Today, eight years ago, I arrived in Panama. Has it been good? Oh yes! It has worked out better than I ever imagined it would.
I don’t have that feeling that I’m in a *gasp*… foreign country any more. I know my way around, I know how most things are done, and I have warm relationships with many people here. The language has been the biggest challenge but I can finally understand most of what is said to me, and I can say what I want to say most of the time.
But, there is still always something new and that keeps life endlessly interesting. There are the people, their lives, culture, humor, their ways of thinking. There’s new food, plants, birds, bugs, and new places to explore. And, there are also my non Panama specific interests – learning to play bass, books to read, things to study, biking, blogging, painting, photography, and other interests that I never have enough time to do. I’ve often been asked – now that you are retired, what will you DO all day?? Ha! Not a problem.
I’ve come to look at getting older as a huge blessing. If you are healthy and financially OK, you can be free! You don’t have to work. You don’t have to answer to anybody. You have to do very little that you don’t want to do. Your time is your own. You can sit in the yard all day and watch the birds fly by, or you can study nuclear physics. It doesn’t matter if what you do brings in money. You can do what you like just because you want to do it.
It’s been very interesting to see my home country through the eyes of others. How could some little country in Central America compete with the USA, the best and most powerful country in the world (or so we are raised to believe)? But, what is “best”? The priority here is family, friends, and enjoying life. People work, often for long hours for little pay, but they don’t seem as stressed, as pressured by the “time is money” mentality. Everyone has a hammock and there is no shame in using it, or in just hanging out with family and friends. Those studies that determine that happiest countries in the world, that list is always topped by many Latin countries.
I feel so much kindness, inclusion, respect, and friendliness here. I’m very different in many ways, but the people have welcomed me as one of their own without judgement. I don’t worry about having enough to pay the bills, or worry about affordable, good quality, rapid health care if I need it. I don’t worry about natural disasters. I don’t worry about needing help and not getting it. I don’t worry about loneliness among these friendly people. Even in the middle of this pandemic, I don’t feel like I have much of anything to worry about.
People sometimes ask if I will return to the USA to live at some point. No, not by my choice. Give all this up? for life there and all the stresses that go with that? Are you kidding? No. I think not. We wake up every single morning giving thanks for this life here.