Category Archives: Panama Journal

The Eagle Has landed

After 22 days without funds, Robert finally has his Banistmo Bank Card. It will be another 48 hours before I will know if the card works because it takes that long for the bank computer systems to to activate the card from the time the card is delivered and it is registered as delivered by the bank attendant.

I can’t speak highly enough about the attendant that helped me through Robert’s problem. She was the same lady that had helped the previous time to get a new card issued and remembered Robert in his wheelchair. Had it not been for her, I think it might have taken longer.

Now I am on the 48 watch to verify that the card works. Hogar Santa Catalina has also been outstanding. I was called the other night and told that Robert need his anti-convulsive medicine needed to be purchased. I called the secretary and asked if she could buy it with the emergency funds we keep on hand with her at the home. She said she would also told me not to worry about his rent as she knew I was working on the problem.

Thank goodness the eagle has landed. In 48 hours I will see if the eagle is live.

Gelarti comes to David

20160314_103435I have died and gone to heaven! We finally have great ice-cream in David. Not one but two Gelarti stores have opened. The one whose photos appear in their post is next to Pizza Hut in David replacing the old BlockBuster store.

The second store is across the street from the old Super 99 in the new shopping plaza.

Talk about good. I had a brownie milkshake and it was fabulous! So many great flavors and so little time.

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I was having to Boquete for gelato, but I no longer have to do that. It is close enough that I can gain a couple pounds each day with no problem. It is going to be hard to stay away.

Sunday through Thursday they open at 1PM and stay open until 10:30PM.

Friday and Saturday they are open from 11:00 AM until 11:00PM

Drop in. You will not be disappointed. If you go in, tell them you heard about them on Chiriquí Chatter.

Here are photos of the new store.

More Difficulties With Banking accounts in Panama

I am in the process of helping Robert obtain a new bank card from Banistmo. When an attempt was made this month to get funds to pay Robert’s rent and other expenses, the card didn’t work.

I was confident that there was money in the account and when I enquired with the bank I found that all cards were being replaced with new cards containing an electronic chip.

Great. For most people, this is not a problem, but when the card holder is a stroke victim and unable to go to the bank, it is more than a challenge.

I had to get a notarized letter instructing the bank to deliver the card to me. I had to take the notary to the assisted living facility so the notary could get Robert’s fingerprint on the letter and then delivered the letter to the bank.

The bank has now sent the letter to Panama City for their legal review. I talked to the office of the assisted living and have explained why their payment is late and they told me no to worry. Hopefully I will hear something by Friday. If not I will have to go to the bank next Monday and find out why it is taking so long.

Robert was not an isolated case with Banistmo’s card change. I have talked to several Banistmo clients who have been affected. One couple had made a trip to Colombia and when they got ready to return they found that their card had been deactivated. They were without funds and had to jump through hoops to get back to Panama.

This was certainly not a clean card change by the bank. No warning or notification prior to the change.

On another front, most people are finding that it is getting more difficult for U.S. citizens to get banking accounts with Panama Banks. A large part of their problem is because of new information regulations the U.S. government is placing on banks.

A good friend told me yesterday that he is being called in by all of his banks for an interview. He has been asked if he hs a U.S. driver’s license and a car in the U.S.

He is also being asked to complete is a “Request of Taxpayer ID”. This form has to be submitted to the US by Panamanian banks along with their annual report on Gringo accounts….  all at the labor and phone costs of the banks.

Maybe this is why the banks are not enthused to take on new gringo clients.

Life in Panama has always had its challenges, but they seem to be increasing.

By the way – Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Long Time No Posts – Confucius

I know that I have slowed down on posts lately. I plead guilty, but I have been busy. It has mostly been technology that has occupied my time. So maybe it is time to talk about some of it.

I have two current technology projects running.

I am upgrading and tuning my home security system, both cameras and alarm. With the increase in crime in Chiriquí you need to take all the precautions you can. You also need to remember that no precautions are perfect and you need to have plan Bs and Cs in place. I do.

