Saturday, May 9, 2009

A lawyer, a chef, printing photos, and a good laptop repair shop in Panama City

I got an early start the next day and went directly to the offices of Berliza Arosemena, Abogada (Attorney). Berliza has been my lawyer for four years now and I recommend her services to anyone who needs a capable, competent, agressive attorney. Her website is Tell her Wael referred you.

Berliza got married recently and just had a baby, and she looked good. Her skin was glowing and she seemed generally more content and easygoing than I remembered. She showed me a photo of the baby and she (the baby) looks exactly like the mother. I conducted some business with Berliza and gave her the gift Laura had sent for her, some nice clothing for the baby. Berliza filled me in on the latest gossip regarding expats that both she and I know. It was a good visit.

I walked up the street just a few dozen meters to La Novena, a gourmet vegetarian restaurant run by Chef Arturo. I used to eat at La Novena often but had not been there in a long time. Arturo was in the kitchen busily preparing the special of the day, a yucca pie. He looked up and saw me and said, "Have mercy!" Later his trainee chef - a tall, painfully thin woman who needs to sample more of her own cheesecake - took over, and Arturo sat with me to talk. "What are your intentions?" he asked me in his clearly enunciated, oddly accented English. I filled him in on some of the changes in my personal life and he was shocked. "Life changes," he said. "That is the only constant."

I mentioned that the Hotel Marparaiso has wireless internet. What I did not mention is that after the first night in Panama, my laptop stopped charging, and the battery life dwindled steadily until the computer shut down. I should have known better. I lived in this country for three years. You simply do not plug expensive electronics into an unprotected wall socket here, unless you want to end up with a very pricey paperweight. The electrical current in Panama is not steady. It sometimes cuts out for milliseconds and then comes back with a surge. It will quickly fry almost anything you plug in, from a floor fan to a refrigerator. To protect your electronics, plug everything into a surge protector, and in the case of computers I recommend a heavy-duty surge protecter and UPS device (uninterruptible power supply) that will kick in automatically if the power fails for even a microsecond.

I got lucky. I wanted to print some photos of Salma to share with friends here. I have a CD with 100 photos on it. I took it to the MultiMax store on Via Brasil near MultiPlaza. I hoped that I could also find a laptop battery there. They didn't carry laptop batteries, but they have a Kodak machine that prints photos from a CD or USB drive. You put the CD in the machine, and your photos come up on a touch screen. You select the photos and quantity that you want, and the machine gives you a receipt. Then you come back a few days later to get your photos. It only cost me $10 to print 100 photos! I couldn't believe it. Other people tell me they've seen these machines in the States, but I doubt they printing for 10 cents a photo.

That's not the really lucky part. Walking back up the street from MultiPlaza, I tried to catch a taxi but could not. It's always difficult on that stretch of Via Brasil. As I approached the Idaan building I saw a small show called simply, "Computadoras." I went in and saw that they specialied in laptop sales and repairs. The young man told me he could not help me without seeing my computer.

I finally caught a taxi back to the hotel. The driver was talkative, praised my Spanish, and told me that he wants to retire and travel the world. I told him that I want to go to Africa, and he warned me that the tigers there would find me to be a fat and juicy morsel. I know some North Americans would find this offensive, but Panamanians are very open with these kinds of comments and I laughed.

Grabbed my computer out of my hotel room, and caught a taxi right back to the computer shop. Traffic was horrendous and it took forever. The driver had his wife in the front seat and his young daughter (perhaps seven years old) in the back, next to me. She had apparently just gotten out of school and was wearing her uniform and trying to sleep on the seat. The driver was listening to evangelical music and when a particular song came on, the girl sat up excitedly and began to sing along. I didn't get all the words, but some of it was,

El es todo,

El es grande,

So the lucky part is that the fellow at the computer shop found me a battery. It's not exactly the right model and charges more slowly than my old one, but it works. And I bought a surge protector this time.

Like I said, it's called Computadoras, has pictures of laptops on the front, and is just down the street from Idaan.

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