So I’ve had a very stressful 24 hours in Panama
Yes I’m venting, but this story will teach you something as well.
My financial situation has been terrible since I came to Panama. I like to tell people that somehow I was able to support myself back in Canada where things are more expensive, but here in Panama suddenly my online business takes a dive.
Of course the stress of living in Panama doesn’t help at all.
So I’ve almost been homeless several times here in Panama which means paying my bills has also been a struggle. Thank you to anyone who has helped me in my time of need.
I haven’t been able to pay my electricity bill every month, but I’d always pay $20. Then I started to have problems because the guys who drop off the bills (bills aren’t mailed to your home since there’s no addresses & there’s no mail system in Panama) are careless (typical in Panama) & just throw it on the front porch. Well, do you know how windy it can get here in Panama? Unlike the water bill guy who’s smart & sticks it under this pin or latch or something on the side of the door.
Anyway, 2-3 times now I’ve had no bill & I can forget about paying it, but I had made a payment last month.
My bill was adding up, I knew that, but I wasn’t able to pay any of it down. I thought that because I was making a payment every month that things would be okay, but yesterday out of the blue, I go get some food & my rent money & I come back & that’s it, NO ELECTRICITY.
So the Drama in Panama starts from there.
- I call Union Fenoza & ask to speak to someone in English. There’s a guy there that speaks pretty fluent English.
The first 4-5 times as the phone kicks in to the operator or when they go to transfer me to him, it drops the call.
If you aren’t from Panama & you haven’t read all my posts, you probably don’t know that every time you call a landline from a cell phone, it costs more money then cell to cell, so these calls where I was getting nowhere was costing me money, & I only had just under $2 left on my phone.
- When I finally did get someone, they hung up the phone on me. I think this happened twice.
- FINALLY I get him & I should have asked him to call me back right away, but I was so stressed I didn’t think of it.
He tells me I have to pay $100 minimum to get my electricity back on. I ask if I can pay $50. Thank GAWD I had some money, I just made a sale.
He puts me on hold, & his supervisor says no, you have to pay $100.
Right at that point the phone goes dead & I have NO WAY to call him back.
- I rush to the corner to get another phone card. I then proceed to waste almost $2 out of $5 calling Union Fenoza OVER & OVER & OVER again trying to get someone to transfer me to him. They keep putting me on hold or hanging up on me.
After the 5th try when I’m almost ready to hang up again, he comes on. I ask him to call me & he does thank gawd.
I want to go pay the bill right now & I even ask him if I pay the full $100 will they turn it on, he says, “n0, they can’t turn it on until tomorrow between 3-6 pm.”
I AM FREAKING!!!
I had a meeting I was going to miss & an interview & no way to tell anyone what was happening.
I had food in a fridge & the food was going to go bad (part of it did, but I have to eat almost all of it. I can’t afford to throw out food.).
It’s very very hot & I have no fan to cool me off.
What was I going to do ALL NIGHT as you know the sun sets around 6 pm here.
Then I also find out that the Union Fenoza office in Arrijan is closed. WHAT???? It’s like 3 pm in the afternoon. And it’s Friday which means I’m nervous that they may NOT turn the electricity back on tomorrow as it will be Saturday.
Manuel assures me they will so long as I pay the bill in the morning.
I get his cell phone number so he can translate because I told him there’s never anyone there who speaks English. I’ve never been to the Arraijan office, but the big office in Panama City, same thing.
He’s shocked no one there speaks English.
- I get off the phone, hoof it over to Westland Mall to get one of those lanterns & a battery for my huge flashlight.
- I was very weak as I never ate. That’s what I was going to do when I got home, but never did because of the drama in Panama.
- It was sooo hot out, I was dehydrated & I was carrying a somewhat heavy bag.
- I bought vegetables at a veggie market that I now know about, so it’s a different option than buying from Caledonia. Some things are less expensive, others aren’t.
I left the bags there to pick up on my way back. This meant I couldn’t spend a long time in the air conditioned mall, I had to be back at the market before 7 pm to pick up the bags. I wanted to relax & have a coffee, but I couldn’t as getting the lattern took a wile as I was price shopping.
