Change or Die

Hello folks.  I wasn't sure where to post this, so many places I could have and not sure if I put it where the most people could read it and help them. But since El Valle is my town I posted it here. Maybe the people who run this site will see fit to place it where it belongs, on another page or in the trash.
My name is Mark. I moved to Panama 8 years ago.  I used to write for International Living on their expat exchange site.  I wrote over 800 posts on that site and one day I tried to log in and they had barred me from doing so.  I wondered why for a long time, then after looking a little deeper I found out that they also own a real estate company, I LIVING,  and they didn't like me telling people the truth.  It cut down on their sales....
Just today a friend of mine was telling me about a man who came here looking for a place to live and he was telling my friend how he had read on that site how he could live like a king here on $1,000 per month.  I about spilled my drink, which would have been the only sad part of my day.  You see, you will find that many sites want you to believe that B.S. and bite into it.  That is how they make they living and laugh all the way to the bank.  
I learned what I know the hard way. MONEY. SPEND IT AND A LOT OF IT.  I will help any of you come here without having to SPEND A LOT OF MONEY.  It's not free.  It will cost you but in the long run you will gain more then you will lose.  Now I am not saying that in the terms of you paying me.  No, I don't sell ANYTHING or charge a DIME.   I just try to help people know the truth.
The first thing you need to know is most web sites are OUTDATED, with old INFO.  A lot of things change here overnight sometimes.  New laws that they post are laws, well, were never really voted on and where thrown away, but someone remembers that and they think it is the law.  Like a few years ago, any person that came here got free insurance while here.  If you got hurt or sick,  Panama would cover all bills.  Today, NO MORE. That is gone.  But many web sites will keep posted that crap; even the ones that know that's over and still they post it.  Why? To get you to come here so someone can make that new car payment.  
Is Panama cheap?  Yes and no.  Many things are cheaper compared to the US and many things they are not.  8 years ago I would have said "Heck yes" to everything, but now, no its not.  Not with everything a gallon of gas is still about the same price your paying in the US.  Can you live like a king here? Well, depends on what you think living like a king is. You see, everyone has a idea of what things are worth;  to you something may cost far to much, but to me, it doesn't.
Crime here in Panama depends on where you live, just like the US.  Part of your town is safer then the other, right?  We all can say "Oh, don't go there after dark, not on that street."  Its the same here.
Panama is a wonderful country, a place where you can be in the mountains or on a beach within 40 minutes of driving time. Panama can be tame or big city wild; it just depends on what you're looking for. I live in MAYBERRY RFD, which sometimes is a little slow for me, so when I get bored I head to the big city.  Yeahh hawww!  After a day and a night there, I am more then happy to come home.
I have so many points to make and heads up on so many things I really don't know where to start.  If any of you have a question I would be more then happy to point you in the right way.
I think what I have learned here is, don't think you will get the same level of service that you are used to back home.  These people are not in a hurry to do a thing.  Most don't own a watch much less understand how to read one.  Never pay anyone up front for anything; you will not get anything close to what you paid for.  Everything takes time here. If you get mad and show that, it will take you even longer to get that done. 
If your coming here to open a company, good luck.  I hope you love paperwork because you will have to fill out a ton of it.  And, oh, by the way, they lost it all, so go do it again.  What, you paid the fee the first time?  Oh, sorry, pay it again.  What works in your country  will not work here. Get that in your head.  The numbers here are just not there to make it, and I have seen many come and go, come in flush with cash and sale it all to get a ticket home. 
Lawyers are a dime a dozen.  Trust no one.
GIVE ME what I want, I pay you.  If not, sorry.  I've been burned to many times because I paid up front and trusted them to do what they said.  Never happened.  Money gone.  Take it to court and they scream  HAHAHAHAHH.  Court here takes a looong time and many times even if you are in the right, you're wrong.
Now its not all bad.  There is a ton of good things here.  If there wasn't I would have sold all my stuff for pennies on the dollar and moved.  There are good and bad points to being here, but the good far outweighs the bad.  You just have to learn to laugh, and say "OK, whatever..."

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