“Kathleen, I Think We Have An Emergency”
As I mentioned yesterday, Lief and I spent a night in Barcelona between two weeks in Europe and our family safari adventures in Kenya.
Just as we were falling asleep that Monday evening on the coast of Spain, our U.S. cell phone rang. For us, this was the equivalent of a call on the Bat Phone. Our U.S. cell phone was the number we gave to everyone who might have reason to reach us while we were on the road last month.
We left strict instructions:
“We’ll carry this phone with us everywhere, and leave it on 24/7,” Lief told the staff in Panama City the day before we took our leave. “This is how you reach us in case of any emergency.
“Please, though,” Lief continued, “let there be no emergencies. That is, don’t call unless you have to.”
So, when the phone rang that Monday night, I jumped from bed and grabbed for it on the nightstand.
It was Lauren, our Panama-based Conference Director.
“Yes. Lauren? I’m here. What’s up?” I replied.
“I’m so sorry to call you, but I thought you and Lief would want to know. I think we’ve got an emergency.”
“Yes?” I said, poking Lief in the back to rouse him.
“We arrived to the office this morning to find that it had flooded over the weekend. A pipe burst in one of the upstairs bathrooms. Kathie, it’s pretty bad,” Lauren continued. “The ceilings have collapsed in four rooms. All the electronic equipment is immersed in feet of water. And the water is still flowing. It’s raining down from the upstairs to the downstairs. There’s a lot of water…”
Before I could respond, Lauren went on…
“I’m calling because I thought you’d want to know and also because I need you to tell me what you want us to do. Just tell me. We’ll take care of it. Tell me what to do. Don’t come home.”
After a pause, Lauren said again, “Don’t come back. We’ll be fine. Just tell us what to do.”
Hard as it was at the time, Lief and I took Lauren’s advice. We didn’t return prematurely to Panama. We continued on to Africa and had one of the greatest experiences of our lifetimes (more on this later in the week).
In Nairobi and on safari, we were mostly incommunicado, with little internet access. We returned, finally, to Panama City this week. Lief ventured over to the office and called me from the scene:
“We aren’t coming back here,” he reported. “And you shouldn’t come over. It’s demoralizing. Nearly everything needs to be replaced–desks, chairs, computers, phones, wireless routers…almost nothing is salvageable. I’m gathering up our personal things to bring home. Then we can regroup.”
Thus, these days, you’ll find the 20-odd members of the Live and Invest Overseas Panama staff gathered around the dining room table in Lief and my apartment. We’re a cozy group.
And productive. Good thing we’re a virtual operation. Our bricks-and-mortar base was comfortable but not critical. We’re reminding ourselves this month that we can get along fine without it. Give us some laptops and a wireless connection, and we’re in business.
“Bottom line,” I told our team the afternoon before Lief and I departed for our month away, “get the mailings out each day. As long as the e-letters are broadcast and the subscription services are fulfilled, we’re fine. If you do nothing else all month, get the mailings out,” I said once more for effect.
For the past two weeks, while Lief and I have been cruising the savannas of northern Kenya, completely out of touch, our team back here in Panama has not only gotten the mailings out, but, in the face of rising water and failing infrastructure, they’ve also launched a new conference (our next Ecuador event, this one taking place in Quayaquil)…begun work on the website for a new real estate venture (to be launched in September)…and even expanded their numbers (with the addition of a new Conference Assistant for Lauren).
With help from our local legal eagle, they’ve managed the extrication from our (former) office lease. With help from one of our preferred real estate agents in Panama City, they’ve launched a search for new LIOS digs. With help from friend and insurance agent Kevin Bradley, they’ve filed our flood claim.
“Kevin assures me that everything is covered,” our Office Manager Elodia told us yesterday. “Even the cost of moving to new offices when we find them and probably even the cost of reinstallation of phones and internet in the new place.”
Our IT Director Miguel is preparing a list of computer equipment we need to replace asap. We’re shopping for new office furniture. A friend has offered us use of four spare desks in his office until we have a new one of our own.
Sure, it’s all a pain in the neck. But the situation is also reminding me how fortunate we are. Your experience living, retiring, investing, or doing business overseas, good or bad, better or worse, wherever you choose to focus your efforts, depends, more than anything, on your local connections. It is, as they say, who you know.
After more than 15 years spending time and money in Panama, we know lots of people. More important, as this current debacle is showing us, we are lucky enough to know the right people.
These are the folks, our personal contacts and resources, who will be on stage with us here in the Hub of the Americas for this month’s Panama Conference.
If you’re thinking of doing anything in Panama anytime soon, I strongly recommend that you come on down to join us. We’d like to introduce you to some folks you’ll want to know.