Monday, June 07, 2021

Here's the Apartment Tour I Promised


The ad said it was a furnished one-bedroom, and it was, although sparsely, but I guess it still counts. It came with the barest of necessities: one very used pan that had a damaged non-stick surface, no pans, no coffee-maker, a smattering of mixed silverware, a medium-sized refrigerator, and the plainest couch you ever saw sitting on 2x4's. It also had an older digital TV, a table and four chairs, two smaller tables - one of which would serve as a temporary desk for my laptop and one that could go on the balcony - three small end tables, and a small double bed. 

The above photos are pretty much as I found the apartment except for my
towels, rugs, and the bathroom and bedroom shelves

My living adventure in Bocas Del Toro, Panama, was underway and I knew it was going to be fine once what was left of my down-sized personal belongings arrived and I could start making it my own. Little did I know it was going to take a little over 6 months before I would be able to get what was left of it here!

When it "all" finally did arrive, I almost wondered wondered how I was going to do this, but I'd moved 4 times in the last 4 years, once all the way across county from Asheville to Napa, and 3/4 of the way back from Napa to Houston before finally leaving for Panama. I'm pretty much an expert on moving by this time, so I knew exactly what  I was going to do.

Even with the smallest load of all my moves, I was still intimidated as I'd never tried it at 75 years old before. Here's what it looked like when I finally got those remaining shipped belongings, paintings, and drawings into my apartment.

Unloaded, with more boxes in the bed and bath rooms... ugh!

At this point, there's still a lot to do as I need some more side seating, a coffee table, throw rugs, live plants, and Jamaican decor and accents. Maybe a decorative surfboard... Right now, I'm going to take a breath, relax a bit, and see if I can find accents that aren't too cheesy. You wouldn't believe how bad the local Chinese version of WalMart is...


Looking to the French Doors from the main room

The TV that came with the apartment and mine right below
sitting on moving boxes covered with a moving blanket!

There's the "couch" that came with the "furnished" apartment.
All of the paintings and drawings are my personal work.

My "art" desk. This where some of the magic happens!

Welcome to "La Petite Gallerie" II. You can almost see the inside of the entry!

The Mini-Kitchen. Not much counter space.

Combination Bedroom and my Computer setup

My computer work space... It's nice to have the "beast" back...

The bathroom, of course...

A lovely north-facing balcony overlooks the only street out of town and it
can get a little noisy sometimes


Looking the other way on the balcony


Front of the apartment building. My apartment is on the second floor right


All in all, I'm getting more and more comfortable, and feeling more "at home" as I get it more together.

Damn good thing!


Sunday, May 23, 2021

YOU TRY BEING A SINGLE BOOMER MAN IN PANAMA DURING A PANDEMIC...



"A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle."
 
This feminist slogan has often been attributed to Gloria Steinem but was in fact coined by Irina Dunn in 1970.


by Gary Sta
mper, CPC, MSIP, DSPS


Never has this iconic statement been more true than in a woman's - or a man's - senior years.

Earlier this month I wrote a blog called "Grow Even When You Lose: The Value of relationships That Don't Pan Out" -- you can read that here -- that 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 continue even into today, letting that blog simmer in me and thought I might like a feminine perspective on my thoughts around the difficulties of the desire to step into a relationship in my advancing (there... I said it) years and what has clearly emerged as my elderhood relationship status: That of a single senior citizen, a difficult place at best with my Shamanic Astrological Chart pointing strongly at relationship and community as my purposes, neither of which I find myself in today.

In that respect, this time of being alone during the pandemic has had a positive side for me: It has allowed me time to really work on my relationship with me.



Still, my friend Google led me to a blog called Boomer Blix and a remarkable blog post titled "A Nurse or A Purse: Why Boomer Women Stay Single…Or Should Really, Really Think About It," by a woman named Suzanne Ball.  

It's largely about the feminine perspective of growing older without a partner (a man, in her case, but certainly not the only option in a world of growing gender fluidity). I'd love to talk with her.

Her blog appears to be inactive since her last post there was in in mid-2016. On it were some links to her FB page, and others, and they all seemed to be inactive as well. I thought about searching for her some more, but the word "stalker" came to mind and I stepped back from that, not wanting to be that guy.

Anway, she'd written some very good blogs about being an "aging" woman, including the one I linked above about 
Why Boomer Women Stay Single. In that blog she points out that
"Women--who also like companionship and its fringe benefits--are faced with a tough decision. Having taken care of children, husbands, parents, pets, and plants for several decades, they find themselves kind of enjoying the freedom of singlehood. Popcorn for dinner, any movie or play, and no one snoring next to them. Hairy legs. Freedom to fart." 
She then goes on to point out, "Hence the dilemma. Sacrifice hard-fought independence for a measure of security? Should you enter a relationship, knowing you have a good shot at becoming the caretaker? Or the banker? Just so you can take advantage of  the "double occupancy" price? And someone to have morning coffee with?" 

