13 Things the Offshore Gurus Will NOT Tell You About Panama

Driveway leading to house

Driveway leading to our house

When I come back and visit the US and folks find out I live in Panama they’re always interested and have lots of questions. It’s not unusual to bump into folks who subscribe to, or have read press releases by outfits that promote seminars and literature about living in Panama. Yes, it has been “paradise” for us and many others, but it is not “perfect” and some of these outfits tend to gloss over the realities of life in Panama. The more you know about how life really is in Panama, or whatever country you are considering, the happier you will be when you make the move.

One of the things I like about Panama Relocation Tours is that it’s not a real estate tour. Nobody is selling anything. It’s a boots-on-the-ground tour that allows you to experience the real Panama and talk with real expats about their experiences living in Panama. Jackie Lange, who runs Panama Relocation Tours, wrote this piece on her blog

Ask 100 expats what their life is like in Panama, you will get 100 different answers.

Their perspective depends on where they live, how patient they are, and how much they have attempted to accept Panama for what it is… a developing country.

When you read offshore publications about Panama you’d think the whole country is a “Paradise”. The distant photos of down town Panama City look like any first world metropolis. But walk the streets or drive around the country and you will quickly notice that it is not as developed as the USA, Canada or Europe.

With its beautiful skyscrapers, new subway system, and Trump Tower, Panama City is certainly impressive. Some areas are very modern with underground utilities. But that is not the way it is in most of Panama City – or Panama in general.

Many people say Panama is like the USA was in the 1960s but with cell phones, internet and flat screen TVs. I grew up in the ’60s and have fond memories of what life was like then. Panama does offer a simple life where young children can walk all over town safely and family values still exist.

But it is not all paradise.

Here are 13 things you won’t read about in in the sugar-coated publications about moving to Panama:

(1) Don’t assume you will have hot water at every house or at every faucet in the house. Some houses only have warm water at the shower.
Be careful to check out the hot water situation before you decide to rent or buy. You should not rent a house without seeing it first.

(2) Internet speed is not the same throughout the country or even on the same street. If you are lucky enough to live in an area serviced by Cable Onda, you can get up to 15 mgps for about $50 a month. If you can’t get Cable Onda, you will be forced to use MobileNet or Planet Telecom where 2 mgps will cost you $125 per month and you will pay a whopping $250 for 4 mgps. Cable Onda is available 1 mile from my house but I’m stuck with paying the higher prices for less speed.

(3) The sidewalks are not level. They may have holes your whole foot can fit through, or metal pipes protruding in bad places or the sidewalk may have stretches which are completely missing. You need to wear sturdy shoes and watch where you are walking at all times in Panama.

(4) If Code Enforcement from the USA came to Panama, they would probably shut down most of the country. There is crazy wiring inside and outside. There are steps and other unlevel surfaces with no handrails or safety devices. There usually will not be a GFI outlet within 6 feet of all water sources. The only exception is new construction in the higher price ranges… maybe.

(5) Most places will have a sign in the bathroom asking you to NOT flush the toilet paper but instead to put it in a waste basket which is next to the toilet. Oh, and don’t assume that all public bathrooms will have toilet paper… bring your own. The reason you should not flush toilet paper because most businesses and homes have a septic system. The more toilet paper that is flushed, the more often they have to get their septic tanks cleaned out and it is just as expensive to do that in Panama as it is in the USA. We recently paid $175.

(6) You can pick your temperature by your elevation. If you are at a lower elevation, it will be hot and humid. If you are at 3500 feet it will be 75-80 just about every day and less humid. Get above 5000 feet and you can enjoy weather in the high 60s to mid-70s every day. Lower elevations (less than 3500 feet) will have more snakes, spiders, and bugs. There are tradeoffs.

(7) There is no Walmart. There are plenty of affordable stores but it will not be the same. We do have a have PriceMart which is very similar to a Sam’s or Costco. Currently, the only big fancy malls are in or near Panama City.

(8) Name brand, imported items will usually costs more, but similar Panama brands will usually cost much less than you pay now. You may or may not be able to find all the name brand items you use now but there is usually a good substitute.

(9) It rains a lot in Panama. We average 100 – 120 inches of rain a year. It does not rain every day or all day… usually. In the dry season, January – April, is may not rain for a month. In October and November it will pour down rain like the Heavens opened up and dumped the Pacific Ocean on Panama….but this usually happens in the late afternoon so you can plan accordingly. The rains keep everything looking lush and green and provide plenty of water for ships to go through the Panama Canal.

(10) Speaking of water… yes, there is plenty of water but the water distribution systems are not what you are familiar with. Some rural areas have water delivered in a small PVC pipe that gets busted occasionally. That means low water pressure at your house or no water. In the dry season, there may not be enough water pressure so it is important that you rent or buy a house that has a large reserve water tank so you have consistent water pressure. Other areas have more modern water delivery systems. In some areas, the water is treated in other areas it is not. So you really need to have a good water filter system at your house. Take all this in to consideration when you select a place to live.

(11) Panama is a Spanish speaking country. In Panama City, Coronado and Boquete English are widely spoken. But in other areas it is not. Even in the areas where English is widely spoken, not everyone will speak English. If you want to live in a Spanish speaking country, you need to learn some Spanish.

(12) Getting things done like opening a bank account, getting a driver’s license, auto registration or even getting mail will be more complicated. It will get done, but your patience will be tested.

(13) Panama has small earthquakes. In the last 12 months I have felt 3 small tremors. They usually last 1-2 seconds. If you are sitting still, you will feel them. If you are driving or moving around you probably won’t feel them at all.

(14) I will throw in one more… There is poverty in Panama but it is not as bad as other South American or Central American countries I have visited. The Indian tribes are most affected by poverty because many of them have no skills and only make $12 – $15 a day. But Panamanians are proud people so you rarely see anyone begging for money.

So with all these negatives, why in the world would anyone want to live in a country like Panama?

