Return to Panama

We’re back home after our trip to the USA. This is the longest stretch of time away so far (6 months). I always wonder how it will feel, and it’s usually something I didn’t expect that strikes me the most.

  • For the first day or two I had to remind myself to greet people in English.
  • People are TALL! Panamanian people tend to be smaller so it felt very different when most people were my height or more.
  • I saw a lot of tattoos and piercings and occasionally smelled cigarette smoke, something quite rare in Panama. (I also noticed that the price of cigarettes is quite astonishing!)
  • It’s quiet. I woke up this morning to the neighbor’s rooster crowing, doves cooing, hummingbirds fussing, and a number of other birds singing, chirping, and calling, and realized I hadn’t heard that for a while.
  • It’s COLD! Of course it is. It’s winter up there, but I have become even more of a wuss after months of constant warm weather.

When I go back I always have a list of things to bring back. Since I’m bigger than the Panamanian women it’s hard for me to find clothes and impossible to find shoes for my size 12 feet. On this trip I came back with –

  • Shirts – I found a great breathable, sun blocking, cool, comfortable shirt at the Columbia store for $60. I found two more on ebay for $25, much more affordable for me.
  • Shoes – I love Keens (also found on ebay at good prices) Now I have two new shoes and a pair of sturdy hiking shoes.
  • Cold weather clothes – two long pants and two long sleeve shirts that can double as underwear when needed for cold protection. Since I also get cold at higher elevations here these will be great to have.
  • Bike toys – a bike computer and heart rate monitor, and another pair of bike shorts from REI. I also got two headlamps (flashlights you wear on your head) for adventures in the jungle or who knows what else.
  • Backpack –  I think in most of the travels we want to do will be much easier with backpacks. My $60 one I bought here works great, but everything we saw there was a lot more expensive. So, a bit of internet shopping, and another like mine was waiting in CA for my husband.
  • Things that smell good – my neighbor said perfumes, bath gel, creams, etc are a lot more expensive here than in the US so she asked me to get her a few things. I had fun picking put a bag full of nice things, and she doesn’t know that there is another bag full that may appear for her birthday or Christmas 😀

Everyone seems to have a shopping list when they go back to the US. We can find almost everything we need here but sometimes there is something – a certain spice, a favorite brand of clothes, your cat’s favorite treat, that special foot cream. The list is different for everyone. We can shop on line and have things shipped here if necessary, but if you’re going north anyway it’s easy to pick up those few things.

It was a great trip back and I had such a wonderful time with my family! (I have more photos that I may get around to posting.) But, it’s also really good to be back home. Here I feel a different calmness, happiness,  joy of living, and sense of community. I love the greetings and the smiles that light up faces. I love feeling like I belong, that I’m accepted. It’s funny. I always felt like a foreigner in my own country. Here no one cares if you are Christian or atheist, if you are gay or straight, if you are rich or poor, if you are young or old, if you are light or dark, if your house is fancy or modest, or any of the other factors we usually judge people by. They only care if you are friendly, kind, and have love in your heart. It’s really easy to feel at home here.

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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27 Responses to Return to Panama

  1. Helena B says:

    The last part about people in Panama not caring about your religion, color of your skin, etc. brought tears to my eyes; it’s a daily struggle for most of us and I look forward to days of calm, joy and happiness. Thank you for letting us know there is hope in retirement!

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    • It’s surprising in this very Catholic country, but the people who have asked about my beliefs don’t seem to care a bit that mine are different. I don’t hear people talking about others in a negative way either, which is really nice.

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  2. oldsalt1942 says:

    That ‘sense of belonging’ is something you can’t explain to the people back where we came from. That feeling of ‘community’ we have here in our barrios is something I never felt in Fort Lauderdale, that’s for sure.

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  3. I can’t believe you wear a size 12 shoe! that’s the size my husband wore. I’ve lived in many countries growing up & as an adult …feeling at home anywhere is easy for me. There is goodness & love no matter where you are.

