A Last Painting

The time for my trip back to the USA is coming soon, and I have finished the last painting I plan to take with me. This one is a gift for the granddaughter who is coming in November.


I think I like this one the best of what I have done so far. I feel like I learn a bit more with each painting. While I am gone I can sketch and think about future projects, and decide what I want to tackle when I return. I feel like I want to just paint more to sharpen my skills but at some point, I can see moving in a more abstract direction. We shall see.

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We are Retired, a Rant on Various Things

This blog is three years old now, and it has grown into something I never imagined. I never thought so many people would follow it and find it interesting, and I appreciate every one of you who read my posts. With a growing readership though, come emails with many questions about expat life and all things Panamanian.

I enjoy talking and getting to know new people. I like most of the emails. There are some I can’t answer though, and it would be helpful if people think about what they are asking of whom.

We are retired. I don’t know anything about working in Panama. I have heard various things but I have done no research myself. Don’t ask me about working in Panama (though I did run across this article from Expat Freedom that looks helpful).

I don’t have children here. I know nothing about schools in Panama.

We don’t live in Panama City. That is a different world, different costs, lifestyle, benefits and problems, and I know very little about it. I am happy to answer questions about Chiriqui Province, and some general questions about some other areas of Panama I have seen but I’m not the one with answers about Panama City.

We rent our house. I know very little about buying property in Panama. There is no substitute for “boots on the ground” and a consultation with a professional realtor.

It is helpful if you look for answers yourself first. Google is a great resource! Study a map of Panama. Look up information on visas. Read the links on my website. Don’t abuse the generosity of people on various forums and discussion groups. Be respectful of the many people on line willing to share what they know so read what has already been discussed, and try to find answers from the many sources available.

Oh, and while I am on a good rant, don’t ask to be my Facebook friend without sending me a message explaining why. If I don’t see a connection I won’t accept you without asking. And, I don’t want to hear “I love your profile so I want to be friends, because good friends are such a wonderful thing”. What is that all about?

OK, rant over. We now resume our normally scheduled programming of living the good life in Panama. The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the spider webs are sparkling in the sunlight.

PS My husband says this is only a rantito. I don’t use caps or red text, or pound the table, or threaten to trash any offending emails on sight :D

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The Baby is Here!

My last post, Far from Family, came about mainly because my daughter was going into labor. She is in California and I am in Panama, and at those times you feel the distance. It definitely was labor and the next day her daughter, my granddaughter came into the world! I still feel the distance because I am aching to hug my daughter and hold my granddaughter but I will be there soon. Meanwhile, we have technology to keep us close.

My daughter and I were chatting through the whole process on Facebook messenger until she was too busy and her husband took over. The other grandmother who was with her also kept in close touch by messenger and phone/Skype. I am so thankful for the great communication.

My daughter got checked in to the hospital about 4PM Panama time. I figure nothing would happen for a while so I went off to my 4:30 art class, iPad in hand of course. Soon a message came in that things were progressing rapidly, and classmates wanted to know what was distracting me. More messages came in, even more rapid progress, and soon everyone was getting excited, including parents who were stopping by to pick up their kids. Before class was over a message came in that it was delivery time! Of course at delivery time there is a lot going on so it was a little while before I got more news, but I found out later that the baby was born at 6:45 Panama time, just after I left class. It was fun sharing all the excitement with  my classmates.

I have pictures! None of these are my own pictures except the first, and I appreciate everyone who shared pictures.


This is a blurry screen capture of a Facetime chat, my first look at the new baby. I knew all was well but it was wonderful to talk with my daughter and get my first look at the new little girl.


These were the first official pictures posted by dad on Facebook of mom, dad, and baby girl.


Soon after came this photo. It is like the baby’s beautiful little face is being revealed more in each picture.


This beautiful picture was posted on Facebook by a coworker friend of my daughter.

And, the next day they came home!


Now you can see the baby has a full head of hair, just like her mother did when she was born. I’m not sure if dad took this picture, or the other grandmother.

And, my favorite photo of all, taken by the other grandmother


Big brother meets little sister! He is only 2 1/2 and this is going to be a big change, but word is he did fine on his first night with the new baby in the house.

What would we do without Facebook?! Other than a few phone calls that came to me via Skype, all of our communication and photos were through Facebook. I remember when my daughter was born. It was just my husband, me, and the midwife. We had recently moved to another state too, so I didn’t know many people. I don’t think anyone knew what was happening until later when we called family to tell them the news.

An aside, while no birth is without risk, my daughter’s son was born by c-section for breech. Usually a c-section means all subsequent births will also be by c-section because of the risk of a rupture. I really felt that she would be fine birthing naturally, she was very closely monitored, and the staff was ready to jump in at a moment’s notice. But, I still feel relieved that the birth is in the past and now we know for sure that all is well. All is more than well. She succeeded, she did it and did it well, and I am very proud of her!

