A Day in Boquete

You’re retired. What do you DO all day??  Ha! I always laugh when I see this question. I don’t know how I had time to work.

Maintaining a house, cleaning, cooking, errands, etc. take a certain amount oof time but after that, your time is yours to spend as you wish. We all have to figure that out no matter where we live.

Those of you who follow me know I’m the bass player in a rock cover band. Yesterday we had two gigs in Boquete, an unusual, long day but a whole lot of fun.

The first gig was the Tapout Sports Zone grand opening. This is the BCP event center building, but totally redone and it looks great! There’s an indoor enclosed area with many TV’s showing sporting events, a bar, and a kitchen serving a variety of food (our wings were great!). Outside is a large terrace with bar seating overlooking the yard, foosball, pool tables, and more table seating. In the yard is more seating, a fire pit, and a stage for performers. They have just barely got the place ready so it will be interesting to see how it goes. It feels really good there and I hope it is enjoyed by many. It’s also a fun place for the band and I hope we can play there again.

After chatting with friends and packing up we headed over to the band’s first home, Mike’s Global Grill. Mike is a great chef and tonight was a Chinese buffet. Words was it was very well attended and we were lucky that we were in time to enjoy it before everything was gobbled up. We set up our gear again, and played an evening of music for Mike’s people. It’s usually a dancing gringo crowd who likes the more standard classic rock music, but we mixed it up with some of the newer (to us) and harder rocking songs that we usually play for our Panamanian audiences. It went over really well so maybe we’ll continue this.

Next, we went back to the Tapout. Hashtag played in the early evening. We love them but we have heard them before, so we weren’t too bummed that we were busy elsewhere. Radio Negra was playing later so we could make it in time for them. We had heard about this band for quite a while so I was really happy to finally hear them and meet them. I love what they do! Reggae, rock, original material, and a nice mix to keep it interesting and fun, and they are good musicians and super nice guys.

We usually play at the Boquete Brewing Company every weekend, but it’s good we aren’t playing this weekend. Our drummer has a cold and needs the rest after yesterday. We’re tired too and can use the day to chill and prepare for our trip to the US to see family.

And, in other news, we had another earthquake after midnight on the 26th, a 6.2, not much stronger than the one we had a couple months ago but it seemed like more. Now the media is talking about clusters of earthquakes, 9 in the last 24 hours, but we haven’t felt anything. They are educating people on being prepared with emergency supplies for power and water outages (which is routine anyway for just living here). I wonder if the warnings are helpful since there isn’t anything you can do except maybe push bottles and breakables to the back of the shelves.

But, it gives us something to talk about besides the cane toad. (https://blog.thepanamaadventure.com/2017/10/13/a-cane-toad-can-kill-your-dog/ )  We had one here. Joel caught it and threw it over the fence into the woods. Days later…. cane toad! Over the fence. This went on at least four times. Meanwhile I was cleaning dirty water out of the dogs dish and birdbath most mornings. Finally enough was enough. Joel caught the toad, put it in a bag and into the freezer (as suggested by a friend). It must have been the same dang toad because since then, no more dirty water and no more toad. Thankfully the dog seemed to ignore it, but I didn’t want to take the chance and leave it around. These toads are very bad news for dogs.

Oh, and we found fleas on the dog. We tried the flea baths and all that in the past without success, so today we went directly to the NexGard which worked perfectly before. $27.45 though? Ouch. I’m going to get a couple more in the US to bring back just in case. She doesn’t run the neighborhood so we haven’t had problems for a long time but when there are a lot of other dogs who do run around, it’s always possible.

So, this is what we DO all day 😁 See what we have to deal with here!  Seriously, not too much goes on. These really are the highlights of the week. There are plenty of days like this too.

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Posted in Panama | 2 Comments

The Purpose Of Life Is Not Happiness: It’s Usefulness

You move to another country. You retire. We’ve all had the question “what will you DO all day??” If you don’t have a lot of interests and hobbies outside of work, this can be a consideration no matter where you live.

It sounds lovely to sit on the beach with an exotic drink with a little umbrella and watch the world go by, but this isn’t a long term solution for happiness. Maybe you find your dream home in a beautiful spot and this is very nice. It’s a bit like what we have been taught all our lives – get the good job, the great spouse, the lovely home, the hot car, etc etc and you will be happy. How disappointing to learn that this isn’t necessarily so.

I’ve met enough elderly people dozing in their wheelchairs to make me think. When I’m at that point, will I be satisfied with my life? Will I be glad I did some things, regret not doing others? Will my little corner of the world be any better because I was here?

