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Happy New Year 2013!!!
Midnight from my balcony

Midnight from my balcony

Happy New Year to all!!!

Sorry it has been so long but wanted to get the last news out to you prior to Thanksgiving, and then realized everyone is so caught up at Holiday time, that I decided to just let it go for the New Year! There is so much to catch up on that I hardly know where to begin. BUT- I will begin at the beginning (where I left off before) and bring you up to date on EVERYTHING. I am sure this will be a long read, so just take it in small increments and enjoy some of the pictures and the stories to be told.

More fireworks from my balcony

More fireworks from my balcony

Right before the Thanksgiving Holiday, I had decided to host a very small cocktail party for some of the “snow-birds” as well as some who live here all here. I invited four couples (pictures here) and we had a wonderful time for 3 hours!!!! Smaller gatherings are always so much fun and more intimate. You truly get a chance to know people and chat with them much easier than in a BIG party environment. I had so much fun, even tho hosting, but I really got to know these people and what great people they are.

Sue, Phyllis, Starr, Lynn and Irene

Sue, Phyllis, Starr, Lynn and Irene

Bill, Lorry, Phyllis, Gerry and Steve

Bill, Lorry, Phyllis, Gerry and Steve

Right after Thanksgiving, I flew to Ft. Lauderdale and met up with my Cousin Frederica, who I travel with a lot. We were both exhausted in different ways – she from the Superstorm and I from just making a lot of decisions on my future here in Panama and where I wanted to settle. Remember, I also had back issues from my trip back to the U.S. in September, and although I was on the mend, not totally. Not being able to do things or run around like I usually do took quite a toll on me. We had decided a week’s cruise in the carribean would be the answer, so we left on the Sunday after Thanksgiving for a week on the Westerdam that would take us to The Grand Turks, Puerto Rico and St. Maarten. It was exactly what the doctor ordered!

Phyllis and Frederica just boarded the ship for Lunch & Bubbly

Phyllis and Frederica just boarded the ship for Lunch & Bubbly

Peaceful, restful, good food, good drink and FUN! Did anyone ever know me not to have fun? BUT- there were nights we were both in bed by 9 PM (true) and then we had days where we started with Bloody Mary’s before noontime. After all, what is a cruise all about if not for the drinking and doing some things you would never do at home? We so enjoyed that trip that we can’t wait to go again – soon!!!!! I am not going into detail about the islands. Most all of you have either been and if not- all the islands are the same – they all want to sell the personalized “junk” to the tourists and it becomes a bargaining mecca in every port. Seen one, you have seen them all. Some are more beautiful than others, but after an hour or so, I always find myself back on the ship.

Phyllis and Frederica in St. Maarten

Phyllis and Frederica in St. Maarten

Special Five Course Dinner at LeCirque

Special Five Course Dinner at LeCirque

On December 2, feeling oh so relaxed and ready to face the world, I got off the ship and was to head directly to the airport for my flight back to Panama. However, NEW terminal and they did not have porters to help with luggage when you got off, nor did they have personnel to tell you where to go to get your bus to the airport (which I had paid in advance for. Can you imagine me, rested after 7 wonderful days and back feeling better, having to retreive my own luggage and wheel it, pulling the heavy luggage, and then no one to tell you where to get the bus???? I was already fuming and found out where the taxi’s were. So still- no one to help and I finally managed to get to the taxi and just said Miami Airport. $90 dollars later, I was at the Airport and just did not look back. An experience I have taken up with the Cruise Line and I know I will be re-imbursed – eventually – but I just needed to get on my way!. So that was the end of a wonderful cruise, and I was never so happy to touch ground in Panama again- my home!

I had made a decision before ever leaving on the Cruise that I did indeed want to remain in this complex and I would now need to find an unfurnished Condo that just had the appliances and would rent to me that way so that I could just send for what I had in storage and also just buy the new furniture that I would need since almost all of my things I sold. I arrived at this decision after much thought and contemplation. I really wanted to be directly at the beach and able to walk the beach whenever. But those condos are all small in size, and since I do work part-time, I needed some space. The condos where I am now staying are very spacious and I would NEVER feel claustrophobic. The big drawback is the beach front and beach club, with restaurant is about a mile and a half below me (where I used to walk all of the time). You can only walk those beaches at low tide because of the rocks and you cannot go into the water because of all of the rocks. So- after great deliberation, I decided space outweighed beach as I could walk and also I have a lot of friends living at the beach and can always visit and go walking when I really wanted to.

