I was going to write about many November holidays in Panama. The joke is nothing gets done in November because of them, but fun things do get done. There are parades and festivities, and time off from work. There’s a lot of Panamanian pride and flags can be seen everywhere. Now we have just entered December which has Mother’s Day, a most important holiday, and then Christmas and New Years. We are also getting close to the start of the dry season. It will be Christmas/summer break for schools until early February so it’s a good time for family vacations. Maybe getting business done is a slower process this time of year, but time for family and fun is always enjoyed.
But, I have been in the US visiting family and all that free time I thought I would spend writing was spent with kids and grandkids. There is a baby who smiles at me every time I talk to her, which is enough to make a grandma melt. There are two 3 year old girls who talk and play and climb on my lap for cuddles. There is a 5 year old boy who tells me about his Spider-Man games and a multitude of other things that interest him, and likes to play card and board games with grandma. For Thanksgiving weekend the whole family was together and that was awesome! We even managed to see my sister and her whole family, some of whom I haven’t seen in years. Panamanians are right on, IMO, in prioritizing family and friends, and as I get older and have grandkids it’s more and more important to me too.
It’s a problem for many expats to leave their home country and extended family. I am so thankful for technology which allows me to stay more connected with family than ever before. But this is definitely something to consider if you are thinking of moving. Will you be satisfied with on line connections? How much will you want to go back for visits? Will this work with your budget? I have a hard time imagining people from the past who moved across oceans, lucky to get a letter from loved ones and likely to never see them in person again. I am so thankful for technology and airplanes.
Anyway… some have asked me my thoughts on going back to the US after 6 years of living here. It’s not much different than what I have written about in the past. I was in Seattle and northern California wine country so my experiences may be different than other parts of the country, of course. But, I find everything SO expensive! A trip to the produce department looks nice, all the perfect produce beautifully displayed, but I always have sticker shock and I don’t think a lot of it tastes as good. But, I did enjoy apples, raspberries, sweet potatoes, and other things aren’t local here.
Streets are smooth, everything is landscaped and manicured, and people actually stop at stop signs. There are tons of stores and they all have SO much stuff to buy. Many people are thriving. You see nice homes and expensive cars on the roads. But, many people are suffering right next to them. I didn’t see my homeless friends in Seattle and I hope they have succeeded in getting themselves off the street. But, there were many others. My daughters and husbands thankfully have good jobs because expenses are high and child care is super expensive. Life seems more stressful in general and loss of a job, a major illness, or other bad event can be devastating. There is an unspoken need to keep up certain appearances that I don’t feel here. And, as usual, I miss the friendliness of people greeting each other on the street. Everyone seems so busy and in their own worlds. Oh, and I had to remind myself to speak English when I was out.
There is also eBay and on line shopping. Here in Panama it can be done, but it’s costly to ship things in and it takes a while for things to arrive. In the US you click a button and the item shows up at the door within a day or two. We always have a list of things we either buy on line or on shopping excursions, and now the neighbors have discovered eBay and they are having a wonderful time buying mostly name brand clothes and shoes for a fraction of the cost. We notice that China has a growing presence on eBay. You can get very inexpensive things but you have to allow a few weeks for shipping. My neighbor bought Converse shoes from China a few months ago though and says the quality is fine and the price is a huge savings.
Now I am back and immediately into our life here and our busy band schedule. I took my new bass out last night and we had a fabulous time at the gig, even had two saxophone players sitting in for the second set and it was crazy fun. I have come back from a break with renewed energy and enjoyment and it feels good to be playing again. Retirement, it’s a beautiful thing and I’m going to enjoy every day that I have!
PS I forgot to mention that the banner photo is an electric charging station at WalMart, something I haven’t seen before but electric vehicles are more and more common now.