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Today is monumental day for me. It marks the day I begin to count my remaining work days in days not years. I have set my retirement day for November 12th 2016. That day was chosen because I will have five years with my present job on November 10th and be fully vested in the 401K system and our payroll system will only pay for holidays if you work the day before and the day after. I want to get paid for Veterans Day 2016 so 11/12/2016 it is.
I am amused because although a year seems a long way off; recently, maybe not so recently, the weeks seem to fly by. Go figure.
I have a lot to get ready so that as soon after 11/12/16 as we can we can be headed for Panama.
The plan is to take only one of our 2 geriatric cats. Ghost will travel to New York and once again live with our daughter, Robyn. Elaine the other old cat will be made travel ready. Even though we are selling our house, packing a container with household goods the thing that stresses me the most is making a very contented cat leave her domain and settle somewhere completely foreign.
The next few months will need to be spent in declutter. This is a big project because we are both a bit pack-ratish. We have to get over the mindset of “we may need this _________ (fill in the blank) someday and what sense does it make to throw it away if we would someday have to buy another one?”. Obviously if we are going to build boats, houses, etc. we need tools so that is a no-brainer, but how many shoes, pairs of jeans, t-shirts, etc. Also obvious we won’t be bringing all our winter clothes, but how soon should we unload that stuff? I guess it makes sense to keep some of it until fall of next year and then just donate it to thrift stores or Freecycle.
So far we have had two Mondays with very slow commutes because of weather. Over-night snow storms and rush-hour traffic make for a tense drive. We commute to Anchorage which is over 20 miles away and usually takes less than half an hour, but on when it snows that can be up to two hours if we don’t get on the road early and by early I mean before 6 a.m. This is doable but we have to forgo workout.

Annual meeting of the summer tire club. Just kidding not really this bad (yet).

We had planned to vacation in Panamá this coming January, but Ken’s work schedule will not permit it and mine won’t permit it until mid-summer. We don’t like leaving Alaska in summer because that is the best time to be up north. So I think we will just stay-cation for the next 12 months using our time-off to prepare for the move. Once we have moved we can spend our retired days on perpetual vacation. Just kidding, I know this is a bit of a delusion; there will be plenty of work. But no boss, our own timetable and a major change of latitude –remember folks –I was born, raised and have lived 60+ years in Alaska, 61° North!
Well enough for now. Any help keeping my focus is welcome; sometimes I get a bit overwhelmed with the scope of this endeavor.

We are so proud of Bec, the daughter of fellow Panama blogger Richard Detrich!

richarddetrich.com

Our daughter, Rebecca, was honored to be selected as one of 35 National Geographic Teacher Fellows for 2015 and be sent by the National Geographic to the Galapagos Islands.   To help her staff and Sonoma community understand the program and her participation she put together the following … which is really good!  Take A Look …

Of course we’re proud!

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It has been awhile since I have posted. No excuses. We are still anticipating moving to Panama November 2016. We have just been busy with work, Alaska summer fun, gardening, preparation for the move and miscellaneous other distractions. I will catch you up now.

Work has been interesting for me. I work for the State of Alaska as a licensing specialist on the staff of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Alaska voted to legalize and tax recreational marijuana/cannabis in November 2014. The details are still being ironed out, regulations written etc. but the factor that affects me is our office will also be the staff for the Marijuana Control Board. Beginning early in 2016 the applications for marijuana business will begin to be accepted. This should prove very interesting.

Alaska summer fun for us always involves boating. Two years ago Ken built a 19’ canoe and this summer he completed two stand up paddleboards (SUP).

Two SUPs completed by Ken summer 2015.

Two SUPs completed by Ken summer 2015.

Ken on his SUP on Mirror Lake.

Ken on his SUP on Mirror Lake.

