Wanting to retire in Panama

As everyone is aware when moving, whether it be to a new neighbourhood, new city, new country, new continent, it is instrumental to make new friends to help with the transition. I have mentioned on numerous occasions about all the wonderful new expat friends we have made but I would also like to mention that we have also made some wonderful new Panamanian friends. There is the waiter at the beach club, along with V the bartender, and E and G, two of the many lifeguards … all working at the Decameron …. not to mention all the security gate keepers, groundskeepers etc etc that we say hi to every day and thank everyday for their service.
But there is one friend, in particular, that I would liked to blog about today – and that would be E – the lifeguard.

Of course, as you all know, one of the many reasons we moved here to Panama was the cheap cost of living. This however, does not come without a price. We must remember that although Panama is very close to gaining first world status and Panama City has often been described as a mini-New York it is still considered a third-world country. And this is more prevalent than ever when you start visiting the interior of Panama more, especially when going into the hills and highlands, where electricity and hot running water are often non-existent. Panama also runs on a social class system, whereby the rich Panamanians would not give the poor Panamanians the “time-of-day” so to speak. Because of this social class system, we have been warned by many, many, many expats to be cautious of any poor Panamanians wanting to become your “friends” because more often than not they will try to single out white people or “gringos”, as we are so graciously called, only to eventually start wanting and asking for things from you and will try to take advantage of our friendliness and generosity. But I am not going to focus a lot on that on this blog, I want to focus on our amigo E.

E has been working at the resort for over five years as a lifeguard. He has a wife and two beautiful little daughters. When we first arrived here we spent a lot of time at the beach (I mean a lot -especially when the girls were here -lol) and so, naturally before you know it, everyone knows you by name and some will try to talk to you and some not so much. E right away was very friendly and what started out as a casual “buenos dias” everyday is now turning into a friendship. E is very eager to learn English and we want to learn Spanish and with our handy-dandy English/spanish dictionary, it is amazing how we can communicate. E works an average of 12-14 days in a row, with then two or three days off and works an average of 10 hours per day and his salary is barely above $2.00 an hour.

So after three months of being at the Decameron, E mentioned one day that he would be bringing his daughters to the beach on his next day off. We asked him the date and told him we would be there for we would love to meet his two little girls. That was September 16th and what a wonderful day we had. We spent the entire day at the beach club, swimming, eating food, and just having a wonderful time. It was the first time his youngest had ever been in a pool (piscina) for although he works as a lifeguard for the resort, they are not allowed to use the facilities on their days off. They were soo tuckered out that they both fell asleep on the bus on the way home (which was at about 6:00 PM) and slept right through to the next day.

So now I fast forward to yesterday. Naturally, after our first visit the girls kept asking “papa” when they could go to the “piscina” again. E graciously mentioned to us how the girls loved their day at the pool and they were sending us hugs and kisses to thank us so another pool date was set – October 16th. This time we brought them back to the villa where we fed them hot dogs and KD (yes, you read that right – KD) and swam again all afternoon. D and I were truly amazed at how well behaved his daughters were and their table manners were impeccable. Everyone was so tired at the end of the day that we offered to drive E and his girls home.

The drive to his home is about a 15 minute drive from the resort. D and I were already more than aware that E does not come from wealth and that seeing where he and his family lived would be a humbling experience and it truly was. This was our first close up and personal look at the poverty of Panama. His family lives in a little house towards the hills just off the main highway no bigger than the average size of a shed back home with holes for windows but no window panes and we were literally driving on a goat path to get there. He currently shares his residence with his sister and her children and candidly pointed out the house across the “street” which is under construction that he is building for his family as money allows. He introduced us to his wife who was working as a nanny at the Decameron for a family who decided to move back to Australia and had just finished her last day of work and is now looking for new employment. We offered to hire her as our house cleaner for one day a week and are still in the process of working out the details. His youngest fell asleep in my arms in the back seat (she did not want to stay buckled and although it is law to wear seat belts in the front of a vehicle in Panama, it is not so in the back, so E was OK with letting her get unbuckled and settled into my lap for the trek home).

