Sunday, May 09, 2021

GROW EVEN WHEN YOU LOSE: The Value of Relationships That Don't Pan Out

by Gary Stamper, CPC, MSIP, DSPS

According to my Shamanic Astrology chart, I have the Libra Job in service to Capricorn Rising, which means, instead of the lone wolf warrior of my lineage, I am here---one of my purposes---to be in a non-hierarchical equal life partnership. 

The challenging part of this is that for thousands of years, the Capricorn Mystery school has been usurped by the extremely strange aberration known as hierarchical patriarchy and monotheistic religion which resulted in that pathology instead of the sacred evolution of the masculine. 

But the essence of Capricorn is similar to the Native American view of making no decision without considering seven generations to follow. It is the proper custodianship of resources that serve the planet and its people. It is the wise elder working with the circle of grandmothers. 

My Mars (the masculine) in Aries (the warrior) and my Capricorn Rising is a combination of the new evolving masculine, noble images of responsibility, and my chart says I can't do it alone. Conscious equal partnership is essential. 

My Venus archetype (the feminine, also in Aries), is the Warrior Amazon. The leading edge of the Aries archetype in the feminine is actually the very same quality that is generally projected on 80% of the yang masculine: the capacity to have this noble cause and purpose. Because of this Warrior Amazon within, it is also what I tend to project upon my partner.

It is this conscious collaboration in relationship that allows me to learn more about myself. It is this combination of conscious partnership and being able to demonstrate the capacity to embody the new masculine and the willingness to take on the responsibilities that enable me to become a teacher/elder.

In other words, being in a relationship is important to me because that's where the majority of my growth happens.

Since my divorce a few years ago, I met two women - not at the same time, thankfully - that I was interested in pursuing the possibility of a deeper relationship. Here's where I switch to telling this account as if I were talking to one person, which is what I was doing at the time. 

When I knew enough about her to know that I was looking at her as a potential partner, and feeling what I thought was her apparent growing reciprocation, I told her how I was feeling, and would she be interested in joining me on that adventure of discovery, with a caveat that she didn't have to answer at that moment but could think about it.

I never got an answer from either of them. In both instances, they began to slowly pull away and I could feel it. After a bit of time, I broached the subject again, and I could feel the depressing weight of the conversation we couldn't seem to have.

"She's just not into you." Yes, that's definitely possible, but mature people need to be to say that... and hear it.

In the case of one, I remember watching her as she struggled, dropping her eyes, looking down, not saying a word... and after an uncomfortable silence, I broke it by saying, "you don't have to say anything," trying to ease her discomfort, and I continued, saying, "I'm going to go now, and if you want to talk, call me."

... and I left.

That was the last time I saw her and driving home, I realized that she had meant more to me than I had known. I also realized that I meant less to her than I thought I did and that she was simply unable to tell me what was wrong or communicate with me about her feelings, a quality that would - and did - doom a potential relationship even if it were not already doomed, and I couldn't blame her because I didn't know what she had experienced that had left her closed-off and unable to respond.


Both of these relationships, short as they were, forced me to look deeper within, to know myself a little better, and to understand more about what I want -and don't want - in a relationship. 

I'm extremely grateful to both of these awesome women for their contributions to my growth and awareness, even though my relationship with each was brief.

Meanwhile, I'm in Panama and I don't speak Spanish yet, and there's no organized Ex-Pat group here save for strays at the bars and, frankly, bars aren't really my thing after spending almost 10 years singing in bars, clubs, Vegas lounges, and concert halls with my bands.

I may meet someone someday, but right now, I'm fine alone. I want to find love, but I’m no longer actively looking for it.

I’m single AF, but it doesn’t actually bother me. I’ve got a full and happy life, multiple work outlets that give my life meaning, wonderful friends all over the world, family, and I’m truly comfortable with myself. I’m not against meeting a great woman, and I wouldn't walk away if love stepped up and slapped me in the face, but it’s just not a priority at this time. 

I'm busy creating my own life in a Caribbean "paradise," and, after that, who knows?

Just keep on growing...

