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WhyPanama
Costa del Este
Panama City, Panama 







Donna


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December 2010

Christmas was really nice this year. Our 6th Christmas in Panama. We both still find it amazing every time we step outside or stand at our patio window and look out on the water. Compared with the 2 degrees in St. Albert it is always 29+ - I know we don't get the seasons, the brisk mornings or the brilliant white blanket of new fallen snow.

Miracle do happen! How do I know. I am living proof. It happened 37 years ago in Edmonton. I walked into an office not knowing how fortunate I was to be chosen to go to that office that day. I met an amazing women. I had no idea at that time how that "chance" encounter would change my life. What Donna ever saw in me for her to decide I would become her future husband I will never know. But I am so fortunate - what an incredible lady - I have watched her grow in so many aspects. She has always had an artistic eye and it has always shown through in her garden, her pictures and her designs. She has a passion for gardening that has blossomed and allowed her to pursue her new vision - gardening tours. She has introduced hundreds of gardeners to some of the most memorable gardens all over the world. I have a map in my office that has pins dotting the world to show where she has traveled. Last year she travelled over 100,000 miles in the air. In 2012 she has tour groups going with her to India, Morocco, South Africa, Italy, England and Holland. How could I have known how blessed I would be 37 years ago walking into that office - I can only imagine what the next 30 years will be like :}

Over 5 years we chose to move to Panama. We knew we wanted some place warm that had a lower cost of living. There were so many things we never considered. We never asked a fraction of the questions we should have - we never researched enough - but we have been so fortunate. Friends of ours Alan & Geri brought a horseshoe with them from Canada when they moved here and it is now on my office wall to remind me how lucky we were. The move to Panama has afforded us a lifestyle we could only dream about in St. Albert. There are challenges for sure but when we reflect on how we've been able to grow both our businesses in ways we could not have in Canada. 

Next week I will write about the New Years celebrations in Panama - this Christmas has seen the largest number of fireworks in our 6 years - I hope they have spent their money and that New Years will be less noisy - it is so upsetting to Cricket -

I told you about our loss - our little adopted pup Pastorcita died a few weeks ago from injuries sustained after being attacked. Pastor has been so lonely - we asked Mari to help find a new friend for Pastor from the shelter - I am so pleased to report Pastors new friend will arrive after the new years fireworks are over.

For the time being we have finished with the renovations in our condo. It's nice to take a break from the noise and dirt. Some time next year we will get back to a few more things we want to do.

One interesting thing we ran across recently was the renewal of our condo insurance. I made an innocent inquiry - I just asked based on the value we had insured for our contents, how would the company handle a catastrophic loss like a major fire or theft - the answer took me aback a bit - they said they would assess the value of the goods lost or stolen and then assess how much we were on the hook for and how much they had to pay. The way it works was if the goods came in at say 2x what we actually had them insured for our insurance company would not be on the hook for any loss as they assess us 80% of the net difference between the real value and the insured value. What we did was hire a company to assess the real value and increase the insured amount. What a shock.

It's the time of the year for giving - please remember the shelter - Mari feeds hundreds of dogs and cats every month - it costs hers thousands of dollars in food and medicine - I am proud to say that our friends and faithful donators on www.TheyNeedYourLove.org have given Mari and the shelter over 1000 last year - I know we can do more - will you help? I would love to report back next year that we were able to double the donations.

Mari also set up a facebook page - click here to see her page - the Hogar Albergue we also set up a page to support them - click here Hogar Albergue San Roque and Support the San Roque Shelter

Donate - please.

Are you interested in a hotel in Bocas - one of our friends, Sally has a hotel she had built right downtown Bocas - she needs to go back to the USA for many reasons - if you are interested check out http://www.viviun.com/AD-163394/  

 

 

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Christmas day 2010 has come and gone. Today is our 35th anniversary - I can't believe how lucky I am to have found my life mate on the first try :}

We had a great Christmas with our friends and neighbours. The dinner was a combination French Canadian, English Canadian, Panamanian and Argentinean. Pretty hard to get much better.

Our office is closed here in Panama today as we still celebrate Boxing Day in Canada - not a tradition known to most Americans let alone Panamanians but it was a tradition brought to Canada from Britain. Nice to have a four day weekend.

I had a great time baking some bread this weekend - I love it from the oven but I think I like the nut bread even better the day after toasted - here's a sample of some of the home made buns and bread.

I had fun driving Alan & Geris relatives yesterday - we did the tour from Panama Viejo to Miraflores. We wandered around Casco Viejo and Amador. I really like showing off Panama - I know it's so unlike anything they are expecting.

 

I splurged this year and bought myself a Christmas gift - it's called the Car Black Box - it's a video camera designed to be mounted on the front windshield and turns on automatically when the car starts and turns off when the car is turned off. Depending the size of the SD card it will store from 20 minutes to 320 minutes in one minute increments. It's HD so the quality is top notch. I bought it so it could run all the time the car is in operation - that way if, heaven forbid, there is an accident, we have video evidence of the accident. With the new changes to the traffic accident laws coming into effect this February it is going to be even more important to have a camera with you at all times. I had it running yesterday and checked out the video later last night - pretty cool.

I was also introduced to Pinot Noir and wow - I really enjoyed it - I'll have to find more to try.

Every year at this time I make a plea to all our friends to think about supporting the animal shelter at Arraijan - there are hundreds of dogs and cats Mari has rescued from the streets and starvation. She cares for them, feeds them, nurtures them back to health, heals their wounds both physical and emotional - and she does this with almost no help - the money comes out of her pocket. Imagine feeding 200+ dogs every month - even at a meager 20 per month per dog that's 4,000 - not counting vet and paid helpers.

Can you help - Can you spare $20,$50 or $100. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

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I haven't posted some comments for almost 2 weeks as it has been nutty around here. Alan & Geri are finally in their condo with power and water after 2 weeks of waiting every day to hear if the papers were completed, inscribed and if they could actually move in and start to enjoy Panama.

I am sure they were frustrated beyond words, but one positive thing came from the experience, their two little pups and Cricket got to bond and get to know each other. Cricket is such an old lady and they are so young. Cricket finally decided that Mr. Lucky would make a good toy boy :}

As I started to write this note today I had started with "the rainy season is over" but then it started to rain again. This has been one of the heaviest rain we've seen and the shear volume has caused a really interesting problem - a very large percentage of the population in Panama City and the surrounding suburbs have been without water - yes a water shortage in amongst the heaviest rain. Apparently what happened was the volume of rain and runoff overwhelmed the water treatment plants filters and they had to shut down to clean them. I know some people who went 4 days with no water at all and yet here we were in Costa del Este oblivious to the lack of water.

The rains also caused some real tragedies - in Portobelo a Canadian lost his wife and family to a mud slide that wiped out his home and their restaurant. It put him in the hospital with a shattered pelvis. I understand his dog survived too but no word on if it was injured. A number of expats contributed to a fund to help him and his Canadian family that were traveling to Panama to see him. There is also a function tomorrow night we are going to that will be raising some additional money we hope. I can't imagine how in one instant your life changes forever.

I've probably mentioned a long time ago how automobile accidents are handled. Both vehicles stop wherever they situated at the time of the accident, regardless of the impact on the traffic flow, until both their insurance companies representatives arrive and the traffic police have shown up and sorted out their report. In our case when we had an accident it took 5 hours to get this done. Starting February the government has changed the rules. If there are no injuries they are supposed to take photos of the scene, the vehicles are to be moved out of the way of traffic, a form is to be completed by both parties and if they agree on a party at fault they can move on. If they don't agree then they need wait for the transit authorities to arrive. I presume the insurance representatives may have something to say on the guilt or innocence of their client :} You can download a copy of this form by clicking here.

Next year should bring a host of changes to Panama.

We went shopping with our friends yesterday to the Albrook Mall. We had prepared them for how much of a zoo it would be but it proved to be even more so than we had expected. It is the first time I've ever been in a mall where there was a live 100+ piece student marching band parading through the mall playing Christmas music. Alan & I had the pleasure of hearing them twice as we waited for Donna & Geri to have their purchases rung through - turns out it took them 1 hour 15 minutes standing in a check out line :} The band was actually pretty good - and there was one young guy who had to be maybe 10 yrs old playing his heart out on a set of 3 snare drums - he looked so serious :]

On our way back from the mall I decided to go back the way we came along the Cinta Costera - bad choice - I had forgotten that the Centennial Bridge was closed for construction so everyone leaving the city had to use the old Bridge of Americas which means they were all heading the way I chose to go - it took us more than 45 minutes to go a few blocks as the traffic was more and more congested near to our exit. Oh well, that will teach me to think and not just use the same old route.

Another bit of good news as a result of helping Alan & Geri with their new condo ordeal is we found out even though we purchased our condo in a companies name which meant it was not eligible for the penisonado discount on electricity that we could apply to have the account put in our names and get the discount. Cool.

We had a lot of fun with the folks that showed up to our 5th Panama Open House on the 9th - I really enjoy this time to chat with our friends and give them an opportunity to meet some of our other friends. We had the pleasure of meeting some new tenants in our building from Argentina and introducing them to Jose Luis & Sandra.

Christmas is almost on us and we're almost ready :} We'll be having an interesting Christmas dinner as it will be a combination of Canadian, French, Panamanian and Argentinean. Love it :}

Every year at this time I make a plea to all our friends to think about supporting the animal shelter at Arraijan - there are hundreds of dogs and cats Mari has rescued from the streets and starvation. She cares for them, feeds them, nurtures them back to health, heals their wounds both physical and emotional - and she does this with almost no help - the money comes out of her pocket. Imagine feeding 200+ dogs every month - even at a meager 20 per month per dog that's 4,000 - not counting vet and paid helpers.

Can you help - Can you spare $20,$50 or $100. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

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Christmas has arrived in Costa del Este :} - at least at the stores. The huge reindeer has appeared above Arrocha, the Christmas tree lot is stocked with trees (funny enough they are Canadian and American trees) and every store is chocked full of Christmas goodies. We haven't seen any sign of the lights on our main street that normally are underway by now.

Christmas has arrived at our condo as well. At least a start - I pulled out the tree and moved the living room around in anticipation of Donna doing the decorating. Anyone that knows me knows I don't have a decorative bone in my body ":}

We sent the invitation to our annual Open House this past week - if you are in Panama City the 9th of December - join us and meet some of our other friends. Email donna@icangarden.com for directions. We've had an open house at Christmas for more than 15 years. we started this in Canada as we had such a diverse set of friends and we'd never really met our neighbors. It was a great time for Donna's gardening friends to meet my business acquaintances. When we moved to Panama we decided to continue the tradition. 

Our friends Alan & Geri are scheduled to arrive in Panama this Wednesday but this past week has been an exercise in frustration trying to finalize the purchase of their new condo. Everything from the banks, to the real estate agents to the seller. When I see this kind of stuff I wonder how anything gets done. In hind sight our purchase seems so uneventful.

In the four years that we've been here we've always lived without air conditioning except when we have company over for dinner or during our weekend naps but we've decided to use December as a test and see what it would be like to have the a/c on full time. I have no idea what kind of electrical bill this would produce but we'll find out I guess. We wanted to see if it made a difference in noise, dust, dirt and moisture. Our average electrical bill has been around 140 per month.

I read an interesting article in the Visitor this past week about the new road to the San Blas area - apparently it is paved right through although it has some extreme hills so  I understand they only permit 4 x 4 vehicles. I hope when Donna gets back we will have an opportunity to venture done this road to see what its like. I understand it takes about 2 hours to reach the end and apparently there are no real amenities so it will be like an adventure.

Are you a Canadian living in Panama? - Do you live here part time or full time? What made you choose Panama over so many other places in the world. Do you operate a business in Panama? Is it a support arm to a Canadian company or is it a company exclusive to Panama. Have you taken advantage of the Canadian Panamanian chamber of commerce PanCanada? Have you met our Canadian Ambassador to Panama her Excellency Ms. Patricia Langan-Torell? I ask because I would some feedback.