For some it is purely economic, others have strong political reasons, and some are just ready for a new adventure. Regardless of the reason, these are the things you can enjoy when living in Panama:

Low utility costs (if you live in an area where you don’t need air conditioning)
Affordable health care .. I pay $2460 a year worldwide health insurance
No wars, no military
Very strong economy
Very low crime in most areas
Fresh air
Fresh fish from both coasts
Great produce and fruit supply – some organic
Great soil to grow your own food
Government leaves you alone and has less rules and regulations
Low or no taxes in Panama
If US citizen, you can take advantage of the $97,600 Foreign Earned Income Exemption
No hurricanes, No snow, No tornadoes
Consistent weather year round – no extremes
Plenty of water – no drought
Visible improvements happening all over the country .. for the better
Not a country divided with conflict from strong left or strong right political parties
Get away from the insanity and intrusion of the US government
Do not have to sign up for or pay for Obamacare
Incredibly beautiful scenery
A lot of opportunity
Small country so you can go to two Oceans or the mountains in a day…. Driving
Friendly and supportive expats… almost always
Friendly and supportive Panamanians… almost always
Pamananians do not have an entitlement mentality

I could go on and on…

Panama is just right for some. But Panama is too big of an adjustment for others who want everything to be like it is back home… wherever that might be.

Panama Relocation Tours will NOT sugar-coat what life is like in Panama. You will learn about the good things and the bad things about life in Panama. I will share my current personal experiences about living in Panama and so will all the other expats you meet with during the tour. The country is changing so quickly, you need to know what it is like being in expat in Panama this month.  For me personally, I can tell you that my only regret is that I did not come to Panama to check it out 10 or 20 years ago then move here sooner.

What “it’s different” actually means …

Living as an expat in Panama, or any country for that matter, is different than living in your home country.  If you want to accept an expat lifestyle and enjoy it you have to accept that things are different.  That’s sometimes easier said than done.  And there are some “different” aspects to live in Panama which often get glossed over in the enthusiasm for all the positives about life in Panama.  “Soup” Campbell who came down from the North Pole, Alaska tells folks that when they move to Panama they need to check their expectations at the border.  It’s different and don’t expect everything to be the same.

The other day our local expat news feed sent out this notice …

We still desperately need 5 pints of O Positive blood for a man in Regional Hospital who is awaiting surgery.

Most of the people on the Blood Donor list do not qualify because they have been OUT of the country in the last 6 months so we need help from anyone who qualifies and can go to Regional Hospital tomorrow morning between 7 AM to 10 AM. The earlier the better.

If you are O Positive, on the Blood Donor list and have not received a call from me yet, please contact me ASAP if you can help.

To donate blood in Panama:

You must be between the ages of 18 and 65. You are generally ineligible when you become 66. In a life or death situation, the doctor in charge of the patient may override this restriction.

You may not give blood if you are allergic to penicillin.

Men can only give blood every 3 months, women every 4 months. The difference is because men usually have a higher hematocrit than women.

Infectious diseases: An active infection or any infection of any kind in the last 10 days, including dental, will disqualify you. A history of the following diseases will disqualify you: TB, malaria, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis of any kind, Chagras disease, Yellow fever. CMV and mono are OK if not recent.

Other medical issues: You must have normal blood pressure. Blood pressure medications are OK if your blood pressure is normal in the ER when you are screened.

You may not give blood if you have anemia falciforme (sickle cell anemia) or if you are diabetic.

You must weigh more than 55 kilos (approximately 121 pounds by calculation).

IV drug users are ineligible.

You may be rejected as a donor by the ER doctor who screens you or by the lab. Your blood will be tested by the lab for normal values and infectious diseases.

IF YOU PASS THE ABOVE QUALIFICATION AND CAN GO TOMORROW MORNING PLEASE CALL and we will provide you with the patients name to give at the lab.

Thank You, Boquete Hospice Blood Donors

There is no blood bank in Panama.

There is no way to give your own blood in advance of surgery and have the hospital store it for use if needed.

Most expat retirees — your friends — are going to be 65 or older and prohibited from giving blood.

So what happens? You lay in bed in the hospital and wait, and hope, and pray.

In the Boquete area we have no ambulance EMT service comparable to what you may be used to in your home country. Ambulances are mainly used for transport. A few years ago a group of gringos got together and raised money to buy and equip and ambulance for Boquete, albeit without any trained EMT. No one is quite sure now what happened to that ambulance and the equipment. My understanding is that the fire department, Bomberos, in Boquete does not currently have a trained EMT. Panama is working on implementing a 911 Emergency Ambulance program but this is only for accidents on the highway. So what do you do?

Our plan is that one of us throws the other into the car and we drive to a hospital in David, about 35 minutes, and hope for the best. The reality is that we had the same plan in Ventura, California where we lived 20 minutes drive from the hospital and knew that it would take longer than that for an ambulance to arrive. That plan may work … except when I’m off on a ship for several months at a time.

It IS different. It’s NOT the same. It is beautiful, a great life style and we love it, but you need to know and accept in advance that things are different.

Two Great Videos About Panama

I’ve disappeared for a few days … back to Milwaukee, USA.  Milwaukee used to be known for beer, now it is known for Harley Davidson.  I’m staying in a Hilton Garden Inn down the road from Harley … midweek and a lot of Harley folks are staying here as well.  Last night at the hotel’s guest reception party someone commented to a gal from Harley, “Seems like almost everyone who works there has a tattoo.”  The gal, who worked in HR replied, “Yes, it’s a requirement to have a tattoo somewhere!”  Anyway I’m here to do a funeral service for a very good friend.  The last time I was in Milwaukee was 2000, and things seemed kind of grim.  I’m amazed to the difference.  Vibrant economy, lots of growth and development, huge and beautiful developments of Mc Mansions in the western suburbs. This afternoon I’m driving down to Chicago.  Two of the guys I hung around with in college are driving down from Grand Rapids and three old men are going to get together and remember when we were kids.  Sounds like the stuff of a boring movie!  Then it’s a quick trip up to Door County, where we used to have a little cottage, to visit some friends, then back home to Panama.

I’ve got to share with you that I set the world record for clearing both immigration and customs in Atlanta … 10 minutes!  We must have just arrived at the perfect time!

So the videos … first is a great promo video for Panama.  The second is a video by Bob Adams of RetirementWave.com  You’ll enjoy them both!

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Prison Nightmares

There are expats who will ask, “So, what do the state of Panama’s prisons have to do with moving to Panama, or our somewhat privileged lives in Panama? What’s it to me? They’re criminals: lock ‘em up and throw away the key.”

