Tag Archives: Retirement
Las autoridades municipales, en consenso con representantes del distrito de Barú, en la provincia de Chiriquí, acordaron suspender cualquier tipo de actividad relacionada con las fiestas del dios Momo ante la alerta por el brote del virus A (H1N1) en la región.
My rough translation of this story from Critica newspaper is:
“Municipal authorities, together with representatives of the Barú district in Chiriquí province have decided to suspend any type of party activities related to Carnival because of the outbreak of the A (H1N1) virus in the region.” Barú district is home of Puerto Armuelles and La Frontera where most of the cases have come from.
With the last few weeks there has been some seriously bad stuff going in in Chiriquí Province where I live. There has been an outbreak of AH1N1 virus also known as “Swine Flu.” Influenza A (H1N1) virus is the subtype of influenza A virus that was the most common cause of human influenze (flu) in 2009, and is associated with the 1918 outbreak known as the Spanish Flu that killed some 50 to 100 million people worldwide over about a year in 1918 and 1919.
So far it’s known that 26 people have confirmed cases of the disease and three people have died of it here in the last couple of weeks. There have even been rumors that the city of David (dah VEED) has considered canceling Carnival celebrations, but in today’s Critica newspaper Yansy Rodríguez, of the Ministerio de Salud denied the rumors.
Back in 2009 when we were having the bid swine flu scare I came down to explore possible places to live here in Panama and people everywhere were wearing gauze masks. Of course that didn’t help them from catching the bug, but it DID prevent them from spreading it to others should they have it and sneeze of cough at least it was trapped between themselves and the mask and not spread to others in the vicinity.
It hasn’t come to that stage of panic yet, but what do you do to protect oneself? You could go to a clinic and get a flu shot. I’m not going to do that. But I do take some precautions. Most of the cases here in Chiriquí come from around Puerto Armuelles and Frontera. To go over to Bugaba to do some shopping you take the bus (35¢) or a cab (50¢) down to El Cruce at the Interamericana and catch a bus there. Bugaba, by the way, is to the west of Boquerón while David is to the east. Among the choices of west-bound buses are those marked for Armuelles and Frontera, the hot beds of flu activity right now. I won’t get on one of those to get to Bugaba or to return to El Cruce.
I have carried a small bottle of anti-bacterial hand cleaner in my back pack for a couple of years. I use it before taking a shopping cart at Romero supermarket. You never know whose used it before you. I use it again when I’m leaving the store. On the buses I try not to touch anything if I can help it, and after putting the stuff I’ve bought in the refrigerator or on the shelves I wash my hands. Now, that may sound like I’m a bit paranoid or becoming a bit Howard Hughes obsessive. I don’t think I am but these are just a few precautions a person can easily practice to cut down the chances of infection.
Okay, I need to say a few words about crime here in Panama. Naturally one of the big questions people have is what the crime situation is like here. Yes, we have it, and yes, it’s growing, just like it is in the States.
Naturally crime is worse in the Capitol, but it’s a big city with the same problems all big cities have worldwide, so I’m not even going to get into what’s happening there other than to say that most of the violent crime there is associated with drugs and drug dealers since Panama is a trans-shipping site.
We have a growing crime problem here in Chiriquí Province, and that’s directly the result, I believe of two things…David (dahVEED) is the country’s SECOND LARGEST city and big city problems come along with it. Another contributing factor is Chiriquí Province has seen a huge influx of foreigners (mostly from the States and Canada) and while there doesn’t seem to be any animus towards us, the gringos (and I’m going to use that term for EVERYONE who isn’t a Panamanian) are generally richer than the natives and that naturally makes gringos TARGETS.
Crime is a major concern for the gringos here in the Republic. (When referring to “gringos” I mean anyone who comes here whose native tongue is not Spanish.)
Many people assume that because the doors and windows have bars on them crime must be running wild. Not really. While those barred doors and windows ARE crime prevention features it is also very much a “Latin” thing, too.
