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.