Marina Abramović, The Artist is Present

I found this very touching video about the communication of only looking into someone’s eyes.

Marina Abramović is a Serbian performance artist who works with the interaction between artist and observer, and the limits of the mind and body. Check out her Wikipedia page here. She is controversial, creative, courageous, and many other adjectives but definitely a force in the world.

This video is a bit of The Artist is Present performance art at the Museum of Modern Art. The artist sat in a chair and audience members would sit in a chair opposite and they would just look at each other. Ulay was Ms Abramović’s collaborator and lover for 12 years, but they hadn’t seen each other for 30 years. He came to MOMA and sat opposite her.

It still makes me tear up every time I see it, such powerful emotions but not a word is said.

There is an HBO documentary (below). Watch it if you can. It’s 1 3/4 hour. It’s all interesting but the last part is about The Artist is Present at MOMA. You will see person after person after person sitting across from the artist. She closes her eyes after each one, and when the next sits down she opens her eyes to gaze directly into their eyes, no looking around, no figeting, only the direct, concentrated gaze at the person in the other chair. It was something to just watch it. I can only imagine being one of the people across from her.

According to the Wikipedia article, Ms Abramović sat across from 1545 people, 736+ hours over the space of 2 1/2 months, sitting without moving, only gazing at the person in the other chair. She said that the show changed her life “completely – every possible element, every physical emotion”.  People lined up to participate even camped outside the museum so they could be sure to get in line the next morning.

Another interesting work was Rhythm 0, 1974. The artist (who would resist nothing that happened) and 72 objects were on a table for the audience to use in any way they wished. After 6 hours the artist was naked, bruised, and bleeding. Factions in the audience who wanted to harm her were fighting with those who wanted to protect her. When it was over she got up and walked towards the audience, “she said the audience left, unable to face her as a person”.

For me though, The Artist is Present is the most powerful. Like the refugees and European individuals I shared in Connection, to see someone, to really look at them and really see them…  she made a space in the middle of a crowded room where there was only that connection between two people.

 

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An Expensive Lesson about Car Documents

There are random police checkpoints all over Panama. There is a permanent one on the road up to Boquete in response to an increased amount of crime, and word is that this has helped a lot. Usually the police just wave us through but, once in a while, they get more thorough. I don’t know if it was because of a home robbery in the area a few days ago, or if it just wasn’t Joel’s lucky day.

He headed up for band practice and a short while later I got a phone call. “Do you know anything about my car documents, my insurance documents?! All I have here is a paper that isn’t good past Dec 2016!” HELP! Unfortunately I don’t know anything about his car documents, and any papers we have are in the car. By now he is off to the side of the road, papers spread all over the car, and the cops are calling a tow truck. No proof of insurance, no driving!

I call our insurance people who respond immediately. They call Joel, talk to the police, and send him an updated document with his current insurance status to his email and WhatsApp. Unfortunately once a tow truck has been called, it’s too late to reverse the situation. But, I am very thankful that they got busy immediately and did everything they could to help.

(our insurance people – Melva Vega
Asistente de Cobro, F&C Corredores de Seguros, Ubicación en David
Edificio Galherna, Oficina #2
Tel: 775-9237 / 775-1615 / Fax: 775-8478)

I also gave Joel the number of Eduardo Horna, our friend and real estate agent. He hopped on his motorcycle and was there within minutes. He talked to the police, helped with communication, and vouched for Joel that he was a good guy, just lacking a document. Joel said he felt much better with Eduardo there, and the police relaxed and were more friendly after talking with him.

(Eduardo, a good guy to know for houses, transportation, tours, translation, and getting a multitude of things done around Chiriqui – https://findingmyselfinpanama.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/video-of-ed-horna-rental-property-available-in-davidboquete/ )

I keep thinking of selling our old Mazda because it just sits here most of the time, but in times like this it is good to have. I head up the mountain, and there is Joel sitting by the side of the road with all his musical equipment. He wasn’t about to leave it in the car, and the tow truck driver didn’t want to take him back down to David.

