My friend Terri and I took a little field trip the other day to the Los Mininos Cat Sanctuary located near Palmira, which is about 15 minutes southwest of Boquete. The owner, Judy Odom, has lived in Panama for about 15 years, and has a beautiful property devoted to the life-long care of about 80 older, abandoned, or un-adoptable cats, who roam free in a large yard that’s securely fenced and has a number of trees for the cats to climb and other plants and shrubs for them to explore.
Judy likes for people to visit, because it’s an opportunity for the cats to become more socialized and accustomed to people. Like any animal, each has their own personality – some are shy, some are cuddly, some are aloof, and some are a**holes (Judy’s words, not mine!).
The indoor section of the shelter has many buckets for the cats to curl up in and sleep. Oddly, this arrangement reminds me of the chicken coop we had when I was growing up, where each hen had her own nest! Can you find the 11 cats in the picture below?
Los Mininos is just one of the animal sanctuaries and rescue services in Boquete. There are others in town that specialize in rescuing and rehoming cats and dogs, as well as providing dog training. A monthly spay and neuter clinic regularly services close to 150 dogs and cats each time at a very reasonable cost ($8 for cats and $15 for dogs), with several vets volunteering their time for the event. They were shut down for several months during the quarantine, but are ramping back up now with a limited volume of about 30 pets. Many people in Boquete volunteer at the clinics. Both a love for pets and volunteerism are alive and well in Boquete!
Here is a video of Judy explaining who she is and showcasing her lovely property and her mission. These cats are so well taken care of! The first minute or so of the video shows the countryside on the way to her property (which is serene and beautiful in itself), and the orange tabby she’s petting at the beginning of the interview reminds me so much of my sweet cat, Moose, who I re-homed when I moved to Panama.
Although I’m the one who pays the rent on my house, I am never truly alone here. I have several tiny housemates who keep me company. One has taken up residence in my office, and I’ve named him (her?) “Punkin”. Actually, I call all of them Punkin or Baby. They are geckos (related to the one in the Geico commercials). Most of them are about four inches long, but one time I saw a really tiny one that wasn’t more than two inches from nose to tail.
The one in my office usually hangs out in the window that’s behind my computer, and sometimes he peeks out from behind the curtain and skitters down the wall, startling me when I see him out of the corner of my eye while I’m working. Geckos are very shy and harmless and they earn their keep by eating bugs, so they are welcome residents. However, they are not silent – they “chirp” fairly loudly for their small size, usually in the evening and usually seven or eight times in a row.
Every place I’ve lived in Boquete has had geckos in the house. At the first place, I kept hearing what I thought was a strange bird every evening, until one day I saw a gecko run across the wall and duck behind a picture, then heard the chirping sound. I thought the “bird” sounded like it was inside the house, and had to laugh when I discovered what it was! I love listening to them, though – it makes me smile every time I hear them.
Punkin apparently gets a little chilly occasionally – now that it’s a bit cooler during the rainy season, almost every day I see him resting on top of the voltage regulator (located next to my office chair), which throws off a little heat. He’ll hang out there for hours at a time, not moving even when I get up to go to the other room.
BTW, voltage regulators are useful to protect electronic devices from power surges and brownouts. I had never heard of such things in the US, but the electricity in Panama is notoriously prone to high and low voltage variations which shorten the life of appliances and computers, so I use them throughout the house. Apparently they’re also useful as gecko warmers!
Last April, my friend Terri and I had planned to go to a mosaic workshop hosted by the owner of the Cosmic Crab Resort in Bocas del Toro (where Terri, her husband Brad, and I had visited last October). Sadly, the pandemic squashed that outing. However, I saw on Facebook a couple of months ago where the owner had figured out that if people couldn’t come to her, she would (virtually) come to them – she made up kits for various mosaics, to be shipped to those who wanted them. These kits were comprehensive, and included ceramic tiles and a backplate to build it on that had color artwork to use as a guide. It also included a bottle of glue to attach the tile pieces to the backplate, grout, a tool to apply the grout, a sponge, and detailed instructions. Impressive, and an ingenious way to modify the workshop to work in the lockdown!
Terri was enthusiastic about doing this, and when I mentioned it to another friend (Barbara), she wanted in on the fun, too. So we ordered our kits and set up a work space in my living room. Fortunately, I had a spare six-foot table which was perfect for the occasion.
It took us several afternoons to complete our projects – a couple of days to finish applying the tiles, and then letting the glue dry overnight before grouting. Unfortunately, we all ran out of grout before finishing our mosaics, so I bought more here in Boquete to finish up.
I think we did a creditable job on our artwork, given that none of us had done anything like this before. We also had a good time socializing during our work sessions, which had been in short supply the past six months. So it was beneficial on several levels, and we had something to show for it, too! Here are photos of the finished mosaics…
In the days before we actually started our projects, I got a little head start on the mosaic thing – I made some banana pudding, and the cookies that went in it had gotten pretty broken up, so it fit right into the “broken tiles” theme!
This is July 4th, Independence Day for those from the United States. There are all kinds of freedom in this world. The first things that come to my mind are those mentioned in the first amendment to the US Constitution, providing for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
The most serious breach of freedom in the news recently is the freedom to live when stopped by police, if you are a person of color. Racism has reared its ugly head once more, and it seems the US is more divided and polarized on that subject than it has been in decades. It makes me sick to my stomach to know that parents of young African-American boys especially, must give them “the talk” about how to survive an encounter with those who are commissioned to protect and serve their community. Of course, the vast majority do not misuse the power their position provides them, but all it takes is a few bad apples to taint the reputation of an entire profession.