We sincerely have been enjoying our time spent with E and his family and although we have been forewarned about how some (not all) “gringos” have been taken advantage of by the poorer Panamanians, we will follow our heart and do what we feel is best and will tread cautiously going forward in pursuing our friendship with E and his family.

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October 15 marked the official 6 month mark since we arrived here in Panama and we are very happy to say that we are starting to feel more and more like Panama is our new home! We have settled into the Decameron Costa Blanca Villas nicely and are fast becoming part of the community. We have met many wonderful fellow Canadian and American expats who have welcomed us which has been instrumental in us not going through the homesickness phase I was so worried we were going to suffer. Don’t get me wrong, we both definitely have had our moments…. the toughest of course being when our daughter flew back to Canada after spending the first four months here with us. We had an extremely difficult few days after that, to the point where, yes… we were just about to book our flights and follow her back to the great white North. But our kids, being who they are, absolutely refused to hear such nonsense, and told us we had better stay put! It would get better… and they were right…. it did…

It was also a bit touch and go there for awhile as to where we would be living because we had to be out of the townhouse we were renting by November 1 and with high season fast approaching we were struggling with finding another place to stay. We also had concerns with our house in Canada which we have been trying to sell. With winter fast approaching there was no way we could leave it empty so it was looking like we were heading back even if we didn’t want to. (For anyone out there who has experienced a northern Canadian winter, you understand what I am talking about!) This of course, was making it very difficult for us to commit to a long-term rental here and time was running out. As it turns out, we now have some wonderful tenants in our house in Canada on a rent-to-own agreement until July of 2015 at which time, they will take over possession. And thanks to all the people we have met here putting their feelers out in our search for a new home, we were able to secure us a long-term villa rental which we moved into October 1 and with our two children and D’s mom and best friend joining us for Christmas (flights are all booked!!) things couldn’t be better :).

Hola from Panama!!! Well after residing in Panama for the last 4 1/2 months, we now have our official permanent pensionado visas! I must admit, these last 4 plus months have really flown by!

First and foremost I want to start out by saying that last Wednesday we had to send off our daughter, who was with us for four months, back to Canada to start her second year of studies at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. And although her leaving us has left an empty hole in our heart, we know that we have to let her go to find her own path in life. She, along with us, fell in love with Panama during her short time here and she assures us that she will be back!! She is pursuing a degree in accounting/finance in the School of Business with the hopes of one day working in the finance capital of Central America …. you guessed it… Panama City, Panama! We are very proud of her to have set such a huge goal for herself at the young age of 19 and whether she pursues this path in the future or finds that Canada is where she wants to be, she will always have our full support and we will back her 100% in whatever decision she ultimately makes. OK enough of the sappy stuff lol. Now back to the real reason for this post – our visas!!!

Yes, we are thoroughly happy to finally have this hurdle behind us. Once our daughter left, D and I decided it was time to start focusing on getting what still needs to get done here in Panama. So after an email to our lawyer inquiring about our visas (it had been four months after all and after hearing that friends of ours got their permanent ones after only six weeks – we felt that an inquiry was in order – lol). I must admit, however, that the one thing we have really appreciated about the law office that we used was that they always got back to us in a timely manner – even when we were in Canada trying to get all our documents in order – I would email the lawyer, and boom, within hours – sometimes minutes – I ALWAYS got a response back. So, of course, the same holds true when I inquired about our permanent visas.

My first email back from the assistant stated that she had looked into whether they were ready or not and the only way that we could find out “for sure, for sure” was by presenting our original passports and our temporary visa cards in person. Apparently immigration will not divulge whether they are ready or not, until you can produce these pieces of identification. This was strange I thought being that our friends had told us that their lawyer actually called them and told them that their visas were ready?? Seeing where I am going with this – lol. So of course I mentioned this to the assistant and she said that this was not possible because there is no way that immigration would have given this information out without the proper documentation. She did, say, however, that being that immigration was not asking for any further clarification or information on us, that she felt confident that the permanent visas were ready and maybe this is what our friends’ lawyer was also basing his/her information on.

