Define Freedom

I had an interesting conversation with a Panamanian friend. Her son and other family members are visiting his wife’s brother and family in Colorado. He said it’s beautiful there, so clean and orderly. The yards all look nice, and there are no dogs in the streets. I explained to my friend that if you don’t keep your yard cleaned up, you may hear from the neighborhood association. If your dog is running in the street, it will be taken to the dog place where you have to pay to get it back. If the dog is barking you may get a visit from the police. She was amazed. How could this be??

We are from the USA, Land of the Free, and Home of the Brave, so says our national anthem. But, what do we mean by freedom? How free are we really in the US? Even the little things, like your homeowners association telling you what you can and can’t do on your own property, and yes your dog can be sent to the pound of it’s running loose. We seem to be very concerned about bothering and being bothered by the neighbors and we have all sorts of rules and expectations.

Panama is quite different. Our neighbors had an outdoor party with music that went on until 4AM. The other neighbors just went to sleep. We play rock music all the time here and the neighbors insist that they like it. Working in front of your home is very common – turning logs into lumber, making furniture, repairing and painting cars, making concrete sinks, bathing the kids, cooking food over a wood fire, welding gates, and repairing small engines to name just a few things I saw recently. Yards are maintained, sort of, but no one complains until grass is so high you can’t see cars coming around the corner. Yard trash is routinely dumped in the nearest vacant lot or unoccupied bit of land. I’ve had to learn how to manage aggressive dogs in the streets who don’t like bikes.

Everything is a trade off. Do you want things to look a certain way, or do you feel better when you are free to let things go if you wish? I am a foreigner here so I cannot get involved in politics and I don’t know enough to speak intelligently on the subject, but it seems the people have at least as much freedom to express themselves and make their voices heard, and everyone votes.

There is freedom from being ruined by lack of health care, or health care costs. This is huge for me as one of the uninsured for most of my life. You don’t worry about being shot, or assaulted. Yes there is crime, usually theft and crimes of opportunity but we worry about it much less here. We worry about pretty much nothing, and it’s a great feeling. I never knew I suffered from lack of freedom until I came here and experienced something so different. And, most important you are free to be yourself, even if you are quite different in many ways. Nobody cares and they accept you as you are.

You are not free from rain and humidity though! Sunday night in Boquete was warmer but very muggy and damp. Yesterday and today in David have been very pleasant but the rains came at sundown last night and poured like crazy for a while, and then rained steadily into the night.

I’m happy to report that my eye problem that I blogged about in my last post is better. It’s not totally normal but there is definite improvement since Friday. yay!

Life in Panama. For us, it’s a very good life.

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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15 Responses to Define Freedom

  1. Anonymous says:

    I always enjoy your observations, although remember the vast majority of us do not have homeowners’ associations and we still change our oil in the driveway and frequently the weeds take over with nary a comment from anyone!


  2. Angeline M says:

    I think you are definitely living in a country where there is more freedom to just live your life and not the crazy consumerism life style here in the States. I love that first photo of natural beauty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t even think about the consumerism. There is definitely less of that here, though I see more and more shopping opportunities and advertising so we are hardly immune. Natural beauty? 😁 thanks. That bougainvillea is loaded with flowers now.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ponygroomusa says:

    More than a million people who are retired in Florida live in gated communities, RV parks, restricted deed areas, and the like. None of us have the freedom you do. For example I cannot wash my car in front of my “house”. I cannot change my oil. The restrictions are reasonable considering the way things are. There are no proper gutters alongside the road, and no place for the water that would run off my car to go except out onto my grass, and my neighbor’s grass. Changing oil means sometimes spilling a little and again, there is no allowance for that. it’s a simple set up, simple land use, and comes with a lot of restrictions.

    One of the things a lot of Americans would like to leave behind when they retire is the obligation to keep up with dozens or hundreds of rules.

    Instead, we take a lot more blood pressure meds. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear you! We lived in FL before coming here too, and got written up because our yard didn’t conform to standards. We heard so many stories from others, and so many rules about what you couldn’t do. But, you have to keep those property values up and keep the neighborhood looking a certain way.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. oldsalt1942 says:

    Kris Kristofferson summed it up pretty well when he wrote: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…”


  5. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    HOAs are fine for those folks who want control of their immediate surroundings. I could never live in one. I constantly have some project happening in my shop but the racket I create never starts before 9AM or continues after 6PM. Even then, the neighbors can barely hear any machines running. I am currently finishing the tree house in the back yard for the grands and I asked no one for permission. We do have HOAs in Texas but most of us “normal” folks choose to live where we can have the freedom to do as we please as long as it does not infringe on the freedom of others. We know all our neighbors and we are considerate of each other. That is the key.

    We have numerous stories of loud music being a bother, and almost every gringo blog contains at least one complaint of the noise of band practice during November or the clamor of the Coffee Festival. My brother-in-law once ran a carpentry shop in the back yard in Boquete, sometimes until ten at night, including a 2 foot, roughcut milling saw that could be heard for a half mile. His neighbors were never free of the racket nor were they able to get the officials to do anything about it. Freedom only works if everyone has a right to it. Absolute freedom is anarchy.


    • I think we lived in FL for too long where we didn’t know most of our neighbors and HOAs were the norm. The noise here bothered me at first, especially the dogs barking and roosters crowing at all hours but I’m used to it now and it’s rare something wakes me up. I actually enjoy the drum practice, sounds of work, and party music. It probably helps that I’m a city gal and grew up with noisy sounds of life all around me. I don’t like the silence of a rural area.


      • jim and nena says:

        I know what you mean. We live “in” Fort Worth, but we are in an older neighborhood with big yards, wide streets, and no privacy fences. The trees and vines have created some privacy between houses but not so much that we can’t bochinche through them. And I think that everyone who lives in our neighborhood walks around it at least once a month so we meet folks from blocks away.
        We are a few blocks from a high school and hear the band practices mornings and afternoons. Great for morning coffee on the back porch. We did not notice just how much animal sound we had until I replaced all the windows in the house (55 year old windows, single pane) with energy efficient windows. We can always sit on the porch and hear the wildlife, somewhat like your outdoor office but with the option of AC if needed.

        PS, SUPER glad your eye is doing better! Nena has done her cataract surgery, sees great. I am just on the verge of needing surgery but our doc is keeping close track on it for now. I have worn glasses since 7th grade so I am not sure I can adapt to not being 4-eyed at this age! Ha


        • It sounds like you have a better situation than many. My daughter went to grad school in TX and says she misses how friendly the people were there.
          I don’t know if your eyes still need correction after cataract surgery. I’m not sure how much one affects the other. You could always get some plain glass glasses, just to have something to wear 😁


  6. simplywendi says:

    I love hearing the stories about how it is living in Panama…………..with every post it makes me want to visit more and more.
    So glad you eye is getting better!


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