September 29, 2014
I am sitting on the veranda of the Purplehouse Backpacker Hostel in David, Panama. We are on the last leg of our journey and are awaiting our Transmigrante (Seniora Luz) to give me a total for what my duty will be on my truck and household items. She said it would take 3-4 days since she is going to have to do some research on the items I brought in, their value, and what it will cost me to finally get my truck into Panama. The truck is in the Aduana lot and we had to take taxi to the hostel. Taxi’s are fairly cheap here and there are tons of them everywhere in the city. The dogs had to be taken to a petshop that offers pet-sitting. It is only a couple blocks walk away and we visit them in the morning. They are already in love with Joanna, the petshop owner, and they don’t seem to be missing us that much. I think they are enjoying running around in a fenced backyard rather than being tied to the truck.
This deuce and a half truck is a real attention-getter here and, on the trip down, two separate parties inquired if I was willing to sell it. Of course I said “no”. But it could be a business idea to transport such vehicles down here if you knew the ropes….and we are learning. We had people waving, giving us “thumbs up”, staring, and some of them took pictures with their cellphones. Most folks here can’t believe that a gringa actually owns this truck and was “brave” enough to get it through all the borders. I must confess that I didn’t know what a challenge it would be either. I may reserve a lot of the details for a book in the future or save all the details for folks who are genuinely interested in making the trip since the whole story would take pages and pages to relay. Gary will tell you more details in his blog.
I can see why you don’t see many of these vehicles in most of Central America. The amount of paperwork and expense I encountered would be a deterrent to the average person. For the same reason there are few AKC German Shephards to be found. Gary and I both learned an immense amount from the whole trip. I think Gary could make a business out of helping people drive vehicles across all these borders. I hear that more and more Americans are doing just that, since many retirees find retiring in the US to be too expensive. Panama seems to be more affordable from what I have seen so far. I am far more impressed with Panama than I was with Costa Rica as far as costs go. I have been told that Panama has the cheapest fuel in Central America. Panama seems more gringo-friendly too and people are more likely to speak some English. The folks who live here long term have found it worth their while in spite of the difficulties and cultural differences.
We met a guy named Paul here at the hostel. He is an American of Italian decent, in his 40’s, from New Jersey who has been creating a riverfront permaculture farm in Costa Rica for the last 10 years (much like Gary’s). He is not a resident, so he was doing the border cross routine into Panama which I will also have to do every three months. He was staying at the hostel for a couple of nights. Paul is a professional mason and bricklayer. He has created a beautiful river-rock living space and he installed beautiful concrete floors which he dyed cheery colors to match the river rock (he showed us a picture). He is the type of person we would like to stay in contact with since our goals are very similar. Perhaps we can exchange information or do a project together. Creating a less money-driven, simple life closer to nature is a shared goal we have. Paul also showed us pictures of the HUGE fish he has caught in Costa Rica. He also loves to cook and he described how he prepared some of the beautiful fish that would have cost a fortune to buy in a seafood market. The fishing is one of the things that drew him down to Costa Rica in the first place. Dorado is sometimes used as bait since the fish are so big!
Paul confirmed many of the things that Gary has told me about how life for a gringo is in Costa Rica. He affirmed that you must always be on guard for the deadly snake, the Terciopelo. The three items a Costa Rican must own if they live the countryside are: a flashlight, a machete, and a pair of rubber boots. These items are used for protection against snakes. This snake can kill you if it hits a major artery. There are certain things you have to be more aware of in this ambient. Thievery of the locals is also a major concern and you don’t want to leave your home unattended. Usually, you can pay someone fairly cheaply to watch your home if necessary.
Gary and I are feeling more relaxed and calm since arriving in Panama. Although we were met with many challenges along the way…..there were many nice folks who happily offered their help. Gary seems to be good at finding those people. He will have to write more details on his blog on that topic.
I spoke with my daughter, Jade, on Skype yesterday. She is doing well and is completing her senior year in high school early (by January). I hope she flies down at least for a bit after that. Living in a foreign country is one of the best educations I can think of. My year as an exchange student to Australia in 1976 was one of the highlights of my life. It changed me for the better. I hope that Jade is able to have such a positive experience too.
One of the most important things for me to concentrate on is learning Spanish. It might be a while before I can converse with Hispanics without sounding like Tarzan. I think I am going to have to walk around with a Spanish/English dictionary for a while.
Wishing you all the best.