Saturday, May 01, 2021

6 MONTHS IN PANAMA: Would I do it again?

 by Gary Stamper CPC, MSIP, DSPS



Today is May 3rd, 2021, and it's been exactly 6  months ago today that I arrived in Panama City on November 3rd, 2020. Who would have thought the next 6 months would fly by so quickly?  I suppose it's a combination of my advancing (thank God) age and the challenge and newness of everything in a foreign country in which I am about to become an official permanent resident.

The main reason I chose Panama, and particularly Bocas Del Toro, is that it's a "laid-back Caribbean beach town with a Jamaican vibe." The second is that I can live here quite comfortably on about a third of what it costs to live in the U.S.

The kicker for me was what has been hailed as "the word's best retirement plan," the Pensionado Visa.

Panama is a small country that prides itself on taking care of its seniors, citizens, and permanent residents alike. If you use the U.S. dollar, you’ll be happy to learn that the USD is pegged to the Panamanian currency, so Panama is like a US dollarized economy.

If you have a retirement program that pays you at least $1,000 a month (U.S. Social Security applies), you can qualify for a 
Pensionado Visa. Yes, you'll have to go through some red tape, and please don't try it without a local attorney. I had a great one that I will happily share should you be interested.

While the cost of general expenses, like rent, utilities, groceries, entertainment, cell phone service, etc., is definitely lower than what you’re used to, you’ll find great comfort knowing that you can actually receive special discounts for being a pensionado (a woman over 57 years old or a man over 62). You can also get by here fairly easily without a car, but you'll probably want a bicycle at the very least.


Did someone say discounts?

Special discounts. You’ll experience savings in many different ways in Panama, with it’s Pensionado Discounts, but some common ways to receive discounts include:

Discounts on the usage of public transportation and airlines that fly in and out of Panama. You’ll receive a discount when it comes time to eat at your favorite restaurant (and the cuisine in Panama is great and already affordable). Utilities tend to cost much less, especially with an additional 20% discount, and most forms of entertainment are discounted also. There are many more discounts available, see the full list below.

  • One time Duty tax exemption for household goods up to a total of $10,000
  • Duty exemption for importing a new car.
  • 50% off entertainment anywhere in the country (movies, concerts, sports)
  • 30% off bus, boat, and train fares
  • 25% off airline tickets
  • 50% off hotel stays from Monday through Thursday
  • 30% off hotel stays from Friday through Sunday
  • 25% off at restaurants
  • 15% off at fast-food restaurants
  • 15% off hospital bills (if no insurance applies)10% off prescription medicines
  • 20% off medical consultations
  • 15% off dental and eye exams
  • 20% off professional and technical services
  • 50% reduction in closing costs for home loans
  • 25% discounts on utility bills
  • 15% off loans made in your name
  • 1% less on home mortgages for homes used for personal residence

These discounts are for any citizen or permanent resident of Panama. If you retired early and are younger than the ages above, and you move here with the Pensionado Visa, you will receive these discounts right away.

What about healthcare?

Panama actually offers more affordable healthcare than most other nations. The cost of health insurance is lower in general and tends to cost around $200 per month for a private plan covering someone at the age of 60, in the private hospital system. That's less than what I was paying for Medicare parts A & B, and including the advantage program I was carrying in the U.S. that paid for my hip and knee replacements.

For most people from the U.S., that number is a fraction of the health insurance you are paying now. And it's 100% coverage with as little as $1000 annual deductible.

Also dental and eye care is a fraction of that in North America.

If these benefits are not enough, there are definitely more. Some other medical benefits of retiring in Panama are as follows:

You can obtain many medications without prescriptions. If you become a permanent resident of Panama, you’ll be able to get additional discounts on medications, healthcare, and other medical needs, once you have your Pensionado Visa or reach the ages talked about above. The care provided is actually comparable to that of North America.

Not in Bocas, however... Our "hospital" is actually more like a U.S. Urgent Care Center and the nearest "real" hospital is on the mainland, about an hour away by ferry and car.
 

So why Panama?

