Jubilado Cards

John and I just completed one of the primary tasks of those who wish to live here and enjoy the financial discounts offered by Panama to retirees: the Jubilado Card.

I may be naming this card wrong; I may not get the names of the departments right. You’ll just have to bear with me as I make no claim to journalistic accuracy. Hell, I’m no reporter, just an average gal going along for the ride.

But this was a huge accomplishment and one that most expats go through. Some people get this handled before they even land here permanently. Others begin it right away. Us? Well….it took us a little longer. We didn’t feel the need to get the card right away. Don’t know why. Maybe it was because we already receive the “jubilado discounts” wherever we go without the card. (god, do we look that old?)

Either way, we dragged our feet and we took our time finding our attorney. Finally, last May we were meeting with Eric Quintero in Alto, Boquete. Great guy, active in the Boquete life, with two kids in local colleges. Once in his office we discovered we were missing a document. So, what else is new?

Yeah, just because the Panamanian consulate in San Diego (the office that provides all the “apostiles” for all the necessary documents for our U.S. geographic area) told us our list was complete and we were ready to file in Panama, does NOT mean they were correct. Once again, the left hand is not communicating with the right hand. Bottom line, we waited a few months until we were scheduled to travel back to California to get that one last eensy, teensy document stamped, signed and delivered.

Once we put everything into our lawyer’s hands last September (remember, we landed here in February a year ago), he was ready to ship it to Panama City. He warned us it could be up to 6 months to one year for the cards to be ready, although four months is not unheard of. He told us if he didn’t hear anything at the four-month-mark, he would call the department in charge in Panama City.

Sure enough, right at the four months’ time, Eric called and asked the status of our package. He was told the package was approved and ready for pick up after one month’s time! Unheard of. And why no one called him to tell him? (Duh, it’s Panama! And get this: Eric submitted our package at the same time as another client. Duplicate packages, both complete and ready to submit by Eric’s standards. The other guy’s package was not yet ready and our’s was ready after one month! Go figure….)

Either way, it was now January of this year. John and I decided to wait until we were heading for the states anyway to be in PC to pick up our cards. Eric also advised us to get our Panamanian driver’s licenses the same time, as it would save us a day’s hassle in David. In anticipation of all this, we scheduled 3 days in PC before we headed for the States.

At the recommendation of our friends, we hired a cab driver who is apparently very much “in the know” on how to obtain all of these items. Where to go, which departments to walk into, conversing with the bureaucrats, etc. His name is Luis Arcé, and people! I cannot say enough nice things about him. Speaks English, cares about his customers, knows how to cut through red tape, etc.

There were glitches in our paperwork we never would have sorted through without him. (things like administrators copying our file number incorrectly and then putting the wrong number on all our paperwork!) There were places we had to go we NEVER would have found without him — “Oh, that stamp you need for the driver’s license? Yeah, that’s not here anymore, it’s now located at this location.”. He found it and drove us there.

Other issues: “yeah, your jubilado paperwork would have been ready, but the guy who is going to issue the final stamp just went to lunch. He’ll be back in an hour.” Remember, all of this is in Spanish. If it were left up to us, we’d still be there trying to understand them! But when he told us about the final-stamp-guy going to lunch, he said “Let’s kill the next hour and do the same. I know this great place to eat….all the locals go there.”. So we did.

THEN, when we went to the equivalent of the DMV, they told us we needed a blood test. Luis knew where to take us. When we got back to the DMV, over 40 busdrivers had come in to get their annual updates! We were going to either have to wait out these busdrivers, or come back the next morning to complete the process. Luis knew what to do: he had a chat with the receptionist and before we knew it, we were being hustled past all 40 bus drivers and to the head of the line. AWESOME, people, just awesome!