We in the expat community really only pay attention to crime when it strikes us or one of our own, but the majority of the victims of crime are the natives. We just don’t pay attention to it because we don’t read the Spanish-language newspapers or watch Spanish-language television broadcasts. We live in our own little bubble.
Recently there has been an increase in home invasion crimes and two expats have been shot as a result. One, a British woman, I happen to know slightly from Potrerillos Arriba. She very nearly died, spent several weeks in the hospital and isn’t completely out of the woods yet. The other recent shooting involved a a man who was shot twice but not nearly as seriously as the lady. As if getting shot ANYWHERE isn’t serious enough, right?
One thing I know is that the lady made herself a target for such a thing to happen. She had a lovely house on probably an acre or more of lovingly maintained lawns and shrubbery. The home would be the envy of many people in the States. Now, everybody should be able to build a nice house on well-kept grounds and live happily ever after. . .in a perfect world. In the last decade gringos have poured into this country that, despite a rapidly growing first-world infrastructure is essentially just getting out of being third-world. To some of the people here a wheelbarrow is as big a technological leap as a lunar rover was to the States. There are PLENTY of people living hand-to-mouth here though we don’t see them too often. Most are indigenous people who live up in the mountains in shanties made of split bamboo with rusting tin roofs, and you’d generally have to trek an hour or more to get to where they live. Out of sight, out of mind.
But there is also a growing sub-culture of thuggery here though, thankfully, they don’t walk around with their pants sagging down. The law here does NOT incarcerate minors under fourteen, releasing them to their parents even after committing the most horrendous crimes including murder. Enterprising Fagins are exploiting this fact and recruiting youngsters to actually commit the crimes. These gangs often roam around neighborhoods in taxis casing homes to break into and it doesn’t matter if anyone’s home, either.
So, how do I cope with all this? First of all, I DON’T live like so many of the gringos who expatriate here. I DON’T live up in what is often disparagingly referred to as “Gringolandia.” That is the Boquete region, Potrerillos which has a growing expatriate population or Volcan. For most of the time I’ve lived here it has been in Panamanian neighborhoods where I’m the only gringo and I live in a house similar to all my neighbors. Except for the fact that when locals see me I’m instantly recognizable as an expat I blend in.
And one takes precautions. During daylight hours my doors are open to allow the breezes to blow through the house. That’s where the bars come in handy. THOSE doors are ALWAYS locked. No one is going to sneak in. While it is possible to own a gun here in Panama it is VERY HARD to get permission to own one. In fact, within the last month, a former chief of police in another provincial town was found guilty of having unauthorized weapons and sentenced to TEN YEARS IN PRISON. They take stuff like that very seriously here. That doesn’t mean I’m unprotected, though. I have a VERY LARGE, VERY SHARP machete close at hand and honestly I wouldn’t be afraid to use it on someone trying to get into my house uninvited.
So what would happen if someone broke in while I wasn’t home? Well, there really isn’t much for anyone to steal. I don’t own a television or a stereo system. My most valuable possession is my MacBook Air computer which I’m using to write this. I have a Sony camcorder and a nice Canon still camera and a bicycle. I’ve written down the serial numbers to all these things and sent them to myself via an email so no matter where I am, if I have access to a computer I can give the proper authorities the information they’d need should they find someone with my stuff. Those are the GOOD things. I also have three dead H-P notebook computers that I didn’t throw away and also have the serial numbers for. Why do I still have them? They’re DECOYS.
When I was house sitting in Potrerillos Arriba, which DIDN’T have bars, I’d put my computer and cameras in the clothes dryer and cover them with a couple of towels. I figured any self-respecting robber isn’t going to check there for valuables. Here in Boquerón what I do when I know I’ll be away from the house for a couple of hours is to put the computer, the power cord and this cordless keyboard into a kitchen trash bag and put THAT into a bag of actual trash. If some crook finds it, more power to him. But I figure he’s going to find the dead notebooks, say, “Aha! Good score!” and be gone.
