Monday, July 29, 2013

Poppycock From Panama.....

Another first in Panama happened for me last night when I sat down to watch the World Cup Soccer game between Panama and the United States. It was a first because I'd never before in my life watched a soccer game, or at least not that I remember.  Our Panamanian neighbors had a yard full of company and had positioned their television set outside in front of their house, surrounded by chairs ready to watch the game.  We left for a few hours to enjoy some time in the pool at a nearby resort that we belong to, and to soak up a little sun.  Besides it was nice escape from the pounding, Panamanian style music coming from the house across the street too.

Unsure as to what time the game would be televised since we'd heard times such as one, four and nine in the evening.  It was around two when we left and the neighbors were still rockin' to the loud music blasting from their large speakers outside, so we assumed the game hadn't started yet.  We returned home around four and were surprised to find the neighbors still not watching soccer.  Once inside I turned on the television and found the game already in progress unsure of its start time, but it was scheduled to end at five according to our Direct TV guide.  We watched the last half of the game as the US scored the only point for a score of 1-0.  The US took home their 5th world cup in soccer, a victory over this tiny little country of Panama that's no bigger than the state of Florida.  And to think this ditzy, damsel void of any sports knowledge didn't even realize that the US was that into soccer.

Panama vs USA!

A while later we noticed the music had stopped and the neighbors had gathered round the television outside to watch the game.  Not sure if the local cable stations televised the game later than the satellite stations, or if they were watching some other game?  But I so wanted to run outside and tell them not to bother watching because the US had already won.  Clyde said that I might want to do it from inside the gate and be prepared to run fast back to the house since mangoes thrown by angry Panameños could certainly hurt.  Of course I wouldn't do such a thing, and should they ever try to retaliate against us because of the win, surely I'd remind them that we moved here from Canada.

Recently Clyde had it with the chickens and wanted to see them gone.  Since they'd become not-so-popular, pooping and pecking machines that refused to lay any eggs, he was tired of spending money and time feeding and taking care of them  After all he'd given them a year, raised them from cute, cuddly chicks but still only managed to get a few eggs out of them.  But how to dispose of the frantic, feeding machines?  He could kill them and we could eat them, but being a lifetime, life saver in the fire department he just couldn't do it. Besides killing a chicken is something he'd never done and apparently doesn't want to learn now.  Another option was to drive them one street over and throw them into the yard of our gringo friend since his Rottweiler has taken a liking to eating chickens.  Mysteriously, the chickens that he had a while back turned up missing with tell tale signs of guilt sticking out of his dog's mouth in the way of feathers.  This poor guy even tried the popular method of putting the dead chicken in a sock and tying it around the neck of the dog.  After days of sitting around with a rotten chicken on it's neck and being ignored by his beloved owner, the dog would supposedly get the message that he'd done a bad thing.  But this clever canine managed to get the sock off his neck and ate what was left of the decomposing carcass from inside.  Ok so apparently that trick doesn't work, or at least no one told this clever canine that it was supposed to do the trick anyway.  So last week during our Spanish lesson Clyde asked our Panamanian teacher if she'd like to have the chickens and she agreed to adopt the pooping cluckers for her very own.  She lives with Mama and said that after a while of tending to them, her mom would kill them and make a large pot of sancocho, the local version of chicken soup. A few days later Clyde stuffed the fat, fluffy hens into a box and took them over to her house where they'd spend their final days.  Clyde is quite content and our yard is once again free from clucking and stinky smells that go along with raising laying hens, that turned out to be lazy lassies who didn't earn their keep.

This was NOT what we got from our lazy ass chickens!

Another mango season is almost over as we pick up the last of the free fruits from the lawn. Our freezer is full of bagged mangoes that will make the rest of the year sweeter as we indulge in their gooey goodness.  We've eaten our fill of mango salsa, mango cookies (the healthier version without sugar),  low-sugar mango jams, mango chutney, mango sorbets, salads and parfaits all crafted by the sweet, loving, hands of the one-and-only "Mangoreesa".  Mango's have been munched and crunched, boiled and baked,  fried and tried on most everything, with the only thing left to be spreading it all over is my handsome hubby. And perhaps when and if we do find mangoes making their way into the bedroom we best bury our befuddled, boudoir, behavior in the back of our brains and not broadcast it here....along the gringo trail.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Simple Little Roadside Clinic......