Some facts to consider:
  • Boomers are expected to live longer than any previous generation...but in poorer health. Blame it on the introduction of processed and fast foods in our youth.

  • The average 50 year-old man takes four prescription drugs a day. It increases after that.

  • Boomer men have a higher death rate for all ten top causes of death: Heart disease, cancer, injuries, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases, pneumonia/flu, HIV-related, suicide and homicide.

  • Boomer males who are recently divorced likely conceded half their assets in the process; they know they have little time to recoup the loss. They need a second income, pronto.
You get the picture. she goes on to say. "I'm not trying to discourage Boomer romance. In fact, I still have hopes for myself, although it seems I will have to be quite discerning."

Here are some reasons Boomer women are choosing to decline marriage:
  • They have a strong social network, with friends who are fun and supportive. 
  • They like the idea of dating or having a relationship without the burden of having to always compromise...or pick up after someone else. 
  • Their families are the priority, and they enjoy being with their adult children and grandchildren. 
  • They are better at managing their finances, partly because they have generally earned less than their male counterparts. They know how to make ends meet.
  • And...only 33% of men want to date someone their own age. Once men divorce, they think younger women will find them (and their medical history) too hot to pass up. Same old, same old.


I suspect that the two women I refered to in my previous blog were wrestling with the same experiences and just had not fully come to terms with them... maybe. 

At 76 years old next week, I'm certainly no stranger to this subject. Even my sister, also named Suzanne (Sooz, as I affectionately call her), has a placard in her home in Napa that reads:

"A woman who is looking for a
husband has never been married."

She LOVES living alone.

I get it. I've been married twice and it would be easy to say "well, you weren't very good at relationship," and I'd say that was probably true in my first, but in my second marriage, we know we came together to complete parts of us that were damaged, and when we managed to heal the damaged parts, we had completed our Sacred Purpose as a couple. I happily acknowlege that our time together was a time of enormous growth for me, and for that I will be eternally grateful to her. 
We also realized that we were just better at being friends and parted as amazingly supportive friends and remain so still. 



Just like many women my age, I'm a man who also cherishes my alone time, to be able to do what I like to do when I want to do it. I don't want to move in with anyone, nor do I want someone to move in with me. I don't need their money and hopefully it will be a good while before I need a nurse. So far so good.

I'm also grateful that I am remarkably healthy for my age. The average man is on four prescription drugs by age 50? I'm 76 and not on a single prescription drug, something my doctors seem blown away by, and I'm always thrilled to hear, "you're how old?"

What I'm not looking for is a purse , a nurse, or worse... but a sweet and intelligent companion who has done her own inner work and isn't afraid to talk about what's on her mind without being triggered at every turn, and yet, understanding growth comes as a result of conflict (hopefully minor conflict), (along with some fringe benefits) sounds pretty good. 

You know... someone like me!

I envy couples who have mananged to stay together throughout the years, able to bear the inevitable storms of relationship. 

Sometimes wish I could have been in one of those relationships, understanding that they, too, surely experienced their own storms and turmoils of their relationship, but everyone has their own path to walk. Each of my previous relationships, especially over the last two decades, short or long, good or bad, has had a tremendous effect on the person I am today, in and out of relationship -- and I am immensely grateful to them all. 



Also of interest:
Is the single life a symptom of social fragmentation or individual narcissism? Don't you believe it

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 hoped 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





Wednesday, March 24, 2021

A UNECESSARILY BAD EXPERIENCE WITH PAYPAL CUSTOMER SERVICE

 FINALLY... GOOD NEWS for me about PayPal and Panama!

by Gary Stamper, CPC, MSIP, DSPS


After haranguing, cajoling, and, yes, shaming PayPal (in Panama and the US) about their horrid customer service and seemingly "screw the customer" attitude, I finally was able to get them to link my US bank into their system. It only took two weeks of constantly harassing them without mercy to make it happen.

