I’m trying to imagine this experience from a dog’s-eye-view. Say you’re Maggie or Rosie. You’ve lived a lush life (OK, you’ve been spoiled rotten) in the U.S. and you haven’t had to think about much except maybe whether Mom and Dad will ever get that dinner into the bowl, or when you’re getting out for your next walk. Then everything changes overnight. You’re locked in a kennel and placed in a noisy and dark cargo hold. Many hours later, you’re rolled out of there and onto a rattling conveyor belt. Damn, it’s hot and humid. You’re thirsty, and you need to pee badly. But there are two familiar faces waiting for you on the other end.
You spend the night in a hotel room (OK, this is a little more familiar – Mom and Dad have taken you traveling lots of times) and then the entire next day in a bumpy car, traveling across Panama. It’s not so bad. You have plenty of water and the nice people driving make lots of stops so you can pee. You can look out the windows at passing scenery that’s different from anything you’ve ever seen. And Mom and Dad are right there with you the whole way.
That evening, you arrive at your destination and it’s nothing like anything your little doggy brain has ever imagined. The new and exotic smells! The beautiful lush greenery! The BLACK squirrels! The little brown beetles that are so much fun to chase! And RAIN. You sure didn’t see much of that in California.
If this is anything close to Maggie and Rosie’s experience, then multiply it times 10
and you’ll begin to understand the excitement and – yes, let’s be honest – disorientation that we feel after exactly one week in Panama. This time last Thursday, we were all napping in our room at the Albrook Inn in Panama City, after many insane days of last-minute packing, sorting, selling, and shipping and then an overnight flight from LAX.
The next day, Jose and Lucy of Golden Frog whisked us across the Centennial Bridge (one of the newer bridges across the Panama Canal) and out of Panama City for the drive to Boquete, which took about eight hours. Last Friday was the start of one of Panama’s biggest three-day holidays, Labor Day weekend, which was both bad and good news: heavy traffic getting out of town (hordes of PC locals headed for the beach and resort areas), but also a somewhat easier time with the infamous highway construction between Santiago and David since the road workers were all off for the day. Even with the holiday, the construction zone was slow and jolting. We had thought the highway project was much further along, but after traveling it we realize it’s at least a couple of years from completion. For us, it seems well worth the $150 or so to fly round-trip from David to PC if we have business there, at least until the road is complete.
Our new home, at least for May, is Casa Valhalla – a small but comfortable vacation rental a half-mile from downtown Boquete. We had planned on being here through the end of June, but once again the stars aligned for us and we found a fantastic house to rent longer-term beginning June 1. It’s the beautiful three-bedroom home of a very friendly and helpful Canadian couple who have gone back to Canada until the end of November. We had hoped to rent a house for at least a year, but, as Handy Andy the property manager pointed out, we’re so new that we should spend those six months getting better oriented to different areas before we commit to a longer-term rental.
Besides finding a house to rent, we’ve spent the last week getting the kinks worked out with our mobile phones, checking into local health insurance, and figuring out where to buy stuff. Yes, you heard that right – but “stuff” in this case means mostly food – the best and cheapest produce, where in the heck to find distilled water (still working on that one), the best fresh seafood (including some jumbo shrimp to die for that we had for dinner last week), and where to find OTC allergy medicine that doesn’t cost a fortune (for some reason I’ve been sneezing my fool head off since I got here).
Time out – a yellow labby girl just shoved her head in my lap for a pet. I melt 🙂
Speaking of produce, might I say that we have reached fruit and vegetable nirvana? The variety, quality, and low cost of the goodies here are like nothing we’ve experienced since we were cruising in Latin American aboard our boat in the early 2000s. Fifty cents for a pineapple, anyone? And these pineapples are juicier and taste fresher than anything we could ever get back in the states. True story: we give the girls a can of green beans every night with their dinner (I told you they were spoiled). Back home, we’d buy a couple of cartons of green beans at Costco and they’d last a month or so. Here, the best price we’ve been able to find for a single can of green beans is $1.45. Looks like we’ll be buying fresh ones and cooking them up for the little darlings instead, which will probably be better for them anyway.
SO – here I sit, with various dogs shoving their heads in my lap, reflecting on our new life here in Panama. Because I’ve been off work for the most part this week, it feels like a vacation to me. It hasn’t quite sunk in that this is no vacation – it’s our new life. We had a bit of an epiphany about that today when we were walking around in downtown Boquete, a town we’ve visited several times as tourists. Today, we were poking in and out of shops and making mental notes of which ones were best for buying which things, and it occurred to us that we’re now thinking like locals, not tourists. Even better, we ran into two different people on the street that we know. That would NEVER happen in Long Beach, Beaverton, Tampa, San Francisco, or anywhere else we’ve ever lived. I’ll do a separate blog post on the friends we’ve already made here, but for now suffice it to say that this is one of the friendliest places we’ve ever landed in.
I know it’s become an overused cliche, but LIFE IS GOOD.