My Name is Greg and it’s Been 11 Days Since My Last Post

There are days when I feel like the blog has become an obsession. I started writing with the best possible intentions and now it seems that I cannot stop. I love writing so much that when I do not share I have feelings of guilt. I fear that I will lose the respect and following that I have worked hard to build. Today is Thanksgiving and I have put other projects and tasks aside to visit family. Being the early riser that I am, I will devote a few minutes to bring you all up to speed. Our plans for retirement are screaming at us like a freight train. On Monday I received a call from Jen’s supervisor asking me if I would like to speak at her retirement party. I had it in my mind that the day would never come, so I never expected to have to give an answer to the question being posed. I have decided not to disclose my answer to the question until the day of the ceremony. Jen has already asked me not to embarrass or make her cry. I told her that she would just have to wait and see what happens. For the next few weeks we will be firmly involved in the last 36 days of work for Jen and holidays with family and friends. Please, do not expect to have daily posts prior to the end of the year. Now that I have said that, I can live without guilt should I do not get a post out as often as I would like.

One thing we do daily to prepare for our adventure is follow ExPats In Panama Facebook Group https://m.facebook.com/groups/2397416901 . This is a closed group of people who live in (or are about to live in) Panama. You must apply and be accepted into this group of around 10,000 people, but the questions and inquiry’s are an excellent way to prepare for what we may need to know about daily life in Panama. The cool thing about this group is that they do not allow it to be used for dating or selling stuff. You will have to look  elsewhere for that. What you will find is simple, great recommendations for things you may need. This is where we found our immigration attorney and the best guide in Panama, Marc Vargas  Your Guide In Panama .

We like to use checklists or task lists to keep track of our progress toward accomplishing a goal. The task list for this adventure is multiple pages and evolves daily as we get closer to our final departure. Some of the things on our list would not even seem to be important to this blog, so you will never see them here. Remember though, that simple things can become monumental. Mail delivery for instance does not exist, for all intents and purposes, in Panama. You cannot simply complete a forwarding order and get your mail delivered. Over the next few weeks we will have to make sure that we have online bill pay for everything. If we make the decision to move permanently, our mail will be forwarded to a mail service in Miami. From there it will be sent to Panama monthly by a common carrier and we will have to pick it up at a predetermined location.

We keep seeing inquiries from people who want to know what others like most and least about re-locating to Panama. By far, people like the climate and the simple lifestyle. Cost of living and excellent, low cost health care (insurance) is important. Proximity to the equator is another huge factor. 9-10 degrees from the equator means that the threat of hurricanes is practically non-existent, weather is consistent, and you will have 12 hours of daylight every day. For me the daylight is important. The closer we get to winter in Michigan the shorter the days become. It seems that every day we have less and less sun. I am fully aware of the toll Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) can have. It is my belief that everyone suffers from it in some fashion. Some are affected worse than others. I look forward to having equal days and nights year round. As far as the least favorite aspects of living in Panama go, there really is only 1 clear stand out…traffic. We do not plan to spend much time at all in Panama City so it seems that traffic will be of little consequence for us.  2 million of the 4 million people in Panama live in Panama City. I think all of them must own cars and try to drive everywhere. Everything we read and see says that the infrastructure is improving and mass transit is a priority. As these things move forward, even living in Panama City would not be a bad option for some people.

No post would be complete without a Spanish lesson. The word of the day is aburrido. Aburrido means bored or boring. Estas aburrido? Pues ven conmigo al cine…translated is Are you bored? Then come with me to the movies. I hope none of you are aburrido with our blog postings. Sometimes I think that Jen may have been right about starting to write our blog too early. Please, do not desert us until you have had the chance to see what happens when we move beyond research and into real life experience. Please like, share, and comment. Your support will help keep the motivation to write high on our list of daily activities.

Feliz Dia de Accion de Gracias! (Happy Thanksgiving)

 

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The Visa Process: Plans for arrival at immigration!

Many of you have expressed interest in the immigration process. Upon delivery of the majority of documents and the second payment to our immigration attorney in Panama City, we received an email which we will share in part below. The documents had to be delivered in advance for review and translation to Spanish.

Dear ​Jennifer​ and Greg,

Below is the planned schedule for your visa application process.​ We will need you for a total of 7 working days​.

Note: The schedule does not take into account unforeseen events. You will have to remain flexible during the visa application process.

We will need you to bring with you:

1) Passports. Make sure your passports have more than 6 months before expiration and that they are not torn in any way.

2) Cash to pay for the immigration fees, our legal fees, and expenses.

3) Five “carnet” or “passport” size pictures. (Can be done in Panama)

​4) Original documents to present to immigration​

Transportation:

If you want to use private transportation, we can recommend reliable drivers.

(Here she recommends 7 drivers to deliver us to the meetings at her office and immigration.)

 

Communication:

Please, download to your smart phone the “whatapp”.

https://www.whatsapp.com/

1)  The 1​st ​day at 9:00 AM, I can see you in my office. We will fill out forms.

(Here she provides the address of her office along with her cell phone number and Google map to the office.

2) The next day early at ​7​:​15 AM you will meet with my assistant at the “Servicio Nacional de Migracion” in order to register you. The cost will be $5.00 each. From immigration you will go to the office.

(Here she provides the Google address link for Servicio Nacional de Migracion) The popular address is: Servicio Nacional de Migracion in Tumba Muerto next to the Excel dealer.

Please wear proper attire; No sandals, short pants or sleeveless blouses.

