Moving in Panama, while a slightly scary proposition (this is NOT Kansas, honey), shares the same basic logistics you have anywhere. You have to find boxes, you have to find helpers, and you have to find a guy with a truck. You also have to cancel or change your services and notify “everyone” of your new address.
For me, boxes were not much of an issue this time. I had been keeping any really good ones that came my way. Why? With a background in Little Theatre stage design (i.e., really cheap stuff that looks OK) I do quite a bit of my decorating on the minimum. So lots (make that “all”) of my small tables are sturdy cardboard boxes covered with fabric skirts. I was fortunate, too, that I had an extra corner in a closet where I could stash empty boxes. Otherwise, I would have had to hit the local stores and beg for boxes just like we used to do in the Good Old Days in the States. Bo-ring.
Friends and neighbors. Don’t be shy about asking your expat friends for help with this. Some of them will probably even volunteer, because they know you’ll be there for them when their turn comes. And you will, won’t you?
Find a Truck
One of your expat friends might have one, and that’s great. But if not, what you want is a taxi camion (taxi truck). In Las Tablas, Taxi Tableño (994-6215) has a fleet, or you can try Taxi Rey. Reynaldo has two trucks for hauling, a large pickup with extended sides and a Rilly Big Truck for serious stuff. 6939-4073. Reynaldo is also extremely careful with your stuff. No scratches. Nobody speaks English at either business.
You also might think it would be a good idea to reserve the truck. It is, but be prepared to remind the driver several times, including the day of your move, that you are expecting him to show up. My truck, with driver, was three and a half hours late arriving, because he forgot. Even though we had spoken the day before. I’m not telling who it was, because he had a fairly good reason and I may need him again.
Move / Cancel Your Services
This is the part where you really feel the difference – where you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. I only had two services to deal with. CableOnda, to move my internet connection out to the new location, and Fenosa, to cancel my electricity service at the old one.
In Panama ordering something ahead of time is not the done thing, apparently. Early in the week before my Saturday move, I went to both companies. CableOnda told me I should come back – and bring in their equipment – closer to when I wanted the service transferred. I popped in again on Thursday (which was closer to Saturday) to have service stopped on Friday and the smiling young lady told me that since it wasn’t cable service, there was no need to bring in just the modem. She called a young man over who spoke English. I explained that I was moving Saturday and wanted the service stopped on Friday. He said “Fine,” and typed a whole bunch of stuff into the system.
I went home, and found that he had turned off my internet while I so trustingly sat in front of him. I rushed back, but it was a done deal and I just had to live with it. Then Friday morning, just to compound the misunderstanding, I received a phone call from CableOnda asking what time that day I would be at the new location for them to turn the internet on. I had to stem the flood of Spanish from the nice lady by telling her I didn’t understand most of what she said, but I was definitely moving, and it was definitely Saturday, and I definitely would not be there until Saturday, because that was the day I was moving.
Ah, the joys of not speaking the language well.
Anyway, the cable guy beat me to the new place on Saturday (because the truck was three and half hours late, remember?) and I received a very excited call from my new landlady. I promised to be on site within fifteen minutes, and asked her to please keep him happy til I got there. He was just leaving as I arrived, but it was because he couldn’t get a signal from the appropriate pole and was heading out to fix that. He returned about half an hour later, and all ended happily.
The electricity disconnect was also fun. You can’t order a disconnect for a specific day here, either. It’s very Zen. There is only NOW, Grasshopper. Fortunately, the woman I spoke with told me it would be more practical to turn the juice off AFTER I moved (lest I find myself sitting in the dark), and to return to order same on Monday or Tuesday. Since I was flattened by exhaustion on Monday, I went back Tuesday. They already knew what my final meter reading was, so I guess going in early did have some benefit. I was able to pay my final bill (of $4.53) and have the entire thing wrapped up.
The moral of this story is that if or when you need to move, leave plenty of time for the actual event. That time should include visits to the electrical company, the cable company and so forth, for the day of your move or the day after.
Now I just need to remember to tell Mailboxes, Etc., the postoffice, the Embassy, my kids, etc., etc.