Hmmmm! At any rate, the only way D and I were going to know for sure if they were ready was by taking the trip to Panama City and back to immigration. So we made arrangements with the assistant to do go into the city on Tuesday and meet up with her Wednesday to head to the immigration office. We thought we would make it a two day affair being that we also needed to head to the Canadian Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in order to get a Panamanian drivers license because, you guessed it, we were officially driving illegally in Panama.

As it turns out, when in Panama, although you can stay in the country for six months without a visa before you have to leave, your out-of-country driver’s license is only good for three months – lol. D and I knew this when coming to Panama but we also thought that once we had our temporary pensionado visas, that there was no time limit in getting our driver’s licenses – wrong!!! The three month rule still applied. So in a bit of a panic, I sent an email, once again, to our lawyer, telling him that our driver’s licenses were no longer valid. He somewhat assured me not to worry about it and that if we run into any problems to just “give him a call” – lol – and that when we came in for our visas, we could get the driver’s licenses done at that time as well. OK – then so this is what we did – good thing we never did get pulled over by one of the many radar traps they have all over the highways here in Panama!!

OK now – back to the process of getting a Panamanian driver’s license. The first step is for the person to go to the embassy from whichever country they are a citizen of (in our case the Canadian Embassy) so they can stamp and authenticate our driver’s licenses. We arrived at the embassy at about 10:30 Tuesday morning only to be told that we would have do come back the next day for the documents. We kindly asked if there was any way that they could expedite it because we were going to be in immigration all day Wednesday and you guessed it – they did!!! – lol – bet that’s not what your were guessing. So all in all we were at the Embassy for about 1 hour and had our documents in hand and after paying them a fee of $46.00 US each we were on our way to our next destination, the Ministry of Foreign AFfairs for them to now authenticate our authenticated documents – lol. We were informed by the Canadian Embassy that although you can go into the Canadian embassy dressed pretty casual that we would have to wear “big-boy pants” when going into any government office in Panama and no flip-flops! Well, of course, although D had the “big-boy pants” on, he was in flip flops. So we went to the MultiPlaza Mall, which happens to be right across the street from the Canadian Embassy (and the most expensive mall in all of Panama I might add) so D could buy some “big-boy shoes” lol, because although some “big-boy shoes” were packed in our suitcases – we had opted to take a cab to the embassy from our hotel instead of driving in the city for fear we would be pulled over or, worse yet, get into an accident (for any of you who have ever driven in or through Panama City – you know what I am talking about), and not to have proper driver’s licenses to boot.

So after buying a pair of $50 shoes for D we were off to the Foreign Affairs office, again by cab. Upon arrival at the office, wouldn’t you know it, D had no problem getting in but they were not going to let me in because, although I had proper slacks and shoes, I was wearing a sleeveless blouse, which apparently is also a dress-code “no-no” for entering government offices in Panama. It looks like D was going to be doing this one alone – lol. As it turns out, he was still able to do the paperwork for me even though I was not there with him – Whew! So anyway, because we did not arrive before 12:00, we, of course, would have to return the next day for our authenticated documents. On the upside though, their fee for authentication was only $2.00 each and not the $46.00 each we were charged at the Canadian Embassy – hmmm, things really are cheaper here in Panama!

So the following morning, our lawyer’s assistant was to meet us at the Lobby of the hotel we were staying at to pick up our passports and temporary visas cards to take to immigration. Apparently, we did not have to be present for this part of the process, so it was suggested by the assistant that, being that it could take hours, we stay back at the hotel and once it was confirmed whether everything was a go, he would come back to pick us up to go back to immigration to get our pictures taken to get our permanent cards. We, naturally, were happy with this plan … I mean who would want to spend three hours waiting in immigration if they didn’t have to – lol. The assistant showed up somewhat promptly at 9:45 AM, took the documents and was on his way. As it so happens, D and I were staying at the TRYP Hotel which is attached to the biggest mall in Panama City – the Allbrook Mall, so we passed our three hours away by wondering the mall.

