Archive for » May, 2012 «

A New Adventure!

Dear Family and Friends,

First of all, a huge apology to all of those I was not able to talk to, have lunch or dinner with prior to my leaving. Unless you have been in my shoes, the past months since getting a contract on my house were agonizing and emotionally draining on me. After living in a place for so long, it was filled with happy memories of many, many years and I was a basket case, crying every day – not because of the move, but the entire thing of packing up and deciding what is going, what is being kept, what I am taking, what is going into storage, etc. So all, just accept “I am sorry” and we will go on from there. I will try to keep you informed on a fairly regular basis of what it is like to become an “EX-PAT” as we are called in a foreign country!

On Sunday, April 22, 2012, at 4AM, my bags were loaded in the van that was to take me to the airport for my one-way flight to Panama City, Panama. I locked the door for the last time to the home that had been “home” for over 40 years. The key was tossed into the mailbox for the new owner to get later that day, and as the car drove away, I did not look back. I had said my good-byes the evening before – room by room – and now it was time for me to look forward – a new beginning – a new life – a new adventure!
Boquete, April 2012 Valle Escondido (Hidden Vallely Hotel) Magnificent grounds with a golf course and an ampitheatre like in Rome.

Boquete, April 2012 Valle Escondido (Hidden Vallely Hotel) Magnificent grounds with a golf course and an ampitheatre like in Rome.

Boquete, April 2012 Valle Escondido (Hidden Vallely Hotel)
Magnificent grounds with a golf course and an ampitheatre like in Rome.

I arrived in Panama at 11:30 in the morning, and went thru Immigration and Customs with a breeze. I think everyone felt sorry for me when they saw all of the luggage I had with me. I had been told to pay the charges but have what I wanted with me. If I shipped, it could get lost and never arrive. So I did. I went directly to my friend Isabel’s where I was to stay for a few days to get things done. We went directly to the mall to get me a cell phone so that I could operate in Panama – making and receiving calls from friends I already had here. No more smart phone! I will now lead the simple life of making and receiving calls only. IF I decide to get an iPad later on, that can do everything for me and I can easily carry that around in a bag with me, so why have 2 things? Besides, right now I am winding down and not wanting to work or get that involved.

Panamonte Hotel

Boquete, April 2012
My dear friend Manuel outside of the Panamonte Hotel, the oldest hotel there,
and where they have a lovely bar with fireplace and we did go one night for drinks.
The gardens at the Panamonte Hotel.

The gardens at the Panamonte Hotel.

The gardens at the Panamonte Hotel.

First thing I realized was that I will have to immerse myself into a Spanish Class, and soon. Most intelligent people here do speak English, but the working class will only speak Spanish to you and unless you know some of it, you are lost. Amazing, but I am picking it up each day. On Monday, after I arrived, I went to open a bank account. For anyone coming here, you do not realize the hassle it is to come into this country in particular and have to WAIT until you are investigated and they know you are OK. They are protecting themselves and the immigrants who come here. I cannot blame them but for us, what a hassle. The normal wait to open and be approved is 3-14 days. I tell this to you because Isabel’s son who I know well, is a banker who works side by side with the Finance Minister and the President of Panama.. It was Joaquin who made the appointment for me at the appropriate bank and I was welcomed as a Premier Customer and within 3 hours (yes, it took me 3 hours to do all of the paperwork to open up a lousy account to be used for “checking”) – I had my bank account opened and ready for use. All I can say is that it is nice knowing the right people.

