Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I don't think this is good, do you?

So, a few days ago I went with our daughter to the doctors office for a follow up visit, to have lab tests done to see how her kidney infection was either cured or needed more treatment. Luckily for us all, all tests showed she is over it. She is young and in good health and condition.

But I was having a chat with the receptionist/wife of the doctor while I was paying the bill, and she was asking me how our real estate business is going..knowing the recession, the downturn, that we are commission only, etc. I was telling her that things seem to be taking a turn for the better.

More buyers out shopping, open houses actually having some and sometimes lots of people come through. Maybe the $8000 credit for first time buyers is doing what it is planned/suggested/stimulating to do. We personally have some clients in this category, and it's a huge plus for them, based on their prospects for the past few years of buying a home.

Plus we have sold 2 houses this month that we have had listed since October- granted with price reductions. But thats ok. The sellers are happy, and can make up their loss on a discounted price on their buying end. Even more percentage wise.

BUT HERE IS THE POINT: When I mentioned that she and her husband doctor are in a business that probably doesn't have recession downturns, she told me that their medical practice has decreased 50% compared to last February and March. I said maybe not so many people got sick this winter. She said, oh no, by the time people come in to see the doctor, they are really really ill- sometimes they have to send them straight to the hospital..sometimes they are dangerously so ill, that they are so sick they worry about their prognosis.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

30 years ago yesterday..lucky so far for us.

30 years ago yesterday, I was a graduate student at Penn State Capitol Campus, which is less than 3 miles from Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, just south of Harrisburg PA, and right near the International Airport there. I was working on my Masters in PsychoSocial Science/Community Psychology degree, and had a part time job as an RA which helped pay my tuition, or rent, cant remember..but it was a job that I liked. Part time counselor, sometimes welcome person, sometimes organizer, photographer..whatever needed to be done. We (my hubby and I) lived in student housing just off the campus in Meade Heights, which used to be a military housing area...Air Force I think...simple duplexes of brick- 2 or 3 BRs, with nice big yards, very level and flat..which was mainly for the grad students, married or not..lots of nice people and students lived there...not many children. Nothing fancy, but it was pleasant. Walk to the campus in 15-20 minutes, or drive for less than 5 minutes. Sometimes that was better to drive because a lot of classes were at night, and in the winter you didnt want to walk through the woods alone in the dark to get back home.

March 28th, 1979. I was having car trouble. I had a rinky dink gold colored Maverick. Still, it was my car and it did what it needed to do, usually. I needed a new carborator was suggested, so I went shopping around to find the best place/price to have it replaced. We stopped at multiple gas stations to get estimates. It was a beautiful day- blue skies, warm temps, quite different than the usual frosty winter. My sister in law Cheri, or maybe she was still my future sister in law at that time, went with me. She was also going to school at our Penn State campus. I remember we also stopped at a book store that featured a lot of used books from a library, on a sidewalk sale. We bought some great books for 50 cents each..hardbacks! We spent most of the day out and about...walking around under beautiful blue skies with pretty clouds, and the suddenly warmer spring winds were circular..leaves dancing in circles on the pavements. We were also enjoying the sunshine. Lots of children were playing outside... on this lovely warm day after the cold winter. The nuclear meltdown was happening at this time, and the radioactivity was being spread in every direction, due to the lovely and windy day. We didn't know it yet.

That night, back home, I got a phone call around 10 PM or so, from a friend of ours at school. He was an engineering student, and had a part time job at Three Mile Island. He also lived just down the street from us..with 3 other guys. His name is Jim G. When I answered the phone, he said he was at TMI, working, and that there was an accident at the nuclear power plant, and that we should pack up some stuff and get out of the area ASAP.

I was confused. What kind of accident? I told P- my hubby, who had to commute 75 miles to work everyday, that we needed to leave. He said no..crazy. We argued. I phoned the police and the fire department to see if there was any report of an accident at the nuclear power plant. They said absolutely not...no reports, not true. But I believed my friend, packed some of my books and study materials, and headed to my aunt and uncles house who lived all the way over in Hershey, about 10 miles away, thinking I better be safe than sorry. I left my cat at home..bad idea. With P. And sad that we had quarrelled and separated.

Another bad idea..10 miles is not far enough away. Plus take the cat, the hubby, and anything else you happen to care about that can fit in a car. (Sister in law took off too- back home, dropped out of school, and went somewhere else to finish later.)

Two days later, after President Jimmy Carter and Gov. Thornburg declared a state of emergency, I had to come back and evacuate all those living in our student neighborhood with pregnant women, and or children, to leave the area. I knocked on about 25 or 30 doors and talked to the student residents, giving them the warnings and telling them to leave. That was part of my job as an RA (resident assistant). The next morning, I had a rash/burn on my lower chin...and I never have skin/pimple problems, so I knew it was not good. It lasted for a few days, and then went away finally. Luckily, all my face is still fine to this day.