Then I ran across this article that brought these thoughts to the forefront

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/the-purpose-of-life-is-not-happiness-it-s-usefulness

We all chase happiness, but maybe happiness is only a byproduct of being useful, of contributing in a positive way to our world. It’s a mindset of being kind to others, meeting a need even in small ways, or using our human mind to create something. Read the article. It explains it better than I ever could.

So, that’s my thought for the day. Otherwise, life here just goes on and I haven’t had anything remarkable to write about.

The car needed some major repairs on a leaking cabesota (engine head, I believe) and I learned a lot of new words in the process. We did shopping and errands yesterday so the freezer is full and we are set for a while. We sort of cleaned the house while the band equipment was still in the car, and did laundry.  I’ve been weeding the yard (it looks like work, but is actually one of my main pleasures).

It took a few days to recover from our Panama City excursion, and then we had a busy weekend with the band which took another day or two of recovery. Now that I’m a much better bass player, I’m realizing the usefulness of playing music. We played well and  had a whole lot of happy people on Friday and Saturday nights.

But, after living here close to 7 years, it’s just daily life and the usual conversations – the sun is hot. Will it rain? What ate my plant this time? Why do the dogs always bark at the trash men? La vida difícil.

Posted in Panama | 16 Comments

Band Gig at the US Ambassador’s Residence

Do you wonder where our US ambassador lives? This week we found out!

(We don’t have an ambassador at the moment, but Roxanne Cabral is Chargé d’Affaires, or the boss, since the last ambassador resigned https://pa.usembassy.gov/our-relationship/our-ambassador/ )

Some embassy employees heard the band in Boquete and liked us enough to hire us for a party in Panama City. The event was a good bye party for some employees who had finished their time in Panama and were moving on to other positions and other countries. We were asked to set up in the afternoon so we had the run of the unoccupied place and I was able to take pictures.

We were told that nobody is currently living at the residence but it is used for events 3-4 times/week. There was a whole staff cleaning and preparing in the afternoon, and at the end of the night they were all busy setting up for a wine tasting event the next day.

We were on the outdoor terrace and it was HOT! We were all dripping by the time we were set up, and it was great that we had the rest of the afternoon to shower and rest.

The evening …. the party started around 7. We were asked to play 7-9 with a break in the middle for announcements. So, at 7 we started playing but the guests (about 300 of them) all stayed inside in the cold air conditioning. They were all dressed in good clothes, the men in long pants and jackets so I’m sure the hot, humid outdoors was unappealing. Joel popped in with his guitar for a moment and said even with the doors open, the noise of the crowd made it impossible to hear the band outside. But, we played as instructed until announcement time.

I was surprised that all the announcements were in Spanish, but everyone seemed to understand. The security people and the people tasked with taking care of us all spoke English also, but I thought in a US embassy function English would be the language of the day. But, all the better that it was Spanish since we are, after all, in a Spanish speaking country.

After announcements we went back to playing to an empty terrace, and went back to sweating. Even after it got dark it didn’t seem to cool off at all. Finally after 30 minutes or so people starting trickling out on to the terrace and the fun for us finally began. One of the guests of honor and his friend who met us in Boquete came out, and a bunch of  other people who loved the music joined in, and the serious dancing and partying happened! Now this was fun.

We were supposed to quit at 9 but we couldn’t stop now that people were finally enjoying the music, so we ended up playing until almost 10:30. By then the crowd was getting thin and we were exhausted. That is tiring anyway but in that heat, it was worse. The staff brought out some more really big fans but that didn’t seem to make much difference. We were all soaked, as were the guests who were dancing. But, we all had fun and they were so appreciative. Apparently they have jazz and other music sometimes, but good old American rock by a group of US gringos is something different and they loved it.

I think it was midnight when we finally left. A lot of people wanted to talk, take pictures, and of course we had to do the puzzle of getting all our gear back into the car. Chris had rented drums from someone Ricky (our manager) knew which made it possible to use only one car but it was really tight.

After such a slow start I’m glad the evening ended on a really high note. And, the staff was super nice to us and did everything they could to meet our needs, which was very appreciated.

And, we got asked back for next week, an early 4th of July party on Thursday afternoon! How nice, and it would be really cool if we could do it but we are booked on Friday and Saturday, and the whole trip exhausted us more than we expected. It’s now Friday and we are just starting to come alive again. It was a big undertaking to manage a gig with that much planning and travel and we wouldn’t want to do it often, but it was a real honor to be asked to do this one and I’m glad we were able to do it.

