I finally figured out what flies and mosquitoes are for. They’re God’s way of making us slap ourselves.

Latest Embassy Case

My most recent Embassy case concluded successfully with an email I received this morning.

I got a call several nights ago from the Security Desk at the Embassy in Panama City. The duty officer said he had just talked to a US citizen, in David, who had called frightened for her life because her male housemate had locked her in the house after beating her and threatening to kill her. He had then gone to Panama City.

The duty officer was wanting to know a number in David she could call for help and if it was 911 as in the states.

Staff at the Embassy change every two years and it is not uncommon to have new staff that don’t have all the knowledge they need to assist people. I gave him the numbers for the police and went back to sleep.

The following morning, I received a frantic phone call from the lady who had escaped when her roommate had returned earlier that morning. He allowed her to go pay some bills and instead, she went into hiding and called me. A friend of hers had given her my number.

I called my contacts at the Embassy and updated them on the situation. Shortly they sent me an email with the number for INAMU, which is a women”s abuse organization.

I picked up the lady and she wanted to go to COPA and buy tickets back to the states because she said she didn’t want to be another statistic. I took her to COPA and then we went to find the INAMU office. I had to call for directions.

We were taken to a private room where a social worker took the information related to the abuse case. The social worker was accompanied by a lawyer, who understood some English. I acted as interpreter.

I explained to the social worker that it was my understanding from talking to the US Embassy that they assisted women in these situations and they would provide protection and shelter.

They said they would take her to a safe house and then the next day take her to the airport for her flight. They informed her that she would not be permitted to use her cell phone while she was going to/from the safe house and while in the safe house because of the phones having GPS capabilities.

They offered to take her to her house to get personal belongings, but she was afraid that he would become violent. Most individuals like him become cowards when confronted by police, but that was her desire.

I can understand her fear because he had to!d her that he had killed two other women in Panama City and knew how to do it without being caught.

This morning, I received an email from her saying she had made it back to the US and was with family. There are a few loose ends remaining, but at least she is safe and based on the bruises I saw, it might not have ended that way.

It is good to know that such an organization exists and they assist Panamanians as well as foreigners. Thanks go out for Tania at the Embassy for knowing about this organization and  making the initial call. Thanks also for those working in the organization supporting abused women.

The organization is INAMU and their number is 774-7093.

Message for U.S. Citizens: Zika Virus Update

Following is the latest ACS message.

Zika virus infection is an emerging infection now widespread through much of Latin America. There is a strong potential that this infection will continue to spread. A Zika infection spreads through mosquito bites and is typically manifested as a mild flu-like illness, fever, a rash, conjunctivitis, and joint pains but most cases are “silent”, meaning that the infected person feels no symptoms at all. Health authorities such as the U.S. Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization harbor serious concerns that an infection during pregnancy can cause birth defects in new borns whose mothers may have been infected with the Zika virus. The latest list of all the countries covered by the CDC Travel Alert Level 2 can be found here: CDC Travel Health Information.

The Panamanian Ministry of Health (MINSA) has confirmed 50 Zika cases. To date, the outbreak has been confined to the Guna Yala province. MINSA Department of Epidemiology is working with the Gorgas Memorial Institute to control mosquitos in the affected areas. Gorgas provides the testing facilities for Zika. The latest notices from MINSA can be found here.

For the latest and more in-depth information, please also see the following:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Zika Virus
Pan American Health Organization Zika Virus

First POL (Proof of Life) Paperwork Victim

I just got a call from a caretaker of a US citizen saying that he was unable to withdraw funds this month. He has many monthly needs and is unable to pay for them.

I have notified the Embassy and the process to reestablish the monthly deposit will begin. It will be complicated because he cannot talk for the Embassy because of a stroke and can’t go to the Embassy to handle the paperwork.

Make sure you have verified that you received your US government February payments, because February is the month that payments are stopped if POL was not submitted.

Magic Jack Renewal

Today, I finally got around to renewing my Magic Jack for another 5 years. $20/year or $1.87 a month for all the calls to anywhere in the US or Canada.

Still about the best plan I have found. Every now and then I think I can do it all from the different apps on my cell phone and then I remember needing to talk to various companies and banks in the US and getting put on hold for over an hour wit government agencies.

When I remember this, $20 a year is nothing.

I once watched a documentary on ferns because the remote was out of reach.

Whenever something says ‘sign here’ I can’t help but put Libra.

According to the most current magazine in my last doctor’s office, every home in America will have a television by 1962.

Message for U.S. Citizens: Carnival in Panama 2016

Following is the latest ACS message.

Friday, February 5, 2016 starts the annual Carnival celebration in Panama. This event is observed in Panama City and many towns throughout the country. While it is intended to be a fun celebration, it can also result in road closures and increased opportunity for crime. The American Citizen Services Unit at the U.S. Embassy in Panama would like to draw your attention to the following information:

Currently available information indicates that The Government of Panama plans to close down the Cinta Costera from 1:00pm Friday, February 5th until Wednesday February 10th. More information is available from www.visitpanama.gov or local media outlets. The PNP will establish checkpoints on the main entrances to the Carnival area. In addition, SINAPROC, PNP, SENAFRONT, and SENAN are deploying units all over the country, including beach areas and cities such as Las Tables, Penonomé, Aguadulce, La Villa de los Santos, and Santiago.

Remember as you travel to and from the event, traffic is likely to be heavy and rerouted.

Avoid drawing attention to yourself and thereby increasing your chances of becoming a target for crime:
· Do not wear expensive jewelry or hand-carry cameras.
· Avoid displaying large amounts of money. Keep cash in separate locations on your person.
· We recommend not carrying large bags, purses, etc.
· Drink lots of water to avoid dehydration.
· Use sunscreen.

For up-to-date information on security, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov. Further information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

U.S. citizens who travel to or reside in Panama are encouraged to enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). By enrolling, you make it easier for the U.S. Embassy to contact you in case of an emergency.