If you’re someone who is concerned about the cost of retirement, Panama is definitely an excellent option for you. The cost of living tends to be much lower, and you can live rather good for about $1,500 per month for a single, and $2,200 a month for a couple. Sounds pretty enticing right? If money is your concern, Panama definitely has you covered!

Panama is an excellent place to retire, and you’ll find that the lifestyle will keep you feeling younger. From a beachfront lifestyle to the mountain life, Panama has everything you need to retire the way you want. Plus, if you’re looking at the best bang for your buck without having to go to Asia, you’ll have a hard time finding anywhere that comes close to Panama.

Bocas Del Toro may not be your cup of tea, but it's working really well for me. Are there shortcomings? Of course. No place is perfect

But next time you’re thinking about taking a retirement tour, make sure that Panama makes your list of places to visit. There's so much here!


Friday, April 23, 2021

Grieving For A Friend Taken by COVID

 

L-R: Charly, Dana, me, Margarita, and
Manolo in front, on our way to the
Blue Coconut for bacchanalia and BBQ,
I made my first friend in Panama before I even got here.

I was on a Panamanian Facebook group looking for a rental and she responded to me about a rental she was showing.

I didn't take the rental, but we started talking on FB and when my first immigration attorney bailed on me, she recommended another attorney who did a fantastic job for me!

We became fast friends and when I got here she showed me around Bocas Del Toro and I bought breakfasts and lunches in return. We had a great time!

Originally from Argentina, she wound up in Bocas by way of Los Angeles, CA, where many of her family members live. It seemed everyone in Bocas knew Margarita and she knew everyone. Every time I said I needed something, she'd invariably say, "Oh, I have a friend who can help you."

In addition to being a good friend, Margarita was my interpreter when I needed one, and she also cleaned my apartment every two weeks. She was helping me learn Spanish, I was helping her improve her English.

On Thursday, April 8, I received a FB message from her telling me she had tested positive for COVID, and that the doctor has sent her home for 15 days of quarantine and that she wouldn't be able to clean my apartment and that she was fine, just a little under the weather. I checked back with her daily and ran some errands. I knew she was diabetic and was very worried for her.

Two days later, she again texted me to let me know she was in the hospital and that she had water in her lungs. This was obviously serious and I knew she was following a well-known trajectory for COVID patients who had pre-existing conditions like diabetes.

I tried to get some immunity supplements that I had bought for her, but she had to check with the doctor first, and on the 11th she texted me to tell me the doctor had said "no for the moment."

That was the last time I heard back from her.

MY friend Manolo (pictured above in front), who is an attorney here would get me occasional pieces of information: She'd been moved to the larger Bocas hospital on the mainland... she'd been intubated... They wanted to move her to the largest hospital in Western Panama but the road to David had been washed out again because of the heavy rains... we tried to call the American Embassy to see if we could get her airlifted to David, but they weren't answering their phones... that she had somehow got to David... 

And this morning I received a text from Manolo, saying that Margarita was in Heaven...

Margarita was generous to a fault. Always a joke, always a huge smile on her face, always offering to help. You couldn't find a kinder more gentle soul. 

Adios, mi Amiga... you will be missed and forever loved.



UPDATE: Sunday, April 25

I attended the Catholic funeral service in Spanish this morning for Margarita, the first friend I made in Bocas. 

No one spoke for her. No one got to step up the Priest's podium to speak to what she meant to them, how she had impacted their life, what they loved about her. 

The only thing I understood in the service was her name when it came up 4-5 times. I attended Catholic services once or twice as a teenager in California that were in Latin. This wasn't that different for me, as the ritual felt more important than the message. It felt impersonal. Because this was personal, I conducted my own private service in silence.


Saturday, April 10, 2021

BOCAS: AT THE THE END OF THE (SUPPLY CHAIN) ROAD

A Model For The Planet?

by Gary Stamper, CPC, MISP, DSPS

See link below for recipe... Mmmmm!

As a child, I pretty much ate anything except  Brussel Sprouts. As far as I was concerned, they tasted like dirt. 

It wasn't until my 60's that I learned it wasn't the Brussel Sprouts - it was the fact that they and the water they came in were simply dumped in a pan and heated on the stove and served up as they were - little green dirt balls.

