New Bus Terminal, and a Few Other Things

The day started with a motmot eating his breakfast as we ate ours. I couldn’t see exactly what he had, but I think it was a butterfly.

After breakfast I set out for a ride. As I left the neighborhood, I came across the neighborhood cows loose in the street. They are quite shy so I got off my bike and stood by the side of the road as they walked by. We found out in the past that they will stampede away in fear if they see a cyclist riding towards them!. They didn’t seem happy to see me today but at least they managed to stay calm.

I decided to check the site where they are building the new bus terminal and the Federal Mall. They were moving dirt around for the longest time and it didn’t look like much was happening, but now things are definitely happening, and happening fast!

Of course with anything new, there are different opinions. Right now all buses go to the terminal downtown so it won’t be as convenient for many when that changes. But, downtown is crowded and congested and there is minimal parking. The new site will have a lot of space, parking, and easy access to main roads.  Below is a promotional video showing what the terminal will be like when it is finished.

I couldn’t find much to share about the mall, but word is that it is being built by the same people who built Albrook Mall in Panama City, and it may be as big.

I also checked on the huge palm tree that has been doing interesting things.

I don’t know what is going to happen to the tree eventually. Since all this flowering and seeding is going on at the top where new leaves usually emerge, it could be the final stage of its life.

A couple days ago we saw a plane flying overhead. I know to most people this isn’t remarkable but here, we almost never see that. We can hear some of the flights as they land and take off at the airport, but we usually don’t see them. We don’t see contrails in the sky either. That was strange at first. I don’t think I’ve ever lived anywhere without contrails.

Last, but not least, I was sweeping and accidentally tossed this bug on its back. I rescued it on a leaf where it was kind enough to stay for a while so I could take some photos.

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Feria Internacional de David

The Feria Internacional de David (the International Fair of David) is a big event held every March. It is attended by around 350,000 people, and attracts 500 vendors and exhibitors from Panama and many neighboring countries. New ideas and technologies are on display, and there are many local business promoting their products and services. At night, it is party central with both live music and recorded music for dancing and enjoyment of everyone (except maybe not nearby residents because it goes on all night and it’s LOUD!)

I went with my friend and neighbor, and a couple new expats who live nearby. I didn’t expect to see anything different so I didn’t plan to take photos but of course, I found a few things after all.

There was ice skating. I don’t remember seeing ice skating before. The kids seemed to be doing very well! They either learn fast or they had skated somewhere before.

Of course there was shopping. There are a number of buildings totally full of vendors with clothes, jewelry, shoes, bags, toys, and other things too numerous to list. I don’t think I have ever seen so many shoes! This time I did well to resist all the cute little girl clothes (I already bought some unique hand made dresses for my granddaughters in Cuba, so I won’t arrive empty handed).

There was a stage with children performing traditional dances. The little girl in white was beyond adorable!

There were a few other things I didn’t remember. I’m sure the train has been there in the past, but the zip line? I don’t remember that. It wasn’t in use at the time though. Since this is an agricultural area there was a lot of farm equipment on display, and “furniture row” with the huge selection of furniture is always interesting. It must be a hard life for the workers though. In the back they were busily working on more furniture, and I can’t even imagine the logistics of loading all that up and taking it from place to place. As far as I could tell, they were all from Nicaragua.

There are fun things for the kids, a little amusement park, and I was going to say pony rides but as you can see, there are more than ponies. The tiny kid on the huge bull was so cute! The kids on the mechanical bull were also fun to watch. It was slow so they didn’t have trouble staying on it.

Of course there were animals. We didn’t spend a lot of time there but I caught a few on camera as we strolled though.

We wandered on and completed our circuit of the fair grounds.

By now it was getting dark, and my friend who gets up at 4:30 for work was fading fast.

It was a fun time at the fair wandering around and seeing everything, and I enjoyed spending time with the people in our little group. And, with my old retired people discount it only cost $1 to get in, so why not go!

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No More Immigration News

It seems like the recent immigration changes are the biggest topic of conversation lately. Nothing new has happened in the last couple days so I’m happy to turn my attention to just some mundane bits of life that have been my recent experience.

We had an interesting thing in the neighborhood a few days ago. They were filming a reenactment of a crime for a TV show. Apparently there was a home invasion in a nearby town a year or so ago. The neighbors heard the woman screaming, called the police, and they came in time to rescue the family and arrest the criminal.

I stopped by a vacant lot with some huge mango trees the other day, one of the places I go to look for fruit. If mangoes are on the ground and no one is picking them up, I figure they are fair game. I picked up so many last year that I still have some in the freezer.

