July – Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

This July has gone by quickly. I have been planning to write something on this blog many times this past month and just end up getting distracted with many other things. That’s okay. I don’t allow myself to be under any deadline or pressure anymore. I’m retired and choose to enjoy life as it comes – a lot less stressful. So here is a summary of our past month, much through the photos I took.
We celebrated the 4th of July again at Smiley’s with many other expats – including live music and watching a fireworks show live on TV from Washington DC.

Animal Advocates of Pedasí, a group I have been a member of, conducted a 2-day Sterilization clinic in town. This took a lot of time and effort on every group member’s part – advertising door-to-door throughout the pueblo and on Facebook; arranging for housing, food, etc. for the veterinarians and their assistants; setting up and tearing down each day at the basketball court; taking appointments; providing transportation and trapping feral animals; etc. But it is worth all the efforts – over 100 animals were sterilized.

I flew to the U.S. (left Mikkel behind) to visit family and friends for a couple of weeks. I first went to Tucson, Arizona, staying with my daughter Becky with her husband Raul and my grandson Eli; also seeing my son Ben and his girlfriend Rosie. Had a wonderful visit even though the temperatures were over 100ºF every day and it was too short of a visit. We all went to my favorite Mexican restaurant one evening, cooled off in the pool, played video games with my grandson, saw “Ghostbusters” at the movie theater one day, and my daughter served roasted corn-on-the-cob and BBQ steak for dinner the last night – all the things that I have missed or rarely can do since moving to Panama.

Then I went back to Tustin, California for a reunion of my church youth group of the ’60s & ’70s. Over 100 people attended including my sister Geri from Phoenix, Arizona. Having not seen most of these people since high school, I recognized or remembered very few of them. And as I was driving up into the parking lot, I asked myself who were all these “old” people were entering the church. “Oh yeah, I’m older also”, I reminded myself. I did enjoy catching up and meeting new people.

Afterwards, my sister and I drove around Tustin where we had grown up, reminiscing about our life in Tustin, visiting our family home (since sold), high school, and other areas of the town. We observed the growth of Tustin since we moved away, but discovered many things were still the same. Then we drove out to Newport Beach where we had spent many enjoyable summer days at the beach, especially during our teenage years. But now the beaches are much more crowded and the traffic is horrendous.

The last couple of days of my trip was spent with my grandchildren and their parents in Palmdale, CA, north of Los Angeles. Ate more corn-on-the-cob and also asparagus for dinner, and had a great time catching up with everyone.

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Every time I fly to the U.S. something is different with my airline travel. This time when the plane arrived in Los Angeles from Panama, we went through customs as usual. It looked different than before and I assumed from some of the construction going on, they were just remodeling. But I discovered upon exiting, that I was at the United Airlines terminal instead of the Bradley International terminal as in the past. Then when flying back to LAX from Tucson, as the TSA entered my passport through the scanning machine, I was given a pass that exempted me from taking off my shoes and going through the X-ray machine. This did not happen at any other time I boarded an airplane for this entire trip. When I was returning to Panama, Copa Airlines, for the first time, weighed my carry-on. It was overweight, so they insisted that I check it in as a 3rd piece of luggage, but didn’t charge extra. When I arrived in Panama, I picked up my 3 pieces of luggage at baggage claim. One suitcase, which I bought in Tucson, was packed with a rather large printer we had previously ordered from the states and delivered to my family in Palmdale, hoping to save shipping (long story). As I entered the long line where you have all your baggage and belongings go through the X-ray machine for customs, an agent was looking at the immigration claim forms that is given to us by the airlines to fill out beforehand. He looked at mine, then opened the rope to let me pass through, skipping the X-ray machine. I did claim the printer and its value on the immigration claim form, but I have no idea why I was privileged to go around. I am not complaining though.

The plan was that Mikkel was driving to Panama City to meet me and we would stay at a hotel that night since my arrival time was late that evening. But as I have learned, the best of plans can change. As Mikkel was driving, the car broke down near Playa Coronado, about an hour outside of Panama City. He ended up staying there for 3 nights and eventually leaving the car behind with a mechanic to replace the starter, cracked radiator, head gaskets, and timing belt – another unforeseen cost that we did not expect. I had to arrange for transportation from the airport to the hotel and then to the bus terminal the next day to return to Pedasí. Fortunately our friend and driver Luis was available in Panama City, and our friends in Pedasí were kind enough to pick me up at the Chitré bus terminal upon my return. Mikkel’s friend Tim drove to Coronado and brought him back home. So we are back to walking and hitching rides with friends until the car is ready, hopefully soon.

Since returning from the U.S., I have just been busy catching up with emails, working on the business website, household chores, planning for an Animal Advocates tag sale in August, shopping, teaching English, and visiting friends. Yesterday, our landlord had one of royal palms cut down because we believe it has been the cause for the deposito’s walls shifting and cracking. That was an experience to observe how a team of Panamanians without all the safety equipment that would be required in the US for the same task figure out how to successfully bring down this very tall tree located in the corner of our somewhat small garden. They build scaffolding around the tree; climbed a tall extension ladder placed on the top level of the scaffolding; cut off the palm branches first with a machete, and then cut the trunk half-way up while other pulled on a rope to strategically bring the top half and then the bottom half down to the ground without damaging any plants, walls, or the house. Amazing!

Our on-demand water heater has stopped working properly (have to shake it for it to come on and then it shuts off again in about 30 seconds). The cold water into the house is still warm enough for a comfortable cool shower and I can always heat up water if I want for washing dishes. It is probably the electrical ignition wire that has corroded again, so we have contacted a local electrician. But as we have learned “mañana” just means “not today”. One must have patience to live here.

It is the rainy season and this year, especially this month, we have had much rain – buckets of water from the sky and the garden has turned into a lake at times which hangs around because the ground is so saturated already. I think it has rained more this month and perhaps last month than all of last year’s rainy season. The thunderstorms have been very intense and more frequent. For the first time, our dog Bella insists on jumping between us in bed, shaking and panting, trying to hide under the pillows because she is so scared of the thunder and lightening throughout the storm. Today, it has been raining most of the day with some thunder, but it is a steady softer rain. And since I have caught up with most everything now, while waiting for the electrician to possibly show up, I am taking advantage of this time to finally write something down before our next adventure of our third life in Pedasí pulls me away.

Update: Before I could post this, another electrician was brought over by our landlord. Looks like the controller must be replaced and they must go to Chitré for the part. His wife is sending another electrician, the one who installed the water heater, for a possible 2nd opinion. He found that the battery contact were not touching and was able to temporarily fix it, saying it could last a few days, week, or months. But at least we have hot water for now. TIP – This is Panama.

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