Here's how that happened... and how it almost didn't.
For new readers, I recently semi-retired to Bocas Del Toro, Panama, on a laid-back Caribbean beach town with a Jamaican vibe. I came here for the Caribbean and for what is considered to be the best ex-pat retirement option in the world for ex-pats everywhere, the world-renowned Pensionado Visa. You can read about that here.
The paperwork for that VISA is enormous and if you decide to come here, you're advised to find a good Panamanian lawyer. If you get that far, I've got a great one I highly recommend.
I expected to go through a long and difficult process for my Pensionado Residency VISA. I did not expect the process to move my PayPal account from the U.S. to Panama to be that difficult.
I couldn't have been more wrong... or frustrated.
First, how difficult would it have been to have a PayPal guide on how to move your account to another country? No such luck. I only discovered I needed to do that when I closed my U.S.-based Phone cell phone service and phone number that I could no longer access my U.S. PayPal account and I could not add my new Panama phone number to my U.S. PayPal account.
The laws applicable to PayPal accounts differ by country, so you can't change your address to a country that is different from the country you used when you opened your account. If you're moving abroad, you'll need to close your existing account and open a new account. You'll also need a verifiable phone number that includes texting in the country where you're opening your new PayPal account, as that's how they verify your phone number when you log in. Others like Google, Amazon, and even my U.S. bank use text or email verification - some even go further than that - to make verification simple while maintaining good security. NOT PayPal... there's only the verified phone number for SMS and texting to get you into your account. This is where the difficulties with PayPal's customer service began and went horribly awry.


First, you cannot call customer service. You have to dive deep into their website to find a way to contact them at all
- their chat/message service is buried 3 links deep in small letters - and it becomes apparent very quickly that they don't really want to talk with you. Instead, their preferred method of helping you is to get you to sign up for their community forums to get the answer you're looking for, apparently from other PayPal customers who know as little as you do about what you're looking for. The chat/messaging is as cumbersome as possible: Small boxes that only display one line of copy at a time that are impossibly difficult to scroll up and down to edit or review. This cannot be by accident.

In addition, no one comes onto chat to say "how can I help you?" Instead, you get a series of programmed response that say things like "we cannot respond at this time," "check our community forums," and my favorite, "due to heavy traffic, we will get back to you soon as we can and we will notify you by message," which was sometimes hours or even days away, but I had to go online again to see if they had messaged me. One of the latter messages said, "we've sent you a code to activate your Bank link that must be activated in 10 minutes." How can PayPal possibly assume that's going to work? The longer this went on the more determined I became to break through this obfuscation.

I kept calling them out on the chat/message until after a week I finally caught up with the agent when we were finally on at the same and insisted that they send the code NOW, as I was online and could respond. I honestly don't know if they're doing this because they really don't want to talk to us or if they're just amazingly incompetent but the result is the same: One more pissed-off customer who will continue to look around until I can find an option other than PayPal.

Meanwhile, finally getting my U.S. Bank verified yesterday on Panama PayPal so that my clients can send me money is huge. Once again, I can now move those payments to my U.S. Bank where I can easily access it from my debit card. All is good in paradise. Now you may well ask, why don't you just open a bank account in Panama? Reportedly, it's much harder to do as a result of new Panama banking regulations put in place after the Panama Papers Scandal from a few years ago.

That's another story, maybe to be addressed in another blog when I eventually do try to open a Panamanian bank account. We only have one in Bocas town. (See 6 Alternatives to Paypal at the bottom)


Thursday, March 04, 2021

QAnon's BIG March 4th Trump Inauguration Bust

 No One Showed Up for the Party

(or) What If There Were A Revolution and No One Showed Up?

by Gary Stamper, CPC, MSIP, DSPS


QAnon's conspiritorial credibilty took another huge hit today, and I'm wondering if any of the conspiracy theorists even noticed?

Not only did they fail to show up for their own whacked-out conspiracy theory party - where Donald Trump would somehow be inaugurated today as the 19th President while Biden was to be marched out in handcuffs - but they seem to be completely silent. Not a peep. Nada.

Of course, this is not the first QAnon conspiracy theory that has failed to come true, but don't expect any "true believers" to change their minds. They are way too deep into the kool-aid.

Pardon me for my "moment of smugness"...

Where was the apparent former friend who told me that the conservative right "Had all the guns and that the military was on Trump's side," and that I was going to be proven wrong as they took back the country?

Where was the other friend who told me I was on the wrong side and the "Satanic Democrats and Hollywood elite pedophiles who traffic sacrificial children and drink their blood in obscene orgies would be arrested and executed at the order of Donald Trump" in what QAnon supporters refer to as "the Storm?"

Remember Pizza Gate?

The best thing they can do now is just quietly sink into the shadows, hoping we'll all forget, but I'm not counting on that. This is very likely not the last we've heard from them, but it appears that Trump's - and QAnon's - dreams of insurrection and a coup were dashed largely because they grossly overestimated the pipe-dream of support they would receive from the US Military leadership.

The biggest irony to come from the January Capital insurrection is that the insurrectionists who are found guilty of felonies as a result of their actions will no longer have the right to bear arms AND THAT may well have been the reason that no one showed up for the March 4th event.

Like Trump, they're full of blather and threats, but are actually just immature bullies, and it's time to clamp down on the bullies from both parties. Fascism, and elite Oligarchies, have no place in the US.