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    • I know… *sigh* My husband and I wear the same size shoes. I’ve lived in quite a few places in the US where I made friends and a home, but it’s different here. Like Oldsalt said, it’s hard to explain but easy to feel here.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    I was just thinking about headlamps today that we have at the lake house. Time to settle back in and enjoy Carnivale haha

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    • Something is odd with the comments today. WP is not recognizing known people and is holding their comments for moderation. Maybe this is telling me to get the headlamps out of the boxes and make sure they work 😀

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  5. allig565 says:

    I was just thinking about headlamps today (that we have at lake house). I will pack those now! Time for you to get settled in, and get ready for Carnivale! haha

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful post, Kris! We got a little emotional, especially reading your last paragraph. That sense of belonging and lack of judgement is very hard to find indeed, back home in Long Beach or really, anywhere in the US. It’s a big reason why we are making this move. We have fallen more in love with Panama and especially its beautiful people this last week and can’t wait to be here full-time!

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  7. John and Susan Pazera says:

    Wonderful post, Kris! We got a little emotional reading it, especially the last paragraph. That peacefulness and lack of judgement is a big reason why we are making this move. Over the past week, we have fallen even more in love with Panama and its beautiful people. We can’t wait to be down here full-time!

    See you tomorrow 🙂

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  8. Carole says:

    Love your post Kris, I thought my feet were big, a size 10. It really must be hard to find a womens 12, you would be better getting a mans 10. We have booked our flight, can’t wait. We will be in Panama on June 13th (7days in David). We take a 2hr flt from San juan and then we take the bus to David.

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    • I buy men’s sneakers and sandals, but sometimes it’s nice to have a woman’s shoe. I had a hard time when I was young but now they seem to sell big shoes more often in the US. They don’t sell them in Panama though. Yes, just saw your email. You’ll be here soon!

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  9. Excellent post, Kris. Welcome back! The part about people being tall cracked me up. It’s so true. Glad to hear you’re home!

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  10. Hugo Ernst says:

    Kris,
    The comment about tall people cracked me up also, however for a different reason, in the 70’s I was overseas (Europe) with the military, for 5 1/2 years straight, living and associating with mostly military people and young families with children. When we came back, I was astonished at the old people, in the malls, restaurants and everywhere, totally took me by surprise. Some of the things you just don’t think about or expect. BTW now I am one! LOL. We were in David in December, met Dick K. & will return in Jan 2015 to start our Penisionado visa. Hope to see you then!

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    • I know what you mean. As a nurse I worked with a lot of elderly people and sometimes in a different setting, I’d be surprised to see so many healthy older people dancing and biking and doing active things. We’ve become some of the older people too, not sure how that happened 😀
      Let me know when you’re in the area and we’ll meet up!

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  11. Jerry says:

    Let’s admit it — all posts are not created equal :). This was one of your better ones — at least one that stirred me, and apparently, looking at the other comments, I was not the only one. We are making lists and checking them twice — both of us are very tall so do not want to forget to bring things we may have trouble finding down there. Also, your description of the accepting attitude of the folks down there is something we noticed on our visit. No judgmental attitude – just acceptance.
    We are down to 3 months — and counting. What an adventure awaits us and we are so excited about it. Thanks again Kris, for this blog that has meant so much to a lot of people. We look forward to seeing you about the 15th of June.

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  12. Misadventuress says:

    Hi Kris! This is not really related to this post, but thinking of bringing things to Panama from the United States sort of set my mind down a path. I will be visiting Panama with a travel partner in May and we would like to take some school supplies or something down to children in need. Since you’re local, do you know of anywhere that we could look into to bring things to? Thanks for your help, and no worries if you can’t think of anything, we’ll just continue our research. Love your blog!!

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    • http://www.panamamccormackfoundation.com/ This man says they especially need hearing aids and breast prothesis if you know of any businesses that might collect used items.
      http://www.chiriquichatter.net/blog/category/charity/ has posts about some of the things going on in the area.
      For school supplies my neighbor and best friend is a special ed teacher, and I know she buys supplies herself for her students – backpacks, notebooks, paper, crayons, etc so I’m sure they can always put supplies to good use. I also know of an orphanage, which I’m sure is only one of many. I also know someone who is in touch with a minister here who runs a program to feed children, and I’m sure they can always use donations.
      It also might be easier and less expensive to buy what you want to donate when you are here.
      Thanks for wanting to do good things here 🙂

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  13. Dee says:

    Kris, Hi my name is and I am wondering ome if you suggest that we pay for a tour to come down or just fly and maybe meet you and get input that way. Any information would be appreciated.
    Thank you
    My email is dee.truehart@yahoo.com

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  14. Dee says:

    Dee

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