Okay, I’m not supposed to show this; in fact, just after I took this shot, a security guard came over to me and shook his finger in my face. But here’s a shot of the interior of the DMV. Look closely: all the men in pale blue shirts are the bus drivers who were there for the day. In this shot, I can count nine of them:

This process: getting our jubilado, getting our Panamanian Driver’s licenses took us two days. Without him, we figured it would have taken us four to five days. Worth his weight in gold! Speaking of gold, here is a pic of Luis and John. If you look carefully, John is getting his “gold” out to pay Luis:

Luis Arcé is the man to hire when you have to go to Panama City and do all of this. His rates were fair, and we then later hired him to drive us around as we looked for furniture. And get this: John and I found two chairs we liked. We paid for them, took off for the States and Luis handled the rest for us: getting the chairs and their paperwork delivered to Boquete for us. So he’s a concierge as well. He told us “If you know what you and want where it is located, I can get it for you, take it to Fletes Chevales and get it shipped to you.” Here’s a pic of one of the chairs:

What a guy, eh? The chairs were in Boquete two weeks later when we returned, wrapped carefully, all invoices attached, perfect.

So, the next time you need help in Panama City, call Luis at 6536-1179.

I receive no commission Luis for recommending him and I would never expect to. I just love the guy because he’s honest and extremely hard working. I told him I would write about him and he was thrilled to hear about it. He would love to quit his third job as a bell man at a main hotel and would love to survive on taxi and concierge services for people.

Maybe this little article in this silly little blog will help him do just that.

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A Quick Trip To Gamez Island in the Pacific Ocean

A good friend in Boquete bid on and won a day trip on a yacht in the Pacific Ocean, off of Boca Chica. We were invited to be one of four couples (paying $100 each — hey, I said she was a good friend, not a RICH one) to enjoy this day. We all decided, however, that the day before we would all rendezvous at a favorite hotel of mine, the Boca Chica Plantation and Resort.

The Boca Chica Plantation

I wrote about the Boca Chica Plantation stay I enjoyed last June. Click here to read that post.  And this trip proved no less wonderful. The same view out to the ocean from the infinity pool, with good friends sharing drinks and snacks the afternoon before launch was just loads of fun.

I could just move in.....

Dinner, as usual at the Plantation, was scrumptious. The kitchen offers 4 different entrees, each better than the last. Dessert was a hot chocolate brownie drizzled with chocolate sauce and snuggled in a martini glass with vanilla ice cream.

Early to bed in the luxurious king beds and up early to be on the road by 8:30 am. Although we did take enough time to enjoy the “included in the price” breakfast of fresh fruit, orange juice, coffee and any entree we wanted cooked to order. (I’m privately thinking I’ll just stay here at the Plantation and all of my friends can go on the boat themselves, but hey! I’m a trooper, so I steadily trudged forward, on to the next activity.)

We arrived at Boca Chica’s  boat dock full of trepidation at the ominous clouds that were exhibiting major thunderbolts and lighting strikes. We weren’t particularly looking forward to a day spent inside a rocking boat’s cabin, riding out a storm. And if that were to be the case, I know I’d become intimately acquainted with the boat’s bilge systems.

Fortunately our ship’s captains and new friends, Dottie and Larry Thompson, assured us that we were going in a completely opposite direction and their radar systems showed nothing in that direction. So, fears allayed, we set off.

They own a 50 foot Fleming, one of the better cruising yachts, from what I’ve been told. With 3 levels of seating, no one felt crowded. There was an aft (that’s the tail end, for all you landlubbers!) deck to enjoy, an interior salon, kitchen, two bedrooms, the head (which I prayed I would use for only one purpose), and an upper deck.

We stowed our gear (that’s sailor talk for neatly putting away our stuff…..) and took off for Gamez Island, a roughly 40 minute ride away. Now, when I say 40 minutes, that’s because these cruising yachts are NOT built for speed. It’s not like you can hop off the back of the boat with a water ski strapped to one foot and yell “Hit it!”. Well you can, but not much would happen. These big boys work up a sweat when they’re going 6 knots, or a little over 5 miles.

