Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Getting The Run Around.....In The Tribunal Electoral.....

Back in May we took it upon ourselves to drive into Panama City and submit the initial paperwork for a Panamanian cedula.  The word "cedula" in Spanish simply means "identification card" and every Panamanian over the age of 18 carries one here as a form of ID.  Unlike the US where a birth certificate serves as ID until one reaches driving age and then a driver's license takes over, since so many people here don't drive there's only one form of ID needed.

At first when we moved here our passport served as ID, until we secured our Pensionado's (residency) Visas which then became our identity.  Although we do have Panamanian driver's licenses they don't seem to be highly regarded as forms of identification here.  Last year the government of Panama began offering to foreigners an actual cedula which looks much more like the one carried by all locals.  So being the crazy adventure whores that we are, we decided to apply for the coveted cedula on our own, without the help of a lawyer.  Some friends who'd gone before us gave us the list of what documents we had to present to the "Department of Migration," in the city.

We dropped off the documents in May and were told to return in 30 days which we did, only to be told that our paperwork had not been processed yet, and to come back in July.  Yesterday we made the trip into the city again and waited our turn in migration where they found Clyde's paperwork completed but seem to have misplaced mine.  After searching through the pile of papers the girl found my application stuck on the back of Clyde's paperwork and told us to return in another 30 days.
Since Clyde was ready to proceed to the next step we left migration and headed to another part of the city to find The Tribunal Electoral.

The name to me sounds like we'd be forced to meet with a panel of Indians wearing full native garb and feathered head dresses.  But the reality is that the TE is merely another government office in Panama, which issues identification cards to it's people and gives them the right to vote. Once inside the building we were on the ground floor called "planta baha," or "ground floor," which is different from the first floor.  The receptionist instructed us to go to the third floor, a direction that we immediately followed.  But when we got there the receptionist there gave us a funny look and sent us down to the first floor, and someone there sent us to another floor, then another and another.  I think they just enjoy sending silly gringos on a wild chase up and down the stairs over and over again.  The office upstairs had to stamp the paperwork, then we had to go downstairs to the cashier to pay $65 for the cedula.  After that back upstairs we went only to be told "sistema no sirve," which means "the system's down," come back mañana.  But instead we'll just wait another 30 days when my paperwork should be ready, and take both sets of paperwork to the TE. 

Before leaving the congested, gridlock traffic of the megalopolis we stopped at Price Smart to stock up on paper goods and other stuff that seem a bit cheaper in the warehouse club type of store.  Also a brief stop at Riba Smith, a local grocery chain that offers many of the US imports we can't find throughout the country.  We picked up some Tahini, a paste made from ground sesame seeds to try our hand at making hummus, a dip made from tahini and chickpeas.  We made our way back to the house late where we barely had time for some leftovers before heading out again.  A last minute invite to a local restaurant to bid a temporary farewell to a new friend Tricia was our next stop.  From there we headed to Coronado Bay Condominiums for an impromptu birthday party for some first time visitors to Panama contemplating spending more time here.  Our head hit the pillows at the early hour of 1am where we drifted off quickly to sleep, after a long, tiring day of retirement.

It was hard to crawl out of bed this morning to the darkness of a cloudy day with rain pitter pattering off the tin roof.  The rain gave way to a partly clear sky as the day progressed, yet the heaviness of the humidity lingered on and saturated our souls but not our spirits with dampness.

A few days ago we had a delightful moment while dickering around in a local hardware-home store called Novey.  As usual my friendly, hubby said hola to the helpful salesclerk who recognized him in passing.  The clerk began saying something to Clyde in Spanish and faithfully followed us up the escalator to the second floor of the store, which in Panama is really the first floor after planta baha.  The pushy Panamanian continued to follow us through the aisles until we stopped to look at something where he cornered us and continued to cackle about the countless numbers of "ofertas" or sales going on in the store.  Perhaps it's a possibility that my handy hubby spends too much time shopping the hardware stores for fabulous finds to fix faulty home projects?  Or that his creative counterpart comes up with too many projects that purposely propel him outside of the casa and into the hands of helpful clerks, begging to bag some balboas....along the gringo trail.


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