By the way, I ended up getting it & the batteries at Arrocha. It’s a pharmacy that has other items & twice now I’ve found less expensive things there than at other stores (just so you know). I bought my dry air there for my computer & the lattern. They also had 3 different battery brands unlike both Do It Center & this other camping/hardware store.
- On my way back from the mall I was almost ready to drop dead. Once I picked up the bags things got worse. The taxis wouldn’t stop for me & I was dying of exhaustion. My house is within walking distance, but I was so drained & the bags were so heavy, I knew I’d have to spend the $1.
- I finally had to walk towards my house to get a better selection of taxis & one finally said okay & then ripped me off charging me $1.25 for a 5 minute drive. I didn’t care, but the taxi drivers in Arraijan are assholes. Way moreso than the ones in Panama city.
- I spent the rest of the night trying to read with this dim lantern & trying to sleep. It was hot & I was being bitten, so I barely got any sleep even though I went to sleep around 8-9 pm.
- I finally got up at 9:30 am obviously late & rushed out the door.
- My next drama in Panama was getting a taxi. I’m never usually out on Saturday morning or any morning for that matter, & the traffic was terrible. Not only that, NONE of the taxis would stop for me.
- I finally got a taxi & he wanted $2, so I said fine. I gave him the piece of paper with the name of the area that Manuel gave me plus the name Union Fenoza on it.
- The idiot who also speaks some English, takes me to El Rey where one can pay their Union Fenoza bill, but that’s NOT where the office is. Not only that, the price there is either $1.25 or $1.50 tops.
- He asks a bunch of cops who say that’s not where it is & they point in another direction. As he’s driving out, he starts to tell me it’s going to be $5. I said NO WAY & thank gawd he was sitting behind a lot of cars, because I jumped out. That’s the first time I’ve ever done that although I did walk away once from another taxi driver who tried to rip me off while getting my things from the trunk & if you read my story about the taxi driver who almost kidnapped me, well you know it can be stressful deciding what to do with the taxi drivers who are thieves.
Thank gawd those 2 cops were behind us. I just walked away not paying the asshole a dime.
I’ve also mentioned before that when they make a mistake, they charge YOU for THEIR mistake.
- I started to ask bank security guards where it is & one wrote out the directions. He tried to tell me the taxi would only be $1.50 which I highly doubted.
I’ve learned that if someone in Panama doesn’t take taxis, they have no idea how expensive it’s gotten.
- I get a taxi who says $3.50, but I tell him $3 & he lets me in.
- He drives the other people first, turns around & goes to where I think it is based on what the security guard said, but I don’t see it & I’m not getting out until I know for sure he’s there. He has to ask another taxi driver who tells him go right, left, whatever.
He continues driving around, & I’m thinking to myself, why doesn’t he just ask someone, when finally he finds it.
I confirm with a woman walking out that it is Union Fenoza.
I’ve finally figured out that it never says “Union Fenoza” on the awning, it always says epago.
I don’t know if Union Fenoza owns epago or what.
- He takes the $3 & I’m in.
- I get my number & sit down & wait. I’m nervous as all hell. I text Manual that I’m there, & I’ll call him when I’m called.
- I brought the $100 with me, but both Manuel & a neighbor who saw me when I was walking to get that phone card, told me to tell them I want to make payment arrangements.
- I get called & the woman doesn’t speak English & just looks around when I ask for someone else who does. I call Manuel as that was the plan, to call him & he would translate.
- THE FUCKING NUMBER IS WRONG! And YES, I repeated it back to him twice.
- I try to call the main Union Fenoza number that costs me money & I get hung up on again. I call a second time & they don’t understand my simple Spanish that I want to speak to Manuel. I put the woman on the phone & from what I gathered, he’s not working yet. LOL, so Manuel tells me to go first thing in the morning & I should call him to translate & YET, he doesn’t work in the morning. Or so the guy says as you know they all lie here. And YES, I did ask Manuel if he was working tomorrow & he said yes. Never ever said he only works afternoons.
- Now I’m REALLY stressed because I’ve already understood the woman’s Spanish, that the total amount is NOT $100, it’s $117.85 & if I DON’T pay the FULL amount, they are NOT going to turn the electricity back on.
While I can’t be 100% certain, I assume they shut off the electricity since it’s been 4 months owing. It’s either that, or because I went over $100, but I don’t think it’s that because I was over $100 last month & they didn’t shut it down.