This summer we took boating to a new level by becoming involved with sweep crew rowing. Ken had rowed recreationally in college and in 2014 he crewed for the Davis Constructors Team in the Dave Thormess Challenge. This year the Davis Team needed a last minute substitution rower. Ken asked if I would like to row. I was apprehensive but reluctantly agreed. Here was our crash-course training schedule: Thursday evening “on land’ training on an erg (rowing machine), Friday evening a lesson in the boat (my first time in a shell) with the other 8 team members (8 rowers and coxswain), then race on Sunday! And the pressure was on big time – Davis was the returning champions. Despite the addition of my inexperience the Davis Team took 1st place. And I was hooked on sweep crew. The Anchorage Rowing Association offers the Dave participants a deep discount for lessons in the month of June so we took advantage of the offer. I love my novice teammates, the coaches, and the master rowers. Additional the physical workout and being on the water 2-3 times a week after work is an awesome way to unwind. The Moose Nugget Regatta (yup, a race named after moose poo) was our first race. It was a 1k meter sprint race on Wasilla Lake.

ARA 2015 novice 8

The ARA 2015 novice 8 on Wasilla Lake at the Moose Nugget Regatta July 18, 2015

Next we raced a 5k on Bear Lake in Seward. Our final regatta will be this weekend on Big Lake in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, another 5k.

We usually schedule a couple of charted saltwater and freshwater fishing trips each summer. Unfortunately our saltwater fishing charter canceled twice because of rough weather. We will not have the freezer full of halibut and cod we have become accustomed to. Our freshwater silver salmon charter on the Kenai River is scheduled for September 19th and our fingers are crossed that the weather will be decent.

Gardening season is nearly over. This year I grew zucchini, lettuce (romaine, head and arugula), potatoes, cabbage and Brussel sprouts. I also had raspberries and apples. I have harvested the vegetable garden and frozen the chard and kale crops along with the raspberries. The potatoes and cabbage are in cold storage and the apples are in the dehydrator. The apple recipe: core apples toss in lemon juice and strain, slice in the food processor, then toss with cinnamon, finally dehydrate until crisp. My flower pots are still out but any night now the frost will get them then I will put the pots away to make way for the inevitable snow piles. I am so looking forward to gardening year round and not more snow!

Kale

A wagon load of Kale fresh from the garden.

kale in ice bath

After blanching the kale for 2 minutes plunge into an ice bath.

Prepping for the move is progressing nicely. We are selling and giving away all possessions we do not want to take with us and boxing up the rest. I am taking advantage of FreeCycle and Craig’s List for this. The biggest item we have moved so far was the 210 gallon aquarium complete with a 3.5’ eel. The tank weighs 350 lbs empty so moving it took some scheduling to have the necessary muscle on both ends of the move. The happy ending is Eli the eel is now residing in Wasilla and we have one less thing on our to-do list.

We just finished sprucing up the kitchen with a glass tile back splash

Tile back splash project in process.

Tile back splash project in process.

and new flooring. We have a buyer interested in our duplex. They want to buy a bit sooner than we want to leave the U.S. so we may have to move twice, once to an apartment in Anchorage then to Panama. What fun.

Miscellaneous diversions and items of interest:

We had the privilege to host a charming young cyclist, Javi, from Spain, who is traveling the world and blogging about his experience through WarmShowers.org. We learned about Warm Showers, an organization which matches host families with traveling bicyclists worldwide, through friend and fellow cyclist and blogger Kris Cunningham. We became members, offered him our spare bedroom for a couple of nights. While he stayed with us we learned of his adventure, practiced speaking Spanish and enjoyed his cooking (he is a great chef). His travels will take him through Central America. Perhaps he will stay with Kris when he is in Panama.

My sisters and I inherited our childhood home and we have been trying to sell the property to help fund our retirement since March. The house was of very substandard construction due to age and neglect. We made the decision to demo the house and try to sell the lot without a structure. Prior to demolition we were able to donate most of the doors and windows to the Sockeye Fire Relief Effort. The Sockeye Fire was a wildfire which destroyed 55 homes in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough this June.