Posted in Panama | 14 Comments

Living in Panama – The Ultimate Guide for Expats (2019 Edition)

This is an excellent website from the folks at Panama Relocation Tours. It covers probably any topic you need to research and does it in a very realistic and truthful way. If you are considering Panama you need to check it out.

https://panamarelocationtours.com/living-in-panama

These people have earned my respect on line and in person because they really want to be helpful. They aren’t trying to sell you anything. They want people to understand the realities of moving to Panama so they can make the right decision for themselves, even if not moving to Panama is the right decision. It is costly both financially and emotionally to move and then find out the reality isn’t what you expected and isn’t making you happy.  It’s much better to be well informed beforehand.

So, check out the article, and if you want a tour, make reservations as soon as you can. Tours are selling out faster and faster as word from happy clients gets around. Here’s my affiliate link https://panamarelocationtours.com/?ref=7  (thank you 😊)

Happy Travels!

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More on Panama Real Estate

Joel is very good at internet research. He found a few things I’d like to share.

The first was written in January, 2011 but it’s still very useful and detailed information about buying real estate in Panama, the pros and cons, working with an agent, and a lot more. If you are considering buying property in Panama it’s well worth reading.

https://www.panamaequity.com/blog/blood-on-the-streets-panama-real-estate-market-review/

The second article is by the Panama Relocation Tours people. I am getting more and more respect for them for their very realistic and useful advice. They truly want to help potential expats rather than make money off them. Read this one too if you are thinking about buying property here.

https://panamarelocationtours.com/is-there-any-affordable-real-estate

(If you are considering one if their highly recommended tours, use my link.  https://panamarelocationtours.com/?ref=7 Thank you 😊)

Then, there is this more general post about the pros and cons of Panama by this family who made their home here.

https://insidepanamarealestate.com/blog/relocation/panama-pros-cons-guest-post-by-trey-morrison

If you are thinking about buying property in Panama, please do it with your eyes open. This is NOT the USA, Canada, or wherever you’re from. Things aren’t the same, and may not be what they appear to be. Of course you can find a great property and make a happy life, but you can also have some nasty surprises or fall victim to someone who does not represent your interests, which would be very unfortunate.

And, RENT first. LIVE in the area you are thinking of buying. Get to know the area, the people, the prices, and the features you will need. Panama runs on relationships and you will do much better when you know people. Your perfect property may not even be officially for sale. Maybe your neighbor’s coworker’s friend’s aunt wants to sell something good. You just never know!

Best wishes, good luck, and do your homework.

Posted in Panama | 6 Comments

Earthquake!

There are earthquakes in Panama. We have felt quite a few. Panama is in the “ring of fire” known for volcanos and earthquakes. A few days ago we had a fairly big one, 6.1, on the Panama – Costa Rica border just down the road from us. We were sitting on the terrace at the time and it was a strange to feel the earth shaking and rolling under us. The locals said its the strongest they have felt, and it was fairly long also.

Reuter’s News

Pictures of supermarkets with everything on the floor made the rounds. There was news of some older homes damaged, but the injury in the news story is the only incident I’ve heard about where someone got hurt. I’m happy that our house is strong with reinforced corners and doorways. We don’t even have a crack.

I wrote a post in the past about our earthquakes and the tectonic plates. I’ve heard that they tend to move over each other rather than bump into each other which is why we tend to get the shaking and rolling quakes which are less destructive than the jarring, knock everything over type.

https://blog.thepanamaadventure.com/2017/04/04/earthquakes/

We also have volcanoes. The country was made by volcanoes! Thankfully the one in our backyard has been quiet for 400+ years, though it is still classified as active. Our neighbors in Costa Rica and Nicaragua have had more activity though with volcanoes spitting ash, smoke, and gas, and the occasional eruption.

But, we don’t have hurricanes, snow, deadly tornadoes, or many other weather related problems that cause trouble elsewhere. So I think all in all, Mother Nature is pretty kind to Panama.

An earthquake gives us something to talk about for days. I think it’s the most dramatic thing that goes on around here. Otherwise we talk about are the iguanas who ate the flowers again, the chance of rain, the cows who got loose, and is the water off again? La vida difícil.

Posted in Panama | 11 Comments

Your House in Panama – Rent? Buy? Build?

I see it all the time in the expat forums – “we are exploring Panama and need recommendations on where to look for a house/property to buy”. Answers are usually – rent first for 6-12 months, I am selling a great house. PM me for details, and what area do you want? (we’re not sure, maybe somewhere near the beach but we don’t like heat and humidity.)

Seriously, if you plan to live in Panama, you’ve got to live somewhere. I can write my ideas, but I’d also be really interested in hearing from others who live here. Did you rent? Buy? Build? How did it work out? Did the process go smoothly, or what hiccups did you find along the way?  If you did it over, would you do anything differently?

