Two More Things …

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In my last post, Plan B, it was not my intent to create an exhaustive list of the reasons why living in Panama has been great for us and a place you might consider as your Plan B, but there are two more things that I should mention.  The first brought to mind by the tragedy in the Bahamas, and the second by an experience we had yesterday.

55049We had been toying with the idea that maybe it was time to move back to the States.  I guess every once in a while you need to stop and take stock of where you are at and where you want to be.  We love warmth, not necessarily hot, but warm, and an abundance of natural tropical beauty.  There are two places in the States that might meet my “Bougainvillea standard” [“If Bougainvillea can grow there, I can grow there”] … Florida and Southern California.  When we moved from California we knew that once we left we could never afford to return.  That hasn’t changed.  Nor has the traffic and all the other things that drove us out of California in the first place.

And Florida … what can I say?  I admit, it’s a California attitude, but Florida has always seemed to me like a cheap imitation of Southern California.  Sorry, Fort Lauderdale!  I’m in and out of Ft. Lauderdale/Miami a lot on ships, but the conjestion and wall to wall condos just don’t do it for me.  I could do the Conch Republic and Key West, but there are some obvious issues I’ll talk about in a moment.  Last year I was on a ship that had a wet dock in Lauderdale for some work, so I decided to rent a car and explore the rest of Florida.  And yes, I loved the area around St. Pete, and St. Augustine, and particularly the old area around the Fort … I was ready to move … except for that one thing …

As the ocean warms there are and will continue to be more and more hurricanes.  I don’t fancy several times a year having to flee my home, head inland, and hope and pray there is something left when I return.  And any old storm surge seems to put those charming old houses in St. Augustine next to the Fort knee-deep in sea water.  And if the hurricane actually hits, as evidenced in the Bahamas, God and the Red Cross help you.

Hurricane Hugo Slams Into Puerto Rico

One of my big concerns in picking Panama as a place to live was that it is outside the hurricane belt. I understand that no place is perfect. Yes, I live on the slopes of a volcano that may, or may not, show some life over the next 5,000 years, but being Panama that may mean the next 10,000 years, 20,000 years, or never. “Manana!” Not today. Possibly sometime in the future, maybe never. Just like the guy who has promised to come and fix something around your house! Being on the “Ring of Fire” we get tremors as the earth stretches and tectonic plates shift. We get lots … lots! … of tremors, most of which you can’t even feel. But for me, theologically that’s a good thing. It means that God is still creating and isn’t yet finished with the earth. Thank you Jesus! And if he’s not finished with the earth, he’s maybe not finished with me … so there is hope.

So … nothing perfect, but PANAMA IS OUTSIDE THE HURRICANE BELT. We may catch the outer fringe of a tropical depression giving us more rain at times than normal, but no hurricanes!

Here it is … the historic tracking the world’s brutal storm systems. And you see that little squiggle of land between the North and South American continents? That sliver surrounded by blue? That’s Panama!

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Dogs have always been an important part of our lives in Panama.  My first dog was a Dalmatian I called Spot.  What else?  I learned to read from a series of books about Dick and Jane who had a dog named Spot.  We got spot a playmate, a Rottweiler named Monkey, and later another Dalmatian named Baru.  We got them all around the same time, and 11-12 years later, we lost them all within 3 months.  Monkey had cancer, and both Dalmatians had heart problems.   So we decided, “No more dogs!”  Well, that didn’t last, and now we have two we adopted from Dog Camp, our local dog rescue organization run by an incredible couple.

So yesterday morning I get up and step in something sticky, turn on the light, and the floor looks like the set of a slasher movie!  Mollie had been coughing, waking me up to let her in and out, and it turns out she was coughing up blood!  So we called a vet who has been taking care of animals, dogs and horses for years.  We met him in town with Mollie and he checked her out, gave her some shots, and said he’d come up to the house in the afternoon with more shots and medicine.  And he did.  And while he was here, making a house call, we had him give our other dog, Stanley, shots.