My conversion came when my partner Anyaa introduced me to 
Grandma’s Iron Skillet Roasted Brussel Sprouts and they surprisingly became my favorite cruciferous green.

Where am I going with this? I can't get brussel sprouts or artichokes (also a favorite although I can get canned or seasoned artichoke hearts in water or oil) in Bocas. Not the same as a steaming hot artichoke globe.

Artichokes need "chilling," full sun and well-draining soil and with 145" of annual rain in Panama, they would be challenging to say the least. 

Anything that can't be grown here (unlike bananas, plantains, pineapples, various roots like Yuca (prounounced "chooka" and not to be confused with yucca) and a few other exotic edibles, has to be shipped in (we're on an island, remember?). 

Because we're close to the Equator, we don't get the chill period that brussels sprouts (or parsnips or horseradish) need to develop their special flavors. 

Not only are we on the largest of 9 major islands in the Bocas Del Toro archipelago, but we are also the last stop for products being shipped here. Anything leftover in the shipping process winds up being a loss, so planning becomes the art of the shortage.

This week's  Bocas Veggies

The same thing happens with avocados, especially since they became a recognized superfood. With the huge rise in their popularity, corporate agri-business and investment markets took over their distribution and there are now shortages. Rarely does a week go by that there aren't days that avocados are just not available in Bocas. 

It takes so long for avocados to get here, that what does make it here has to be eaten quickly as they are already soft.

In addition to steeply rising demand, droughts in California and Central America, and Cartels in Mexico and South America, prices are also rising dramatically and water is even being diverted from people to have enough water for thirsty avocados.

If there's good news, it's that here is that avocados, particularly the Panamanian Hass variety, is ideally suited for cultivation in Panama. The bad news is that Panama exports nearly all of its avocados. I've got one plant going and three more germinating, but who am I kidding? It can take 5-13 years for an avocado plant to grow fruit from a seed. 

But what about brussel sprouts and artichokes? 

Brussel sprouts can easily be frozen, packaged, and shipped, even though they're not, so I'm left with thinking that the absence of brussel sprouts is cultural and the fact that there's just not enough demand.

Whole artichokes, on the other hand, cannot be frozen, and must be shipped requiring particular temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions. Attention must also be paid to proper crating and securing in such a way that they are prevented from damaging each other.

Distance is also a factor as Italy and Egypt are the world's largest artichoke producers with the US #9, Mexico #18, and  Costa Rica #29 seriously following. Panama's not even the top 30.

Any true artichoke aficionado knows that artichokes should be eaten within a day or two of purchase and that leaving them on the counter for just 2 days produces hardening and shrinking.

The imported food arrives at the dock

But the biggest problem with food in Bocas is the fact that we're the last stop on the supply chain for food and everything else that has to be shipped in. That's exacerbated by the fact that we really don't produce anything. We're  a tourist town and that can't be exported, so when supplies are brought in, the costs can't be mitigated by what's going out and so shipping costs are high.

It isn't just avocados, brussel sprouts, and artichokes, though. 

For instance, my dairy is personally pretty much limited to butter and feta cheese. I use plant-based cheese and milk substitutes whenever I can (thanks to Super Gourmet, the only ex-pat owned food store in town). But even that's limited, and organic products are rare. I prefer oat milk because of its health aspects and consistency but it hasn't been available here for a few weeks and no one knows when - or if - it might be available again.

Super Gourmet, ex-pat owned

On the plus side, frozen wild-caught Pacific Salmon has suddenly appeared in some of the local stores. Up until now, the only available salmon has been "Atlantic raised" - read Omega-6 laden and diseased farm-raised - salmon that I will not eat. I am stocking up on the new salmon while it's still available.


Ultimately, if food shortages become the norm - which is already happening around the world due to climate change along with the accompanying population migrations that we're already seeing aroung the globe - this problem will continue to get worse. 

And it won't just be us.

What I've noticed here in all of the grocery stores is that they get - and offer - what's available to them - and it's constantly shifting. Part of that is because we're at "the end of the supply chain" road. 

