A Year with a Dog and a Bass Guitar.

Avioneta has been with us for a year now. I met her when she had been hit by a car and injured her foot. I got her vet care and bandaged her wound, and later took her to the spay and neuter clinic but left her where she was, never intending to take her home. The story is in an old post here. 

But, later, the trucking firm where the guys looked out for her moved away. They were going to leave her alone in the street and I couldn’t let that happen, so she came to live here.

She is a wonderful dog! She is sweet and affectionate with us, but very protective and aggressive with anyone she doesn’t know. She’s intelligent, well behaved, follows directions, doesn’t chew things, bother the trash, or pee in the house. Well there was that one time when it was thundering which she hates, and rather than go out she peed next to the toilet. At first she wanted to dash out the gate whenever she could, and she seemed worried when we left her alone. Now though she is much more relaxed, never lunges for the gate, and with a treat as we leave she almost seems happy when we go (but she’s very happy when we come back too).

So, life with the dog is going well and we are happy to have her.

Then, there is the bass guitar. I first picked it up somewhere in early or mid June of last year. The former bass player kept going to Colombia and it became increasing obvious that the band needed a substitute bassist. The only other bass players in the area are excellent and very busy with commitments to other bands. I grew up playing classical piano so I have some knowledge, and maybe I could figure out this thing with strings. Joel had a bass guitar gathering dust so he got it out and put it in my hands.

At first I was totally awkward. My fingers didn’t do what I told them to or worse, I didn’t know what to tell them to do. But, little by little, I learned. To my surprise, some songs I like have very simple bass parts. I started learning a few others that were more challenging. I saw on my blog that on July 7th I said I was learning so I must have been encouraged enough to think it was going to work out.

Once I said yes, I had until mid September to get ready.  All day, every day was spent practicing. I went to the US in July to visit kids, bought a cheap bass there and while they worked, I practiced. I came back in August and Joel and I started practicing together, and then we put it all together with Chris, our drummer.

The first gig went well! Thank goodness, since everyone in town turned out. I didn’t know I had so many wonderful, supportive friends! Almost immediately I was upgraded to full time bass player, which freed the other guy to move to Colombia which he did soon after, so it worked out for everyone.

Now, a year later, I’m starting to feel like a real bass player. It’s been a process though. I still practice every day, sometimes most of the day. Joel is self taught and I’m conservatory trained so we have had to learn each other’s languages and how to communicate. He has spent countless hours working with me on the music and other aspects of a band, equipment, lights, setting up on stage, trouble shooting, etc etc. There is a lot more that goes on than you would think!

Just in the last few weeks, it feels like something clicked with me and the band as a whole. At first it was a job and I didn’t want to screw it up, but now I’m part of creating music. We have some really cool material that is a blast to play. Joel is singing better than ever and Chris, a relatively new singer, is getting better and better all the time. We are getting tight and more professional as a group. We have made some wonderful friends in the music community, and have had the opportunity to play with some awesome musicians who sit in with us now and then, which is a wonderful experience for me and very inspiring.

Also important, I’m getting a better music – life balance. This has also been a process as I went from the very intense push to get ready to now, when I actually have some “chops” and we have more material than we can play in two evenings. Now I’m making more time for gardening, biking, friends, and other interests, and I’ve even taken an occasional day off from practicing. Maybe I can write in the blog a bit more often too.

If someone had told me I’d retire, live in Panama, have a dog named Little Airplane, and play bass in a rock band….  uh huh, right 😁 You  never know what’s around the next corner.

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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16 Responses to A Year with a Dog and a Bass Guitar.

  1. simplywendi says:

    God bless you for taking in that beautiful dog!


  2. Mike deangelis says:

    Hi Chris
    I’ve been following you and your blog since your first post. I was actually very close to moving to your area around the same time as you. We also have a Portland, Maine coonection, me having lived there and you if I remember correctly, your Mother in
    law lived there for a while.
    Well I took a short trip too Italy, as I was planning my move to Panama and that was that…here I am living in Lucca and very close to citizenship.i just wanted too let you know that I admire your perserverance and ability to accept change and also to embrace change.. I love your post and have enjoyed reading about your growth, adventures and your passion for your adopted country.
    So.. here’s to your continued happiness and health as you continue your life’s path..