Prisons are designed not just to wall people IN, but to wall people OUT. A society that just locks people up and throws away the key, or only cares about good people like they assume themselves to be, isn’t a worthwhile society. You ignore the poor, and those in prison at your own risk. Not only can it become a cancer on society, but in the final analysis, well, Jesus put it this way,

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” [Matthew 25:31-46]

If you don’t dig Jesus, or just think the whole world should revolve around you and your needs … well, then, obviously Jesus opinions aren’t important to you. But … the time may come when you run afoul of the law in Panama, or when, rightly or wrongly, you are accused back home of some infraction there, and you end up in the “better” and “protected” area of prison, reserved for expats and foreigners. So even you might find this interesting.

This appeared in CAYMANCOMPASS.COM and concerns the death of a Cayman citizen being held in prison in Panama.

Panama Prison Horrors

Cellmates of drug mule Mark Bodden have told of the squalid conditions and nonexistent medical care in the notorious Panama prison where the Caymanian died on Aug. 18.

The 37-year-old, according to the witness accounts, was injured in a fall from a makeshift bed in the seriously overcrowded cell block 6 of La Joya prison, where 506 foreign nationals are crammed into tiny rat-infested cells with limited access to clean water or exercise.

Three of Mr. Bodden’s fellow prisoners, including Dr. Arthur Porter, a high profile physician wanted in Canada in connection with a bribery scandal involving Montreal’s McGill University Hospital, have been in contact with the Cayman Compass to give their version of events surrounding the death.

The Caymanian prisoner was left without access to proper medical attention for nearly 12 hours after sustaining serious head injuries when he fell 8 feet from his “home-made bed space,” according to an unofficial two-page medical report produced by Dr. Porter.

“I am of the opinion that if Mr. Bodden had received a prompt transfer to a hospital with neurological competence, he would have had a substantial chance of making a complete recovery,” wrote Dr. Porter, who has been in the prison for 14 months fighting extradition back to Canada following his arrest on an international warrant in Panama City.

His report was emailed to the Compass through fellow prisoner Leo Morgan, a British drug dealer locked up for money laundering, who has been representing foreign inmates in talks with prison officials and embassy diplomats in an effort to improve conditions.

“Mark was not a bad kid. He made a mistake, did something to make some money and he ended up here.

“What happened was an accident, but he didn’t have to die. It could have been prevented if he had got medical care. He died because of neglect,” Mr. Morgan told the Compass in a call from the prison’s public phones.

The 57-year-old former boxer and nightclub bouncer, described as a “drug kingpin” in British press reports, said he had seen 60 people die during his 10 years in the Panama prison system from accidents, stabbings, fights and disease.

“There’s no medical center, there’s not even any water. We have to buy everything we have,” said Mr. Morgan, who competes in boxing bouts with fellow inmates for cash.

“Mark had good people looking out for him in Cayman. His grandmother sent him money and the church was helping him out. You have to buy everything, you have to buy your bed, you have to buy toilet paper.”

He said the cell block is a 180-bed facility that houses 506 foreign prisoners – a mix of Colombians, Africans, Jamaicans, Guatemalans and three British citizens: Mr. Morgan, Mr. Bodden and his cellmate Ben Perschky, who is serving a 112-month sentence for trying to smuggle cocaine out of Panama.

Mr. Perschky, speaking to the Compass via instant-messaging service Whatsapp, told how inmates had banged on the cell-block doors and made frantic calls to the British embassy to raise the alarm as Mr. Bodden slipped in and out of consciousness throughout the night.

“He fell around 9:30 Saturday night. The Canadian prisoner in here [Dr. Porter] examined him and he had broke his shoulder and his head was bleeding. He was responding though. We went to the people upstairs, with the contacts, but were told nobody is here and we would have to wait until morning.”

Mr. Perschky, one of six inmates who shared a cell with Mr. Bodden and bunked on the bed below, said he became seriously concerned when his friend began to experience convulsions.

“We carried him to the door. He was in a really, really bad way. We banged and banged on the door and at 8:30 a.m. Sunday a policeman came and opened it and they took him away. Monday morning we heard he had died.

“I believe he died because nobody came here to get him out and give him the care he needed to survive.”

In his report – a typed manuscript of his medical notes on the incident – fellow prisoner Dr. Porter, the former medical director of McGill University Health Centre, expresses similar opinions.

He writes that Mr. Bodden had suffered injuries to his chest, head and shoulder in the fall and had an “open laceration on his cranium.”

He describes how he attempted to “medically manage” the patient, who was suffering epileptic seizures, while others tried to raise the alarm.

“At around 8:30 am a policeman arrived and the patient was placed in a food trolley and wheeled out. On Monday 18th August I was informed that Mark had died. Frankly I am of the opinion that the care that Mark received was sub-standard,” Dr. Porter wrote.

He adds, “I have been incarcerated here for over 14 months and can attest this is not an isolated incident… Not having any ability to contact authorities, transfer or even have basic resuscitation equipment represents a significant systemic flaw in the delivery of medical care in the Panamanian Penitentiary system.”

Dr. Porter was injured himself during a riot at the prison – widely reported in Canadian news media earlier this month.

The Sierra Leone-born doctor is a prominent figure in Canada where he was a member of the Privy Council and served as chairman of the Security and Intelligence Review Committee under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

He has been in La Joya since being arrested at the airport in Panama City on an international warrant in May 2013.

He is wanted by Quebec police in connection with a $22.5 million bribery and kickback scandal, described in media reports as one of the largest frauds in Canadian history.

Dr. Porter is facing charges of fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, fraud toward the government, breach of trust, participating in secret commissions and laundering proceeds of crime, according to Canadian media.

There is a sense in which you can judge a nation based on how it treats its prisoners. If that is the case both Panama and the US fall short.

Panama’s Pensionado Discounts: Worth it on airfare?

The Panama Pensionado discount program is an often-touted reason to consider an expat retirement lifestyle in Panama. This program was developed for Panamanian retirees, not expat retirees, although Panama generously allows expat retirees who have permanent residence status to take advantage of the discounts. If you are a permanent resident in Panama, whether you live here on a Pensionado visa or “Friendly Nation” visa or other visa, once you reach Panamanian retirement age, which for men is 60 and for women is 55, you enjoy the discounts offered to all retirees. If you have a Pensionado visa you enjoy these benefits regardless of your age.

One of the benefits is “25% discount in air fares in public and private national and foreign Airlines.”

OK, so how does that work out in practice?