Now we wait for the next baby, another little girl, expected in a month. Unless she comes early I will be there for that birth.


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Far from Family

On the theme of things to consider when planning a move to another country – how will you manage your family relationships? Will you be OK being physically far from the people you care about?

Today we are waiting. My daughter is in the early stages of labor. Neither of us slept much and though I am not worried, of course I am concerned. She has a very supportive husband and a good circle of friends. The other grandparents are there with her and she has excellent medical care, so all that can be done is being done. There is nothing more I could add, or should add. But of course at moments like this you feel the distance.

Almost all of us expats have family and friends back where we came from – children, grandchildren, parents, and other close family and friends. How will the move change your relationships, and methods and frequency of communication?

My daughter and I remarked recently that we actually communicate more now. We lived on opposite sides of the US before so we are used to being physically distant, and keeping in touch by phone calls. But, now I am retired I have more free time, and I also have an iPad that I can take anywhere. We take advantage of Facebook messages and Facetime video chats as well as phone calls and emails.

What did people do before technology? People left their homes for new lands, sometimes losing all contact. I don’t think I could do that. I really appreciate being able to keep in touch as often as we wish, and being able to get on a plane and visit. I will be traveling soon to meet this new granddaughter and I expect to be present for the birth of my other granddaughter next month.

There are times though when you feel the distance, and you are happy for the other people who are supporting your loved ones when they need it. When considering living in another country, this is definitely something to think about.

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Retirement and Marriage

This topic isn’t only about Panama. It affects all couples facing retirement wherever they live. We plan financially for our retirement years. We decide where and how we are going to live which may involve minimal change, or moving to an entirely different country. But, do we think about what retirement will mean for our marriages and relationships?

I’ve done a bit of reading and found some common threads that are worth considering and discussing when planning for retirement.

  • For many, work is identity. If we shed that identity, then who are we? Where will we get our sense of purpose, accomplishment, and other benefits that came with work?
  • Will retirement change the responsibilities at home? A wife may expect more help with chores. Or, a husband may intrude on what has always been the wife’s domain, and she may not welcome this.
  • What will happen with leisure activities? Will you be expected to join in more of your partner’s activities, will you each have your own separate interests, or will it be a combination of both?
  • What do you plan to do in your retirement years? Travel? Stay home? Take care of the grandkids? Volunteer? Find other work? Lock yourself in the study and write a novel? If your goals and plans are different, how will you work this out so you are both satisfied with the arrangement?
  • How much time will you spend together and apart when you are both at home?
  • What is the state of your relationship now? Have you avoided facing problems by filling your time with work and other activities? Are there things you need to work on before you can coexist happily?
  • How will you handle money and spending decisions? How will you handle your change in income, if this applies?

Of course, the bottom line is communication. There are no rules, only what works for the individual couple. I think most of us get so caught up with the other aspects of retirement planning that we don’t think about how retirement is going to affect our relationships. The good news though, according to my reading, is that even though there may be initial adjustment problems most couples work through them and go on to successfully enjoy their retirement years.

Joel and I didn’t have any serious adjustment problems, but over time we have managed to fine tune our daily routines. We usually have breakfast together, plan any together activities for the day like a bike ride, errands, etc, and then spend the rest of the time doing our own thing in our own spaces with occasional greetings and chats. We come back together for dinner and some TV time in the evening, and then wind down the day doing our own activities.  I think we have a good balance of together and separate that works for us. I tend to spend more time out of the house with various activities, but Joel is out more these days playing music.

We have always shared household chores and thought in similar ways about money, so these areas have been smooth. I have a greater urge to travel though, so this is an area for discussion and compromise. I’m lucky to have a man who is accepting of my need to pursue various interests he may not share, and hopefully I am the same with him.

For myself, I was more than ready for retirement and happy to lay down the responsibilities and stresses of my work. I have enough other interests that work wasn’t my identity, and I have plenty to keep me happy and engaged in life. I know it isn’t so with everyone though. Many are ambivalent about retirement and don’t have a lot to fill the spaces that were their work, so the adjustment can be more difficult.

That’s enough deep thinking for one day! Time for more scenery, bugs, and stories about daily life if I can find time between anxiously waiting for grandbabies and preparing for a trip back to the US. If you all want to fill the space meanwhile, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on retirement and relationships. If you are there, how it is working out for you? What have been your biggest challenges?

Here are links to some of the articles I read on this subject.







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A Couple Paintings

Some people have asked to see what I have been working on in painting class lately. I have a grandson and two new granddaughters arriving very soon, so I have been working on gifts for them.