It appears that more and more U.S. sites will start prohibiting outside US service. That affected my use of TAXACT, which was a major annoyance. Luckily I was able to get filed with a 1 week trial of AVAST’s VPN. I used it because it was handy and I use AVAST as my AV software. free is good.

It appears that NetFlix has cracked down on proxy servers, and VPNs. I have had no problem using UNLOCATOR for Amazon Prime. Whether I will use Amazon Prime after this contract year remains to be seen. I have heard that NetFlix is also blocking UNLOCATOR beyond UNLOCATOR’s ability.

Since most of my entertainment needs are being satisfied by KODI, which requires no proxi service or VPN, I have not been affected.

I continue to use Amazon’s Fire products as my entertainment Internet device of choice. I still recommend FireStarter as the front end to Amazon’t menu and I continue to use the ARES Wizard as the access point to the various skins that are available. ARES URL has changed which must be inserted in the KODI file manager to configure. The new URL is. http://areswizard.srve.io/aw_zip.

I have tried many skins and it is a matter of preference which you will like better. Some work better than others on the Amazon Fire Stick. I have found that they all perform well on the Amazon Fire TV.

When choosing a skin, it is important to use a skin that is designed for the  version of KODI you are running. Jarvis (KODI 16.0) is the latest release. My current skin is Pulse-CCM for Jarvis. It seems to be the most complete skin and runs well on my Fire TV. I have not it on my Fire Stick yet, so cannot attest to its usability there, but suspect it should be OK.

Currently on my Fire Stick, I am using SpinZTV. It is another good skin and has a good Spanish section which is good for movies and TV in Spanish.

As in the past, if you need help configuring your Amazon Fire TV or Fire Stick or PC, I will be happy to help. No charge.

KODI does require a decent Internet speed. However, if you have the speed, you most likely will have more entertainment options than you will be able to watch.

The David Fair is going on. I think I am going to pass this year. Don’t want to fight the heat and with the increase in crime, would not want to be there in the cooler night hours.

An FYI. Jewelberry has sold and is closed for the new owner to bring in new equipment and add to the menu. Yes, Broster Chicken will still be available. I will try it when it reopens and see if the quality has remained the same on the chicken. I am assuming it will.

There are two new ice cream places that have opened in David. Actually it is one franchise that has opened in two locations. One location is where BlockBuster use to be. The other is in the new center across from the old Super 99 on the road going to the airport. I will try them when I get a chance.

On the great grand baby front, Nealon is in the process of being discharged from the hospital. All in all this is turning out to be a very good day.

Mark Your Calendars

I received this for one of the CC readers. If you have never seen it, you may want to mark your calendar!

The cabalgata is held every year on March 19, the patron saint day of David, San Jose de David. This year it is a Saturday.

According to the mayor’s office, it will begin in the large field near the stoplight at the intersection of the Pan Americana and “Mac Donald’s street” (Calle F Sur), go downtown past Cervantes park, and end at the Parque de las Madres on “Super Baru street.”

It normally steps off around 3pm. I like to show up at the starting point around 2pm to take photos.

I just received the following route map.
Cabalgada

U.S. Embassy Warden Position for Boquete Open

I was talking to the U.S. Embassy ACS Chief today and she told me that Price Peterson was wanting to step down as the Boquete Warden and they would consider replacements.

The volunteer should speak a reasonable amount of Spanish and be willing to take on other duties as called on by the Embassy.

Here are my notes from the 2013 Warden’s meeting in Panama City and it covers the Warden’s responsibilities.

If you feel you are qualified and want to volunteer, contact the American Citizen’s Services division directly.

The email address is Panama-ACS@state.gov.

Back To School

The schools in Panama started back today. If you were out at the malls, over the weekend, ,you saw a lot of activity. There will be more this week too as final purchases are made.

