Category Archives: Panama Journal

The David Warden Position For the U.S. Embassy is Available

With this post I am announcing that the David Warden position for the U.S. Embassy in Panama is available to be filled.

I resigned my position as Warden effective today.

If you have an interest in filling this position, please email the America Citizen Services at the following email address ( and they will explain the duties and responsibilities.

I will no longer be posting the Embassy notices. I encourage you to sign up with STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) and you will receive all communications directly from the Embassy.

Felling Melancholy

Time Was When
By Don Ray Williams
December 6, 2008

I’m sure the day will come, when you’ll look back.
And wonder where the time has gone, cause you just lost track.

So many things you meant to do, were put off for another day,
And while those tasks lay waiting, the time silently slipped away.

It is always easy to say, “I really intended to …”,
But it is more difficult to just get up and to begin to DO.

Some things you should not put off, not even for a day.
Some things are tasks and some merely things you need to say.

Have you told all of your friends, what they add to each day of your life?
Have you expressed your love to sons and daughters or to your husband or your wife?

Have you given thanks for your health and the food that you have to eat?
Have your given thanks for having a roof over your head and a soft bed in which to sleep?

So many things we take for granted. So many people too.
So while it is on your mind, remember the things that you need to DO.

Buy a card that says you care, or call them on the phone.
Everyone can use a friendly word, especially if they are all alone.

And don’t forget the Man above. He would appreciate a little thanks too.
Now is the time to tell them all, so just get up and DO.

The Ending of A Story and the Beginning of Another

I am excited and extremely happy. I must share some news that I just received. Some of you, that have followed Chiriqui Chatter for several years, may remember an Embassy case I had back in 2010.

I wrote a post about a young lady that had saved her husbands life. Several thieves had entered their boat, moored off Pedregal, and murdered the young lady’s husband’s father. When her husband went above deck, to see what was happening, he was shot and left for dead.

I have kept in touch with them through the years and had pushed them to move to the US because they had no future here.

I watched their young son get his US citizenship, and the last hurdle was for the wife to get her Green Card. Today was her interview at the US Embassy in Panama City. An hour ago they notified me that she was approved.

Zech, Sugey and little Bo have become like family to me. I couldn’t be happier for them, if they were my own kids.

They are probably still in shock, but greatly relieved. One part of their lives is ending and another is just beginning.


Lilliam and I will miss you, but we will stay in touch.

My Day So Far

Robert’s head nurse has sent Lilliam a photo that Robert’s TV was not working.

I prepared for the worst as I couldn’t remember if the connection was the power connection for the TV. I went to visit Robert with my two screwdrivers in case I had to take the whole TV in to repair the connection.

Luckily it was the power connection to the cable box that was broken. I guess the cleaning lady must have thought it was a rat and stomped on it because it is not easy to break the connector like it was broken. OK, bad joke.

I did tell the other the attendant on duty that they needed to take more care when cleaning the room not to break the electric connecter.

So I picked up the connector and headed for Cable Onda to get a new one. I expected the worst. The TV remotes go out all the time and they are $8 a pop.

The attendant at Cable Onda asked for the account number and I gave them Robert’s account number and she handed me a box with a new power block.

I asked if the new connector would be on the next bill. She said it was free. Will wonders never cease. Something free in this world.

I left happy.

I returned to Hogar Santa Catalina and connected the new power cord to the cable box. No light came on. I turned on the TV and there was no power. I then checked the wall plug and tried the fan. The fan didn’t turn on either.

The attendant on duty said there was no electricity in the room. I said maybe when the plug was broken it shorted the electricity and threw a breaker. I asked where the breaker box was and it was in the kitchen.

There appeared to be no thrown switch.

Then the attendant told me that they were changing out the power in the showers and several rooms didn’t have electricity. Had I know that in the first place, I would never have searched for the breakers.

Hopefully in a day or two the electrician will get electricity back in the rooms and Robert will once again have TV.

All in all I can’t complain. At least I didn’t have to remove the TV and take it in for service.

Observations – Regarding Moving To Panama

I know I haven’t posted much lately, but I have several items consuming my time. However, I have had some time to observe several Yahoo groups and the Internet conversations about the frustration of the new immigration laws that Panama is enforcing.

For those considering retiring in Panama, this should have no major ill effect. I still maintain you should live here, as you would if you were a permanent resident, for a minimum of 6 months, prior to deciding to move here.

You should use that time for a test run to allow experiencing both the rainy and the dry seasons. That is not hard to do, but it does require effort. You should keep in mind that some locations have extra risks during the rainy season , such as bridge outages or land slides.

During that time you need to do a real due diligence to see if Panama is right for you.

I suggest several items for your due diligence.