I’m back at sea later this fall and Nikki is going with me on several voyages. In order to get the Pensionado discount I went to a local travel agent. This is what we needed …

PTY – NYC – Where we pick up the ship
SJU – MIA – This cruise finishes in San Juan. My next assignment is out of Fort Lauderdale. We’ll spend some time between cruises doing a Florida road trip before Nikki returns to Panama.
MIA – PTY

So here’s what the travel agent came up with … with the Pensionado Discount $691.27

DL 392 24 OCT Panamá-Atlanta 8:00 AM –> 1:06 PM

DL 1419 24 OCT Atlanta-John F Kennedy 4:13 PM –> 6:35 PM

DL 309 13 NOV San Juan-Atlanta 12:35 PM –> 3:35 PM

DL 1527 13 NOV Atlanta-Fort Lauderdale 4:10 PM –> 6:05 PM

DL 1827 23 NOV Fort Lauderdale-Atlanta 1:45 PM –> 3:45 PM

DL 393 23 NOV Atlanta-Panamá 5:50 PM –> 9:53 PM

Lot’s of changes – lots of time in Atlanta [It's said with Delta, "If you want to go to Heaven you have to connect through Atlanta."]

And here’s what I came up with using the standard senior discount [65 and over], without the Pensionado discount $707.30

Copa 1922 24 OCT Panama-Newark [Nonstop] 10:05 AM –> 4:20 PM

American 397 13 NOV San Juan-Miami [Nonstop] 2:01 PM –> 3:55 PM

Copa 440 23 NOV Miami-Panama [Nonstop] 10:49 AM –> 1:50 PM

OK, the Pensionado rate was $16 cheaper. But for $16 more three DIRECT flights, and the Panama flight gets in early enough, that with a little luck, Nikki can get the last flight from Albrook to David, saving the cost and hassle of an overnight in Panama City!

So here’s how it works: the Pensionado Discount is the SAME as the 65 and over regular senior fare. If you are a Pensionado you get the senior rate even if you are not 65 and over. Once you turn 65 … it’s the same.

Back Home: A Changing America

Me and boys 080614Having just been “back home” in the US, I can report that it’s still the same.  But I do wonder what kind of country I will be leaving my grandkids.

It’s easy to hear expats in Panama complain about life back in the US: the Bush so-called “Patriot Act” which Congress and Obama have not only supported but interpreted in even more anti-patriotic ways offering up traditional US American freedoms as trophies to terrorism in the name of “national security”; how the US has become a country living in fear [FDR: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”; how curt and militaristic the airport “Welcome to America!” has become when you go “back home” to visit; and “Obama Care” – if one more person tells me how “bad” or “good” it is I will throw up on the spot!  There are those who still believe that a black man riding on a white horse would save the US from self-destruction, and those whose life revolves around FOX “news” [Yes, it's available in Panama.] who think that had McCain, Palin, Romney (and who was his running mate?) had been elected, the US would be so, so much better.  Palin’s foreign policy experience [Remember?  Even though she'd never had a US Passport she "could see Russia" from Alaska.] would have trumped Obama/Clinton’s bungling.

Some folks love romping in this stuff like pigs in the mud, and others, while still concerned about life in the US, it’s direction or lack thereof, and the implications for grandkids, just enjoy being away from it all in Panama.  Bob Adams, who has a great Web site called RetirementWave.com, says that if you’re coming to Panama to live as an expat you need to pack all that negative, political stuff that has nothing to do with your new life in Panama and leave it back where you came from.

But there is no question that things are changing in the US.  I found this article about Clinton’s potential White House bid that included some very interesting material developed by the highly respected Pew Research organization …

In March this year, Pew published a social trends survey which concluded that the Millennials were “forging a distinctive path into adulthood”. They did not join political parties or churches, lived largely beyond the corporate world, and were mostly broke but still had hopes for their future.

“Now ranging in age from 18 to 33 ½,” the report found, “they are relatively unattached to organised politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry – and optimistic about the future.

“They are also America’s most racially diverse generation. In all of these dimensions, they are different from today’s older generations. And in many, they are also different from older adults back when they were the age Millennials are now.”

Pew found that 50 per cent of Millennials now describe themselves as politically independent, but if they do back a party, it will be the Democrats. They hold “liberal views” on issues such as same-sex marriage and the legalisation of marijuana. Forty-seven per cent of children born to Millennial women are born out-of-wedlock.

They seem to be living differently and adopting different views and values partly because they have had to: they are the generation launched into a global recession with an unprecedented amount of college debt and few job prospects, the first generation to realise that the American Dream is going to remain just that.

They do not want to drive big cars or buy suburban mansions; they repopulate cities (when they can afford to leave the nest at all) and ride bicycles.

Perhaps most significant is that they are adapting to America’s rapidly shifting racial balance. Whites will cease to be an overall majority in America sometime around 2045. That projection is behind the anti-immigrant, right-wing rage of the Tea Party and its related militias. But it bothers the new generations of pink, brown and black Americans less and less.

In short, it is the Millennials who have helped consign the Republican politics of division – “Vote for us or your daughter will marry a black man!” – to the dustbin of history.

It has been calculated that Millennials will not have the majority of votes for another 20 years, and so will not have control of Washington until 2035.

But they have been a rising power since the first of them turned out for Barack Obama in 2008, and their share of the vote will go up in every cycle. [Charles Lawrence THE WEEK]

A Different View of Panama

If you are thinking of “escaping” to Panama, not just because it’s such a beautiful country with what may be a better, and perhaps even less expensive lifestyle, but because you are trying to escape the long arm of the law in your own country, or want to continue some nefarious activity in Panama … think again!

We know how screwed up, backasswards, and unjust the so-called “justice system” can be in the US and maybe in your home country as well.  When you come to Panama you need to understand that it is different in many ways, including the law, court system and justice system, which is why I included a chapter in THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE entitled “The Devil You Know” as in, “The devil you know may be better than the devil you don’t know.”

If you are a criminal … take note.  But it’s also worth nothing that in Panama, as well as in the US, you can simply be at the wrong place at the wrong time  [See BrandonHein.com].

This week there was another riot at La Joya prison, considered one of the 10 worst prisons in the world.  This story focuses on a Canadian citizen, Dr. Arthur Porter, who was arrested in May 2013 on an international warrant wanted for fraud in Canada.  He has been incarcerated at La Joya for 15 months without a hearing while fighting extradition to Canada. (CBC)

A CANADIAN man at the center of an alleged $22.5 million bribery and kickback scandal involving Montreal’s McGill University Hospital was trampled during a violent prison riot in La Joya Prison on Friday, August 8 says a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

According to family and fellow inmates of Dr Arthur Porter prison officers inexplicably opened fire with shotguns and tear gas during a routine search of overcrowded Cellblock 6 of the notorious La Joya prison said the CBC on Thursday, August 14.