New school uniforms, books and supplies. And all prices are going up. Lots of families feel school related stress this time of year.

Many churches have programs to help students with expenses. Lilliam and I have contributed to our church’s student support for many years.

If you want to be a part of assisting students in need, you might check with your local church and see if they have a similar program.

Solved – But Not Without An Enormous Struggle

After working on this problem for three weeks, the problem is solved.

What I thought to be a problem with a POL letter that was not responded to, turns out to be quite different. However, the difficulty in getting payments available was unbelievably difficult.

From the previous post, it was evident that the individual had not registered as being a resident in Panama.

After verifying that the February payment had indeed been deposited in the checking account, the problem moved to being a bank problem. While the Embassy can communicate directly with another government agency, the bank is a private institution and has different regulations.

Bottom line is, for one reason or another, the bank card was locked. The exact cause is unknown.

The only one that the bank wanted to talk to was the owner of the account. Since the individual had had a stoke, voice communications was impossible. The Embassy offered for me to host a SKYPE conference in which the bank could varying the individual was indeed the account owner.

The bank was unable to do have a SKYPE conference. Through continued efforts by the Embassy, it was determined what the problem was and the card was reset.

Following that, I was called and told that the card still didn’t work. Panic was close to setting in because the bank’s only option was to send a new card to the address on file.

Yesterday, I received a call saying that the the individual was at Supermarket Rey and wanted me to come see the problem with the card.

I went and was told the card didn’t work. I said to try it again and I wanted to watch the process. When the individual went to insert the card, the card was inserted backwards. I took the card out and inserted it the correct way. The code was entered by the individual and all selections were made and the money was dispensed.

What a relief. OK. What lessons are to be learned.

Problems with receiving SS deposits are not always a problem with the SSA..
Dealing with a US bank is virtually impossible if the account owner has had a stroke.
Not updating your address with SSA and Banks can be problems in the event of health problems.
Living in Panama greatly increases the time to solve simple problems.

Filing Time

I have completed my taxes. As it turns out it was not Cable Onda that was preventing me from accessing the TaxAct website. It was TaxAct.

I went to Cable Onda and they were kind enough to test and said they could not access it in Panama City. Since I could not access it from Claro, I felt it was a more universal problem.

I finally received the following response from TaxAct.

Dear TaxAct® Customer,
TaxAct takes the security of our customers and their information very seriously. We have industry-standard security protocols in place and are taking additional measures this tax season to further protect our customers.
Accepting returns originating from US-based computers is one example of the extra steps we are taking to protect the security and data integrity of our customers. We are truly sorry that this has impacted you.

START SIGNATURE

Thank you for allowing me to help you today.  Please reply back if I can assist further or if you have any additional questions.
You’ll receive a brief email survey for you to provide your feedback of today’s communications.  We appreciate you completing the short questionnaire to help us ensure the best service to our customers.

Steve M.
TaxAct® Support
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I had to use a VPN to complete my taxes and consider TaxAct’s response a little foolish. However in checking, they were not the only tax software not allowing filing from Panama.

Using VPN software I was able to file my Federal return and will mail my state return today.

Living in Panama always keeps you on your toes, if not from challenges from the Panama government, then from the U.S. Government. If you have tried to open a Panama Banking account you probably know what I mean.

Time of Year for a Panama Blow Job

Sorry to disappoint you, but I am talking about the climate and its effect on the winds.

If you visit Panama this time of year you have to be prepared for unbelievable winds. Here is a current article from NewsRoom Panama.

Lilliam and I heard this loud noise yesterday and when we went out to see what it was, we found our house being blown apart. Luckily our home repairman was available and came over and did repairs before this loose piece went flying and cut off somebody’s head.
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We also had to fish a couple chairs out of the pool and moved all deck furniture to more secure areas.

And if you are up in the area of Volcan and Boquete, I bet you are really getting blown around. WOW. These winds are the strongest I remember in a long time.

I understand that the high winds are causing a lot of power outages.