So we all relaxed, chatted and enjoyed the scenery. We passed by island after island, wondering “hey, that island looks good, what about that one?” “No place to beach it,” replied our Captain. “okay, that one looks good, how about it?” “Nope,” said Dottie, “wait’ll you see Gamez.”

And the wait was worth it. A tiny little island, with a gorgeous swimming beach, a narrow isthmus revealing another beach on the other side. Dueling beaches!

Well, “the boys” of the trip instantly decided it was time to go for a swim after a little horsing around. Some people just NEVER grow up. If you look closely, you can see through the isthmus to another island beyond:

After a couple of hours spent on the beach, the boat’s horn sounded, signaling lunch. A quick swim back to the boat brought us to a feast! Curried chicken salad in pineapple boats, couscous, egg salad, crudité platters (to you unrefined masses, that means raw veggies with dip, heh heh), followed by chocolate brownies. And, of course, whatever we wanted to drink. Our group stuck with margaritas, beers, sodas and waters.

The afternoon made for just chillin’. Everyone became noticeably sleepy, including a couple of our friends:

Hmmmm.....to nap or not to nap?

Then, better sense prevailed and instead someone broke out the champagne. Please don’t offer the Captain alcohol while she’s working!

Diane (r) chatting up our captain Dottie (l) on the Captain's Deck.

Needless to say, just a tad bit of fun was had that day. By the time we docked back in Boca Chica, it was 4:30 pm, just in time a the drive back to Boquete and a shower before dinner. What a fun two days!

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My hubby writes, too!

Every now and then, my husband sits down to write his own experiences about life in Panama. He’s pretty good at covering what’s going on from a perspective different from mine, AND he gives me permission to post it here on my blog, as well. So, grab a cup of coffee and have a good read. BTW, any mis-spellings are his fault, not mine!  🙂

