408: Testosterone…for women????

I have known for quite some time that I am one of those females that needs testosterone. When I discovered this, it explained a lot of my life decisions to me. I understood why I majored in college in a career field that was overwhelmingly populated with men, and it was not because I wanted one, or wanted to be one. That’s just the way I think.
My mom gave me a little book by a medical doctor (Kathy C. Maupin) called The Secret Female Hormone, written in collaboration with a doctor pf psychology. This book (small – a quick read) explains why women over the age of 40 need testosterone replacement therapy, now that women live for forty and fifty years beyond our reproductive lifespans. Know all those tired old jokes about how your sex life just disappears after marriage? Some of that is because of increased and competing demands: job, social, family, children, etc., and some of that is a reduction in your own female body’s production of testosterone. Yep. This doctor explains that all women produce testosterone, too. Particularly after the age of 40, testosterone really drops off – and so does libido (desire), for women. MEN don’t feel this drop-off in hormone production until their mid-fifties. PLUS, the reduction of testosterone in women brings up a whole host of other symptoms which, for most women, are only treated individually. That means no doctor ever connects all the dots to understand that most of these problems will GO AWAY with ONE treatment – the replacement of testosterone – to older women. !!!!
The problems listed include: frequent urinary tract infections, thinning skin, dry eyes, accumulation of body (especially belly) fat, fatigue, clinical depression, increased cholesterol, obesity, reduction of red and white blood cells (anemia and increased infections), loss of muscle tone and tissue, migraine headaches, loss of balance, immune disorders, decreases in bone density, increased incidence of cancers, Alzheimer’s and other dementias, and auto-inflammatory disorders. Wow. I am nodding my head, reading this awful list, going: yep, yep, yep, yep……..
I knew I needed testosterone when I underwent a hysterectomy. My OB-GYN started me immediately after the surgery on hormone replacement therapy – with estrogen and progesterone only – and I went into major, suicidal depression within weeks, despite being on the replacement therapy. ONE injection of testosterone fixed it, within HOURS. However, it wore off, and I needed another injection ahead of schedule, until I got regulated and had enough in my system to make it a week or two between injections.
And then, I decided to become an international teacher. I don’t regret this decision, BUT – you can’t get testosterone easily for women even in America. MEN can, but not women, unless you can find a physician who has brains and actually continues to go to conferences or seminars to learn about breaking research – and not all of them do that. Few of them do that, in fact. However, you can get it in America if you search hard enough for the right physician – I did. Overseas is a whole ‘nother story. My husband could get it in Morocco, but I could not. So, he got it, and I took it. Hey – you do what you gotta do.
Then, we moved to Panama. Well. I hit the desert, or the brick wall, or whatever you call it, and things have not been going too well. I have finally found an endocrinologist that I think will treat me (meaning, give-me-testosterone-treat-me), but he wants a full lab workup beforehand, and the lab work alone is six hundred bucks. I have not had the money to pay for this work last year, and I have suffered for it. Next month, I will finally have enough to take care of myself, hopefully to get the testosterone I need to recover some motivation to keep living. Wish me luck!

395: Shopping for Produce

Shopping in Panama is an adventure. You can do things the safe, familiar way and go to a Panama grocery store: there are three big ones here in the capital city. Super 99, Rey and Riba Smith, in order of cheaper to more expensive. The problem with the easy way is that it is certainly far and away the most expensive way. If you are someone who freaks out that a spot of dirt is on your potato (yes, I do know people like that), you need to shop there and just bite the bullet on the cost. Also, if you are someone who has to have a gold-plated certificate of organic purity, well…..you might as well shop only at Organica stores, where one apple is five dollars. I don’t want to eat radioactive food, either, but there has to be a balance. I try to stay out of the “real” stores, at least for produce. And, produce is the primary food that I am eating these days.

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Once you decide not to go “normal” grocery store shopping, life gets interesting in Panama. There are street vendors and the Mercado Del Abastos (the local wholesale/retail farmer’s market). If I buy LOCALLY grown produce, it’s reasonable – good, even. If I want imported, I pay through the nose…but still not as much as Organica or the big three grocery stores.