Now that we decided on that, I spoke with Property Manager, Jose here (I have spoken of him before and how much he is always helping me out) and he told me what was availabel unfurnished. I really liked the idea of being on a higher floor, and so he put me in touch with this gentleman in the U.S. who owns the condo and I e-mailed asking if he were interested in renting on a long term basis. He decided he would BUT- he bought the condo and wanted none of what they were putting in, not even the kitchen cabinets. BUT- the cabinets were in! We made a deal BUT again, Phyllis would have to buy everything and get in there what was required to rent unfurnished, AND the cabinets had to come out – he did not want the quality they had in there . OK no big deal, BUT again – yes it became a big deal. Firstly, some things, like construction is really poor here (not in all places – depending on the builders and the owners and what they are willing to spend) and all of the tiles on the floors had popped and were being replaced. I could do nothing until all of that was finished. So I had to wait patiently. Now the cabinets were pulled out. I already was in touch with a cabinet man to design a new kitchen within the space I had, and I had spoken to a man who does countertops so I was on my way with that, so I thought! The owner was willing to foot the bills as long as I told him what was going on, but his ideas were CONTEMPORARY and also very expensive and I was trying to convince him that this was “beach” and unless he ever planned on living here, he was wasting a lot of money on really expensive. But he was insistent on certain things. OK- and that is where “stress” begins. I thught I had everything done and over with but I could not find a decent sink here in Panama and so I called Harlan Heshelow (Legacy Design) in St. Pete who re-did my house after my mold problem and he got me onto a website and helped me choose a sink and the owner of the condo agreed. That of course is being sent to my household goods and will ship sometime soon, but kitchen cannot be completed until that arrives. Do you see where I am going with all of this???? What should have been easy has turned out to be a lot of stress and mind-boggling. I did get to choose all of my appliances that I wanted, but I even had to buy and have installed a hot water heater!!! When I tell you this condo had NOTHING- I mean it. I have had to do it all, or let’s say- I am doing it all. My landlord thinks it is a great deal for both of us as I am getting what I want and in return he has someone who is putting it all together. I have tried telling him in lots of ways that YES, I am getting a lot of what I want, but the stress and aggravation in not worth what I am going thru. He has no concept of this being Panama – you cannot get things like you can in the states and everything here is a hassle. He wanted contemporary fans and so since I cannot get them here, he is sending them. SO- I had to change all of the ceiling lighting as what is here would never go with what he picked out. I think by now you get the picture. I will just never look upward as my things, altho not totally traditional, are certainly not contemporary in the true sense. So I will enjoy what surrounds me without looking up at the ceilings!!!! Good compromise??? I realize this is not mine and I truly don’t know how long I will be here, but it is definitely going to be for a while so I will make the most of it and enjoy what I have. Will send pictures when all done. Hopefully by Feb 1 as I do have to be out of here by end of January. This landlord is coming for a visit and needs his own condo!. Fun and games for all!!!! The e-mailing back and forth is another thing. That will drive anyone nuts, but that is what this man prefers. He will not get on a phone, and sometimes things can go so much faster on a phone and you understand each other or a concept so much quicker. But- emails is what it is.

I have made many trips into Panama City as I had to shop for furniture for me and then when I need anything of importance for the condo- the appliances, the lighting – I have had to go into the city to find things, compare prices and do all of the skut work. I have enjoyed some of it, hated other parts. The city is VERY HOT this time of the year, and you wilt, literally. Your hair becomes a frizz bomb and you are just basically uncomfortable. But- thanks to my dear friend Isabel, I have managed to spend a few nights at her condo while there and that saves on my body going back and forth in one day.

The Volunteers to help

The Volunteers to help

Christmas Time here has been lots of fun. There are not a lot of Jewish transplants, and as one of the few, mixed in with lots and lots of Canadians and some Americans, I could not really celebrate Chanukah this year as it was really early. But I was certainly invited to a lot of Christmas parties. I promised everyone that next year I am doing Chanukah every night and I will make potato latkes for all until they are really sick of them ( I am already thinking of what Chef I can teach so that they can be made for me – after all, do you think I am going to really stand on my feet and fry every day?)

