“Take a number!”


I’ll have you know that after 8 years I’m finally adjusting to Panama.

It’s taken 8 years, but we no longer flush toilet paper.  Instead it goes into the discreet, or not so discreet, waste basket beside the toilet. Don’t freak out or decide that you are “definitely NOT” moving to Panama.  Much of the world does it this way and it makes sense given that outside of the city we are dependent on septic systems.  BUT, not to worry for those of you who’ve traveled on the world cruise with me and enjoyed my lecture about things your travel agent never told you . . . we do not have squat toilets and my left hand is not my “dirty hand”!

And, when it comes to customers complaining about me . . . “Take a number!”  See how much I’ve adjusted?

First, let me make something, in the words of Tricky Dick Nixon, “perfectly clear.”  Not only did I “not have sex with that woman” (an attempt here to offend BOTH “sides” of the aisle, both the “red” and “blue” in the US, equally knocking both a Republican and Democrat president of the US) . . . writing my blog is either (choose one) (a) a labor of love, (b) an exercise in frustration or (c) a waste of time.  1,205 posts . . . and I’m still at it, or crazy, or both!

I don’t always post on time, although, remarkably, I’ve generally been able to post every other day.  However, if I miss a day . . . unlike Don Winner’s Panama-Guide, you aren’t paying anything!  I keep in mind all of my loyal readers around the world and I do try . . . but sometimes it just isn’t possible.

Now . . . what inspired this diatribe:

From Don & Linda . . .

Richard.. please put us in touch with the owners.  In the meantime, Steve and Maria ask some very good questions.  Have you or are you going to respond to their questions.  Don & Linda

I had written about some friends who were selling their home and I thought, and still do, that it was a nice opportunity for the right buyer.  I do try to respond to emails and comments, and, Don & Linda, I will give the owner your email.

First, here’s the comment in question . . . and then I will explain why I haven’t responded and why I thought long and hard about whether to respond or ignore it, and if I responded how to do so graciously and without . . . well, you decide.

Richard, The house looks pretty messy. How well have they taken care of the property? You mentioned earlier that every roof leaks in Boquette. How is the roof on this place? I know they’re friends of yours, but how comfortable are you recommending this place? The property seems ideal to us…especially the privacy. Why are there bars on the terrace? Also a security system on the sliders. Is there a security issue in this neighborhood? You also said the property had a lot of potential. Does that mean it needs work? Thanks in advance for your help. We’re planning on retiring in Boquette in September and are sooooo very much looking forward to our move. Steve & Maria

I don’t know why, exactly, but this email rubbed me the wrong way.  I don’t want to make enemies with new neighbors who are moving to Boquete in September, BUT . . .

So I will try . . .

“The house looks pretty messy.”  OK, Maybe had you thought about committing that to the Internet your might have reworded it, but . . . we all have different tastes as to what we like, and how we like our living space to be since, after all, it is OUR space.  Some people like to collect and hang on to stuff and others like to get rid of everything.  What some folks like as “homey” to another may be “pretty messy.”  One person likes “lived in” and another like “sterile.”  Decorating tastes vary . . . as do budgets.  I recently posted an interior shot of another friend’s house that is for sale, and I’m sure if you paid full price and maybe offered them $200,000 on top of the listing price, which was about $790,000, I’m sure they’d be happy to consider selling it furnished.  Of course that price is a lot different from the $160,000 being the price of the house on which you commented.

“How well have they taken care of the property?”  You’ll just have to take a look when you get here in September, should it still be available, and make your own conclusion.

“You mentioned earlier that every roof leaks in Boquette. How is the roof on this place?” OK, I sometimes get carried away for effect.  Most every roof on almost every NEW house leaks, but eventually we all find and stop the leaks. Obviously we don’t just sit around and watch the water pour in.

“Why are there bars on the terrace? Also a security system on the sliders. Is there a security issue in this neighborhood?”  First clarification: the only “security system” on the sliders (????) I guess are the cats.  Second, before you even think about moving to Panama you need to read the  NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING & RETIRING IN PANAMA!  I have no idea where you live, but I am assuming you have no crime problem in your city, and that you and your neighbors leave your doors open while you are away and at night and don’t have Brink’s security systems or at least a knock-off Brink’s sign on the front lawn.  And of course you don’t have guns, stun guns, baseball bats or pepper spray.

Yes, bars on the windows and porches are a feature throughout Latin America.  Why?  Well let me give you a number of answers that have been suggested by my Panamanian friends:

a) “We like to feel we are living in birdcages!”

b) “It deters burglars” as of course do the guns many Panamanians keep in their homes.  And FYI, it is easier to get a weapon permit than it is to get a permit for a chain saw!  But, whatever you weapon of choice, you’d better be sure that you understand the law about using it.  For example, if you decide to use a baseball bat, we’ve been advised that you’d better aim for the knees and not the head.

c) Chiriqui was a Noriega stronghold and in the Noriega days his “Dignity Battalions” would break in and take whatever they wanted, so the bars are a holdover from “the Dictatorship.”  That might explain things in Panama, but certainly not throughout Latin America.

d) And this one I think comes closest to the truth, “Having bars implies that you have lots of valuable stuff that thieves would like to steal . . . whether you do or not..”  Ordinary Panamanians rarely invite non-family members inside their home.  Visits and conversations are normally, with few exceptions, carried out at the gate.

We feel safer in Boquete than we did in Southern California where they had that new head-piecing thing called drive-by gang-banger shootings.  There is no perfect place . . . except maybe where you live now . . . but on the whole Boquete is quite safe.

“I know they’re friends of yours, but how comfortable are you recommending this place?”  You want a guarantee?  If so, I need to tell you that in Panama guarantees aren’t worth the paper on which they are printed.  I’m no longer a REALTOR and I’m not selling anything.  If you’re interested take a look, check it out for yourself, do your due diligence and make your decision.  I think it’s a nice home with “potential.”

“You also said the property had a lot of potential. Does that mean it needs work?”  I just told you I’d been a REALTOR – OK?  As it is it is not my personal style, but with minimal effort I could make it into a place that would reflect my personal style.

I soooo very much hope you read my book Escape To Paradise: Living & Retiring In Panama and particularly Chapter 4 “Visit A Leather Bar”.  Your future happiness in Boquete depends greatly on your ability to accept and thrive on change and things being different from that to which you are accustomed.

There: that went well!  Or at least I hope so!  Not sure in retrospect why I lay awake last night worrying about how to respond.

More letters next time . . . I busy working in Boca Chica leaving at 5:30 am and getting home bushed at 4 pm, so I do apologize.  Please email all of your complaints to bobama@whitehouse.gov.

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