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I can buy three medium-sized pineapples for a dollar, and a good-sized bunch of local spinach (grows on a vine!) is the same. Limes are 10 or 12 for a dollar, and eggs are a half dozen for a buck (if my chickens don’t lay enough to suit me). Plus, there are big, juicy globe grapes a dollar a pound, and coconuts are fifty cents. Carrots, tomatoes and onions are all fifty cents a pound. Melons are a dollar or less each. Plantains are six for a dollar. Papayas are a dollar each, for big, ripe ones. Yucca is four pounds for a dollar. Guyabas, maracuya, guanabanas – yum! Plus broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, zucchini, winter squashes, leeks, lettuces, fresh herbs, sweet and hot peppers, and more and more and more. Some of the fruits I can’t name yet, but they sure are tasty!!

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And mangos? Who buys mangos? The trees drop them everywhere – pick up all you want! I have mango smoothies nearly every day for free. More than one, if I want.  Life is good.

348: Renewing a tourist visa

Costa Rica 016I am a temporary resident of Panama. My work visa (temporary resident’s visa) is held up because some document thieves in Miami stole the first copy. Somebody is getting a USA green card using my stolen FBI Criminal Background check document, apostiled by the Panama Consulate (total cost to me for this piece of paper, plus postage -more than 100 US dollars). Meh.

So, because this document has to be replaced at long-distance, my residency visa is delayed, meaning that my tourist visa that I entered the country with is expiring in a few weeks. So, as a consequence, I am lounging in a resort in Costa Rica in order to re-enter Panama after the Christmas holidays with a new six-month tourist visa. I hope this one will last until the real visa can be processed….otherwise I will be vacationing here again. This could be worse, actually. ALL my problems should be solvable this way……..

However, I was told by all the online articles I could find that Costa Rica is cheap living…and these mofos lie at least as much as the ones who wrote that Panama was cheap living. MOROCCO is cheap living. Panama and Costa Rica cost out the a**. I do not understand how people here can afford to eat, and I have gotten used to doing that at least once a day…it is a habit I’d like to continue indulging.  Food costs a LOT here, and I am not someone who buys brand name items, much less AMERICAN brand name items. I buy produce off the street from street vendors – and I eat at street stalls, too. Cheaper and good food, usually. I have been thoroughly shocked at the prices here in Costa Rica, and this town is not a tourist haven. Clothes and shoes are expensive here, too. At least in Panama, you can buy inexpensive clothing and shoes. Costa Rica 022

However, I was able to buy some street food, and plan to return there once a day while I am here, because it’s less to eat there than to buy it from the grocery and cook my own – no kidding.

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AND, it’s not like I came here for the sight-seeing. I came here because I need a new tourist visa, so hanging out in the resort by the pool is about the height of my ambitions – plus learning how to make my gift Kindle actually let me read some of the books it came pre-loaded with. I hate electronic gadgets – and I am the Technology Coordinator at my school – meh. Still…since I have one, I am learning how to use the dad-blasted thing. It is annoying, like any new electronic gadget.

There is a small shopping mall nearby that has a movie theater…and I have not been to see a movie in God Himself only knows how long. So, I guess my husband and I will go…it will be Christmas day in two days – tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas, world – and peace and goodwill towards all humans and living things.

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.

194: Portugal at Christmas

Portugal 057I was told that Portugal was inexpensive. NOT. Morocco is inexpensive. Portugal is trying to even up their national debt on the fees they are charging me for my personal Christmas holiday. Seriously. Thank God for credit cards, or I would have already been sunk far, far, far out of sight. Word to the wise: Pick some place OTHER than Albuefiera, Portugal for a holiday. Apparently a LOT of Britons vacation here, to the point that nearly every sign posted here is in both Purtugese and English. It does assist us Americans in getting around somewhat, but I’d rather they lose the English and drop the prices. By HALF. I can figure out the Portugese, really.