At 1:00 the call came in that everything was in order and that we would be getting our permanent visa cards – I think this is a good time for another Woot Woot – for now we knew that our trip was not a total waste! We arrived at the immigration office shortly before 2:00 PM and had our permanent cards in hand by 3:15 – VICTORY was ours! Now it was time to head back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to pick up our authenticated driver’s license documents and the assistant was kind enough to drop us off here and was willing to wait until we were finished and then take us back to the hotel but being that we still wanted to go back to PriceSmart we set him free and told him that we would take a cab. Picking up the driver’s license paperwork went off without a hitch and we were in and out within 15 minutes. Then we were off, on foot to PriceSMart to do some shopping then back to the hotel by cab to get our vehicle and head home.

Now you may be wondering, do we now have Panamanian driver’s licenses? Well, not quite yet but the hard part is now over. There are but two small steps that still need to be taken to finish the process. We must both go to a lab to get our blood types taken – for this is a requirement to have on a Panamanian driver’s license – and then to a local DMV office (like we like to call them back home) – to get the drivers licenses. Being that we were running out of time in PC, we opted to finish these last two steps in Penonome, which is a small city just 15 minutes from us… so of course we were still driving home “illegally” from PC – but we made it back without a hitch. Now we did set aside today to go into Penonome but as luck would have it, D fell ill last night, so our trip to Penonome for the final process of getting our Panamanian driver’s licenses has been delayed until Monday. I think we will stay off the streets until then and just hang by the pool and beach for the next few days :).

Wow, I can’t believe it has been six weeks since my last post! Time really does fly by when you are having fun!! So what have we been up to? Well, first and foremost, we are now the proud owners of a 2007 Honda CRV …. lol.

Buying a vehicle in Panama can be very stressful….. what with the language barrier, transferring title, getting insurance and registration, etc, etc ….. so we decided to hire a gentleman from Boquete (who came with great references and is a fellow Canadian) who literally took care of all this for us including the actual vehicle hunting, test driving, transfer of monies (although I must admit it was a bit unnerving entrusting him with our money for a vehicle we hadn’t even seen ….. not to mention never having actually met him either – lol – but that is a story for another day) and literally delivered the vehicle to our door. Of course this service does come with a price; however, for D and I we felt it was clearly worth it as it was not something we wanted to tackle on our own without being able to speak Spanish.

Now, as you know, we are currently renting a place at the Costa Blanca Villas in the Royal Decameron Resort.  This place is definitely a step up from our last rental.  It has so much more to offer and we feel we are truly living the retirement dream.  The rental comes with access to the private beach club, pool and restaurant, along with full use of the beach palapas, beach loungers and tennis courts.  The security is top notch and the grounds are kept immaculately clean!!  In addition, there are two more community pools that are not on the beach that are for villa owners/renters.  Not to mention the 18-hole golf course that we have as our view every  day as we sit out on the patio.   With all these amenities, D and I have picked ourselves up a couple of tennis rackets and two sets of used golf clubs ….. and yes… we both truly suck at golf (not too shabby at tennis though – lol)!

Our daughter and her best friend have truly fallen in love with Panama as well, and I know there are going to be a lot of tears shed when she has to leave back to Canada in August to continue her studies.  They have made a lot of friends with the staff of the beach club and are truly going to be missed by all.  Our son was here for a two week visit and left us last Monday ….. It was so great to have both children here for D’s 50th birthday and our daughter’s 19th birthday in June (yes D is now 50 lol).  We have our daughter’s friend’s family arriving today for two weeks and then our friends who travelled with us to Panama in December coming in August so have a busy month ahead!  We have yet to sell our house in Canada, so have been waiting to purchase a property here in Panama.  One advantage to this is that it is giving us a good amount of time to make a decision of where we really want to be.  Right now D and I are torn between Las Lajas in the Chiriqui province or where we are currently residing here in Cocle, Panama.  Do we go with oceanfront property where we will still have to build our dream home, or do we buy a home here in the Costa Blanca Villas where everything is almost move-in ready and all the amenities that we are looking for are at our fingertips, or at least very close by…..   I guess time will tell!    Adios … until next time.

