Greetings from South of the Border, way south of the border. I have arrived in Panama, frazzled from complications and lack of sleep. But, I’m here, and my new life has begun.
After 6 days of estate sales and multiple trips to the thrift stores, recycling center, and transfer station, I got rid of everything. I left an empty house, except for those things my landlord/best friend wanted. He even bought my car and drove me to the airport! Anything to get rid of me :).
The first day of travel was very complicated due to the new use of QR codes to exit and enter a country. I was not prepared for this. It took professionals an hour to get me out of Atlanta and another hour to get me into Panama. I have a learning curve to take on with this subject. I had long waits for shuttles, a late plane, but an early arrival. It all worked out, but I needed much more sleep. I got up at 3:00 am to catch an early flight because I forgot to set my clock back an hour. Panama has no daylight saving time.
I met with my immigration lawyer right after getting off the plane and got the Visa process started. I then took a bus up to my new “home town” and checked into an old, funky hotel which I thought was really kool. After 15 days, I got my temporary Visa. It takes a couple of months to get a permanent Visa. The cost for these Visa is around $1600. These are then followed by an e-cedula (only about $65). The “e” in cedula stands for extranjero – foreigner in Spanish. With that, I will no longer need to carry my passport. In fact, I can travel around much of South America with only the e-cedula.
It turned out to be a rough beginning. The big weekly expat event is the Tuesday Market. I missed the first two (I arrived too late on the first Tuesday and the next I had to go to my lawyer’s office to pick up my Temporary Visa). The private expat group (those who took the tour I took) meets on Friday afternoon/evenings. I missed the first of those because I couldn’t find the hotel where this occurred.
By far the biggest problem I had after arriving was the fact that I didn’t have an American phone number. I had given that up. I couldn’t do business with anyone in the US, because I couldn’t accept a security check call. This means I couldn’t access my bank or credit card accounts, in addition to some other businesses. I did get a WhatsApp phone number the first day I got here because most of the world uses the WhatsApp free phone service – that is, everybody but the US. After a month, I solved the phone problem by getting a Google Voice phone number (thank you Melissa!). Now I use that almost exclusively.
This blog is getting to be a bit long, and there’s still so much to tell you. I will continue to do so, reverting to the once-a-week posting on Wednesdays. Thanks for traveling with me.