For an update on the Coles in Panama. I always want to talk about the culture and the experience here and then get to the family stuff for those who might wonder.
This place is unbelievably social for Panamanians and for gringos. We just had a huge community fundraiser that in the past has raised over $60K. This year their goal was $75K and then they distribute the money out to several organizations that do good work in the community. These include a group that does monthly spaying clinics for local anamals (unreal number of street dogs around here and I think I have talked about that before. Panamanians think about their pets in a much different way than those of you stateside). There is a group that delivers food to the indigent (usually the local indigenous community of Noble Bugle indians). A local service club gets a share for their work and several other groups also collect a much needed check to keep their efforts alive. The fund raiser lasted two days, included a wine tasting, art sale, regular auction and silent auction and patio sale. Tons of volunteers took part in one role or another, including the Coles.
There is an upcoming Boquete Jazz and Blues Festival the first week of March that is largely the product of one man’s tireless efforts. He would get my vote for citizen of the year, if we had such a thing. It too raises money for charity. This week is Carnival. I am not sure what we are celebrating and Boquete has a small role in this one but the neighboring communities go all out. We had two independence celebrations in November (from Columbia and from Spain) that filled the city streets. Christmas is huge down here as well with decorations everywhere.
Then there are the various social gatherings at local restaurants or homes of hosts. This week there is a dinner on Friday night for those who purchased a coupon book of discounts from the local recycling group (a great bargain, I bought two of them) and then a local couple is having a taco night on Saturday night at their house. There are regular groups that meet such as ROMEO for 10-12 of us old guys who have lunch on alternate Fridays. Stands for Retired Old Men Eating Out and, no, I did not create the name.There are a variety of golf dates at Valle Escondido, our local golf and country club and hotel. You get exhausted just thinking about all the things you could do down here. Many burn themselves out in the first year as they over-volunteer for good causes.
Then there is the local hub, the Boquete Community Players, or BCP. They have a meeting place, small theatre, Tuesday morning market for everything edible and wearable, periodic plays and entertainment.  They rent out the facility to other groups as well for a variety of functions, from Yoga to wine tasting and auctions. Rob does their website and we are active in many of their plans (no, no acting). As part of the Tuesday market, there are presentations from time to time for an hour or so in the theatre and I will be there on April 10 to talk about what it was like to have a speaking role in a Brad Pitt movie. Obviously, these folks are easily entertained.
What about us? Well, two things were special  and will take up most of the rest of this note. First, the entire Cole side of the family came south for Christmas. Kit and Mandy were able to stay for a little more than a week and Casey/Tessa and the boys stayed for three weeks. We went to the beach on both the Pacific and the Caribbean, spent time relaxing in various resorts type environments and just enjoyed showing off our new home. I think all were impressed and happy for us and relieved that we were not living in a grass hut with dirt floors………..lol. There was swimming, hiking, zip lining (no, not for me or Casey), snorkeling, as much as we could fit in to the calendar. I was exhausted a the end of it all and told Case that if he wanted to see the old man reach 69, he needed to get the hell out of town……..lol
And the big news…………….Robyn was commissioned by the new library in town to do a painting of some size that would be hung on the wall in the new computer section (about a dozen workstations) on the first floor, directly across the room from the front doors. (more on this in a subsequent post) You walk in and there it is, a 3×7 foot encaustic piece across the room at eye level. She designed it to show the ways we get information, from past to present. She has received some wonderful comments on her work and the library had someone come in and offer to buy it. They explained it was not for sale (all other art in the library has a price on it and can be sold) but was a permanent endowment. They asked for the name of the artist and contact info. We shall see if they follow through. Robyn sold $1000 worth of art at a local sale in December and has created three workshop for locals to attend and “discover how encaustic is done”. She has work that has been ordered by locals and next needs to complete those assignments. Obviously she has had little free time for other things but life will reach a balance eventually and she is sure enjoying this attention at the moment.
A note here about the new library….it is an unreal building for this small community, three stories tall, glass everywhere, designed by a local architect, the pride and joy of the local mayor and a focal point of pride for the community. There are books, computers, periodicals, meeting rooms and the local art group will display the work of a different artist each month. Robyn’s turn is next January. You look at it sometimes and I wonder show they got this done in this small town.
To view some of the pictures of  Robyn’s art work, the new library and other news and notes, I encourage you to go to Robyn’s website, www.robyncoleartworks.com
And finally, when we came here we said we can go “house big and life small” or “house small and life big”. We went with the latter. This year we will travel to the states in March, Equador in May, Spain and the UK in August (have to get my grandkid “fix”) and then back to the states at Christmas time. Possible golf trip to South America in October could make the list as well. Also, we are moving next month about 50 feet. We are going to the larger two bedroom, two bath condo with the same floor plan on the end of the building. We will get more square footage, patio on two sides and more room to live. We still get to lock the door and drive away anytime. We are renting and not buying and we have no intention of buying down here in the near future at least. Want the freedom of renting so we can travel.
That about does it for this one. Hope you enjoy this and hope to write to you again in a few months. Hope all is well with you and yours and that you are being good to yourselves.

Author’s Note: Happy anniversary to us! We have lived here for one year. We landed in David at 5:00 pm on February 16, 2011. I cannot believe it’s been a year. If you think time will drag when you’re retired, think again! It’s been a great year. 

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“Ruh Row, Raggie!”

I haven’t posted in 6 weeks. And I have a good excuse. Really.

They’re called Henry and Joe. They’re my grandkids and they’ve been with me for a month. Oh yeah, a couple of others came with them. Like their parents, their aunt, and their other grandmother. But those people are incidental, right? I mean, compared to two darling, blonde 6 and 3 year-olds, EVERYONE else is incidental.

They leave tomorrow for England, which is home. Yup, my grandkids speak with English accents because my son married a Londoner and they’re raising them in a darling village south of London. Odd to hear my own grandkids say: “Grand-muthuh, might I have a glahss of woe-tuh?” Jeez, they sound smarter than me.