So here’s what I’m getting at, and another reason we could never afford to go back to the States.  Total Vet cost $50.  My daughters, one in the Bay Area and the other in Seattle area, said that if they had to take their dog TO the vet in a similar situation it would have cost “at least $1,000, maybe $1,500.”  Which is why they both have health insurance for their dogs!

It’s wrong to sell Panama as a retirement, escape, or Plan B destination because it’s cheap.  Some things can be cheaper, other things not.  But on the whole Panama offers a better lifestyle for less.  THE COST OF CARING FOR YOUR PETS is just another example.

Stanley & Molly Christmas 2018

Plan B Panama

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Why wouldn’t you have a “Plan B”?

There are thousands of Venezuelans living in Panama, who were smart enough to see the writing on the wall and made a “Plan B” moving money and resources to the safety of Panama and it’s currency which is the US dollar.  When their country descended into chaos they were prepared.  They had a Plan B.  Most still pride themselves in being Venezuelan and hope, and pray, for the day when reason rules and they can return home … or maybe just stay in their new-found Panamanian paradise and go home occasionally to visit friends and relatives they left behind,  or perhaps to invite them to enjoy the benefits of Panama.

Around the world you see countries spiraling out of control, bitterly divided by race, religion and politics.  Politicians and leaders become more and more brazen while at the same time showing gross ineptitude.  Riots, gangs, thugs both in office and on the streets, shootings, and violence.  Governments that don’t know how to govern.  I can follow the frustrations people have in these countries and their quest for relief and escape by watching the daily tally of from where visitors to site are coming.  South Africa, Brazil, Canada, the US, the UK, Hong Kong, China, and the list goes on.

Why Panama?

First, let me get this out of the way right up front: Panama is not perfect!  Sure we have pesky critters like bugs and snakes, and rarely someone does get struck by lightening, but those are relatively minor problems and easily avoided.  Panama’s greatest problem is corruption, from the top down, and a legal system which is anything but the “rule of law.”   Which means a “justice” system even worse than in the US.  If you can’t buy or bribe your way out of jail, and think Dante’s vision of hell for comparison, you can sit in jail for years awaiting trial. You can spray for bugs, and just watch where you’re walking to deal with snakes [Hell, I have two big dogs, so you’d better watch where you step!].  Harder to avoid are the scores of corrupt lawyers whose practice of law aims to screw you!  Yes, there are some genuinely honest lawyers, but finding them without getting taken along the way … “Buena suerte!”

The most important chapter in my THE NEW ESCAPE TO PANAMA book is about the legal system and is entitled, “The Devil You Know Is Sometimes Better Than The Devil You Don’t Know.”   Well, that’s what the chapter is about, but since all that wouldn’t fit, it’s just called “The Devil You Know.”  For folks from the US, don’t assume you can trust your lawyer or that “fiduciary duty” and “agent/agency” mean anything similar to what they mean in US law.

THE LAUNDROMAT

Two new movies, “Panama Papers” and the movie just premiered at the Venice Film Festival, starring Meryl Streep, “The Laundromat.” also focuses on the issues of corruption and money laundering.  I saw a quote by a respected lawyer who was decrying the Panamanian system of paying off judges for verdicts in your favor.  He explained Panama thus: “Panama is primarily a bank, which also, happens to be a country.”

But the rest of Panama … is PARADISE!

It is a neutral, peaceful country without any military.  When the Canal was turned back to Panama, the in the second Carter/Torrijos Treaty, the US agreed to protect the neutrality of the Panama Canal in perpetuity.  Of course now that the US can renege on treaties with a Tweet, and countries can no longer depend on the US to honor treaty commitments …

Panama is a democracy … and since the US Invasion and the removal of Noriega, to avoid a repeat of a strongman/dictatorship, Panama has successfully elected numerous governments.  The President of The Republic can only serve a single five-year term, and must sit out ten years before running again.  It is a very participatory democracy, with hotly contested elections with candidates from several parties (not just two), and the candidate with the most votes wins!  [No Electoral Collage to frustrate the will of the electorate and put someone who doesn’t have the most votes into office!]  You only have two months from when you declare your candidacy until the election. [Not two years!]  And when the election is over, it’s over.  Signs must come down by law.  There’s no great divide between parties.  Interestingly, having learned from the dictatorship, the people just change the party in power each time.  New person takes office and the government changes … literally.  The old political hacks are out, having thrown any unfinished files and business into the dumpster, and the new hacks are in.  Not the most efficient system, but … And the assembly … he/she who buys the most votes, with hams, washers, sinks, T-shirts, umbrellas, whatever it takes, wins.  And the Assembly, just like the US Congress talks a lot … and sometimes goes into special session as fisticuffs break out on the floor of the Assembly … literally.