Joel took a selfie while he was waiting. He was at the checkpoint on Via Boquete at the Caldera road intersection.

Joel took a selfie while he was waiting. He was at the checkpoint on Via Boquete at the Caldera road intersection.

Eduardo gave us instructions to go to Sertracen the next day, the office in Chiriqui Mall where you get your drivers license, and apparently pay fines like this. After some conversation that I had trouble understanding from a women behind a window, and another nice gal who spoke some English – no, we don’t have the car, and all the documents are with the car. No, we don’t have the title. All we have is this insurance document and the ticket from the police – yes, we want to pay the fine today – after some back and forth and $50.25, Joel is given two receipts and is told we can go get the car.

The Sertracen office

The Sertracen office

We head out to Taller El Cid in Las Lomas. We go around the curve as instructed, and another curve, and another, stop at a gas station where the attendant asks a taxi driver who had just pulled in. She came back with directions. We just hadn’t gone far enough. The taxi driver offers to lead us there for $1.50 but I say thanks, I think with all our info we will be able to find it. Sure enough, a while later we spot the shop on the left, so we double back in the next “returno”.

This is only a very small bit of what makes up this shop! But, that green building behind is the office.

This is only a very small bit of what makes up this shop! But, that green building behind is the office.

I should have taken more pictures. It’s a really big shop and it looks like they mostly fix big trucks and 18 wheelers. Down below is a parking lot with cars. The young man makes color copies of Joel’s receipts, the insurance document, and his cedula (Panamanian ID card), collects $150 (ouch!) and asks us the make and model of the car. We go to look in the parking lot below and I don’t see the car. “Are you sure it is at this shop? Who told you that?” We walk across the shop and look in the other side of the area below, and there it is. Whew! OK, all in order, just need the key. He looks in the desk drawer, in a box of random keys, on the wall, no key. He calls the boss who says he will come shortly to find the key.

Joel brings the car up above, and we wait for the key to be found.

Joel brings the car up above on the bad bumpy road, and we wait for the key to be found. An aside – yes that is a July 2016 plate. If you don’t get your plate on time, they don’t order you one for next year. Joel has been to the office twice and gotten a piece of paper that says he is legal, and maybe some day the plate will come in. No, they don’t have stickers. You get a whole new plate every year.

We wait. We talk about his English studies at university. We talk about things in the US, of course including our current president. We talk about a lot of things, and wait, and after 45 minutes or so he calls the boss again who apparently sent him back into the office. He immediately returns with the key wrapped in a bit of paper. Yeah! Ready to go. (I know, I know, you would think they would have all this much more organized! But, TIP.)

Now that you have read all this, go check your car. Do you have your title? Revisado (inspection)? Current insurance document (check the expiration date)? Do you have the correct phone number for your insurance agent? It doesn’t hurt to have a couple copies of each document also, just because TIP. If you don’t have your plates, be sure you have that document also.

I’ll leave you with this picture just because I thought it was very funny. These two guys had put a piece of cardboard under the big truck and were taking a nap.

217car5

TIP = this is Panama

 

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Cost of Living Report, Jan 2017

Once in a while I track expenses so we can see how things are going, and many others seem to find it helpful as they plan their retirement. Of course your costs will be different depending on where and how you live. All I can do is share our experience. You can refer to other reports for more details on our life if you wish.

We live in an upper middle class neighborhood of professional and blue collar families on the north side of David. Our house is probably 1000 sq ft, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, unfurnished (which means no appliances). Costs are in US dollars which is also the currency of Panama.