From the bank I went directly to the lawyer I had engaged from the U.S. and had my paperwork ready to submit for Immigration purposes so that within 6 months I could get my Pensionada Visa, that is the visa for retirees and will ultimately give me many, many benefits here in Panama. Well, as luck would have it, one of my papers needed to be “legalized” – that is after notarization, which it was, but to legalize, it has to go to the US Consulate. So, I have an appointment early next week to go to the Embassy and get that done (I happen to have a friend there as well, so that is being made easy for me). After I have that paper in hand, my attorney will take me to the Immigration Office so that I can file all papers properly. They need to be with you to represent you especially as they speak Spanish and I could never do this alone. I know this may be boring to some, but just read thru it or skim it. If you ever want to join me, I will gladly help you. I cannot thank all of the people enough who have been there for me for months now and continue to be there for me. It is amazing, and it is the Panamanians, those that have dual citizenship but do live in Panama as well as people from the states – mostly from St. Petersburg that have helped me thru this entire process with their suggestions, help and mostly love! I shall never forget all of the things that have helped me get to this point.

"My Garden is Your Garden"

“My Garden is Your Garden”
A private home with SPACIOUS grounds that are open to the public daily.
Landscaping is beautiful and they also have huge fish swimming
in several ponds. But the flowers are breathtaking!

After two days in Panama City, my friend Manuel picked me up and drove me to the mountain area of Boquete where I had rented a Casita for the time I was to be there. I wanted to see the mountains as I had heard how beautiful it was. Although Manuel is from Boquete, he went to college and lived in San Francisco for 27 years before returning to Panama, so he is very well Americanized – thinking as an American and being very, very sharp in business. He spent almost 3 days taking me touring all over the mountains, thru Boquete, Volcan, and all of that area. Yes, I am sure I have seen more than most people living in the area. We were out for 7 hours a day, and I got back at night and literally collapsed. Intense touring but so beautiful. I do have lots of pictures, but can’t find my cables yet to get it on the computer and be able to send to you now. (note from Kristin, the blog-builder: I’m adding some of the pics she got to me here, and I’ll see what I can do about getting a little album together here so they may all be included)
FINCA LÉRIDA – rooms to stay in on the plantation

FINCA LÉRIDA

FINCA LÉRIDA
One of the largest coffee plantations in Panama, all of which are absolutely beautiful
and resemble the Wine Country in California – lots of lush gardens.
Lérida Coffee is probably the most expensive around, selling at $25 per pound.
A few of the little rooms they rent if you want to stay there.

Little herb garden in front of FINCA LÉRIDA gift store


Little herb garden in front of FINCA LÉRIDA gift store on their Coffee Plantation.

No air conditioning, but it is not needed. You dress normally for “spring” weather during the day. Evenings do get a bit cooler. And right now, it is “winter” in Panama because this is the rainy season. That means it rains a little every day (hello Floridians) – this will go on for about 5 months and then the Summer season which means a little less humidity. Nevertheless, it is HOT and HUMID, no matter when. You just get used to it!!!

Entry to Tom and Caroline Bot's Castle in Boquete

Entry to Tom and Caroline Bot’s Castle in Boquete

In Boquete, there is a Castle – a beautiful story. It is the Bot Castle and the story here is that when this couple started dating many years ago (they are from Holland), she had told him that she always dreamed of living in a Castle. And so when they were to marry, he built her the Castle as a wedding gift. They do live in it, and unfortunately, they were away when I was there. I was able to see the outside grounds, but Manuel knows them well and we will eventually get a tour inside. The outside pictures are enough for me to get on my website, and yes, – you guessed it! I am going to offer destination weddings in a castle in Boquete, Panama!!!!

Tom and Caroline Bot's Castle in Boquete

Tom and Caroline Bot’s Castle in Boquete

Bot Castle in Boquete "front door"

Bot Castle in Boquete “front door”

From Boquete, Manuel drove me back to the Beaches in Coronado where I stayed in Isabel’s Beach home (this is the home that is the mansion with huge grounds, pool, and the servants) for a few days before finding a condo to rent for a month on the beaches.

My View of the Ocean/beach from the 24th Floor

My View of the Ocean/beach from the 24th Floor

I am now in Coronado Bay Condos for the month of May. It’s a small two bedroom, but newly furnished etc and I am the first one to rent from the new owners. It is great for me, right on the beach, with a pool down on the beach as well as a pool and party area up on the top floor and a fully equipped gym (thank heavens I can get back to exercising).