And when it comes down to it, we'll eat what's put in front of us, and, worst-case scenario, if there's nothing, we'll move or die.

Just like the refugees from Guatemala and Nicaragua who are fleeing drought and violence to the U.S. southern borders. 

For them, it's already move or die.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

WORKING FROM HOME BEFORE IT WAS COOL (AND MANDATORY)

by Gary Stamper, CPC, MSIP, DSPS


If you google "Work at Home" today, you'll get about 3.7 billion results. Since COVID hit and changed the way we work, there's been a huge uptick in interest in the subject for obvious reasons. 

Here's a very good article called "How to Work From Home Without Losing Your Mind" from Wired magazine that covers pretty much all of the pros and cons as well as the "what-to-do" and "what-not-to-do's" of working at home. 

Long before COVID-19 struck the planet in full in early 2020, a lot of us had already been working at home. I've officially been working at home since I moved to North Carolina in early 2008.

First, there was designing and building a new home on a ridge overlooking the part of the beautiful Smoky Mountains. I designed two offices inside the home knowing we'd need the space and privacy for each of us as well as being able to "leave" work to keep our boundaries (mostly) and our sanity.

Then there were the multiple workshops my wife Anyaa and I were doing, individually and collectively, the planning, the graphics, marketing and advertising, each holding space for the other, getting people to and from the Asheville airport an hour away, and logistics for individuals, couples, and larger group gatherings, sometimes with groups of about 20 people in attendance. We had a 500 sq. ft. built-in workshop space (the temple) perfectly designed for that. Sometimes we'd travel internationally to the workshops we'd created and facilitated.

For me, there was also my education process of getting my Masters and Doctorate degrees, the writing of my book, the book tour, adding solar for the house and well, a water tower, creating a large organic garden, adding fruit trees and a 2-room root cellar built into the ridge slope.

After we amicably separated and I moved to Asheville, I was still working at home and have most always had a separate home office.


Working at home in Paradise 

Now that I'm safely ensconced in Bocas Del Toro, Panama, I'm living in a one-bedroom apartment a block away from the beach and the remainder of my personal belongings are finally on their way.

Those include about 25 of my remaining original framed paintings and drawings which will eventually decorate the stark white walls of my apartment, my art supplies, tools and art papers, books, the remainder of my clothing, kitchen appliances (I need my Ninja blender, my air-fryer, and my crockpot) and personal items.

Also coming are my work tools consisting of a high-end gaming and graphics desktop computer with side-by-side dual monitors, a drawing tablet, battery backup, various range expanders, a stand-up adjustable desk, a circular lamp for ZOOM lighting and video conferencing... and more.

What I am paying here for a furnished 1-bedroom apartment one block from the beach is half of what I would pay in Napa for a single room with a shared bath. I bring this up because it nicely segues to a brief conversation about what to wear when you work at home in a Caribbean resort beach town.

(Brief conversation about "working at home" dress codes and more in a Caribbean beach town):

1. Shorts (of course), and a Tommy Bahama silk shirt work fine for me. A quick change to a swimsuit and a 3-minute walk to the beach and VOILA! Problem solved.

2. Relax. Everything takes longer here. Very little gets done right now, and learning patience is required. "Manana" does not mean tomorrow. It only means "not today."

3. Breaks. Take lots of them. Get up and move around at least every hour. Walk or take a bike to the beach. Go out to lunch once in a while. Meditate. Breathe...

4. Count your blessings. Working. from. home. is. a. blessing. stop. Too many people don't have that option, which is especially worrying in a time of precarious health care and disease.

I'm totally blessed to be fortunate to be working from home, especially because I haven't been ordered to  by a boss who probably resents their "work-at-home" staff. But the genie has been released from its bottle and there's no going back for a great many of us.

