address
WhyPanama
Costa del Este
Panama City, Panama 







Donna


Tom


Tom



More News -

December 2014

Here it is almost 3 months since Cricket passed away and yet it is just like yesterday.

When we walk in the afternoon or I run in the morning we get to "visit" our little bear as we sprinkled some of her ashes on her favorite part of the walk. It is so hard to imagine how huge she was in our lives as I still get choked thinking of her. To non dog people this must seem really weird getting this choked over the loss of a pup but it is real to us.  

As hard as losing Cricky has been I just can't imagine the loss of a child. I spoke with one of our oldest clients this week and they lost their son of 25 years.  There is nothing I could do to even begin to imagine her grief. My sister lost her daughter to leukemia and I know how it still causes her to get choked = and that's been almost 20 years. Grief is really ugly but it also demonstrates how deep our love was.

We visited our foster dogs today. It was a tough week for them. Pastor, the large white alsatian was attacked by one more of the dogs in the are next door. This is not the first time - a few years ago the same dogs killed pastorcita. We are worried enough we spoke with Chito and he is going to take them to his house in the interior where they can run free and be safe. It is going to be sad that we won't be able to visit them but we hope that this new home will give them an better life and a lot more exercise than they get currently as they are only out at night. I am really angry at the people who own those other dogs but Nino told me that going after them would only mean a tough time for Chito so I will bite my tongue. Thank goodness Pastor is looking so good after his surgery

We made reservations to go with Jordan, Rita, Bob and Reuben last week to Donde Jose - well we had a great pre-dinner drink and nibbles at the American Trade Hotel only to find out there was a major power outage in Casco Viejo - hence no dinner. So we just stayed and ate nibbles. Really good. And the service was excellent - attentive, helpful and very nice. We've made new reservations for January at Donde Jose as we know the others will really enjoy eating there. We also spotted another restaurant, Villa Palma, we want to try next to where S'cena used to be. More on that when we go. Over the coming months when Donna is in town we plan on arranging dinners our with some of our friends and we will be trying a whole new group of restaurants so stay tuned for more reviews. I can't believe how many great restaurants there are in Panama City.

We did go to a new restaurant for us as a result of OfertaSimple again. Mar de Grau is located just off Calle 50 near the St. Georges Bank. It is a Peruvian. Check out our food and restaurant to ready our review. "spoiler" - we will go back :}

It's Christmas party season and we had our annual BBQ and band - there were almost 130 people - what a great time. We also went to Todd's party last night and met a whole new group of people - we had to be the oldest there by decades :} but still met some nice people

I had to go to Vegas for a trade show and near froze to death - wow, I am really no good with the cold. It rained, was windy and cold. But, I still enjoyed visiting after almost 20 years - what a change. There are so many things to do and see. I got a chance to see the Belagio dancing waters and the new hotels that have sprung up in 20 years. Incredible. Donna and I are planning to go for 3-4 days just to see it again.

Speaking of freezing, :} during the holidays we are going to visit our friends Alan & Geri in Boquete - the last time we did that trip in 2007 we near froze trying to sit outside of a restaurant at night. Should be fun as we are prepared and we are going to have a fondue.

We're still struggling a bit with our new office. We have all the plans done, approved by the building architect and the engineers but we are told the municipal approval could take weeks to months and we can't really begin work without them. We've hear horror stories of years and never getting the occupancy permits. We found someone who assured us she could expedite this process and shepherd all the documents "for a fee". The building owner said she was way our of line so we took his advice and began looking for another shepherd. It will likely be 10 months from purchase to occupancy of a small office. Welcome to Panama :} 

If you are considering Panama - do your homework - I've mentioned it before but it is worth repeating - there is a lot of information available from a number of sites - check them out - ask questions - we love Panama but I understand it is not for everyone and it is a very diverse country. I want them to have seen the beaches, the two oceans, mountains and the city. All of this where muslims, jews, christians, hindus, and who knows how many other religions get alone with no wars, riots or killings. In fact during the Noriega days the owners banded together to forcibly protect the free zone - it was never looted. Check out the article at "The Arab Traders of Colon"

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

Check out our site - we listed People and Services we have found we trust - we also have contacts for even a great handyman - Juan

 

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It seems these months just zoom by - it has been almost 7 weeks since Cricket passed away and yet it is just like yesterday. We were walking Alan & Geri's pups yesterday and ran across a young girl and her little dog "guachita" and she asked where our dog was and Donna had to explain Cricket was no longer with us - it still brings a hug lump to my throat. 

My sister Mardi and her friend Rodger were here for just about a month and while I didn't get to spend too much time during the day with them I think they enjoyed their stay. They told me the highlight was the 4 days at the house on the Caribbean and I understand that :}

During the month we visited a few new restaurants and bars. My friend Jordan has a jazz band and he was playing at Gula, here in Costa del Este so we went and had lunch and listened to them. The burgers were crazy - they were so big I know Donna and I could easily share one. Here is one sample of what the burgers look like.

Jordan also had a "gig" at the new tequila bar here in Costa del Este called Xuvia Lounge - what a cool place - it has an inside area that is air conditioned and an outside area where the music/band is set up. We sat outside. I asked the owner Nick for his recommendation as I know nothing about tequila - he suggested a "Nick's lemonade" - tequila, ice and lemon - wow - it was delicious - very refreshing.

There is also a new chinese restaurant coming to Costa del Este in the Ocean Plaza - that will pretty cool. There are going to be so many great restaurants in walking distance - we went to Tre Scalini again last week and it is just 5 minutes down the street - or 15 minutes walk to Athanasiou - yummy.

I had the chance to visit the new Frank Gehry museum of Biodiversity with Mardi and Rodger and it was really interesting. Pricey for non residents or jubilados - $22 - but only $6 for me. Not what I was expecting but interesting and worth the visit - there is only one real exhibit open of 3 planned. The next two will add quite a bit to the experience. The only thing I would say I didn't like is the way they have people move through the building - we almost missed two pieces of the museum.

The rainy season is winding down - Donna really does not like the dry season but I do as I prefer walking on dry sidewalks. Speaking of weather - I''ve been keeping up on Edmonton - last week - 12 below. Yuck. I am going to visit Las Vegas and Vancouver in a couple of weeks and I am not looking forward to the weather :}

If you are considering Panama - do your homework - I've mentioned it before but it is worth repeating - there is a lot of information available from a number of sites - check them out - ask questions - we love Panama but I understand it is not for everyone and it is a very diverse country. I want them to have seen the beaches, the two oceans, mountains and the city. All of this where muslims, jews, christians, hindus, and who knows how many other religions get alone with no wars, riots or killings. In fact during the Noriega days the owners banded together to forcibly protect the free zone - it was never looted. Check out the article at "The Arab Traders of Colon"

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

Check out our site - we listed People and Services we have found we trust - we also have contacts for even a great handyman - Juan

 

November 2014

Another couple of weeks have gone by since I've posted. My sister arrived with her friend for a visit and that makes me address something very difficult for me.

Sixteen years ago a little furry pup was born. She lived with my sister Mardi and visited us often. She helped fill a hole left behind by our two former dogs Kara and Casey. Cricket was such a force in all our lives. Over the years she ended up spending more and more time with us as we worked from home and Mardi was out often. By the time we moved to Panama she had been with us quite a while and we asked Mardi if she was ok with Cricket moving to Panama with us. For eight years Cricket enjoyed her life in Panama, interspersed with times that she did not enjoy when it thundered or someone set off fireworks.

Crickets last day with us was October 1st. We had a grand day. We got up and took her for her favorite thing - a car ride to the Amador causeway. We walked and enjoyed seeing her sniffing and taking everything in. She has a great meal and treats when we got home. We had arranged to have our vet come to our home as well as a service to care for her remains. This had to be the hardest thing I've ever done - to say goodbye to our best friend.

She will be with us forever - we loved her like a child. Check out Donna's comments an pictures.

We've decided not to be puppy parents again - but we will babysit - if you have a pup and need someone to spoil them rotten while you are out of Panama - we are your people.

November is a crazy month in Panama. There are so many holidays it is really hard to keep track of them. November 3, 5, 10 and 28th. Our office works but everything else is closed. We just returned from Playa Blanca and the traffic was crazy - everyone from the city seemed to be heading somewhere on the Pacific. It took us forever to get from the city to the condo at Playa Blanca.

Before I finish this note, I want to make sure I take the time to acknowledge how much we appreciated the professionalism and caring we found from the people at www.mascotas-panama.com - they took Cricket from us when she was gone in a very loving way and returned her remains two days later in a nice heart shaped box that sits on my desk.

We had a new cutting board build by Chris from Hancock Studio - incredible - it is 36 x 22 x almost 4 inches thick - this guy knows wood and how to create a piece of art. We will have him build more things for us for sure - I was blown away by his finished work. Check out his studio at https://www.facebook.com/hancockstudio

I met Bob Adams almost 8 years ago when I ran across Retirement Wave www.retirementwave.com - Bob provides a very detailed and professional view of Panama. His news items are very detailed and help people thinking of Panama as a new home. Bob has decided to start an online conference as a new service. This conference at the end of November will allow subscribers (free) to ask real time questions of experts on Panama.

We had some sad news that our best friend Sandra in Mendoza Argentina is facing treatments for lung cancer - she is very positive about the prognosis - it just brings home to me how fragile our life is and how we really need to think how we need to consider our time. I saw a great video on Facebook this week where a fellow took jelly beans to represent the total number of days we have on average and how we spend (use) those jelly beans. He ends the video asking the question, "if you only had one day left - what would you do with that one day?" - Good question - what would you do ???

If you are considering Panama - do your homework - I've mentioned it before but it is worth repeating - there is a lot of information available from a number of sites - check them out - ask questions - we love Panama but I understand it is not for everyone and it is a very diverse country. I want them to have seen the beaches, the two oceans, mountains and the city. All of this where muslims, jews, christians, hindus, and who knows how many other religions get alone with no wars, riots or killings. In fact during the Noriega days the owners banded together to forcibly protect the free zone - it was never looted. Check out the article at "The Arab Traders of Colon"

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

Check out our site - we listed People and Services we have found we trust - we also have contacts for even a great handyman - Juan

 

 

October 2014

It is Thanksgiving already - Canadian Thanksgiving that is - not to be confused with American Thanksgiving. When you check out the history of Thanksgiving Day it turns out to have actually been many days of giving thanks from the 1500's on through WWI - after that it seemed to simply become a tradition. Unlike the American Thanksgiving Canada Thanksgiving does not hail the beginning of Christmas shopping.

Donna is in South Africa so I sitting reflecting on Thanksgiving today. It's been a trying few weeks but I still couldn't help but think of how many things we have to be thankful. First for Donna - it would be hard to imagine a world where she is not the center of my life. I am thankful for my parents. I know when they were alive I didn't tell them that often enough - if you're parents are still around - tell them how much you appreciate them. My mom and dad taught me values, how to be thankful, how to enjoy life and that I could be anything I set my mind to -- a great gift.

I am thankful for good friends, some we've had the pleasure of knowing and enjoying their company for 40 years. Four our business partners that are more friends than just partners. Like every relationship we've had some times but I am thankful for being in business with them. I am thankful Donna has a business she loves and provides her with not just a living but fulfillment and enjoyment - how many people do you know start off telling you about their business by saying "there has to be a better word than job - how can you call what I do as a job".

I am thankful for life in Panama. What a great decision to move here over eight years ago. Again, it was our partner who suggested we take a trip to Panama to check it out.

I am thankful for our health. So many people go through their lives with illness or injury - we have been so blessed.

I am thankful for having had Cricket for 16 years - she has given us so many years, hours, of fun, love and enjoyment. I saw a video today on facebook that reminded me of this - it was called "so God made a dog". I went to visit our foster pups today to take them their treats and to enjoy their company.

I am thankful for finding out how much fun diving can be - I should have done it years ago. 

I could go on with things I am thankful for - I am sure you have your own list.