So Manuel gave me MISINFORMATION!!!!!!!!!! This is VERY VERY common in Panama. No one knows what they are doing. You ask 5 different people at the same company, you get 5 different answers.
I wasn’t even sure I had enough money to pay the bill & get back home. I was exhausted & totally defeated.
Had I NOT had the extra $17, I would have been SCREWED!!!
- I finally reach out to a nice woman who sells Nikken products. I had spoken to her the other day when I was going to re-order the filters (that ain’t happening now because I have no money left.)
She translated for me, & it took up almost 20 minutes on my phone. so I’m down to $1 & change from the $5 I just bought the day before.
- Since of course there’s been sooo many fuckups, I don’t trust what anyone says. Manuel said they will turn the electricity back on between 3-6 pm, the woman who took my money said they may not which means I’d have to wait until MONDAY & this freaks me out even more. How can I go 3 DAYS with no electricity. I have to work, eat food, sleep, etc.
The Nikken distributor has faith they will come because the payment has now been made.
- I finally leave praying they will come.
- I have trouble finding the right bus to get to Westland (the battery I bought yesterday didn’t work, so I had to return it). 3 different people gave me misinformation re: the buses. I almost ended up on a bus going towards Panama LOL Even the driver was a complete moron. He had been blasting his music, so instead of lowering it to hear what I said, he just said, “yes”, & if it wasn’t for a passenger, I would have been further away from where I needed to go before I realized I was going in the wrong direction.
- I get one of the private coaster buses who zipped right along. Believe it or not, those guys & some (not all) of the private taxi guys, surpass the regular taxi drivers & bus drivers in intelligence.
- I get to the mall & suddenly the battery is working LOL
- I hang at the mall until I start my trek back home, as I was supposed to call at 2:30 to see what was going on.
I get home after almost dying on my walk back it’s soooooo hot & I’m dehydrated again & all I could get at the mall was a tiny pizza, as The Westland mall food court is VERY VERY expensive & I had no money left plus I had to get another phone card just in case Union Fenoza drained all my minutes again.
I knew my food was going bad, I could smell the inside of the fridge.
I was planning on getting ice, but I thought I’d relax first & take my stroller thingy as there is no way I could carry a heavy bag of ice, especially after the last 24 hours.
I try to relax & cool myself down.
- Just after 2:30 I’m about to call the Nikken distributor & I hear a car/truck outside & then someone calling out.
I RUSH to the door & THANK GAWD IT’S THEM.
- They had to climb onto the roof to turn it back on can you believe that?
Also they turned on one room, but the other room had no electricity so I don’t understand how that works here in Panama.
They were nice guys, but I was just soooo HAPPY they could have been nasty & I would have loved them.
At one point I thought they wanted ID which would have been a problem since the name on the bill is the landlord’s wife’s & she mentioned at Union Fenoza they couldn’t turn it back on until the landlord gave the okay. This freaked me out even more.
But the guys just wanted to see the bill.
- I RUSHED to turn my computer on & here I AM. I had to work for about 4 hours straight to get caught up & then I had to eat as I was starving.
So whatever you do, don’t leave your bill unpaid for 4 months. I didn’t leave it unpaid for 4 months, but the total amount divided up, in their minds, equaled 4 months, as I was only making small payments.
The total cost of this drama because of their incompetence cost me $11 + the lantern $20. The new battery I needed anyway. They don’t last here, but they are cheap ($2 & change), so I’m not complaining.
Also I want to be clear, I take responsibility for not paying the bill, but back home, YOU GET WARNED. They don’t just shut off your electricity with no notice.
Also had I been home when the guys showed up, I probably would have been able to ask them to give me another day or pay them. I’m almost always home, so clearly there was a reason the Universe had them coming when I wasn’t here & I was only gone for like 30 minutes.
And WHO shuts it off on the last day of the week after you can’t even go to the office to make a payment & deal with the problem. So either way you would lose 24 hours of no electricity & they make it seem like it’s no big deal. Both Manuel & the distributor both made it seem like this is normal.
It is for them, but NOT for me!
The stress from the toxic water issues coupled with this, just pushed me over the edge as Panama seems to do.