Panama is diverse and accepting.  Because of it’s unique position and history, people from all over the world have passed through Panama, and many have ended up staying.  Simon Bolivar, the great leader of the Americas overthrowing Spanish rule, said, “If ever the world had a capital it would be Panama.”  Through the Gold Rush, the creation of the Panama Railroad, and later the Panama Canal, Panama is the place where the world meets.  For that reason you have people living together in harmony, all races, backgrounds religions, lifestyles … it is beautiful to behold.

One of my favorite quotes about Panama is from the novelist John Le Carré who in THE TAILOR OF PANAMA describes Panama,  “We’ve got everything God needed to make paradise. Great farming, beaches, mountains, wildlife you wouldn’t believe, put a stick in the ground you get a fruit tree, people so beautiful you could cry.”

And it is a spectacularly beautiful country with coasts on two oceans, beautiful mountains, lush rain forests, beautiful tropical weather, all kinds of wild things, 954 species of birds, 1,000 species of wild orchids.

Panama is the economic powerhouse of the region.  True, the Panama Canal which annually contributes profits of about $1.5 BILLION to the central government in a country with only about 4 million people.  More ships are registered in Panama than any other country.   Panama’s free zones provide distribution centers on both oceans, with the Colon Free Zone being the second largest in the world.  Tocumen International is rapidly expanding as the “Hub of The Americas.”  For better, or worse, Panama has over 200 international banks and is the center for corporate registrations and financial transactions.

Panama has always used the US Dollar, regarded as one of the world’s safest currencies.  Although we call it the “Balboa” it is in fact the US Dollar, so we don’t have the wild fluctuation and inflation which characterizes the currencies of some of our neighbors.  Panama has its own coins many of which work in US vending machines because they are the same size as US coins.

Panama has a strong infrastructure and has wisely used Canal profits not just to expand the Canal, but for subway/metro in Panama City, bridges and roads.

Panama is a strong friend of the US, despite a turbulent relationship at times, but it is an independent, sovereign nation, certainly not the “boy” of the US, and acts internationally in its own best interests.  It was Panama’s relationship with Cuba which set the stage for the, unfortunately brief, positive developing relationship with Cuba developed by President Obama and, unfortunately for Cuba, the region, and the US, trashed by President Trump.  China has always been the second largest customer of the Canal, and a new developing relationship with China, has enabled significant economic partnerships, and a Chinese plan to created a high-speed rail service between Panama City and David, Chiriqui where I live.

For a small country Panama offers a wide variety of lifestyles!  Panama City is Miami on steroids!  A booming city of high-rise apartments, offices, and hotels, yet with spectacular parks and coastline.  You have the Pearl Islands just off Panama City.  Beach lovers will fall in love with the stretch of developed and undeveloped beaches along Coronado.  Boquete, Volcan, El Valle offer cool, spring-like weather year-round.  The Azuero Peninsula offers everything from beaches, to Spanish-colonial charm.  And then there are the funky, Afro-Caribbean, tropical islands of Bocas del Toro.

Something for everyone!  If you are a billionaire looking for a private island, or an Italianete mansion in a gated, guarded, mountain community, or just looking to stock up on overpriced designer goods and jeweled baubles … we’ve got it!  But if you’re an expat retiree living on Social Security … you can have that.  Mansions, houses grand and small, condos, farms ..  did I mention Islands?  Theater, music and film festivals, night life, every kind of outdoor recreation imaginable … well, except snow skiing … we’ve got it.

