Back in Panama

When I go back to the US I usually write something about how it feels to be there after living here. I don’t think I have much to add to what I have said in the past. It’s still expensive, people won’t look at you when you pass them on the street, it is very orderly and manicured compared to here, and almost everyone is really tall. It’s easier in some ways. You know what store to go to for various things and they don’t use words you don’t understand. But for me, I’ve enjoyed a new language and new things so this isn’t something I need.

It is easy to get very busy even in retirement, so I enjoyed this downtime. We were busy in California helping out, running errands, and shopping,  but in Seattle it was just me when everyone was at work (Joel went east to see other family). I walked to the supermarket a few times to pick up something for dinner, but otherwise I was in the house watching TV (where in spite of having a million channels, there is very little of substance), reading (better), pulling weeds in the yard (yard therapy), and I stripped the wallpaper in the bathrooms (by request of course, home improvement therapy). I ignored the internet and email, except correspondence from actual people who needed responses (and if I missed any of you my apologies), I ignored my blog and barely kept in touch with friends. I was supposed to meet some people in the area but it turned out they were in another city nearby and unable to come to me, so that didn’t work out. Maybe next time…

It is so easy to get caught up in life and forget the need for solitude and quiet time. I think this is why I have always been a night owl. That time late at night when everyone else is asleep, the phone doesn’t ring, and no one expects anything from you, I love that time and I still do. I’m not working but my days still tend to be quite full and my husband is almost always home when I am. We have worked out together time and separate activities in a way that works for us but when we are home we are still together. Maybe I have overextended myself since I am still feeling a need to back off. I’ve always been an extroverted and gregarious person. Am I changing in my old age? Or, maybe I’d rather nurture a few close friendships instead of a multitude of casual relationships?

I do have some good friends and thanks to WhatsApp, we kept in touch even when I was far away. There is a guy who comes every week with fruits and vegetables. He knows me now and always picks out the best broccoli and cauliflower and hides it under the seat just for me. Where else would you get messages from your veggie guy asking how things are in the US and sending greetings to the family? My neighbor kept the birdbath clean, put out trash, and unplugged everything in the house. Even the Indian guy who works in the neighborhood said he missed me and was happy to see me back.

But, I am going to try to take better care of myself and say no when people want time and attention I don’t feel I can give. My career was taking care of people so that is my default mode, but it eventually wrung me dry. I still have to be mindful of taking care of myself now. I don’t have to be available all the time and I don’t have to take care of everyone. Maybe all that quiet time in the US was just what I needed to remind me of this.


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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13 Responses to Back in Panama

  1. Linda says:

    Thanks for sharing dear Kris. Sending hugs your way xxx


  2. Ken Kimsey says:

    Hi Kris. I understand a thing or two about overcommitting. Sounds “spot-on” in terms of reminding yourself to take care of you first. My sense is that you’ll always be a giving, caring person. For what it’s worth, I think you’re assessing things well and will find ways to make sure you’re looking out for yourself. Looking forward to meeting you.


    • I think it’s an ongoing search for the best balance, and thanks for your confidence in me.
      You are leaving very soon, right? It will be a pleasure to meet you too 🙂


  3. rosanicolosi says:

    Kris I love hearing from you, all your posts!

    It is so wonderful that you are part of this community.

    We chatted briefly on Skype once and you were very helpful. I have been living in Boquete for about 6 months now and rarely get to David. If you ever go to the Boquete Tuesday market let me know. In the meantime please know how much I appreciate you and your posts. Laureen and Jan seem to be doing great in Mexico. (don’t know why my computer is typing this way -:) )

    Thanks for what you give to all of us and blessings,

    Rosa Nicolosi

    Rosa MariaNicolosi

    BodySoul Integration



    • You are here now?! Oh wow, excellent. Is it working out well for you? Yes, I remember our chat and wondered how things are going for you. I don’t get to Boquete much except to tag along with Joel when his band plays (ME3). They will be at the Boquete Brewery this Thursday evening, the 8th (7-10), and then at Mike’s Global on Saturday evening, the 10th, and Big Daddy’s Sunday afternoon 2-5, the 11th. They are tons of fun (rock and roll for dancing gringos 😀 )

      I need to talk with Laureen and Jan. They want us to come visit and I’m anxious to visit Mexico, so it’s time we make some plans. Do you know they put me up last year when I went biking down the Oregon coast? That was really nice and I loved spending some time with them.