After they leave, I’m in the studio solid until January 26th. All will be revealed, but suffice it to say I’m doing a large painting for the new Boquete Public Library. It opens on the 26th and my painting will be featured on the ground floor. And with family staying with us over the holidays, I’m late. Very, very, late.

I will see you in late January and I will have posts on our activities: 5 days in Boca Chica at the Pacific Bay Resort, 5 days in Bocas del Toro, zip lining in the tree tops above Boquete and lots of other fun.

I have no idea what is going on in the world, but I can quote word and verse of the Scooby Doo movie. Rock on, Scooby. “Ruh Row, Raggie!”

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Panama’s Independence Day

Yesterday, Panama celebrated their 190th Independence Celebration from Colombia. I was, unfortunately, locked up in my art studio working feverishly for a show Thursday night. Yet I could hear the traffic, the drums of the marching bands and the horns of tremendous traffic.

I knew Lee Zeltzer of Boquete Panama Guide would be out with his camera and would record the day’s happenings, so I’m directing you to this link to check out the days happenings.


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Holiday Bazaar And Bizarre Creatures In My House


I had a great time meeting some of my readers last Friday at the Holiday Bazaar in downtown Boquete. It was great seeing a stranger approach my booth and, with extended hand, say “I wanted to come over and introduce myself. I read your blog and wanted to meet you in person.” How cool is that? Totally flattered!

But since the purpose of this blog is meant to be about my adventures in Boquete and Panama from a living here perspective, and not so much about my art, I’m going to ask you to click on over to my other blog “Robyn Cole Artworks“, to check out the results of my first-ever art showing in Boquete.

Let’s just say this: I’ll be as busy as Santa over the next couple of weeks making more!


So I’m sitting there in my so-called “great room” this morning, having had my usual greet-the-sun morning on the patio with Hazel, the next-coffee-estate-over dog. She eventually was joined by her doggie buddies and the three of them decided to have a wrestling match on my tiny patio. I said “adios” and retreated into the condo where I’d previously tossed the soon-to-be-ours local stray cat, Callie.

I had Callie on my lap where she was receiving her morning hugs, when something under the chairs flanking the sofa where I was sitting caught my eye. When you live in a country as “buggie” as this, anything fluttering, scuttling or otherwise creepy-crawling becomes a beacon for my ever-watchful (and fearful) eyes.

It was a spider. I’ve seen many spiders in the 9 months we’ve lived here. All different types and yet I do not know the names of them. Except this one: Panamanians use the same word for this arachnoid as we do but it sounds completely different. They pronounce it “tah-run-TOO-luh”. This morning I pronounced it “ooohhhhh F••k! TA-RAN-CHU-LA!”

There he was, making his oh-so-nonchalant way across my tile floor heading for the TV. Soon he was mixed up in the tangle of wires underneath the table holding the TV, modem, wi-fi box and dehumidifier. I hollered for John to come running, but as he was temporarily, um, indisposed, he took his sweet time about getting there.

In the meantime, I grabbed the broom and began to do battle. I wanted to see just how much stuff this bad boy was bringing to the game, so I gently nudged him with the end of the broom handle. What a shock when he grabbed the end of the broom and tried to pound the sh•t out of it! He brought game!! (Sadly, I began to feel a temporary sense of parental pride in my soon-to-be-dead house guest. He had no idea into what fate he had fallen to by coming into our home and here he was,  fighting for his right to party!)

By this time I was screaming “John, get your a$$ in here! You have never seen a spider the size of this one! I think it’s a tarantula, and he’s fighting with me for control of the broom!” A toilet flushed and two seconds later John appeared, wondering what all the fuss was about. I pointed at the “Thing That Wanted To Eat A Broom”, and the little bugger was making his way once again across my floor. While John pondered our next move, I grabbed a camera:

The tarantula that ate Boquete

After I took this shot, I screamed “Stomp on him!” John said “No”.  I hollered “Why the f••k not?” (I apologize for the profanity, blog readers. You see, when I’m scared my language goes to s••t. See?) John sez “Because he’s too big!”