I’m back to painting class. I’m feeling in a bit of a rut, but I discovered a collection of books at the school and brought one home. I need to learn about techniques, composition, etc. lots of things I haven’t covered yet. I know there is more to it than finding something I like and trying to paint that. But, I did finally finish my latest, a request from a good friend.

Last night we drove up to Boquete. Me3 (Joel’s band) had a gig at Mike’s Global and it was fantastic. With various travel plans they hadn’t played together for a while, and it was like they were on fire with energy. The place was standing room only and the dance floor was packed for every song. It was SO much fun! (If you missed it come back on March 1st. They will be back)

It’s always a beautiful drive into the mountains in the late afternoon. It’s hot and dry down here but in the mountains, even in summer, sometimes there is rain and often there is a wet mist. This can make for fantastic rainbows and last night we were treated to an especially beautiful and vivid one.

Of course if there is an interesting bug I will be reaching for my camera. Joel spotted this one on our potted plants.

It continues to be summer down here. It’s dry, the winds are blowing hard, dust clouds are blowing down the street and my neighbor is very frustrated that it’s impossible to keep her house clean. The cucarones are whistling up a storm, even at times in the daytime.  The water was on long enough to water plants, do some laundry, and clean up the kitchen but now there isn’t a drop coming out of the faucet. We have water on hand so it isn’t a big deal, but it seems to be happening almost every day lately.

Today is the Calbalgata, the horse parade in town. Thousands of horses and riders from everywhere come to participate. I don’t think we are going since we have been before. The Feria is also going on, and we do plan to go with some friends tomorrow afternoon after the sun is lower in the sky, but before the night time crowds arrive. I don’t plan to buy anything because I don’t need anything (my neighbors think this is very strange). It’s always interesting to look at everything though.

Retirement, when you wonder how you ever had time to work.

Posted in Panama | 11 Comments

More From Immigration

This article HERE was published today in La Prensa. It basically says that if a tourist is in Panama for 5 months, they must leave for 30 days before they will be allowed back into Panama. But, if they are close to their 180 day limit, they won’t be allowed back at all.

These are new changes and there is a lot of confusion, of course. The article says a tourist who is here for a brief period and then wants to come back later won’t have a problem. (define brief – a week, a month, 3 months?)  If you are close to 180 days and aren’t allowed back, for how long? months? a year? ever? How close to 180 days is too close?

The feelings I have been hearing from Panamanians is that the people from Venezuela and Colombia are the problem. They work illegally, commit crimes, and deal drugs and Panamanians want something done, and done now! (Of course this is generalization and perception and I don’t know how much, if any is based on facts). Panamanians are very happy about these new regulations that close the “border hop” loophole. But of course, all expat-tourists affected by these changes.

There has been a lot of talk among the expats in the usual forums and discussion groups. How will this affect tourism? the Panamanian economy? Will many leave, and will Panama miss the money they spend here? Myself, I can’t imagine it will be a huge impact. All the homeowners I know are legal. Perpetual tourists generally don’t live in hotels and spend every day doing tourist things. Maybe lawyers will be busier with residency applications? Time will tell, and time will help sort out some of the confusion.

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Immigration is Cracking Down on Perpetual Tourists

This message has been shared in a few places, one of which is the blog of our David embassy warden. http://www.chiriquichatter.net/blog/2017/03/15/message-for-u-s-citizensinformation-on-panamanian-immigration-regulations/

The short version is that tourists are allowed to stay for 180 days, and then they must leave for a minimum of 30 days before they will be allowed to come back into Panama.

Here is the full text of the message.

U.S. Embassy in Panama

Message for U.S. Citizens

March 15, 2017

The U.S. Embassy in Panama would like to inform all U.S. Citizens in Panama that on March 6th 2017, the Panamanian Immigration Authority (Servicio Nacional de Migracion-SNM) announced new guidance for Panamanian immigration officials on the enforcement of pre-existing regulations.  According to the SNM, immigration officials have been instructed to be stricter about the enforcement of the regulation that foreigners entering Panama with tourist status prove that they are in fact entering Panama as tourists and not residing in Panama.  Since the announcement, the Consular Section has received many questions from U.S. citizens about this new guidance.  Below are the most frequently asked questions along with the responses the Consular Section received from the SNM.  Should you have further questions, please reach out to the SNM directly via phone at 507-1800 or visit their website at: http://www.migracion.gob.pa

In order to re-enter Panama on tourist status, does a U.S. Citizen need to return to their country of origin (the country from which they came into Panama) or can they return from a third-country (example: Costa Rica)?

