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Jul 2008

Feria Nacional de Artesanias

Centro de Convenciones ATLAPA National Handicrafts Fair

Jane and I walked down to the ATLAPA Convention Center to check out the National Handicrafts Fair. Tickets for us retirees (jubilados) - a whopping $1.00 each. Inside we saw a variety of arts and crafts which would have done a great job of giving any house a true Panama look. Alas, no house. After wandering around for a couple of hours Jane did buy a Molas decorated purse. The real highlight of the outing was the entertainment.

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Staying in touch

Jane and Friend at Albrook Mall
Whether moving or visiting you’ll want to stay in touch with those “back home”. Fortunately, the internet makes that much easier than in the old days - I remember touring Europe and having to seek out the local American Express office to get my two week old mail and then beating my post cards home.

Email: Today, it’s easier and faster - if you remember just a couple of things. If you’re a laptop user and are familiar with wireless access - problems should be minimal (just brush up on security issues and protocols). Hotspots are readily available, especially in Panama City. If you normally access your email from your desktop machine, you may find yourself out of touch - unless you are familiar with using a public computer (internet cafe) and accessing your email via your providers “webmail” interface. Read more

Panama's Red Devils

Red Devils (Diablo Rojo)
The “Diablo Rojo” of Panama are both famous and infamous. Their planned demise will either be a giant step forward or the death of a cultural icon - take your pick. These recycled U.S. school busses have been a fixture on Panama’s streets for decades. Given no viable (affordable) alternative, Panamanians crowd onto these vividly decorated, loud, exhaust belching antiques and hang on for their lives - literally. Read more

We're Moving (again)

Just so you know that our new life in Panama is not just non-stop excitement. Today we’re moving - for the third time this month. It’s a short (actually very short) move, from the upstairs small apartment to the downstairs “Villa” at La Cresta de Oro. Only three more moves until we settle into our long-term rental apartment in Casco Viejo. Can’t wait!

Why so many moves? The major reason is that it’s just very hard to find rentals that are pet friendly - especially in Panama City. By the time we knew our departure date from St. Croix we just had to coble together a “lodging plan” that kept us off the streets. The plus side is that we’ve now lived in two different areas of the city and will try out mountain living (Cerro Azul) next week. It does, however, get old living out of a suitcase. Read more

Come on down

Plaza de la Independencia - Casco Viejo
If you’re a visitor to this site there’s a good possibility you may be thinking about, wanting to, or wishing that you could visit or move to Panama.

For the tourist, the usual questions - will it be worth it, will it be interesting/fun, and better than (wherever). The best thing to do - buy the ticket, book the hotel - get off the couch and try something different. You will have a great time in Panama - guaranteed!

Thinking about moving? Bigger questions (and harder decisions) keep swirling around in your head. Might Panama be “your paradise?” It’s a foreign country, new language (most likely), new people, leaving family - the list of potential problems (I call them “deal breakers”) goes on. The ONLY way to find out if Panama is right for you is to make an extended visit and get a feeling for what “your Panama” might be like.
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Some Technical Stuff

Just a short post tonight about some of the tools used to put this site together.

I’m a MAC guy. My current operating system is OSX 10.5.3 running on a MAC Mini. My primary web browser is Safari.
Help requested from those NOT using the Safari browser - the majority of visitors. Could you give me some feedback on how this site looks and functions for you. Read more

Tonight, eating out at . . .

Restaurante Jimmy
Because our temporary digs lack a kitchen we usually eat one meal a day out on the town. Tonight it’s Restaurante Jimmy on Avenida Cincuentenario, it’s only six blocks - so you guessed it, we walk. We wait until a little after 6:00 (we will be eating early by Panama standards) and it’s a pleasant walk.

It’s not a fancy place, but offers both outdoor and indoor (with AC) options for seating. We head inside to one of the tables where we can watch the pizza and bread guy do his thing in the kitchen. Every time we have eaten at Jimmy’s it’s been the same young man and most nights it’s non-stop action. The menu is extensive (sandwiches to steaks - true Panamanian to Greek, and everything in between) and the prices (to us) very reasonable.
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Thrill Ride

Since our arrival three weeks ago we have intentionally been without a car. The first time that has been the case in over forty years. With our decision to try “city life” for the next seven months came the opportunity and we decided to give it a try.