Panama is welcoming!  Maybe because it is a small country, it is easy for Immigration to keep track of who is entering Panama.  Because it is a small, but growing nation, it welcomes people from around the world as it always has.  The Friendly Nations Visa offers citizens from 49 “Friendly Nations” to have a fast track to Permanent Residency in Panama.

Having a sensible “Plan B” that’s thought out and makes financial sense doesn’t mean that you are locked into that plan for the rest of your life.  You may choose to live in permanent exile, but you may just choose to live as an expat until conditions improve “back home.”  Nothing remains the same forever.  Things change.  The key is to grow with the change and have a plan so that you’re not making knee-jerk decisions.  Most of us are able to make financial, investment decisions based on analysis of what is the best investment and we can move from one investment to another as circumstances change, but a lot of times when it comes to running our lives we lock ourselves in and don’t realize we can change the ways in which we invest our lives and money and where we can get the best return.

Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Coming to Panama … Friendly Nations Visa 

Andorra Argentina Australia Austria Belgium
Brazil Canada Chile Costa Rica Croatia
Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland
France Germany Great Britain Greece Hong Kong
Hungary Ireland Israel Japan Latvia
Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Malta Mexico
Monaco Montenegro Netherlands New Zealand Norway
Paraguay Poland Portugal Korea San Marino
Serbia Singapore Slovakia South Africa Spain
Sweden Switzerland Taiwan Uruguay USA

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Seven Reasons NOT to Move to Panama

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Reason #1 Not to Move to Panama: To escape the long arm of the law.  Panama is not the place to run to if you are looking to escape illegal activity in your home  country.  You will get caught!  You will spend some time in a Panamanian jail – and anything you have at home is better! – and you will be extradited back to your home country to face the music.   So con artists, murderers, child molesters, thieves and crooks take note!  The new hand-held “Pele Police” that Panamanian police have are linked to Interpol and US and other data bases.  If you have a bench warrant in the US, and  you’re stopped for a traffic violation in Panama, you may be headed home, after a week to several months in a Panamanian jail.

Reason #2 Not to Move to Panama: To run your Ponzi scheme off shore.  We had some folks who lived near us in Valle Escondido who promised amazing returns on investment; far more than anything you could make elsewhere.  Their scheme unraveled when they decided to buy some “blood diamonds” and send what they claimed was, I don’t know, say $30,000 worth of diamonds, shipped to their young child (if you can believe that level of scum) and when customs opened the package and discovered something like $150,000 worth of illegal diamonds – oops!  The scheme started to  unravel and they moved on.

Reason #3 Not to Move to Panama: To launder money or escape paying US taxes.  Panama never was a real “tax haven” for US citizens because the US, in its infinite greed, has, unlike many civilized countries, decided that Uncle Sam wants your money wherever you happen to live in the world.  So even if  you lived in Panama, as a US citizen you need to go through all the hassle of IRS paperwork and declare income and file returns.    And just to make sure you do, the IRS has opened an office in Panama City.  Not, mind you to assist expats who want to comply, but to search out those who aren’t paying what the IRS says you owe.  And if you think the IRS, and the tons of accountants and paperwork and tax provider software it spawns, is a major part of the “problem” that’s causing the collapse of the US, you may be right.

Of course if your permanent dwelling is outside the US, and you aren’t in the US more than 30 days a year, you can take advantage of a significant deduction of over $90K per person for income earned outside the US.  That’s earned income, not passive, investment or pension income.  And Panama doesn’t tax you for income earned outside Panama.  [You tax accountant, those people who make their living off the IRS, can give you details.]

Reason #4 Not to Move to Panama: chill, drink Balboa beer and lay in the hammock.  If you’re retiring and want an easy, no-challenge life, go to an assisted living complex and sit in a rocking chair, drink beer and watch TV and talk with the other folks.  Panama is for folks who aren’t ready to “give up” but are eager for new experiences, new adventures, new challenges, learning tons of new stuff, new language, new ways of doing things, new culture!  If you want an adventure and to stretch your life and mind, this is the place!