Answer:  In the new guidance SNM does not specify if the tourist needs to return his/her country of origin. What is being implemented is that, in most cases, the person needs to leave Panama for a minimum of 30 days before reentering as a tourist.

In order for a person to re-enter Panama on tourist status, what is the minimum amount of time the person needs to spend outside of Panama?

Answer: The new requirement that is being implemented by SNM in reference to time spent out of Panama is a minimum of 30 days before applying for admission, in most cases.

In order for a person to re-enter Panama on mariner visa status, what is the minimum amount of time the person needs to spend outside of Panama.

Answer: According to SNM, mariner visas are valid for 90 days and must be renewed on the 90th day, or the day before, from the date of the previous mariner visa stamp.  Mariner visas can only be renewed once before the visa- holder needs to exit Panama. The amount of time the person with the mariner visa needs to stay outside of Panama is not specified by SNM.

If entering Panama on tourist status, does the method of entry need to match the method of exit (i.e. can a U.S. Citizen enter Panama on a plane and use as proof of exit evidence that they own a boat in Panama and plan to exit via boat)?

Answer: The method of entry and exit into and out of Panama does not have to be the same so long as the entries and departures are met legally by using established Ports of Entry – land, maritime or air and admitted by a Panamanian immigration officer.

Do U.S. Citizens with legal Panamanian residency status also require a roundtrip ticket when entering Panama?

Answer: No.  A foreigner with legal residence in Panama does not need to show proof of exit from Panama.

Is a person applying for Panamanian residency required to stay in Panama for the entire duration of time required to complete the residency process? If so, what happens if the process takes more than the allotted six months for tourist status.

Answer: If the person has an ID that shows that his/her residency is in process, the person is fine to leave and return to Panama.  If there is no ID, then the person should exit as a tourist (i.e., before the sixth month approaches).

How long does the FBI Identification Record process, required for purposes of obtaining residency in Panama, take? Can this process be expedited?

Answer: For information on the FBI identification record process, individuals may visit https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks.  According to the FBI website, the current turnaround estimate for these records is 12 to 14 weeks plus the amount of time the results may take to arrive in the mail.  Currently there is no option to receive the response electronically. For questions on this topic, individuals may call (304) 625-5590 or write an email to identity@ic.fbi.gov

Tourists are only allowed to drive in Panama for 90 days.  Is there an exception for this given that tourists are allowed to stay in Panama for 180 days?

Answer: According to the Transit authority (http://www.transito.gob.pa/sites/default/files/reglamento_decreto_640..pdf Artículo 110) foreigners that enter Panama as tourists are not permitted to obtain Panamanian drivers’ licenses and are only allowed to drive with a foreign license for 90 days.  There are no exceptions to this rule.

Can SNM waive the FBI Identification Record process if a person does not exit Panama for two years? If so, would there be an exception to the 180 day stay limit for tourists for a person trying to obtain this waiver?

Answer: If a person stays in Panama for more than two years then the FBI requirement does not apply.  The waiver of the FBI requirement applies to those people that stay in Panama two years, without exiting.  In these cases, a fine is paid by the person for overstaying their tourist visa and the person is only required to present a PNM police record rather than the FBI check.

 

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Photos from our bike ride in hot,dry David, Panama

This gallery contains 13 photos.

Originally posted on FindingMySelfinPanama:
We  hopped on our bikes this morning and had a great time right around our neighborhood stopping for photo ops.  We have about one more month of very dry weather before everything greens up, but it’s…

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Around the Neighborhood

I hadn’t been out on my bike for SO long! I don’t know, inertia, laziness, busy… but yesterday Joel gave me the boost I needed to get out there. We didn’t go far but it felt great! I took my camera so here is a little bit of what we saw.

There is a new neighborhood going in not far from ours. Just across from our neighborhood is another of single family homes but they are building an apartment building there. It doesn’t seem like it will fit in but we’ll see what it’s like when it’s done. The last photo is the hill with the cross on top that you can see as you go up the road to Boquete. We are on the back side of that hill. It is the height of summer dry season and you can see how brown and dry everything looks.

There are some gorgeous trees at this time of year. The most spectacular are the yellow ones that are about done for the season, but pink and white ones are still blooming and looking beautiful.

There are quite a few other things blooming as well.