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Like I mentioned in my previous post, we made a couple trips to Panama City to obtain our visas and we now have them in hand!  The process for us took about 2 months from the time I started acquiring the necessary paperwork. 

Once I stopped working at the end of February a good portion of my time was dedicated to finding out what was required but where do I start.  First of all, another fellow blogger (indacampo@wordpress.com), also Canadian, was a wealth of information and I want to thank her again for all the questions I sent to her and all the answers she provided me.  I started out by sending an email to a lawyer from Panama City who came highly recommended.  His response to me was immediate (not like some other lawyers I tried to correspond with) and sent me a lengthy PDF document with everything I needed to know about obtaining a Pensionado Visa in Panama.   Here is the list of documents required. 

1) Certified copy of birth certificate for myself – check. 

2) Certified copy of birth certificate for my husband – check. 

3) Certified copy of marriage certificate – check. 

***NOTE:  I was able to obtain all of these documents within a couple days by going online into the Vital Statistics website for Saskatchewan (which is where I was born and married).  

4) Certified copy of letter from Investment/pension company (or notarized original copy) confirming that we meet the required amount of monthly income for life (the “for life” statement is very important as they will not accept a letter unless it states this) – currently, if you do not own a property in Panama – this amount is $1000.00 US for a single person and an additional $300.00 for each dependent – in our case this totalled $1300.00 US per month – check.  

5) Certified copy (or notarized original copy) of letter from a recognized government institution stating that our investment company is in good standing with the government.  This was a little tricky as we had no idea where to obtain such a letter.  As it turns out, there is a company called Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC for short) who will do a search on the investment company you are currently dealing with and provide such a letter – check. 

6) Certified copy (or notarized original copy) showing three months of withdrawals from our investment company and three months of deposits into our account.  Again, I ran into a bit of a snag when trying to obtain this documentation as we only starting withdrawing from our investments in March and we were leaving the country April 15.   In consulting with the lawyer, it was confirmed that we could do three months of withdrawals in advance to satisfy the Panamanian government requirements – check, check and check.  

***NOTE:  If you have a government pension, then steps five and six are not required.

7) Certified copy (or notarized original copy) of criminal check for myself – check. 

8) Certified copy (or notarized original copy) of criminal check for my husband – check. 

These documents were easily obtained by going to our local RCMP department and filling out a form.  There was no charge for this service and it was completed within five working days.  Also, note however, if you are an American Citizen, FBI fingerprints will be required.  

The entire process of obtaining all the necessary documents for us took about a month (mostly because we have some delay in satisfying the requirements of step numbers 5 and 6) and the final document (IIROC) came in the day we were moving our contents out of our house in Cold Lake and into our son’s house in Edmonton.  We still had to get them all notarized and sent to the Panamanian consulate for authentication before we flew to Panama on April 15th. 

This is where a company called Authentication and Legalization Services Canada (ALS) came in extremely handy (thanks Karen for the referral).  They are a company situated in Ottawa very close to the Panamanian Consulate who will look after getting the documents to the consulate, making sure they all get the necessary authentication stamp and then send them either back to us or directly to our lawyer in Panama.  Being that we still had to make an appointment in Edmonton to get the documents notarized, we opted to have them send everything to our lawyer in Panama.   Of course there was a fee attached to such a service, but in the end it was much cheaper for us to go this route than for us to fly ourselves to Ottawa and get the documents authenticated personally.   The communication with ALS was top notch and the documents were received by our lawyer on April 22nd!

After our lawyer reviewed the documents to confirm that everything was in order, it was time to set up a time to go to the city and meet him personally (finally) and make our way to the Immigration office to get our visas!!  So a date was set – May 7 – woot woot!  We were not comfortable yet with driving in Panama City so had a couple that we had met and who also set us up with our initial rental (and upcoming rental) to take us into the city that day because they were headed that way for Spanish classes.  This is the same lawyer that they use for their business so had no problem dropping us off – thanks so much to W and J.  