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

November 2010

Cricket is almost over her last bout of tick fever - we had her blood checked after 10 days of treatment and she is back to normal levels. Now we just need to wean her off the prednisone as it has given her a monumental appetite :}

Donna headed out to Morocco this morning to check out the hotels and gardens her tour group will be visiting next May. I always miss her when she travels but I am so proud of her and how she has taken her passion for gardening to a great vocation where she can visit spectacular gardens all over the world and introduce other gardeners to how others garden in different climates and countries. Let me brag a bit - Donna is a published author (3 books - 1 in reprint), owner of Canada's largest and oldest gardening resource site, ICanGarden.com and she was one of only 65 gardeners chosen by the TV program, Recreating Eden, as someone who had a global impact on gardening.

I was reading an article this week that said the Panamanian government has earmarked over 1.5 billion to fund road development in Panama City to help reduce the traffic snarls and areas where the traffic gets crazy during rush hours. I know that with this comes a year or so of disruption, just like the overpass on tumba muerto last year, but when the work is done the pain disappears and we enjoy the benefits.

Almost every week I read postings of people interested in Panama wondering what kind of income they need to live in Panama. The answer almost always is - "it depends". What it depends on are the answers to some pretty basic questions. Here are a few of the questions that will influence the answer.

  • What part of Panama are you wanting to settle in - the city, the beach, the islands, or the country side?

  • Do you speak Spanish or are you willing to make it a priority?

  • How many creature comforts do you need?

  • Can you acclimate to the climate/humidity?

  • Do you have any special health needs?

  • Do you have any special food requirements?

Depending on your answers, I could make a case for income requirements from as little as 1,000 per month to as much as 2,500 (without considering a need for luxury as that could drive the needs way over the 2,500).

While we're on the note of moving to Panama, it never ceases to amaze me that some people move here and then spend their whole time complaining that Panama is not like it was back in their home country - isn't that the reason they moved?

I think of it like this, you can't choose your family (country of birth) but you can choose your friends (the country you move to). If you find you don't like your new friend - move back to your former home.

I feel sorry for the ones that come here as a result of false promises or claims. That's part of the reason we decided to build this site to allow anyone thinking of moving to Panama to ask us questions and we'll answer honestly and to the best of our knowledge of being here over four years. We have no agenda other than to help.

What are you doing for Christmas this year? December we will have our open house again - we love this chance to get to meet other Canadians living in Panama. We expect this year the open house at our condo will be 9th. If you are available, please let me know so I can send you an invite and directions.

Are you a Canadian living in Panama? - Do you live here part time or full time? What made you choose Panama over so many other places in the world. Do you operate a business in Panama? Is it a support arm to a Canadian company or is it a company exclusive to Panama. Have you taken advantage of the Canadian Panamanian chamber of commerce PanCanada? Have you met our Canadian Ambassador to Panama her Excellency Ms. Patricia Langan-Torell? I ask because I would some feedback.

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

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Well we've made it half way through November and Cricket is not too stressed with the fireworks. Although that might have something to do with the bout of tick fever she has this past week.

You know it talk about a lot of great things in Panama - well one we have grown to dislike is the vast numbers of ticks and how they are on Cricket. We check her often, use Frontline and feed her home prepared dog food not store bought and still shed gets tick fever. The vet we took her to this time said he believes more than 80% of the dogs and cats in Panama have tick fever - as Cricket is older she is more susceptible to it and as such suffers more. It is hard to imagine all the strays running around without any proper food or protection.

Over and above the tick fever so many suffer from distemper because they were never inoculated from it when they were a pup.

It's one of the reasons we push to help Mari Pily at her animal shelter - at least there they get food, protection and vet care. Help if you can - they appreciate it --

Baking bread again today - looking forward to it coming out of the oven later. I am still don't bake as often as I used to in Canada - I can't blame the weather as I don't find it difficult when I get to it - maybe it is just laziness :}

As if there aren't enough towers and condos built over the past 5 years with thousands of them to come on the market in the next 12 months it seems we need several new islands off Punta Pacifica - go figure - but I've come to believe there is a lot more wealth and paranoia here than I ever believed - and what better status of wealth and paranoia then your home isolated on a man-made island - away from the rable :}

What are you doing for Christmas this year? December we will have our open house again - we love this chance to get to meet other Canadians living in Panama. We expect this year the open house at our condo will be either the 8th or the 9th - I am just waiting for Donna to decide how long she needs after her return from Morocco to get organized. I will let you know next week.

I updated the "changes around Costa del Este" pictures this week as I do every month. Have you checked out this pictorial log? We decided when we moved her over 4 years ago to chronicle the changes we could see  from our balcony around Costa del Este every month at about the same time. What is amazing is the when we first arrived there were almost no occupied towers other than ours - there are now over 30 in our area alone - and there are still 14 or more yet to be occupied. We've also seen the commercial towers grow from the 4 Copa buildings to 6 or more under construction. Quite the changes in such a short period of time. The next four years will see the Santa Maria development next to Costa del Este take shape. Incredible - where are all the people coming from ???

Are you a Canadian living in Panama? - Do you live here part time or full time? What made you choose Panama over so many other places in the world. Do you operate a business in Panama? Is it a support arm to a Canadian company or is it a company exclusive to Panama. Have you taken advantage of the Canadian Panamanian chamber of commerce PanCanada? Have you met our Canadian Ambassador to Panama her Excellency Ms. Patricia Langan-Torell? I ask because I would some feedback. Surely Donna & I are not the only Canadians in Panama :} ( this is definitely tongue in cheek as we already know many fellow Canadians , but would love to know more )

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

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November in Panama - such an interesting time. I love the empty city - I hate the closed stores and restaurants.  I am surprised we haven't had more fireworks so far. Maybe they are to come.

In case you don't know November in Panama is holiday month. There are 5 official holidays - yes 5. They all have something to do with the national independence - from Spain, from Columbia.

When I read the news and reports on the various weather problems around the world I remember one of the main reasons we chose Panama - we might have a rainy season but we don't face hurricanes or other such crazy weather. Before Donna and I chose Panama we had picked out two properties in Mexico - one close to Belize and the other closer to Cancun. Since we've been in Panama both have had numerous hurricanes go right over where we would have built our home.

On another note, I am still not conversant in Spanish - I still spent time almost every day in some lessons to make up for the fact I am immersed in English everyday and I have but a few friends that are Spanish only.  But I am comfortable that over time my Spanish will improve :}

Next year could bring some interesting changes to Panama City and to the country as a whole. I read recently the government is changing the uniforms of the police to a more police blue look from the current almost, army look. If they go through with this it will be a huge improvement in my mind, even it does not actually change the character of the police it will feel better.

Add to this the government is introducing the Metro Bus as a replacement to the existing Diablo Rojo's (or Red Devils - the old painted school buses that run amok all over the city). 

The biggest change in 2011 should be the titling of the current derecho posesorio land - the old ROP (Right of Possession) land that makes up almost 80% of the land in Panama. Up to now it has been very difficult for anyone, Panamanian or foreigner, to get a piece of ROP land titled. The newly formed group ANATI has been created to replace all the old groups of ProNat, Castastro, & Anam - and has been charged with following through with surveying and titling the ROP land. This is a huge undertaking but in my opinion it will be the greatest achievement of Panama since the creation of the canal. This will be a huge for the farmers, the average Panamanian and people like us that would love a piece of Panama.

What are you doing for Christmas this year? December we will have our open house again - we love this chance to get to meet other Canadians living in Panama and with Alan & Geri here we will a fantastic Christmas dinner with our neighbours. A great fusion of Panamanian, Argentinean, French/Quebec and English dinner. Last year we were introduced to many dishes, each one of them were excellent - I can't wait to enjoy this years feast.

Are you a Canadian living in Panama? - Do you live here part time or full time? What made you choose Panama over so many other places in the world. Do you operate a business in Panama? Is it a support arm to a Canadian company or is it a company exclusive to Panama. Have you taken advantage of the Canadian Panamanian chamber of commerce PanCanada? Have you met our Canadian Ambassador to Panama her Excellency Ms. Patricia Langan-Torell? I ask because I would some feedback. Surely Donna & I are not the only Canadians in Panama :} ( this is definitely tongue in cheek as we already know many fellow Canadians , but would love to know more )

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

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This week reminded us again in such a clear way that we are no longer in Canada. What we used to take for granted as was such a simple task can be so complicated here. I've told you last week our friends decided on a condo near us in Costa del Este. All that was needed was to finish the agreement. In the bulk of North America when you decide to purchase some real estate all you need to do is sign the offer, provide a deposit in escrow and let the lawyers complete the necessary paperwork. Any mortgage gets paid off, the title is verified, the final funds are paid through the two lawyers in trust for all the signed documents and the land titles office registers the transfer of title.

Here the process is slightly different to say the least. Just getting the offer signed and accepted can be a challenge. Right down to who holds the deposit. As the confidence in lawyers are somewhat different the payment of funds through them can even cause some concern, let alone the final payment. Here there are at least 2 documents. The first is s a simple offer letter outlining the intent. The second is the more formal agreement that binds the seller and buyer and allows the money to change hands in anticipation of land titles finalizing the title.

Some of the complications come from the real estate agents :} But that's another whole story for another time - maybe after all the deal is done.

Have I told you how much I like my new Kindle. I heard Susan G talking about her's and decided to finally try one. I can't believe it took me so long :} I love the fact there are actually free books and even the full priced ones don't require I wait for them to arrive from Amazon or have to pay shipping. 

While Alan & Geri were here we had the pleasure of going with our neighbours Sandra & Jose Luis to the Orchid Society of Panama's Orchid Show at the Metropolitan Park - I finally uploaded Donna's pictures - check them out here. 

I had some interesting discussion this week by email with a fellow who operates a business in the City of Knowledge - the Ciudad del Saber - a very unique area in Panama that allows businesses to hire foreign workers who may otherwise not qualify for working in Panama.

During our morning walk today it was interesting to note that almost all the cranes have been removed from the apartment buildings under construction. Since we moved here 4.5 years ago we've watched almost 35 towers being constructed. When we used to drive in from the airport or the city we never had any grief spotting our condo tower as it was the only one you could see - now its only one in a sea of towers.

What are you doing for Christmas this year? December we will have our open house again - we love this chance to get to meet other Canadians living in Panama and with Alan & Geri here we will a fantastic Christmas dinner with our neighbours. A great fusion of Panamanian, Argentinean, French/Quebec and English dinner. Last year we were introduced to many dishes, each one of them were excellent - I can't wait to enjoy this years feast.

Are you a Canadian living in Panama? - Do you live here part time or full time? What made you choose Panama over so many other places in the world. Do you operate a business in Panama? Is it a support arm to a Canadian company or is it a company exclusive to Panama. Have you taken advantage of the Canadian Panamanian chamber of commerce PanCanada? Have you met our Canadian Ambassador to Panama her Excellency Ms. Patricia Langan-Torell? I ask because I would some feedback. Surely Donna & I are not the only Canadians in Panama :} ( this is definitely tongue in cheek as we already know many fellow Canadians , but would love to know more )

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

October 2010

It's been a busy couple of weeks. We took a week and spent some time on the beach near Los Santos. We rented a house from another Canadian. I think we drove Alain crazy with our fixation on making sure we had Internet connectivity. I am sure he kept wondering why this couple would want to get away to the beach only to be on the Internet. Well, that's our life. Both of our businesses depend on Internet access. While we were away we had our condo painted and some minor construction done. It's nice to have it redone and have a fresh new colour.

Last weekend we went to the 25th Orchid Expo at the Parque Natural Metropolitan run by the Orchid Society - check out their website at www.orquideaspanama.com - they are planning another event in January or February that I am sure Donna will want to visit as well. We took several of our friends to the show and each one enjoyed seeing the incredible variety of orchids on display.

