A Convenient Life…


Sometimes as I’m running errands and trying to be productive I ponder how many of the things I need to get accomplished just aren’t as neat and tidy and simple and yes, convenient as I’m used to. This isn’t meant to be a complaint, simply an observation of one of the many changes of lifestyle I’ve experienced with this awesome adventure. The task of finding a way to get a simple money order was a good example of what I’m talking about. Normally, (in that other life) I would have known where I needed to go in order to get a money order, I would go there and be confident that I would be walking out with what I needed! Not quite the case for me here. Add to the fact that I not only don’t yet know how or where to acquire such a thing , but I also don’t have a strong grasp on the language and, any semblance of “convenience” just goes right out the window! Another thing as trivial as parking near a store I need to go into can often turn into a search for a place to park that’s at least reasonably near to my destination, you just don’t find big, parking lots up here in Boquete. It’s pretty much a sort of ‘free-for-all’ when it comes to finding a place to park your car. There are a couple of small parking places that are easy to park in, but mostly I park on a side street where I’ve strategically scoped out as the easiest spot to get in and out without too much trouble. I’ve long since given up on any deluded idea that I might just run a quick errand, I constantly remind myself that there’s really no reason to feel hurried, I’m not on any ‘time schedule’. So who cares if I need to walk across town! This is when that “Tranquilo” word comes in handy! And I realize, “Hey, who needs convenience right now? I’m a free bird!” I just take it all in and smile at the friendly faces and say “Bueno!” I watch my step as I stroll along to my destination and I try to adapt to the fact that I may or may not get all the things on my list, at least not today. Who know’s what I may accomplish mañana and what treasure I may find at Romero’s or at Mandarin or Deli Baru! One thing I consistently find as I make my way through town is lot’s of smiles, there’s always an abundance of those.

Yes it’s true things aren’t always as quick and easy and straight forward here, do I even need to remind you of my quest for the right staples for the stapler I purchased the other day?(serious eye roll here) There’s not an Office Depot down the street where I can be assured that I can walk right in and see a huge selection of different kinds of staples to choose from. Nope, It’s not always easy, to just find exactly what your looking for ‘when’ your looking for it. We’ve been advised by those who know from experience, that when you see something you need, don’t wait to buy it later, you may not see it again for a long, long time. Often times we’ve bought something that’s a staple for us, like Kosher salt, for instance, and then down the road, when we need more we can’t find it anywhere often for a few weeks, if ever again. Or, one time I needed something that took me four different pharmacy’s to find, at the end of the day, I was just glad to have found it. I dread the day that I need a particular article of clothing, so far I’m pretty well stocked up on clothes and shoes and haven’t needed anything specific but I am sure the day will come when I need something and haven’t a clue where I’ll be able to find it. Mind you, much of this type of difficulty comes primarily from my inexperience as far as knowing exactly where to look for what I need. I’m slowly beginning to get my bearings and beginning to figure out what store’s in town have what items. Like, for instance, I now know that I can count on Deli Baru to usually (not guaranteed always) carry Pine nuts , which Scott uses to make pesto. And I can almost always find most stationary needs at The Mandarin Market. I’ve gotten index cards, binders, notebooks, post it’s as well as shower gel,and a travel coffee mug, and then maybe I grab some milk or yogurt while I’m there, now that’s convenience! I’ve learned that The Mandarin will almost always have the most random things. Then La Reina was the only place I was able to find fingernail polish remover, which I searched all over town for, and while I was there I noticed that they had some hair clips, I needed some for cutting hair.

My point , (if I have a “Point”), is, that here, in this new life that I’ve chosen, there are often many things that are just not always quite as ‘simple’ as I am accustomed to . And things just aren’t as neat and tidy as things are in Los Altos either. Even just walking around town can prove to be kinda sketchy at times. Sidewalks aren’t perfect, far from it, “when” there is even a “sidewalk” to walk on. Public safety’s just not a priority, I suspect because they don’t have the worry of lawsuits if someone falls and hurts themselves. Try that here and I bet you’d be laughed at as they kicked your but back to the U.S.! No, here it’s ‘your’ responsibility to watch where your walking and tread carefully, there will be no blaming someone else for your stupidity. I’ve traded all those neat and tidy and convenient simple day to day things in for something else altogether different. Today as I was walking three blocks to get to Romero’s to buy my groceries I was thinking about this. About the juxtaposition of my adapting to things even appreciating things that aren’t as ‘simple’ and ‘tidy’ as I was accustomed to. Yet things are also , at the same time, very ‘simple’ and less hurried, and I’m adapting to assigning much less importance to many of my expectations and pre-conceived notions of how I had, until now, expected things to ‘be’. This is a ‘letting go of expectations’ that I’m slowly trying to adjust to in my day to day life. Believe it or not, letting go of this can be very freeing!