 Mother's Day - May 13, 2012: I'm with French Chef Pasqual at El Terraza - Vista Mar Communities in Coronado


Mother’s Day – May 13, 2012: I’m with French Chef Pasqual at El Terraza – Vista Mar Communities in Coronado


Mother's Day - May 13, 2012: I'm with my daughter, Janet, at El Terraza - Vista Mar Communities in Coronado.

Mother’s Day – May 13, 2012: I’m with my daughter, Janet, at El Terraza – Vista Mar Communities in Coronado.

The town of Coronado has malls and is fully functional with many restaurants, supermarkets and places to shop. It is not, however like Panama City, but certainly has enough for anyone. The new Airport and more condo developments are about 30-40 minutes West of here, and within a year or so, those developments will have infrastructure and will become the next hub. There is already a Sheraton there, and the Marriott will be putting a 5 star hotel up within the new development of Condos called Casa Cay. This will be quite the area and rumblings are Disney is also looking into going into that area.

I am meeting new people daily here, either at the Condo or in the town and I find they are in this particular building – some at the Golf Condos. I chose this for the month as it is closer to getting around without a car. I do not want to think of that yet. I am only here for the month, and then I want to rent closer to the city for the month of June so that I can experience that kind of life. I will never be in the city itself, but either in the Canal Zone which has beautiful choices and it is so easy to get around from there by taxi (taxi’s are VERY cheap).

I am invited to a birthday-farewell party here in the building on Monday. A lovely, younger couple I just met are leaving to return to the states next week. Too bad. She is a doll and has been so helpful to me since getting into this building.

OK- the last thing I must tell you is that I went to a new Supermarket yesterday, the likes of which NONE OF US has ever seen. It is 3 stories and huge. The entire downstairs is the Supermarket/Pharmacy , the 2nd and 3rd floors resemble a Target, Home Depot and Office Depot – all combined. You never have to leave the store for anything at all. Appliances, Electronics, Paints, School supplies – you name it- they have it! And the prices are less than other stores, especially the groceries. Did not know about it until yesterday and I had already gone shopping for food in the condo. AND- we have all seen the down escalators for groceries when a store is up on another level? Well this has an UP and a DOWN!! There is nothing this country lacks in one place or another.

Valle Escondido (Hidden Valley Hotel)

Boquete, April 2012 Valle Escondido (Hidden Valley Hotel)
Magnificent grounds with a golf course and an amphitheater like in Rome.

However folks, things are done in Panamanian time – which means that “manana” may NOT mean tomorrow- it could mean anything. And if a taxi tells you 10 minutes- it could be 20-30. You learn to slow down and not worry any more. It is what it is. RELAX and learn to enjoy life!!!

I think the rain has stopped and I am going to go to the pool and read for a while. No plans for this day (Saturday). Just catching up on a lot of paperwork and also wanted to get a first e-mail out to all of you.

I do not have my Vonage set up yet with my old St. Pete number, but I do have my Magic Jack and that number is 727-302-1801. It is a local number for the St. Pete area people and for the rest of you in the US – it is free and will ring to me in Panama. I basically am set up with it all of the time. Next week while I am gone for a few days I will not have the phone with me, but the computer should be working with me. I will get the messages from Magic Jack if I am not able to answer, but that is when it is plugged in. If I don’t return your call or e-mail, know I did not get the message. We can always be in touch and I am not far away. I am only 3-4 hours by plane from most destinations in the US, and once I am set up more permanently, you are invited to visit.

With my love and best to each and everyone of you. I hope you are all well and enjoying all of the politics and things going on back there. I listen once in a while and have to tell you, I am happy that I am now here!

Felicia (that was and is always my Spanish Name from High School days)

PS Anyone having access to International Calling, my cell phone number is:

507-6705-4915 (dial 011 first from US) that is always on me and with me!

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