Once a year when we lived in Texas we'd visit our weight loss surgeon for a follow up appointment.  Prior to the appointment we'd pick up an order for lab work, and then faithfully we'd forgo our morning coffee and head to the lab bright and early with tummies empty.  Since we haven't had lab work done in over a year we thought it was time, and living near Coronado we have several choices.  One option was to visit the San Fernando Clinic, a new, modern facility geared toward expats.  The freezing cold, overly air-conditioned facility has a lab, pharmacy, specialty doctor's that can be seen by appointment along with an emergency room that no longer offers 24-hour services. But even though the clinic is geared toward gringos the staff still speaks little to no English, at least those that we've met there.

A braver, more adventurous option was to visit a Panamanian clinic where we'd pay less for the tests, so of course we took the challenge.  The tiny little cement building is painted bright yellow with the words "Multi's-Services" written on top in large, red letters. The misspelling was apparently their attempt to write in English.   Under the title in smaller writing is a list of the services they offer.  The clinic opened up at 7am and we dragged our coffee-less butts in around 8am not knowing what to expect.  Inside was a tiny room painted bright pink with eight chairs, an old desk where the receptionist sat, and a small table that held an older model television set and a boom box playing Latin music.  We presented the girl at the desk with our orders which we had translated into Spanish by my gynecologist here, from an old order I'd kept from our weight loss surgeon in Texas. She efficiently transferred the orders onto a pad of paper that served as a receipt and looked up the prices of each test.

Little Roadside Laboratory in Coronado

She delivered the order to a male lab technician in the back room and soon after he called my name.  I walked into a tiny room with an old brown, stuffed chair that sat next to a table of supplies.  The fifty-something year old gentleman was dressed in blue slacks and a plaid shirt to match, which accentuated his protruding belly.  In Spanish he asked me to have a seat and immediately grabbed my arm looking at my veins.  In English he said, "close your hand," a common practice used to bring the veins to the surface.  With a quick, tiny pinch he drew one syringe of blood which he transferred into several tubes for the various tests to be performed.  This is much easier than in the states where they attach the tubes directly to the needle area, switching tubes as many times as necessary.  I know this since I was trained to draw blood when I studied to be a medical assistant, and the changing of the tubes was a bit tricky.  After he was done he put a cotton ball over the spot where he drew the blood and bent my arm upwards until he unwrapped a tiny band aid to cover it with.  Here in Panama technicians wear no gloves which definitely saves a bunch of money, since they're not throwing a pair away after every patient.

As soon as I was done the man called "Clee-day," which is the way they pronounce Clyde's name here, as it doesn't translate well into Spanish.  Although I've never liked the name "Theresa" when they say "Teresa" with a Spanish accent it's more acceptable to my ears.  In fact since they don't understand "Terry" many times when asked my name I simply say, "it's Teresa."  We each had twelve  different tests performed for a total of $133.00 each, or $266.00 for both of us.  Being cheap as we are we thought it was a lot of money but had to look at it this way.  We could be back in the states paying $1,000 a month for our health insurance premium and pay little to nothing for the same tests, or pay out of pocket here one time instead. After Clyde paid the girl in cash he asked when we could pick up the results.  She told him the results would be ready Monday after 10am which amazed us that they could have them done that fast. And in case you're wondering why we don't let our health insurance here pay for the lab work it's because they'd want to know why we were having the tests done. Since the labs are all related to our weight loss surgeries and pre-existing conditions are not covered by our insurance here, they wouldn't cover the tests.  Along with the normal things like cholesterol, and glucose weight loss surgery patients are tested for protein levels, calcium, B-12, iron and more.

New dental clinic in Coronado with an example of prices. 
Yes it's that cheap and the dentists are real dentists with six years of dental school.
This translates to:  Braces, White Fillings, Cleanings And Extractions.
So now we know what's inside the tiny clinic that sits behind the congested bus stop, across the highway to the affluent beach community of Coronado. Since we moved here to immerse ourselves in the culture why not take advantage of the good, cheap health care that the locals use.  It's much nicer to see a doctor for $7 than to pay one $50 just because they're in a fancy building. And besides it's more fun to venture into the little hole in the wall clinics and come out with a story to tell here in this little blog....along the gringo trail.

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.

Life In Portugal....At A Snails Pace....

Yesterday was just another day in Portugal when my dear husband Clyde said he was going to run to the pharmacy for a few things. Time passed...