Taxi on Avenida Porras
So, how do we get around? We walk a lot and we use taxis. Depending on your luck (or lack thereof) you will be given a ride by either a “laid back” driver (the exception) with a nice air-conditioned car, someone that thinks he’s a NASCAR driver (the rule) and is behind the wheel of something that is one stop away from the junkyard, or a combination of these two extremes. You may get music played at a reasonable level or VERY LOUD. With the latter usually comes a driver who is not inclined to turn it down despite your obvious discomfort. We’ve had taxis run out of gas. They often pick-up additional passengers on the way and may try to charge extra because “it’s raining”, they really don’t want to go where you want to go, or because you look like a tourist. Read more

Quick Observations

La Cresta looking toward Avenida Balboa
We won’t speak of first impressions because Jane an I visited for a month back in 2006 but some things from the previous trip and the first weeks of our move do come to mind. Most are just trivial observations, a few are serious - some may change over time and a couple will be featured in upcoming “notes”.

The people a very friendly and willing to help. When we got a little disorientated (I never get lost) a store clerk got on his cell phone to get directions for us - even got Jane a place to sit and a glass of water. The lady we were to meet then got in her car and picked us up.
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The Rich and Famous

Remember when air travel had a certain romance associated with it. When we looked forward to our trip to the airport as we started our latest adventure. Now that seems like such a long time ago in a place far, far away . . . . .

American Eagle at Rohlsen Airport, St. Croix.
For several reasons (the hassle factor alluded to above) along with our relative isolation (read, very poor airline service from St. Croix), a lot of baggage and our concern for the third member of our family - Wags. Jane and I did something that was totally foreign to our lifestyle - we decided to charter a flight from St. Croix to Panama. Never, in our wildest dreams, had we ever considered spending such an outrageous sum for a ride in an airplane. Read more

Visa Requirements?

Warning: This post has nothing worth reading unless you're thinking of moving to, or retiring in Panama. Of course, if you are really bored or have nothing better to do, feel free to Read more

A Tough Three Months

The decision to move was relatively easy, then the tough part started. We had two major factors that would determine the when of our move; Jane wanted to complete the school year (mid June) and we had a house to sell.

Jane and Wags at the house
We put our home on the market in January with everyone confident of a relatively quick sale. In fact we were worried about selling too soon and having to find a rental on St. Croix until the end of June. After some initial interest things slowed to a crawl - the mainland’s mortgage problems and housing meltdown started to impact sales on the island. Months slipped by and it was looking like a June move just wasn’t in the cards. When the occasional looker came by we would get hopeful then disappointed when nothing happened. Then, in mid May, we got an offer, countered and had a deal with a closing on June 25th, just a month away. Read more

Why Move?

Christiansted Boardwalk
The original title for this post was going to be, “Why Panama?” - but the process started with a much broader search and had a background element that made my process somewhat unique. Early in my life (several decades ago, when I was nineteen) our family spent two years in Africa. My two sisters and I attended the University of Nigeria while my father was on faculty. During those years I traveled within Africa, the Middle East and most of Europe and I have been a traveler (not a tourist) ever since. It’s in my nature to explore, take the roads less traveled and seek out new experiences and the excitement that comes with those experiences. Jane observed that every ten years or so it’s time to “hit the road”, again. Read more

Island Life

Sunset at Fredericksted
The perception - everyone sits on the beach, with the wind softly blowing through the palm trees, while drinking rum and coke. The reality - probably a lot more like where you live. People have kids in Little League and AYSO Soccer. We eat out at great restaurants and go to the Caribbean Community Theater.

Crucians (those who live on St. Croix) have real jobs, deal with crime and complain about the government. The weather is usually pretty good, if you don’t mind an occasional hurricane. No snow to shovel and no extreme temperatures (hot or cold) that others around the world must deal with. We have a mix of people, languages, food and music which makes this small island a fascinating place to live. Where “good night” is used as a greeting. Where any animated gathering of people is a “melee”. We have a “Jump Up” (street party) for just about any reason and the beer drinking pig at the Domino Club is a celebrity.
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