I am no expert in real estate anywhere, and especially not in Panama so do your own research and homework. Don’t take my word for anything. If this topic interests you, also come back later to see if there are any good comments.

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We rent. We came planning to rent but were open to buying or building at some point, but now we have decided that we are permanent renters. Our money is in the bank, not in the house. If we have a problem, we can call the landlord to fix it. If we decide to leave, we give proper notice and hand back the keys. It helps that we love our house and location, and our landlords have been super good to us. At our age and situation this is the best option for us.

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It is possible to buy a house (or land) here even if you aren’t a resident. It is also possible to get a mortgage here but I know nothing about it, except that they require that it to be paid off before you are 70. There is no MLS here, or central database of available houses so what one agent is able to show you may not be the same inventory as another agent shows. There are also few resources to research fair prices. It can be hard to know what a property is really worth, and it’s not uncommon to have very overpriced homes on the market by sellers who aren’t in a hurry and just put them out there to see if someone will bite.

We have been taught that buying a home is a good investment. But, the reality might not be so attractive. We know of properties that have been on the market for literally years. The real estate market has been slow, buyers have the advantage, and the more expensive the home is, the smaller the pool of potential buyers.

You will be selling at some point. Maybe the reality of daily life isn’t what you thought it would be. Maybe you suffer a health setback and can’t manage in the house, or have to seek medical care back home. Maybe something goes on in the family that requires you to go back. Maybe you lose your spouse, or your own life and your heirs have to deal with selling the property here. This can happen wherever you live. It’s just more complicated in a foreign country. We know quite a few expats who have left the area and haven’t been able to sell their houses. I also know Panamanians with houses on the market for a lot longer than they would like.

Also, if you do buy it is extremely helpful to have at least months of experience living in your intended area. We would make very different decisions now than we would have when we arrived. What kind of construction makes sense for the climate and conditions? What features do you really need for your new lifestyle? What is a fair price? What do you need to know about customs, rules, infrastructure, convenience, neighbors, and other factors that will affect your daily life.

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Then, there is building…. I would be really interested to hear from anyone who has built a house here! I don’t know anyone who has had the process go smoothly or on time. My Panamanian lawyer neighbor was so disgusted that his house was a year past due that he threw the papers on the desk and walked away. Another Panamanian neighbor has been working with the bank for months, many many months and finally only now has financing been approved. She and her husband are employed professionals, good candidates. All the gringos I know have stories of serious delays, and the builder not paying the penalties in the contract. It is customary for a Panamanian to be on site daily to oversee the progress. If you aren’t physically here, then what?

There are also people who buy a home pre-construction. There are glossy,  beautiful brochures and promises, but will the condo or house meet expectations and promises? There is no guarantee and if it doesn’t, you have little recourse. There is no guarantee that it will even be built months or years after you expected to be living there.

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So, bottom line, in my opinion, if you are renting it is easy to change your mind. If you buy, proceed with local experience, local contacts, and lots of caution. If you build, expect major delays and problems. If everything goes well I think you will be a happy exception.

Ok you all, share your experiences! Fill out the picture and help the people planning their lives here.

Posted in Panama | 8 Comments

Expat Article #5

My friend By has been writing a series of articles on being an expat that cover the points he has found most important or challenging in his experience.

View at Medium.com

In this one he offers a few points of advice. Of course his experience is different from mine, and it will be different from yours but there are also common threads and ideas for all of us to consider.

To summarize…..

  • Don’t put a lot of “should’s“ on yourself. Give yourself time for the adjustments and don’t expect so much of yourself.
  • Expect to be out of your comfort zone and be ok with that, even welcome it. Expect that there will  be things that aren’t available, or that won’t work like they did back home. (Our experience with our on demand water heater was similar, and we find the “suicide shower” much easier)
  • the snowbird option – considering dividing your time between there and here if your lifestyle, preferences, and finances  allow. (We aren’t snowbirds, but we have found that maintaining a US address makes a lot of things much easier. Consider asking a family member or trusted friend for help in this)
  • “Stuff owns you”. I wholeheartedly agree. Life is simpler and there is great freedom in not being attached to stuff. I have seen the suggestion to put the stuff in storage for a year if you are having a hard time letting it go. After a year you’ll have an easier time determining if you still really need and want it.
  • Cultural differences and idioms can trip you up. (I have found people very understanding and patient while I learn. I have had trouble convincing people that’s it’s fine and helpful to correct me though)
  • Personal space, or lack of. (I have not found this to be a problem, but I’m also from NY and familiar with being packed into public transportation like a sardine. I’m not a touchy, huggy, kissy person though, so the custom of greeting friends with kisses on the cheek, and good friends with many hugs and kisses has been an adjustment for me. Some expats also want to hug everyone which has been hard for me as well)

By also mentions washing dishes in cold water, which we have always done here and never thought about it being a problem. The dish soap here is made to cut grease in cold water since hot water is not the norm.