Meanwhile, the state set up medical testing sites in Middletown to determine the amount of radiation we had received, as the TMI facilities showed that the amounts had pegged at the top of the air testing levels on their meters. We, as the local community did also, got in line and had body scans for radiation...sort of like an MRI. We were never informed as to what our rates were. But they said there would be ongoing follow ups and that we would be part of a study of the accident. Meanwhile, the NRA conducted hearings at our school, and testimonies of what and why, and who was responsible. P and I were there, front row center, and friends phoned us from around the country to say they saw us on the news at the hearings. For a few years, about every 5 years, I got a questionaire in the mail about the state of our health. That stopped about 10 or 15 years ago..I dont remember when I got the last one.

A day or two later, after the accident, everyone was evacuated. Well, kind of. School was suspended and people kind of left for about 2 weeks, then most everyone came back. I have some pics of the days, but my scanner isnt being recognized by my computer right now, and even so, I would have to search for the pics. 30 years ago? Where are those albums?
Hubby and I left with kitty to Northern Virginia to live with my in laws for two weeks. Classes were cancelled, delayed.

We returned, but I opted out to finish my classes remotely..checking in with the profs for papers and work remotely. I was almost ready to graduate. We packed up soon afterward and moved. Life did go on in Middletown and the school though. We moved to Chambersburg PA, quite close to hubbys work and far from TMI. I got pregnant and had a miscarriage in late Jan. 1980, at 3 months of pregnancy (extreme sadness). The TMI accident was in March 1979. It could have been nature, or not, no one knows. My kitty was fine though. And I graduated, and co wrote a paper about the experience with one of my Sociology profs that got published in a journal.

Anyway, we have been lucky..the people that were there- our friends and fellow students, teachers, the local community..most of us anyway, that I know of. But I also wanted to share with you something else. I hope you will take the time and interest to check it out.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rate Your Doctors

So all was good with life for a while. Then last week our daughter suddenly took sick...messing up all her travel and study plans. She came down with high fevers, extreme pain, and shakes and chills like I never saw before, lasting a half hour at a time, a few times a day. Our 14 year old cat, Sushi, took up permanent watch over her. Never left her side.

M is doing better now, and since yesterday, seems to be recovered, or recovering, but we will get her checked out with a lab tomorrow to make sure. We thought maybe she had appendicitus, but it turned out to be a kidney infection, something we had never dealt with before. It was very serious.

Which brings to mind what is important..nothing more important than good health. Not all the money in the world, adventures, entertainment, exercise, reading, job, hobbies, learning, material things - but when someone you love is sick, the world takes a new direction for you..makes everything stop or get secondary attention. And being a mom, it makes your mission to do one thing..help this child get better. Even when said child is an adult.

And this all probably wouldn't have been a happy story if it weren't for the availability of a good doctor. With all the consumerism and limitations for personal choice of physicians, insurances, and clinics, in times of stress and need, limited hours, and insurance restrictions, its a difficult road to travel at times. Especially hard to even think about when someone is sick and needs immediate care.

Luckily, we were introduced by friends to a fine doctor who has extended hours and a walk in clinic, just a few miles from our home. He not only has extended hours without an appointment necessary- 6 days a week, 9am-7pm, he asks the right questions, and has a lab in his office where he runs tests for a array of illnesses. (Call me for his name and number if you need him. Rockville/North Potomac, MD.)

So here is the point..before you get sick, or from your experiences from when you and your loved ones were or are sick, who are the doctors that you recommend? Us being in real estate, we get most of our business from referrals, maybe 80+ percent. People even rate car repair shops on the web. But what is more important than going to doctors that you trust and are knowledgible, kind, caring, and on the mark?

I hope that you will take the time to rate your physicians so others may benefit from your experiences, and do it too, so that you are a stranger to offer a kindness to others, remotely in this manner, to send them in the right direction in their times of need. Alternately, to steer people away from those who are not much of a help in those times.

There are two good sites for rating your physicians:

I hope you will take the time to do this..as an act of the kindness of strangers to others in need.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bocas del Toro, Bocas Town is WET! So why did we still love it?