Rent $385  (We’ve been here 4+ years for the same rent. Something similar probably costs more now)
Cable/internet 41.22  (we changed plans to something a bit less expensive)
Electricity $1.50  (our meter has been broken for months. Yes, they know and they will probably hit us up for back charges, but right now it is essentially free. Usually it is around $35-40 depending on use of AC)
Car insurance $48.30, 2 cars, one full coverage, other liability only
Netflix $9.99
Data plans for 2 iPhones $22.44
Gas for the car $40 (guestimate, hubby didn’t write it down)
Gas for the kitchen $5.12 (gas for cooking comes in a can like for your BBQ, and once a month or so you have to take in an empty can and exchange it for a full one)
Food – $288.26  (we bought a pig last month, 120 pounds worth at $2.50/lb) If we ate 10 pounds (for easy math), you can add $25 for this, total $313.26. Food also includes shampoo, paper towels, and other such things that you pick up on supermarket runs.

Total – $866.83, or if we had paid $40 for electricity,
$906.83

Have I confused you all? 😀 Basically though, bottom line, just to live cost us about $900.

Optional expenses – beer/liquor $92.23 (we stocked up on a Pricesmart run)
Art classes and supplies – $60
My audible and kindle book habits – $50 (estimate)
Oh, almost forgot, $3 to fix a car tire that got a nail in it, and $20 for lunch out a few days ago, and 2 $10 dinners at Joel’s gigs, and a $5 bike repair
So, maybe around $250 in miscellaneous optional expenses

Somewhere around $1150 to live a good life where we feel like we lack for nothing!

This does not include any travel (which we didn’t do anyway in January).
It also doesn’t include health insurance which we don’t have. Joel has VA and I have insurance in the US (thank you Obamacare!!). We have savings to cover emergencies here.
We don’t take any medications, didn’t buy clothes, didn’t have car repairs, or anything else that might come up but didn’t for us in January.

Most of us have a finite amount of money. If you can’t or don’t want to increase the income, you can decrease the outgo. We came to Panama because we could afford it on our limited income. Little did we know it would be such a wonderful experience! Just think, if we were rich we would have missed it all, and what a shame that would be.

Posted in cost of living, Panama | 30 Comments

I Should Write Something

Wow, a while back I wrote the post Connection, inspired by a video that really moved me. Many other people also found it so meaningful that they commented, wrote to me, and passed it along on their blogs and social media. People have found my blog through these shares and have become new followers. I have visited some of their blogs and found the most interesting people – writers, artists, and all kinds of loving, creative,  and wonderful people.

And now, I don’t have anything to say. Sometimes things are happening or I have ideas in my head that I want to write about, and at other times it just feels blank in there.

Of course there is the political nonsense in the US. I try to stay out of it but that is almost impossible. Even the Panamanians ask my opinion everywhere I go. A new friend from the UK says people are taking to the streets in her country in support and solidarity. There were women’s marches in so many countries that every continent was represented. I am filled with gratitude and hope because of all these wonderful people. Maybe as my new UK friend says, this negativity is what we need to wake us up and fight for what is right. Meanwhile though, there will be a lot of muck to suffer through.

I guess my head wasn’t a total blank after all 😀 Mostly though, it’s just regular life here. I got stung by a bee on my eyelid, first real sting since I’ve been here. It was my fault though. I had been ripping out an overgrowth for a while, not realizing that there was a bee hive in there. Finally only one came out and nailed me good. I used to keep honey bees in the US and they would have sent out the whole cavalry if I did that to them. You would think here in the tropics the bugs would be a huge problem but they aren’t at all.

We have been dancing. Since Joel is always on stage we never get to dance together like regular people, so we have been turning on the music in the living room. I have minimal experience dancing but I’m catching on and having fun, and he is also exposing me to a lot of music I don’t know.  It’s probably good exercise too. I hope so since I didn’t meet my biking goals last week.

I did set out this morning on the bike with the best of intentions. I clicked down to low gear to go up the hill in our neighborhood and bam, there went the chain right over the gear and wedged itself next to the axle where it’s almost impossible to get out. I decided I’m not dealing with that ever again so off we went to the bike shop.

Now I have a nice plastic guard thing so the chain can't wedge itself down in there again.

Now I have a nice plastic guard thing so this won’t happen again, thanks to the suggestion of my biker son-in-law. Parts and labor were $5. Tomorrow I’m going to clean that funky chain!