By March I am always tired of dry season. I don’t like everything brown and dead, and the constant heat and sun is getting old. But, there are upsides like all these beautiful flowers. If I whine, remind me of all the people in the northeast USA who are getting a blizzard!

(Bug warning below!)  This noisy bird was sitting on our front fence the other day, and one night I came out to see this cool bug sitting on one of my solar lights. It was very nice and let me get as close as I wanted, use a flash, turn it this way and that, and it didn’t even move.

Just another day in the life of a retired expat in Panama.

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Spanish Classes Available

Living in Panama, or any Spanish speaking country is so much easier and so much more fun when you know some Spanish! I thank my teacher every day for my ability to communicate, and for my ability to have Panamanian friends.

Summer vacation is over here. The kids are back in school, and Yaira goes back to university this week. We were talking about her schedule this morning, and she has enough time to fit in a couple more students. So, I figured I’d share this opportunity with you all in case any of you want to take classes. She teaches over Skype so it’s like being there. Private lessons are great because you can go at your own pace and concentrate on your own needs. She is Panamanian so you can also learn about life and customs in Panama. And, she’s just a really nice teacher, patient, kind, understanding, and very experienced.

Here website is here http://www.yairatutoria.com/

Contact Yaira while she still has some time open! It takes time to learn a language, but it’s so worth it and when you know your teacher is expecting you, you are much more likely to do your homework 😀

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The Many Faces of Weevils

Weevils? Yes, I know. Who would be interested in weevils? But, so many of them are just gorgeous! Since I found that very strange and interesting weevil a few days ago, I have been doing some research. Check out these weevils. (all photos were found on line. None were taken by me)

Eurhinus magnificus  This one is found from Mexico to Panama!

Acorn Weevil – (Conotrachelus posticatus)  They suck the insides of young acorns, and also lay their eggs in acorns. (many parts of the USA and Canada)

Eupholus magnificus from New Guinea

giraffe weevil   from Madagascar

Diamond weevil Chrysolopus spectabilis  (eastern Australia)

Polka Dotted Clown Weevil (Pachyrrhynchus orbifer)  Phillipines

There are just a very few of the tens of thousands of types of weevils in the world. I think I should spend one of my next lives as an entomologist. I’ve always liked bugs but living here in Panama has showed me more of the huge diversity of the insect world.

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What is Going On With Immigration?

There have been news articles and a lot of talk about recent happenings at Panama immigration, and how this might affect people here as tourists. One of the news articles is HERE and another is HERE.

From what I understand, the problem has been with people from Venezuela fleeing their troubled country and coming here to work, but without legal status in Panama. There has also been this loophole in the rules. You are allowed to stay in Panama for 180 days as a tourist, but if you leave the country for some unwritten amount of time, usually three days, you can reenter Panama and get another 180 days. Some people from Venezuela tried to do this recently and were not permitted to come back into Panama. So far, as far as I know, no one else has been denied entry back into Panama. But there seems to be a trend towards tightening up border security and enforcing immigration laws, so it is quite possible that anyone who lives here as a tourist doing “border runs” won’t be able to continue this.

I checked Chiriqui Chatter since Mr. Williams in our embassy warden. Click the link to read his post, and I am also sharing here the response from the US Embassy.

We here at the Embassy have reached out to immigration to obtain details about the news pasted below regarding the implementation of immigration regulations. According to the Duty Chief at Migracion-Paso Canoas, the PNM Immigration Director is enforcing these migratory requirements across Panama. This means that if an Immigration Official determines that a foreigner is using tourism status to reside in Panama, the entry will not be allowed. The Duty Chief gave examples of this situation, indicating that persons who exit Panama before the 6th month approaches and re-enter after three days, which is a clear sign that the individual is residing in Panama under a tourist status, will not be allowed re-entry.

In summary, these regulations were already in the books but now it seems the immigration authorities throughout Panama are going to be stricter about enforcement. That said, we have yet to receive a complaint from a U.S. citizen actually denied entry at the border for the reason outlined above.

Someone posted the latest information that the Canadian Embassy received from Panama immigration and it is essentially the same.

Tourists may only remain in Panama for a maximum of 180 days. If you wish to remain in the country after that time, you must change your residency status. If you attempt to renew your stay in Panama by travelling out of the country for a short period of time with the intention of returning to Panama as a tourist, immigration authorities may deny you re-entry, as they are implementing stricter border controls. Consult Immigration Panama for more information.

It seems to me that anyone living here as a tourist would be advised to either get legal or consider moving elsewhere. There is no guarantee that the border hopping and perpetual tourist thing is going to work for much longer.

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