We left Panama City prepared to spend 3 days of fun in the sun. Panama City was hot and humid, and we heard the Islands of Bocas were absolutely beautiful..their beaches, the wildlife, things vacation postcards are made of. As we landed after our one hour flight, we had to run through the rain to the terminal. Our suitcases arrived soaking wet, but they did arrive. No complaints there. We hopped in a cab van that took us to our hotel..didn't even ask the price first. It cost us a dollar. Plus we got an overview of the town in a vehicle, instead of the rain.
The little hotel we chose/reserved, was just perfect for us. It had a nice clean large room, and overlooked the big porch that had hammocks, lots of chairs and a big breakfast table for the morning. All overlooking the ocean. Sweet!!! Plus- the next door neighbors had a boat dock, 2 little boys, and a monkey, which were all interesting and amusing at times. The porch was covered too, so we could sit and read, watch the bad weather roll in, or just relax by the water.
Cocomo by the Sea also serves up an amazing breakfast every morning. Cereal and oatmeals, fresh cut fruit daily, coffee and teas, juices, and made to order eggs, pancakes and waffles..all served with a smile. Doug the owner also took us to a guy to get our cell phone fixed..it was done in 5 minutes..no charge. Just being nice.

There was a short break in the rain so we quickly went out to walk around the town. Bocas Town is on the Carribean side and is like a small beach town..four or five blocks in all directions. But filled with some good restaurants and scenery. It's very casual. Which is good, because most of the time we spent there we were wet.

Kind of the main street, where grocery shops and vendors rent bikes, arrange snorkeling and boat trips to the other islands, surfers congregate, and real estate offices talk to people who want to move there forever, or for sometimes.
We had no internet or TV, but we did have electricity and the sounds of the ocean 24/7.
Cocomo garden.

It had been raining for 4 days before we got there.
Kids play whatever the weather.
Vendors on another street.

The car ferry to Alimonte, across the water to the mainland to the mountain roads to David.
VIP Bar - looked like a front for something else..never went there at night.
Carribean colors.
Palm trees, puddles, and my Village Settlements umbrella.
Lula's across the street from our hotel let us sit on their porch too. There were about 10 hummingbirds flying around us between the plants.

This is the street right in front of the Cocomo Hotel after our walk.

Many of the local homes are raised above the ground.

The fire station had trucks and vehicles that I'm guessing are from the 1950's or 60's ( I'm no authority on cars and trucks).
We made new friends on stops along the way.
The breakfast/relaxin' porch at our hotel. So after our walk, it started raining really bad again..and it didn't stop all night. Waves were crashing against our room all through the night. Boom, boom, boom! We still felt safe, but we had some weird dreams that night.

This was the same street in front of our hotel in the morning. It was pretty stinky and dirty, with sea life and trash...like peoples shoes, etc, lifted from local homes in the mix. The ocean had risen up, or washed up quite far inland during the night, and then receded. The next day had a little dry spell and intermittant rains.
Zulu's even got internet back for about an hour or so that day. We quickly checked our emails and I think Mara posted a blog too.
The Cocomo hotel dock behind the porch. Skies less angry, but no clear waters for snorkeling, checking out the locally famous starfish beach or any of the other natural attractions in the area. Nevertheless, we met kind, nice and fun people, loved the distinct flavor of this little beach town, had some delicous meals, and as the weather finally began to clear after 6 days of torrential rains, it was time for us to leave (after 3 days) to head out to Boquete for a week of Spanish lessons at Habla Ya school. I'm sure by these pictures you may be thinking that Bocas is a little, well, shanty like...but there are other more expensive and expansive homes, not by much mind you, but none of the pictures can capture the CHARM of this area. Most restaurants and homes overlook the ocean, life seems much more simple here, and very pleasant. Most anything you could want here is available..all at reasonable prices if not cheap. Artists sell their wares, but arent pushy and dont feel touristy either. Now all we had to do was find a way to get over the mountains which suffered serious landslides and washed out roads. BUT, I will be back someday for sure!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Panama Beaches and the Moses Group

Beautiful, peaceful and upscale condo and pool development on the beach an hour's drive from Panama City, just before Coronado. The projects name is "Bahia", and is at Playa Serena, or Serenity Beach. It is in it's pre-constuction phase, and so far has 65% units sold. It will have an infinity pool, parking, and a property manager and concierge on site, for those owner's who may want to rent their condo out short term while they are not using it. Construction has not yet begun.
Sample of the available furniture packages with purchase.
The location- right on the ocean, with beautiful flora and fauna.
Paul and John Moses. The Moses Group is an established family real estate and construction business who for over 40 years have built many projects in Panama City, as well as beaches and suburbs, not only for tourists and vacationers, but mainly for typical Panamanian families too.
Sea views are essential to their projects, which are upscale, exciting and modern.
They are also known for their priority in respecting nature and the natural habitat, trees, animals, beaches and landscapes. They try to conform the buildings to the land, in design and appearance for the least intrusion to the natural beauty of the area.
This is another nearby project of theirs with single family homes, as well as condos. Punta Barco Village has many amenities..walk to the beach, pools, well thought out streets and views, fireplaces, stonework (you should see the sexy showers with windows) and lovely landscaping. This project is nearing completion, but still has some already built units (single family homes and condos) left, as well as lots where you can still choose from floorplans or create your own designed home and floorplan.
This is the condo rooftop social area- under construction yet, with bars and a media room..perfect for relaxing, parties and entertainment. Gorgeous views of the ocean, mountains and neighborhood. Call Paul if you are interested in more information on this, available lots, homes and prices..we have all that info. Plus you can see more pictures and details at Panama Real Estate Consultants website at www.parec-inc.com. We loved it there. If you contact them, ask for John Moses and tell him Paul and Paula sent you...he is very honest, kind, low key, knowledgeable and dedicated to creating homes of distinction and affordable to the middle class. The Moses family takes much pride in their work. We are impressed and would recommend them to anyone. Also, they are looking for investors in developing new projects in the Gatun River area and more.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Playa Blanca

