It takes nearly 2 hours to commute to and from Panama City. The traffic causes that time to vary up to 5 hours, depending on the time you leave. We had 8 am appointments at the American Embassy on Wednesday morning so we left home on Tuesday to do a little exploring on our journey. We looked at a couple of houses along the way and made a stop at PriceSmart (Panama version of Costco). We made the decision to join based on math that told us we needed a couple of things that we would save enough money to cover the cost of the $35 membership. We loaded up on the non-perishables and resumed our journey.
We checked into the Central Park Hotel again based on our proximity and need to be near The American Embassy, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and SERTRACEN (Panama DMV). We were treated very differently at the hotel this time. I wonder if they saw my comments on Booking.com or, perhaps, someone there is reading our blog. We got a great room with a large balcony and great views of the city. Jen got 1 picture crossing the Panama Canal which we have put below with 1 view of the city from our balcony at the hotel.
Once we got settled into our room we took a walk, grabbed some diner and went to bed early in preparation for our big day on Wednesday.
Our attorneys’ assistant, Marianna, picked us up from the hotel at 7:30 and delivered us to the American Embassy for our 8 am appointments. Our Michigan Drivers License had to be authenticated, apostilled and notarized which went fast and easy. Marianna then took us to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We had to deposit the fee into the Ministry account at the bank downstairs (they do not accept money there) and take the receipt to the office. There was also a stop at another office in the same building where our documents had to be stamped and another fee collected. This is mostly all crazy tax. The Ministry office was very busy and it took them 3 hours to approve our documents before we could go to SERTRACEN. We made good use of our three hours because we also had to have a blood test before going to SERTRACEN. That took nearly an hour and we relaxed with Marianna for an authentic Panamanian Lunch for the remainder of our wait. After picking up the documents at the Ministry, we were on our way to our final destination. SERTRACEN is very much like our Secretary of State (DMV). Lines and waiting everywhere. We waited in line to get a place in line, then waited to be called. We produced our documents, completed the paperwork, had a vision test, hearing test, and paid the fee. Then we waited again to be called. The prize after 2 hours in that place was our drivers license. Marianna delivered us back to our hotel where we picked up our car and headed back to Coronado. It was nearly 4 pm, and it would be critical to get out of the city before rush hour cranked up. We just want to say that without Marianna we never would have accomplished this in 1 day. She knew what we needed, when we needed it, and translated for us. She was awesome and we owe her a huge debt of gratitude. We highly recommend Marianna for this process. Should you need her contact information, message us and we will pass it along.
Our drive back was uneventful. We made a quick stop at PriceSmart for the perishables and something to eat. We were home in time for fireworks on the roof. They shot them off the beach so we were actually looking down at them. It was a spectacular display. We are trying to get some video from a friend here. If that happens, we will share it. We are continuously amazed at the things happening here. There is never a dull moment.
Thursday morning we walked up the beach about 2Km to a fishing village. We were on a mission for Lobster. We had one of our neighbors along and he and I split the guy’s catch of 12 lobsters. Our neighbor took 6 and we took 6. For Jen and I, 6 lobsters is 2 meals. Thursday night we grilled 3 of them and put the other 3 in the freezer for later.
This morning we had a another Spanish lesson. Our Espanol is improving, and we are feeling more comfortable out in the community. Jasmine is teaching us how to order in a restaurant, and many other important things. Her lessons made buying Lobster on the beach much easier.
We continue to take opportunities to look at houses. We have found some places here on the Pacific Coast that really appeal to us. Every day we enjoy the peaceful sound of the surf, and both of us are sleeping amazingly well. This is the windy season and at times the wind blows hard. At night the breeze is cool and pleasant.
We tend to make our plans on the fly lately so keep checking back. There is no telling what we will be doing next.
Greg and Jen