Spanish classes at Somos Amigos will resume September 17th and I will resume my weekly intercambio with Otto in Costa Rica once the rowing season ends (after the Big Head Regatta this weekend).

Hope you enjoyed this post and the photos of our beautiful state.

I am certain my posts will become more frequent as we approach our move date. I maintain my focus by reading blogs written by others who have made the move and by reading the emails I receive from the ExpatExchange: Panama. Thank you to all who have shared their encouragement and experiences.

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!.

This type of program is one of the reasons I can’t wait to retire and move to Panamá.

I am an animal lover! so this type of community effort I very close to my heart. I plan on working with the animal group in the community where I retire.

In Da Campo

I just noticed how the word “cansada” meaning “tired” looks pretty close to “Canadian” which I also am.  But yesterday at the end of a busy, busy day I was “cansada”.

It all began with an early rise for the the big spay and neuter event in our little community.  Our animal group has worked very hard for the last year to fund-raise for just such an event in the hopes that we could get our town folk to buy into the idea of having their pets sterilized.  All our work paid off fantastically with the completion of 180 sterilizations.  The beginning of the day, looked something like this:

123

We had many volunteers from within our community and beyond.  Everyone’s job was important; from giving out the registration numbers, caring for an animal whose owner was unable to be there, pre-op, transportation both around town and from one station to another…

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We are keeping busy with the required preparations for our move to Panamá. In order to fund the move we must liquidate our assets. That means selling our house. We want to get the best sale price so some upgrades are necessary. The low hanging fruit in our case is paint. So we are painting. We are also replacing the base trim in the entire house. We made the mistake of installing medium density fiberboard (MDF) when we built the house in 2004. MDF looks great when it is new, it takes paint well BUT in real life it gets bumped (like when you are vacuuming) or wet it begins to fall apart. So out it comes and down goes rubber base where we have vinyl composition tile (VCT) and Extrutech Colonial Casing for trimming the laminate floors.

As of March 15th our painting and rubber base installation is nearly finished in the day-light basement. Perhaps 2 more weekends. The basement flooring is all VCT which will need to have the wax stripped and reapplied before we show the house for sale. I am trying to save money by stripping the wax myself, BIG JOB! I have discovered it is a bit of a work out, hour after hour or scrubbing and scraping. But it seems I will do anything to avoid painting. It is a good thing Ken is a professional grade house painter. The basement is looking great. I just have to avoid messing up the nice clean walls!

Another big project is downsizing our possessions. It is not as difficult as I had originally imagined. I started off by reading a great book “The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life” by Francine Jay. I really enjoying finding things I no longer need and selling them on Craig’s List, or giving them away on freecycle or donating them to thrift stores. I am not so much of a fan of the trash bin but I had to face it some things just belong there.

On a totally different subject (my blog I can do that!) I have a new obsession. I just discovered TED Talks. If you haven’t heard of it you will be amazed of the quantity, quality and variety of these lectures. So here are few of my favorites:

Well that ought to get you started.

But it get even better if you like me are learning Spanish there are many lectures in Spanish with subtitles (choose English, Spanish or several other languages) and many have transcripts available so you can read along. That is a win-win! Learn something new and learn it in my target language. Here is the TED Talk search page, sort by topic, language, duration, etc.

¡Diviértete!

I am blogging from Alaska about our plans to retire in Panama. I was born and raised in Alaska and want to give living in the tropics a try. I am married and it appears that my spousal unit (SU) shares my vision. Our best vacations have been tropical locations. I love to garden, scuba dive and bicycle. He loves to build boats, scuba dive and bicycle. At home in Alaska the best I can do is garden and bicycle for 5 months each year and scuba dive in a dry suit. Boat building here involves tying up the garage all winter while the car sits outside in the cold. We love the summers here but the winters are getting old.

We love the weather in Panama and we are encouraged by the many blogs we have read by expats living there or on the same trajectory as we are. Our plan is to retire in November 2016 and move there. I am sharing my journey here in order to stay focused and track our progress.