Our friends Alan & Geri from Ontario Canada stayed with us this past week. They are moving to Panama in December and they were here to find and purchase a condo. We're thrilled they chose to buy one near us in Costa del Este. To celebrate we had our neighbours Jose Luis and Sandra join us for some wine and for all us to practice our spanish :} I am sure we will have many more evenings to partake and practice.

We introduced our new friends Gary & Bev from Calgary (Gary has been working to develop a new seaplane service in Panama) to Alan & Geri over dinner at Steinbocks.

This past week was interesting with Alan & Geri completing their pensionado, opening a bank account, closing on a purchase of condominium and organize all the necessary things so when they arrive they will have TV, phones, electricity and water it reminded me of how different Panama is and how accustomed we've become during the past 4 years.

The weathers been about what you'd expect for October - sunny days interrupted by thunder storms and overcast skies, but compared to what our friends in Alberta are "enjoying" I'd much rather be here :} As I write this on Sunday it is 2 degrees in Edmonton. Our great friends Wayne & Elaine are packing up and heading out for warmer climes this month. They will be in Arizona for a month or two then join us here in Panama after Christmas. We always have a great time with them when they visit.

What are you doing for Christmas this year? December we will have our open house again - we love this chance to get to meet other Canadians living in Panama and with Alan & Geri here we will a fantastic Christmas dinner with our neighbours. A great fusion of Panamanian, Argentinean, French/Quebec and English dinner. Last year we were introduced to many dishes, each one of them were excellent - I can't wait to enjoy this years feast.

Are you a Canadian living in Panama? - Do you live here part time or full time? What made you choose Panama over so many other places in the world. Do you operate a business in Panama? Is it a support arm to a Canadian company or is it a company exclusive to Panama. Have you taken advantage of the Canadian Panamanian chamber of commerce PanCanada? Have you met our Canadian Ambassador to Panama her Excellency Ms. Patricia Langan-Torell? I ask because I would some feedback. Surely Donna & I are not the only Canadians in Panama :} ( this is definitely tongue in cheek as we already know many fellow Canadians , but would love to know more )

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

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Several things happening around Panama City this coming few weeks related to gardening.

First, the 25th Orchid Expo at the Parque Natural Metropolitan Saturday October 16 and Sunday October 17th. Click on the image to the left or visit the societies website at www.orquideaspanama.com to see more details. Donna is really looking forward to visiting and maybe seeing if there are some orchids she just has to have for the condo :} She's always had some orchids even in Canada but was never able to really enjoy them until we moved to Panama - now they love our balcony and its so much fun to see new shoots appear and flowers bloom.

Another event Donna wanted to let you know about was the upcoming Ikebana workshop October 22nd at the Hotel Continental on via Espana. If you are not familiar with Ikebana it is the ancient Japanese art of flower arranging. You may have seen Ikebana arrangements and not known it but if you have then those arrangements always caught your eye as they are always spectacular and memorable. The course is being hosted by a licensed Ikebana instructor. Click on the image for contact information.

Lots of other fun things going on in our lives as well. This week we are having our condo repainted and some other work done while we explore Los Santos and the Azuero peninsula. We've never spent much time in this area so we decided to take a week, rent a beach house and explore. Other than a few challenges initially we are enjoying ourselves. What's odd is that in a tropical country bursting with fruits we've had the most trouble finding fresh fruits - can you imagine? When we get back I will have pictures and more on our experience and what we felt about the area.

In the four years that we've been in Panama we have watched and even participated in the process of migrating the hundreds of thousands of land parcels from the old derecho posessorio (Right of Possession) to a full legitimate title held at the public land registry.

After over 100 years since its independence it has allowed the largest percentage of its land to be held in this "quasi" form of land ownership. ROP is recognized in the constitution but the actuality is that it is very tenuous at best, even for Panamanians let alone foreigners. Every government has known it needs to deal with this issue for the sake of the future and its people but there have always been "hurdles" - mainly the small slice of the population that owns the largest percentage of the country. Most don't see a need personally and some feel that it simply end up costing them. Two times in the past 3 years the government has tried to enact a law to make the transition from ROP to titling a reality. Law 23 was passed and then later overwritten by law 80. Since the introduction of law 80 virtually nothing has changed so a new law with a new body is currently being debated. I hope for Panama's sake they allow this law to pass and allow the new body ANATI to actually get on with titling. This Wednesday we heard the new amendment to law 80 had third and final reading so all that's needed is the signature of the President.

A bit more on Donna's experience with Optical Lopez - I reported last week the service and price were excellent - well she got her glasses a day earlier than expected and they are great. She is thrilled and will go again I am sure.

Some good advice this week from the Expat forum about what to make sure you have in your vehicle - a) your vehicle ID card, b) copy of title document c) current insurance, e) insurance company sticker / contact info f) traffic rules book and when they become available the new form for minor traffic accidents. This is the kind of stuff it is nice to have the expat forum for - real life helpful hints and suggestions.

We've met another Cdn couple living in PC via email and they are a wealth of information on restaurants so in the Food section called "Reviews by Sara" and from the first couple I know you will enjoy her take on the restaurants. Also, we met because Sara emailed me her experience with PaNetma so I've added her comments below mine in the Services section just to be fair.  I also asked Roman from PaNETma to repsond - and I posted his comments as well as I know there are always two sides to a story. If you've followed us for a while you know we have PaNETma in our home and office and have recommended them for almost 2 yrs.

Are you a Canadian living in Panama? - Do you live here part time or full time? What made you choose Panama over so many other places in the world. Do you operate a business in Panama? Is it a support arm to a Canadian company or is it a company exclusive to Panama. Have you taken advantage of the Canadian Panamanian chamber of commerce PanCanada? Have you met our Canadian Ambassador to Panama her Excellency Ms. Patricia Langan-Torell? I ask because I would some feedback. Surely Donna & I are not the only Canadians in Panama :} ( this is definitely tongue in cheek as we already know many fellow Canadians , but would love to know more )

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

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We had an interesting week with my Canadian business partner in town to spend some time at our office with the employees. He was also here to visit his soon-to-be-complete condo in Costa del Este. We've watched it being built from the ground up in our 4 years living in Costa del Este. While I've read some not so nice stories about some developers in Panama, unfortunately it is rare to run across people handing out accolades to the good ones. Well here's one - F & F Properties, the developers of Ocean 2, 1, Titanium, Revolution and numerous others around Panama. I've had the pleasure of dealing with the owner of F & F on behalf of Ted and I have found him professional, responsive and a true gentleman. How many business people do you know that fill all of these attributes - especially a developer. If we were going to buy again, I would buy one of his.

I had the pleasure of reading Bob's latest Retirement Wave newsletter. I hope you subscribe, Bob Adams's articles are interesting and informative. If you don't get his newsletter and you live in or are interested in Panama - you should. Check out www.retirementwave.com - I don't always agree on his final analysis - but he warns about that too. His latest newsletter outlined a litany of projects currently on the books for Panama. From the new "city" near the airport, to the rapid transit, new sewage/bay clean up, to a new bridge over the canal on the Caribbean side to new paved roads and of course the new canal expansion.

I agree all of these will bolster the economy and while the overall economy has shown continual growth over the past number of years, the real estate component is almost impossible to graph as there is no available, reliable data other that ones own personal experience. So many stories float around about pricing, who sold what for how much, but there is no one place to go to get data on how much the market jumped from 2006 to 2008 and how much it has softened already or how much it still may soften in the coming 12-24 months. I still believe long term the market overall is is pretty good shape but it is not a speculators market for sure.

The overall recommendation of Bob I do agree with - move to Panama because of a variety of elements not just the real estate. Make an informed decision on the culture, climate, economy, safety, comfort and whether you feel you will enjoy your new home country. Come, spend time, check it out - long before you invest.

Continuing on real estate, if you have been reading my notes over the past 3 years you will know that I've been actively involved in the goings on with regard to derecho posesorio (or Right of Possession type land holdings) particularly on the Caribbean side of Panama. At the end of the Torrijos years the government passed a law mandating that all ROP land get titled for a minimal cost and in an efficient manner. Even the incoming new president Sr. Martinelli echoed this in his inaugural speech. However as things go that didn't happen. The new minister of finance vetoed the titling law and introduced a replacement law that allowed for titling but with conditions and with a cost. I understand that to date there have been almost no titles issued. As a result, the president suggested a new entity be formed to manage all the land in Panama vs the current fractured groups that are responsible for various elements of land. The combined entity would more closely resemble ProNat not Catastro - and from what I've seen that would be a good thing. This week they begin discussing the new proposed law. I am sure there will be lots more on this to follow. I still firmly believe that Panama will not see any major socio-economic change until it provides a full title to its farming community that will allow them to invest in their properties without fear that it will somehow be taken away.

We asked on the expat forums for recommendations for an eye glass store - and the resounding recommendation was Optical Lopez - we visited their Costa del Este store and Donna was so pleased she ordered 2 pair. They are to be ready this week so I will report next week on the final results. The price and service so far were excellent.

Are you a Canadian living in Panama? - Do you live here part time or full time? What made you choose Panama over so many other places in the world. Do you operate a business in Panama? Is it a support arm to a Canadian company or is it a company exclusive to Panama. Have you taken advantage of the Canadian Panamanian chamber of commerce PanCanada? Have you met our Canadian Ambassador to Panama her Excellency Ms. Patricia Langan-Torell? I ask because I would some feedback. Surely Donna & I are not the only Canadians in Panama :} ( this is definitely tongue in cheek as we already know many fellow Canadians , but would love to know more )

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

September 2010

Just sitting here watching a real system arriving across the mountains from the Caribbean and it has already hit downtown. We had such a great morning out walking on the causeway and then driving through Casco Viejo and the downtown area showing my business partner the changes in Panama since he was here last.

We reserved our social area last night so we could host a small BBQ and have our employees and their families over to meet and get to know Ted. It was a great time - the weather cooperated and lots of people enjoyed the pool -including myself. I have to admit that was the first time in the four years we've lived in this building that I've ever used the pool. It was so refreshing I went again this morning after our driving.

Friday we all went to Steinbachs, a great german restaurant/pub on via Porris - between us and downtown. The food is excellent, the prices are good and the beer is wonderful. Victor had the ham hock - he thought he was in heaven. He shared a bit - it was great - but I like my schnitzel :}

We visited Ted's almost complete condo in Ocean 2, Costa del Este - it should be ready for him to take occupancy in 2 weeks - he's pretty excited as it's been almost 4.5 years since he purchased it in pre-construction. It's been built by F & F Properties, and we've seen many of their projects and they are one of, if not the best developers in Panama when it comes to reputation and the quality of their finishing.

Sadly he is selling it and at this point looking to recoup his money as he and his wife bought a new home in Vancouver and don't think they will be moving. Make him an offer.

While driving through Casco Viejo this morning we saw where they are going to end the Cinta Costera in Casco Viejo - it will make for a nice drive along the sea wall into the old city. If I was 30 years younger I would be looking to buy and renovate a building in Casco Viejo as I really believe it will be "jumping place" in 20 years. Alas - sigh - not in my plans :}

Since I've been writing the weathers gone from a storm coming to serious rain - the great part is the temperature is the same and the rain will diminish in an hour.

We continue to meet some nice people in our neighborhood and we're still thrilled we chose Costa del Este. The latest couple are from the LA area although she has Panamanian roots. Easy couple to chat with and get to know.

I do enjoy going downtown (other than to the bank :}) and I like visiting all the restaurants but I really look forward to coming back out to our area as it seems so less hectic and cleaner. I am not sure what it is going to be like in 10 years with the current development but for the time being I will enjoy it.