  1. Observe the climate. Probably the most enticing reason to move to Panama is the weather. I consider it the only reason that would motivate me to move here after 14 years of experience.
  2. Visit the appropriate medical facilities. Check out doctors you might use. Visit the Regional Hospital emergency and watch the traffic. Determine how you would cover a serious illness or accident. Understand how you will pay for an unplanned medical event. If you have moderate to serious medical conditions, think hard before making a move here.
  3. Watch the local Panama TV news. Even if you don’t understand Spanish, you will learn a lot. This should be a daily event while you are here.
  4. Plan on learning Spanish, if you don’t speak it. It will be needed, if you are rushed to the Regional Hospital for an unplanned medical emergency.
  5. Determine how you will manage your finances. Many Panama banks no longer allow US citizens to open an account. To withdraw $500 from an ATM will typically cost you over $5+, if the account is not from a bank in Panama.
  6. Determine the cost and availability of reliable Internet. TV and Internet can be costly, if you don’t live in a good area. Most programing will be in Spanish. Service, both technical and account, can be a challenge, if you don’t speak Spanish.
  7. Verify the cost of living in Panama. It is not cheap. Granted, it is cheap compared to Costa Rica and safer than most of the other Latin American countries, but cheap, it is not.
  8. Verify your tolerance to rapid changes. What was the rule last week may not be the rule next week. Don’t like protests blocking you ability to get to medical services, well expect it in Panama and plan for it.
  9. While government officials will tell you that crime is on the down tick, locals will tell you it is higher than in the past. I have seen it change a lot in the last 14 years I have been here. Watching the local news will educate you.

Continue this list with other items that are important to you. Continue reading Observations – Regarding Moving To Panama

More Stuff

It looks like everyone is starting to realize that life in Paradise is changing if you were a border hopper.

I have seen a few say that they wouldn’t be hopping if they could get fingerprints. My advice is has never changed since I first came here.

First don’t consider moving here until you have lived here 6 months allowing experience in both the rainy and the dry season. Spend that time doing your research to see if Panama is for you. Talk to the doctors you think you would use if you were to actually live here.

Visit the hospitals and even spend a few minutes watching people enter the Regional Hospital emergency area. (That is where you will be taken if something serious happens to you unless you are lucky and can convince them to take you some where else.) Most critical accidents go there unconditionally.

Find a lawyer you trust to do your paperwork if you plan to return. Make sure you understand ALL documentation you need to get to begin the pensionado process. I know of at least 10 people who started the process and spent $1,500 to $3,000 either to have the lawyer disappear or to have Panama fingerprints not accepted by the FBI or to have the FBI lose the finger prints and then having to start the process again.

If you are here and say you can’t afford to return to the US to get the FBI report, then I will tell you that you cannot afford to live in Panama. You don’t move to Panama because it is cheap. It is not.

You move to Panama for the adventure of something different and for the weather. I don’t think there is better weather anywhere than here. However, it can be offset with cultural changes, annoyances, etc. Try it first. Panama is not for everyone.

This week, I had a Embassy case of another border runner who lived in a hotel in David. He died in Hospital Regional. The Embassy was finally able to contact family in the US and they said they could not or would not be responsible for his expenses.

The Embassy asked me to go to the hotel and get his belonging to see if there was anything of value that might help offset his debts.

Lilliam and I went and picked up 3 three suitcases. The contents contained old clothing not suitable for a tropical climate. No water, no passport no electronic good. Nothing of value. The best suitcase has a zipper that looked like it had been attempted to open ruining the suitcase.

Strange, there were no current clothing. It was if the gods had removed anything of value prior to my arriving at the hotel.

I think many would be amazed how many gringos are living in hotels or pensions or in marginal living conditions. I have run into many of their families when they have come to Panama to claim the body, or worse to identify the body via passport if the families would not come.

As I said, in the previous post, ending the perpetual tourist is a good thing for Panama. It removes an expense from Panama as opposed to losing tourist income.

As a side note, many living on boats around Panama need to take heed also.

Current Immigration Anxiety

As many have may seen in recent Panama news media carried interviews with Panama officials, Panama is tightening its borders and border hopping will end (My wording implied from the broadcasts, I have seen).

I have received specific questions related to U.S. citizens no longer being able to cross over into Costa Rica and return to Panama in 3 days. I sent the questions to the Embassy for comment and am posting the Embassy’s current response, until they have more information.

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.

Personally I think Panama is doing the right thing. Perpetual visa renewing residents need to end in my opinion. If you have made the decision that you want to retire and live in Panama, then work on getting a pensiondo card.

Panama cannot handle the huge number of people that want to live here and work here and leave every 6 months to renew their visa. A large number of Venezuelans learned this the hard way when they visited Costa Rica and were not allowed to return.

Message for U.S. Citizens: Town Hall Meeting with Ambassador Feeley on March 12 in Bocas del Toro

Following is the latest ACS message.

U.S. Embassy Panama

Consular Section

American Citizen Services Unit


The American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit would like to invite you to meet Ambassador John D. Feeley on Sunday, March 12, 2017 at 4p.m. in the Autoridad de Turismo de Panama (ATP) Building on Calle 1a  in Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro.  Ambassador Feeley will travel there to meet U.S. Citizens in the area and discuss any issues of your concern.


The town hall-style meeting will take place at 4p.m. at the ATP Building in Isla Colon.  To confirm your attendance, please respond to this e-mail.


We look forward to seeing you there.




American Citizen Services Unit

U.S. Embassy Panama