This is the post where I offer my observations about what we’ve learned in the last year. Hopefully those of you who are thinking about making a move will also learn a little something and I can bring a little insight into what it takes to make a big move.
We’ve learned that people retire outside their home countries for many reasons. Just yesterday we were sitting on the back porch talking to Dusty and El Gordo about the bit of rain we had, building, buying and selling houses, budgets, home improvements and other such things. Looking at that statement we could be anywhere in the world and still be talking about such things, but we are in Panama. Our reasons for being here are similar. We are from Canada where the winters are long and the summers are short. We wanted to retire early and although it might have been possible to live on a fixed income at an early age in Canada; we decided to take advantage of good health and a steady retirement income and move somewhere warmer and more economical. We then took a pause when we realized that there are many people who have not been as fortunate as we have. There are many people whose homes lost a great deal of value in the economic downturn in the United States and people who lost some if not all of their retirement investments. We’ve learned that it is a stretch to live on $22.00 a day in Panama like some of the websites say you can, but you can live on little if you need to.
We’ve learned many things from the friends that we’ve met along the way. It could be anything from the best place to get car repairs done to how to get a tag to get our garbage picked up. But we’ve also had to think of our own solutions and sometimes we need to adapt and be a plumber, baker, carpenter, etc. Often it’s much less frustrating that waiting for a tradesman to fix your problem or trying to find that perfect dessert for a meal.
We’ve learned that everything takes time – lots of time from getting your first driver’s license (for us a two-day process) to hooking up utilities (two weeks for water), to having something made (two weeks means six). We often put on our sombreros de Panameño. We’ve learned that many Panameños lack the skills to think outside the box – a task has always been done one way and why would they want to change it. This is a lack of critical thinking that’s not taught. We’ve learned to have patience and not to expect anyone to solve a problem right away (see learning to be a plumber, carpenter etc.)
We’ve learned not to assume that just because we’ve given a service our credit card information for the business to process every month’s payment that they are actually going to process that payment. For instance our mail box service company didn’t process the payment but we were getting the service. By the time they discovered they hadn’t been paid the credit card we used had expired and they called for the new card information. We also use the same credit card for our monthly satellite service. The first month it was due after the new credit card came in we called with the new information. It worked for two months and then we realized it didn’t come off in the third month. For some reason our payment information wasn’t on file. In North America we wouldn’t have been receiving mail and satellite service after a while…not in Panama. We wonder what kind of accounting systems they use. We’ve learned that we have to check our credit card to make sure payment is processed.
We’ve learned to keep our expectations low and we’ll be pleasantly surprised. Expecting more will only lead to frustration. Our trip this past week to renew our car insurance and vehicle registration ended up with two very happy Panadians at the end of the day. We usually only get half of what we want done and to get both important things completed in half a day was a reason for celebration. We’ve learned to be appreciative of good, quick customer service.
We’ve learned to find the gratitude. We stop and remember that Panama and its people have been here longer than we have. We’ve run into many people who forget this.
We’ve learned that having a sense of humor is our best asset. Most people that we know who are doing well have a sense of ha, ha. Those that don’t are just miserable with everyday life.
We’ve learned that two little boy cats can worm their way into our hearts and have us twisted around their paws. Most people who are animal people think their pets are pretty great but Dos Gatos are characters and constantly keep us entertained.
We’ve learned to slow down, that we balance each other out and we are good companions to each other. When we moved to Panama friends and family were concerned that we would get tired of being together constantly. Some wondered what we would do with our time. Some of our days go so quickly it feels like we’re just greeting the morning sun on one side of the house and in a blink we’re saying goodbye to it on the other side. There are some days when we wander off to our own parts of the house or one of us goes somewhere without the other. We’ve learned that we can be together, but not in each others pocket all the time.
And lastly we’ve learned that there is much more to learn, that we’re ready to tackle year two, and that indeed; life is good in the campo.