Donna got back from Thailand last week so she is still recovering from her trip although she had a great treat on the longest leg of the flight from Narita Japan to Newark, she got upgraded to business first with lay flat beds - how great is that. She's home for a while which is really nice.

We've spoken with a number of friends in Canada and fall has definitely arrived in some areas and some have reported frost already = yikes.

I met a Canadian in Panama working on starting a new air service for some of the more unusual spots and as one of my long friends in Canada, Peter is a veteran of this type of business I had the pleasure of hooking the two of them up to chat. One of my motives beyond helping Gary with Peters expertise is to find a way to have Peter visit frequently - that's not a bad thing to be that selfish is it ?? ":}

Are you a Canadian living in Panama? - Do you live here part time or full time? What made you choose Panama over so many other places in the world. Do you operate a business in Panama? Is it a support arm to a Canadian company or is it a company exclusive to Panama. Have you taken advantage of the Canadian Panamanian chamber of commerce PanCanada? Have you met our Canadian Ambassador to Panama her Excellency Ms. Patricia Langan-Torell? I ask because I would some feedback. Surely Donna & I are not the only Canadians in Panama :} ( this is definitely tongue in cheek as we already know many fellow Canadians , but would love to know more )

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

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The rainy season (or green season as Donna loves to say) was in full force this past week - in 4 years I've never had 3 days in a row where I was not able to walk to the office - except for this past week. We had some doozeys of rain storms - thunder, lightning and lots of rain. Doesn't stop us from enjoying our walks or getting out. It does mean we are using our dehumidifier more than usual. But compared to our old home in Alberta well what can I say - I was watching the news this morning and they were predicting snow in Glacier National Park this long weekend. Rain - Snow - no comparison :}

One of my business partners is coming to Panama next week to take possession of his newly constructed condo as well as spend some time with our staff here in Panama. Like many others, he has been waiting almost 4 years for the condo. I had the pleasure of visiting it last week - wow - what a view from the 32nd floor - makes our 7th floor view seem so much less :{ I am looking forward to the annual general meeting of our building as I am going to try and lobby for some changes - like a gym and the ability to take our little "crickey" on the social area - she is our little one just like others have their sons and daughters. If you've read this site for any amount of time you know both Donna & I are dog people :}

We are also looking at making some changes within our condo over the next couple of years. One thing Donna really wants is a balcony - well we might just make one. I want a bigger kitchen so I can bake and cook. One thing that you will likely not find in homes or condos is an open floor plan as you might be used to in North America - like "Great Rooms". Here it is common to chop the home into discreet rooms for a couple of reasons. First, it is easier to cool a home if there are a number of small rooms that can be closed off and in the case of the kitchen, they prefer to have the hired help kept in the kitchen or other utility rooms. And to be honest, the hired help prefers to be set apart in a closed room as well.

Been working on updating our other sites as Donna has been busy traveling and getting ready for 2011. I just finished adding several thousand new photos from England and Ireland. If you haven't checked them out take a few moments - www.ICanGarden.com - the site that started it all in 1995 - yes 15 years ago - when the Internet was just a babe - and www.gardeningtours.com - for over 13 years Donna has been taking guests to the some of the most amazing gardens all over the world - so much so she was asked to be the gardening contributing expert for a site call World Reviewer

This week we kept up our desire to try out a new restaurant at least once a month. We had been watching the construction of a new restaurant here in Costa del Este during the past month. We chose last Friday as our night out - we were thrilled to find it was their opening night. Il Grillo (the cricket in Italian - we loved it as our little dog is named "cricket" - we just had to try it). The owners are from Venezuela and they own 8 restaurants in Caracas - and that shows - the food, service and prices are amazing. We will be back. Check more in our Food review area to read about all the restaurants we've tried so far, there are so many and we look forward to so many more in the coming months.  

In the news this week the government continues to make announcements. Unlike other weeks when I thought the announcements were positive, this week I think the news I read was terrible. In world where "green is good" Panama seems to be living in another dimension. The government just announced that up to 44% of the land in Panama was "on the block" for mining. Mining - yes mining - in a country that has some of the most amazing flora and fauna, beaches, and history - they decide to open up the land for mining. Shocking in my opinion. There may be environmentally conscience mining companies, I personally don't know of any. All I ever read and hear are about mining companies that abuse the land using arsenic and other horrific chemicals that leach into the ground water. And when you look at the land they've decided to open up you have to shake your head - beach property - really. The article and map can be found at the La Prensa web site. Read the article and the map showing the areas that are open to mining companies making a bid. One person commented recently - "how interesting that Castastro has been so slow in titling all the ROP land since law 80 was passed and since President Martinelli said he would title all the land held in ROP. A coincidence" hmmm maybe - maybe not - you decide.

Why Panama - Why mining ??

Why not aim to be the most green country in the world - make Panama a model for every other less developed country. My vote - Go green - Not mining.

I received a notice from a new company this past week - PanaGuard - an alternative to home security - all wireless to make it simpler to install in a concrete world. The prices look reasonable. It is based on a self monitoring system where it calls up to 6 numbers. We've never installed a system up to now as we've never seen any commercial response to any alarm.

Some of the other services you should investigate that we've certainly come to appreciate. We tried many of the internet providers until settling on PanNETma Roman and his team offer a great service at a good price - not the cheapest, but when you need them - they are there. Donna also had to take go to our dentist again this week - how great to have someone like Dr Lee that you can just pick up the phone, call Jaime and know you are going to be taken care of professionally. Check many of the people and services we've come to rely on over the past four years of living here.

Are you a Canadian living in Panama? - Do you live here part time or full time? What made you choose Panama over so many other places in the world. Do you operate a business in Panama? Is it a support arm to a Canadian company or is it a company exclusive to Panama. Have you taken advantage of the Canadian Panamanian chamber of commerce PanCanada? Have you met our Canadian Ambassador to Panama her Excellency Ms. Patricia Langan-Torell? I ask because I would some feedback. Surely Donna & I are not the only Canadians in Panama :} ( this is definitely tongue in cheek as we already know many fellow Canadians , but would love to know more )

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

August 2010

We had some great news this week - friends of ours from Ontario have finally sold their home and will be moving to Panama full time this fall. Their pensionado application is complete and approved - all they need to do now is decide where in this incredible country to reside. We are so looking forward to them being in Panama - regardless of where they end up choosing as the location for their home.

Also, after 4 years of struggling trying to find some beef that was tender we found our solution - papaya. In the past the quality and tenderness of the beef has been hit and miss. On some occasions we've been fortunate enough to find some that is tasteful and tender - however other times with exactly the same cut from exactly the same source it was tasteless and like shoe leather. I know we could probably break down and buy the $25 pre-packaged frozen usda beef but if I am going to spend 25 on a steak we might as well go to a good restaurant enjoy someone else doing the cooking and cleaning. We are going to give it another whirl tomorrow night.

I did a short video from our balcony last night I thought you might enjoy. It gives you some idea of what development has occurred in our area - Costa del Este. Be sure to check out the month by month pictorial review we've been doing for almost 4 years - click here

In the news this week the government continues to make announcements about new mega projects for Panama. In addition to the new clean up of Panama bay which includes addressing the treatment of sewage (versus dumping the raw sewage directly into the bay), they announced their plans to further expand the Tocumen airport with the idea that they will eventually grow a small "blurb" around it with hotels, shopping, convention centre, and of course more airport facilities. They also announced the successful completion of the order for almost 1200 brand new buses to replace the aged old "diablo rojo" buses that are a menace but add lots of local "colour". The government has committed to a rapid transit train running from some of the poorer areas to main terminals to help relieve the traffic and they envision creating a new bridge over canal to open the new Panama Pacifico area (the old Howard air force base). Downtown on the site of the old US embassy they plan on building a mega-tower to consolidate many of the government offices. Lastly they will be extending the Cinta Costera to reach Casco Viejo. All of these funds coming from ?? well I'm not really sure except I think they are banking on sustained growth and the impact of the expanded canal.

This week at the Atlapa Convention center is the international fair put on by all the embassies and consulates in Panama = great food and a one stop place to get to know the countries with an interest in Panama. This is generally packed - lots of people, lots of great food - well worth the time. Last week they had the annual book fair - really well attended as well.

Are you a Canadian living in Panama? - Do you live here part time or full time? What made you choose Panama over so many other places in the world. Do you operate a business in Panama? Is it a support arm to a Canadian company or is it a company exclusive to Panama. Have you taken advantage of the Canadian Panamanian chamber of commerce PanCanada? Have you met our Canadian Ambassador to Panama her Excellency Ms. Patricia Langan-Torell? I ask because I would some feedback. Surely Donna & I are not the only Canadians in Panama :} ( this is definitely tongue in cheek as we already know many fellow Canadians , but would love to know more )

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

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This last Wednesday we had the pleasure of once again enjoying a concert put on by Frank Casagnet. The concert was held at the National Theater in Casco Viejo. The featured artist was Alexander Panizza. Sr Panizza is an amazing pianist. His fingers flew over the piano and he infused the entire performance with enthusiasm and passion. I wish the foundation that was the recipient of some of the concerts funds great success in their pursuit to help young people with criminal records reintegrate into society.

Everyone who knows Donna wondered how she was ever going to satisfy her need to get into the soil when we chose to move to a condo. I wanted them to see that her passion for gardening is very much alive and well. Following are some pictures of Donna in our social area keeping them weeded. Several months ago we purchased a number of hibiscus and bougainvillea for these beds in the social area in the hopes we would add some colour. The beds were fine but very bland. Mostly green from the palms.

 

This week I had another lesson in "Panama". My business partner purchased a pre-construction condominium in Costa del Este. As the building is almost complete we needed to determine the process of completing the sale. We met with the representatives of the developer to ensure we knew how and when the funds were to be delivered and how my partners interest were going to be guaranteed throughout this process. Many people look at Panama and wonder if one can really guarantee their interest. After meeting with these people and reviewing the contract and talking with our advisors I am very comfortable that my partners interests are protected. Is this true with every deal in Panama, I am not sure I could say yes. I am just pleased he chose the developer he did. Next month the developer will indicate they have obtained the occupancy permit from the Panamanian authorities and with that they will be in a position to complete the title transfer and accept the final payment. We then have 12 months to have them complete any repairs we find. What is amazing is that there almost 30 towers in Costa del Este that will going through this process with their buyers in less than 12 months. Some of these towers have up to 70 stories.

Are you a Canadian living in Panama? - Do you live here part time or full time? What made you choose Panama over so many other places in the world. Do you operate a business in Panama? Is it a support arm to a Canadian company or is it a company exclusive to Panama. Have you taken advantage of the Canadian Panamanian chamber of commerce PanCanada? Have you met our Canadian Ambassador to Panama her Excellancy Ms. Patricia Langan-Torell? I ask because I would some feedback. Surely Donna & I are not the only Canadians in Panama :} ( this is definately tongue in cheek as we already know many fellow Canadians , but would love to know more )

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

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Another first this week. Donna & I went to the opening performance called "Noises Off". A comedy about the goings on of a troupe of actors performing a play over an entire season. The first act introduced us to the actors and the plot of the play. It wasn't until act 2 and 3 that it became hilarious. Intermission provided lots of opportunity for beverages which were very reasonably priced. Opening and closing nights provide an extra treat - each have a restaurant provide free nibbles. Our night's restaurant was Secundo Muelle in San Francisco.  Great food. It will be a restaurant Donna & I will try out as a result of their offerings. I was really pleased with the mixture of patrons. From older expats to young Panamanians. We will go again. In fact we will likely purchase a season pass come January.

Next Wednesday, August 11th there is another concert similar to the we attended last fall. The promoter, knows how to combine a class act with a good cause. In this case the good cause is the Fundación Jesús Luz de Oportunidades - essentially a group in Panama that assists young with criminal records to become part of the working society. The concert showcases Alexander Panizza, an Argentinian pianist playing Schumann and Chopin. While it's not important to Sr. Panizza's credentials, I am kind of pleased to say he was born of his Argentinian parents in Toronto, Canada -  this is a world class artist - and it is to be held in the National Theater - how cool. Get  your tickets at Blockbuster or on-line at http://www.tuboleto.com/ just be careful as we got some security warnings on the site.