Bugs, as in germs – We haven’t been sick much, and the most likely time is when traveling. I’ve read some info lately about the microbes that naturally live on and in your body and how important they are to health, and I wonder if we have been colonized with better microbes here which has helped our general health, and is part of the almost miraculous improvement in my dental health. The lack of freezing weather definitely affects the diverse insect population but I’m not sure what affect it’s has on the microbes, except freezing weather keeps people indoors or bundled up so they share less.

“Vale la pena” = It’s worth it. In my opinion yes, most definitely, and I haven’t found it any more difficult than moves I’ve made in the US (except for the language barrier).

As they say, YMMV (your mileage may vary). But, there is no place, no life that is free of hassles and problems. My husband likes a saying – “is the juice worth the squeeze?”  Yes, for us, most definitely.

 

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

Panama is a Very Positive Place

According to a recent Gallup State of Emotions poll, Panama and Paraguay are the most positive countries.

http://cdn.cnn.com/cnn/2019/images/04/25/globalstateofemotions_wp_report_041719v7_dd.pdf

The poll did 151,000 interviews in 140 countries and asked these questions to determine the level of positive and negative emotions experienced by each person, and used the results to rank countries.

(Screen Shot from the link above)

The results of the most positive countries are all Latin countries except for one, Indonesia.

(Screen Shot from the link above)

Why is this? Family and community ties are very strong in Panama. We have asked many Panamanians what is important to them and the answer always is “family, friends, and enjoying life”. Imagine spending your life in this strong network of support and love. We are social beings. It’s built into us at a very basic level and social connections are critical for our mental, emotional, and physical health.

The USA, on the other hand, didn’t  score so well.

According to this article https://news.yahoo.com/third-world-stressed-worried-pain-120007986.html

Most Americans (55%) recall feeling stressed during much of the day in 2018. That’s more than all but three other countries, including top-ranking Greece (59%), which has led the world in stress since 2012.

Nearly half of Americans felt worried (45%) and more than a fifth (22%) felt angry, they told Gallup – both up from 2017. Americans’ stress increased, too, topping the global average by 20 percentage points.

“Even as their economy roared, more Americans were stressed, angry and worried last year than they have been at most points during the past decade,” Julie Ray, a Gallup editor, wrote in a summary report.”

Many of the problems in the US are daunting – cost of education, inadequate job prospects, lack of affordable health care, lack of affordable housing, just to name a few and if you watch the news, it sounds like the US is leading the world in going down in that hand basket.

I worked with many, many families while caring for my patients (I’m a former nurse). A family that gets along is not nearly as common as one would hope, and most families are separated by distance that prevents them from spending a lot of time together. It is typical to not know people who live within a block or two of your house, and it’s not customary to talk to people you don’t know around town. I was accustomed to this culture when I lived in the US but now that I have experienced Panama, I find it hard to go back. It’s one of those things that’s hard to explain but when you experience it, it changes everything.

I’m not even getting into any immigration debates, but I will say that having more Latin culture in the US might not be such a bad thing. The Latin countries always rank at the top of all the happiness polls.

Posted in Panama | 4 Comments

Panama Cost of Living Article

Since we are on the subject of money, I wanted to share this excellent article that a Joel found today.

https://alittleadrift.com/cost-of-living/panama/

There is a lot of excellent information here.

However, two corrections.

  • If you arrive as a tourist from the USA, Canada, or another country that has friendly relations with Panama, you get a visa for 180 days. You can drive on your foreign license for only 90 days which is confusing, but a tourist visa is 180 days.
  • David does NOT have the same climate as Boquete! Not at all. Boquete is in the mountains at almost 4000 feet above sea level. It is much cooler and usually damper, rainier, and windier. David is at sea level, and it’s much warmer. Lots of Boquete folks can’t understand how people can live in hot David, and some of us David people find Boquete unacceptably cold much of the time.  I don’t know where people get the idea that Boquete and David are similar in any way – climate, elevation, culture, vegetation, lifestyle, cost of living, language requirements, amenities, etc etc. They are close in distance but a world apart in feel.

But, that said, this is an excellent article with a lot of great information.

Posted in Panama | 6 Comments