The season started out with lots of women (excluding me) baking and making plain Gingerbread Houses to be decorated later by the kids at FincaLaMaya (remember, I help teach English on Saturday mornings to the young children). Alathough I did not bake or assemble these houses, I did join in on that Saturday before Christmas with all of the other women to help put out all the candies and the icing so that the children could decorate the Gingerbread houses. We had 70 kids show up, each one getting their own house and a bowl full of different candies. The icing to make it stick was on the tables, and we helped them decorate and then had 5 winners for the best decorated house. The adults were exhausted and the kids had a blast doing this. So rewarding to see such happy faces. There was even Santa Claus to help spread the cheer.

Decorated Gingerbread houses, by the kids at Finca La Maya


Decorated Gingerbread houses, by the kids at Finca La Maya

The most rewarding part of that morning for me was when one of the young girls, Christie, who is 7 saw me and ran up to me and gave me a BIG hug and kiss. I have not been there to help since my back was out (but I am going back this week) and when she saw me, her eyes just lit up and she was obviously so happy to see me. That friends, is what it is all about. No other reward but to know you are relating to these kids. Makes you feel so good.

Parties abounded – I had been invited to two dinner parties on Christmas Eve and of course went to the first one I had been invited to by an old friend (Peter)at Coronado Bay, my first month here on the beaches. Then I returned to Vista Mar and went to say hello to friends here at the second party(Tamara and Avis) and just had a glass of wine. I cannot eat two dinners nor can I eat late anymore. Both parties were lovely and I certainly enjoyed myself and meeting new people as well.

Hostess Leslie, Barb and Host Eldon

Hostess Leslie, Barb and Host Eldon

Christmas Day found me at a Dinner and Gift Exchange at one of the private homes here on the property. There were about 30 of us and we all brought something for the dinner as well as an Exchange Gift, and was that ever a great party and evening, hosted by Leslie and Eldon. A lot of fun, a lot of laughs and I hope they do it again next year.

I managaed to get into the city during Christmas and New Years, but the traffic getting in and out of the malls is so bad that it is really not worth the effort. Will probably never do it again. Even with a private driver, it is just impossible to get someplace or to have your driver pick you up. They cannot get into the mall area easily with so much traffic. Hopefully, the scene will be much better now that the holiday season is over. Even the buses are loaded with people. On one trip at the beginning of December, I was on the bus returning to my condo, and all of a sudden we stopped. We were held up for SIX hours – YES 6, I kid not-. Seems there was a fuel truck that turned over and the road was closed both ways until they could clear it. Please remember- this is Panama. They have a wonderful highway that is modern, BUT- there are NO roads for a detour. So traffic just piles up and you wait until you can go again. This was at night, and I did not get to my car incCoronado until midnight. There was a horrific STORM in the Coronado area and I figured, my luck – the elevator would be out and I have to get to the 9th floor. Well, I did get back to my building and YES – elevator out. So I had to get the service elevator which was working. Get to my floor and there is a door to the foyer area of my condo and then I get to my door. YES- you guessed correctly- I was locked out. I NEVER lock that door and my maid was in that day and therefore, he did me a favor and locked the door. What does one do????? I banged on my neighbor’s door but they never heard me. The phone was shut off. I finally went down to my car and went to the guardhouse where the one gal there speaks English and told her I needed help. I had to break in and get the door off of the hinges so I could open it. She thought I was nuts and when two of the guys showed up who do patroling on the property- they also looked at me as if I were nuts. But I rummaged around and found a screw-driver (lucky for me) but could not find a hammer. Well palms of hands became a hammer and I showed them how they had to get the hinges up to remove them. About 30 minutes later, the first hinge came off, and then following came the second one. Now the door is still locked, so the door wasn’t coming off easily- I showed them with the screw driver to just PRY it apart, and voila, I got into the foyer and finally into my condo at 1AM. An exhausting day, to say the least, but now you know what you sometimes have to deal with being in Panama. I think I am becoming a very good teacher of how to “break in” to things!!!!!!

Phyllis the Burglar

Phyllis the Burglar

And on that note, dear friends and family, let me wish you all Peace in the new year, happiness abounding, love all around you and GOOD HEALTH to us all. The best to us all for 2013 and I will be back again with more tales and adventures soon, I promise.

Keep the e-mails coming as well as the phone calls. I love hearing from you and do try hard to keep up with you all.

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