All you fellow Canadians in Panama - check this concert out and look for Donna and before, during intermission or after - please say Hi - we'd love to meet you and find out what your experience in Panama has been like.

During our walk yesterday morning Donna commented on how fortunate we are in Costa del Este to have a virtual army of workers who keep our grass cut, the street cleaned and just generally looks after our area. Also, as a planned community, Costa del Este enjoys a wire free view. All the electrical wiring is buried versus overhead as in the rest of the city. 

Donna asked me to put a link in the "other sites" area on the "Signs and Symptoms of Dengue Fever".

I know this is the "rainy season" but this last week was very sunny and dry. We got some rain and thunder storms last night but that was the first in several days. This is something that comes up all the time when I talk to friends in Canada - "doesn't it rain all the time during the rainy season?" Unlike the pacific northwest of the USA and Canada during the winter, we don't experience days, weeks and months of grey overcast days. The rainy season means everything is lush and green and you are assured of some rain every week.

Are you a Canadian living in Panama? - Do you live here part time or full time? What made you choose Panama over so many other places in the world. Do you operate a business in Panama? Is it a support arm to a Canadian company or is it a company exclusive to Panama. Have you taken advantage of the Canadian Panamanian chamber of commerce PanCanada? Have you met our Canadian Ambassador to Panama her Excellancy Ms. Patricia Langan-Torell? I ask because I would some feedback. Surely Donna & I are not the only Canadians in Panama :} ( this is definately tongue in cheek as we already know many fellow Canadians , but would love to know more )

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

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I was in Canada last week visiting my sisters. While I love Canada, it is still good to come back to Panama. I can't believe I went swimming in a lake with 76 degree water :} yikes - if I hadn't jumped in I would never have been able to walk into the lake :} - I think my blood has thinned since arriving in Panama :}

On a more serious note ---

Next Wednesday, August 11th there is another concert similar to the we attended last fall. The promoter, knows how to combine a class act with a good cause. In this case the good cause is the Fundación Jesús Luz de Oportunidades - essentially a group in Panama that assists young with criminal records to become part of the working society. The concert showcases Alexander Panizza, an Argentinian pianist playing Schumann and Chopin. While it's not important to Sr. Panizza's credentials, I am kind of pleased to say he was born of his Argentinian parents in Toronto, Canada -  this is a world class artist - and it is to be held in the National Theater - how cool. Get  your tickets at Blockbuster or on-line at http://www.tuboleto.com/ just be careful as we got some security warnings on the site.

All you fellow Canadians in Panama - check this concert out and look for Donna and before, during intermission or after - please say Hi

Another serious note - and fun too - the last week saw some great contributions online to the Arraijan Shelter - it's not the amount that matters, it thrills me to see so many people being exposed to the great work Mari does at the shelter. Mari promises that she is going to take some video of the shelter and share that with us - as soon as I get I will post it on the shelter website at www.theyneedyourlove.org - tell your friends - donate - the dogs and cats need your love.

On the titling front the government is trying to put a new department in place to make law 80 a reality. So far the ones charged with actually titling the land has a less than stellar record. More to come on this as the government debates this new group.

I've added a new site you should check out called living in panama by Sandra Snyder.

I also added another link to the videos of Allen Hawkins - he has over 130 videos of Panama on youtube. If you join any of the Panama Yahoo groups you will find more on Allen. Speaking of Yahoo groups, I mentioned this before but it bears repeating - there are dozens of Yahoo groups dedicated to Panama. From groups focused on the laws of Panama to gardening in Panama. Each group has an eclectic group of expats and locals who provide their views on virtually any topic. I think they are a great resource but you have to be careful and be aware that not all advice is good advice. For the most part it shouldn't take you long to work out who are the flakes, who are the frauds and who are there to genuinely help. Just because it fraught with potential problems, this should not stop you from joining.

Are you a Canadian living in Panama? - Do you live here part time or full time? What made you choose Panama over so many other places in the world. Do you operate a business in Panama? Is it a support arm to a Canadian company or is it a company exclusive to Panama. Have you taken advantage of the Canadian Panamanian chamber of commerce PanCanada? Have you met our Canadian Ambassador to Panama her Excellancy Ms. Patricia Langan-Torell? I ask because I would some feedback. Surely Donna & I are not the only Canadians in Panama :} ( this is definately tongue in cheek as we already know many fellow Canadians , but would love to know more )

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

July 2010

After two weeks of the new 7% sales tax in Panama the world doesn't seem to have come to an end. The protests have calmed down as well.

The news forecast for this rainy season seem a bit bleak - something about el niño - we're supposed to be in for more than usual rain and in areas other than Panama - a much worse hurricane season. One of the reasons we settled on Panama - no hurricanes.

Donna loves the green season (as she calls the rainy season) more than she does the brown (or dry) season. I do like everything being green during the rainy season. Even when I say rainy season you shouldn't be thinking of constant, day after day rain. No, the rainy season means it rains sometime (generally in the afternoon) almost every day - but not every day. I am partial to the dry season - sun, a bit more wind and great times at the beach.

We had our neighbours over for some nibbles, wine and great conversation last night. I love having them over - I get to practice my Spanish comprehension and my spoken Spanish. Still very poor on the later but not bad on the former - but then Jose Luis is so kind and so well spoken, he enunciates clearly, is succinct and speaks slowly. I am sure anyone who knows even a bit of Spanish could keep up with him.

We went down the street to a new restaurant/take out food place called Caminito - which is a term referring to a street in Argentina known for tango. And interestingly enough the image the restaurant used for their logo is the great uncle of Jose Luis. All this to say that this restaurant offers incredible take away empanadas and quiches - they must have at least 25 - 30 different varieties - and all of the ones we tried were really yummy.

Are you considering Panama as a new home? Have you already made the move to Panama from Canada, USA or Europe? Why not share your experience with our readers to help them understand the issues you faced. We added one from Reggie - read it here. I've also added an email posted on the Panaforum about the health care experience of one person.

Why not share your "why I moved to ... " story so others can be inspired - write us at tomd@whypanama.net and we will put it on the site so everyone can read it and learn from your experience.

Funny, when we talk with people interested in Panama or our friends in Canada, after they ask about health care, they then ask if Panama is safe. I guess I always answer - "compared to what?" - when I read the local newspaper back in Edmonton, Alberta, I read about disappearances, killings, shootings, and thefts - so again compared to what - any city of 1 million people - probably about the same.

You probably remember us talking about the couple of dogs who lived next door with a security guard and how we tried to find them a home when tehy decided to demolish the guard house. We did find them a home - check out some of the pictures we took when we visited them yesterday.

 

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I hope you all had a great holiday weekend whether you celebrate Canada Day or USA Independence Day.

Lots of news this last week in Panama. July 1st the government of Sr. Martinelli increased the sales tax from 5% to 7%. Lots of people all across Panama were not happy and some voiced their displeasure in an outward fashion, some even rioting. The students in Panama City were one of the more vocal. There was also some uprisings in Bocas del Toro. I read lots of very different accounts of how bad Bocas was, but because there was such a wide difference in reporting its hard to say how bad it really was, so i will not offer an opinion. I don't like any increase in taxes especially when it affects everything I buy or use, but if I had to live on the income that some Panamanians have to live on, 2% less would be a hardship. Maybe I've missed them, but it doesn't seem to me that many of the campaign promises of lower costs have come to pass. Admittedly, I think Sr. Martinelli has made some moves to cleaning up some of the corruption and moving necessary laws forward like the land titling. I guess the couple of years will see how the new government delivers.

Another hot topic is the changes to the gun laws in Panama. Again, I am not a lawyer and have not read the new law, but to me anything that helps remove some of the guns in the country is a good thing. Yes, I am a Canadian, so my beliefs on gun laws are different than Americans so take this with that in mind.

Are you considering Panama as a new home? Have you already made the move to Panama from Canada, USA or Europe? Why not share your experience with our readers to help them understand the issues you faced. We added one from Reggie - read it here. I've also added an email posted on the Panaforum about the health care experience of one person.

We've added a new link - a spa in Boquete called The Haven - check it out. Donna and Elaine enjoyed the spa at the Panamonte Hotel when we were there last, but from the looks of this one, they would have enjoyed it as well.

One thing we've had to learn, a little but the hard way, is the labour laws of Panama. When we first arrived in Panama we were told to be well informed on the labour laws as to not be could be disastrous. If you hire anyone for any kind of continuing work, make sure you hire a lawyer, ask to have your obligations explained fully, have them draw up a contract and have it registered with the Ministry of Labour.

Just a quick primer on the labour laws - this is not from a legal perspective - just mine understanding from being here for almost 4 years and having numerous employees in our Panamanian company.

First, as I said, have a lawyer create a contract for every employee.  The first three months are designed as a probationary period for both employee and employer. After 3 months the contract is generally set to expire in 12 months. Between month one and month 23 you may dismiss the employee for any reason as long as you pay the necessary severence amounts. After 2 years of employment the rules change. You may not fire the employee without cause or mutual consent or the employee may request the Ministry of Labour to give them their job back.

Salaries are low in Panama, yes, but take into account the following. Every employee is entitled by law to the following additional benefits.

  • 1 full month vacation every 12 months of work
  • 1.5 days of sick leave per month that may be accumulated for 2 years
  • 1 month of "pension pay" for every year employed
  • severance pay if dismissed after 3 months
  • 10 statuary holiday days per year (3 in November)

dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

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Happy Canada Day and US Independence Day - regardless is you are still in Canada or the USA or if you are in Panama I trust you celebrated your heritage. Both countries are special. So too, is our new home, Panama - each in its own way.

I am sure everyone in the world is aware of the horrible disaster of the oil spill in the gulf but did you know there was a major spill in Panama. True. A good friend found this article on how bad this spill was and how it affected the eco system in Panama. In 1986 a spill occurred on the Caribbean side of Panama near the opening to the canal at Bahia Las Minas. It let 38.3 million litres of crude oil from a storage tank and it affected the coral reefs and mangroves. Apparently even today you can see the after effects and find oil in the water in places. Imagine the damage to come from the gulf oil BP spill. You can google more on this or read this article by the Smithsonian

People always ask about health care and other professional services here in Panama - well this week brings another example of the level of service. Somehow I cracked the entire side off one of my molars - no pain but very uncomfortable. So I emailed my dentist Dr. Lee Friday night and he immediately responded to say I could come in Saturday or Monday. So far my doctor, dentist, lawyer, accountant - all are very competent, reasonable and attentive professionals.

One of the things you should consider doing is taking a tour of the Panama White House - the Palace of Cranes in Casco Viejo - well worth the time. You do need to request a time and provide your passport information before they will do the tour - Send an email of request with your name, nationality and passport number to gabrego@presidencia.gob.pa  to be assigned a day and time to visit. Send this in early.

Are you thinking about Panama as a new home - have you already moved here - why not share your story with us so others can benefit from your experience. Send us a note and tell us what made you consider Panama or why you chose Panama. We've been here almost 4 years and its hard to believe how fast time has flown. When we first chose Panama we knew we would have some adjusting to do and we have, but we have been so fortunate in the people we've met that we are happy to share what we can with anyone thinking of Panama.

 

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Quiet week unless you consider the thunder. We've had a few good nights of thunder and lightning.

Monday, Donna & I went to the restaurant La Posta in Marbella. I've seen their ads for a long time in the Visitor and thought it would be a really nice place for Donna's birthday. The food was very good and certainly affordable but I guess I was expecting something a little quieter. On a Monday night the place was sold out. Amazing but really, really noisy, to the point Donna couldn't hear me without leaning over so I could speak loudly in her ear. We may go back with friends but not a special night with just the two of us.

