When I look at the U.S. headlines online down here in Panama I despair for my country. It’s sure not the same place I grew up in in the ’50s. It’s not the same place as when I wore a Navy uniform in the ’60s. (Believe it or not, I was 21 when that picture was taken)
Look at what the country is facing in 2016…Donald Trump leads the rabid pack of Republikunts who are looking to completely trash what’s left of the nation’s safety net, deny people entry into the country based on their religious beliefs. Build a WALL along the borders? Get REAL. And then you have twatwaffles like the CANADIAN Rafael Cruz Jr., who wants to install a Christian version of Sharia Law on the country. I’m not even going to get into the twerp whose family fled to the United States to “escape Castro” years before Castro took over Cuba. And then there’s Uncle Ben Carson who believes the pyramids were built to store grain and who forever killed the phrase, “What are you — a brain surgeon?” when referring to smart people.
On the other side of the aisle I’d love to see Bernie become president. What is Democratic Socialism? It’s making the government give us what we’ve paid for…And no matter how horribly the Republikunts, and a lot of Democrats paint Hillary Clinton, all I can say is that in MY opinion on her WORST day Hillary Clinton is better than ANY Republikunt on their best day!
If I hadn’t done so already I’d seriously be considering expatriation if one of those joker become president.
But I already left the U.S., not for any political reasons but moved to Panama in order to have a nice, relatively stress-free life.
In 2009 I received what is known as a “Pensionado” visa which allows me to live in the Republic of Panama and not have to leave. At that time I received a “carnet” from the Immigration service and my lawyer said, as she handed it to me, “There are only two things a Panamanian can do that you can’t…One is to work and the other is to vote.” Well, believe me, I had no intention of working anymore after I started collecting Social Security, and as far as voting is concerned? Meh!
But the carnet is a cheap, shoddy piece of work. It’s a second cousin to a high school ID or a hall pass. A piece of paper with my picture on it that’s been cheaply laminated. I’ve never had anybody turn me down for anything when I’ve presented it, but most Panamanians have never seen one of these and they scrutinize it intensely when they see it.
Every Panamanian, even children have a national ID card known as a cédula, and a couple of years ago the country started issuing what is known as an E cédula. The E stands for extranjero (foreigner). It is issued by the Tribunal electoral of the Republic. It’s the size of a credit card but not quite as thick. When I first heard about them I called my lawyer about how to go about getting one for myself but she poo pooed the idea. In the last year four of my friends have gotten their E cédulas and they gave me the name of the person who helped them get theirs. I contacted Luis Arce and we started the process.
There was a complication in that my lawyer never gave me a copy of the Carta de Resolucion from immigration and when I contacted her she said she didn’t have it. So Luis had to make several trips to immigration and emails to and from me to get a copy of the letter. That done I got on the 10 p.m. bus on the second of this month and went to Panama City, arriving there at 4:22 in the morning. Luis showed up at ten to five and we went off to the Tribunal Electoral building. Those offices start the day at 7 a.m. Can you believe that? Can you imagine a government office in the U.S. opening for business at SEVEN IN THE MORNING? Unheard of.
Needless to say we were first in line and after signing a couple of papers, getting my picture taken and being electronically fingerprinted we left the building at 7:30! ALL DONE! At 8:45 I was back on a bus for the seven hour ride back to David and I was home in time to cook dinner. Needless to say I was BEAT and I went to bed and slept for 11 hours straight!
Now this E cédula doesn’t give me any more rights than I had with the carnet, but I does make me more “officially” Panamanian. I’ll be perfectly honest with you and say that if I could become a Panamanian citizen I WOULD. My friend David Baker, the only gringo I know that left Panama to live in Costa Rica recently became a citizen of that country. He’s the ONLY one I know who went to Pura Vida land while I’ve met a couple of dozen who left there to move here.
I can NEVER become a citizen through the Pensionado visa. The only way I could actually become a citizen would be to deposit several hundred thousand dollars into a Panamanian bank account (like I HAVE several hundred thousand dollars in the first place) or marry a Panamanian. The later isn’t an option, either. First there are no volunteers to fill the position and secondly I’m not sure I could stand to be with anyone for the five years you have to be married in order to apply for citizenship. And since I’m almost 74, have serious COPD, and carry three stents in my coronary arteries I doubt that I’ll be around for five more years anyway. Now, if that sounds fatalistic, I guess it is. I like to think of it as being realistic. The other day I was having lunch with some friends (the first to get their E cédulas) and that subject came up. I said I’m not saying I want to die yet, I DON’T, but I’M READY, if you know what I mean. I’ve accomplished everything I ever wanted to do in my life. I’ve sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. I helped take a boat through the Panama Canal. I owned a small sailboat and went off cruising in it alone for nine months to Mexico, Belize and the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. I was captain of an 85′ ketch on the French Riviera for three years (hey, someone was going to do it, why not me?). I’ve circumnavigated the eastern half of the United States in boats, a feat known to boaters in the U.S. as “The Great Circle.” No, I don’t want to die yet, but I’M READY.
This morning a took the bus over to Bugaba to the Tribunal Electoral and picked up my E cédula. I asked the man who was filling out the final paperwork for me to sign, and I translate for you….”Do you know what the ‘E’ stands for?” He said, “Extranjero.” No,” I replied, “it means “extraordinary.” I love it when I can get a smile out of the natives in their own language.
So, while I can’t be a citizen of Panama at least I can look a little bit as if I AM ONE. But at least the Republica sees me as a Residente Permanente.
As an aside, I don’t see myself being around long enough to have to renew the card, either.