February 01, 2004
Still waiting to ship Cindy but at least we had a place to enjoy the Superbowl.
XS Memories guested us and many Peace Corp. volunteers and we had a fun evening
watching the game. Just a quick note about the Peace Corp. personnel.
We have now met many, many volunteers and what they gave up to follow their
humane hearts is incredible. For two years at $300 a month, the volunteers
in Panama are dropped into a local village wherein they are to build their own
shelter, provide for their own "facilities", gather their own food,
etc. - basically
live like the people they are there to help.
Then, they are either given or create needed projects and/or programs to help their
village. Whether it be digging more latrines/sewer systems, building fresh
water aqueducts, creating new bus access, repairing/building roads, etc., each
volunteer is committed (more intrinsically than contractually) to complete their
task and hopefully better the lives of their village. Some of the
volunteers have to take an hour-plus boat ride to their island and then walk an
hour or more to their village. Others, have to take a bus to the nearest
highway drop off, then hike their way into their village.
We met young people that were just out of high school, just graduated college,
just left their jobs (teacher, therapist, engineer, etc.) and even a retiree -
all just wanting to "give something back" as we heard many times. What an
experience these people will have for the rest of their lives and each one can
say they truly helped, not only an individual or only for a short time, but
entire villages for generations to come. How many of us can honor that
Since we were waiting, we just piddled around, got Cindy ready for her big adventure and
stole some time around the pool. It was nice just to relax for a few
days and ready ourselves for our withdrawal from Cindy.
the statue of
||Smiles come easy
to the Panamanian
again visited Panama City and prepared to release Cindy to her destiny across
the ocean. What had been a described nightmare process of paperwork and
police and customs inspections, turned out to be an easy, albeit "propina" (spanish
for "tip") ridden, experience.
||Kuna Indians selling in
their markets and
making their crafts.
Their dress tells much
about each of them and the village they are from
and Panama is
famous for its
On Saturday, February 7th, we extracted ourselves from
our little girl and had to leave her with the port authority, where on Sunday,
the 8th, she will be driven onto a platform, strapped in place and then hoisted*
onto her penthouse position. For those of you interested, this is what it
took to get Cindy this far:
Locate an agent or a shipping line to arrange for the ship
to carry the vehicle (whether you are
roll-on/roll-off or fitted into a container, will depend on which ship you can
and date of departure). Finding an agent can take hours or days, it
just depends on where and how
you start (we had a head start and after briefly checking two other
sources, found Walter at
Euroline to be the more attentive and for the same cost).
Get instructions for the paperwork and go to the Policia Tecnica Judicial (PTJ) for
clearance (to verify the vehicle is the same one that entered the country
and documents its intent
to leave - inspection results are good for eight days). (Waiting for
the inspector and the paperwork
- max 1 hour and no charge).
Meet with the agent to get mucho copies of the paperwork needed
and pay for the shipping
and signature pages, vehicle title, police check certificate, vehicle
entry-into-the-country certificate and shipping order document).
(15 minutes to1 hour,
depending on your questions - pay only the shipping cost).
Go to the port 1-2 days ahead of the shipping date to meet
with the port authority and customs. Make
sure that all of your personal effects are cabled together and
locked and stacked inside your vehicle
in such a way that any of the smaller, loose items are hidden or
"buried" underneath. It is best to tie
the locked items together from front-to-back or side-to-side so
that no one can pull an item out easily.
(from Panama City, Colon/Cristobal is approximately 1 hour (80km),
depending on traffic -
about $4 in tolls).
Meet with the shipping company and get copies of the shipping
order stamped - this stamp allows
you entry into the port itself. Get the shipping company's phone
number to call on the day of shipping
to verify that the ship left and what time it left (max 15 minutes -
Go to port entrance, pay a propina ($1) to the police
officer that, without your asking,
guides you to the correct window (as with the windows at the
borders, these are all unmarked,
making the use of a guide almost a necessity if you want to avoid
being told "you have to go
wait in that line, not this one").
Customs or "Aduana" keeps a copy of the stamped shipping
order and you are directed
around the corner to an office that clears and stamps the passport
of the "designated" driver of the
vehicle. Another copy of the documents is relinquished here.
(max 15 minutes if no line - no charge).
||Passport clearance office: Is this a
scary filing system, or what?!!!!
* After the passport is
stamped, back to the customs window to receive instructions and a checklist
document for your meeting with the port authority inspector.
(max 5 minutes if no line - no charge).
Drive your vehicle through the police guard gates and pay
another propina ($1) to the guard
for no other reason than he will be nice and let you in (even
though he is 20' away from the
customs office and saw you get all the clearance you need - ahhhh,
and ex-patriots of the U.S.
say they don't mind this "bribe" system, yeah right!!)
Drive along the massive stacks of intimidating containers
and equipment and look for a pleasant
guy in a bright orange shirt and pants. Drive into the huge
warehouse and present the check list
document for his completion.
||Rows of stacks
Walk around the vehicle with the inspector and verify all
that is checked is correct and sign off
on the document when it's complete (I took pictures of Cindy,
inside and out, with the inspector
in a pic or two, just to document the condition in which we
released Cindy to the port
authority (IE: shipping company)).
* Pay the nice
inspector a few bucks to "be nice to Cindy" and to "try not to scratch her"
(which of course, elicited some chuckles due to Cindy's rather worn
and rusty condition)
(and remember, this person watches your vehicle until it
is driven onto the platform
and skip-loaded away, and a good tip might keep his eyes more keen
and hopefully, his fingers
* Give the key to open
the vehicle's door and for the ignition (Cindy has only one key for both)
and make sure the key(s) is/are indicated on the checklist.
(entire process - max 15 minutes
- no charge but for the propina)
Drag yourself away from your home you have known for
several months and tearfully
wish her a safe journey, all to the confusement and amusement of
||Til we meet again, fair Cinderella
Walk the 100 yards back through the gate (we slipped
through another pedestrian gate to
avoid the police "demand" for another propina to get out) and walk
to the bus terminal. (max 5 minutes)
* Hop on an
air-conditioned, movie-showing bus back to Panama City
(max 2 hours - $2 each)
* Go to
your hotel and wish you could just reach into the refrigerator for a cold drink.
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