Dr. Porter, former executive director of the McGill University Health Centre and a former head of Canada’s spy watchdog agency, has been languishing in that section of the prison reserved for foreign nationals ever since his arrest May 27, 2013 at the airport in Panama City on an international warrant. He is fighting a request by Quebec police for his extradition back to Canada for his alleged role in one of the largest frauds in Canadian history.

“He was shot in the face with tear gas, and then he tried to crawl to the stairs to escape, and he got trampled on, which damaged his leg, and then he lost consciousness,” Gemma Porter, the eldest of Porter’s four daughters, told CBC News.

It marks the first time a member of the Porter family has spoken publicly about the arrest and incarceration of Porter, a member of Canada’s Privy Council, who says he has been fighting lung cancer since the fall of 2012.

CBC News reached another prisoner in Cellblock 6, Leo Morgan, who confirmed the account.

“When a riot breaks out, it’s mayhem,” said Morgan, 56, from Birmingham, England, who has been stuck in the prison for 10 years without being sentenced for money laundering. “They shot 80 grenade canisters of tear gas, and everybody is running. Of course you’re trying to breathe, vomiting, your eyes are running … you’re doing everything. When it was going on, people are looking to save their own lives.
Dr. Arthur Porter was injured last Friday during a prison riot at La Joya prison, reputed to be one of the 10 worst prisons in the world. He has been incarcerated there for 15 months without a hearing while fighting extradition to Canada. (CBC)

“(Porter) was passed out on the floor, everybody running over him, and they just picked him up and dragged him out and left him on the field. When there was a lull, people shot and people bleeding, we checked him out. We could not get A pulse and we couldn’t get any signs of breathing. We’re not trained doctors.”

Morgan is a spokesman for the 506 foreign prisoners squeezed into the 180-bed Cellblock 6, where he says they have no access to water, no exercise time, and have to endure bad food and are forced to sleep on the floor in and around the toilets due to overcrowding. He was planning to meet with representatives of foreign embassies today, but he didn’t believe anyone from Canada was attending.

“I’ve seen more than 59 people die in 10 years I’ve been here,” he told CBC News, explaining that most of the people are there as a result of the U.S. war on drugs. “They die of natural causes, they’re shot, knifed, there’s heart attacks, suicide, AIDS. I’ve seen someone stabbed 17 times and live, and someone punched once in the heart and he’s dead.

“I can’t tell you the worst of it, it’s the smells – urine, vomit, blood. The blood smell when they kill someone it’s most powerful.”

FEARED FOR LIFE
A spokesperson for Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs did not confirm whether any Canadian official attended today’s meeting. In an email earlier this week, spokesperson Béatrice Fénelon wrote: “We are aware that riots took place in La Joya prison in Panama. At this time, we have not received any information that Canadians were affected in these riots. Canadian consular officials stand ready to provide assistance, as required.”

Porter, who is in email contact with his daughters, told them that when he regained consciousness on Friday he had blurred vision and a severe limp, but feared for his life as prisoners had taken over the cellblock.

However, Panamanian officials told CBC that order was restored at the prison later that day.

“It’s one thing thinking every day about his health, how long does he have, he’s already beaten the odds for so long,” Gemma Porter told CBC News. “And then on top of it to get news like that. Not just cancer, not just unclean, unsanitary conditions, it’s being shot at with (shotguns) and tear gas, that I have to worry about.

“That might be the reason he dies. It’s terrifying.”

A CANADIAN man at the center of an alleged $22.5 million bribery and kickback scandal involving Montreal’s McGill University Hospital was trampled during a violent prison riot in La Joya Prison on Friday, August 8 says a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

According to family and fellow inmates of Dr Arthur Porter prison officers inexplicably opened fire with shotguns and tear gas during a routine search of overcrowded Cellblock 6 of the notorious La Joya prison said the CBC on Thursday, August 14.

Dr. Porter, former executive director of the McGill University Health Centre and a former head of Canada’s spy watchdog agency, has been languishing in that section of the prison reserved for foreign nationals ever since his arrest May 27, 2013 at the airport in Panama City on an international warrant. He is fighting a request by Quebec police for his extradition back to Canada for his alleged role in one of the largest frauds in Canadian history.

“He was shot in the face with tear gas, and then he tried to crawl to the stairs to escape, and he got trampled on, which damaged his leg, and then he lost consciousness,” Gemma Porter, the eldest of Porter’s four daughters, told CBC News.

It marks the first time a member of the Porter family has spoken publicly about the arrest and incarceration of Porter, a member of Canada’s Privy Council, who says he has been fighting lung cancer since the fall of 2012.

CBC News reached another prisoner in Cellblock 6, Leo Morgan, who confirmed the account.

“When a riot breaks out, it’s mayhem,” said Morgan, 56, from Birmingham, England, who has been stuck in the prison for 10 years without being sentenced for money laundering. “They shot 80 grenade canisters of tear gas, and everybody is running. Of course you’re trying to breathe, vomiting, your eyes are running … you’re doing everything. When it was going on, people are looking to save their own lives.
WORLD’S WORST PRISONS
Dr. Arthur Porter was injured last Friday during a prison riot at La Joya prison, reputed to be one of the 10 worst prisons in the world. He has been incarcerated there for 15 months without a hearing while fighting extradition to Canada. (CBC)

“(Porter) was passed out on the floor, everybody running over him, and they just picked him up and dragged him out and left him on the field. When there was a lull, people shot and people bleeding, we checked him out. We could not get A pulse and we couldn’t get any signs of breathing. We’re not trained doctors.”

Morgan is a spokesman for the 506 foreign prisoners squeezed into the 180-bed Cellblock 6, where he says they have no access to water, no exercise time, and have to endure bad food and are forced to sleep on the floor in and around the toilets due to overcrowding. He was planning to meet with representatives of foreign embassies today, but he didn’t believe anyone from Canada was attending.

“I’ve seen more than 59 people die in 10 years I’ve been here,” he told CBC News, explaining that most of the people are there as a result of the U.S. war on drugs. “They die of natural causes, they’re shot, knifed, there’s heart attacks, suicide, AIDS. I’ve seen someone stabbed 17 times and live, and someone punched once in the heart and he’s dead.

“I can’t tell you the worst of it, it’s the smells – urine, vomit, blood. The blood smell when they kill someone it’s most powerful.”