3) ​D​epending ​when​ all the documents are ready, we  will go to the “Servicio Nacional de Migracion” in order to apply for the visa. You will need to leave your passport in the office and $50.00 each to pay for the initial ID cards good for 6 months.

4)  The next morning, you will meet with my assistant at the Servicio Nacional de Migracion in order to get the initial immigration identification cards and the multiple entry visa. The cost will be $50.00 each. Immigration will retain your passport for 2 days, while they complete the multiple visa process. You will have an ID with you from immigration that you can use in Panama. We will return your passport back ASAP.

5) The balance of all the fees for visa bill will be due at this time. We will send you an invoice that is due before we return the passports to you with the multiple entry visas so you can travel out of Panama at will.

We will definitely be taking advantage of the private transportation that she recommends. Having spent a little time in Panama City in October, we know that traffic is a nightmare and the streets will have very few identification markers (no street signs). Her email above eluding to the common address next to the Excel Dealer leaves us laughing. We will have a rental car, but we do understand there is no room for error when reporting to immigration. The other thing notable in her email is the need for proper dress. The government offices in Panama command the respect of being properly dressed. What a novel idea. It is too bad that doesn’t go without saying. The people in Panama are very proud to dress properly when reporting to a government office. It is unfortunate that American people do not share that pride. We will keep you posted as to how this schedule plays out.
Panama Immigration Building

Today’s Spanish lesson will be helpful at immigration. Gracias por guiarnos a traves del proceso de inmigracion…translated means thank you for guiding us through the immigration process.

Gracias for continuing to follow this blog. Remember to check back often, like and share.

Adios

Today, Let’s explore El Valle de Anton

Today we are researching what we may find in El Valle de Anton. This village is located about 2 hours west of Panama City. It offers sports like hiking, horseback riding, and ziplining through the rainforest. We will also find sightseeing adventures such as the El Nispero Zoo and Serpentario (snake habitat). El Valle de Anton is the site of the worlds second-largest extinct volcano. We will also find a well known open air Sunday market.

The Sunday market is one of the biggest draws to El Valle de Anton. We will be able to shop for vegetables, fruit, ornamental plants, flowers and orchids. We will also find handicrafts such as wooden bowls, bateas (wooden trays), woven baskets, hats, paintings on wood, carved and painted totumas (cups made from squash), trinkets made from acorn, hammocks, baskets and ceramics.  The Kuna Indians offer their handicraft like colorful molas (blouses) and jewlery. The market is in the center of town, under a roof that was recently rebuilt.

El Nispero Zoo is more of a nursery than a zoo. That being said, we will find very well maintained trails and an extensive array of tropical plants, which include the country’s national flower – El Espiritu Santo. Orchids Center (Aprovaca Orquideas) concentrates on conserving endangered native orchids and promoting ecotourism and environmental education. The Zoo is also the best place in El Valle to observe the famous golden toads. Most of their natural habitat has either been destroyed or is inaccessible, so it’s virtually impossible to view them in their natural habitat.  A frog exhibit, which is managed by the Smithsonian Institute, has a large showcase for the famous golden toads and additional exhibits for other frog species. It offers visitors an opportunity to see these reptiles up close.

Outside the Hotel Campestre we will find the famous square trees. They are members of the cottonwood family. Saplings of these trees are now being grown at the University of Florida to find out if they will retain their squareness in a different environment. It is believed, however, that the shape is probably due to an unknown but purely local condition. That is indicated by the fact that the tree rings, each representing a year’s growth, are also square.

We have read that it has been around 5 million years since Anton Valley had a volcanic eruption, so it is highly unlikely that there would be another eruption anytime soon. The valley does, however host many hot springs that evidence continuing volcanic activity. These hot springs are a naturally occurring phenomenon caused by hot magma passing through tiny fissures before contacting fresh water. This produces a warm, therapeutic, mineralized water.   Anton Valley’s Public Hot Springs provide a rare natural product that treats several skin problems while leaving your face and body perfectly clean and feeling great. This is a destination that we will certainly visit.

A short walk from town, we will find the Petroglyphs (Piedras Pintadas). All of these writings can be found on one large vertical rock face. They are at the base of the trail that leads to the Sleeping Indian (La India Dormida).  The Sleeping Indian, who acquired her name based on local legend, is a chain of hills who’s formation resembles the shape of just that, a sleeping Indian. These hills help form part of El Valle de Anton’s volcanic rim.

The town of La Mesa is located nearby in the Valle de Anton. It is the site of the Chorro el Macho waterfall. This 280 foot waterfall is considered one of the most beautiful areas of the valley. It is a short 30 minute walk north through the lush rain forest. At the base of the falls we will find a large natural pool where people are welcome to swim. Walking paths throughout the area will allow us to explore the area. There are suspension bridges that cross the river providing views of the falls. For the more adventurous, (Jen says she will never do this) there is zip lines through the treetops that provide breathtaking aerial views of the Chorro el Macho waterfall. If we hire a guide they will point out the local birds, animals, butterflies, and other points of interest.

This area sounds like one of the best opportunities for adventure. It is perhaps a strong contender for a place we would eventually like to live in Panama. I borrowed most of the adventure content from various travel websites. Once we experience these first hand, we will give detailed reviews of our experiences.

Today’s Spanish lesson should help us in the market: ?que’ es la costar de la fresco el vegetal? Translated…What is the cost of the fresh vegetable?

Thank-you for continuing to follow. We continue to be excited about our upcoming adventure. Please remember to like, share, and comment. You all are what makes this incredible adventure worth sharing. Buenos Dias.