I’m back in painting class again, and finally finished my latest one. The teacher kept asking for more light here, more shade there so much that I think it’s almost overdone, but hopefully my friend is happy with it. Another friend requested a calla lily and I have that one composed in my head. I’m excited to start it and see if I can bring it into reality.

img_6891

I went out Saturday night to Joel’s gig and had a great time. They sounded fantastic, a number of my friends were out so I had people to dance with and it was so much fun. So… dancing, painting, trying not to discuss politics (unsuccessfully), biking a little, doing a few chores and errands, hanging out with friends… the tough life of a retired gringa.

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Getting Old

According to this Wikipedia article, “Ageing and mortality of the individual organism became possible with the evolution of sexual reproduction, which occurred approximately a billion years ago. The sexual organism could henceforth pass on some of its genetic material to produce new individuals and itself could become disposable with regards to the survival of its species.” Since we aren’t single cell organisms, this is our fate. We are disposable.

What does this mean? If we are disposable does this make our life more meaningful? People say the Buddhists are always thinking about death. Yes, and that teaches us to value every day that we are alive. But, as we get older are our lives less valuable, as society seems to tell us?

I ran across this article that talks about musicians. There are many senior musicians who are playing as well, or even better than before like The Rolling Stones, The Who, Paul McCartney, Neil Young and Roger Waters to name a few who are still actively playing and performing. I even see this with Joel who turns 70 next month. In the 27 years I have known him, I’ve never heard him play and sing so well. As the article says “ if you’ve got your health, if you’ve got the desire, if you’ve spent decades refining your craft, then there’s no reason you can’t still do great work.”

I also found the Ageist website, dedicated to studying people over 50 who are living active, productive lives. It is time we respected the older generations for their wisdom, energy, and continued valuable contributions to society.

The article that led me there was this one on Dr Connie Mariano, white house doctor for George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. She says presidents visibly age while in office, but they also live long lives afterwards. She thinks it is the sense of purpose, the feeling that your life is significant, that you look forward to every day and have things to contribute.

I love this paragraph  There is an old saying that we have engraved on our wall in our home in Colorado: “It’s never too late to live happily ever after.” Never too late. When I bought my wedding gown 5 years ago in LA, I asked the lady, “How old was your oldest bride?” and she said, “My oldest bride was about 75 and she had to call her mother who was 96 to ask her about the dress, to tell her about the dress.

Dr Eleanor (Connie) Mariano has a Wikipedia article if you want to know more about her, and she has written a book The White House Doctor. I might have to read that one myself.

What does all of this mean for those of you who are reaching your third stage of life? Of course health is a big deal. If you are sick or disabled that changes your options. But, if you are healthy and functioning, what do you do with this stage of your life?

For me, it’s a gift. I’ve spent my life in service to others which was very satisfying, but I don’t feel that need now. This is my time and I want to use these years to strengthen myself physically and mentally. I want new experiences, to learn more, understand more, and develop new talents and skills. I believe in being generous and putting positive energy out and I certainly want to continue that, but it’s also a privilege to follow my own inclinations and spend my time as I choose.

It’s an interesting time. The body sags and the hair gets gray. As the Doors said in Roadhouse Blues “The future’s uncertain And the end is always near.” But every day is sweeter because of this.  I see as more and more of us age, we aren’t going to be treated as second class citizens any more. We are going to fight to be recognized, fight to contribute, and to live fully. We can start with ourselves by staying engaged and involved in life, and by refusing to retreat to the rocking chair for as long as possible.

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Learn Spanish!

Many people read this blog because they are interesting in living in Panama, or they are already here. For me, the biggest challenge of relocating was the language. I’m not good at languages and teaching me is like pounding information into a stone head, and with holes because what goes in is likely to come right back out again.

Yaira9

It’s not too late to make resolutions for 2017. If learning Spanish is one of them, here you go. Yaira is an experienced teacher, and she has the patience of a saint (I’m not only slow to learn, I get frustrated and whine.) You can have your own private teacher thanks to Skype, and she is flexible about times, number of classes, goals, and anything else you need.