I went to Cable & Wireless to cancel our local land line at the condo. I had tried to send Nino to do this for me as he does with so many things. All I wanted to do was cancel a simple 10.00 per month account but C&W insisted a letter of authorization was not sufficient it needed to be notarized. So off I went with Nino. Three times we had to return to the C&W office to cancel the account and get the deposit back. What a challenge. So why did we cancel the phone. We really don't use it - the only people that seemed to have used it were telemarketers and I couldn't see paying 10 per month to hear telemarketers. :}

Last week the Visitor ran an article about the state of affairs of the residential condo market in Panama City. With 10's of thousands of units coming on the market in the next 12 - 18 months it seems reasonable that a correction has to take place.

What's hard to fathom is when I look at what some of the developers are asking for their last units it seems to me they still think they are in a sellers market not a buyers market.

We've been missing our times out at the beach in recent weeks. I hope in the coming months we can get back into the groove of heading out to Caribbean at least once or twice every month. We've also made a commitment to each other that we will explore at least one new restaurant a month. We both work hard and we don't get out often, so this will force us to take at least one night a month off.

Are you thinking about Panama as a new home - have you already moved here - why not share your story with us so others can benefit from your experience. Send us a note and tell us what made you consider Panama or why you chose Panama. We've been here almost 4 years and its hard to believe how fast time has flown. When we first chose Panama we knew we would have some adjusting to do and we have, but we have been so fortunate in the people we've met that we are happy to share what we can with anyone thinking of Panama.

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

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Happy Fathers Day to all.

It's been over 13 years since my dad passed away and almost 18 months since Donna's dad died. Dad is still "alive" in my mind and what's so funny is I know see so much of him in me when I look in the mirror - the one regret is not telling him that i loved him as often as i should - if your dad is still with you - hug him today and tell him you love him

The latest Visitor had an interesting article on the state of affairs with the real estate in Panama. Like everything else there are many opinions - the half empty or the half full views - no one has a crystal ball to know for sure what is going to happen here or anywhere else in the world. Who predicted the state of affairs of the Euro. The ones that are going to face a bit of tough time in the short term will be the ones who speculated on Panama 3 years ago, just before everything started to come apart in the world. I believe if they can hang on then they will come out ok, but if they have to bail, it's going to hurt.

The rainy season has been in full force these past few days - and yesterday was the first time I've felt the rain was "chilly" (albeit it was still 80+ degrees), the wind made it feel that much cooler.

We're going to be trying a new restaurant this week and we'll report back on how we felt about it.

Donna & I had some fun Friday afternoon - we played hooky from work and went to the Panama Gastronomica 2010 at the Hotel El Panama downtown - we sampled some great food and learnt more about the state of the food industry in Panama. See the pictures here.

This week I also received a great set of photos showing the old Panama back in the late 1800's - check them out - pretty cool.
 

   

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

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I love when i talk with friends from Canada or the USA who are investigating Panama. This past week two friends of ours were sharing information between themselves on their times exploring Panama. The focus of their attention was El Valle, a small town about 1.5 hours from Panama City that is up in the hills and has been the weekend retreat of many of the wealthier Panamanians over the years.

I've put a couple of new sites on the "other sites" page - one is called Oakleaf Creations - great creations by Jim & Ann

One interesting tidbit I learnt from the discussion was the fact that there is a couple building a container home. We've often thought that with all the containers sitting empty in Panama (and all over the world) that they should be used more in building. If we could ever find a piece of land on the coast we'd use containers to construct a home. They are durable, inexpensive and very plentiful - recycle, reuse, reduce. There are some great examples of what can be done with containers - check some of them out. Start with Fred & Cynthia's blog called "Shipping Container House in Panama" and then look as some examples they've posted to see what can be done with containers.

Something else I believe Panama will adopt at some point in the future will be floating homes much like they have in Granville Island, Vancouver or all over the USA. There are so many potential areas where the beach is not so great but the water way is perfect for this kind of development.

Football (Soccer) is everywhere in Panama - everyone has an opinion on who is going to take the world cup - all the bars have 2 for one national beers during the games. I am sure there are soccer fans in Canada but I've never seen anything quite like this. Not even the grey cup, or the stanley cup can compare. It's like a national fever - but a good one. 

On a totally different note - baking bread. Since moving to Panama I have been challenged like I've never been challenged before in making good looking bread. It tastes fine but its anemic. I just finished another batch and its getting a bit better with a bit more color. I really have to find a way to make an outside wood fired oven - this baking bread in 30+ degrees is not great :}I also posted a new article on strawberries I hope you enjoy.

Donna & I live in Costa del Este, supposed to be one of the more sought after areas of Panama City for its layout, planning and amenities but one thing I am so surprised they've never been able to control - the trash that floats down the river and ends up on the coast line right in front of million dollar condos.

   

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

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Donna arrived home this week so life gets back to normal for another few weeks before she heads out again.

We went for a drive out to the causeway to take Cricket for a walk and to see what was new. It's interesting how some of the areas have cleaned up along the walkway - if the ice cream shop could just take a few minutes and pick up the trash their clients toss away across from their store maybe people would learn not to throw their garbage on the ground. When we first walked along the causeway 3 plus years ago there were park benches everywhere now there are 3 lone benches. I hope they chose to replace them as people used to use them. I thought you might like to see the new "twist" building - Revolution being built on Calle 50 and the state of the new Trump Tower in Punta Pacifica

When is the rainy season not the rainy season - when you go several days with perfectly sunny, hot weather. It's so different than back in Canada on the west coast in winter. The clouds arrive in the late fall and it stays gloomy and either pours or drizzles virtually every day. It never seems to let up. Add to that it's cold and it makes for a difficult time to really enjoy. Sure people endure it but it is not enjoyment. Here, the rain arrives sometime during the day with a vengeance but it is warm and the rain rarely lasts for more than an hour. So walk in the rain, go shopping, people still enjoy the pool, all because it is still so warm. The one thing that does take some getting used to during the rainy season is the humidity and how much less wind there is to cool things off. We are constantly using our dehumidifier to keep the mold off clothes. Small price to pay for the warmth in my opinion.

Football fever is all over Panama - not being a sports fan I really don't "get it" but you are either a football fan or a baseball fan - period :} The world cup in South Africa is on everyone's mind and you can see it in the vehicles.

It seems like every car tells a story with its country flags. One one car you will see a German flag and an Argentinean flag - what an interesting couple that must be :} Too bad Panama wasn't in the game :}

It's also whale watching time on the Pacific side of Panama near the Pearl Islands - one group that offers 3-5 day tours of this event is www.WhaleWatchingPanama.com run by Anne Gordon. The sailing school in Panama City also offers some trips and tours to see whales.

Over the past few years I've mentioned the land titling issues here in Panama - from what I hear it sounds like that phase of Panama's past will be over soon. With proper land title certificates on every property in Panama I am certain that in 10 years they will wonder why then never did it sooner.

I had the pleasure of emailing with a fellow Canadian looking to retire in Panama in a few years. My typical advice, if you haven't spent anytime in Panama then the best thing to do is start somewhere, rent and get to know the country and the culture. Do not buy before you try.

I also met with a fellow Canadian who has been working on setting up a new service in Panama and I am sure after our chat we'll see a lot of each other over the coming months and years. I wish him well with his new endeavor. He promised that when he got his new business running one of the charitable groups his company would support would be the Arraijan shelter. We need more companies to step up and help with something every month.

One last bit while I am on a business note. This week was another learning experience regarding the labor laws in Panama and how in some respects they are so focused on employees rights and protection it almost feels oppressive to a company. It also another reminder why it is so important to make sure you have a good accountant and a good lawyer - in that order.

 

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Cricket and I walked along the causeway this morning. Donna is away so we went by ourselves. I am really pleased to see so many people out on a Sunday morning. When we first arrived almost 4 years ago there almost no one early on a Sunday am. What I do miss is there used to be dozens of park benches all along the walkway, now there are just a handful. I hope it is something they decide to replace them, maybe with something like ones made from recycled plastic - there are lots of plastic bottles and bags lying around.

I was also wondering why with all the shoreline around the causeway and so little land to build on that someone hasn't decided to create a village of floating homes like they have all over the USA and Canada. They are such a tourist attraction and they provide an interesting area like the Granville Island in Vancouver. Maybe someday :}

On our way back into the city we drove through Casco Viejo. This is area I could live in. It's so funky and unique. I know it will take another 10 years to become something as vibrant as old San Juan Puerto Rico or old town in Cartagena Columbia but every time I drive through I see signs of improvement and vitality. Yes there is still a lot of poverty and run down buildings but the change in the 4 years since we came to Panama is amazing.

I had the pleasure of meeting a fellow Canadian this week from our home province of Alberta. He and a some friends have been working on starting a new service in Panama for the past 2 years and he is 2/3 the way through the process. He has more patience than me.

This week as well brought some great news. It appears that Catastro is now taking applications to title derecho posesorio land (ROP). What a huge step forward. I've not heard anyone who has actually received a title. If you know anyone, I would love to hear the results. To read the information on line:

Web page: www.mef.gob.pa/  Follow through these items : 1° “Quienes Somos”, 2° “Direcciones”, 3° “Direccion de Catastro”, 4° “Si”, 5° Titulacion de Islas y Costas, 6° Requisito y Aviso

If you participate in the Yahoo goupi - Panama Laws for Expats, you will find a series of files Susan Guberman Garcia posted to explain this titling process.

I also had another pleasant email this week from a lady in California wanting to adopt one of the dogs from the shelter. She found it online at the www.theyneedyourlove.org - I put her in touch with Mari - I hope when she arrives in Panama some lucky puppy will find a great home - please keep spreading the word - there are so many needy pets.

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

Cricket and I also had the chance to visit with the two dogs we "adopted" and are now living with a family that do caretaking work here in Costa del Este - man do they look like a million bucks - i was so pleased.

 

May 2010

The rainy season is definitely upon us - I got caught in it during one of my walks the other day. When I left the condo it was just a "sprinkle" - by the time I made it half way around it was pouring, to put it mildly. :}

During our walk yesterday, Cricket & I witnessed another crane being removed from another condo that is nearing completion. In our little area of Panama called Costa del Este, there are over 30 apartment towers in various stages of completion. When Donna & I arrived almost 4 yrs ago there were 3 complete and another 4 under under construction - you can see the progression of the condominium construction from our apartment balcony in our Pictures area under Changes in Costa del Este. It really is remarkable to see the changes.

I reported an article in La Prensa a couple of weeks ago indicating they believed there were some 5-8000 excess luxury condominiums in Panama City - from our area alone its not too difficult to believe.

As  you may recall Donna & I have taken the Royal Caribbean cruise from Colon on 2 occasions and have booked for a third. I was really pleased to read recently that the Pullmantur Lines will be using Colon as  home port for one of their ships, Ocean Dream. So far their web site does not have it listed. 

There are reports of numerous tax law changes in Panama but I have not sat down with our lawyer and accountant yet to see how they might impact most expats but as soon as I have I will report back. These taxes affect land, buildings, earnings, and goods and services - the later sales tax has been raised from 5% to 7%.

Doesn't seem like a lot, but 2% to the average Panamanian worker on all their purchases will make a dent in their disposable income.

They're painting our building these days. What I can't figure out is why they would have waited for the rainy season to start. Oh well, one of those things I guess I am not meant to grasp:} We also had a really bizarre incident this week. We were informed by the building administration that the garden hose Donna bought to help the building maintenance people water the plants that the building had bought its own as it was against the "rules" for tenants to buy items for the building - incomprehensible, at least to me.

