326: Panama Paradise…sort of

Whales 023Nowadays, and for some years, Panama has been touted as the retirement paradise of Earth. Great weather, cheap prices, good infrastructure, conveniences, safety, security and great living.

Well. Sort of. When you read those glowing, first hand reports from people on the ground in Panama, pay particular attention to all the QUALIFIERS they add to the claims meant to entice you here. Pay particular attention to the few trouble spots they mention briefly, and then gloss over.  Not everyone writing about Panama gets full coverage by sites that are promoting Panama as THE place to retire.

Firstly, Panama MIGHT be inexpensive, compared to SOME places on Earth – but not compared to many of them. Especially near the capital city, where the infrastructure, services and amenities are plentiful and good, you will spend very much what you would pay in the USA: more for some/many things, and less for a few things.

Used cars, for example, are not cheap here. They hold their value very, very well. Good for sellers, not good for buyers. Groceries here, unless you are willing to purchase from street vendors, are outrageous, even by USA standards. Four medium tomatoes were priced at over three dollars recently, prompting me to plant seeds. SERIOUSLY.

Bus fares are cheap, but how many Americans want to ride the bus? I do. You will spend hours on the bus. Hours.

Security can be a problem. I’ve been robbed already, and I’ve been here less than three months. You have to be cautious, careful and suspicious of people, like most other places.

Apartments are not cheap. One thousand a month is a low-priced apartment here. That is not cheap compared to many places in the US. Getting a bank account is a time-consuming, aggravating, form-filled, expensive process. So is getting a Panamanian driver’s license. So is getting your visa to stay. The tourist visa is good 90 days, and then you have to get out of the country and re-enter to renew it.

The weather? Well – it rains a lot. When it isn’t raining, the humidity is high enough that your laundry will often sour on the line before it dries, meaning that you smell like a homeless person if you don’t machine dry them.

You can live cheap if you live and eat like a local. That means fans, not air conditioning, and foods you may not know how to prepare, or be accustomed to eating. However, that is part of the experience of living as an ex-patriot. There is good, and there is bad, and then there is just plain annoying. You get some of each. Paradise it isn’t. Liveable, it is.

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209: Rest in Peace, Number Five

Humsa

Humsa


Yeah, I know some people would say, Jeepers, creepers, lady, it’s just a CAT – as if that makes the loss hurt any less. We lost sweet number five last night to his automobile injuries. Yes, I know that I have eight other cats that I have brought home, but each and every one is a special personality, just like my human children are individual people. They are all my fur children.

Humsa (Arabic for number five) isn’t hurting anymore, thank God, and I sure do want to believe that Heaven is a big enough place for all those special creatures who make human life so much sweeter. If being loved on Earth is a qualification for an animal getting into Heaven, then he’s there.

Yes, we could have saved him from the car if we had kept him inside the house all the time, but he loved going out. He’s the one who would go next door to the mosque at prayer call and wait by the door for the people to come to prayer, graciously accepting pets from everyone coming in to pray. Then, he would make the rounds of the street vendors who also come to the mosque because of the people coming in to pray. Yes, he had some close calls with cars before.

Once, my husband and I had been to the weekly souk (the Moroccan version of an old-fashioned flea and farmer’s market). Mojo was wearing his favorite khaki shorts, and we both heard the ominous ‘rrriiipppppppp’ when he squatted down to check out the quality of a freshly-dug pile of potatoes offered for sale. He’d split the seat out, pretty thoroughly, too. I gave him my jacket to tie around his waist for emergency modesty (for some reason, he was also commando (of course). If you are not wearing underwear, that WILL BE the day you split your pants wide open. We quickly finished our grocery shopping for the week and walked the block to our car repair shop, where we’d left the car for a minor repair while we shopped. Since we finished the shopping too quickly because of the shorts, the repair was not finished. so Hafid, one of the two mechanics we take our car to, gave us a ride home once we explained Mojo’s predicament. Muslims understand modesty very well.

