don’t know this beforehand, you will go to the agency desired only to find they will send you to the bank to make a deposit first. But our handler already knew this. With the deposit receipt in hand, we went to the MFA for their acceptance of our embassy’s notarization. The handler warned us earlier saying this could take 3 days to be processed, but since we could show we were to be in town for just the day they MIGHT push it through right away. It was left to Jan to use her influence on the senior staff member on duty. Her persuasive abilities remain intact after all these years. I should know.
These were the two drivers license steps that absolutely had to be accomplished in Panama City. The other requirements were previously taken care of locally (Boquete and David) and the final act of actually getting the license would be done locally in David the next day.
The last thing to do was pick up our permanent residency cards. We were told in advance that this would go fast. In spite of the appearance of things when we arrived, it did. Lots of people. Lots of people. But our handler knew right where to go and we were done in short order. The last clerk we dealt with was a young man of surprisingly good humor. I was unsure if the “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree behind his desk was to be taken seriously or if he was just trying to get a reaction.
A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree in Panama City
By 12:30 we were finished with all of our business but our return flight wasn’t until 5PM. There’s a huge mall across from the airport and that’s where our handler left us to while away the time. We had some expensive fast food in a huge food court and finished it off with double-scoops of ice cream cones.
Maybe 10% of food court at Albrook Mall.
Then we window shopped and people-watched before heading back to the airport.
Albrook Mall, the largest in Central America.
Freshly invigorated with the knowledge that we were once again legal to drive, we did a little shopping. And Jan decided to go by the hospital on the off chance that she could somehow get a copy of the radiologist’s report on the MRI. I waited in the car. Incredibly, she was back in 15 or 20 minutes with a copy in hand. From here our next step will be to visit Rhody the chiropractor to get his recommendations on how to proceed. It seems pretty clear to us that if we don’t intend an operation here, the neurosurgeon we visited isn’t really interested.