Pelicans diving for fresh and bountiful fish in the surf.
Blue and white buildings dot the landscape, all leading to the pristine beaches.
Grass thatched huts replace sun umbrellas for outdoor beach lounging.
No crowds here...it's a big beach..white sands, very beautiful. And the sunset...
A wee little sea turtle struggles in the surf to get back to the ocean.
With the help of beach strollers, he finally made it. We actually had to keep throwing him back into the water.

Playa Blanca is about a 90 minuted drive west of Panama City. Still being developed, it has a hotel, many condos- all with balconies overlooking the expansive ocean, swimming pools, disco, a few small shops, some restaurants, and they are in the process of building a town center as well as the second largest swimming pool in the world..after the largest in Chile. All inclusive is optional. There are videos on www.youtube.com if you are interested in seeing more.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Incongruities/ A Mental Disconnect for Me

So everyday we met with Realtors to look at investment properties, and on this day, Janet Novak of RE/MAX Beaches and City took us around. (It's always a pleasure doing business with her.) Anyway, along our stops, she took us to see Noriega's home. It's abandoned and vacant now, but it has huge historical Panamanian significance. At the time we saw it, I wasnt aware of how much. This was on 1 Feb. 09. I am aware now (March 09).

Another reason that we had for this trip this year to Panama was to see if we were just infatuated with it last year when we were on vacation. We didnt buy souveniers, but we bought a condo in Panama City, and one at Playa Blanca, at the beach...we love the country and many things about it...the people, the use of US dollars, the food, the prices, the weather, the water, the amazing differences in climate and terrain (beaches, mountains, cities, jungles, rivers, oceans, and more).

So we wanted to learn more on this trip. We are seriously considering it a place to live and work and invest in for real estate. Maybe part time, maybe full time.

So when we got home after being there and traveling around for a month, I got the book and read "Panama, the Whole Story" by Kevin Buckley. I was pretty much shocked and disheartened to see what happened there in the 1980's to 1990, when the book ends. That wasnt that long ago! I vaguely recall reading and hearing about those things, but lets face it, at the time I was having and taking care of 3 babies, and we were working hard to sell real estate here in MD. However, I did read the Washington Post every day, and heard the national and international news on a regular basis. I was internationally and politically aware I thought.

What I found out from the book was that it wasnt only the Panamanian government and Noriega that were totally shady, but also Bush the father, Reagan, Cheney, Scrowcroft and lots of others. All mostly inept and liars. Even C.Powell could be drawn into this..there were also heros in the Senate that tried to help, but were tharted by our own government. Many people needlessly were beaten, tortured, and died as a result of this stupidity and political game playing.

I'm sorry to say that at that time, my focus was more on Europe, Asia, and Vietnam. Not that I could have
anything. But I didnt realize the
suffering and turmoil that Panama endured.

Which is why I found the book so shocking. Returning from there, I saw no signs of the very recent past. The country seems to be totally different than its recent history. Although some there have alluded that corruption still exists, it seems to mostly entail getting paperwork through beauracracy...not death and killings or secrets and terror.
And there is a saying there that is heard all the time..."It's Panama"- which has many meanings Im sure. But sometimes you hear it when 10 cars just go through a red light, or when people say something will be delivered by a certain time or date..like furniture, or the completion of a building and its permits and occupancy, and much more. Its like of like...do your own thing..no problem! Cool in some ways, and in a country with only about 3 and a half million people, its seems to work out ok. But maybe that is just the new attitude, after the oppression of the past..it needs to be that way for a while, to make up for the past.

So the Panama that we keep/kept seeing is full of people who are kind, helpful, friendly, love to dance, make friends, dont have road rage cause actually no one pays attention to road rules (except wearing seatbelts- they seem to respect that law), enjoy good food, and rum and cokes are $2, their very good beers are $1, and their corvina(fish) is everywhere, so everyone, or most, are able to eat well for little money. Public transportation is easy, everywhere, and dirt cheap.

I wish we could make friends here at home as easily as we make them in Panama.