This one is for my California granddaughter. My teacher did a lot of work on the unicorns. They were flat and boring for me, but he is a master at light and shading and used his talents to make them come alive. The rest of the work is mine with many suggestions – more light here, more shade there, more light, more shade. I’m still trying to get it in my head that a painting isn’t exactly reality, and the light and shading that seem like a lot when I’m doing it is what gives it depth and interest.


The second one is for my 2 1/2 year old grandson. My husband had the idea of cars flying through the night sky, my daughter sent pictures of his favorite toys,  and now his toys are flying through the night sky.


The third painting (still is in progress) is for my Seattle granddaughter, a coral reef scene and if I am really ambitious and confident (or with the help of my teacher), a mom and baby mermaid.

I have four other paintings I did earlier and wrote about in this post. I’m somewhat happy with the third, a river scene, and quite happy with the fourth, an idea taken from batik fabric with a fish design. I still feel though that I am learning about the medium and the possibilities, and it’s going to take me a while yet to find my own style, my own voice. There is something that wants to come out but I can’t see it yet. Meanwhile I figure any experience is good so I’ll continue to paint what I find attractive and fun, and try to learn more about light and shading.

I’m sure that’s more than you all wanted to know about my attempts at painting :D

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A Panamanian Artist’s Birthday Party

I’ve been taking painting classes for a little while with Victor Aguirre Chiru at Centro de Arte José Cáceres O. Last weekend was a party for the professor’s birthday and to commemorate 30 years of painting,  and he invited me to come. Of course, I wouldn’t pass this up! He’s a special man and it’s always interesting to see how people here celebrate.

The party was at the restaurant El Rincón Español. They had a room set up, so when enough people had arrived everyone was ushered in to the party room. First, the music teacher spoke and welcomed everyone to the party, said good things about Senor Chirú, and said how happy he was to have everyone there to celebrate this occasion.


Then, the secretary spoke, and read a very detailed and interesting biography of the artist.


Then Senor Chirú himself spoke, saying how happy he was that everyone was there, and how much he enjoyed teaching and sharing art with everyone, young and old. That is one of his paintings behind him.


I didn’t take notes and don’t remember exactly everything that was said or what order things happened, but I think I have the general ideas. Happy Birthday was sung, special music was played for the artist, and then people posed for photos with him in front of his painting.


The artist’s father also spoke. I had a chance to talk with him quite a bit before the party got underway, which was a real pleasure.

There was a cool birthday cake in the shape of an artist’s palette. The 54 is for his age, and the words say – 30 years of painting.


There was music throughout the evening. The young man at the keyboard (visible in some of the other photos) is a student at the school, the son of the secretary, and a very accomplished pianist. The first time I heard him I had to run out of art class to see who was playing so well! The guitar player in the corner is the music teacher, and I don’t know the other two people. The drummer was very interesting. His drum looked like a wooden box that he sat on, and he had castanets on his hands. I’d never seen anything like this but it worked out great.


There was food and wine. Food was brought out a little at a time, first a potato dish and some sinfully delicious seafood balls with cheese, then fried fish bits with a dip, a seafood filled sort of pie or casserole with a crust, and it was all really good. There was a wonderful sangria, bottled red wine, ice water, or you could order anything else from the restaurant staff.

This sweet girl is usually in art class when I’m there. She has learned a lot of English in school and likes to practice it with me. She posed for a photo by the cake so I snapped one of her too.


There was a drawing for one of Chirú’s paintings, and the girl was enlisted to pull the winning card out of the bag.


This woman was the lucky winner of the painting.


Even the little girl got up and spoke about being an art student and how much she appreciated our teacher.


I’ll leave you with a bit of Happy Birthday and other music from the party to listen to while you browse through the pictures.

It was a very fun evening and I was honored to have been invited!




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Three Years in Panama

Three years? How can that be? In a way it seems like I arrived only a short time ago, and in another way it seems like this has been my normal life for quite a while, nothing new, strange, or exotic.

What have I learned and experienced in these three years? A few things come to mind (in no particular order).

