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.
We 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.
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!
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.