We are at a resort on Ouro Beach. This place is visited by a lot of Brits, who apparently are under the impression that it is elegant, and expensive, and worth it. Rot. They CHARGE for every freaking little thing here. You cannot swim in the pool without a “bathing cap” (is this the twenty-first century YET?) and flippies, which they sell, since they don’t tell you you have to have these supplies in advance, and NOBODY owns a swim cap who is under the age of ninety-eight. No, ninety-nine. The hot tub costs. The sauna costs. The workout room costs. The only thing that does not cost is staying in your own room and entertaining yourself – oh, wait…..they discourage that because the beds – all SEVEN of them in the room we have – are all singles. Yep. Every stinking one. Singles. Like married people don’t conjugate, and I am not discussing verbs. The Internet wi-fi, advertised as free, is free only in the lobby, and streams at the rate of .005 kilobotes per hour. It took wordpress almost 15 minutes to load for me to write this rant. If you want Internet in your room, it’s 20 Euros – oh, wait….the room we are in (out past east bumblefreak) doesn’t have it yet, so we have to go to the lobby even if we pay. Plus, the TV channels are set up so there are no sports: you must go to the bar and buy something (at least a drink) to watch the only TV with sports anywhere around. Their restaurant advertised specials on meals for us *half board for about 200 Euros each* for weeks, by e-mail, before we arrived here, which should have been a clue.

To be fair, the beach is nice. But, we are from Georgia, in the US, only a hundred miles from Florida. We have warm. This is Portugal, approximately on a lattitude equal to NEW FREAKING YORK. It is not warm here, even if Brits are getting in the freezing Atlantic, anyway. I remember watching Canadians and other aliens from up north come to the Florida Keys in December and January and get in the surf there, too, while I watched them wearing a sweater and long pants, shaking my head in disbelief. This behavior is not inspiring me to visit countries any further north. It can’t be any better up there, if they are here, thinking this is warm.

Ah, well. I wanted to see Portugal. Check that off the list as done and finished.

11: Fur and finances

EVERYTHING costs money, dad gum it, ding dong dag nab it. It would be really nice if some of the things in life did not come with a price tag, but, there it is.  Even my adoring fur children cost me money. First, for food and kitty litter. Kitty food is NOT cheap. And they might enjoy occasional treats and snacks of people food, but they know what is REAL kitty kibble, and woe betide the cat mom who lets the kibble run out. Definite parent failure. And they are not shy about getting vocal about it – MEOW, mom, where is the kibble??? And let’s not even DISCUSS the kitty litter – that is just nasty. And usually when somebody really needs to go number two, is when I am at the sink (which is right over the kitty potty) trying to get ready for work. WHY?? It will make your eyes water, it is so bad. And it does not help much to hold your nose!

Then, there are the doctor visits. Kitten shots, neutering or spaying, those are not cheap, either. And a yearly checkup and rabies booster shot, not to mention any other problems in-between. Money, money, money. The cats would rather I forget about the vet visits, but I am a careful kitty mom, and I know they might not like it, but I want to keep them healthy. So, vet visits, too!

Finally comes the damages. You would think a cat that sleeps twenty hours out of twenty-four, every day, could not POSSIBLY get into trouble during the four measly hours they are awake. You would be wrong. I have found cats sitting on top of the referigerator. Gazing calmly down at me, wondering what I am upset about. I have found them sitting on the top shelf of my clothes closet – having OBVIOUSLY used my nice, clean clothes as a claw ladder to climb up there, gazing placidly down at me, wondering what all the fuss is about. I have even lost one of them for hours, only to open a cupboard door and here comes a lazy, stretching, fresh-from-a-nice-quiet-nap kitty (who thoroughly explored the contents of the cupboard before falling asleep in there, of course).

And things that go missing! Whenever you move a piece of furniture when cleaning in the apartment, you will find (pushed to full kitty arm length) any number of hidden treasures: pens, pencils, markers, small packages of formerly important things (medicines, too), paper clips, coins, laundry tokens, bottle lids and caps, q-tips, rubber bands, tubes of lipstick, acorns, peanuts, paper clips, keys, hair clips, various dried-beyond-recognition things (grapes, etc.) and, possibly, one or two actual kitty toys.

All in all, a fur child is not quite as expensive as a real child, but they are not cheap, by any means. It is a good thing I love all of them dearly!