Seven Years

Thursday, 7 years ago, I arrived in Panama with my suitcase and my laptop. Friday, I arrived in David to start my new life here. So, I thought I should at least write a few words.

By now, it’s normal daily life that is familiar and routine. But also, still,  there’s always something I don’t know how to do, something I don’t know where to find, and words I don’t know. Some days I wake up and wonder, what am I doing HERE?? This is a *gasp* foreign country with different people, climate, culture, language, wildlife, appearance, vegetation, many many different things. But, it’s also the same. People love their families, care for their kids, go to work, hang out with friends, and deal with the usual chores and hassles of living. They just want to be happy the same as everyone the world over. We all look at the same moon and stars.

There are chores and hassles of living here but there seems to be so much less. For example, our roof in Florida – wood (prone to rot) covered with tar paper and shingles (prone to wearing out in a couple decades, or flying off in a bad storm). Here we have a metal roof, won’t rot, good for many decades, and there aren’t storms that would tear it apart. That’s only one thing.  It never crosses our mind that we will get written up for a lawn not mowed, or we could get shot when we are out and about. I never feel alone either.  Anyone, any stranger on the street will smile, stop to chat, or help if they see a need. I feel good here, almost like the air we breathe has peace and happiness.

All the hassles of moving are pretty much a memory now. The worst was wrapping up the old life, the house, and all the stuff! We accumulated a lot in 17 years in the Florida house. I came here with next to nothing and against instructions, rented an unfurnished house. This means no stove, fridge, nothing. I am still friends with Myrla in the appliance department at the DoIt Center who helped me get everything from a washing machine to pots and pans, all in one evening.! What do you need? Everything! I was here alone (husband was still wrapping things up in the US) and my Spanish wasn’t great, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other. People were so kind and helpful at every step and I managed to put a home together.

People move with nothing, with entire containers of everything they own, and everything in between. I’m glad we came with minimal stuff. It’s hard to know what you will need and what you will use since life here can be quite a bit different. The shoes I brought in my suitcase are molding in the closet because other shoes are much more appropriate (love my Keens sandals that don’t mind getting wet). The humidity is bad for a lot of furniture, and the climate calls for different clothes. It’s just hard to know until you’ve lived here for a bit. And, if it turns out life here isn’t working out, if you have minimal stuff it’s easy to just go somewhere else. I’ve heard a recommendation that you put your stuff in storage for a year if you are having a hard time deciding what to do. This seems sensible to me.

Anyway, I could go on about my life here, thoughts about the moving process, and many other things, but I think this is plenty for the moment. Pretty good huh, when I started out with nothing to say. ha!

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October, Rain, and Downtime

October is said to be the rainiest month, and this October is not disappointing us. It has rained almost every afternoon, sometimes a little, and sometimes a lot! Everything is green and evenings have been cool and gorgeous. Some complain about the humidity but I like it. No skin lotion or chapstick needed here.

It’s really slow season now and we have been enjoying some downtime. The band had a weekend off, and then we played last Friday. It wasn’t a huge crowd but plenty enough people to have a great time. We have just been cancelled for this weekend while the Brewery closes for repairs and remodeling, and then we play every weekend until our late November USA visit. Word is that things are expected to pick up again in November as we go into tourist season. (This is Boquete. David doesn’t change much throughout the year since it isn’t a tourist destination).

Last Friday was great until part way through the first hour when I smelled hot plastic, and then my amplifier quit. It’s quit before, briefly, like it needs cool down time. It doesn’t happen often, maybe every few months,  but enough that we always have a backup standing by, thank goodness! It’s never had the melting plastic smell though and this time it’s very dead, no signs of life. I don’t understand it. I’m never doing anything unusual and warning lights never come on. It just goes dark and silent. I just bought a Peavey bass amp and it’s waiting in the USA, and now I’m especially glad! Reliability is very very important! Meanwhile I’ll be ok with an old but very reliable all purpose generic power amp. That’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about band equipment 😁

So that’s what is inside an amp. The smell is coming from the transformer in the middle with the yellow tape. No, I’m not touching it.

What else? We went out to dinner, very unusual for us since we like our own cooking but sometimes it’s just nice to go out. We went to the new Nationsushi down the street and it was wonderful! They have an extensive menu, the food is excellent, portions are generous, and the prices are reasonable. Google them for locations and a menu.

I should have taken a pic before we dove in, but you get the idea. Pad tai for him, sushi for me.

We apparently have new neighbors 😉  As I left on my bike yesterday I passed these guys a block from our house, in the middle of the neighborhood in a vacant lot. There is no fence and they aren’t tied up so I don’t know what is keeping them from visiting the other yards and nibbling on the flowers, but they were just laying around. They got up to look at me when I stopped but didn’t make a move towards me, and when I returned they were still standing just where they were.

So, that’ pretty much it for the week. Oh, one more thing. I found this YouTube channel where you can watch this adorable Mexican grandma cook food. Here’s one of the videos.

I need to pay attention. Maybe I’ll find some things we can make.

It’s 1PM and I hear the thunder approaching in the distance. Feliz lunes! Hasta pronto.

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Books and Music

When you are retired, what will you DO all day?? This has not been a problem for me. Since the routine things have become so routine, maybe I’ll start talking more about what keeps my interest during my days.

I could start with a trip to Pricesmart. They are repaving the Panamerican, the main and the only road through town in some areas, so it was slow going for a while. But the road looks great where it is finished. Now if only they would please put in some traffic lights, that would be very helpful. Pricesmart is useful for stocking the freezer and other things we like to keep on hand, so we go there maybe once a month.

We also stopped by Alex’s, the produce market down the street because he has very good tomatoes, green peppers, and we usually find other things we like. I also scored some mamonchinos (rambutans) from guys selling them from their truck. They have been especially sweet and yummy this year. Oh also, we took the dog to the vet to get her nails clipped ($3.07). She has dark nails where I can’t see the quick, so I’m afraid to do it myself.

But those are just routine errands. There are many other days when we don’t leave the house. Those are days of mostly music and books. I love audio books because I can listen while I work in the yard or do chores. Music takes tons of time since I’m still new enough on bass that it takes me time to learn new material, and I’m also working very hard on learning to sing. I’ve found tons a resources on YouTube which I think are helping me.

What are my most recent books?

Good book, gave me hope that people can learn and change when given new experiences and opportunities, but it’s also discouraging. Many do not want to get out of their “bubble” of people who think like they do, so their beliefs and “it’s us against them” mentality only gets more and more firmly entrenched. I’m from New York, a multi cultural city of every color, language, and lifestyle so I was pretty shocked when I moved to Arkansas where everyone was so much the same, and there was so much prejudice. I purposely steer clear of politics and religion but in talking about the books I enjoy, you’ll see where I stand. You all are welcome to respectfully disagree but I’m pretty entrenched in my opinions too.

This is a story about a couple people who went to the Museum of Modern art in NY, and their backstories. I was interested because it revolves around Marina Abramovic’s “The Artist is Present” and I find her really fascinating. If they had been visiting for other work that didn’t interest me as much, I probably wouldn’t have been as interested in this book.

The USA has been very successful, but sometimes because of aggressive tendencies that I don’t always admire. Ethics and morality are fluid concepts depending on our interests and goals. I know we often treat people badly, but you’ll hear a lot about that in this book.

Very interesting book. You don’t really understand where it’s going and what points it is trying to make until far into the book, but it’s well written and enjoyable throughout.

It’s interesting how the amazon links display the cover photos on the books and links directly to the site.

And then, What music are we working on now?

This is a nice blues song, not difficult but fun. It’s Stevie Ray Vaughn and Albert King (I love them both) and the music starts about 1 minute in. Depending on this week’s rehearsal, it will either come out this weekend or the next.

In a couple weeks, with any luck, if I get busy, we’ll start puting this one together. There is an announcer who goes on and on but the music starts about 55 seconds in

Chris, our drummer, proposed a Depeche Mode song, so we explored more work of this band and fell in love with them! A couple weeks ago we brought out this one. They have performed it many times, but I think this one is their best and I love the intro

And, this is the most recent one we have brought out.

We have our eyes on more music from this band too. There is just so much good music out there! It’s fun to be in our group where we can go in whatever direction we all decide. We play mostly to Panamanian audiences who enjoy so much of the same music we like, so it’s very fun.

OK, enough for one day! The rain came earlier today so I’ll spend the rest of the afternoon practiving. Hasta pronto (until soon)  Chao

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Rainy Season

Luck is when you go shopping, return home, and unload the car just before the tropical rainstorm hits. We saw it had rained some in spots and we could see the rain in the distance so we figured it was coming, but wow.

Pictures can’t convey the energy of a Panamanian rainstorm. Lightning flashes, thunder booms, and it feels like the heavens are pouring  buckets and buckets of water. It never lasts long though, so if you are out you may as well take shelter for a little while but if you are home, it’s a pleasure to sit on the terrace and enjoy the rain. But, even if you get wet, the rain here is pleasantly warm.

I see these questions on line a lot…

When is rainy season? (April-December with the most rain in October and November)

Does it rain continuously? (No. Usually is starts later in the afternoon and is finished in the early evening, usually, but not always)

We went through a drier spell where there were many days with no rain at all. I heard rumors about an El Niño weather system. We seem to be making up for it now though with more rain, and even one night where it rained through the night and into the morning which is unusual.