And that’s how I deal with things here.
Recently on Facebook a couple of people have posed the question as to what songs people want to have played at their funerals. It may sound kind of morbid, but several years ago, before I moved to Panama, I made up a mix CD of the songs I want played at my sending off affair. I want to be cremated and have my ashes scattered on the deep blue waters of the Gulf Stream off of Fort Lauderdale where I lived for so many years. I envision that some of my molecules will make their way north along the waters I traveled so often and perhaps, just perhaps, some teeny weeny part of me might make it all the way across the big pond and back to the shores my ancestors came from.
But here are the songs I want wafting out over the waters when I go. You have to listen to the lyrics. The first song captures the spirituality I believe in:
Because my adult working life was a combination of working with the written word and plying the waters on boats, Tom Waits sums it all up here:
This Dave Hole song sums things up pretty well for me, too:
But then, when they actually start scattering my ashes I want THIS song BLASTING out over the Gulf Stream:
I live online. It’s my connection with the world outside mi barrio de español. Since I’m moving I had to make sure I would be able to get online. Last week I went down to the Cable (Cah Blay) Onda offices in downtown David to check whether or not I could get their service at my new house.
“Oh, yes,” the girl said, “we have service at Brisas de Boquerón.” Great, but I didn’t want them to cut the service off immediately and leave me in the cold since I haven’t quite moved into the new place yet. Poco a poco it’s getting done. Well, today I went down to Cable Onda to set up installation at the new house. Guess what? Well, here, this map will show you what I mean…
You’ll probably have to click on the pic to enlarge it, so I’ll explain what it shows. See those yellow stick pins in the upper portion of the photo? That’s where my house is. The two yellow stick pins are where THE FUCKING SERVICE ENDS RIGHT NOW!!! That’s right, there’s no cable yet on the street where I live, and they have no idea when it might be strung. That really, REALLY SUCKS!
When I moved into the house here in Boquerón the barrio wasn’t wired for cable t.v. or internet. So what I used was a USB modem from the cellular company, Claro. It plugged into a USB port on the computer and, while slow, it was good enough to get most of the sites I use, like this one. It looked like this and it cost me $40/month for unlimited access.
It was okay, but when Cable Onda came around and offered faster internet speeds for the same price, I took them up on the offer, and by and large have been happy with the service. I say by and large because in the last month there have been several times when there was ZERO access, generally after a major thunderstorm moved through the area, and the outages were up to 20-hours long.
Well, after finding out I couldn’t be hooked up at the new house I immediately went to Claro and got their WiFi router service. Same price as I’ve been paying, but slower speeds but it’s better than nothing. And the reason I got the router was so I could download my free Kindle books to my tablet. Originally if I wanted to download books I’d ordered I either had to go up to the InfoPlaza at the town hall or use the country’s free WiFi system at the bus terminal. Not critical, but kind of a pain in the ass having to go to those places. The Claro router looks like this:
The router costs $80 if you go pre-paid which is what I used to do with the USB modem. HOWEVER, if you get a contract then the router is FREE with the plan I’ve chosen. And I was able to get on a contract. The agent, a young man named Kevin who spoke excellent English (our whole transaction which took well over an hour was conducted in a melangé of English and Spanish simply because I feel uncomfortable talking to Panamanians in English) asked me if I had credit here in Panama, a requisite to getting a contract. I said I’d never bought anything on credit here so I doubted I’d qualify. “Wait a minute,” he said, “how long have you had Cable Onda?” I told him about two years or so and he went to his computer and, sure enough, because I’ve been such a good customer with them I qualified to get a contract with Claro! The contract is 18 months, but I can quit at any time with 30 days notice but there is a penalty and that’s that I’d have to pay the full price of the router.
The thing’s working fine. I’m giving it a test run right now writing this post. Well. that’s it. I’ll still be able to get online even if it isn’t the way I’d hoped it would be, but, as we used to say in Antibes, “c’est la vie.”