Approximately a month ago we received notice via the expat forums that the US Embassy would hold an outreach effort at the Boquete library today, Sept. 29th. The representatives planned to be there from 10 am until 3 pm. I needed to have a one-page document notarized so I was pleased to hear this and cancelled other activities for the day in order to take care of business. Thinking there might be a small crowd, I got up early and headed into town to be at the library a half hour before the scheduled start of services.
When I arrived, the line was much longer than anticipated and extended from the 3rd floor meeting room down three flights of stairs and almost out the front door. I took my place in line, and upon finally reaching the 3rd floor room entrance, was assigned the equivalent of what should have been number 140. Truth be told, the embassy staff ran out of laminated numbers and gave up assigning them. Instead I filled in the blank numbered 39 on the 3rd set of 2-pg sign up sheets.
What I found even more surprising than the number of people availing themselves of embassy outreach services, was the fact that I recognized only 2 people in the entire crowd after living here for almost 9 years. It seemed as though few people knew each other, actually. Unlike earlier times when any Boquete expat "event" included lots of gossip and catching up with neighbors, today's socializing was about new people getting to know others and sharing war stories regarding relocation. Boquete is just exploding with immigrants, and the US embassy function today was only a small slice of the ever-expanding pie. People are arriving having never been to Panama before, but with Pensioner Visas in hand while staying in hostals and hotels.
Truly amazing. The embassy staff were very helpful, friendly, and expedient despite the crowd. I finally managed to get my document notarized (at a cost of $50 per page) at around 3 pm. Because of the staff's willingness to communicate, I was able to leave intermittently and return without having to sit the entire time and wait for my name to be called. I have to hand it to them. It will be no surprise to me if Boquete doesn't soon see some type of part-time embassy outpost opening in town. This little mountain hamlet is changing by the minute.