Personally, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Gary -
The Right Reverend Dr. G

Friday, March 26, 2021

WE DON'T NEED ANOTHER DEAD HERO

poetry by Gary Stamper, CPC, MSIP, DSPS

Wayne Thomas Batson


We don't need another dead hero...
Another martyr who didn't need to die
or endless cycles about motives
of people with easy access
to killing machines.
This is the return to normal
and the endless cycle of "whys"
the never-ending rebirth of psychopathic killers
who have morphed into
the very thing they fear.
Who protects the masses from the people
who care more about their killing machines
then they do about life?
Who are we that we care 
more about gun rights
than we do about human rights?
No more ultimate sacrifices.
No more killing machines.
No more victims.
No more dead heroes...



copyright 2021 Gary Stamper
 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

LOOK INSIDE TO FIND WHAT YOU SEEK

 by Gary Stamper, CPC, MSIP, DSPS


Look Inside to Find What You Seek


Painting of the Oregon Coast by Gary Stamper


All my life I've pretty much been a Jack-of-all-trades (except for math). I've been called "a renaissance man" more times than I can count as a result of all the things I've done (and still occasionally do).

I've always been, and still am, an artist and a musician, spending ten years as a professional singer, which was one of the highlights of my life. Here's a song I recorded in California last year during lockdown.


I've owned multiple businesses, been an award-winning sign painter, a 3-time international award-winning designer, and have done stand-up comedy (until I was told to sit down... just kidding... hardest thing I've ever done). I've been a business consultant, created and facilitated men's and couples' workshops, an ordained Shamanic Minister, and have degrees in Graphic Design, and Masters and doctorate degrees in Shamanic Studies and Practices. I also designed and built a hybrid (on/off grid) solar home in an intentional community high in the Smokies, where I became an organic gardener, the author of a book on men's spirituality and consciousness, an award-winning blogger, and a meditation teacher. That's also where I got my advanced degrees. As a Certified Professional Life Coach, I help men find meaning and purpose in their lives, particularly helping older men in re-becoming bad-asses after they retire.

The very last part of that is of particular interest to me at this time because I'm semi-retired and am living in a Caribbean beach town with a Jamaican vibe in Panama.

I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do when I got here, but you never know how something like that is going to work out until you've had a chance to live in a place for a while. 

As a known community-builder, I wanted to join some community groups, build connections and friendships, and see where they led and where my various skills might take me. That's always been easy for me to do, but it's been very difficult during the continuing pandemic. 

 Bocas Town from the water on Isla Colon, Panama

I
'm also still considering opening a small fine art gallery featuring my and others' local art, and where people can watch me work on my featured eco-art. However, that thought is on hold until I have a better understanding of when tourism might come back and what it might look like when it does. I've never been here when there's no pandemic, and at my age, there aren't many second chances.



But while I've been sitting here in mi Apartamento in Bocas Town, I've had lots of time to think about what I really want to do, and some of it comes down to what I can do. 

At almost 76, everything takes longer - including sex - which I actually appreciate, because it's a lesson in the journey, not the destination! I look back and I can't imagine how I got everything done when I had to work full time. I also look at how my ability to effectively converse with others has deeply suffered as a result of spending so much time alone with just my thoughts for the past year because of lockdowns and quarantines.

I've learned I can do it, and don't want to be on a schedule and, for the most part, don't want to have to be somewhere at a specific time. That includes zoom meetings. I'm also petty much done with wanting to change the world, for the most part, because most people have no desire to change. 

I still enjoy posting what I think is important on Facebook, but I know I'm basically preaching to the choir of voices who already agree with me, as I've pretty much run off everyone who doesn't. That's okay with me. I can't change their minds, nor can I have a rational conversation with them because they're not rational. So I'm pleasantly resigned to being as entertaining as I can so at least people enjoy what I'm posting.

So here's where I'm at in this moment: I want to be creative. As soon as my art and my art supplies (materials, tools, desk, lamps, etc.) arrive in a few weeks (all in process as of the last couple of days), and I get my apartment set up the way I want, I'm going to start painting and drawing again, but now with a spiritual eco-art approach that comes from living and being here in my present awareness. Some of my previous work will give you an idea of what that means.

Composite of Gary's Drawings and Paintings

I hope you'll continue to enjoy this journey with me. Follow me here and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/garystamper. 
It hasn't been easy,  but I really do love it here. If I can find a really smart someone to enjoy it with me, then even better!

Buena Suerte for now!

Gary, the Right Reverend Dr. G