FEARED FOR LIFE
A spokesperson for Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs did not confirm whether any Canadian official attended today’s meeting. In an email earlier this week, spokesperson Béatrice Fénelon wrote: “We are aware that riots took place in La Joya prison in Panama. At this time, we have not received any information that Canadians were affected in these riots. Canadian consular officials stand ready to provide assistance, as required.”

Porter, who is in email contact with his daughters, told them that when he regained consciousness on Friday he had blurred vision and a severe limp, but feared for his life as prisoners had taken over the cellblock.

However, Panamanian officials told CBC that order was restored at the prison later that day.

“It’s one thing thinking every day about his health, how long does he have, he’s already beaten the odds for so long,” Gemma Porter told CBC News. “And then on top of it to get news like that. Not just cancer, not just unclean, unsanitary conditions, it’s being shot at with (shotguns) and tear gas, that I have to worry about.

“That might be the reason he dies. It’s terrifying.” [NEWSROOM PANAMA]

No low-level, indigent criminal, Porter, according to Wikipedia …

Arthur T. Porter IV, PC, (born in 1956 in Freetown, Sierra Leone) is a Canadian physician.

In February 2004, Porter was appointed Director General and CEO of the McGill University Health Centre in Montréal, Canada, one of Canada’s largest academic health centres.

He also served as Chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee of Canada which reviews the activities of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada’s spy agency. He was appointed to the position by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper on September 3, 2008, and along with that appointment, was made a Privy Councillor.

He was succeeded as Chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee by Chuck Strahl.

On May 27, 2013 he was arrested in Panama on fraud charges connected to one of Canada’s biggest health-care scandals. He claimed no wrongdoing. More than a year later, while still in prison, he filed a $150 million lawsuit against the Republic of Panama, claiming damages incurred from his arrest and imprisonment in the country.

That suit cites Panamanian Law 2502 which states that if a person being sought on extradition does not face a hearing within 60 days of their detention, they are to be freed.

He also complained to the United Nations that his human rights had been violated.

As of July 8 2014, Porter was still under arrest in Panama awaiting extradition to Canada

It probably wasn’t that difficult to get comment from other prisoners since many have cell phones … in prison! … and just about any other contraband you can think of.

So what does this have to do with people who are thinking of moving to Panama as expats … normal, ordinary, law-abiding folks dreaming of beaches and rainbows? Probably nothing … but, as my expat friend from Alaska, “Soup” Campbell says, “When you come to Panama leave your expectations at the border.” Paradise? Yes! Different? Yes!

It’s not just Panama …

Jackie Lange’s Panama Relocation Tours recently reposted an article by Marcella Estrada in PANAM POST entitled “Tough-on-Everything Criminal Code Imposes Chill on Ecuador” that is well-worth reading, even if Ecuador isn’t on your list for consideration.  It’s just another caution about moving abroad: check it out … thoroughly!  Don’t just go off half-cocked …

Seventy-seven additional felonies will take Ecuadorians straight to prison, according to the new Organic Criminal Code. The law came into effect this week, and its 730 articles have civil libertarians warning that it will become another tool for the state to expand its interventionist reach, with heavy punitive powers.

If that sounds familiar, like US interpretation of the so-called “Patriot Act” … just remember, “Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.”

Your Letters & Comments

We’re all entitled

I was in Seattle cruising through Sam’s Club with my daughter and grandsons when I leafed through this book, found it amazing, thought it would be an excellent toilet book … you know an accessory to the “reading room” … and so I bought it.  I paid $10, which you will find out is $9 more than some folks paid.  I found it to be amusing, filled with attitude, and it helped fill the 10 hours in the back seats of airplanes and airports getting back to Panama almost tolerable.  And I appreciated the fact that it was making a sad point and didn’t expect it to be footnoted like an academic text.

Of course it got mixed reviews on Amazon, like this from a probably FOX addict …

Talk about stupid history–this writer should be in the book somewhere. Some good items in the front but then Fenster let his left-wing liberal views shine as bright as his negative attitude toward virtually everything. Not the least bit cute or funny. He should have quit while he was ahead on a few items, instead, it looks like he tossed about for any liberal trashy ideas to insert as filler. Don’t buy this one. Thank goodness (and there is goodness in the world!) I only paid one dollar for it at a book sale. Not even worth that but at least I discovered how seemingly hate-filled some liberals are, as if I didn’t already know. Oh, did I say something about accuracy? Don’t look for it in this book. Trashaway! It deserves a zero star.

I mention this only because of my recent stupidity …

002 (2) As I told my 6-year-old grandson, who looks 8 and has the vocabulary of a high school student and believes that he should be perfect in every way, “You’re allowed to make mistakes. Don’t sweat the small stuff.” So while I’ve been visiting in Seattle I’ve been trying to squeeze in blogging, but grand kids will trump blogging every time! I made the mistake of partially writing this blog, going ahead and scheduling it even although it wasn’t complete, with all good intentions .. so it ended up gong “live” online this morning unfinished. Dumb to schedule it before it was finished, but I doubt if it was dumb enough to make the “Stupid History” list.

Thank you … I think.

I’m always VERY pleased when you write a review of one of my books on Amazon!  Being an author you put your stuff out there … some folks like it, and others … well … “Super Dave” (doesn’t say what he is “super” at) wrote the following review of ESCAPE TO PARADISE: OUR EXPERIENCE LIVING AND RETIRING IN PANAMA

“A fun read for general info on Panama. The Cliff’s Notes version (if there was one) would be around 150 pages. He occasionally gets up on his soapbox and preaches about all God’s creatures, how happy we should all be to still be alive, etc. You may want to just skip over that.

A good general layout of the country with an emphasis on the western mountainous area, where he lives. Also, a bit surprising that he devotes a whole chapter to coffee. Maybe part of the Cliff Notes editing out?

One last critical comment and then I’ll opine on what I believe is the best part. He includes some maps of Panama, copy paste from somewhere. The one showing topographical features is virtually unreadable, too much detail shrunk down. The other full country map is OK. An easy improvement would be to reference the areas that he is talking about in the text (i.e. Boquete and Coronado) to locations on the map. Not currently done. Work on that one during your next lecture cruise (which he drones on about occasionally).