“But he’s a baby tarantula,” I scream back.

“Yea, but he’s over my personal ‘stomp it’ limit for size.”

“Whatzis, a personal credo of yours or somethin’?”

Meanwhile, Taran-zilla is carefully edging for the door, keeping one hairy eye on John and the other one on me. The soon-to-be-ours cat, billed to us as a superb hunter, has yet to even notice that there are now four beings in the room, so Taran-stein isn’t even worried about her.

I assess my situation. John won’t stomp it, Callie doesn’t notice it. Resolving this is apparently up to me, I subscribe to the well worn American credo of “that which we fear we nuke”. I headed for the kitchen and grab the Baygon.

Returning to the living room I notice Taran-Kong has hidden under the TV table again. “This is perfect,” I’m thinking to myself. “The table is against the wall. Taran-Bigfoot is against the wall. The top of the table will trap the fumes. Hell, the fumes alone oughta kill him.” I point and shoot, fully expecting that monster to grab the streaming Baygon and deflect it with two of his eight hairy legs, just like Wonder Woman. Wham! Kazaam!

But no, he took it like a man. He pretended it didn’t hurt at all. Even when John tried to sweep it out of the house it kept fighting. It made a run for it at the curtains and we lost it for a while. Now I’m pissed. I’m pissed at Taran-Zombie. I’m pissed at John for losing him. I’m pissed at Callie for just sitting there. By the way, here’s a shot of Callie in her normal position:

"Why, yes, I believe I could like it here."

I yell at John: “Find it, find it! I refuse to come back in the room until you find it!” (I think I can spot John, just for a second, weigh in his mind: hmmm, live with baby tarantula or hysterical screaming wife. Maybe…..na-a-ah…)

From around the corner I see John move a three-tiered wicker basket set. He swings it around, out of the way in order to look in the corner for Taran-Lichty (ok, so now I’m adding names of ex-bosses I don’t like. Bear with me, it’s therapeutic). And there he is, like some cartoon spider, hugging the backside of the wicker basket. “Carry it all outside, he’s on the back of the basket!” I holler.

John crab-walks the furniture out the door onto the grass where Taran-Carnahan is beginning to feel the effects of the Baygon. Not quite so feisty now, are we?

“John, we can’t leave it out here. If Callie or another animal sees it and eats it, they’ll be eating a Baygon-riddled insect!”

“That’s why I’m going to sweep it away from the house. I just wanted to get it outside,” he calmly replied. I’m thinking “Where is the logic in this? I just nuked Taran-Cannon, he’s full of pesticides, insecticides and other cides, and my hubby decides it’s best if it’s let free?”

So I watch, mystified, as John and his infinite logic, sweep my debilitated arch enemy off our property and into the hinterlands. I’m caught between realizing this thing is just a baby, that it could have been much larger (and hairier!). I’m wondering how on earth it got in the house without me seeing it. I’m wondering if maybe it was hatched INSIDE the house, inside some of our furniture. All kinds of fearful scenarios are exploding in my head.

But here’s what I say: “If our new cat dies from eating that thing, it’s on you, John.”

Yea, I’m such a loving wife, aren’t I?        Sad. So, so sad…….

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Thanksgiving Eve

‘Twas the night ‘fore Thanksgiving and all through the……oh, never mind. It is Thanksgiving Eve and rather than being at home cooking my assigned items for tomorrow’s get together, I’m at my art studio working feverishly.

“Why?”, you may ask. (Hey, even if you didn’t ask, play along, okay?)

“Why?”, you definitely ask.

Here’s why. ‘Nuff said.

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