Reason #5 Not to Move to Panama: it’s cheap.  Well in many ways it is, or rather may be, depending on where  you are coming from.  We moved down to Panama from the Ventura-Santa Barbara “Gold Coast” of California and it is much cheaper here.  Are there places in the US where you can get more house for your money and the cost of living may be the same, or even a little cheaper than Panama?  Of course!  Try Phoenix, Bakersfield, Las Vegas, Western Pennsylvania and there are a lot more.  Nothing against those places, but they are not for me.  For many people you can live very well, make that VERY well in Panama for less than places in the US with attractive climate, etc.  Sure, Texas may be cheaper – if you like Texas.

Reason #6 Not to Move to Panama: it’s a lot like the US.  No way Jose!  If you like the US, stay there!  If you like where you are living don’t move.  Panama is different and that’s why it is attractive to many people who like different!  It is a different country with a different lifestyle,  different culture, different way of governance, different systems, yada yada.  Yes, sometimes the differences will drive you nuts!   But it can also be stimulating, challenging and fun.

Reason #7 Not to Move to Panama: to make a killing.  A lot of folks came down here from the US to make a fast buck.  It doesn’t work that way folks – anywhere!  The joke here is, “How do you get a million dollars in Panama?”   The answer, “Come to Panama with two million dollars.”  Yes, like anywhere else, there is opportunity, lots of it.  But it takes work and time to create anything.  There is no fast way to success in business or quick way to make a lot of money.  If  it were, everyone would do it.   If you come to Panama for the long haul, make a commitment, follow the rules, work hard and stick with the program, yes, you can create a good business and make some money, but forget it if you’re coming here to make a quick buck or live off the land.

I keep saying, “Panama is not for everyone” but for us it has been a wonderful adventure.   Yes, there are folks, and some of them I’m happy to say are contributors here, who tried it and it wasn’t for them.  So, now they know.  Maybe some of them didn’t really do their homework or analyze all the challenges they would face in a new culture.  Read their comments and read the stuff from the folks who promote Panama as the Promised Land.  Study, analyze not just Panama but yourself and then make a decision.

For us the real reason for moving to Panama is that our lifestyle is better, more fun, and more adventurous for less than in the US.

Yes, as with any adventure in life, there are challenges and risks. But it is when you are being challenged that you have the greatest opportunity to grow! If you want to grow you need to move out of your comfort zone.

Escape To Panama

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You are not a tree.  You can pick up and relocate and many people and families choose to do so.  This life is not a dress rehearsal.

I came across this article on Marketwatch and I suggest you read the entire article.

It quotes a retired school adminstrator from Massachusetts who was, “… fed up with a lot of things in America — including the high cost of living, repeated mass shootings and what she saw as a lot of ‘rage and hate’ among residents. ‘The U.S. has gotten so out of control — the social fabric is shattering,’ she says. ‘It is an act of insanity to continue to stay in the U.S.,’ she adds, noting that in Panama crime is low, you more rarely see guns, and life can be more affordable.'”   “Insanity” may be a bit much, but you’ll want to read the entire article.

And she moved to Panama and the little town where I live, Boquete.  The article continues, “’It’s a place of indescribable beauty and the culture is complex and vibrant,’” she says. “’It’s not a sleepy town in the mountains, there’s arts and culture, birding, sailing, hiking, restaurants with chefs from around the world, it’s a foodie paradise. There’s so much going on here.’” (Travel guide Lonely Planet writes this:“’Boquete is known for its cool, fresh climate and pristine natural surroundings. Flowers, coffee, vegetables and citrus fruits flourish in its rich soil, and the friendliness of the locals seems to rub off on everyone who passes through’.”)

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My friend Jackie Lange relocated to Panama after reading my book, THE NEW ESCAPE TO PARADISE.  Jackie’s friends began wanting to check out Panama, and so she organized a little tour to show them her new home and explan why she chose Panama.  That humble beginning has morphed into Jackie Lang’s Panama Relocation Tour.  I believe at last count she has conducted over 109 tours.  These are not real estate tours, but boots-on-the-ground tours of the places many ex-pats have chosen to live and a chance to meet with expats and learn first hand of their experiences.  And the tour is filled with information about everything from visas and bank accounts to where you can shop and find most everything.  This is not necessarily a plug for Jackie’s tour, although if you have any interest in relocating to Panama, I’d definitely recomment the tour.