Here is Her Website. http://www.yairatutoria.com/

Teaching privately has allowed Yaira to go to university to further her career as a teacher, and to also spend more time with her young son. I thank her every day for my ability to communicate and I’m happy to recommend her to you all.

 

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The Homeless Thing, Again

There is a blogger who I don’t know, but she has touched me through her words.

There are many things that need to be fixed in the USA but homelessness has found a place in my heart. Last spring I got to feel homelessness first hand, the fear as I approached people, their wish to avoid me, the inability to get anyone to stop and help me. I talked with many homeless and I heard so many sad stories of unfortunate circumstances, no family or friends for help, and no resources with which to get going again.

Read this post written by an articulate, educated, intelligent, creative, and well spoken woman. If you really want to know what it’s like to be homeless, read the whole blog.

https://warriorsandghosts.wordpress.com/2017/01/17/the-homeless-chronicles-what-i-hope-to-achieve-with-this-blog/

This could be you. This could be me. This could be any of us.

She has a GoFundMe page too.

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Baby Fruit

Summer in Panama means many things are flowering and fruiting. At this time of year we see flowers that we usually don’t see at other times, and I see fruit trees covered with flowers everywhere I go. The bougainvillea are spectacular and I need to spend a day pointing my camera at them very soon.

Mangoes are one of my favorite fruits. If a little dog (perro) is a perrito, is a little mango a mangito? We have mangitoes everywhere so it might be a bumper crop this year. Last year I picked up enough to freeze and enjoy all year, and I plan to do the same this year.

People are remarking on the avocado trees too. They are covered with an unusual amount of flowers so we might have a bumper crop of avocados too. It’s a bit too early to see many fruits but you can already spot an occasional one. They don’t freeze well like many fruits, but frozen avocados can still be used in smoothies and other recipes. If I get a lot I will freeze the extras and experiment.

The start fruit or carambola is flowering and starting to fruit again. It seems like the last round of fruit just slowed down a month or so ago. I like to eat them fresh, and they are great in fruit smoothies. I still have some in the freezer and it looks like when I run out, new fruit will be ready.

The cashews are very cool! I never realized how they grow until we found them here. There is one nut on each fruit. The nut must be roasted or heated to neutralize the toxins before it can be opened to get the nut inside. No wonder they are so expensive. I wrote a post about them in the past where you can see the fruit, and there is video of people roasting the nuts on an open fire. The fruit has a very unusual,  almost pungent smell and flavor. It is very delicate and doesn’t transport well at all which is why you never see it in the markets. People here use it to make drinks, and it is really good chopped and cooked with maybe a bit of sweetener and/or some vanilla.

Guandu, or pigeon peas are very important to Panamanians. They are pretty much required for holiday dinners for the traditional arroz con guandu (rice and guandu). They can be expensive though, especially around Christmas so they are a very common sight growing in people’s yard. I have found that they freeze well, and they can also be dried and cooked like beans.

Here to finish up are photos of a number of other random plants and trees.

A few notes on the fruits above. The huge lemons are great! I have been picking them up from two trees nearby. I wrote about them in the past.

The mariñon corazon, I can’t find any information about them. The people in Nicaragua call them peras, but that didn’t lead anywhere either. The trees are tall, nicely shaped, and when they flower they make feathery purple blossoms. Soon there is a beautiful carpet of purple under the tree.

Our limon trees are usually loaded with fruit by now, but we had a brush fire come through here last year. The heat from the fire even outside our fence was enough to cause the trees to lose all their leaves. They have recovered nicely but there were very few flowers, so we have very little fruit this year. Hopefully we will have better luck next year.

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Where Should I Live?

“I’ve heard that Panama is great so I’m moving there. Where should I live?”  People ask this question in one form or another quite often. There is no answer that will fit everyone. Panama is a small country but very diverse. There is city living, country living, beaches, mountains, pretty much everything except winter climate.

