Since the middle of December we've had no rain at all here in the "dry arch" of Panama. The rest of the country hasn't done much better, although more rain tends to fall in the mountains and in Panama City. This time of year is the beginning of the rainy season and a welcomed relief to the dried up, dead grass and plants that turn our landscape brown. But the rains seem to be arriving late this year as we've only had a few recent showers to moisten our yard.
Our latest endeavor is to apply for a Panamanian type of identification card called a "cedula." Unlike the states, here a drivers license does not serve as a form of identification since the country issues cedulas to all Panamanian citizens once they turn 18. In order to establish residency here we've already gone through the process of obtaining a "pensionado visa" which allows us to remain here for as long as we desire. But to some the pensionado card still shouts out that we're tourists that live here most or all of the year. From what we understand having a cedula that looks the same as the card the locals carry puts people at ease when they see it. To a Panamanian it says that we've taken the time to get entered into the system, and have been thoroughly investigated by the officials of the country before they issue us this card. And in five years after receiving the card we'll be eligible to apply for citizenship should be choose, although I have heard that the process is not easy. Just like when someone becomes a US citizen there's a written test about the history of the country. And here there's also some type of verbal test from what I've heard conducted in Spanish of course, that involves local terminology that no one but a Panamanian would understand. And in case you're wondering should we ever become Panamanian citizens and receive a passport from this country, we would never give up our US citizenship or passport but instead could hold both.
Most people use a lawyer to apply for the cedula, but some friends told us that they did it without one and the cost was only $68 a person. The process begins at "Servicio Nacional Migracion," which is simply the immigration department of Panama. Once inside we told the receptionist what we were there for and she gave us a number. Our number was Y116 and we had to sit among hundreds of people and wait for our number to come up. Once it did we approached window #21 and handed in our paperwork. We had to provide two passport photos, two copies of our passports, two copies of our pensionado cards and two copies of the resolution statement from when we applied for our visa. The girl efficiently took our documents, entered us into the system, stapled the papers together and instructed us to return in 30 days. Quick and easy and no money involved yet.
From what our friends told us, once the 30 days is up we go back to pick up the paperwork and take it to the Tribunal Electoral. Here in Panama the Tribunal Electoral is a government office that issues cedulas along with being responsible for the electoral process. Although I don't know much about them, I do know they're a vital part of this process since they're the ones that decide if we'll be issued a cedula. Not sure what we do there other than pay our money but we'll find out next month.
Went on a little shopping trip yesterday to Westland Mall, a 45-minute drive from here. The three story mall is located near La Chorrera and much easier than driving into Panama City. I browsed through some $1.99 blouses and picked up six different tops for around $18 along with a few new area rugs for $7.50 each.
I'm keeping busy writing for a website called www.playacommunity.com which also has a print version called The Playa News. Clyde tags along with me as my photographer whenever I have a story to cover. It's been fun going new places and meeting new people along the way. My last story was about my dear husband "fireman clyde" who recently conducted a meeting on fire safety. There seems to be a misconception here that since all homes are built out of cement they can't burn. But the contents can and will burn in the event of a fire. You can read the story at the above link along with others I've done, keeping me too busy to blog more often.
Clyde is still busy working on the kitchen project which isn't quite done yet but is looking great. He's working on building upper cabinets now and then has to make new doors for two floor to ceiling pantries.
Time for some homemade yogurt with fruit for breakfast and some more coffee to get me ready for my morning workout. A few other errands will make for a full day of busy retirement....along the gringo trail.