This weekend and tomorrow is a time to to stop and write some of them down. Last year at this time we were off to Argentina on Donnas tour and to visit our friends in Mendoza. It was fun rereading the notes from that time and reliving how much fun we had enjoying Argentina and visiting Sandra and Jose Luis.

I was talking to our friends Alan & Geri last week as they are planning on coming through the city on their way to Miami - it will be great to spend some time and get caught up with them. I has been almost a year since they moved to Boquete and they left a big hole. Between them moving and Sandra and Jose Luis going to Argentina we miss a lot of their company.

Alan sent me an article about the Colon Free Zone that was really interesting. The Colon Free Zone is essentially a cross dock type environment - goods arrive from all over the world are dropped in the Free Zone, repackaged for distribution in other locations and shipped out Free of Duty and Tax as they never left the "free zone". There are lots of these Free Zones around the world but Colon is reportedly the largest in the Americas and the second largest in the world. What is interesting about this article is the context of the world problems today - Colon is a microcosm of how the world should work. It is a conglomeration of Panamanian, Jewish, Arab, Indian, European and North American peoples all coexisting in what will become almost 1800 hectares of land doing an annual business of more than 15 billion dollars in exports.

If you are considering Panama - do your homework - I've mentioned it before but it is worth repeating - there is a lot of information available from a number of sites - check them out - ask questions - we love Panama but I understand it is not for everyone and it is a very diverse country. I want them to have seen the beaches, the two oceans, mountains and the city. All of this where muslims, jews, christians, hindus, and who knows how many other religions get alone with no wars, riots or killings. In fact during the Noriega days the owners banded together to forcibly protect the free zone - it was never looted. Check out the article at "The Arab Traders of Colon"

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

Check out our site - we listed People and Services we have found we trust - we also have contacts for even a great handyman - Juan

 

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It has been a couple of weeks since I posted last. It's been a busy and trying 2 weeks so my writing has suffered.

Donna went to Columbia to see if she might do a tour in the future. Her comments were interesting. She found the people more hospitable and the country cleaner than Panama. I found that really odd as Panama is really just Columbia, with a new name and constitution - it has been just over 100 years since it was a minor out of the way province of Columbia. Yet when I asked her if she would do a tour, she said she didn't think so as it was too similar to Panama. Maybe she needs to do another trip and take in some different areas and sites.

She is now off to South Africa leading her tour group. This will be her second trip and I remember her being less than enthusiastic the first time yet when she came home she was so impressed she started on her second group almost immediately. There are two other guests that decided the same thing as they are coming back this trip. With all of what is happening in Africa and Ebola I am happy she is going now as the threat of Ebola is about the same as it is in the USA as it is so far away from South Africa - but who can say in a year or two what it will be like.

When we first started writing this weekly note back in 2006 we did so for several reasons. First, to help answer our friends in Canada when they heard about our decision to move to Panama. They were all shocked that we had not chosen Mexico as they knew we had been going to Mexico for almost 20 years. Even for us it was quite a change. Especially considering it only took us 4 days to make the decision that Panama was the choice. I've spoken about this a lot over the past 8 years but it boiled down to Panama offering the infrastructure only found in Mexico City but with a tiny city and proximity to both the Caribbean and the Pacific. We also found out to our pleasant surprise that our income from Canada would not be subject to taxation whereas they would have been in Mexico.

After making the decision to move we had to navigate all the issues of leaving Canada and making sure we followed all the rules to ensure we were considered "non residents" in the eyes of the Canada Revenue Agency and ensure we qualified for the Pensionado visa in Panama. We needed to find a residence, open bank accounts, find furniture, get all of our papers, licenses, and things like health insurance, utilities and so much more.

When I read the problems some expats have with these items we navigated with what feels like relative ease we decided we would use this site to help new expats with these things if we could. We don't do this as a "service for fees" but more like "paying it back" as we feel so blessed. So if you have any quesitons or you think we might be able to point you in the right direction please don't hesitate to send us a quick email - we always answer - send it to tomd@whypanama.net

In the past 8 years we've spoken with, emailed and met many new expats. Some have become great friends. Not surprisingly, some have chosen to return to Canada or the US. Some have moved to other areas of Panama that make it a bit more challenging to keep up to date with and even one passed away.

Over the past 8 years we've also seen a huge number of information/service related social media options for expats. Eight years ago none of these existed. I now follow several "blogs" (kind of like this site only more content or story related vs a website layout) and numerous Facebook and Yahoo groups that cater to expats. I am the first to admit that some I find difficult to read some days as there is so much complaining and whining and way too much of "why is Panama not like xxxx (fill in your country)?? Panama is not like Canada, the USA or Europe - turns out it is not even the same as Venezuela, Mexico or Columbia :} - It is Panama. Unique, good and bad.

September was a very typical rainy season month. A number of crazy storms, but still almost every day I was able to run and we were able to walk Cricket without rain - almost every day the rain would start sometime around noon. The thing to remember is if you head out and it is nice and sunny - take an umbrella. It will almost always rain sometime during the day and without an umbrella you will get soaked - not wet - soaked to skin :}

I've said this many times - Donna loves the green season (her way of saying rainy season) - she loves how green the city is versus how brown it gets during the dry or "brown season" as she calls the months of January to March.

I am already looking forward to Donna getting home from South Africa and then Spain as that will mean I will have her home for at least 3 months straight and we can spend sometime on the Caribbean and in our new rental on the Pacific.

My sister is coming to visit this month - she and Rodger want to see Panama so we have them organized to spend time in the home on the beach in Portobelo and some time in the condo on the Pacifc - they will actually be at the condo before Donna and I will have had a chance - I also hope they get to see Boquete for a day or two as that will round out a very varied look at Panama in less than a month.

If you are considering Panama - do your homework - I've mentioned it before but it is worth repeating - there is a lot of information available from a number of sites - check them out - ask questions - we love Panama but I understand it is not for everyone and it is a very diverse country. I want them to have seen the beaches, the two oceans, mountains and the city.

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

Check out our site - we listed People and Services we have found we trust - we also have contacts for even a great handyman - Juan

 

 

September 2014

The rains have arrived all over Panama including Panama City. It is really unusual that even in the rainy season we have rain in the morning but this week we've had a couple of days of rainy mornings. We were both wondering if this is a foreboding for the rest of the rainy season? Here is a picture Donna took out of our window last week. Amazing that the clouds covered the towers - some of these buildings are 72 stories.

The last couple of weeks have been very busy - we had our partner from Vancouver in town, we've been out to Gastronomica at Atlapa, we drove out to Playa Blanca to see a new condo we have rented for some weekends, and we went to an event put on by United Airlines.

Donna starts her traveling again after a few months of being at home. She'll be seeing Columbia, South Africa and Spain in the next couple of months. Cricket and I will miss her for sure but I am thankful we had a number of months with no travel.

Moving to Panama is not for everyone. I've said this so many times to people during the past 8 years. There is a lot to love - but there are lots of things that I would doubt almost everyone considering Panama never consider. Chris Powers wrote a recent article in his www.panamaforreal.com titled 15 Tips to Mentally Prepare You for Life in Panama (I had to chuckle as his original title was 10 Tips to Mentally Prepare You for Life in Panama - seems he thought of more reasons when he finished the article).

I hear from a number of want to be expats asking about the cost of living, the opportunities for employment, the weather, the culture, the language and how safe we feel. We answer all of these as honestly as we can. Like Chris our answer has evolved over the past 8 years. The first year was a mixture of culture shock, honeymoon, thrills, and concerns. Some of our expat friends adapted differently - some want to assimilate into the culture getting to know the locals, eat and socialize like the locals - others want to fly very low under the radar and just enjoy their new life. Neither answer is right or wrong - they are the choices each need to make. Some of the choices will be driven by budgets, location and personality. If living frugally is a necessity then it is more likely the choice will be to assimilate as the cost of living locally is much less than living closer to North American lifestyle.

One thing that crops up often is how different it is when you need to purchase something for the home or office. Just this past week our car camera died and I was looking around for a bicycle. I am sure the car camera could be sourced in Panama but for 55 Amazon will deliver to Miami and Mail Boxes Etc will bring to Costa del Este with no tax or duty - just freight. All within 4 days. No running around trying to find a store that might have the same type of camera. The bicycle I thought I would simply look on line - like Craigs list or some other used goods site. I found one in the interior but it was 3 yrs old and they wanted 2.5 times what a new one in the USA would cost and it was one of the least expensive ones I could find. I will visit some local stores before I make my final decision as shipping something that size would be more expensive and over 100 it would be subject to tax and duty - like 15%.

When it comes to car parts or electronics we almost always look outside Panama - the savings are just too attractive. My question is - who is causing the price difference, the manufacturer, the distributor, the retail store??

One of the lifestyle changes in Panama was the decision to not wear a suit. For the most part I've been able to keep to that rule - but we Donna was invited to an event by United Airlines last week when Ted was in town and the invite said "business suit" so both of us dug out a suit and had them cleaned. Here is picture you won't see often on this site.

We went to Gastronomica 2014 a couple of weeks ago - http://panamagastronomica.com/. I always look forward to it as it has given me a chance to wander through the "wine route". Essentially this is a chance to sample a number of different wines that I wouldn't know enough about to buy a bottle. In the past the samples were either free or $2 - this time they were a full glass and ranged up to $12 - way too much wine per sample and way too much cost in my opinion. I still found an interesting new wine from Chile - a blend called Principal.

The other interesting find was a new beer being brewed here in Panama called 507 - very clever - not likely anyone in Panama will ever forget its name as it is the country code for Panama. The beer is labeled a "red" and it is but not as red as the one I used to drink in Alberta - Rickers Red but still a really nice beer. Up to now my favorite Panama beer has always been was Panama. I think when I can I will choose 507. When we went to a local restaurant last week I asked the waiter if they offered 507 - he frowned and said "no sorry" and when I said too bad as is really nice he was very happy to say "yes, I enjoy it too". I was pleased to find it being sold in Riba and have added it to the beer choices in our fridge. So far a few people we've introduced it to have enjoyed it.

If you are considering Panama - do your homework - I've mentioned it before but it is worth repeating - there is a lot of information available from a number of sites - check them out - ask questions - we love Panama but I understand it is not for everyone and it is a very diverse country.

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

Check out our site - we listed People and Services we have found we trust - we also have contacts for even a great handyman - Juan

 

 

August 2014

A huge thanks to the Canadian Club (David and Lourdis) here in Panama for organizing a great day yesterday. The day included a trip via bus to Colon to see the construction site of the new 3rd land expansion to the Panama Canal. David and Lourdis did an outstanding job organizing the day - right down to the boxed lunch and wine - it was excellent.

Considering we only saw one piece of this project it makes the scope of the project gigantic. Looking down into the new 3rd lane and seeing people look like ants gave it some perspective. Once it gets flooded it will be harder to really get the same sense of size. After spending time at the construction site we moved on to the existing Gatun Locks. We were treated to a few ships moving through the locks. To think these two lanes are the equivalent of the new 3rd lane it added to the scope and size. The final stop was to see up close and personal the new gates for the 3rd lane. These 16 gates were built in Italy and brought by boat to Panama. Check out the size of these gates - 100 feet high -   30 feet wide and 150 feet long - huge - they weight up to 3700 tons.

Donna took a lot of pictures and videos of the day trip. She did a great job on showing how the existing canal and locks work with a video of the Gatun locks. The "mules", the little train engines that pull the ships through will be replaced in the new huge 3rd lane with tug boats each costing over 11 million dollars. There is even talk of China wanting to invest in a 4th lane that will be even bigger to allow for the transfer of the extreme super tankers and cargo ships. Wow.

We are looking forward to visiting the site again to see how the construction is coming along.