      I hope our paths cross in person! I have a couple friends I need to visit so if coming out in the evening doesn’t work out, I’ll keep in touch and maybe we can figure out something else.


  4. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    What you are feeling is the decompression that I love about Panama. My visits during my working years made me realize just how hurried I was in the US. It is possible to get a lot done in a short time just because everything is organized and available. The urge to clear off one’s ToDo list in one day is overwhelming. Panama made me aware of just how “crushed” I felt. All our trips always included me fixing stuff for Nena’s extended family (I must have repaired hundreds of water leaks and dozens of appliances), but in Panama, if it doesn’t get done, no big deal.

    Nena was subject to the same feeling of crush and strangely she would take longer to get slowed down to Panama speed than I would. I think she felt a sense of frustration because she had seen the efficiency in the US and wanted her homeland to be as good. The first 3-4 days I would have to remind her: TIP! haha

    The goal for retirement is not doing anything, it is having the time to do what you want to do. Nena is working like a Turk on the yard but it is what she does. Once a farm girl, always a farm girl. I’m in the shop building a Cub Scout Space Derby rocket for our grandson. When we both get tired, we rest, read, nap, watch TV, go out for a snack, whatever. Life is good!
    jim and nena

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your perspective! Yes, very true. In the US you are valued by how hard you work and how productive you can be. Unfortunately I have brought a fair amount of that with me to Panama and need to be reminded now and then that this is no longer necessary, and I can “waste time” as much as I wish. But, as I get older I realize time is a finite resource that shouldn’t be wasted. *sigh* You can take the girl out of the US, but can you take the US out of the girl? Maybe not entirely, but we keep trying.
      We want to see pics of your Space Derby rocket when it’s done!


  5. susie says:

    I’m sorry we weren’t able to get together this trip…..You have helped us with great advice over the last 2 years we have been coming to Panama…..we are now back in the states and you are right… is very well manicured and people rarely look you in the eye….I already miss the friendliness of Panama….even though I don’t know the language (thankfully my hubby knows enough)….the Panamanians “work” with me and my limited spanish…..I have found a couple of APPs that translate English to Spanish pretty well and it that has been extremely helpful! Already looking forward to our next trip back….


    • Me too. It was busier than I expected getting settled back in after our travels. We will make plans next time!
      I just rode my bike down to El Rey, less than 5 miles round trip and I’ll bet I exchanged greetings with 30 people and had conversations with half a dozen. A greeting and small talk about the weather will take you far 😀 When this becomes your normal life it’s an unpleasant shock to be tossed into something different. For me, learning Spanish was a long and frustrating process (I suck at languages) but it’s so worth it. Study a little every day, and hurry back here!


  6. Sunni Morris says:


    I’ve never been to Panama so I’m sure i don;t know hjow friendly the people are first hand, but I did just return form a trip to Texas to visit family and I found the people way more friendly there than they are here. They are also very polite. I was actually surprised but i haven’t lived there since the 70’s. Either I don’t remember southern hospitility, or things have changed, but even total strangers would talk to me. I had a wonderful trip. Besides seeing family after five long years away, it was nice to not have to keep a schedule.

    I guess I prefer English and order to things, as we have it here in the US. That’s why there are so many difffernt places, climates, customs and people so everyone can find the right place where they feel at home.

    I think it’s wonderful that you and Joel have worked out schedules so you have your “me” time, as well as together time. I still have to master that in my house. Working does change the 24/7 sometimes, but it’s not the same as doing whatever it is you would like to do an any given day. I’m always conscious of time and hate to waste any of it because there are never enough hours in a day anyway. I’m also a night owl where hubby isn’t so I have to watch the clock in that regard too. But someday that clock is going out the window.


    • Interesting, My daughter spent 7 years in Austin and her husband lived there all his life. They are quite distressed by the distant and aloof people in the Seattle area and said it’s very different from Texas where people are very friendly and everyone talks with each other.
      I think time management in a relationship is always being adjusted. We’ve worked it out for the most part, but then there are those other days… LOL


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