A big part of preparing for our move is learning the Spanish language. For me this process began a long time ago in high school (thank you Mr. Cresap CHS!) and now continues at Somos Amigos.

I have mentioned some of my language learning tips in previous blog entries. Today I will just post a link to a free resource I have just recently uncovered. Learn Spanish Better

I also recommend setting up an intercambio. If you read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert you will recognize the concept. A mutually beneficial experience where both parties give and take language instruction and no money is exchanged. The “match maker” in my case was The Mixxer. I have a great partner, a native speaker from Costa Rica, who wants to improve his English. We get together at least once a week for at least an hour and chat via Skype. I would also like to recommend Lang-8. On this site you can post journal entries and native speakers will make corrections. Of course it is assumed that you will reciprocate by correcting the entries submitted by English language learners. I have found this site exceptionally useful when I have a written assignment for Spanish class. I post my version up on Lang-8 and the corrected version is presented in class.

¡Que tengas mucha suerte con tu aprenizaje!

Brief slide show of our vacation. (it may take awhile to load)

3/24/2011

some of my techniques:

  1. Label, label, label —place a piece of masking tape with the Spanish word for things including the article — el inodor (on the toilet).
  2. When in the car either listen to Pimsleur or Spanish language music.
  3. Joined and attend as many meetups as I can.
  4. add to this list…..

Juan Horta Castillo (1940 – 2006) was considered one of the best mask makers in Mexico. Horta worked primarily in wood usually painting and lacquering the finished mask. He lived in Tocuaro, Michoacan, Mexico with his wife and five sons working to preserve the heritage of his craft for generations to come. Don Juan passed on in 2006 but his sons continue his carving tradition. Horta’s work has been exhibited throughout Mexico and the United States including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum of Natural History, and Brown University.  He is a first prize winner of Mexico’s National Mask Maker competition, and is included in the permanent collections of El Museo de la Mascara in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.  His masks are featured world-wide in the performances of the “Ballet Folklorico de Mexico”. His masks are influenced by per-Columbian culture and iconography of modern Catholicism.  His astonishing works of art range from simple human and animal forms, to complex compositions that combine multiple subjects. Common elements include devils, snakes, cats, lizards and skeletons.  Horta masks come in a number of sizes, from full size functional masks, to miniatures created for decorative display.  His full-sized masks are used in dances and ceremonies in the Lake Patzquaro region of Michoacán.

Duality by Juan Horta Castillo hand carved and painted

The first piece I chose to feature is titled Duality it is 14 inches in height 11 inches in width and 8 inches in depth. It is hand carved and painted. It features a conjoined head with a female face and a male face that share an eye. Both male and female mouths are open. The female tongue is displayed. On top of the head are two lizards one green and one brown and brown owl that is embracing the lizards. Research explains that the piece represents the male and female energy in all things. I was unable to determine the creation date of Duality. I was drawn to the piece because of the beauty, the detail and the unusual subject matter. Although I considered the subject matter unusual Hota has another piece also featuring the male and female on the same mask and sharing one eye so this might be a traditional theme.

 

Two Faced Mask with Lizards and Snakes by Juan Horta Castillo

The other piece, Two Faced Mask with Lizards and Snakes, has a collected date of 1993. This piece is much smaller, 5 inches in height and 3.5 inches in width. On this mask both male and female mouths are closed. Draped across the top of the head is a brown snake. A green snake adorns the male side of the face and the female side is adorned with a tan snake. A green lizard sits upon the face partially obscuring the shared eye.  The tan snake’s tale wraps around the lizards tale.  I was unable to locate any explanation for these features. I speculate they have some cultural significance. I look forward to learning more about these interesting traditions of Mexico.

References:
http://www.galwest.com/folk_art/mexico/Juan_horta/default.html
http://www.theartofmexico.com/about.htm#horta
http://www.manosdemexico.com/juantitle.html