While many aspects of this new life can be frustrating at times and often a bit difficult to adjust to, I like to focus on the many things that make living here in Central America much more simple. Things like for instance bills! And mail in general! We arent bombarded by all that Junk Mail in the mailbox, cuz, hey, I dont’ have a mailbox!! And any bills that we pay , like cell phone and cable and rent and car insurance and health insurance, we drive to the Cable & Wireless office and just pay the cell phone bill ! They send me a text when I need to pay my cell phone bill and I go pay it, as simple as that! No wasted paper at all. When our car insurance is due we go to Magda’s office and pay it, no envelopes and stamps and we actually get to have a personal interaction with the person who sells us our car insurance. We aren’t just blindly mailing checks to big companies where we know no one. When rent is due, I meet Dani in town and pay her. I don’t miss that pile of bills I used to get in my mailbox, not one tiny bit! The lack of Traffic is another thing about living here that makes life in Boquete much more simple. We wonder to ourselves what it will feel like when we go back to CA for a visit , back to all those cars and lot’s of traffic, and everyone being in a hurry to get everywhere.

These are just a few observations of some of my day to day experiences that I find myself thinking about . I hope I’m not sounding as though I’m pointing out different aspects of this lovely life that are necessarily bad. In my mind it doesn’t matter where I would have decided to move to, there would still be many things to learn and adapt to. It’s part of what I’m actually enjoying about this move… it’s all new and different and I’m still learning and adjusting to many new things, just as I expected to do. I certainly didn’t move to another country and expect to find that it was no different than life in Los Altos. Why bother if that were the case? I sometimes just have to smile when I’m bopping around town trying to be productive and I constantly have to remind myself that I’m not in a hurry, I have no time crunch! As soon as I remember this, I slow down my pace, smile and offer a warm, “Bueno” to a stranger walking by and I look at this place with appreciation. I’m getting used to the flow of life here in this beautiful mountain village and I look forward to when I no longer notice how ‘different’ it is from what my life ‘was’ before. But for now, everything is still new and different and in my mind, ‘different’ is what I just love. Even with the little inconveniences and the not so ‘neat & tidy’ aspects of life here I never wish I were anyplace else, and when little moments of frustration try to sneak in… I look up and see rainbow and smile!

About hollycarter184

Life is Good! But it's time for a change, and more adventure! I'd like to share the whole experience of preparing then actually making a reality of expatriating, and moving to a new country. It's an exciting, and slightly scary move full of possibility . I'm looking forward to learning a new language and making new connections with the people who share our spirit of adventure. This blog is my way of continuing my connection with my friends and family in the States. Sooooo here it goes! :)

6 responses »

  1. I was just commenting yesterday to my Panameño/American amiga that I can’t believe how far SU and I have come compared to when we first got here. It still isn’t as easy as it is in Norte America but it’s not a difficult as it once was. I too needed to remind myself that I don’t have to rush through life and we don’t get frustrated anymore about not being able to find everything we need. We’ve adapted to Panama. Learning the language (which neither one of us is really proficient at yet, but we try) has made a huge difference. 🙂

      • Si! It’s still poco a poco for us! Take a look around one day when you see newbies in your community…that was you once fumbling around not even knowing where to buy veggies or what store sells the best meat! 🙂

  2. My biggest lesson living as an expat, first in Alto Boquete, was adjusting to a calmer lifestyle. Maybe the adjustment was easier for me because I had just retired and I no longer wished to live at the pace of work life. With you giving up your salon business and perhaps not quite ready for retirement, I expect this is a greater challenge. I am pleased to see you are taking life at an easier pace. And I bet your Spanish is coming along, too. Good for you! – Mike

  3. I can relate. When I first moved here, it was a little frustrating not to find certain items that we take for granted as available all the time. Just getting to know where to find things is an accomplishment. Even today, although we have found brown sugar at Super Carne in the past, there was none-they are taking inventory, so they are not restocking until they are done. But we have learned to adjust and substitute (mix 1 cup of sugar with 1 tbsp. of molasses). Even molasses was hard to find until we found out the name for it (miel de canas) and where to get it (fruit stands in Seco bottles). It takes time, but it can be fun (kind of like playing “Where’s Waldo”). Just wish we could get ice cream in this town; haven’t had it for over a month due to some factory closing, or at least that’s what I was told (and I love ice cream). Oh well, it will be a very special treat for a simple scoop of vanilla ice cream now when we find some.

  4. I like your attitude and how you have embrace your new adopted country. You have learned to accept what is and what is not possible in Boquete.

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