We've been trying to purchase an office in a new building in our area. To give you some sense of the different world we live in I am going to describe the "issues". Finding an office is not easy, like any real estate transaction there is no one place to go to get a listing of what's available. Any real estate might be listed by 2 or 20 agents all for different prices and they do not share information. So it's up to the buyer to check it all out first. Then when you've decided it should be a simple task to write up an offer and put a good faith down payment to hold the unit until the "subject to clauses" are dealt with. Then the funds would normally go escrow or to the lawyer to hold in trust for the final deed. Simple right. Not--- Here I emailed the agent that showed us what we would be prepared to pay and what we wanted and we had the cash so there would be no mortgage to hold us up qualifying or arranging. So far so good. First response was the sellers had no issue with our offer (which means we probably offered too much - but hey - we were ok with our offer). Then the zinger - they want 30% in cash paid to them the seller once we do the final offer papers and if we want to start work on the finishing (it is delivered grey (meaning nothing but the concrete walls, plumbed pipes, and windows are included - we have to do sprinkler system, a/c, ceiling, floors and wall finishing as well as bathrooms and any office stuff we want) we have to pay the owner "rent" until the final 70% is delivered - at 1% per month. Are you serious - first 30% - in cash - not in escrow but cash to the seller - sure that will happen - then 1% per month until he gets all the papers done at land titles - He makes more than 12% on his money for as long he wants and we have no choice - I think not - there is no incentive for him to get the paperwork done. Where in the world can he get 12% on his USD.

We told the seller the money is waiting = being held by the bank as a letter of guarantee - deliver the documents - you get your money - just like any other irrevocable letter of credit used all over the world to deliver goods.

So we are considering our options -  we will continue to look at other buildings.

Went to a movie this week - The Guardians of the Galaxy - what a hoot - 3D in a lounge chair with food and beverage delivery - regular price $15 - my discounted old person cost $7.50

If you are considering Panama - do your homework - I've mentioned it before but it is worth repeating - there is a lot of information available from a number of sites - check them out - ask questions - we love Panama but I understand it is not for everyone and it is a very diverse country.

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

Check out our site - we listed People and Services we have found we trust - we also have contacts for even a great handyman - Juan

 

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Hard to believe it is August already.

If we were still in St. Albert Alberta at this time of year we'd be going to Rock'n August - a great collection of hot rods and collector cars - we always enjoyed wandering around downtown St. Albert checking out the cars. We'd also be going to the farmers market every Saturday picking up fresh fruit and vegetables - when Ted and Susan came last week they brought us fresh blackberries and blueberries and cherries - wow were they great. Sure one thing we miss here in Panama - I know we can get blackberries and blueberries but these were amazing. Thanks Ted and Susan. In August we'd also be gearing up for the last weekend in August when we'd go to the Symphony Under the Sky. We went for 10 or 12 years and loved it. It was always bitter sweet - a great 4 day event but the knowledge it meant the end of summer.

Living in Panama for the past 8 years we don't have the same swings in feelings brought on by the season. We still pinch ourselves every morning that we are here full time.

I went diving this weekend to Portobelo with Jordan, Rita and Todd. We met up with another group diving with 2Oceans and the Special Forces group. Here is something you don't see all the time - a Scuba selfie :} One of the fellows we dove with was collecting Lion Fish and it was interesting to watch him hunt and capture them into his tube.

There was a group of about 12 people this time diving. The visibility wasn't bad - I have seen it better in Portobelo. We got talking about diving and we were wondering how many of our friends were into diving. When we got home Jordan created a new facebook page Divers in Panama - there are already over 30 members - who knew :} I am looking forward to meeting some of them over time. We are off to Bocas, Coiba and maybe Contadora over the next few months.

Next week we are going to see the new canal construction thanks to the Canada Club - they got us passes to the new canal site to see it before they flood the lanes. It will be really impressive to see the size of the new lanes when they are dry. A once in a lifetime opportunity.

We went to visit our foster pups today - they love the new way Donna has been making their food - frozen. They get frozen dog food and other treats like wieners as well as frozen chicken broth. It is so funny to see them chowing down on all this frozen food in middle of 33 degree heat - they can't get enough - all I can think of is I would get a brain freeze.

We are off to the movies this week. Another thing you have to love about Panama. You can go to a 3d digital movie for under $5, have a full recliner, and order food and drinks while watching a first run movie.

We're going to try a couple of new restuarants to us in the coming weeks. The old Il Grillo here in Costa del Este changed its look, feel and menu. We got a coupon from Oferta Simple to try it out while Ted and Susan were here and everyone agreed the food was excellent. Ted and Susan also fell in love with the new Greek deli Athenansiou - they went every morning for coffee and baklava - they could not get enough. Costa del Este is definitely growing up - we even have a new McDonalds being built :}

Don't forget if you need a pet - consider adopting a rescue pup from Mari at Hogar Albergue San Roque - or if you can't adopt consider donating - Mari needs a lot of money to care for hundreds of dogs and hundreds of cats - she has such a huge heart but she is only one person - so if you can help - go to www.theyneedyourhelp.org - and donate - 10, 20, 100 anything - please.

Here is a recent picture of Donna and Cricket out for our morning walk - ok - carry - especially as we head back to the car after our walk.

If you are considering Panama - do your homework - I've mentioned it before but it is worth repeating - there is a lot of information available from a number of sites - check them out - ask questions - we love Panama but I understand it is not for everyone and it is a very diverse country.

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

Check out our site - we listed People and Services we have found we trust - we also have contacts for even a great handyman - Juan

 

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I don't think a week goes by that I don't talk to someone in Canada or the USA who asks about our move to Panama. To us it was such a simple decision but I think to be fair we are not the typical expat moving to Panama to retire. Donna continues to create and do her gardening tours around the world - if you have any gardening bones in your body or you know someone who is a gardener - check out her tours - www.gardeningtours.com. I continue to do my work with clients around the world so for us all we needed was a good source of Internet and an airport. We still need the other elements we tell expats to consider like the medical care but we were pretty much relegated to the city. Who knows in the future where we will find ourselves when we begin to wind down our involvement in our businesses. I am intrigued by some people who have decided to just travel and spend a few weeks to a few months in various locations. Donna shared one of these people with me last week https://www.facebook.com/hogaralbergue.sanroque?fref=ts - Evan from Panama took off with his mother over a year ago to just "see" Europe - they moved from country to country, house sitting. 

I'm also intrigued by the experience of others as they experience Panama. If you are ready this you are likely close to our generation :} - I find reading sites of younger people very refreshing. One I stumbled across a few weeks ago is http://www.permanentlypanama.com/ - this is a great perspective written in a very enjoyable style by Alice Beth. Treat yourself to her stories. The other site is written by Chris Powers - http://www.panamaforreal.com/ - Chris spends a lot of time traveling around Panama and providing his take on each of the areas. I also like his articles on day to day things we all encounter - like how to renew your license plate.

There are a lot of other resources for new expats or aspiring expats considering Panama.

I would suggest joining a number of the Yahoo groups and the Facebook sites like Canadians in Panama or Expats in Panama. Just remember that these groups attract all types so be aware that not everything you read will apply to your experience (a nice way to say there is a lot of BS) :}

Finally, join a group like InterNations or participate in recurring events so you get a chance to meet and get to know other expats and locals.

Are you a dog or cat lover? Does it break your heart when you see the strays in Panama - there are a few organizations you should know about and I hope support - the first is one called Hogar Alberque San Roque - this is a shelter run by a lady with a HUGE heart for these poor animals - her name is Mari Pily - we have known and supported her for almost 8 years and we created a web site www.theyneedyourlove.org to help people donate using our paypal account - we're thrilled everytime one of our friends feel moved to donate - we had one lady last year donate her entire business account when she closed it down in Panama and moved back to the USA - Mari was overwhelmed and so grateful - she used the funds to do much needed repairs and pay some outstanding vet bills  - if you have one or two dogs you know what it costs to keep them every month in food and vet bills - now imagine that for over 400 dogs and almost the same number of cats - all done by donations and you get some idea of what she faces every month. Beyond providing these pups and cats with care she looks to find them a "Forever Home" where someone can give them the love every day.

The other group you should know about and support is www.spaypanama.org - Patricia Chan and her group have been spaying and neutering dogs and cats all over Panama for years. A herculean effort as the culture here believes this to be cruel - yet they think nothing of letting these same poor animals suffer on the street or go without love and food.

Finally there is a group called Adopt Panama - www.adoptapanama.com - a site to help people find new friends.

If you are considering Panama - do your homework - I've mentioned it before but it is worth repeating - there is a lot of information available from a number of sites - check them out - ask questions - we love Panama but I understand it is not for everyone and it is a very diverse country.

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

Check out our site - we listed People and Services we have found we trust - we also have contacts for even a great handyman - Juan

One last note - are you a diver living in Panama - have you been diving around Portobelo - are you interested in meeting other divers, if so email me and I will let you know the next time we go diving.

 

July 2014

id July - funny, in Canada it would be the height of the summer and everyone is out with their BBQ or pool or tubing down a river like our friends Wes & Stephen but here in Panama it is the middle of the "green" season as Donna calls it (the rainy season to everyone else). People ask all the time if we miss the seasons. The short answer is no, but then there are times I do remember with fondness the changing colors of the trees and the amazing spring green. But when I think of how short those times were and how long the winter was - no, I don't miss it. Donna gets her fill of seasons with all her travels so she says she just loves coming back to the warmth.

When we first moved here eight years ago we hardly ever used AC. The only times were Saturday and Sunday naps and Christmas when we had lots of guests over for nibbles and drinks. Nowadays we seem to use it more. We have AC on in the office a lot more when we are working, especially when there is very little breeze.  We've still avoided the use of AC while we sleep - to me that would be the ultimate in giving in :} so we get through the nights that are without breeze/

When I read the posts in the forums and expat sites in Facebook the most common questions revolve around where to find services or where to find goods. One of the hardest things about being in a foreign land with a foreign language is not knowing who to trust so the expat community becomes the source of information. That is part of the reason we started this site. We wanted to let anyone moving here know that we have been really fortunate in our past eight years. Everything from lawyers to doctors, to dealing with banks and real estate agents we've been through almost everything any new expat would encounter. Also because we have a small office we have always had a great source of knowledge from locals. The other reason we built the site was we worry that too often some of the advice offered comes with a motive that we don't have.

We booked our first 4 nights on the Pacific in the Vacation rental that Tony Busse offered online a couple of months ago. The condo is next door to Playa Blanca so it should be a great place. If you've read this site over the past 8 years you know we really enjoy the Caribbean side but when we read the offer of Tony we thought it would be a nice change and a great chance for our friends who visit. So now we have two places for them to visit, the Pacific and the Caribbean.  

I was reading the news lately and the new government is getting itself settled but I was happy to read that they seem to want to continue some of the things the old government started. The first thing I heard about was their decision to continue the second phase of the metro line that will take it out past Tocumen. With the metro, the corridor and other roads should feel a major relief in traffic.

We've been watching lots of surveyors along our main road over the past week and I hope that means they are looking at expanding the main road and finding at least one or more new ramps onto the corridor as that is one of our biggest complaints.

If you are considering Panama - do your homework - I've mentioned it before but it is worth repeating - there is a lot of information available from a number of sites - check them out - ask questions - we love Panama but I understand it is not for everyone and it is a very diverse country.

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

Check out our site - we listed People and Services we have found we trust - we also have contacts for even a great handyman - Juan

One last note - are you a diver living in Panama - have you been diving around Portobelo - are you interested in meeting other divers, if so email me and I will let you know the next time we go diving.

Just a few pictures of diving around Portobelo and my dive master Ray Sanchez from Golden Frog Scuba.

 

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We hope everyone had a great Canada Day and 4th of July. We went to the Canada Day Celebration put on by the Canada Club at the hotel Mirimar. I was surprised by the small numbers when even the Canadian embassy knows there are more than a thousand or two Canadians in Panama. Are they all in Coronado and Boquete??? Maybe. We did meet a nice couple and they were nice enough to email Donna after the event.

We went to the Amador causeway this morning to take Cricket for a bit of a walk and to see what is happening out there. We always like to check it out every month. I understand they need to provide a barrier for the new lanes they are constructing but the wall is a real pain, it blocks some of the best views. The canal side is nice, but the view of the city is really cool and it will now be a few years before it comes back. I took a few picture of the boats and Donna walking Cricket. I had to include on shot of a Lexus some "person" parked in a handicap zone that someone obviously took major umbrage too and put huge glued notes all over the vehicle reminding them this spot was reserved for handicap persons.

We drove out and back the new leg of the Cinta Costera - I finally found the return route - I missed it last time and came back the old way. I know there are lots of people who don't like the road around the old city but it offers an amazing view of the old fort/city that you could only see from a boat in years gone by and I like it despite the controversy.

Here are a couple of pictures - the first one is the Gehry Museum of Biodiversity and the other is the new leg of the Cinta Costera.

Our great friend Sandra celebrated her birthday yesterday - and she got such a great present - the Argentinean team must of heard it was her birthday as they gave her a win against Belgium - I am not a football or sports fan but I understand this is the first time in a lot of years Argentina has made it this far in the World Cup - great birthday present to you Sandra.

We went to Multiplaza yesterday and I found some new blue jeans and slacks - eight years ago it would have been hard to imagine wearing blue jeans here but I guess you get used to it :}It was kind of fun wandering around the mall Donna bought a pair of shoes with orange shoe laces - they are really cool.

I mentioned we met a couple at the Canada Day celebration. What was interesting was they were from Florida and when we asked them how they chose Panama they said they had decided on all the things that mattered to them and then started looking for a place that fit all the needs. Panama was it. They have not left the city, I don't suspect they will for some time as they were looking for what the city offered. On the other hand, another Canadian posted in the ex-pat Facebook page that they wanted nothing to do with the city and was looking for somewhere cooler like Boquete or El Valle. The thing both of these bring up is before you look at moving to Panama decide on what is important and focus your hunt on those things. Is it the beach, the amenities of the city, rural life where you can farm, or an ex-pat community. Panama has all of this but each of these are very different. Lay out things like weather, cost, need for Spanish, hospital proximity, airport, and nightlife.

If you are considering Panama - do your homework - I've mentioned it before but it is worth repeating - there is a lot of information available from a number of sites - check them out - ask questions - we love Panama but I understand it is not for everyone and it is a very diverse country.

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

Check out our site - we listed People and Services we have found we trust - we also have contacts for even a great handyman - Juan

One last note - are you a diver living in Panama - have you been diving around Portobelo - are you interested in meeting other divers, if so email me and I will let you know the next time we go diving.

Just a few pictures of diving around Portobelo and my dive master Ray Sanchez from Golden Frog Scuba.

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 Happy Birthday Canada - almost 150 years old - quite a lady. We are proud to be Canadians. Before you ask, being an ex-pat does not mean we've lost our love of Canada - quite the opposite. I think having moved out of Canada almost 8 years ago we probably became more Canadian than when we lived in Canada. Whenever someone mistakenly takes us for Americans, we are quick to say " we are Canadian " - I even had my first and only tattoo created when I arrived in Panama - it actually comes from "Canadian beer". I faced my fear of needles to make sure I never forgot my roots. Canadians are normally known for being "nice" and Canada is known for being "clean". There are so many cool facts about Canada that we can be proud of - in medicine alone, Canadians brought insulin, stem cells, and polio vaccine. Huffington Post even did a piece on 25 reasons why Canada Rocks. Canada is the home to basketball, IMAX, and the electron microscope. How about Cirque du Soleil, Celine Dion, Justin Beiber (ok sorry for that one), Captain Kirk, and Michael J Fox. I love the fact when people think of Canada they also think of our "peacekeeping role" in the world.  While writing this I found so many cool things about Canada - why are we so timid??? I know Donna gets a kick out of taking her Canadian flag with her when she does her tours around the world.

We are celebrating Canada Day at the Mirimar Hotel where the Canada Club is holding a buffet dinner - we'll get to meet lots of Canadians. We don't go to many ex-pat functions but once in a while Donna is home and the event is something we want to enjoy. So many of the events are just reasons to party and we do enough of that with our friends we've met in Panama - they come from Mexico, Columbia, Argentina, USA, Peru and recently even Morocco. Unlike most ex-pats we have not fully retired so most of the events we just don't fit in whereas these friends all work so we find it easier to socialize. In most cases what is odd is we are now the "old ones" in the group.

July 1st is also a holiday here in Panama - it is the day the country celebrates the inauguration of their new President Juan Carlos Varela. They have a huge party planned in Panama City on the Cinta Costera so it should be interesting getting to the hotel on Tuesday night :}

A little later this week is July 4th for our American friends. I love Canada, but you have to hand it to the Americans to show how you should celebrate a nations birthday - the USA is almost 100 years older as a nation than Canada so maybe Canada will learn the same sense of national pride. I remember fondly being in Minot North Dakota and how that small city poured out on to the street to celebrate. I had a great time. Donna & I used to always set aside the night of the 4th to watch the Boston Pops play the 4th on the river with all the fireworks. It's something we'd love to see live some day.

 

 

 

I went to visit our foster dogs today - I love their enthusiasm and excitement to see me - ok, it's really the food and the frozen juice and treats. Our little girl, Cricket is slowing down so much it is such a huge contrast. If you are not a dog owner, I know it is hard to understand, I guess it is a little like our friends who tell us the same thing about children.

When I was visiting the pups I always remember Mari Pily and her shelter Hogar San Roque that we support with www.theyneedyourlove.org - she looks after hundreds of dogs and cats. I was also reminded of how much dogs bring to our lives and how they teach us the real meaning of faithful, unconditional love. Have you ever read the story of Hachiko - a Japanese dog who went to the train station to meet his owner - after a year of doing this one day the owner died during the day and did not return. Hachiko returned every day for the next 9 years before he passed away - that is devotion.
Check out the story http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hachik%C5%8D

If you are considering Panama - do your homework - I've mentioned it before but it is worth repeating - there is a lot of information available from a number of sites - check them out - ask questions - we love Panama but I understand it is not for everyone and it is a very diverse country.

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

Check out our site - we listed People and Services we have found we trust - we also have contacts for even a great handyman - Juan

One last note - are you a diver living in Panama - have you been diving around Portobelo - are you interested in meeting other divers, if so email me and I will let you know the next time we go diving.

 

June 2014

It is Fathers Day today - and while both our dads are no longer with us - we both thought of them today and remembered how much they gave up so we could have a better live than they had. My dad spoke infrequently of his early life as I don't think there were many happy memories - like his 2 other brothers he had to leave school by the 8th grade to work to put food on the family table. Today we talk about two income families but back in the "dirty thirties" the whole family had to work just to try and make sure every one had food to eat. Donna's dad went to war younger than he was supposed to and ended up in the infantry. My dad was in the navy on convey duty across the Atlantic. I am sure there are some today that served or have served that can relate to some of what our dads had to endure and some of the sites I am sure haunted their lives but I know for sure my dad was so thankful his whole life that I never had to go through what he had in WWII. I also am thankful to him because he instilled in me and my sisters the fervent belief that we could do anything in life - this from a grade 8 drop out. Thanks Dad - we all loved you.

We went out to dinner last night to celebrate Marcos birthday and also to sort of celebrate Donnas birthday coming up this week. We went to Luna, a restaurant in Marbella, right near my doctors downtown office. I must have driven by or parked by Luna many times without ever really knowing it was there. Check out our food review and pictures in the food section. What was so funny was Donna & I were the oldest ones at the table - I guess we need to get used to that :}

I am also really proud of Donna - well, more so than usual as I am always really proud of her - but her website www.icangarden.com that she started in 1995 (almost 20 years ago) was selected by the Canadian Garden Council as their 2014 website of the year. Way to go sweetie.

I used my marble slab in the kitchen for the first time today to make croissants and bread. The marble was awesome. I am really happy we decided to get it as it makes dough work so much easier.

World cup fever is in full bloom in Panama - our staff are just crazy supporting their team. It seems all I read on facebook is World Cup. As a non-sports fan it is hard to imagine that we have thsi for a whole month. Oh well......

We visited with our foster dogs today and they are looking so good - I am so happy we found them a home with Chito and his family - as our little Cricket winds down we know we won't be replacing her so knowing they are there and we can visit often I know will help ease the pain when the time comes - for now we just enjoy every day with her.

I've mentioned a few newsletters that I get keeps me up to date on what's going on in Panama - if you move to Panama you need a network of people to count on to help source people and places. You can develop these sources from Yahoo groups, Facebook Expat groups, newsletters, and news sites. We have been really fortunate to have an office full of young bilingual kids that can find us anything or our office driver who seems to know everyone in every government office :} I am not sure how we'd have done over the years without all the support we've received from our contacts. I would suggest you work on making and keeping these contacts alive.

If you are considering Panama - do your homework - I've mentioned it before but it is worth repeating - there is a lot of information available from a number of sites - check them out - ask questions - we love Panama but I understand it is not for everyone and it is a very diverse country.

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

Check out our site - we listed People and Services we have found we trust - we also have contacts for even a great handyman - Juan

 

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It has been a few weeks since I have posted my notes - it has been crazy for no good reason.

Donna is home for another week then she is off to Ireland - thankfully it is her last trip until her South African tour in October. It will be nice to have her around for a few months.

We went our for an afternoon tea last Saturday at a new little tea house in El Cangrejo called Chez Titi - you can read my review in the food section but I can tell you that Vanessa and her mom have created an amazing restaurant - you step through the door and feel like you've been transported to Europe. Donna likened it to her favorite tea house in London called Yauatcha.

We really enjoy the Caribbean for weekend getaways but some of our friends that visit like the idea of having more amenities so we signed up for a condo near Playa Blanca so our friends can visit and spend a few days around the pool and walking the beach. Nice to have options:}

It is the rainy season but that means rain some time during the day virtually every day but it is still really easy to get around, even walking.

When Donna gets back one of our to do's is to take a few days and visit our friends Alan and Geri in Boquete to see how they are fairing :}

I posted tCosta del Este Changes - Panamahe monthly pictures around our area - check out the Then and Now to get some idea of how our area, Costa del Este, has changed in the 8 years we've been here.

I am working on getting my Rescue Diver certification and in the year and half I have been diving I've never realized how serious this sport really is and how many things can go wrong. I am glad to be getting trained on how to handle the anxiety that can set in if something happens.

My two sisters were traveling this past month and I am relieved to hear they are both back home safe and sound. They had a great time from all accounts - one running all over Italy the other around England. I am really happy they are enjoying their retirement years - they worked hard during their lives and I am thrilled they are having a good time  - I am looking forward to spending years exploring the world with Donna.

Small work still going on in our condo and at the office - nice to have Juan to count on. He found me the perfect piece of marble for my baking counter - I can't wait to try out for pastry and bread.

I've mentioned a few newsletters that I get keeps me up to date on what's going on in Panama - if you move to Panama you need a network of people to count on to help source people and places. You can develop these sources from Yahoo groups, Facebook Expat groups, newsletters, and news sites. We have been really fortunate to have an office full of young bilingual kids that can find us anything or our office driver who seems to know everyone in every government office :} I am not sure how we'd have done over the years without all the support we've received from our contacts. I would suggest you work on making and keeping these contacts alive.

If you are considering Panama - do your homework - I've mentioned it before but it is worth repeating - there is a lot of information available from a number of sites - check them out - ask questions - we love Panama but I understand it is not for everyone and it is a very diverse country.

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

Check out our site - we listed People and Services we have found we trust - we also have contacts for even a great handyman - Juan

Don't be fooled by the geographic size - it has a number of very different climates and lifestyles. From beaches, to the city to highlands and small towns. English is spoken in some areas, but learn at least some basic Spanish and learn to be patient. It is not North America - it is a Latin American country with all the good and bad that implies.

 

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One of my really good customers arrived in Panama from New Jersey last week. We've had a great time listening to what they've been doing during their time here in Panama. They've done the canal tour, went to an Embera village, visited the malls, and took the fast ferry to Contadora. They've wandered around Casco Viejo as they stayed at the American Trade Hotel in Casco Viejo. One day they spent at the Intercontinental Playa Bonita Resort across the Bridge of the Americas. We were able to get them day passes and they both loved the day. We had the pleasure of going out to dinner a couple of times to two new restaurants we've never visited. Check out our food page for our comments on Tejas and Donde Jose. Two very different nights out. I suspect we will see them back one of these days. Next week before Donna heads our for England we are off to try out the new Waldorf Astoria hotels restaurant. Check back next Sunday for the review.

I ran across an excellent video on Panama - check it out on FB here  

Panama not only survived another election but it was actually very peaceful and I think it was a surprise to most. The last 5 years have seen lots of changes in Panama - I've posted a lot of the new things the last government did and how I think it impacted Panama and to me it seemed like his party would likely get back in - and I think they did too - but talking to my staff there was a real concern allowing any party two terms in case that meant it would turn into a dictatorial party and no one wanted that ever again. So a new party was elected - one that was in 3rd place for almost the entire run up to the election.

The rainy season has officially started in Panama City. It began a couple of weeks ago in the higher locations. We've alsp seen the return migration of the cormorants - tens, if not hundreds of thousands all flying up and down our river to the ocean. Too bad there are so many that end up being hit by the traffic on the bridge - sad.

Good news this last week is Copa and United both added new direct flights - Copa to Montreal, United to Denver. During the past 8 years we've seen the airport here grow both in size and in number of destinations served.

We still haven't tried the new Metro - it is still free so it is still crazy according to all accounts - we will wait until they introduce the fare so the ridership will get to more normal levels. I am thrilled they are looking to do leg #2 from Los Andes to Tocumen as that could really make a difference to the traffic on the Corridor Sur. It will just take 3 or 4 years to complete :}

Donna and I walked around the new construction site of the new mall in Costa de Este this morning during our walk. Right now it's just a big hole but you can get a real sense of how big it will be when it is done.

Speaking of changes, we've taken the same 3 photos from our balcony for the 8 years we've lived here to give you some sense of how much it has changed. Check out how our little area has grown in just 8 years.

Donna is only home for another week before she starts her trips again - it will Cricket and me for a couple of months - Donna will be home but only for a short time in between trips.

If you are considering Panama - do your homework - I've mentioned it before but it is worth repeating - there is a lot of information available from a number of sites - check them out - ask questions - we love Panama but I understand it is not for everyone and it is a very diverse country. Don't be fooled by the geographic size - it has a number of very different climates and lifestyles. From beaches, to the city to highlands and small towns. English is spoken in some areas, but learn at least some basic Spanish and learn to be patient. It is not North America - it is a Latin American country with all the good and bad that implies. Write us if you have questions - we love to help.

 

May 2014

Donna arrived home from Turkey with a ton of pictures and memories. She even took a balloon ride first thing in the morning. There were so many highlights it is hard to say what she enjoyed the most - Istanbul, Troy, Cappadocia, Ephesus, or the food, the people, the mosques or .... she will have a lot to say on her site so check it out on www.icangarden.com or www.gardeningtours.com

When Donna got home I headed out the next morning to dive Coiba. Since I began diving more than a year ago I've wanted to dive in Coiba and I had the chance to join a group Rey put together. Turns out it was a group of Panamanian Special Forces. What an experience. I can see why people get pumped about diving in Coiba - there is no question it has a much more diverse and sizable collection of fish. We saw shark, eel, trumpet fish, schools of small and large fish and a number of turtles. We did not get to see whales, whale sharks or other varieties of sharks.

We stayed at the ANAM station that has 7 small cabins. Each cabin has two rooms and two bathrooms. Each room houses 7 people. That means the station is designed to handle 98 guests. The weekend we were there they had well in excess of 115 maybe as many as 120. Which meant it overwhelmed their water and power which was not really pleasant. If I went back it would be during the week to avoid this kind of overcrowding. And I think I would go back in February when the whales migrate.

The special forces guys all had to pack up and leave on Saturday as they received word that two of their team stationed in Nombre de Dios were attacked and killed. These are all young guys that spend their days in very brutal environments trying to stem the flow of drugs flowing through Panama.

My partner from Canada was in town with his brother and sister in law. We had a good time showing them around town and we even took a drive out the new part of the Cinta Costera. While I agree there is a potential for future abuse around Casco Viejo with this new road and how it might attract developers they did a really nice job in my opinion.

May 5th is election day in Panama. A Sunday. Odd to me but it what they are used to and the government has decided to shut down all alcohol sales from noon Saturday until Monday morning.

The candidates have all been out in force promoting their vision of Panama for the coming 5 years and dissing their competitors - some very dirty campaign ads and debates but it is almost over. To me it is not important who wins as long as they don't do anything silly with the taxation or the expat rules.

shark video thanks to juan jose

I've put a few new pictures in "Diving" - but the Internet has been really bad today so I will put the rest up on Sunday - thanks to Juan Jose for the pictures - my camera just didn't work

 

April 2014

Donna is in Scotland this past week. Cold is what I keep hearing from her but I am pretty sure she really enjoyed herself. She was invited to share in some of the festivities of a wedding and she really got a kick out of how great the guys looked in their dress kilts and how funny some of the people she talked with from North America said there is no way their husband would wear one - she was pretty sure I would and I agreed - it would be cool to partake in a bit of my Scottish heritage. The Clan Dawson was a splinter group from Clan Davidson. Not that there is much to revel in the Clan Dawson or Davidson according to Scottish history :}

Panama celebrates a milestone today - the new Metro system opens its doors to riders. While the cost was staggering for a country of only 3 million people everyone is hoping it will reduce some of the crazy traffic jams throughout the city. The current government desperately wanted it opened before the election considering the negative press on the canal expansion that will come at least 12-24 months late and way over budget. If all goes well with the metro, there are plans for at least 2-3 new lines that would make a huge impact on the freeways and bridges.

Speaking of election, there are flags everyone proclaiming one candidate or another. I see more flags than posters. Funny how in Canada we'd see yard signs - here, most yards are behind a wall so not as effective.

Our office is growing again. We've been interviewing for almost 2 weeks. The number of prospective candidates was amazing. It took us several interviews to narrow the group down to the 4 people we offered the job to - and I was pleased to see all 4 accept. I was even more excited to see their enthusiasm. We had a tough 2013 but I am really pumped about what 2014 and 2015 will bring. A new focus with a lot of new blood. It meant we needed to add new work space and to ramp up our training.

This increase in staff takes into a new mode with the Ministry of Labor. Any company that gets over 10 full time employees are required to create and register a detailed handbook for the employees. Incredible the types of things the Ministry insists on being in this handbook. Some are funny, some are just bizzare.

I wanted to add I read a great article written by Chris Powers of PanamaForReal.com - it is titled 15 Quirky Things About Panama and Its People - I could relate to about 80% of the items - it is funny so check it out.

Friends of ours arrived last week from Canada and we had decided to go for dinner in Casco Viejo. The day before there was a huge fire on one of the streets but of course I never connected this with us going out for dinner. I should have :} We made our way in from the Cinta Costera and instead of being able to turn left toward the presidential white house we were forced to head further into Casco Viejo. Everywhere I wanted to turn I was forced to go further until I found myself in Santa Anna and then Chorrio - yikes - what was I doing driving around Chorrio at night especially when I had no idea where I was or how to get back to the restaurant. Lots more to this story but it would take way too much room to describe - sufficient to say I found myself on a "pedestrian only street" talking to 2 nice policeman who kept telling me I should get  ticket:} We survived obviously :}

The dry season is almost over - we've been having more cloudy days with major threats of rain - so one of these days we will see the daily rains return. Donna really looks forward to this time of year as everything becomes green again from it brown dried look.

I posted a picture of a really pretty yellow trumpet flower tree in full bloom. I thought you might be interested in seeing the tree a week after the flowers drop. Check out the huge hanging seed pods - pretty cool.

 

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It's funny how you can live in a country like Panama full time but for the most part be totally unaware of what is going in the city or the rest of the country but that's what happens when you don't go anywhere, or read the local papers or have local tv. I hadn't stopped to think about that until recently when I was talking to a friend in Canada who was going on about the elections, the crime and changes in what used to be our old neighbourhood. I'm not complaining as I find most of the news skewed politically or with some other filter.

That doesn't mean there isn't anything going on in Panama - I picked up a couple from Miraflores and that reminded me of the huge changes the new lane in the Panama Canal is going to mean to Panama. In 2008 Panama had a growth of 10+%, whereas last year it was down to 8+% - when the new lane comes into play I have to think that will climb again. In our little area of Costa del Este there has to have been a much higher growth rate just judging by the construction and traffic and we've haven't seen anything yet.

I do spend time on facebooks expat group and read most of the news on the yahoo expat groups - these give me a sense of how expats feel about what is happening in their area of Panama. I also try and keep up with some of the news put out by Newsroompanama.com, thepanamanews.com and sometimes panama-guide.com

One of these days we will be transitioning from the dry season to the rainy season, or as Donna says, the brown to green.

I haven't spoken about the Arraijan shelter for a long time. The shelter houses hundreds of dogs and cats abandoned by their owners or ones who were simply born on the streets and left to fend for themselves. Mari Pily has been tirelessly tending these needy dogs and cats for years. Sometimes financially all by herself. There are lots of other groups in Panama that also work to reduce the number of stray dogs and cats. Beyond feeding and tending them the other two elements needed are both education and sterilization. Spay Panama has worked for years to reduce the possible future population. Education is so difficult as culturally the locals see spaying and neutering as "cruel". If you can help financially please check out Hogar Albergue San Roque on Facebook or www.theyneedyourlove.org.

Donna got back from her cruise this weekend - nice to have her home for a week. The next 3 months will be really busy for her. She is off to Scotland, Turkey, London, Ireland and Malaysia -- all before July. I had a fun week off while she was away - I cooked and baked - got a lot of that out of my system - made many, many dozens of perogies - something we both miss from Canada - too bad there wasn't a Ukrainian group of expats here :}

Our little river next to us has been really busy with crocodiles this past week - there have been 3 differnent ones sunning themselves on the grassy area during low tide. I know there were 3 as they were all different sizes from 2+feet to 6+feet - I didn't have my camera with me when I saw the little one - too bad - but here are the other two.

 

 

March 2014

We thought we'd seen the end of summer, the dry season, and the beginning of the rainy season when it rained hard one day. But that's exactly what it was - one day of rain. Nothing since. So I guess summer is hanging in there just a little longer.

We always talk about not having seasons as the temperature is so similar everyday that it seems like one day after another. The trees see it very differently. The trees go through very specific seasons. Some are more dramatic than others. One tree just outside our condo has huge leaves and it definitely fees the lack of water and it drops huge amounts of leaves - it never really goes bare like trees did back in Alberta during the winter but it does let you know it is stressed. So do the bright yellow trumpet flower trees. Donna would know the botanic name - sorry :}. There are boulevards in our area that are planted with these yellow trees and the trees drop their leaves at the beginning of the dry season and as the rainy season begins the flowers emerge. You have to be very fast if you want to see them in flower as they drop very quickly. If these boulevards ever got all their trees flowering at the same time it would be spectacular. Here are just a few shots on one of the roads near our condo in Costa del Este.

I think I've mentioned before that it is election year in Panama. It is obvious with all the posters plastered everywhere and if the crowds of "faithful" in the street with their party. These street demonstrations are also accompanied by trucks with massive speakers blaring music and propaganda. Whoever takes over is going to have to deal with an economy on the rise and with workers wanting their share of the growth. When growth is slow business owners can blame lack of raises on the lack of growth but when the average worker sees the kind of continued economic growth obvious in Panama over the past 10 years even the most blind worker can see that someone is making some pretty serious money. I heard on Kent Davis's email newsletter that one union group is demanding a 50% increase. That kind of boom in wages would hurt everyone.

Trying to get a sense of wages here in Panama is so difficult. Other than the government there is no real reliable source of who makes what. I know for sure the wages in our sector of telemarketing and support is largely dictated by the fact that we need perfect english and the workers know they can ask more for this type of role than if they worked in a typical call center where accents and spanish were the norm. Then you add the crazy salaries paid by some of the fortune 500 or foreign government offices. Some years ago one of our workers was offered a job in the Canadian embassy in Panama doing front desk work - answering the phone, talking to walk-ins and arranging interviews. Not very technical but they were offering 1800 per month. For Canada that is a steal - for Panama it was absurd - law offices were paying less than 600 - 1/3 of what the embassy was offering. How do firms like ours compete with salaries like that??

Donna headed off on the cruise this week. It is kind of sad that Royal Caribbean has dropped the Colon to Southern Caribbean route after almost 8 years of packed ships. I really don't understand why. Seems to me if you have full ships every week that it would be worth keeping, but there must be more to the story. One of the couples she met on board last night were from Rio - they said it was cheaper to fly to panama to take the cruise than take a cruise from Rio. We decided to let her take the trip as we didn't want to leave Cricket - she is just too set in her ways to move her from the house. When our first choice of babysitter was unable to look after her we did have another really kind offer but it would have meant she would have been in a strange house and we just didn't want to risk it. We will have lots of time in the future to cruise together so it was best for Donna just go and rest for a week before she starts her crazy travel time coming up in the next 3 plus months.

We went out for sushi at Sushi House before she left. We were going to try the new Suhsi Ito but decided to just go back to the old tried and true. Nothing really special about Sushi House other than the sushi is pretty consistent. We did try a few new dishes this time - I will likely go back to my normal Unagi roll and spicy tuna - I think Donna will stick to her tempura shrimp and california roll - she said the gyozas were good but she prefers pork vs beef and the deep fried crab balls were just not that good.

Tom Brymer sent his weekly email of what is happening in Panama and one of the articles had pictures of the new rolling gates to be installed in the new lane of the panama canal. They are enormous. Each of these behemoths are 3100 tons and stand 10 stories tall. Check out the man at the bottom.

I haven't spoken about the Arraijan shelter for a long time. The shelter houses hundreds of dogs and cats abandoned by their owners or ones who were simply born on the streets and left to fend for themselves. Mari Pily has been tirelessly tending these needy dogs and cats for years. Sometimes financially all by herself. There are lots of other groups in Panama that also work to reduce the number of stray dogs and cats. Beyond feeding and tending them the other two elements needed are both education and sterilization. Spay Panama has worked for years to reduce the possible future population. Education is so difficult as culturally the locals see spaying and neutering as "cruel". If you can help financially please check out Hogar Albergue San Roque on Facebook or www.theyneedyourlove.org.

 

 

 

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Last week Panama lost someone special - Susan Guberman Garcia. Susan and her husband Izzy lived in Bocas for years. She was a very active member of Yahoo's Panama groups sharing her knowledge, expertise and opinions. Not everyone agreed with her opinions but they all recognized her expertise and experience with all things Panamanian - especially when it came to the laws. She and Izzy ran a great set of guest houses on their property in Bocas and I suspect she was in her element being the hostess. Donna & I had the privilege of enjoying their company back in 2009. I don't know why but I called her a few weeks ago to see how she was holding up from her latest surgery and in her normal way she was positive albeit she admitted in pain and not enjoying it. It would be the last time I heard from her. RIP Susan, there will be lots of people that will not have the benefit of your  advice in years to come - their loss. I've added a picture of her and Izzy preparing our dinner.

It's been a few weeks since my last post. Seems like the last month just flew by with my partner from Canada visiting and followed immediately by an old friend from St. Albert. John has visited several times and he loves coming to Panama and I've always enjoyed him visiting.  We did lots of visiting and I think he went home having had another great visit.

The condo next door started to repaint their building after less than 4 years since it was occupied. I am happy for them but I am not thrilled by the paint it ends up splashing on our social area and parking lot including our car. I am sure they will fix it - or I hope they will :}

If you've never checked the page we have that shows pictures from our balcony we've taken almost every month for the past seven and a half years. While there are so many new towers in the pictures one of the most striking things you will see is the growth of the trees - almost all of them are Eucalyptus and they are tall and spindly. The maintenance people have been chopping a number of them to help restore some of the views that some buildings have lost over the years. We've hoping for more trimmed in the park. 

I heard this week the government is looking to expand the Corridor Sur from 6 lanes to 12 - they badly need the lanes as it gets so crazy and it will be years before the new Metro line is expanded to the Tocumen side of city. The other thing they've done to help the congestion is to update the speed pass system that will eliminate the barrier for those cars and move 3 - 4 times the number of cars in those lanes.

If you are a Canadian thinking about Panama - email us - we're happy to try and answer your questions. We have nothing to sell nor do we make anything from any recommendations. We built this site to help other expats decide if Panama was the right choice for them. That is why it is called "Why Panama" meaning - why did we choose Panama versus some other area in the world.

Costa del Este is changing - there are so many new construction sites it is crazy and this time they are residential, commercial, retail and soon to be road works. We are so pleased to live in a part of Panama City that is so well attended. There is a small army of workers who make sure the streets, boulevards, trees and parks are all well attended and kept clean. We also have a number of dog walkers who look take care of the dogs in our area regardless of size. Check out one of these dog walkers to see the diversity of dog sizes she manages to get together.

 

The other big thing happening is the new Town Center construction - this will be a huge 5-6 storey mall occupying at least 3 full blocks by one large block wide. So far all they have created two huge holes and they are still digging. They've been moving in more cranes and equipment. I have to think it will be at least 3 years. Here is a picture I took from Ocean 2 - 31st floor last week.

 

I haven't spoken about the Arraijan shelter for a long time. The shelter houses hundreds of dogs and cats abandoned by their owners or ones who were simply born on the streets and left to fend for themselves. Mari Pily has been tirelessly tending these needy dogs and cats for years. Sometimes financially all by herself. There are lots of other groups in Panama that also work to reduce the number of stray dogs and cats. Beyond feeding and tending them the other two elements needed are both education and sterilization. Spay Panama has worked for years to reduce the possible future population. Education is so difficult as culturally the locals see spaying and neutering as "cruel". I was really pleased to see a bus stop ad here in Costa del Este helping people understand the issue. If you can help financially please check out Hogar Albergue San Roque on Facebook or www.theyneedyourlove.org.

 

 

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I have to start out by saying how proud I was of the Canadian olympic team - especially the men and womens hockey teams - golds by both - how cool. To think such a small little country like Canada could come in 4th in medal standing and second in gold - makes you proud.

Last year our neighbours across the hall moved to Argentina and we miss them. Less than 3 weeks ago our friends Alan & Geri moved to Boquete. Last week a new friend we met just recently moved back to Cincinnati. Changes - we will miss them all.

I haven't written for a couple of weeks as I've had my partner here and when he left my friend from Canada arrived and Donna left - it seemed like every time I went to sit down and work on the site something was happening.

Donna is in India. This is her 4th time I think - and she loves it - it is crazy busy and loud in the cities but she gets such a kick out of the people and how they love talking and taking pictures. She always put Canadian flags on her bus and when they travel done the road people stop, smile and wave.

We went to Portobelo again this weekend to the house we rent and we had a great time. I took John for a drive all the way from Portobelo to Cuango - too bad they let the road decay from Nombre de Dios. If they are going to build a resort in Santa Isabel they are going to need to redo this whole road. Here are a few pictures of how great some of the waterfront is along Costa Arriba.

We had to drive through Portobelo a few times and it seems such a shame that a heritage site of the significance of Portobelo has been left to decay to the state it is in today. With over 500 years of history, pirates, spanish gold, escaped slaves, and local indian tribes it could be some of the best reenactment sites of the world. Imagine seeing the pirate Henry Morgan or Sir Francis Drake duking it out in the bay or sacking the fort - canons going off -  muskets firing - how cool - people would flock to this area especially if they build some resorts across the bay. Portobelo has some of the best looking scenery.

I had my doubts when HSBC decided to give up Panama and BanColumbia bought the branches - but Banistmo has actually been able to pull it off - it has  been almost painless.

Speaking of banks, the couple who bought Ocean 2 last week arranged the financing with Scotia Bank - and they have not only been on top of it but it will be done in 2 weeks - two weeks - incredible - maybe there is something about Scotia Bank - they haven't been good for me but it sure seems lots find them the best bank her in Panama.

I am hoping this week to see how the new road around Casco Viejo has worked out - I sure hope they don't end up filling it in with land and building

If you are a Canadian thinking about Panama - email us - we're happy to try and answer your questions. We have nothing to sell nor do we make anything from any recommendations. We built this site to help other expats decide if Panama was the right choice for them. That is why it is called "Why Panama" meaning - why did we choose Panama versus some other area in the world.

 

February 2014

We missed some really great deals on appliances posted in the expat Facebook page - too bad as they would have been good in our other apartment. The early worm as they say :} - Oh well - the one thing about here is there are always expats moving for one reason or another.

If you read and believe the news Panama is #1 in retirement options around the world. That is such a subjective comment - where in Panama - comparing apples to apples - with what criteria?? Don't get me wrong - we do not regret our move one bit - but I know from talking to other expats their experience in Panama is very different than ours and from talking with other expats in other countries they feel they made the best choice possible. We have lots of friends who chose the highlands of Mexico and think they are in heaven - again for lots of reasons that would not appeal to Donna and me.

One of our friends on Facebooks says "your mileage may vary" so just be aware you need to lay out your needs, wants and expectations and use those to decide where you should retire.

Donna took some great pictures recently from our rental house in Portobelo to our condo in Costa del Este - if you don't follow her on Facebook then here are few pictures to enjoy.


 

Our little Cricket loves lounging around the office during the day and she gathers all her "friends" around her when she sleeps

One of the things we have to deal with living in Panama that we wouldn't in Canada is the issue of returning goods if they are are defective. We could buy everything in Panama but the return policy here can be very difficult to deal with - we purchased a water heater from a large local hardware store and while installing it found it was defective - thinking we'd have no issue we took it back only to be told we had to take it in for warranty work instead of just replacing it. When we buy from Amazon we have to decide if it is worth shipping back via courier as that can be very expensive. If we are lucky enough to have someone visiting we can always send it home with them to return. Just one of those things we never considered before moving.

This week our partners arrive and our friends leave - very mixed emotions as it is always fun to have Ted and Tyler - and we are diving next weekend but we the flip side is we will be missing our friends and the times together going out for dinner or having them over for dinner or drinks. Cricket will also miss her little buds.

Speaking of eating out - Donna & I went out for dinner and a movie last night - you have to love Panama - both for under $30 - and the dinner was one of those Oferta Simple coupons for a restaurant in el cangrejo called Piacere - another very pleasant surprise from a tiny hole-in-the-wall diner - see the full story in our food section.

If you are a Canadian thinking about Panama - email us - we're happy to try and answer your questions. We have nothing to sell nor do we make anything from any recommendations. We built this site to help other expats decide if Panama was the right choice for them. That is why it is called "Why Panama" meaning - why did we choose Panama versus some other area in the world.

 

January 2014

The new mall that Bern is building is starting to take shape. When I was in Ted's Ocean Two the other day I took a picture of the construction. I thought they might work on one portion of the mall but it seems they are going to do the entire mall at the same time - how cool. I know it will cause traffic issues but to be able to walk over to the mall to go to the movies or shop - Donna is going to love it. More than 3 blocks long and one long block wide with several stories it will make one large mall. The other mall near Riba is coming along too - it is supposed to have movie theatres - go figure.

As much as I love trumpeting that fact we are Canadians there are times like now I cringe - if you read some news sites here in Panama this week you'd think the only real news worthy story was "Canadian" Justin Beber visiting  after being arrested for DUI in Miami.

There really are many much more important issues in Panama - the furor over the canal and the contractor who is demanding millions to make up losses. Everyone knew 2014 (the 100th anniversary of the canal) would be unlikely to achieve - now it might not even make 2015.

Other news items that get overshadowed are the little bits of news on the Metro, the move to government buses and the upcoming elections - 2014 is going to be a crazy year in lots of ways.

Donna is getting ready for the start of her travel year. She will add a few new pins in the world map for countries she will be visiting for the first time.

Everyone seems convinced that real estate prices are climbing again in Panama - hard to know if it is hype or reality as there is no formal location where anyone can see what has actually been sold and for how much. I was talking to a new condo buyer the other day that is having to get a mortgage - and like us when we moved here he is convinced he will have no problem. I just suggested a few things to think about when he actually went to finalize the mortgage and his purchase.

We went to visit or foster pups again today - it's so much fun to see them - they love the visits and the special foods :} - it is so good to see them doing so well. One of the things about Costa del Este is it is so rare to see a stray dog - there so many people that seem to care for them - I know that one fellow that works for a fortune 500 company here in CdE routinely stops to either feed to help strays.

If you are a Canadian thinking about Panama - email us - we're happy to try and answer your questions. We have nothing to sell nor do we make anything from any recommendations. We built this site to help other expats decide if Panama was the right choice for them. That is why it is called "Why Panama" meaning - why did we choose Panama versus some other area in the world.

You will find if you ask or read more on this site that we are realists (one of my friends Alan would argue - he'd say I am "the optimist") but we understand Panama is not perfect. After 8 years we are still thrilled with our choice to move to Panama but we still know this is not Canada in any way.

 

 

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We went to Portobelo this weekend to finish the week I took off from work. I really felt like I needed to recharge my batteries.

I went diving with Rey again and a few friends joined me from the city. I always enjoy diving regardless of the visibility or weather but this was the first time on Friday that even Rey had to call it quits - it was so cloudy that we might have had 6-10 feet of visibility. Too bad as there was a young couple joining us from France. It was their first time diving in Panama. I felt really bad for them. I hope they decide to go again as Saturday was much better - still not stellar but much better.

I had to drive back into the city Friday night as we forgot some medication for Cricket. The drive in was not too bad - about 1 hr 45 min from the beach house to our condo in Costa del Este. The return was nuts - I decided to go my normal way through Villa Lucre - what a mistake - it took me more than an hour to go a distance that should take 3 minutes (we timed it on the way back). Total roundtrip was almost 5 hours. The traffic on a Friday night at 8 pm was nuts. What were all these people doing driiving around at 8 pm?

Last night sitting out on the patio Rey pointed out a huge motor sailor going by. Donna got out her binoculars and looked up sail boats - turns out it was one of the Windstar ships - who knew they ported in Panama.

Here is the website for Windstar - check out the Wind Spirit. With Royal Caribbean not using Colon after this year we might have to check this one out. The prices are higher but there are only 148 guests versus the 2000+ on RC.

I ran across another blog today definitely targeted at the younger audience - www.ptylife.com - lots of good suggestions on night life and places of interest for the younger at heart :}

The next few months will see the completion of a few major items in Panama - the metro and some of the major road works like Calle 50 and Ave Brazil. It will be a treat to be able to use Ave Brazil again after some many months of construction. I am not sure we will end up using the metro but I hope it lessens some of the traffic coming out of San Miguelito - especially Tumbo Muerto.

Lots of friends and business partners visiting in the next few months - and Donna starts her tours in February - so lots going on.

If you are a Canadian thinking about Panama - email us - we're happy to try and answer your questions. We have nothing to sell nor do we make anything from any recommendations. We built this site to help other expats decide if Panama was the right choice for them. That is why it is called "Why Panama" meaning - why did we choose Panama versus some other area in the world.

You will find if you ask or read more on this site that we are realists (one of my friends Alan would argue - he'd say I am "the optimist") but we understand Panama is not perfect. After 8 years we are still thrilled with our choice to move to Panama but we still know this is not Canada in any way.

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Cricket anyone - (no not our little furry one but the honest to goodness bat and ball game). This past weekend the park behind our condo was home to at least 5 cricket games - that's 110 players plus umpires and their supporters - so hundreds of enthusiastic players, kids and families all enjoying the sun and the park. I am not a sports person but I generally know the basics of most sports but I have to admit cricket eludes me totally. I think it's great that the park gets so much usage both by residents walking, running, biking and playing football, soccer, and now cricket.

While we were taking pictures we decided to check out how the new mall - Costa del Este Town Center was coming along. It is a huge area covering almost 3 blocks long and one wide. They been digging and removing soil for a while and the hole still looks so small. It is likely going to take 3 years to see the mall open but we're looking forward to it and what it is likely to do the values in Costa del Este. The addition of a mall like Multi Plaza will go a long way to making Costa del Este the "new city".

 

I also took a picture looking toward the Tocumen Airport. When we moved into our condo in Costa del Este in 2006 there was virtually nothing between us and Cuidad Radial. Now we have the new Santa Maria residential and commercial areas with its home and golf course.

Donna also took a picture of something very familiar these days - a helicopter ferrying people around Costa del Este - we presume either high end residential clients or prospective commercial developers getting a sense of what makes Costa del Este so vibrant.

The three new commercial malls are either open and active or almost done. Each of them are promoting new restaurants and shops. We've gone from one sushi restaurant - Sushi Express. When all the new ones are open we will have 5 - same with pizza restaurants - initially we had Tamberelli - it has now closed and there are 5 new ones in its place.

If you are a Canadian thinking about Panama - email us - we're happy to try and answer your questions. We have nothing to sell nor do we make anything from any recommendations. We built this site to help other expats decide if Panama was the right choice for them. That is why it is called "Why Panama" meaning - why did we choose Panama versus some other area in the world.

You will find if you ask or read more on this site that we are realists (one of my friends Alan would argue - he'd say I am "the optimist") but we understand Panama is not perfect. After 8 years we are still thrilled with our choice to move to Panama but we still know this is not Canada in any way.

 

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It's the dry season in Panama - well almost, today we woke from our nap to find a major shower - it's gone again but odd for this time of year.

January 1st felt more like April Fools - we woke to read an article that said the Panamanian government, in a hurried session, passed a new law taxing everyone who lived in Panama, regardless of status, on their worldwide income - whatttttttt !!!! I could not believe my eyes. Who does that - the USA taxes only its citizens on their worldwide income, Canada taxes only its citizens that live in Canada on their worldwide income - no one - no one - taxes all the residents regardless of status on worldwide income. Everywhere I read that was all I was seeing. Donna and I talked about "what if" this really does pass and is actually enforced - there is no way I would have our business and our home here if that was the case. By January 2nd the president has come out and said his minister had made a mistake and the law would be repealed - which it has. But one wonders if this wasn't simply a trial balloon to see what would happen and what exceptions they would have to make to allow it to pass sometime in the future.

On the Facebook Expats in Panama page I just answered a couple considering Panama and she was worried after reading a fairly negative article written by a Boquete resident about "don't move to Panama" - here is what I told her

"we've been here over 7 years and yes there are some things that if I were emperor of the world I would change - but there were things in Canada I would have changed (the weather being one :}) - but we have been very happy and fortunate here. the first time we've been concerned was a result of the latest stupidity that Jordan pointed out - we came her for the weather, the lack of tax and cost of living - and yes, cost of living has gone up since 2006 (but it has everywhere else) but the weather is still good and so far no tax :} - as to the beach we love the Caribbean and since the new road was built we go at least once a month for the weekend - we looked close to belize before panama but in the first few years of being in panama they had 2 huge hurricanes"

During our morning walks here in Costa del Este with Cricket we run into lots of other dog lovers and it's so funny how we know so many of the dogs names and we stop to let Cricket and the other dog get to know each other but most times we have no idea of the owners names. We met a really nice couple some time ago and joked about this - since then we've had them over to our condo and we've visited theirs - unfortunately they are almost done their 3 year contract in Panama and are moving back to the USA - it's just one more lesson here - if you meet someone you need to not waste time getting to know them as you don't know how long they will be here. We'll miss not chatting with Fadia and Jesse but it was fun. It is going to be odd in 2014 with so many of our good friends having left Panama or Panama City.

To keep up on the news in Panama there are lots of sources both spanish and english - for instance - be aware, every news type site and paper have a political slant - I've often said newspapers and TV channels should be forced to declare their leaning by putting their parties logo on their material :}

la prensa - newspaper and online at http://www.prensa.com/
la estrella - newspaper and online at http://www.laestrella.com.pa/online/inicio.asp
The Visitor - newspaper and online at http://www.thevisitorpanama.com/

Panama Guide - online only http://panama-guide.com/
The Panama News - online only http://thepanamanews.com/
The Newsroom online only http://www.newsroompanama.com/

Then there are lots of blogs, forums, Facebook pages, individual newsletters - some of them are

Facebook - ExPats in Panama or Canadians in Panama or Panama For Real

Yahoo groups - Americans Living in Panama - Panama_laws_for_expats - panamacanadians
viviendo_en_panama - expathealth -
Live in Panama

What I wanted you to know is there is a wealth of information available if you want information on Panama - some of it good some - well not so much :} but you can glean that as you read the articles - don't simply accept the opinions of someone who has a reason to want you to consider Panama - e.g. are they selling real estate, tours, advice etc - - but by the same token understand advice is generally worth what it costs. If we can help at all - just email

We enjoy pizza - and there are some good pizza places in Panama - but I love making pizza too - made one last night we both agreed was pretty good 

If you are a Canadian thinking about Panama - email us - we're happy to try and answer your questions. We have nothing to sell nor do we make anything from any recommendations. We built this site to help other expats decide if Panama was the right choice for them. That is why it is called "Why Panama" meaning - why did we choose Panama versus some other area in the world.

You will find if you ask or read more on this site that we are realists (one of my friends Alan would argue - he'd say I am "the optimist") but we understand Panama is not perfect. After 8 years we are still thrilled with our choice to move to Panama but we still know this is not Canada in any way.

 

 

December 2013

Christmas was excellent - we had some friends over for dinner and we were invited out to celebrate Noche Buena. We missed having Jose Luis and Sandra and we will miss Alan and Geri next year - but it is the one constant of life - "things change".

We talked with all our friends and family back in Canada - and other than the weather being ugly they all enjoyed their Christmas save one - Mardi - she had some surgery and is still recovering so she was house bound and you have to know my sister, being house bound is not her favourite thing.

Christmas in Panama City was its normal boisterous self with an almost New Years amount of fireworks on the 24th at midnight - we watched from Patricia and Mauricio's condo in the Pearl

This has been a year of meeting new people around Costa del Este and in the city. I've met a few new dive buddies and am looking forward to diving with them in January and throughout the year. Who knew at 58 I would discover diving. Just goes to show you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Our little one Cricket bopped Donna in the nose this week causing her to bleed for a very long time and now every time Donna bends down too much she starts all over again - what a pain but if that is all we have to complain about wow - seems pretty small compared to some of our friends.

We took a drive out to the causeway this morning with all three dogs - they all loved the new area and the new sniffs. This area continues to grow and evolve and is fun to visit but I am not sure I could live there - at least not until they get the 4 lanes in - it is so busy even on a Sunday morning at 7 am with walkers, bikers, and runners. We read in the Visitor that the new Gehry museum was open - sure didn't look like it to us as we drove by - some aspects seem "almost" done but lots don't even appear close.

We celebrated our 38th anniversary this week by going to 10 Bistro in the ManRey Hotel on calle Uruguay - see my review in the food section here - to say I was disappointed would be putting it mildly.

Before Alan & Geri leave we want to visit the sushi restaurant in the Waldorf Astoria hotel and a few other restaurants - maybe the new Sushi Ito here in Costa del Este.

If you are a Canadian thinking about Panama - email us - we're happy to try and answer your questions. We have nothing to sell nor do we make anything from any recommendations. We built this site to help other expats decide if Panama was the right choice for them. That is why it is called "Why Panama" meaning - why did we choose Panama versus some other area in the world.

You will find if you ask or read more on this site that we are realists (one of my friends Alan would argue - he'd say I am "the optimist") but we understand Panama is not perfect. After 8 years we are still thrilled with our choice to move to Panama but we still know this is not Canada in any way.

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Christmas is just 3 days away and this will be our 8th here in Panama - incredible how fast 8 years have gone. We've seen so many changes in our lives, business, family, friends, and Panama.

When we went for our walk this morning we were reflecting on how fortunate we are in so many ways - we love where we live - we both enjoy what we do, we have many great friends and we have our health.

When we bought our condo here in Costa del Este 8 years ago it was a relatively sleepy suburb - boy, not so today. It has grown - more like exploded. When we looked our balcony that Christmas we saw 8 apartment towers - now we see 30 apartment towers and 7 office towers - there are 11 more apartment and 2 office towers we can't see. And now they are building 2 shopping malls in addition to 4 or 5 strip malls.  Little did we know. But we still love our morning walks - everyday feels like walking in a warm climate on a holiday.

This time last Christmas we were really worried we were going to lose Cricket - our 15 year old little pup. But as things would turn out we've had another great year with her - everyday she is healthy and happy we count as a blessing.

When we moved into our condo we met two very special people - our neighbours Sandra and Jose Luis. They became very close to us very quickly. When they move to Argentina a year ago we felt a big loss in our lives. We did get a chance to visit them this October - Donna let me come on her tour to Buenos Aires and Mendoza - wow - was that incredible - good people, food and wine for almost 2 weeks. Our oldest and very close friends Wayne & Elaine from Canada joined us. We met Sandra & Jose Luis when we arrived and when we left - it was so good to see them again. This year on Christmas morning we will raise a mimosa to their friendship and health.

Here are two pictures of Donna & me and Wayne & Elaine in a restaurant in Buenos Aires - we will go back for sure - a great country.

And on another Christmas note here is what the Christmas spirit is all about. When a lady had a flat tire on the bridge next to our building not one, but 4 police came to her aid. Way to go guys and Merry Christmas.

We have always had an open house at Christmas and when we moved to Panama we kept that tradition alive but our neighbours in our building did not really "get it" so very few ever came to our condo - so we decided to make it a bit different this year - we invited everyone to a Band and BBQ. We had X'Ile the bank my dive master Rey Sanchez is in - they play 80's music. It was a hit - there were about 100 people all enjoying themselves. I guess we will repeat this next year. Here are just a few pictures.

Here is another look at Christmas in Panama - this is the house we are fortunate enough to rent near Portobelo - we are heading back out in January to enjoy a 3 day long weekend and I will get in 4 or 5 more dives with Rey and a few new friends we met recently that turns out are divers too :}

Merry Christmas from Donna, Cricket and me.

If you are a Canadian thinking about Panama - email us - we're happy to try and answer your questions. We have nothing to sell nor do we make anything from any recommendations. We built this site to help other expats decide if Panama was the right choice for them. That is why it is called "Why Panama" meaning - why did we choose Panama versus some other area in the world.

You will find if you ask or read more on this site that we are realists (one of my friends Alan would argue - he'd say I am "the optimist") but we understand Panama is not perfect. After 8 years we are still thrilled with our choice to move to Panama but we still know this is not Canada in any way.

 

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

We visited our foster dogs today and they look so much better. The vet visited last week, removed the other ticks Donna could not get and gave them all some medication. Great to see them doing so well.

It seems official - our good friends will be moving from Costa del Este to somewhere near Boquete. I am happy for them as their condo sold in record time but I am sad we will not have their company except once in a while. This will be the second set of friends who have moved in a year. Things are different this year without Sandra & Jose Luis to see our other friends moving next year will be really odd at this time of year.

You know it is Christmas when - I just picked up our turkey :} or our friends in Canada call to see what the weather is like because they are snowed in and not liking it - or you go to the mall and it is jammed with people running around with bags - or you see the cars on the street with the reindeer antlers and Rudolph nose on the grill -- it used to be here in Costa del Este you knew it was Christmas because they installed lights on all the trees up and down our main street and it was really pretty at night - sadly that tradition is gone. But the others remain.

We broke down and bought a BBQ for our buildings social area - kind of tired of waiting for them to do something - a great deal at Novey and I am sure when we have our friends over we will use the barbie :}

I ran across another interesting site that has a lot of great information about Panama. It is called Panama for Real http://www.panamaforreal.com/ run by Chris Powers - it is a really interesting site in that Chris chronicles all sorts of stuff about Panama from first hand experience - he goes and does stuff and then writes about it. I've had fun reading some of his articles and I am sure you will too.

There are many good sites with information - be careful, remember there are some not so nice people in this world.

It is Christmas and it is that time of the year when we think about the less fortunate. Less fortunate families who need presents for their children or food for their table - and we help where we can in those areas but I want you to think of another thing you can do - help those who can't help themselves - I mean our four legged friends - dogs and cats that are living on the street either because their parents were strays and not neutered or spayed or abandoned by some person or family who no longer wanted them - here is just one example -

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/13/dog-trash-heap-miley_n_4441863.html

If you have even as little as 10 per month that can make the difference between Mari being able to give one more dog or cat a home - she has hundreds of abandoned dogs that no one wants to adopt - she cares for them, feeds them, gives them love and affection - she does this all without any salary - this is her passion - she gave up her career in law to run the shelter when it started to grow beyond a few dozen animals - now it is her full time passion -

Can you help - if so go to http://www.theyneedyourlove.org or to her facebook page called https://www.facebook.com/hogaralbergue.sanroque?fref=ts

Give once or give every month - please

If you are a Canadian thinking about Panama - email us - we're happy to try and answer your questions. We have nothing to sell nor do we make anything from any recommendations. We built this site to help other expats decide if Panama was the right choice for them. That is why it is called "Why Panama" meaning - why did we choose Panama versus some other area in the world.

You will find if you ask or read more on this site that we are realists (one of my friends Alan would argue - he'd say I am "the optimist") but we understand Panama is not perfect. After 7 years we are still thrilled with our choice to move to Panama but we still know this is not Canada in any way.

 

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The rainy season is almost over and we had a BBQ last night and expected rain the whole time and we were so blessed to have a gorgeous night. We  had our favorite band X'Ile - they were over the top - they played from 4 to 8 pm and even practiced two new songs for Donna from ABBA - how cool. If you ever want a live band who love to play the 80's - hire these guys - you will not regret it. We finally broke down and bought a BBQ to use on or social area. I think maybe it was the trip to Argentina and all the BBQ we enjoyed.

Our Canadian partners came down last week and we spent a good week with them - I think they really enjoy havng their own 3 bdrm condo versus staying in our guest room. We spent a week in strategy meetings for 2014 in our Cdn software firm and our Panamanian company that does services for Canada. Susan said how amazed she was at the expansion in Costa del Este and how the traffic pattern had exploded - we've seen this too but it is even crazier on the Corredor Sur - it can take 45m in to an hour to get to or from the airport in bumper to bumper traffic - even if the they expand the lanes - there are two now and people drive on the shoulder to make 3 and it still drags - I hope they make 4 each way and add at least 2 overpasses to Costa del Este - one can at least wish.

We went to visit our foster dogs today- Pastor and Pastorcita - they are looking really good but poor Pastorcita had so many ticks - Donna was really annoyed - we're going to have to have them checked out and we will need to talk to Chito about spraying more. One of the things you get used to here - the number of ticks and how vigilant you need to be. Tick fever is so hard on dogs and cats - virtually every dog or cat here has some brush with fever and it needs to be treated to ensure it doesn't cause long term harm.

It is hard to believe it is almost Christmasr. You would think that after 7 years we'd be used to the oddity of having 30 degree weather and Christmas but it is still odd to see Santa or Christmas trees on car roofs heading down the street.

I think I told you about Donna taking the repositioning cruise from Royal Carribean - the sad part is this is their last season in Panama - we've gone 8 times - one year two times - it is so convenient to just drive out to Colon and walk on board. In 2015 we will need to find another port to use for our annual cruise. If you can't tell - we're hooked on at least one cruise per year. It is such a good respite for Donna and I love the no brainer holiday it offers.

Almost every month we talk to some expat or North American considering Panama asking what it is really like to live in Panama and we try an answer as honestly as we can - we love Panama but we can see how it is not for everyone. For instance, we decided to get our Panamanian "cedula" or ID card and we've now been waiting since September - just something you need to get used to or you'd go crazy.

If you are a Canadian thinking about Panama - email us - we're happy to try and answer your questions. We have nothing to sell nor do we make anything from any recommendations. We built this site to help other expats decide if Panama was the right choice for them. That is why it is called "Why Panama" meaning - why did we choose Panama versus some other area in the world.

You will find if you ask or read more on this site that we are realists (one of my friends Alan would argue - he'd say I am "the optimist") but we understand Panama is not perfect. After 7 years we are still thrilled with our choice to move to Panama but we still know this is not Canada in any way.

 

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

Again another 2 weeks have gone by without an update - incredible how the weeks go by.

We just got back from a long weekend in Portobelo - I had the chance to go diving both Friday and Saturday and get in 5 dives total. I met some nice people that joined us. Diving is like lots of other hobbies, you meet some nice people while enjoying your hobby :} We actually got to see a really cool turtle during one of our dived - he had to have a 3' ft shell - he didn't seem too concerned about us - he just moved on. We saw a ray and an eel - as well as some amazing tornados of small fish.

It is such a nice break to get out there and just relax. We feel very priviledged to have found this place.

Our good friends Alan & Geri have been looking for a place near Boquete for the climate and quieter life - they've been there a couple of times recently and came back last week to tell us they found a place an are moving soon. I am happy for them but sad we will be missing another couple we've enjoyed spending time with here in Costa del Este.

I spoke with Sandra last week - our neighbour who moved from here to Argentina - they found a condo and are feeling like kids again having to furnish an apartment. I am really happy for them - but sad as we miss them.

I went to Bon Vivant the other day to pick up the second batch of wine in the wine club - this time all the wines are from Mallorca -  a couple I knew - AN2 and Mas Sinen but the other 3 are new to me.

It is hard to believe it is almost December. You would think that after 7 years we'd be used to the oddity of having 30 degree weather and Christmas but it is still odd to see Santa or Christmas trees on car roofs heading down the street.

Donna got home last week from a 3 day cruise from Miami to Colon - it was Royal Caribbeans repositioning cruise - sad thought - after 7 years they've announced this is their last season running the cruise out of Colon - that will leave Pullmantur Cruise lines as the only option. Interesting that this line is owned by Royal Caribbean and the ship used out of Colon used to be a RC ship. We're not sure what we are going to do in 205 - maybe find a ship out of Miami and use if for shopping too.

Our partners are coming to visit again in December - it will be a great week as we have our buildings open house with a live band - the X'Iles - Rey and his crew do a phenomenal job on 80's music and promised to learn ABBA for Donna - should be a great night.

If you are a Canadian thinking about Panama - email us - we're happy to try and answer your questions. We have nothing to sell nor do we make anything from any recommendations. We built this site to help other expats decide if Panama was the right choice for them. That is why it is called "Why Panama" meaning - why did we choose Panama versus some other area in the world.

You will find if you ask or read more on this site that we are realists (one of my friends Alan would argue - he'd say I am "the optimist") but we understand Panama is not perfect. After 7 years we are still thrilled with our choice to move to Panama but we still know this is not Canada in any way.

 

Read the comments from the other years

More News  - 2013
More News  - 2012
More News  - 2011
More News  - 2010

More News  - 2009
More News  - 2008 & earlier

 




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