It has been over a year (December 24, 2014) since our Honda CRV overheated. After many months of going back and forth into the shop for several repairs, lots of money spent on labor and parts from here and ordered from the U.S., and never really solving the issue of random overheating, we parked it in the garage, then sold it to a Canadian couple who owns a home in Pedasí. They arrived Dec. 23rd, 2015 to claim their vehicle. But transferring the CRV was not without a few glitches (TIP-This is Panama).
After helping them acquire insurance on the car from the local “seguro” office at the Cooperativa (credit union), we walked on over the the Municipal office to transfer the title. I had been assured previously that everything was in order and their would be “no problemas” when I sold the car in spite the fact that we still had not received our 2015 “placo” (license plate). (At this point many of my readers would ask why don’t they just add a new annual sticker to the plate as they do elsewhere? – “TIP”) Anyway, after the personnel at the Municipal office looked at our documents, and although all the paperwork showed that the registration had been transferred to Pedasí from Panamá previously, the title still had it as Panamá. I was then directed that we would have to go to the ATTT (Autoridad del Transito y Transporte Terrestre) office in Las Tablas to change the title first, before I could transfer it to the new owners. So the next Monday after Christmas, the 4 of us went in the CRV, which by the way, did not overheat.
Well, Mikkel and I have learned to accept that things don’t always go exactly as planned and we are not always given all the information necessary to complete the task at hand. We arrive at the ATTT office; present our documents and request to change the “Municipo” on the title, only to be told that we are missing an inspection document from the DIJ (Derección de Investigación Judicial- the Investigation department of the National Police). Now this is a new law in Panama when transferring the registration to a new “Municipo”. We were told the DIJ office in Las Tablas only does this on Monday and Tuesday mornings. Luckily it was Monday, so we drove over across town to the where we waited for the inspector to come out of his office and mosey on over across the street to inspect a few cars waiting in a open dirt lot (ours being the last). So we sat outside in the shade waiting as the inspector had others open their hoods. He took out his phone for one vehicle, taking many pictures of the chassis and motor. We were not really sure what he was doing. When he finally got to the CRV, he wiped down a few places where the chassis and vin numbers were, took out a piece of carbon paper and rubbed it agains the numbers, placed a wide piece of taped over the carbon-inked numbers which lifted an imprint, and then taped the imprint on a piece of white paper. The inspector then sauntered back to his office where we again waited our turn to be called in to hand over copies of several documents and Mikkel’s residence card. (Thank God I have learned to bring a set of copies of everything. If you don’t have copies, you will have to go somewhere else in town to get copies; they don’t copy for you even though they have a copy machine available.) The inspector than informs us that he must send the documents to Panama City for approval and it will not be until a week from Tuesday that he will have the inspection document available due to the holidays. So another delay in transferring the vehicle to the new owners, but we give them the car to drive in the meantime. They have paid for it and have insurance, so technically it is theirs. Just a few glitches in the paperwork that eventually will get resolved. Just have to wait another week or so.
In the meantime during that week, we bought a new car; well, it’s new for us. Mikkel discovered a new posting on Craigslist for a 2000 Honda Passport in our price range located near Chitré and looked like it was in good shape. He contacted the owner and received a long email from a couple who we had met in the past but hadn’t seen them for over a year. He shared that the car was well-maintained with the maintenance records for the past 3 years when he purchased it from another expat who had imported it from the U.S. Mikkel offered a low-ball price and he accepted it. On Saturday, January 2nd, the couple came to our home with the car. Mikkel drove it all around, inspected it fully, and we decided to purchase it. The car has a few quirks we were able to live with, but overall it was in great shape with 4WD, AC, and power from a 6-cylinder engine. It is very similar to the CRV, just bigger. We drove them back home to Playa Monagre agreeing to meet them on Monday to go to the Municipo office in Los Santos where the car had been registered. This time the transfer was much easier. An ATTT office is inside the Municipo office; copies can be made at the store next door; and payments were made at Banco National de Panama across the street. It was just a matter of signing several documents, making a few copies to submit, and paying $20.00 and we had the official title in Mikkel’s name within an hour. We are not going to transfer registration to Pedasí, and I am sure you understand why.
Now back to the CRV transfer. On Tuesday, we told the other couple to stay home to enjoy their vacation in Pedasí while we finish the change of municipal registration in Las Tablas. They or the car really didn’t need to be present at this point. So back at the DIJ office we again sat and waited for the inspector to finish across the street to look at vehicles that arrived earlier. When he was finally ready for us, we followed him into another office where he took his time completing the inspection form on the computer. Then he finally printed 2 copies, signed it and we were on our way back to the ATTT office. There, of course, we again waited in line to again submit copies of several documents including the DIJ inspection. We paid the $20 fee there where you also pay the fines for traffic tickets. Finally they typed up the new title with “Pedasí” as the Municpio, and back to Pedasí with the proper title in hand. All that for one word to be changed. I stopped at the municipal office in Pedasí to make sure we now had all the proper documents to transfer the owner of the title & registration and was assured that all was correct- “no problemas” (haha).
Late the next morning as agreed upon, we met the buyers of the CRV at the Pedasí municipal office. After submitting all the necessary copied documents, waiting about an hour for them to type up forms with carbon copies, “comprarado” (buyer) and “vendador” (seller) signing papers, and the buyer paying $8.50, all was complete. But not exactly. Remember, we have learned they don’t tell you everything at once. I noticed that the title was still in Mikkel’s name. So only after asking were we informed we had to go back to the ATTT office in Las Tablas to have the name changed on the title, again with a “no problemas” attached. Although Mikkel and I had plans to spend the afternoon at the beach club swimming, the other couple were only available that afternoon. Again things don’t always go as planned and you just got to go with it. This time though, Mikkel decided to go alone, meeting the buyers at the ATTT office, and dropping me off at the beach club to enjoy the afternoon. He felt he no longer needed me as a translator since he has been through all this before recently and knew what to expect. They would only required his signature and a copy of his passport. So as I swam in the refreshing pool and laid in the sun overlooking the ocean, Mikkel drove back to Las Tablas to finish the transaction. The buyer paid another $20 and the Honda CRV is officially no longer ours. Mikkel then returned to Pedasí to join me in the pool.
From the perspective of being from the U.S. or Canada, one could be easily frustrated and complain about the system to sell, buy, and own a car as well as other ways of doing business here in Panama. But that is just it-this is Panama (TIP), not the U.S. or Canada. How they do things here is what works for them. So we have to just accept it. Complaining or getting upset doesn’t change anything but bringing up one’s blood pressure or stress level. So to live here is to be able to go with the flow, to be flexible, to expect the unexpected. If something goes smoothly, great! I think if you move to any country outside of where you have lived most of your life, you will always find challenges and changes in procedures much different than what you are used to. You may believe that another country’s way is better, easier, more proficient. But who is to say it is. We chose to live here in Pedasí, Panama. Along with that decision comes acceptance of the culture, traditions, procedures, laws, and lifestyle. And with that acceptance comes less stress and the freedom to enjoy our third life. And now with a lot of patience, once again we own a car that can take us on other adventures or even just to a local beach.