I added lots of new photos - and a new section called "I'm Fonda Food" a play on the name of local on the street food locations called "fondas". Donna & I are visiting a local fonda sampling the food and commenting on it so you can get to know some of the local food fare. There are almost 4000 pictures to browse through. We've broken them down into sections like Around Panama City, or the Pacific and Caribbean. Within each there are a number of specific pages. We've even included pictures that friends have given us to share with you and its always fun to see other peoples perspectives on Panama. Enjoy.

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

Why not share your "why I moved to ... " story so others can be inspired - write us at tomd@whypanama.net.

 

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Census day in Panama. Every ten years like most countries, Panama takes a census of all of its residents. What's different is that in Panama they choose to do it all in one day - today. All over the country people are hired to take the census. The residents (us) are forced by law to remain indoors until the census takers have completed the form. They then give us a "pass" to allow us to leave our condo and not be arrested. :} Only in Panama. Our census taker, a very pleasant young man, arrived at our door at about 3 pm and as we had downloaded and completed the entire form the process took about 10 minutes. How great. :}

Yesterday Donna & I took a sailboat from the Amador  causeway to get an up close view of the tall ships that are going through the canal on their way to Cartagena, Columbia - http://www.velasudamerica2010.com/index.php - while we only got to see 4 of the 12 ships but it was really cool non-the-less. The sailboat we went on was owned and operated by a husband and wife team of Patricia and Joel - what is amazing is he had a baby grand installed in his 44 ft sailboat - no small feat as it meant cutting the boat to allow its insertion.

We also drove out to the causeway Wednesday night to see the Clipper ships that were in Panama on their epic journey around the world.  Ten teams battle in this race around the world on 68 foot racing yachts - crewed in part by amateurs who paid to participate. We wanted to see the boat from Cape Breton Nova Scotia which we did - how cool. We were also fortunate to talk to one of the volunteer crew. The lady was Britain and had paid something like 32,000 pounds for her 12 month voyage. After reading the website makes I understand a bit more of her comment that there were "good times and bad times".  http://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/index.php/home

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

It's definitely the "green season" (read rainy season) as everything is green and the humidity is certainly up there - and after a few years we're at least prepared for it and now it doesn't drain us near as much as it did the first year. This change from brown to green is much more evident on the Pacific side of Panama versus the Caribbean side.

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Mothers Day in North America but not in Panama - both Donna & I no longer have our mothers alive to call and celebrate Mothers Day with but we both remember them and in those memories they both live on with us.

It's good to be back to baking buns again. I've been working on getting a sour dough starter and we'll see how they turn out in buns today.

One of our friends in Canada emailed to say they had great news about a medical result - and we we were thrilled to be happy with them.

I told you last week about a stray Shar Pei roaming around in Costa del Este. We went back a couple of times to see if it would take food but it was so timid it just moved away whenever we got close. So we pleaded in the hopes of finding its owner of a home. Within 3 days I was not able to find him and for the next several days without seeing him wondered if indeed he did find a home. On Friday night I stopped at the Super 99 and when entering the store saw a note on the door. The note was from a person who found the same Shar Pei but unfortunately too late to help, it had already passed away and the note was in hopes of finding the owner.

I admit it still makes me sad and angry. How can someone lose such a nice looking dog without finding it especially in an area like Costa del Este that is almost a closed environment. And if he was purposely abandoned then I am afraid I have no nice thoughts about a person that would do that to a dog.

The only comfort is that poor dog will no longer suffer hunger or lack of companionship.

Which brings me again to remind you about "They Need Your Love" - the web site we built to help raise money for a shelter here in Panama that almost 200 dogs call home at any one time.

Donna & I are going to take either Wednesday or Thursday off to go the Amador Causeway to see the 11 tall ships as they arrive to traverse through the Canal.

The ships will not dock in Panama and Panama is not an official port of call for the voyage but there will be impressive vistas of the ships docked out at sea and as they enter the Panama Canal. For more information about the regatta’s Canal passage please contact commodore@panamayachtclub.com , 6616-2408. For more information about the ships and this epic voyage please visit http://www.velasudamerica2010.com/index.php .

Donna also put up an article she did on our Cruise in 2009 and I've uploaded pictures of both cruises we took - 2009 and 2010. We're booked to go again in 2011. Do you get the idea we like the cruise :} We do.

An article in a local paper (click to read complete article) this last week quoted Wilson Ruiz, Vice President Panamanian Association of Real Estate Brokers, as saying there is an oversupply of between 5,000 and 8,000 luxury condos in Panama. In our area of Costa del Este alone there are 16 towers ranging in size from 20 to 70 stories. All of these are residential, high-end condos.  Since we moved here in 2006 we seen our little area grow from 3 apartment towers to almost 30 - a 10 fold growth in less than 4 years. A growth rate that is hard to understand and sustain.

There is another event that is echoing this madness. Four years ago it was almost impossible to find available office space. Today it seems there is a tower springing up on every corner. It will be interesting to see what happens in this market over the coming 3 - 4 years.

 

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May Day - Labour Day - May 1st in Panama - a day off for almost everyone. Quiet n Costa del Este -

You may recall Donna & I asking about finding a home for two dogs that were losing their home as the security shack that they lived in was being demolished – we found them a great home here in Costa del Este and we just returned from visiting them – it was great to see them in their new home enjoying the run of a huge area.

Now we need your help again -- during our walk this morning we saw a black shar pei dog (not sure if he is pure bred or mixed) walking very slowly along one of the side roads near a construction site – we know almost all the strays in this area as we feed them when we see them – and we’ve not seen him before – he is very shy, very thin and does not appear to be very old (I am not a great judge of dog age but he has no graying of the muzzle) – his coat is matted with mud so he’s not been sleeping in any dry places – he would not take our food when we offered it as he was too shy and moved away

If you know anyone who lost a Shar pei or is wanting one – call us and we can give you some idea where we’ve run into him.

We've started into our "green season" and what a difference. In just a couple of weeks we've gone from mostly brown to green everywhere.

The Tall Ships are Coming to Panama - May 13th & 14th they we will be arriving on the Pacific side of Panama canal and will traverse the canal on their way to Cartagena Columbia. We missed this the last time they came through and we're not going to miss it again.

May 16th the Census is coming to Panama - every person in Panama will be enumerated in one day. The information to be gathered is really interesting. To make the time go by more smoothly we've downloaded and printed out the form. You can too from here http://www.censos2010.gob.pa/cuestionario.pdf

During one of our sojourns downtown this week we stopped and had a quick lunch at the Marbella La Emaculada - pleasant and prompt service, hot, tasty food - and cheap - great combination - we both had a bacon cheese burger with a chocolate shake - yum.

We received an email from a lady visiting Panama City and staying somewhere along the Cinta Costera - she'd been feeding a pup she befriended that was homeless but was worried about its well being when she left Panama. Peter & a friend went to find it without success. She wrote back to say she noticed the pup and its dish was gone so she hoped someone took it in.

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

On a sour note, a couple of years ago we noticed an event in Panama called Casa Cor that was going to take an old run down building and renovate it using local designers, open it to the public for a period of time and then turn it over to Panama. Cool idea we thought. We missed it and we missed the one they did last year in Casco Viejo by days, so this year we decided to make sure we got to it. We arranged the time and made our way to the building. We bought our tickets - $25 and proceeded in only to be stopped whey they saw Donna's camera - "you can't take pictures" we were told - apparently the organizers and designers had a magazine coming out next week. First, an article said "bring your camera", second, there were no signs on the premises to say no photos. Third, we witnessed, and so did the security guard several very well dressed women wandering about snapping pictures with their phone and not being told to cease. Very poor organization in my opinion. Poorly managed and we will not be returning or supporting and any of the companies we notices participating we won't be supporting either.

 

April 2010

I continue to be amazed at the banking environment in Panama. We've had an account with one of the banks for over 3 years and we decided to open a new account at another bank just for our own piece of mind. You would think this would be a simple matter especially with over 3 years of banking history. Well no, not quite that simple. Donna & I both needed a reference letter from our current bank addressed specifically to the new bank. We also needed 3 personal references each. Along with 2 pieces of picture id, the new bank would consider our request for an account and let us know in 5 business days if we qualify. If you are considering Panama for a new home, consider opening several accounts with several banks as soon as you arrive as you will have all the necessary paperwork. Over the coming years you will be able to assess which bank you want to chose as your long term.

There are a number of lessons like this that you would think we'd have learned by now but it seems we continue to stumble upon items like this that are so different than Canada. Most of these types of things are simply a matter of us understanding how things are done here. It isn't a matter of right or wrong, it's just a matter of them being different.

On the other hand there are other things that we don't agree we should adjust to like the quality of service or the attitudes toward trash and animals.

No matter how many years we live hear and no matter how many times we hear - "that's just the way it is done in Panama" we'll never adjust. 

It seems in a few of the locations along the upper coast "costa arriba", that the beaches will get titled. Some people are are preparing by having their own independent surveys conducted. I still have not heard officially that the regulations for law 80 have been passed or enacted.

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

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In the almost 4 years since Donna & I chose to move to Panama City we've seen a number of changes. One change - hundreds of towers have been built - we were chuckling about this when we drove to the causeway along the Corridor Sur. We had looked at a condo in Punta Pacifica when we were doing some condo hunting originally. We had asked the salesperson - 'will there be a number of towers in front of this condo' - his response was something like "maybe a few" - well today there is almost a solid wall of buildings today :} we were very happy with our choice to buy in Costa del Este. Then we talked this morning about trash - no question litter has dropped in some areas, especially again in Costa del Este and places like the new Cinta Coastera but some areas like the causeway are just a mess. We took a number of pictures this morning. Check them out for yourself. Remember this is one of the first places tourists see especially when they arrive on cruise ships. Why the merchants don't take it upon themselves to self regulate this litter/trash is beyond me. One store, the Gelarti Shop on the second island. Their cups and cone holders were littered all over the walk way across the street. Imagine what tourists think when they stroll along and see this type of litter. Check out some pictures here. There was an letter to the editor in the Visitor last week that commented on how poor the port in Colon was as a first impression to cruise ship port. We heartily agree. 

On our way back into the city Donna stopped to take a shot of the new Gehry Museum of Biodiversity designed by Frank Gehry, that is under construction. It is coming along but as you can see there is a lot left to be done. It will pretty amazing when it opens. The new museum is to be called the Bridge of Life Museum.

Donna & I spent some time planting new hibiscus plants in our social area yesterday - we really need to get some color and plants growing as the social area right now just looks like a kindergarten back yard :}

Further along the causeway is the new Zona Viva night club area. We've not visited during the night, but I think it's a great idea to put all the night clubs in one place as it makes it easier for cabs and police :}. Right now the main area for night clubs are downtown near or on Calle Uraguay. This makes for some very noisy neighbours and for lots of congestion as these are very narrow streets. The Zona Viva is a huge area out on the causeway that could easily handle hundreds of vehicles.

Donna also spotted a hawk, we don't know the variety but it was pretty cool. Within 2 minutes two small birds chased it out of their area.

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

Donna was reading a Maeve Binchy book once when she ran across a quote she has taken to herself and helped me embrace it

Eventually is Today

If you have something that you keep putting off or you keep saying "we'll do that eventually" - do it now

Why not share your "why I moved to ... " story so others can be inspired - write us at tomd@whypanama.net.

 

March 2010

Donna & I need your help - here is an open letter from Donna - Can you or someone you know help.

We knew it had to happen. You see for over two years now we have been taking care of two of the most wonderful dogs that have been living with the workers in a construction hut while condos have been built around us. We have taken care of them since then, making sure they have food, vet care, that they were both fixed and had their distemper shots.

Pastor is a wonderful male, pale in colour and colourful in personality. He bounds up to us when we come to visit him. Gentle in spirit.

Pastorcita is a precious female, half the size of Pastor and very loving.

They are happy dogs and healthy dogs and now dogs that are losing their home because they are tearing down the construction hut.

We would love to find them a home together where they can be loved and taken care of and be together as they have always been.