What I want you to check out is this YouTube page of testimonials of folks who’ve taken the tour, moved to Panama, and what life is like for ex-pats in Panama.

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Respect

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I posted this on my Facebook account, but since there are a lot of folks who read my blog from countries around the world, many of whom are at least thinking of moving/retiring in Panama, I though it might be a good idea to post it here.

I’m back home  in Panama after over a month away in Seattle getting a total knee replacement, and visiting with my grandsons. The surgery went well. I spent a month recovering in Seattle, and now am settling in for 2 months in Bqouete exercising, trying to gain full ffexibility, and in general resting, relaxing and recovering from the surgery. Frankly, the jury is still out on whether I would do it again, but they tell me eventually … Along the way I lost 25 pounds, so I’ve got a lot of muscle mass to rebuild. Gradually I’m getting back an appetite. Come the end of October I’m hoping to go back on a ship, but in the meantime it’s wonderful to be home!

We were flirting with the idea of maybe moving back to the states, but wonderful as many things are, I didn’t enjoy the constant political harang, the great red/blue divide, overwhelming consumer mentality of buy! buy! buy!, the need to think twice about being anywhere where there is a crowd of people. It kind of came to a head when we were crammed into Copa’s “waiting room” for the Panama City to David flight home. First flight, so it’s 6:30 AM. In front of us was a wonderful, young Jewish family with three boys, dad and kids all with their yamakas. Mom is standing reading her Hebrew prayer book. The young, cool-looking dad is opening his prayer shawl, going through the ritual of putting it on, and then strapping on his phylacteries, going over to the corner and begining his prayer ritual. And it was all normal. Nobody cared. Nobody got upset that the pilot of our plane had his idea lanyard reading “I love Jesus!” Or cared about the muslim woman with her head overed, or the gal reading her big Bible having her devotions.

Partly because of its geographical position at the center of the world and center of commerce, Panama has always been accepting of diversity. Last week Panama City celebrated its 500th anniversary!! You can be any religion you want … and believe me, we have them all … or no religion. Panamanians are warm, wonderful accepting, even gracious [EXCEPT when they get behind the wheel of a car!!]. Respect. Guns are highly controlled and regulated. Yes, because we are on the direct route for drugs to meet the USA demand, it’s a battle. Gangs from some of our neighbors would love to get power in Panama. But, you can go to the store, to a club or restaurant, to school, or house of prayer, and do so in peace. Panama doesn’t have a mass-shooting every week.

We don’t antagonize our neighbors. Panama has a robust, even booming economy, although due to Trumps meddling with the world economy here has been a slight downturn of Chinese ships, the big ones that pay 3/4 of a million US to use the new lock chambers. Panama is a neutral country. The former President, criticized by the US for recognizing the People’s Republic of China, said, “I will always do what is in the best interests of Panama.” So we are developing lots of joint ventures. The Bank of China now has a major presence in Panama City. China is developing a high speed rail system between David, near where I live, and Panama City which will take only 2 hours. Of course the People’s Republic has always been the #2 customer of the Panama Canal.

Take Cuba. When the Summit of the Americas was being held in Panama, and Panama as the host country invited Cuba for the first time, the US quickly challenged “If Cuba comes, we won’t come.” So little Panama said, “Then don’t come.” Well the US did come and Obama was able to meet Raul Castro and that really opened the door for the Obama policies on the US attemping to get along with our Cuban neighbors. Of course, now Trump has trashed all that.

So, in a sense it was good to escape the madness in the US, and come back to birds, rainbows, tropical rain, beauty and peacefulness in Panama. Sorry, this got more longwinded than i intended!

One of the special things about being in Seattle was to spend some time, albeit as an invalid, with my daughter and her family.  This little tyke in the picture, is my grandson Rian.  He is now an 11-year old young man who has never found a sport he doesn’t excel in.  BTW, he’s now as tall as I am, his hands are as big as mine, and he wears the same size shoes as I do … size 12.  And he’s a fantastic kid, make that, guy.  His younger brother, Caiden, is headed into first grade, determined to equal his brother in everything.  He’s already reading at the end of first grade level.  Picks up all kinds of vocabulary words, and then o drops a word into conversation, and you scratch you head and say, “But he’s only six!”

