Learn Step by Step

Ahhh, Panama, you have been sitting wherever for months trying to learn as much as you can about this place, finding some great info and some downright lies, I bet.
How you can retire here and live like a king for around $1,000 per month?  That one always makes me laugh.
It is true some things are cheaper here, but overall a gallon of gas costs what it costs, right?
Now let’s say you’re getting older like me, not in too great of health and you see the need one day for some extra help.  Well, how about a full time maid for $400 per month?  Maybe a yard man who will keep your yard looking like a golf course for $400 per month?  Can you get that where you are now?  You can here.
Many towns here have a small local hospital.  Now I am talking about little things, not if you’re having a heart attack. But many small problems they will help you for free, like the time my mother was carrying our new baby and tripped while walking down the road, my mom placed her in my wife's arms on her way down, too fast to do all that and place her hands out to break her fall, so her glasses cut a deep gash into her nose.  First point: aren't moms superheroes when it comes to kids?  Anyway, she was bleeding all over the place and a local grabbed them all up and took them to our little hospital.  About 8 stitches and a few shots later, mom was good as new.  Total cost?  Free.  The doctor did write her a paper to go have an x-ray done just to make sure no bones were broken in her face that had to be done in a larger hospital about 30 mines away, so we did that.   We were in and out in about an hour.  No bones were broken.  And total cost? $20. That’s right, $20. What’s an x-ray cost where you are?  So again, some things are cheap and some things cost the same.
 Land here depends on where you buy just like the US; from a dollar a meter to $10,000.
Don’t come here and think “Why don't they understand English?”  Really?  Because they don't speak it in THEIR country. So if you can't or if you don't want to learn, you might need to stay put.  Now I'm not talking word for word.  You can learn a few key words and get your point across most of the time.  Learn words like “how much,” “what time,” “more,” “less,” “ice,” “slow,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome.”  Come, learn the days of the week, and learn to count at least to 100.
Try to be easy going.  Don't allow your “go, go, go, got to get it now, now, now” mind set to take over.  If you do you won't be here long, and if you are you won't be happy.  These people don't get into a hurry to do anything. But drive and have babies and drink beer.
Don't tip like you would back home.  Here a dollar or two is good.
Best piece of advice I could give after living here for 8 years, is rent a home first before you buy anything. Rent it for at least a year.
But understand that Panama has a little bit of everything.  You like beach? We got it.  Mountains?  We got it.  Jungles? We got ‘em.  Big city?  We got that, too. You want to live with expats? OK.  You want to live with locals? OK.  You want a place where you can't see another living soul? We have that as well.  You like it hot?  Cold?  Right in the middle?  All that is here; it just depends on what part of this country you go too.
Now for me, I picked El Valle de Anton.  It’s high in the mountains, but a short drive to the beach.  It stays green year round, and has a lot of free flowing streams and rivers. It is far cooler then down at the bottom of the hill, which means air conditioning really isn't needed.  Nor is heat.  And, we are only two hours away from the city.
The city does play a role in your pick, because no matter what they tell you, you are going to have to go there for things from time to time, so do you want to live two hours away from it, or 12 hours?  Let’s say you have to meet a lawyer for something in the city, and you live on the other side of the country.  Well, he wants to meet you at 8 AM, because you guys have to go to three government offices in one day.  So what's that mean to you?  You’re going to have to come in the day before, spend the night, then get up run all over town maybe getting half of what you need done, and by the time your day is done, you’re too tired to drive home, so you spend two nights in the city.  Then, up and off for a 12-hour drive back home.  I love to make bets, so I bet you will have to do this a few more times before you get done all you have to.  Every time I go to the city to get a list of say 6 things, I am happy to get three before the day is gone, then stay the night and get the rest, or just drive home and save those for next time.
The problem in the city is simple.  They over-built everything but the road systems.  It took me an hour to go a block and a half just last week.  Pick your time frame. Go into the city around 9 AM. That gives everyone time to get to work and get out before 3, or you’re in traffic bumper to bumper.