When we were almost home (at the noon prayer time), we saw Humsa crossing the street, dangerously in front of a car that was not slowing down in the street that was also crowded with people. Moroccan drivers are famous for their disregard of life and limb when they are behind the wheel of a car. Mojo was incensed, and shouted to Hafid to stop the car, and he got out and yelled at the driver (who was also endangering PEOPLE), and bent to scoop number five into his arms to safety. What he forgot, in his concern for sweet-natured Humsa, was that his shorts were split wide open. I quickly got out of the car and attempted to shield my husband’s bare behind from the view of about a hundred people who were coming to the mosque to pray (not to get a free peep show). He was so worried about Humsa, he didn’t even notice, and I walked closely behind him (and the kitty in his arms) blocking the view of his trim and compact, but hairy behind as we made it the few feet to the door of our apartment building. Hafid was laughing, and shaking his head from side to side at the same time. He met my eyes, and we both shrugged – what can you do? At least Humsa was safe, that time.

He was the one little Honey Bunny danced up to and swatted the first day I brought her home. Humsa was a husky, eight-month old boy – and she was a tiny little scrap of a kitten, but fearless all the same. Humsa was immediately charmed, and he played with her (gently) for quite some time. Everybody else hissed at her, for weeks, but not easy-going Humsa.

Humsa and Caruso iinvestigating snow

Humsa and Caruso iinvestigating snow

When I got him, some of the apartment children were playing with him, and one of them announced loudly when I showed interest in the kitten “He’s MINE!” so I didn’t interfere. Two days later, I saw him at school, alone, and figured that mama had seen the kitten and had said “NO!” Since he was not claimed then, I brought the hungry little boy home, and we found out he had a tummy problem (which was probably what got him evicted). He also had ringworm, so we began treating him, and feeding him. He was so used to being hungry that he had what I call a “poverty belly” for weeks and weeks. Remember the pictures of famine children? When you don’t get food, your stomach swells. Humsa, who was our fifth cat at the time, ate every chance he got. I was sure that he was thinking: at least if THESE people throw me out, too, I’ll have a full belly. Eventually, he began to get used to having food, and he didn’t stuff himself every chance he got anymore. I figured he came to the conclusion that he could stay.

We had thought he was getting better from his final, ultimately fatal, meeting with the car. It appeared to the vet and to us, that he’d just taken a powerful whack to his hind end, and he was limping, but no broken bones. We gave him pain meds, and kept him inside, and he seemed to be doing OK. When we finally realized that he wasn’t doing OK, it was a Moroccan holiday weekend (Thursday, Friday, Sat. and Sun.) and the vet was not in town. We bought him antibiotics, and started them right away, but whatever was wrong inside was just too much. We made him a pad of towels in front of the heater so he would not be cold – he would often lie there, like his house mates do, in a warm kitty pile, basking in the warmth of the fire, like all kitties like to do. We petted him a lot.

Humsa and friends

Humsa and friends

Rest in peace, sweet boy. I miss your big golden eyes already.

165: Patience…or maybe not….

I have NO  patience. And I have learned at great cost not to ask God to grant me more patience, because I have figured out how He does that for you – He gives you LOTS of opportunities for you to practice patience, and THAT I can do without! I just wanted the patience, “abra-ca-dabra” – I certainly did not want to  earn it or learn it. NOT.  That is the problem with answered prayer: God has an incredible sense of humor.

Once, shortly after the death of my first husband, I was worn out with doing the job of two parents – keeping up with work, home, children, church and every other nit-picking thing, and I went outside on a bright sunny Saturday to wash and wax the car and truck, and the whole time I was washing and waxing, I was having this one-sided conversation with God.

I discussed the state  of my life, the degree to which I felt overworked, and the longer I discussed this (in great detail) the more frustrated I got. I finished the cars, and concluded with the very loud, very positive statement that I had had all the s### from heaven that I could take, and I did NOT want any more. I stomped off  into the house.

The next morning we got up to go to church in our freshly washed-and-waxed car, and as I came outside, I could not believe my eyes. The absolutely hugest splotches of bird crap I have EVER seen -buzzards?? Canadian geese?? TURKEYS?? CONDORS??? had flown overhead and let go right over my two clean vehicles – and gotten them both GOOD. I could not help but laugh at God’s sense of humor – I sure got crap from heaven that day!!! Served me right – God was not responsible for  my frustration – I was. I’m very glad I serve a God who understands frustration, and is big enough not to let a little frustration from me disturb his sense of humor.