Now for the best part of this 400+ page somewhat pricey book…a real diversified well thought out 14 day itinerary for first time visitors…Canal, beaches, mountains, and islands. But you can probably get the same or similar from Traveladvisor or Frommers on-line.  Super Dave”

I responded …

Hey Super Dave! Thanks for the comment. When you publish something you put it out there and … well, some folks think it’s the best thing since sliced bread, others think its OK, and a few think its crap. But I do appreciate your comments and suggestions and will keep them in mind when I revise.

Here’s the FREE condensed Cliff Notes summary: “Panama, if you know what you’re getting into, can be GREAT as it has been for us. The key is to figure out what you want, evaluate potential countries, do your due diligence, and come with eyes wide open.” There, that should save you and others a lot of money!  But I hope folks still buy the book!

A few comments … I love it when folks “opine”, it sounds so legal and anchor-newsperson-like … The book title says it all: Escape To Paradise: OUR EXPERIENCE Living and Retiring In Panama. Coffee is a big part of the Boquete experience and has been a big part of our experience and its something folks always ask about (droning on here) when I’m on ships, so I included he chapter on coffee. If you buy a book written by a former pastor you gotta expect a little “preaching.” Mea culpa! And glad you liked the itinerary! No, it wasn’t from a guidebook but based on our experience. I hope you get to try it out! And if you come to Boquete let me know. I’ll treat you to a cup of the best coffee you’ve ever tasted.

It probably depends on where you position the “Super Dave” tattoo on your body.  Of course years ago my nickname was “Dick” … but we won’t even go there!

One other thing: Amazon calculates which book to put at the top of the list based in part on the NUMBER of reviews … so even if someone says “it sucks” it helps sell books. [Thank you friends for your willingness to support but you really don't have to write the "it sucks" review!]Best regards, Plain Old Non-“Super” Richard

khfitz6311 review made me feel a lot better about my efforts …

What a fantastic resource from someone who has been living in Panama and knows the eccentricities and nuance of the culture. Whether considering Panama or anywhere else to retire abroad, Richard provides a lot of food for thought. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, Richard!

And this has what to do with COSTA CONCORDIA …

David Lane, a frequent commenter, wrote …

Note that your Coffee estate continues on the market. Just wondering if you retirement chateau/estate is one of the most expensive properties on the market for retiring expats? Can expats come and find retirement homes/properties in adequate living condition in the more affordable rages of $50,000 – 90,000 USD? How about some comments for those wanting the Boquete environment but not able or willing to expend their savings on costly properties.

David, “continues on the market” … well, I wish we could have sold it in three weeks. But most houses and properties for sale in Boquete take a little longer than maybe in a hot real estate market like the US where properties sell … When’s the last time you looked at Zillow.com for various US markets. Of course, if I recall correctly, you live in Florida where property sells immediately. Like anywhere else some folks just want cheap, others want value, others want something more upscale, and a few want something lavish.. I’ve frequently written about the fact that now, as opposed to when we came to Boquete ten years ago, there is a good inventory of homes for sale in all price ranges It just depends on what you want.

Soledad Chica responded to David’s comment  …

There are houses in our neighborhood (Valle Escondido) for $1.2million and $1.5million [and higher!] …..so no, Richard’s coffee finca/hacienda is not the most expensive in Boquete. In Boquete, as in other places: you get what you pay for. You can find more less expensive houses in the $50,000 – 90,000 range. They may be the more typical “Panamanian architecture” (box houses, low ceilings, small rooms, little to no light). If you want the open floor plan, high ceiling architecture more typically found in North America, that will cost you more. You might consider visiting the area and seeing the options for yourself. Boquete can be pricey, but the outlying areas (Volcan, Dolega, David) might have options to suit your price range.

David actually lives happily in Florida, but visits Panama frequently. Unfortunately these comments originally were added to a piece about the dismantling of the COSTA CONCORDIA and had nothing to do with the subject of the post. It’s helpful if a comment about a post has something to do with the subject of the post.

Renting A Car in Panama City

My best advice … don’t!  Since a picture is worth a thousand words …. this video was obviously shot on a day when traffic was actually doing quite well.

The other day I recounted our story the first time we came to check out Panama and see if it stayed on our list … and a few of you have shared your own stories.

“We also came to Panama 9 or 10 years ago for the first time at night, rented a car and didn’t have a clue where we were headed into the City to our hotel. We pulled over at a gas station to look at a map. A cab driver with a full load of people saw us, and asked if he could help. We followed him to the hotel. We were SO thankful. Fred offered him a generous tip which he refused, but Fred finally made him take it. Most Panamanians are such gracious people! Kathy Donelson”

“Love your story about your first day in Panama. We also stupidly rented a car (though we were staying a few days in the City before heading out). At least we drove during the day, but we also got hopelessly lost in the Chorillo District (which is where I assume you ended up since it’s very seedy and we have the Americans to thank for that since they bombed it to smithereens during the invasion to oust Noriega). We also were on a one way street going the wrong way and were almost broadsided by a bus as we emerged onto a major road because the driver was not expecting anyone to come out from our direction. Thankfully, some scary looking, but actually very helpful young Panamanian men gave us directions (they spoke Spanish, but so do I!). A few days later we tried driving into Casco Viejo and again ended up in Chorillo. Again, nothing bad happened but I’d lie if I said I wasn’t a bit fearful.

Frankly, if you are in Panama City for the first time,, don’t rent a car! taxis are reasonably priced. I don’t know how the new subway is but I’m sure it’s an improvement over driving yourself around. There is construction everywhere and detours galore. I would suggest holding off renting a car until you’ve finished a couple of days in the city and are then ready to hit the road for the countryside.
:If you are adventurous or on a tight budget, Panama’s intercity bus system isn’t bad. Even the “express” buses will often drop you off between cities if you tell the driver and baggage handler before you board so they load your luggage in front and can off load it easily. But be forewarned, the large Mercedes luxury buses (between Panama City and David) are freezing cold. We even took an Expresso bus (the Panamanian competitor of the Tica bus) from Panama City to San Jose Costa Rica a 13 hour adventure. I had to laugh because during an immigration check in western Panama a gringa girl (who was apparently illegally in the country) bolted for the bathroom and stayed there until the officials had checked everyone’s passports or other papers and gotten off. When we got to Costa Rica, three gringo backpackers decided to bypass immigration and customs and simply walked across the border and kept on going, I’m sure they got picked up and sent back because there were at least three immigration checkpoints once we got into Costa Rica. So Central America also has a problem with illegal immigrants, some of them from North America. Squirrelmama”

Telling It Like It Is

Once in a while I come across folks, some who’ve lived here a short time and maybe sat in a hotel seminar room and believed the pollyanish “facts” about life in Panama from people who were selling something, or they’ve talked to newly-minted experts, or even people in the States who haven’t lived in Panama and haven’t a clue … and they complain that I present Panama warts and all. Fortunately most folks, who before they pick up, move, and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, would like to know the real truth. So that’s what I try to present. Do we love Panama and our life here? Yes! Is life in Panama without challenges and frustrations? No! Just the facts ma’am is all I’m trying to do.