When trying to figure this out, the first thing to ask yourself is what do you need? If you are working remotely, you need a good internet connection. If you have health issues, you need to be close to medical care. If you have children, you need to figure out school for them. If you need shopping and daily needs close by, you don’t want to be in a remote area. What you must have is going to determine what areas are possibilities.

Bob Adams is a very knowledgeable and sensible man who has made many videos. Here is a one on this subject.

A few other things to consider are, what is your budget? Panama City is expensive, especially the housing. Coronado, Boquete, and other areas with many expats also tend to be more expensive. Do you speak Spanish? If not, you may be more comfortable in an area where there are more English speakers. Do you want to be close to other expats, or do you want a Panamanian immersion kind of life? Do you like warm (hot) weather, or would you be more comfortable in the cooler mountains? Once you have taken a careful look at yourself and your needs, you should be able to narrow down your search to some areas that meet these needs.

Another question that comes up is – should I rent or buy? Everyone (at least everyone who isn’t trying to sell you something) will say rent first for at least 6-12 months. You need to spend time here living the daily life to be sure it is a good fit. You may find that one season is great, but another is too windy, wet, hot, cold, or other problems. Maybe you want to be closer to something, or farther away from something. It’s hard to know what your new life is going to be like until you have lived it for a while. I know if we were going to buy, our choices and priorities would be different now after four years than they were even after living here for a year. Once you buy, it may not be that easy to change your mind and sell so proceed carefully.

Then, after location and housing, the question is – what should I bring? Again, this is an individual choice. People ship whole containers, and others come with only a suitcase. It is hard to know what you will need until you have lived your life here for a while. Will your furniture hold up in this humid climate? Will you wear those good clothes when you live in shorts and t-shirts? The general opinion is, if something is hard to impossible to replace here, bring it (like my husband’s guitars and musical equipment). Many find it worth it to bring their good quality tools or kitchen equipment, and other recommend bringing sheets and towels because they can’t find the quality they want here. I’ve known people who have shipped containers, partial containers, come with stuffed suitcases, made multiple trips to bring things here, and even a relocation cruise is a possibility if you can find one.

That’s all the words I have on the subject for today. Many people are happy to offer opinions, but only you can decide what will work for you. Oh, and I highly recommend you never, ever even think about buying anything under development or pre-construction. The reality is likely to be quite different from the glossy sales brochure and the sweet words of the salesman. I’ve heard stories from people who have done that, and you don’t want to be the next story.

I guess I did have a few more words 😉

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Connection

What do we need as human beings to survive? food, shelter, reproduction, connection. We are social beings. Babies literally die without human touch and connection. Adults don’t do well either, mentally or physically, without human connection.

I saw this video recently HERE. Amnesty International conducted an experiment. They put refugees from Somalia and Syria in front of individuals from Europe and the instructions were to just look into each others eyes for four minutes. They were hoping that this looking at each other would be the start of a connection and a realization of shared humanity. As you will see, it worked.

I have said many times that I am so happy here in Panama, and the main reason is the people. I feel like they really SEE me. When they look at me, talk with me, and smile at me I feel that connection. Of course I had friends in the US but people you don’t know, they don’t see you in the same way. The checkout person at the supermarket says “have a nice day” but you know it isn’t for you, really. It’s just what they have been trained to say. Here though, even people I don’t know, they look me in the eyes. They are curious about who I am. They want to make a connection and it’s a really nice feeling.

The US has been so terribly divided and it seems to be getting worse and worse. We are losing our realization that we are all humans, we are all people. We are losing compassion for our brothers and sisters suffering within and without our borders. A Syrian refugee may be just a drain on our resources, a problem to be avoided. But, when you make eye contact with a refugee, see who they are as a person, hear their story, understand their journey, how can you not feel their humanity.

I try to stay away from the news and politics, but it’s impossible to not know what is going on. It affects my family, my friends, and the entire world. Now more than ever we need to see the humanity in each other. We need to stand by and support each other, especially those who may feel pushed aside and disrespected. I hope that where there are negative forces gaining strength, there will be positive forces gaining even more strength. I see that happening already.

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