Let’s talk about the way they drive here.  You have to drive it like you stole it.  There is no waiting to get out in traffic until the traffic clears.  You stick your nose in there and force your way in.  If you don't you’re not going to go anywhere anytime soon and make a lot of people behind you upset.  Turn signals?  Listen, break yours off the car and forget about ‘em.  In Panama they have no clue what they are for, and many times I have seen them turn on the left one and turn right over three lanes.  Stop in the middle of the road? Sure, why not?  Stay three car lengths behind the car in front of you? Really?  What you will have is three cars and two motorbikes take up that space. Motorbikes also ride between every car here.
Parking spots here are gold.  They have very few.  Also not many turn lanes at all, so if you see a place you want to pull into and shop, you might have to drive three miles past it, then turn around and drive back to it.  They block most lanes in the middle with ditches or curbs and only allow a few areas where you can turn around.  One-way streets are all over the place that change whenever they wish.
In all to me, the city just isn't my cup a tea at all.  It's hot, it stinks, and the traffic is crazy, many times raw sewage is running down the road; again, they built too much.  For the past few years, the underground train system has been going in so with all of that it made it a real nightmare to get around down there.
I heard people say “Why do you live in a Third World country?”, like I'm living in a shack and my kids and I wash in the river. Panama is not close to a Third World country in many areas, but she does still need a lot of help and changes to be up to date. For one, power.  For years just about every day sometimes as many as 30 times a day the power would go off, sometimes for a blink, sometimes for hours. They also have had some problems with water. Now we have a hydro dam that supplies Panama with power, but when the rains don't come like they need they have to start to pull back on the power.  This year all businesses had to turn off all air conditioning from like 12 till 5. Huge fine if they were caught running them, and they had rolling blackouts in areas in the city as well as outside the city.
Now the people in charge told these people years ago that they could NOT buy their own generators for power.  Nope, you have to buy it from the power company.  Now a few years later, they are saying “Hey if you want to buy your own generator and get off our grid, please feel free to do so.”  Hum…  Yeah, OK.  Now these same people in charge said “We need more power! Built more dams!!”  Yeah, so they did.  It took a few years but yeah, they have them!!  Yeah, no more power problems! Oh, wait, someone forgot to build the transmission lines to bring that power into the city.  What? Who?  This is the finger pointing phase.  Your fault.  Nope, yours.  And here is where the story gets really good.  You see, the people who built the dam said, “OK, we will build a dam and you agree to buy all the power we can produce at this price.” The kids in charge said, “Yeah!!!  Great deal.”  But again they forgot they had to put the lines in, so now the dam is getting a fat check each month for total power that they could make, but they are not, and they couldn't get it to the city anyway.  Maybe in another two to four years the lines will be done.
Years ago Panama got a new bridge crossing the Canal that was much needed.  It's called the Bridge of the Americas.  Pretty, too. Looks like two huge sails off a boat.  All the people were so happy.  But wait.  There wasn't a highway to the bridge.  The people in charge yelled, “I promised you a new bridge, not a highway, too!!!”   Today we have a very nice new highway to it, though.  If you wait long enough something will be done about it.  Just hope you have that much time left on this earth.
English Word: “Tomorrow.”
Spanish Word: “Manana.”  Please learn this word first, and understand what it means.
Yes. I know I already gave you the meaning, “tomorrow”, ahhh, but there is another meaning to that word. This word is used when they don't want to deal with you or your problem or just a way to get you down the road.  You think, OK, first thing tomorrow it will be fixed, or they will be here, or it will be done, etc., etc., etc.  Ha, ha, ha.   You can go 5 days in a row and they will tell you “manana.”
When dealing with people here I have found that most don't have a clue what the law is or what it says or how to apply it. And if you ask 5 people in that office the same question, I am betting you are going to get at least 4 different replies.  Yes, that's right, only four because the fifth person just overheard one of the other replies and just said the same thing they did.
But again, it's all good.  You just have to take one step at a time and learn to chill out and don't allow these things to get at you.  If you’re here to retire or change your lifestyle, then that is just part of it, maybe not a good part but still a part of it, anyway. In the end you will get what you want; it all just takes time and money.   See you next time with some more of what I think about it, and I'm the only one who cares.  lol  God bless.

Next Fourteen Months Later in Panama

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