If you can help us, it sure would be appreciated.



Do you know anyone that could provide a home for these two - email or phone us please

 

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

We spent last weekend on the Caribbean at the house of a friend. The house is located on an isolated cove with an incredible beach. Needless to say we had an amazing time. We had nothing pressing to do but walk on the beach, eat and nap.

People ask why we moved to Panama - this is one of the pleasures. To be able to get up Thursday morning, pack the truck and drive for less than 2 hours and unpack at the beach. Coming from Alberta Canada this was only ever a dream. Now it's a reality.

I had the pleasure of finishing the latest book by Frances Mayes, the author of Under the Tuscan Sun. Her latest book is Every Day in Tuscany. I am sure books like this and "A Year in Provence" by Peter Mayle (he also wrote "A Good Year" that was later turned into a movie with Russell Crowe), and The Summer of My Greek Taverna, by Tom Stone all had a hand in shaping Donna & I into the mind set that allowed us to make the decision to move to Panama almost 4 years ago.

Donna was reading a Maeve Binchy book once when she ran across a quote she has taken to herself and helped me embrace it

Eventually is Today

If you have something that you keep putting off or you keep saying "we'll do that eventually" - do it now

 

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Panama is changing. Lots of these changes are to the better in my opinion.  Even in our area Costa del Este it is obvious that there is more attention to litter than there was as little as 3 years ago when we arrived. There are cleaning crews and even a street sweeper that motors its way around the community at least once a week.

The construction boom is slowing as well. Fewer new starts on residential buildings but several new starts on commercial buildings. All of the 20+ buildings that started since our arrival are all coming to their conclusion with only 2 exceptions. These two built the first few floors and have stopped for over a year.

I am sure there were many anxious buyers of pre-construction units. When they put their money down 3 or 4 years ago I am sure they were both excited and concerned. I am sure they knew they were getting a great deal compared to where they came from in North America or Europe. Over the last 2-3 years I am sure they wondered about the wisdom of this purchase when they saw the real estate market in North America go through melt down. If they were coming to live in Panama and if they got their money out of their home before the melt down I know they are still thrilled. If not- I wonder.

Are you one of these people that bought a pre-construction unit in Panama 2-5 years ago. Are  you willing to share your experience with others. I would love to start a section on the site just for this - My Story - share you story.

Donna and I spent some time going through all of the pictures we took in 2009 and created a slide show - we hope you enjoy it. http://www.whypanama.net/2009review/index.html

Our only challenge since coming to Panama, besides my inability to master spoken Spanish (that will come - just lots of work) - is to find a place on the beach.

Anyone who's read my notes on this site over the past couple of years know our angst.

The current government passed law 80 last year after killing law 23 of the previous government but to date they have not passed the regulations on the implementation. As recent as a couple of weeks ago we had another report of some land being stolen by a well connected person. This is one of the main reasons why Panama needs to title ALL of its land - not just some for the privileged few. No one is going to seriously consider Panama outside Panama City without titling.

Do you own land held as Right of Possession? Derecho posesorio? Are you concerned? Have you had any problems with this type of ownership? Send us your story and we will include in the new area - My Story.

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

Don't forget to join me on Twitter. I enjoy meeting so many interesting people in Panama and around the world. If  you are on Twitter let me know - I can be found as "PanamaTweet". Donna's Twitter handle is "ICanGarden" - follow us.

 

-----------------

I am always amazed when I read emails from people looking at Panama as possible home. My first inclination is to provide them with information but temper it with something like "you really need to come to Panama to check it out, live with it for a while, get to know some people here" before you make a decision. Then I remember how Donna and I moved to Panama. After vacationing in Mexico for almost 25 years and after deciding on two locations in Mexico to buy and build, we visited Panama City and within 4 days made up our mind this was the place.

Within 4 months I was here purchasing a condominium, finding office space and hiring employees. All this without ever going outside Panama City. All this without meeting anyone other than real estate agents.

So it can be done. Do we regret it - no way, but we are so lucky - so blessed - our neighbours across the hall turned out to be exactly who you would want for neighbours. The building, despites its few challenges is still the best buy in Costa del Este.

So follow our advice not our example. :}

Our only challenge since coming to Panama, besides my inability to master spoken Spanish (that will come - just lots of work) - is to find a place on the beach.

Anyone who's read my notes on this site over the past couple of years know our angst.

Not only is finding a suitable location a challenge as we want something that we can build on, something that is located within a reasonable driving distance from our condo on the Caribbean side but that has a good likelihood of being titled when the current government gets around to fulfilling their campaign promises. Lucky for us we have a friend who has a Caribbean beach house that lets us use it once in a while.

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

Don't forget to join me on Twitter. I enjoy meeting so many interesting people in Panama and around the world. If  you are on Twitter let me know - I can be found as "PanamaTweet". Donna's Twitter handle is "ICanGarden" - follow us.

 

February 2010

Thanks to everyone who read and responded to the plea for a home for the 4 sistesDonna & I took the Royal Caribbean cruise out of Colon again this year with our friends Wayne & Elaine. The second time was equally as good as the first, so much so we have booked 2011 already. Lots of pictures to follow.

We're half way through the dry season and its brown. I still find it so odd that we live in a tropical country yet every year for 3 months everything is brown.

Carnival is over for another year. We love Carnival - everyone in Costa del Este leaves the city and is so peaceful on our streets. I know lots of people who live downtown that just hate it as the traffic is horrible and the noise never quits.

Bill Cortright of BioFit is coming to Panama City Feb 24th for a book signing, no word yet on where but likely his club.

One more tidbit of information if you are considering Panama - make sure you set up multiple bank accounts when you arrive and if you can - keep your USA or other bank account. You may not ever have a second chance.

I've added several articles from Pet truama to the annual crab run on the Caribbean.

Donna and I spent some time going through all of the pictures we took in 2009 and created a slide show - we hope you enjoy it. http://www.whypanama.net/2009review/index.html

There continues to be lots of news and promises of change coming from the new government of R. Martinelli but from my perspective i have not see concrete results yet. Maybe I am expecting too much for a new government. They did after all get the cabbies to paint their cabs yellow. Sure makes finding a cab a lot eaiser.

An interesting article in La Estrella by Marlene Testa titled Cangrejos del Caribe - Donna & I have seen this migration first hand - like a horror movie - it was pretty spooky to see an entire yard moving as the crabs came out of their holes.

Just read a note that the German government is on the hunt for tax evaders using stolen Swiss bank data. Some countries are sure heating up their efforts to find tax cheats.

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

 

----------

i will be updating the site this weekend as it's been over 2 weeks. Amazing how time flies, especially when you're away for more than a week.

I wanted to call your attention to an urgent need - here is an email Donna got today.

Dear Donna:

I am looking for good hearted people willing to incorporate any of these 4 sisters into their families.

They are de- wormed, vaccinated and sterilized. They are three months old and would not grow taller than the knee height. Short hair, mixed breed.

If you can please help me find these people, I would appreciate it very much.

Please let me know.

Their names are from left to right:

Luciana (Lucy)
Navidad (Navi, como en la película AVATAR)
María Guadalupe (Lupita); y
Gloria.

Regards,
Mary

I am hoping to hear from some people that have untitled land on the coast or island to see if they know anything more about the implementation of the new law 80. So far I haven't heard anything but as soon as I do I will

The new land titling law was passed by the Panamanian legislature last week - the new law 80 will allow all lands owned under derecho posesorio (right of possession - ROP) - lots of changes were introduced and hard fought by the opposition groups  and in the end any land up to 5 hectares will be titled without fees, whereas any land holdings above 5 hectares will be subject to a fee based on where the land is located. Some of these titled lands are going to be very expensive. The government just released the final piece, the regulations or implementation guidelines and I have not had an opportunity to review them yet. As everyone knows, the devil is in the details.

 

January 2010

If you live in Panama City = are you seeing yellow :} everywhere --

For more than 3.5 years we've heard that the government had regulated that all cabs would be painted yellow - but we never saw them getting painted - then all of a sudden there is a deadline of December 31, 2009 and lo and behold - all the cabs are yellow. Nice to see some regulations being followed.

The Martinelli government released the plans and route for the proposed rapid transit train. It seems by the route that it is designed to move the largest groups of people who generally use the diablo rojos or the cabs it is unlikely it will reduce the car traffic but it should cut down on the buses and that's a good thing. It should also make the lives of these people easier as the trains will have schedules and they will not be packed in like sardines.

In our 3 years here in Panama we have seen many changes but one of the most encouraging is the shift toward being aware that trash and litter is unsightly and causes health issues. We are seeing signs on highways admonishing not to toss trash and in our area, trash cans being placed along roadways.

One more thing I hope evolves and changes is the attitude toward dogs and cats - it makes my heart cry when I see the strays and the unwanted.

Donna and I spent some time going through all of the pictures we took in 2009 and created a slide show - we hope you enjoy it. http://www.whypanama.net/2009review/index.html

I am hoping to hear from some people that have untitled land on the coast or island to see if they know anything more about the implementation of the new law 80. So far I haven't heard anything but as soon as I do I will

The new land titling law was passed by the Panamanian legislature last week - the new law 80 will allow all lands owned under derecho posesorio (right of possession - ROP) - lots of changes were introduced and hard fought by the opposition groups  and in the end any land up to 5 hectares will be titled without fees, whereas any land holdings above 5 hectares will be subject to a fee based on where the land is located. Some of these titled lands are going to be very expensive. The government just released the final piece, the regulations or implementation guidelines and I have not had an opportunity to review them yet. As everyone knows, the devil is in the details.

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

Don't forget to join me on Twitter. I enjoy meeting so many interesting people in Panama and around the world. If  you are on Twitter let me know - I can be found as "PanamaTweet". Donna's Twitter handle is "ICanGarden" - follow us.

 

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2009 was a great year - the end of a decade and with 2010 we are looking forward to even better things.

It seems Panama is settling in to a year of solidifying versus the previous 3 years of hectic growth. Here in Costa del Esté we can see that all but 2 projects will see their occupancy being completed by the end of this year. That means we will have watched over 30 towers be built in the scant 3 years we've lived here.

New Years eve was insane as usual - the entire city blasts off fireworks starting early - anytime after the sun goes down and reaches a crescendo at midnight - and was still going when we went to bed - and not amazingly we awoke to fireworks still going in the morning. 

We finished our 2009 review in pictures - we hope you enjoy them - http://www.whypanama.net/2009review/index.html

We had a great day with Paul & Maryann visiting from St. Albert. They spent 2 weeks at the Decameron resort. Last we picked them up and we toured around the city seeing Panama Viejo, Casco Viejo and the causeway before taking them back to the resort. 

Tuesday we pick up our old friends Wayne & Elaine. They are going with Donna to Ecuador next Friday, but they will be back on the 17th and will spend almost a month with us. We always have lots of fun with them.

The new land titling law was passed by the Panamanian legislature last week - the new law 80 will allow all lands owned under derecho posesorio (right of possession - ROP) - lots of changes were introduced and hard fought by the opposition groups  and in the end any land up to 5 hectares will be titled without fees, whereas any land holdings above 5 hectares will be subject to a fee based on where the land is located. Some of these titled lands are going to be very expensive. The government just released the final piece, the regulations or implementation guidelines and I have not had an opportunity to review them yet. As everyone knows, the devil is in the details.

Please don't forget the Arraijan Shelter for rescued dogs and cats. www.TheyNeedYourLove.org - if you can spare as little as $10 a month that would make a huge difference in the life of one dog or cat.

Don't forget to join me on Twitter. I enjoy meeting so many interesting people in Panama and around the world. If  you are on Twitter let me know - I can be found as "PanamaTweet". Donna's Twitter handle is "ICanGarden" - follow us.

 

Read the comments from the other years

More News  - 2011
More News  - 2010

More News  - 2009
More News  - 2008 & earlier

 




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