  • Life here is pretty darn good! I am thankful that we chose to leave the US rather than seriously downsize or work for another 10 years (probably both). Otherwise we would have missed this wonderful experience.
  • I have learned a new language. Well, sort of. I still don’t always understand, and I could use a lot more vocabulary and straightening out of my grammar but I can communicate. It feels wonderful. I am proud of myself and very thankful for the people who have helped me with much time and patience.
  • I am not scared of “foreign countries”. (Before Panama I had minimal experience outside of the US) One can live in another environment and learn to manage. Some things are different but ultimately it’s just people doing regular things and trying to live happy lives. I imagine this is true anywhere you go. It’s also interesting to look at your home country from a distance. It changes your perspective on a lot of things.
  • There is a whole new world of birds, bugs, plants, food, fiestas, traditions, humor, attitudes, trees, iguanas, flowers, and scenery. Every day has something new and interesting, and it’s very fun.
  • I can kill a chicken. This is the first time I’ve taken the life of anything more substantial than a bug. It was a serious feeling that I’m not sure how to describe yet. Here in Panama though, I feel closer to where my food comes from. I see it growing around me everywhere I look. I think I feel better because of the quality food. I never thought I’d get quite this close to my food but hey, if I’m going to eat it I should have the respect to prepare it with my own hands and realize exactly what this means.
  • Retirement can be really, really busy. The days fly by. I never get everything done. But, the days are filled with activities I choose, not things I must do. When the need to make money is taken off the table it puts your head in a very different place. You can do things for your own pleasure and enrichment and not feel guilty about it.
  • My social life is fine. I wasn’t used to living near my daughters so this hasn’t been a big change. We communicate even more with video chats instead of just the phone. We have moved before so I’m not concerned about making new friends. Here though, it has been easier than ever. I feel more accepted, more included, and have stronger social ties than I have ever had anywhere else. It is odd to feel more at home in a new country than in my home country.
  • It’s pretty cool being a grandma. My grandson gets cuter every day as he talks more and does more things. My first granddaughter is due literally any day, and my other granddaughter is due next month. I’m looking forward to meeting these new children. And, being an adoptee, it’s especially meaningful to be blood related to all these new people.
  • I am learning to paint. I have liked photography for quite a while, but it’s interesting to learn about this new medium which is similar is some ways, but really quite different. You get to create something from nothing, from only a white canvas and some tubes of paint.
  • I have taken up cycling and I really enjoy it. I have learned my way around, made friends all over town, and gotten stronger in the process. I especially enjoy getting out of town and cycling past green fields and beautiful scenery. Maybe it’s my form of meditation because I feel better in mind and body.
  • I want to travel! What else is out there? I want to pack some essentials on my bike and take to the road. Some of my dreams may not be realistic but I did make it to Nicaragua, so who knows what else I could accomplish. Of course there are also planes and buses, and other ways to explore the world and I want to take advantage of them too.
  • This time, this experience is a great gift. We are still young enough and healthy enough to do things. We have the necessary resources to support our lives here. We are in a good place with good people. I wake up every day wondering how I managed to be so fortunate.
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Some Critters, Some Birds

I have been sorting through some photos that have been accumulating over the last few weeks and thought these were fun. I always have a camera nearby because you just never know what you are going to see. (warning, bug pictures coming)


This black and green spotted bug looked even more striking in person but it was a challenge to catch with my camera. If I came close it would go to the back side of whatever it was sitting on. I don’t think I’ve seen another like it before or since.


This tiny praying mantis was on the rainwater bucket one day.


A few of these wild heliconias have taken root in our yard, and now they are making beautiful flowers.


I pass this field anytime I leave our neighborhood. I thought the light gray horse was looking quite pregnant and one day, surprise, a little colt! Usually they retreat to the cool shade of the trees at the back of the field but once in a while you can see them out and about. The little one has been growing fast!

We have at least three of these little yellow headed geckos hanging around our terrace and laundry room. Occasionally we also see one of those speckled geckos. It’s fun to share our space with these little critters.

I planted some squash seeds and ended up with a monster plant that threatened to take over the entire backyard. There wasn’t enough sun for it to make fruit though, so we removed a lot of it and trained a couple runners up on the fence. This part always has its leaves chewed off and one day I spotted the culprits. Here’s a baby iguana in the middle of first picture. Look closely at the second picture though. There’s the baby iguana in the upper left, and another hiding in the leaves towards the lower right! No wonder my squash has no leaves but I do enjoy seeing these green babies.

We see these beautiful crimson backed tanagers fairly often. One day this male (first picture) landed in a tree where he was easily seen, and soon his lady joined him nearby (second picture)

It’s very fun living here. There are birds and bugs and lizards and so many things I’ve never seen before, and it makes every day interesting.

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Just Some Scenery

I went to Volcan and Cero Punta a while back with some friends. It was a pretty, but rainy and hazy day. I was sorting through photos and found a few worth sharing.


This is at Macho de Monte. There is the spectacular river canyon below, but above there is this pretty river flowing over the rocks.


Up in Volcan the mountains were barely visible behind the clouds.

Driving on north of Volcan there were very pretty view of the mountains through the clouds and mist.


Farther up we started to see the vegetable farms on the sides of the mountains.

There is a horse farm on the way to Cero Punta. I’d seen it before but hadn’t seen this many horses out and about. What beautiful animals! They raise racing horses here and word is they are very expensive and get sent to many other countries.

Panama is a really beautiful country!

Posted in Exploring the Area, Panama, photography | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments