Panama Coffee

First, before I forget, thank you to whomever used my link (https://panamarelocationtours.com/?ref=7) to buy spots on a Panama Relocation Tour. I’m an affiliate and the payment came at the perfect time to pay for my website hosting. The PRT business has been around for many years and has a well deserved, excellent reputation. If you want to know more, read this post and all the comments https://blog.thepanamaadventure.com/2018/01/19/panama-relocation-tours/

Today though, coffee is on my mind since my plant bloomed, and we just had a big fair in Boquete. Wonderful coffee is grown in the mountains right above us. The climate and growing conditions are good so there are many coffee farms here. A number of them also give coffee tours which are very interesting. The plants are beautiful with glossy, dark green leaves and fragrant flowers, or when the time is right, red berries that contain the coffee beans. I even have my own coffee plant! I don’t expect to be harvesting coffee but it’s interesting and very pretty.

Geisha coffee is also grown here. It is the most unique and expensive coffee in the world! This article here explains it much better than I can. https://coffeeaffection.com/geisha-coffee/ The geisha plants are slow growing, don’t produce much, and are fussy about their growing conditions but the coffee they produce is unlike any other coffee.

Geisha coffee price set a record a couple years ago, $2560/pound! https://www.newsroompanama.com/business/surreal-panama-geisha-coffee-tops-2500-a-pound Can you imagine how you would feel if you grew and sold this coffee!

Here are a couple YouTubers I follow discussing Geisha coffee

Coffee is a big deal here in the Chiriqui highlands! They have a big fair every year to celebrate. This year’s fair just ended on Sunday and there were tons of visitors, loud music well into the night, and many happy people. And, of course, it’s a huge economic boost to the town. Our band played in Boquete on Sunday night. There were big busses from all over the country parked everywhere, lots of cars, many people on foot, and a wonderful, enthusiastic crowd at our gig so we had a blast. https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/boquete-flower-and-coffee-fair-marks-50-years

We are into the tourist season now, so hopefully we’ll have more fun band nights ahead. When the holidays are over and it’s cold up north, people come down to enjoy the warm weather. Boquete is a tourist and expat destination so you’re likely to meet people from all over the world. We prefer to live at a lower, warmer elevation but we’re happy to be close enough to Boquete to enjoy times up there.

Posted in Panama | 7 Comments

Summer Flowers

it’s summer here with hot days, cooler nights, and minimal rain. You can see the change of season in the trees and plants. This mango tree looks like it’s covered with fur, but those are actually clusters of little mango flowers. You can see the clusters better on the tree in the second picture. A few trees are starting to have fruit, and by April and May there should be many varieties of mangoes ready to enjoy.

The bougainvillea are really beautiful in the summer. We’re already seeing some of them busting out with flowers. They come in a variety of colors, and these are just a couple I passed on my way home.

We also have cashews here. They are just beginning to flower, and with any luck cashew apples will follow, each with a cashew nut on the end. There has been some kind of sickness the last couple years so there have been no cashews. The trees are looking better so hopefully they are recovered. The flowers and good looking leaves look like a good sign.

There is a surprising amount and variety of citrus here. Oranges are plentiful and inexpensive. I bought 16 big ones from our veggie guy for $2, or you can buy bags of 50 smaller ones for I think, $6-8? I don’t buy them because it’s more than we can use. Grapefruit are really good right now too. Our chicken guy has a tree and too much fruit so he brings me a sack full when he comes. Our veggie guy usually has some for, if I remember, 6/$1. I never knew there was such a variety of lemons either. Our tree is loaded with green lemons with beige patches and orange insides. They have a lot of juice and I really like them. The neighbor behind has a tree of the little key limes. This tree is on a vacant lot in the neighborhood. The fruit looks like grapefruit but they are actually lemons with edible skin, and a flavor very much like the lemons we are used to buying in the USA.

I rode past this pretty spot the other day. That is Volcan Baru in the background, our volcano and highest spot in Panama. The vine climbing up the tree covered with purple flowers, I’ve seen a field nearby totally covered with these flowers. Maybe it will happen again this year.

Something I really love in summer is the guayacan trees. When they are in full bloom they are spectacular! They come in yellow, pink, and white. The yellow ones seem to be the most prevalent and are just starting to bloom now. In the first picture one is just starting to bloom behind a mango tree. The reddish color is new leaves.

Last but not least, a couple horses decided to wander the neighborhood.

So this is a bit of what we are seeing around here these days. Keep in mind that we are at sea level. The climate is different in the mountains so they tend to have different things growing and a bit more rain. Up there the flowers are even more spectacular. We live in such a beautiful country.

Posted in Panama | 10 Comments

It’s a New Year

What is it going to be? What is it going to bring?

Hopefully COVID is mostly in the rear-view mirror, though of course it’s still a concern along with flu and the other usual illnesses. Economic concerns are still very much a thing as the fed tries to control inflation, the housing market reels from interest rate changes, investments are shrinking, etc. etc. And these are concerns for people who actually have houses and investments. As prices continue to rise, just the basics of food and shelter get farther out of reach for many.

I know, there have always been problems and challenges and somehow, we get through them. But for me, now, I enjoy being farther away. There are many days I don’t even want to flip through the news headlines. Then there are other days when I realize that there is so much to be done, so much need, and I’m sitting here on my behind watching the bananas grow when I could be much more useful.

My head is in a weird place at the moment. I’m thrilled to see the beautiful new baby next door, a perfect little boy being welcomed into a family who loves him very much. I love calling his happy grandma abuela (grandma) and watching her big smile. The occasional baby cries remind me of this new life who is our future.

On the other hand, I’m really sad to learn that two Florida friends died on New Year’s Eve. The one I have known for decades lost a long and painful battle with cancer. His wife is a close friend and I hate to think how hard this has been and is now for her. I definitely didn’t feel in a celebratory mood this New Year’s Eve.

I must be getting to that age that you hear about, when you start losing friends. My friends from my New York days have all passed on. I’ve lost some of my Florida friends, and almost all of the others who are still here have had significant health challenges. Here in Panama it’s more of the same. Some expats have left the area, which is to be expected as needs and desires change. But, a number of others have died, including a couple young, strong Panamanian men which has left their families devastated. It’s a weird feeling to have lost so many friends and acquaintances. Am I next?

But, on the very bright side, I have gained three sisters and I’m working on getting to know a large extended family of husbands, nieces, nephews, cousins, and many grandkids. It’s been a dream for a long time, but the reality has exceeded all expectations as I have been welcomed with open arms and open hearts.

And, most important, both of us here are healthy. We don’t have the stamina and resilience we had in our younger years, but we are still able to do pretty much everything we wish. We’re healthy, we have wonderful family and friends, and we live in a place where we are really happy. There is difinitely a lot to celebrate as we go into this new year.

That’s enough deep thinking for one day! Going forward, we’re expecting just our usual lives, except maybe the weather. It’s dry season now but we have had a couple good rains in the last week, and it’s raining lightly right now. I don’t enjoy summer when everything gets brown and crispy so if it wants to rain now and then, this is fine with me. Rumors are that because of climate change, this could happen more often this summer.

It will be interesting to see what this year brings. “The future’s uncertain and the end is always near” (Roadhouse Blues, the Doors) As a nurse I definitely learned this lesson. Live today, do it now, pay attention to your people, don’t put things off for a better time because you just never know. As always, take care of yourselves and each other.

Posted in Panama | 12 Comments

Not Much

Not much is going on around here, which is a good thing. We read about terrible weather in the USA, travelers stranded everywhere, and some personal friends are having a very difficult holiday season. We count our blessings every day that there isn’t much going on here.

Volcan Baru is the highest point in Panama. I believe it’s considered an active volcano but thankfully, nothing has happened for 400+ years and there are no signs of trouble coming. I went out on my bike on Christmas eve and this was the view from down the street from our neighborhood.

I think I mentioned in the past that my avocado tree was flowering, but I didn’t think it made any fruit. I said that I am considering cutting it down if it doesn’t fruit this year. It must have been listening. My neighbor spotted this one solitary avocado high up in the tree! Maybe the flowers that are on the tree currently will result in more fruit in a few months. We will see.

Also, in the trees beside our house, I heard a laughing falcon. It seems like you can hear them calling to each other from miles away because they are so loud! I caught a picture of this one sitting on a branch just before he flew away. I also spotted a squirrel on a tree. Look for the black patch in the middle of the photo. Our squirrels are fairly large and black, though this one seems to have a lighter patch on his shoulders. When I first arrived, I bought them some peanuts which were totally ignored. These squirrels eat any fruit they can find. The birds are similar and ignored the birdseed I bought them. But give them papayas and other fruit and you’ll have many very happy birds.

It’s a dog’s life. ha! She used to be a street dog, but I think she prefers to being a family dog. When I go to my room to practice my bass, she’s either behind the door like this or in the closet.

Last, but definitely not least, I’ve never seen this, baby clothes drying on the other side of our fence! My neighbor has been really really excited to become a grandmother. Yesterday morning, as soon as I emerged from the house, she called me over to tell me the baby arrived in the early morning and to show me pictures of him on her phone. The excitement is contagious! I’ve been anxiously waiting for news also. It won’t be long before we’ll hear a baby in the house, and later on there will be a little boy running around. What a blessing for a baby to arrive in a family where he will be so loved and well cared for.

So, that’s the life of a couple old, boring gringos in Panama in the summer. I hope you all are doing ok out there and are having a good holiday season, as much as possible in whatever circumstances you find yourselves in. Take care of yourselves and each other!

Posted in Panama | 6 Comments

Christmas Festivities in Boquete

The band has a standing date to play every Sunday evening at the Boquete Brewing Company. When we arrived last Sunday, we didn’t realize there was a Christmas parade planned for that evening. We were told to go ahead and play. The 6pm (also our start time) parade wasn’t expected to start on time and sure enough, we played for over an hour before the first of the parade passed by.

The brewery is on the main street, and we play on the terrace. My spot is by the outside railing next to the street, so it was a perfect place to watch the parade. I took some videos and planned to stich them together, but you can no longer do that on YouTube. I downloaded iMovie where I managed to make that happen, but I didn’t have enough space to save it. So, I deleted videos thinking I could easily download them again from YouTube. You need a paid subscription to do that… 🙄 So long story short I have these clips to share and if you want to see more, the other clips are on my YouTube channel.

Find your headphones and turn up your sound if you want anything close to the full effect. Those bass drums are loud, and they drum with much enthusiasm. It was really fun to see the whole parade. There were floats, lights, music, bubbles, candy being tossed into the crowd, and lots of people out enjoying the evening.

Then, after the parade was finished, we went back to playing. There were still many people in the street, the brewery was full, people were in a party mood, and it was a fantastic evening. You can hear people singing along and cheering between songs. I wish I had a different video setup so you could see the crowd but since I’m busy playing, an iPad on a stand next to me is about as fancy as it gets. This is our second set after the parade. If you want to hear more, there are more videos on my channel.

Sometimes you don’t know when a really good time is right around the corner! Christmas in general is fun here. It’s warm summer weather without rain, so people are free to go out in the evenings without getting wet. There are lots of beautiful light displays, and shopping is a big thing so don’t go to the stores in December if you can avoid it. The height of the celebration is Christmas eve. People gather for parties, music, happiness, and lots and lots of fireworks climaxing at midnight. Then, people go indoors for a dinner of traditional food, presents, and greetings by phone for anyone not present. Christmas day is quiet because everyone is recovering from all the partying the night before. New Years is very much the same with festivities climaxing at midnight.

Since Christmas and New Years fall on Sunday this year, the brewery is closed and we are on break. We’ll relax and do things at home, and there’s always a list of new songs we want to learn.

If you are local, there is a big benefit event coming up on Saturday, January 7th. Come out and enjoy music, food, friends, and help support the foundation that cares for needy dogs and cats in the area. (we are the opening band, and start at 2pm)

Then, starting Sunday January 8th we’ll be back to our usual Sunday evening gigs.

Happy Holidays, and good luck to you all in the USA. Your weather predictions sound really bad. Stay warm and safe!!

Posted in Panama | 11 Comments

Family Visits in the USA

We were gone for a while visiting family and it was wonderful! I feel so fortunate that I can go back 3-4 times a year and with video chats between visits, we stay in close touch. I’ve had many ask if my family visits here. They work full time, the kids are young, and it’s a two day trip each way so it’s much more sensible for us to travel to them. And, we also get a reality check about life in the US.

Connections never seem to work out so there is usually a night in Panama City on either end. The Riande is familiar and comfortable with nice people, beautiful grounds, on site restaurant, and comfortable rooms so we haven’t been motivated to explore other options. Well… we used to stay in the Hotel Express Inn near the airport but no more of that. At my age I’ll spend a bit more money to be comfortable.

First stop was Seattle. The granddaughters change so much in even a few months, and it’s exciting to see them grow and learn and do new things. I feel like that after every visit I come home saying the was the best visit yet. It was cold so we didn’t go out as much as some other visits, but we did get out of the house a few times. (Everyone thought “the Panamanians” were pretty funny the way we bundled up). The fall colors were really beautiful as you can see from the picture out their back door and another in front of a neighbor’s house. We narrowly escaped the snow that came a few days later, enough to shut down school one day.

On Thanksgiving Day we all flew down to Santa Rosa to see my other daughter. It was SO awesome to see everyone together! This was the first time since before COVID, but the kids jumped right in to having fun like they’d never been apart. We all played in the house, in the playgrounds in the park across the street, and in the yard. The California in-laws had us all for dinner at their house and also visited my daughter’s house several times. It was like a big extended weekend of playtime for all of us! I looked at those four beautiful children, all of my grandchildren together and about melted into a puddle. We were too busy playing to take many more pictures on the rest of the trip.

We stayed in CA for a few more days and then, it was off to Tulsa. My family has grown considerably since finding my sisters! I’m still a bit overwhelmed by the kindness and love they have shown me. Joel was with me this time so they all got to meet each other. And, my cousin Kim also came for a few days! I’ve known her the longest and we have talked quite a bit, so it was awesome to finally meet in person.

My objective this time was to learn about all my nieces and nephews. My oldest sister has 3 sons, two married with kids, the third just finishing college. My middle sister has 3 sons also, all married with kids. And my youngest sister has a son and a daughter, and I got to meet both of them, his wife, and her three grandkids which was awesome. Three sisters, eight nieces and nephews, and many grandkids, yes my family has definitely become considerable larger! We haven’t even started to learn about the grandkids, or the spouses, or other relatives who may be out there. But little by little I’ll learn more on each visit, and hopefully meet more of my extended family. Of course, the best was time with my mother, sisters, and my cousin! Now that we have known each other for a while, we are more comfortable and I’d enjoy their company even if we weren’t related. It’s still somewhat overwhelming though, all these people I’m connected with. I’ve never had nieces and nephews until my sister’s grandson was born a few months ago, and I’ve never had cousins.

We were sure tired when we got back! We were up at 4:30 AM both Tuesday and Wednesday to make our flights, and we ran all over the Panama City airport. The new terminal is open so now there is Terminal 1, and Terminal 2 with baggage claim and immigration in each. We landed in Terminal 1 so we started there, but the sign at the top of the stairs going to baggage claim and immigration said no baggage there. It’s all in Terminal 2. So, we walk all the way over there to find guy at the top of the stairs who said that was only for Copa flights (we arrived on United). He scanned our baggage tags and located them back in Terminal 1. Sure enough, at the bottom of the stairs was a sign saying Copa baggage was in Terminal 2. So, do not believe the sign at the top of the stairs. 🙄

But anyhow, we got our luggage, got on the Riande van and settled in at the hotel for another nice evening. The early mornings though, the stress of travel, the running around, and I’m not good at sleeping on planes where you are packed in like sardines, yeah we were dead tired and happy we didn’t have to do anything for a few days at home.

We left in the rainy season. We were getting so much rain that it hard to do anything at all outside and the yard was becoming terribly overgrown. We returned in the dry season, which I was told arrived abruptly two days before. Days were totally dry, sunny, and breezy with maybe some cloud cover but not a drop of rain. It did allow me to start tackling the yard though. The band was also getting back to work on our usually Sunday evening gig, and we were both super happy to find we hadn’t forgotten how to play. Usually I notice that after a break, I come back refreshed and better than before. I hadn’t even forgotten how to play on my new 5-string bass. It’s now Monday and last night went very well, and it was a pleasure to load in and out in dry weather.

It always feels strange to spend time in one world, and then after some travel time land in a different world. The USA had all the usual differences that I notice. It’s expensive, it’s organized and manicured, people keep their distance and don’t greet others. There are tons of stores, restaurants, and endless stuff to buy. It’s convenient to know where to buy things in the well-stocked, predictable stores but good heavens, there’s just so many stores and so much stuff! It’s cold and thermal underwear is a great goodness. Between the low humidity outside and heating in the house, even with lotion and lip balm, I felt like I had alligator skin by the time we got back. But all that fades in importance when I can be with my people!

Now we are back to our usual life in Panama minus the rain. It’s now Wednesday. You wouldn’t think it takes a week to write a blog post. I don’t know what happens but I keep busy and the days fly by. I have plenty of things to keep me occupied and life now is lived at a much slower pace than it was when I was working, so it’s pretty darn nice.

Posted in Panama | 2 Comments

Hope in Colon, Panama

It’s time to watch some videos! Get a coffee and a comfortable spot and let’s learn a bit about Colon.

I talked a bit about VGIRL TV’s YouTube channel in my last post. https://blog.thepanamaadventure.com/2022/10/18/brighten-a-kids-christmas-in-colon/ Because of her, I’ve learn a lot about her family home, Colon, Panama. Colon is at the north end of the Panama Canal. The Free Trade Zone is there, one of the biggest Free Trade Zones in the world (https://kiiky.com/wealth/panama-free-zone/) It’s also a cruise ship port. One would think it’s a happening place of great importance to the country, but apparently it is quite the opposite and gets minimal support from the government.

I’ve been through there a couple times and remember a lot of elegant buildings that are falling into ruin, a lot of trash in the streets, and a lot of black people out and about. But our perception is not the whole picture so let’s see what is said by the people who live there and love it. This video is from a couple years ago.

Then, watch just a little of this video. She is supporting someone who is getting involved in politics to help improve the lives of people in Colon. He also has a foundation to help kids with extra instruction, activities, and support. At 4:20 she talks a bit about the man, at 5:38 what he does in the community, and at 6:00 the toy drive he is organizing.

Then, I found this video where she interviews Delano. He talks about the culture, history, problems, poverty, and challenges facing the people in Colon.

Then, I happened across this other video of a guy walking around Colon. It’s interesting that he also says the government must help these people. They are just trying to survive and don’t have the resources to clean up and restore this city. According to Delano (video above) their minimum wage is the same as it was literally decades ago and if things were tough then, we can imagine how much worse it is now at today’s prices.

Here’s a taste of what it’s like in Colon. Us gringos and expats usually don’t spend time there, and maybe we only see it if we are passing through.

If you want to do something nice for the kids there, don’t forget the Christmas Toy Drive in progress. https://www.gofundme.com/f/christmas-gifts-for-children-in-colon

Banner photo from http://madaboutpanama.com/panama-sights/colon/

Posted in Panama | 2 Comments

Brighten a Kid’s Christmas in Colon

I have an idea for a wonderful Christmas present, something truly in the spirit of Christmas giving.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/christmas-gifts-for-children-in-colon

I’ve been watching VGIRL TV on YouTube for a while. She’s a young mother who lives in Panama City. She talks about what’s going on in the city and in the country. Sometimes we follow her around as she lives her daily life. Sometimes she interviews people about interesting social and cultural topics, or she tells us about people who have impacted her. I’m an old white lady so learning about the concerns of a young black woman trying to make her way in the world has been very interesting. It doesn’t hurt that she has a cool son and the cutest baby girl ever.

Lately I’ve been watching some of her videos about Colon, her family home. Colon is not the most respected part of Panama. But, when you see it through the eyes of the people who live there, you can see it differently. Many of the people are black, English speaking people who came from the Caribbean islands to help build the canal. The area looks very depressed with beautiful, elegant buildings that have fallen into disrepair. The people are poor and don’t have the means to do more than just survive. They feel very abandoned by the government who does next to nothing to help and support them.

I have learned a lot about Colon from Shana (VGIRL), and I’ll be writing a more in-depth article very soon. But right now, this is about the kids and the upcoming holidays. Christmas is a really big deal in Panama, and can you imagine how sad you would be if you couldn’t afford to buy your kids anything for Christmas? Shana is organizing a toy drive to help as many kids as possible.

If you donate through the GoFundMe page, your money will be used to buy useful and delightful gifts for the kids. If we all work together, we can make this happen! $5, $10, it doesn’t have to be a lot. Even a few dollars can buy a book, some crayons, a doll, or a ball.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/christmas-gifts-for-children-in-colon

Thank you so much! The people in Colon are strong, loving people struggling to survive with very little support. Your gift will not only put a smile on the face of a child, but it will also tell the people that some stranger out there in the world cares about them which, IMO, is equally important. Sometimes a little ripple spreads out and becomes a big thing, so let’s spread good things.

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

A Few More Things

In my last post I was thinking about what has changed for me in the ten years since I moved here. I forgot to mention the things I used to take for granted. You open the faucet and expect water to come out. Here in Panama, however, this is often not the case. We have learned to save water, to shower at midnight when the water is on, and use very little water when it’s not (which is a good idea all the time too). I have bathed in water dripping from the roof, which is surprisingly cold. Many use nearby rivers but I’m too lazy to trek down to ours. We have installed a reserve tank and pump so it’s not a problem anymore, but even that isn’t a guarantee. Twice our house (which at the end of the line) had the meter clogged with mud and debris so the water couldn’t flow. The first time we contacted the water company and nothing happened, and we were without water for a week. Then we learned it’s best to call a plumber and he had it going that day. Whew. You don’t realize how much you depend on having clean water available! When we are without it makes me think of all the people in the world who never have clean water.

We’re in the city of David so our other utilities are pretty reliable, but that isn’t the case everywhere. Many have to deal with frequent power and internet outages. Our roads are pretty good all the way to our house but in many areas, roads are bumpy and in poor repair. There are even roads that are one lane now because part of the other lane washed out. We’re used to our roads but it’s always a surprise to go back to the US and see all the well maintained roads with curbs, painted lines, road signs, streetlights, and no potholes. We’re just starting to get some street signs here and more traffic lights are badly needed.

We take all our fresh produce for granted here. We go back to the US and there is SO much of everything. Would you like big carrots, small ones, orange, white, purple, organic? Everything looks perfect and costs a lot. Here it may not be perfect but it’s fresh, delicious, and locally grown. Enrique comes to our house every week with his truck loaded with whatever he bought early that morning. This was $24 last week – (from the left) cucumbers, tomatoes, mamon chinos (rambutans), potatoes, cauliflower, onions, beets, brocoli, lettuce, carrots, green beans, chayote (a summer squash type veggie), zapayo (a winter squash type veggie), and bananas.

I haven’t tormented you all with bugs and wildlife for a while. I spend a lot of time in my “outside office” and see a lot of visitors, especially at night. This really pretty bug was here the other night. I used to have a lizard that visited every night looking for the bugs that came to my desk lamp. While we were gone my neighbor cared for the dog and the house, and turned off every light, every power strip, everything! 🙄 When we came back, I didn’t see any more of the lizard. But the other night, this smaller, different one showed up so maybe he’ll be back and I’ll have another desk lizard.

We’ve been really busy with the music. Chris, our drummer, has been away and the venue said they’d rather have us as a duo than replace us with another band. So, we had to hustle and put together evenings with midi backing tracks and the drum machine. We use both at home for practice but to play in public, we had to be super organized so everything would run smoothly. This is where we play. The first picture is the venue, the Boquete Brewing Company, pretty wet with rain but people were still coming out to enjoy the evening which we appreciated. The second is our stage setup ready to go.

Last week I tried video recording us and it came out better than I expected. Chris is back now and will be with us this weekend, so we are very happy. I’ll have to try recording us again with all of on stage.

Since our band is Monkey Nerve with the three of us, I figured Dos Monos (Two Monkeys) would work for the duo. Monkey Nerve is that nerve in your body that when you hear fun music, it makes your body twitch, your feet tap, and you have to start dancing.

It’s been raining so much here! I wish we could share with all the people who are drying up for lack of rain. It’s been raining here all afternoon so when you are finished rehearsing, what do you do? I’m in my “outside office” writing to you all in my blog. 😊

In a few months we will be begging for rain. I’m glad we are mostly home so it’s easy for us to relax and enjoy these rainy afternoons.

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

Ten Years

Ten years ago, I got on a plane bound for Panama with a suitcase and a laptop bag. I had little idea what the future would hold. Ten years later I’m still here with Joel in the same city and in the same house, and I can say it worked out better than I ever imagined.

We didn’t do it “right” and explore multiple locations and spend lots of time staying in our favorites. We spent five days in Panama City – the country felt good but at our age, that was too much city. Then, we decided to try the next biggest city, David. We spent five days here and it looked like it would work for us. Decision made. What’s the worst that could happen? We would change our minds and try something else. We had gotten rid of almost all of our stuff so we were free and flexible. But, it worked out and we are happy here.

What has changed in ten years? My Spanish wasn’t very good when I arrived. I could ask basic questions and sometimes understand the answers but it was a struggle. I’ll never be 100% or say everything correctly, but now it’s much easier. I am confident that I can start a conversation with anybody and get along fairly well. This is huge because anything else that is difficult, you can ask these kind and helpful people and they will do their best for you.

We are much better at getting things done, now that we have done most things before. We know how to pay the light bill or renew the tags for the car, all those chores that need to be done wherever you live. But when you come here you have to learn new procedures, and sometimes these procedures can look confusing and inefficient to us. You have to learn where to look for things you need to buy, and where you find them may not make any sense to you. But in time, everything becomes more familiar and less stressful.

We are much more settled in. At first, we made many “field trips” to explore other areas in our new country. Now we have seen pretty much everything we think we need to see. Also, COVID taught us that we can spend months and months at home without a problem (well maybe it’s a problem because afterward it’s harder to get yourself OUT of the house 😯) but we are less driven to go out and do things and we are more content to just enjoy ordinary days.

We have learned SO much! At first everything was new, the food, the plants, the bugs, birds, jokes, greetings, everything! Now I pretty much know which fruits are what and which ones I like. I know how to get things done, or who to ask if I need help with something. Greeting people on the street is second nature. I have learned many of the local recipes, I have grown local food plants and flowers, and I have killed and cleaned a chicken (and made it into dinner). I’ve gone places and done things I never would have done or experienced in my previous life.

And, very interesting, I’ve looked at the USA through the eyes of my Panamanian friends. The USA is seen as a goal, a mecca of opportunity where you can earn good money. They believe what they see on TV and what they hear from people who have visited there. They often don’t understand that it will take every bit of that higher paycheck and more just to survive. You can’t walk into a public clinic and get seen right away for a few dollars. You can’t expect everybody to treat you with kindness and respect when they see your brown skin and hear you speaking with an accent. Many are surprised when I tell them that there are many things that are better in Panama. I love how the Panamanians love to laugh, how they love their family and friends, and how enjoying life is more important that working like crazy. They work hard and often put in long hours for not much money, but it seems like they usually enjoy their work and the people they interact with on the job. I used to tell people “don’t work too hard” and get puzzled looks in response. Life here just seems more relaxed and fun, and we appreciate the strong feelings of community. There are obvious and subtle cultural differences that I find very interesting, and I’ve found a lot to admire.

I think that’s the main points that come to mind at this moment. It’s a mix between comfortable and familiar, and new and different things which keeps life interesting. People often ask if we intend to move back to the USA at some point. No, we do not. Who knows what the future holds but I can say with certainty, today, we are happy here and plan to stay.

Posted in Panama | 14 Comments