Always love your posts, Richard. You always tell it “exactly like it is!” Kathy Donelson

Kathy’s a Boquete resident who has been here about as long as we have and helped me with the NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE. You’ll find very few folks who’ve lived here for a while have any disagreement with my approach.

I just finished reading your book after a recent trip to Panama. We stayed in Panama City for two night. Not for us, not even close. Then we stayed in Bijao Beach, too hot and humid. We were supposed to stay in Boquete for the last four nights. When I searched resorts near Boquete Isle Palenque popped up. The resort was nice but not very handicapped accessible.( I need handrails) so we never made it to Boquete. On our next trip that will be the only place we are staying. I thought the pensionado program seemed to good to be true.At one point while reading your book I felt excited to read the good, bad and the ugly. I went from saying yes we’ll give it a try to absolutely decided we needed to go back again and check out Boquete. Signed, Can’t Wait for Retirement

“…Everyone’s experience living in Panama is different. Richard’s book explains is excellent and explains his experience [from] when he moved to Panama 10 years ago … His chapter about evaluating what you need and want then finding the place to fill those needs is a must read. Richard’s blog shares details about his life in Panama now. Books or blogs written by expats who moved to Panama recently offer their perspectives. With all expat experiences, you will find some similarities but MANY differences. Seeing Panama through tourist eyes vs. expat life are two completely different animals. Like Richard said, the only way to know if Panama is right for you is to come see for yourself … Jackie Lange”

Good comment. However the perspective of “newbies” to Panama is often different, based on more limited experiences. It is best to get as wide of a variety of opinions as possible. Life in Panama is great, but like anywhere else, not without problems. The more you approach Panama with eyes wide open, the better your experience will be. It is a mistake to move to Panama to “escape from” rather than “escape to” what in my mind is a healthier and better lifestyle for less.

Great Blog, tells you the truth and exactly what we did. Subscribed to IL and got lots of information, made a trip here to see what Panama was like on our own, visited PC and the Azuero, liked it, went home and investigated some more. Came back about a year later, rented a car at the airport and took off with our GPS and visited all the places we thought might interest us. Ended up in Pedasi, moved here 6 months later. We came with 6 suitcases and one 4ft x 4ft x 6 ft crate, could have left half of it behind. You do NOT need to ship a 20 or 40 ft container full of “Stuff”. Most (98%) of what you need to live in Panama is NOT what you have where ever you live now. We rent and will always rent, have no need to buy. In Panama you buy in haste and sell in 3-5 years, Real Estate does NOT sell fast, even at fire sale prices. Check out some of the places for sale, most have been for sale at least 2 years. Read blogs, Read Forums, Take a relocation tour, DO NOT sit in a hotel while people who paid to be there paint a rosy picture of their particular offering. They need you to do what they want you to do because they have to make back the money they paid to be there.
If you get to Pedasi, give us a call, have a beer on our veranda at our house in the heart of the pueblo, 10 minutes from 3 great beaches.
PS: Bring kitchen items, tools, cotton clothes, sheets & towels.
PSS: Get a Schwab account, rebates all ATM fees, no foreign transaction fees, no checking or savings account fees or charges. Must get it while you have a U.S. Address and then must keep a U.S. address. Get a Magic Jack, can use your present home number, anyone can call you for FREE, you can call them for FREE and they have an iPhone app that does the same thing once you have a basic MJ account. For us it has been better than Skype. Sunnymikkel

Hi Richard, Love your books and they have been very valuable to us in our retirement quest in Panama. We have visited Boquete 6 times now and a total of 11 in the country of Panama. We were among the visitors who were robbed in Boquete Plantation back in Feb. The lady in the adjoining apartment was tied up and robbed. Fortunately we were not there so only lost a large quantity of stuff which can be replaced. It has not deterred us and we will be back this coming Feb. My question is whether you may have heard anything from it. I know you wern’t involved but we have not gotten any concrete information. I would love to meet you on our next visit, Thanks Ed Jones

Ed, I know nothing about this incident, nor am I even sure what “Boquete Plantation” you are referring to. Maybe if you search Boquetening.com you’ll find some old scuttlebutt about this. Boquete is VERY SAFE: does that mean it is perfect? No. Sometimes I’ve noticed that some people come here, either to live or visit, and check their common sense at the border or just forget to pack it. When I first came down to Boquete, alone, to close our house purchase and start painting the interior, I called Nikki from a pay phone at the China store in Alto Boquete. Stupidly I left my wallet on the top of the pay phone. [That should qualify me for inclusion in the Stupid Things book!] I immediately drove back to the store and … the wallet was gone. OK, Panama is like everywhere else in the world. Our original house was in Valle Escondido. The next day one of the guards drove to my house with my wallet with all cash and credit cards intact. It seemed a Gnobe Bugle woman had come to use the phone after me, saw the wallet, tried to look in it for identification but found none. She came to the conclusion that a stupid gringo who left his wallet and money on the pay phone must be from Valle Escondido. So she paid out of her own tiny amount of money to take the bus, then walk to the guard shack at Valle Escondido to return my wallet wanting nothing in return and not even leaving her name. Nothing is perfect here, but you’ve got to weigh things out.

Kat, a snowbird expat from Canada who provided the “inspiration” for my posts How Safe Is Panama? I II and III, wrote in follow-up …

Thank you for that post Richard. I am still left wondering if Stig was a random attack or whether his attackers were known to him. We are one of the people with a house in Bocas and my husband actually met Wild Bill. We are all happy to know that he and his wife are in prison. It reminds us to be cautious of our acquaintances. We will be returning to Panama this fall, but for now will keep Canada as our primary residence.

Kat, a good question, and one which I’m sure detectives have been asking. There are some things about this account which, IMHO, seem just too convenient. Maybe we will know someday, but this being Panama, maybe not.

I appreciate all of your comments! And will try to get to as many as possible.