Usually though, mornings are sunny and beautiful, or if we are lucky, a bit overcast and cooler, and then the rains come later in the day. Evenings are humid from the rain but pleasantly cool (in my opinion, cool is relative 😁).

Dry season is December – April. The rains stop, trade winds blow, and everything gets brown and crispy. The weather gets hotter and hotter until by March we are begging for rainy season. I prefer the rainy season when everything is lush and green, but I don’t have to work outside in the wet and mud like many people.

It’s been about an hour now and the rain has almost stopped, and the thunder is only rumbles in the distance. La vida buena en Panama.

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Life is a Video Game

and here are the cheat codes….

I’ve been saving this article to share because I thought it was cool and had some good ideas. It is written by Mark Manson, author of Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope. Reviews of the book are mixed but maybe the article is the short version of the good stuff. I haven’t read the book but if you have, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.

I read quite a bit and have been thinking maybe I should comment on some of the books I read. What do you DO all day when you are retired??! I read, garden, play music, hang out, bug my friends…. blogging about daily life isn’t as interesting any more because not much is new and interesting to me, but I can write about what does occupy me.

Anyway, I am still alive and well, just busy with other things and not thinking about writing as much.

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Daily Life

What do you say when you aren’t doing anything interesting? It’s easy to forget that daily life is interesting to other people who wonder what it’s like to live here.

It’s rainy season but we had a dry spell for many days. More normal weather seems to have returned now with rain in the late afternoon and/or early evening most days. Everything still grows like crazy though so I took advantage of the dry time for my favorite pastime, yard work. I still have to explain occasionally that it’s my therapy and that’s why I don’t hire it out.

The water has been a problem for 2-3 weeks now and we have only had water for a few hours a day, at most (and which hours are anybody’s guess). As usual, nobody knows what is going on, but I have heard rumors about major work at the water plant that supplies us. I am very very thankful that we have a water tank so it doesn’t inconvenience us.

If the water is out for more than a day or so, a water truck comes around to fill any container you provide. Our neighbor, a smart and capable guy, built a pipe extending to the street so the water truck can use it to fill their tank. We were ok with half a tank left, but he has a busy house with adult kids and school age grandkids so he was happy to have a full tank.

The water came back later that night. It’s been on all last night and today, so maybe they are done working for a while?

They are building a huge new mall nearby, so the other day I biked over to see what was going on. Word is that most of the work is going on inside now, and finish date is still expected to be this December. Google “Federal Mall Chiriqui” if you want to know more and see projections for the finished mall. It’s HUGE!

The country has discontinued the use of plastic bags. The bags get everywhere, in the trash, beside the roads, and in the waterways so I think this is a great move. Canvas bags,  and more recently, biodegradable bags are available in the supermarkets. We were given a biodegradable bag at the hardware store yesterday for our purchases.

What else? A couple more pictures of things around town –

So, that’s kind of what goes on here, daily life, shopping , errands and household chores, working in the yard, seeing friends, riding my bike, some on line correspondence and activities, and practicing music.

Last, but definitely not least, I never get tired of seeing all the beauty around us and a view of Volcán Barú, our nearby volcano, is always exciting.

La vida difícil en Panama 😊

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Must See Webinars about Residency Visas in Panama

We love our attorney. He guided us expertly through the whole residency process, and has done the same for many other expats who also love him. All attorneys are not equal, and it’s critical that you have a good one to avoid the many possible hiccups and complications that could cause more time, expense, and frustration.

Photo blatantly lifted from his website 🤓

His website

Marcos contacted me yesterday to tell me about some upcoming webinars, and I have to share them here because I’m sure those of you considering Panama as your future home will find them useful and informative.

Friendly Nations Visa August 22nd, 1PM Panama time

Retiree/Pensionado Visa August 23rd, 1PM Panama Time.

So, now you know, so you can get registered. If you can’t make it, check Marcos’s website above for a lot of good information and then get in touch with him to start moving forward.

As a tourist (from most countries) you can stay in Panama for 180 days, but it’s much more complicated to impossible to live here long term as a tourist. It’s better for many reasons, including your peace of mind, to get legal.  I really appreciate Marcos and his team.

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Buying Produce in Panama

We are fortunate to live in Chiriqui. Not only is it really beautiful, but most of the produce for the country is grown in the highlands above us. There are produce markets all over town, and you can often find people selling produce from the backs of trucks.

Enrique comes through our neighborhood every week with his truck loaded with fruit and vegetables. He knows what we like so he saves choice heads of brócoli, green beans, and passion fruits which he knows I love. Yesterday everything looked so good I bought more than I should have but we will eat very well this week.