We were warned that this is an all day affair and we were prepared.  After arriving at the lawyers office and having to fill out a few more documents and getting a letter from a Panamanian doctor stating that we were healthy we were on our way to Immigration.  Our lawyer drove us their personally and had his assistant meet us there.  This was quite the process and after spending four hours in immigration and going to numerous different booths to get photos taken, fingerprints taken, documents stamped, etc etc we were on the final leg of this journey when we ran into a snag and would have to come back because it was getting late and would be closing – wouldn’t you know it …. lol.  As it turns out, due to the election that took place on May 5 and a new president being elected – some of the rules had changed – but only slightly.  There was one document that D had to sign in the lawyer’s office stating that he would “take care of me financially” while living in Panama that now had to be notarized.  This was a new requirement that had just changed with the new government.  Wouldn’t you know it – if we had went to immigration a week earlier we wouldn’t have encountered this problem – lol.  

So the lawyer’s assistant said she would get this done the next day and we could return Friday for the final step of our immigration adventure – getting our picture taken and obtaining our card.  And true to her word, we got a call the next day saying that everything was now in order and when could we return.  We decided that Friday May 9 would work for us as we wanted to just get it completed and the sooner the better.  So off to Panama City we went – this time with D in the driver’s seat and the girls with us to do a day of shopping at the Albrook Mall.  The assistant met us at the mall and drove us directly to immigration and after waiting two hours for our turn, we were in and out in less than 10 minutes with temporary pensionado visas in hand!!  Success!!! What an accomplishment – we were elated!  The first, most important step in our opinion, to retiring in Panama was complete!!

As of today we have been in Panama for 4 weeks now!  First and foremost I must say that the weather is fantastic and we are definitely NOT missing the crazy weather they are still getting back in Canada.  Snowing still in May …. really?!&#  Anyway, lol, you might be wondering “what have we been up to?”. 

We arrived very late on the night of April 15th to our rental house in Santa Clara and our first week mostly consisted of getting unpacked and somewhat settled in.  Then our daughter and her best friend arrived April 23 to spend four months with us.  Lucky girls!!  

However, there have been certain issues with the house that we have had to deal with since day one such as poor to nonexistent water pressure in the kitchen sink as well as no hot water for the entire duration of our 4 week stay so far and a washing machine that doesn’t work. For the most part we have not missed the hot water as it is so warm here that a cool shower in the evening actually feels refreshing; however, both of these issues have caused a bit of inconvenience when it comes to cooking and doing dishes – not necessarily for D and I – but for the girls as they are our designated dishwashers since there is no dishwasher in the house – lol.  They have likened the experience to “camping” back home, where you have to boil the hot water on the stove before you can wash dishes …. they have to earn their keep somehow :).  

All in all, we have not let these little inconveniences be a deterrent for us and are in no way second guessing our decision to relocate to Panama – lol.  As it turns out, however, we will be renting a townhouse villa in the Royal DeCameron as of May 15.  Why did we decide to move?  Well, first of all, there are the reasons I mentioned above but mostly because of the proximity to the beach.  The house we are currently in, although providing a roof over our heads for our first month is just a little too distant for us, so a great opportunity came up for us for this villa that we just couldn’t pass up :).  

We have done some travelling to Pedasi, Las Lajas, El Valle and of course Panama City to see our lawyer for obtaining our pensionado visas.  We were also successful in getting a Panamanian bank account set up and if all goes according to plan, will hopefully have a vehicle purchased by the end of the week.   That is pretty much our first month in a nutshell and are excited to see what our next month in Panama will bring us!

 

Welcome to Panama!

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Well here we are – we have arrived!  Whew – what a whirlwind the last four weeks have been!  I don’t even know where to start but here goes.  I will try to sum up most of the last four weeks into a nutshell.  D and I were busy the last two weeks of March getting everything ready for our move to Panama and our son’s move in Edmonton on April 3 and saying good-bye to our closest friends in Cold Lake.   We had a huge garage sale, sold more “stuff” through the internet and gave all our big “stuff” to our son to furnish his new home in Edmonton.   I must say, it is somewhat liberating to get rid of all that “stuff” one accumulates over the years and to start fresh.  In the end we ended up with five big Wal-Mart totes of all our most prized possessions which we have left in storage with family and four suitcases with two carry-ones to take to Panama- wow – talk about overwhelming!!

After helping our son get settled in it was time to take a few road trips to say good-bye (for now) to our families.  Our first trip was to see D’s mother and stepfather.  We hit the road early on April 6th to tackle the 7 1/2 hour drive with our beloved Jaydie with us (for this is where she would be calling home until we are more settled in Panama).  We had a wonderful visit but damn good-byes are always hard :'(.   (Just a little side note – Jaydie has adjusted exceptionally well in her new home – what with 40 acres for exploring along with two other little dogs, and three cats – she loves cats – she is in heaven).

We left in the early morning of April 8 so we could be back in Edmonton to celebrate our son’s 22nd birthday with him and visit with him for one more day before he headed back to work for his 7-day shift away from home.  We also had to get all our paperwork for our “pensionado visas” notarized and sent to the Panamanian consulate before we left so had an appointment set up with a lawyer on April 9th (this was quite a process and I will post about this experience at a later date once the papers are here in Panama and everything is confirmed to be “in order”).

Then another road trip was in order to visit my mom and dad!!   We spent one night with them and had a wonderful supper at a local restaurant along with one of my sisters and her husband, one of my brothers and one of my nephews – it was nice to see them and be able to say good-bye to at least two of my 10 siblings – lol (although I am sure I will be seeing many of them in the near future here in Panama!)

Well, after another tearful good-bye it was time to head back to Edmonton to spend our final two days in Canada to get all our stuff in order!  So the morning of April 15, with our two suitcases each, our computer and our carry-ons, we were finally on our way.  We left the Edmonton International Airport at 6:37 AM, had a stop over and plane change in Houston (with a 1 1/2 hour delay) and arrived in PC at ~8:30 PM (thankfully we had no problems/delays in customs).  Benny was waiting for us to take us to our rental in Santa Clara which was another 2 hour drive ….. arrival time 11:15 PM – Woot Woot!

The very next day, we had friends who were returning to Pedasi from Panama City stay with us for a night!  We had met Tim and Cathy on our first trip to Panama last July while in Pedasi and have stayed in contact with them and have become very good friends!  They were nice enough to take us for our first grocery shopping trip and to get our car rental.  It was great to see friendly familiar faces on our first day here in Panama.  Thanks again Tim and Cathy!

Day three we decided to head out and check the local fish market where we picked up some fresh sea bass for supper ….. D was waiting in line for some fresh shrimp but the person in front of him bought up the remainder …. lol …. poor D.  We then headed back to the house to have a our first day of R & R!  Phew – that felt good.  We decided to wait until the long Easter weekend was over before we attempt to hit the beach.  Apparently Panamanians love their long weekends and the beaches are insanely busy and being that we are still coming down after the busy month we have had, we decided that spending the day relaxing around the pool was a better option for us. Yesterday we headed into Coronado to pick up a modem so we can set up wireless internet and pick up a few essentials at the shopping plaza.  We were told to go to a little computer shop called Punto where they would set up the modem for us and everything but, low and behold, they were closed – I guess we will have to wait a couple more days for the wireless – we are both going into iPad usage withdrawals – lol – but at least we have the good ole Mac to relieve some of our internet fix!   The shopping plaza was also extremely busy because of the long weekend and we thought that parking would be a nightmare.  As it turns out in Panama (at least Coronado anyway), when it is busy, they have people directing traffic in the parking lot so finding a spot turned out to be a pleasant experience – even parking into the spot they were there to direct you – since the spots are quite tight.

Now back to our house rental.  As it turns out, the house we had lined up for a rental was a last minute decision (for our original rental had fallen through) and after spending five days here we have decided that it is not quite what we are looking for.  So we will be out exploring other rentals with a local real estate agent tomorrow to find something more suited to our lifestyle until we find our permanent place in the sun :).  And that has been our  life for the last month in a nutshell.  Until next time!