 

My Summer Vacation

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After babying a bad knee for several years, I decided to bite the bullet and get it replaced this summer. While there is a very good bone doctor nearby in David, the hospital in David does not have the greatest record regarding infections, and, importantly US Medicare does not pay for things done outside the US.

For us blocking out 3 months for the surgery and recovery, and planning for a month recovery in Seattle was a challenge. My daughter lives in Seattle, but in a spit-level home which wouldn’t work for my immediate recovery after surgery.

So … the deed is done and we are encamped in an apartment in Seattle, in Alki with a beautiful view of the Sound. The sunsets are absolutely amazing, and we’ve been able to schedule my rehab appointments at Virginia Mason Medical Center in downtown Seattle mostly to avoid rush hour traffic. Our friend Todd Crow is taking care of our house and dogs in Panama.

They keep reminding me that replacing a knee is major surgery and I have to be patient and follow the program. They tell me that the first couple of weeks are the most painful and I hope they are right. I’m backing off some of the drugs, walking around with a walker, and now with my cane. We’ve got a few weeks before we fly back to Panama on Copa. And then I’ve blocked out two months R&R before going back to work.

Nikki has been wonderful as care giver/nurse/wife and I couldn’t have managed this without her help and encouragement.

The Puget Sound area is beautiful, but unfortunately this isn’t the time for me to ride around in the car and explore new areas. It’s nice being close to our daughter and my terrific grandsons … water polo games today … although Seattle has been colder than usual. We miss the daily Panamanian sunshine, and yes, even in July in can be gloomy in Seattle. It’s great having the resources of a big hospital like Virginia Mason, having Trader Joe’s, and next-day Amazon delivery, but there are some things about the States that I don’t miss. Things like the traffic, the buy-buy-buy! consumer mentality, and the great political divide, and all the craziness of Washington.

And of course getting to see my boys … almost worth going through the surgery alone. Alki with boys

Todd sent us a couple videos of our dogs chasing each other through the coffee trees and the thing that stood out in the videos was the cacophony of the birds. Birds singing is the constant background of life on our little finca.

One of the things the hospital gave us prior to my surgery was a list of common questions, things like “When can I drive?” etc. One of the questions was “Can I play golf?” And the answer was “Yes!” So although I’ve never played golf before, I’m looking forward to being able to play golf with my new titanium leg.

Welcome everyone!

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LIVING IN PANAMA

dsc_0481Fifteen years ago when we moved to Boquete, Panama, there really wasn’t a whole lot of information available online, and blogging was somewhat new, so I began blogging about the joys and challenges of living in Panama. Then lots of folks started blogs, so now I only write occasional pieces about living in Panama. But not to fear … there is a whole repository of interesting blogs about life in Panama right here.

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WORKING THE HIGH SEAS

It is a tough job, but someone has got to do it. My first cruise ship gig was back in the 60s on the cruise staff of a student ship to Europe. Eventually I started working my vacations as a chaplain on cruise ships, that led to us owning travel agencies in Southern California, and then after retiring early and moving to Panama, and then 12 years ago I began lecturing on cruise ships. Now, after countless cruises, two trips around the world, and lecturing on over 300 different ports, I’m still enjoying being at sea on luxury cruise ships. It is a better retirement job than being a greeter at Walmart, not that there is anything wrong with being a greeter at Walmart. So, come along and share the adventure!

Dr Richard Detrich

OUR HOME IN PANAMA

We have a beautiful Tuscan-style estate home just outside of Boquete with 4 acres of tropical landscape with coffee, banana, avocado, and citrus trees. We also have a spot right on and overlooking the water in Boca Chica. And, I’m still working on ships 4 to 6 months a year … so eventually we are going to want to downsize. So, if someone comes along who wants a beautiful tropical estate …

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It’s an exciting life, so Explore. Experience. Enrich. Enjoy! 

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