What is all that?
1/2 of a big pumpkin/squash
2 medium size pineapples
3 beets
3 pounds of onions
3 pounds of potatoes
4 large tomatoes
3 small peppers
3 heads of garlic
2 papayas
1 large cauliflower
2 brócoli
1 bag green beans (guessing 2-2 1/2 pounds)
8 large passion fruit
1 head of lettuce
3 large cucumbers

$33.50, delivered to the door with a smile. He gets up at 3AM and drives to the mountains to pick out the best produce, and then spends his days driving around town selling it. If I need something between visits, all I have to do is let him know and he’ll bring it by. He also educates me on how to recognize the freshest and best tasting things, and how Panamanians eat and cook the various fruits and vegetables. I might be able to shop around for better deals but I love the convenience and personal attention.

Living here is much less expensive, and the biggest savings are in housing and locally grown food. I think I feel better here too because of all the fresh fruits and vegetables. Now it’s time for lunch, to enjoy some of this, and practice up for for a busy weekend with the band. Salud!

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A Nightmare, Lost Passport

I had a nightmare last week. My purse was lost. I couldn’t find it anywhere, and it contained my wallet with my passport and all my ID cards. I was thankful to wake up and put my hands on my passport. Without that, you can’t leave the country, and I don’t know what happens in the country if you need to produce ID and you have none.

It was only a bad dream for me, but it was a reality for a friend. He (Panamanian) and his wife and two young kids (USA citizens) were traveling from their home in California to visit family here in Chiriqui. Somewhere between Panama City and David, his fanny pack containing some cash and all the passports was lost, probably while getting off the bus with all the kids and luggage.

What followed was a series of text messages between us. His wife tried unsuccessfully to contact the US embassy by phone and email, and they were unable to find an embassy warden in this area. She didn’t want to go to Panama City because there is a checkpoint in Guabala, and she was now without her passport/ID. When she finally was able to talk with someone, she was told she was here illegally without a passport. “So, deport us!”

He, being Panamanian, figured it was less risky for him to go to the embassy in Panama City. There were no appointments available in the upcoming days so he just showed up, telling them it was an emergency.

The next message said he got to the embassy, paid, and they would have emergency passports when he showed up with the family in a week. He said it’s highly recommended to have social security numbers of the children when traveling. It was not said, but implied to him that they would have some sort of emergency permission for the children to travel even without their social security numbers.

The next message was a few days later. He had passports in hand good for a year, but children’s passports were only good for a few days, just until a day after their flight back to the USA.

The last message was “back home”, and they had all made it safe and sound. Whew!

What a stressful hassle!! I’m sure you can all imagine. The US embassy in Panama City is here to help US citizens with anything they need, but outside of Panama City it isn’t always easy to get things done with them. I’ve never tried the emergency number but I know regular calls are only answered during certain limited hours on certain days.

So, I would say, have copies of all your IDs and documents somewhere, preferably on line where you can get to them from anywhere, just in case everything you carry is gone. This includes credit cards and phone numbers for banks, and phone numbers for emergency contact people. In this day of smart phones, how many of us can remember anyone’s phone number?! And, don’t have all your cash in one place or rely on only one credit card.

And, GUARD YOUR PASSPORT with your life!! I’ll be happy to listen to anyone else’s story about a lost passport, but even happier to know this hasn’t happened to anyone else.

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Looking Back at the Old Life in the USA

I was raised in the USA and lived there my whole life. I’m sure that describes a lot of you too. I’d barely been out of the country and I believed what we were taught, that the USA is the greatest country in the world and it’s people are the best of the best.

It has been very interesting to look at the USA from the outside, through the eyes of my Panamanian friends. Many things are different here, but not worse and many things are better, in my opinion. I love how the locals don’t stress nearly as much, and how kind and respectful they are of everyone regardless of the many things (looks, age, ethnicity, economic status, etc etc) that we often use to evaluate people in the USA.

But, we are still aware of what happens in the USA. Even if I don’t follow the news (on purpose) I hear about it. Why are people in your country shooting people? Why is your president doing (insert news of the day)? Why do they want a Wall? Why do they hate Mexicans? Muslims? Guatemalans? Why this? Why that?

Why are there people living in the streets? This is a problem that especially tugs at my heart. Some thoughts from my bike trip – Or for a number of past posts

Even those who aren’t homeless, so many struggle. The American dream – work hard, get an education, get a good job, make sensible decisions, and be set for life – that doesn’t work for more and more people. A classmate of my daughter with a PhD in Physics looked for a year before she found a job. I recently came across these articles. Crushing student loan debt – And an endless unsuccessful search for a job –

Then, of course, there is the recent news about yet more mass shootings and I worry. I may have left the US but my children, grandchildren, and many people I care about are there. I am thankful every day for this life we have here. Yes we have made good decisions but we are also incredibly lucky. I just hope things in the USA will turn in a better direction and good people who are doing their best will have it a little better.

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