In the United States, personal freedom is almost a religion unto itself, for better or for worse. Right now during this pandemic, I see people on the news who are whining and complaining about doing a very small task that will not only protect themselves, but others as well. You would think they were being brutalized by being required to wear a face covering or mask, yet they have no problem with other rules such as wearing shoes and a shirt in a restaurant or wearing a seat belt. Where is the outrage for those requirements? I don’t get it.
One of the reasons I came to Panama is to gain a greater measure of personal freedom. Freedom to go to sleep and wake up in the morning without the tyranny of an alarm clock, freedom to structure my time as I see fit, freedom to work at home and set my own hours, and freedom to travel when and where I want (with the exception of the current pandemic rules).
With those freedoms I’ve experienced here in Panama comes a greater sense of peace. I’m happier and more comfortable in my own skin than I think I’ve ever been. I have more friends and a richer social life here than I did in my hometown. I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and living in harmony with my inner self, and that brings me joy every day.
I’ve been composing this post in my head for a few days, and since a couple of commenters are asking for Part 2, I guess I’d better go ahead and actually write it! Part 1 was related to the beginnings of my career, and this series of synchronistic events relates to my retirement – kind of tidy “bookends”, don’t you think?
When I first thought about retiring, I knew the only way I could afford to do it was to find someplace where the cost of living was lower, and that would most likely be somewhere other than the United States. I started researching, and the first country I considered was Uruguay – it was said that living there was like living in the US in the 1950s. That sounded attractive (and the Italian-inspired architecture there is amazing), but the more I read, the less I was impressed. And besides, it was so far away that I’d likely never have friends come to visit.
Continuing my research, I discovered Panama – many more plusses here! Same electrical system, same currency, no hurricanes, no tornadoes, no ice and snow, mountains or beaches within a couple hours from anywhere in the country – and they have a lot of benefits for retirees. That ticked pretty much all of the boxes. I came across Panama Relocation Tours, which promised lots of information and no sales pitches – just what I needed! So I signed up and came to Panama on the tour in February 2018. I was not disappointed – best money I ever spent!
As soon as I returned from the tour, I started preparing the paperwork required. One of the items on the list was an FBI report requiring submission of my fingerprints. I decided to go to Dallas to have them prepared digitally, since that was supposed to have better results than the standard ink-on-paper type. That done, I was on my way back to OKC, when I was involved in a five-car pile-up on the highway just outside the Dallas metro. This happened about three months before I was scheduled to move to Panama.
I was hit twice by the Suburban that was behind me. The first time was on the back corner, which spun me 90° and caused me to hit the car in front of me broadside. The Suburban was still in motion and hit me a second time on the driver’s side, spinning me around another 90°. Both of my side-impact airbags deployed, and I felt like a bobblehead toy, getting bounced around.
Remarkably, none of us involved in the crash went to the hospital, including the guy who caused the wreck. The son of the people in the Suburban took me to their house while we figured out how I could get home. They ended up taking me to the airport, since I was much too shaken up to drive to OKC in a rental car. Nice people!
My insurance company (unsurprisingly) totaled my car. Fortunately, I had a friend who had a car he wasn’t using, so I drove it for the remainder of the time before moving to Panama.
I’m detailing this car wreck, because most of the synchronistic events center around it (although there are others). Here’s the list:
I found Panama Relocation Tours, which gave me the exact information I needed to follow to acquire residency in Panama in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible
Since my car was totaled, I didn’t have to make a car payment or pay car insurance for three months
My friend had a car I could drive during that time, so I didn’t have to rent a car (saving me a lot of money)
I received free chiropractic care for two months, because I had whiplash from the wreck. The chiropractor also worked on my lower back that had bothered me off and on for 10 years or so – bonus!
I was planning to sell my car to a friend when I left, and the insurance gave me $2000 more than I was going to sell it for
I had bought gap insurance at the time I bought the car (which I had forgotten about), and received an extra $500 from that
I wanted to sell my house, and I made a lease-to-own arrangement with the same friend who loaned me his car, and he gave me a $10,000 down payment on the house before I left
I just received a call from my insurance company a few days ago (two years after the accident). They were doing a final settlement with the responsible party’s insurance, and it looks like I’ll be getting my $500 deductible refunded.
The company I worked for in Oklahoma fired the person they hired to replace me, and asked me if I would consider working remotely. I agreed, and that has worked out well, providing extra income.
So this turned out to be a very “lucky” car accident, both financially and physically, since I wasn’t badly injured and got free medical care. I had a friend who provided transportation and relieved me of dealing with selling my house, and I had unexpected income from my former employer.
It’s like the universe was literally throwing money and opportunity my way, indicating to me that I was definitely on the right path by moving to Panama. And I love it here – I have made many more friends here than I had in Oklahoma, the climate is lovely, and I have the freedom I came here to find, being able to structure my life as I see fit.
Our virus lockdown is being scaled back quite a bit starting tomorrow. No more two-hour windows only three days a week. We will now have a simple curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. Masks and social distancing are still required. Hopefully, people will be responsible so they don’t rescind the freedom of movement due to a spike in cases!
But I’m still a happy camper, however the pandemic (and life in general) unfolds. I’m grateful for the good things in my life, and don’t obsess over the negatives. That’s a good way to be, in my book!