    Mike Deangelis
    Lucca, Italy


    • I Love Italy! My daughter and I took a trip there and it changed everything. Suddenly I realized people are just people everywhere, and foreign countries aren’t that foreign. We had a wonderful time and the people were SO nice. I could see living in Italy, and the history and art that is everywhere is amazing. Good for you!
      Yes, my mother in law still lives in Portland and is getting along well there.
      Thanks for your comment and good wishes. I think embracing change is good wherever you are.


  3. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    You left out what I consider a huge achievement: your long-distance bike rides! My knees start to ache just thinking about the miles you have covered by bicycle. I have managed that kind of mileage on a motorcycle but that is mainly just a twist-of-the-wrist, try not to get killed adventure.

    The whole trick to life is just keep moving forward. As my favorite philosopher says:
    If you come to a fork in the road, take it.
    – Yogi Berra


    • The biking went totally by the wayside for quite a while, and only now am I getting back to it on a somewhat regular basis, but nowhere near the miles I used to do. My knees bother me too but biking works well. I’ve heard it strengthens the muscles that support the knees so it’s actually good for them.
      I like your quote


  4. You’re spot on Kris. Few expats knew the richness their lives could hold outside of the ‘good ole USA’ and yet most of us would say we’re richer than we ever could be in the US. In so many ways, just as you mentioned. Plus, as evidenced by your blog, it’s not impossible to maintain close connections with family including return trips to visit. Thanks for the great post. Hola to Joel. Mariah


    • I’m actually closer with family now. We used to talk on the phone but now with FaceTime and video chat we actually see each other all the time.
      Yes, our lives are so much richer and more peaceful here. I can’t see ever living in the US again. Thanks, and hola to By!


  5. Mel Gambutti says:

    Love your story! Being dog rescue people we are glad to hear your story. Also very interested in your location. Thinking about leaving Fl and would love to be pointed to best resources .


    • We got lucky and got a very good dog out of the deal. We moved here from Florida too, Sarasota. What resources do you need? There is a lot covered in the blog and you may find the search box on the right helpful. If you are on Facebook, look for the Expats in Panama group where all sorts of things are asked and answered.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mel Gambutti says:

        Thanks so much. We are in Sarasota for a few years now, originally from NJ and PA. Although we’re not wealthy, we are ok with our retirement income. I imagine the transition is a challenge, but as long as we have access to good healthcare we are open to new experiences and cultures.


        • IMO the health care here is better! You can often see a doctor the same day, they take time, share their cell phone numbers, and aren’t all tied up in paperwork and red tape. And, it’s so much more affordable too.
          For me, the main challenge was the language. Of course in any new location you have to learn your way around, and some ways of doing things are different, but the people are super nice and will go out of their way to help you.
          We loved Sarasota but without working, we couldn’t afford it. Good thing though or we would have missed this great experience here.


  6. Felipe says:

    I’m loving your blog more and more, including the comments from others. I used to read music and play piano, but like any other language I think I’ve lost it. I haven’t used it at all in 20 years. I trained on classical but my real love was ragtime. I’d play for hours. But I’ve kept up Spanish, which has improved over that same 20 years, using it for work (contracts, correspondence less than spoken). So maybe, as with you, music will come back to me.
    I’m ready financially for retirement but fear what I’d do. I’ve wondered if letting go of something means something else can come in. Reading of your growth (biking, music) in your move inspires me that it can happen. Thank you!


    • Thanks so much for your comment. I think if you learned music that knowledge is still in your head, even if you might have to retrain the fingers to make it happen.

      Retirement means you can do whatever you wish, or nothing at all if you prefer. I managed the change in activities but the change in thinking has taken quite a while. How can it be ok to lay in bed all morning and putter in the garden all afternoon? I think people need something that keeps them engaged in life, but the responsibility for finding it is all on you since there is no job telling you how to spend your day. This is hard for some people, but it’s also a huge freedom.

      Liked by 1 person

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