What Do I Miss?

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I was thinking about this the other day. Do I really miss anything from the States? I’m trying to be honest with myself about what, if anything I miss about my old life.. I have so many wonderful things to say about how much I love living here, and indeed I’m delighted each and every day when I think about all the things I love about this new life in Panama. But I’ve been trying to think about what I miss about living in the States? Well…..I really have to think hard to come up with an answer to that question. I thought I’d really miss my house. My neighborhood. Of course I miss the people that I left, more than anything, but that goes without saying, right? I do miss all my own belongings in my house. It’s strange to live in a furnished rental house where nothing belongs to me. Dishes, furniture, towels, appliances, everything belongs to someone else. At first the novelty of not having so many material possessions was quite liberating. And I do still very much enjoy not having so much clutter. But…It just doesn’t feel as homey as I’d like, living amongst someone else’s things. I’ve always found great joy in expressing myself in my living space. And creating a space that’s a reflection of me is something that makes me very happy. I look forward to opening all our boxes someday and having a space of my own to decorate and to just live again in a space that’s my own.

Hmmmm….I’m trying hard to come up with other aspects of living in Central America and what I miss about living in the States. I miss Pizza delivery guys! And OH…I miss the variety of ethnic food that you have access to in the States!! Wow! Yes! I miss Thai food and Chinese Food and Japanese food and Indian food and just having so many choices of different types of restaurants to choose from. It may well be that in Panama City there’s a much larger selection of restaurants but around this area it’s just not the case. When we get our belongings shipped over here and Scott has more time to cook, he can cook more like he’s accustomed to cooking. He’ll have his wok and all his essential cooking tools and then we might be able to make some different things to quench our cravings. We have quite a few good restaurants up here in Boquete , decent Pizza, Italian, great fresh fish, and we recently found a decent Mexican restaurant in David. We have found some BBQ places but of course Scott is rather snobby about his BBQ and can’t wait to have his smoker out here! Yes, I miss the variety of ethnic foods that there is in the States.

I most definitely miss lightening fast internet! Oh my gosh! I could even live with the occasional internet outages if only there were decent speed. Grrrrrrr. At times it’s admittedly a little frustrating, like when we want to stream something on the TV to watch. There are other areas here in Boquete where the speed isn’t so pathetic but up here in the Alto Lino area and our house specifically, it’s lousy. I suppose it’s better than no internet at all, and I shouldn’t sound so whiny, so I’ll say, I’m glad I have internet. But this post is about things I miss, fast, reliable internet was sooooo nice! I never knew how nice it was until I didn’t have it anymore. Humph! And the bad news is, our new neighbors who live very near to our new casita have told us that the internet is lousy up there as well! Awe Man!! Oh well! At least we’ve gotten used to it already.

There are some things about living in Central America that I’ve written about before that make life just a little more challenging, and I must say that there are times when I miss the simplicity that comes with living in a place that you know well. The familiarity of everyday life in the States, does create a certain ease when you know what to expect and how to do things. Things like banking, being able to easily and readily find random things that I need and never wondering if I will be able to find something that I’m looking to buy. The language, I would have expected to say that being in the minority here and not easily understanding the people around me would be hard or tiring, and at times it can be, but I’ve adjusted to not “yet” having the ability to understand whats being said all the time. I know, we do live in an area that has a large expat community and there’s more English spoken here than in many other areas of the country but I do make an effort to be around Native speakers more than English speakers as often as I can. I’m really working hard to learn Spanish and I’m finding the people here to be incredibly happy to help me. So, I think because my focus has been on learning, I’m just not at all put out by living in a Spanish speaking world. I had better not be because this “is” a Spanish speaking country , after all!

It’s funny, As I’m writing this post I keep stoping and sitting with my arms crossed trying to think of what I can tell you that I miss from living in the States. I’m struggling to come up with things to tell you. Aside from the people that I miss on a daily basis I’m not especially longing for much about my past life. I think that there’s just so much that I’m thankful for here in Panama and so many aspects about this life that I’m loving and appreciating that missing things just doesn’t seem to be on the forefront of my mind. Yes, sometimes there are things that are hard or frustrating and I long for the ease of familiarity that comes from living in a place your whole life. Knowing and understanding all the rules and laws and processes of the place you live is something that I sometimes struggle with. One small example of this is something I just learned last week. Apparently it’s against the law to buy Beer and Wine before 10:00 a.m. It took me two times of having the teller call the security guard over (yes, they have armed security guards in the grocery store) to remove my beer one time and wine another time from my pile of groceries. They were very kind and the second time it was only about 5 minutes till 10:00 but I think the cash register wont even ring it up so I just paid for my groceries and stood there and waited the 5 minutes to buy my much needed wine! This girl was not leaving without it, Hah! I was confused about the rule because the first time it happened I was trying to buy beer and it was the week of Carnival so I thought they were not selling alcohol for that reason. The teller tried to explain but Geesh, I got nothin’ “mi comprende nada!!” . So I just smiled and shook my head and thought I kinda got what was going on, which is why it happened a second time just last week. And I still don’t completely understand because on that occasion when my wine was taken away there was an Indian guy in line behind me who was buying a small bottle of liquor and they sold it to him, and let me tell you that guy was already toasted! So I don’t know, all I now understand for sure is that wine and beer need to be purchased after 10:00a.m. Got it! But this is what I mean about missing the feeling of knowing what’s going on sometimes. There are just times when I feel like a total idiot and I have no idea what someone is trying to explain to me. I politely smile and say “Lo siento”. Or “Gracias”.

Okay, I just left the keyboard to get dressed for the day and I thought of something I don’t miss. I don’t miss putting on my shoes without checking to make sure there are no scorpions or big spiders in them!!! Ugggg!! YES!! this is , as you know, by biggest gripe! Don’t worry, I’ve never found anything in my shoes yet, but it’s inevitable. At least according to nearly every person I know here. Also shaking out your clothes before you put anything on. It’s a fact of life when you live in a tropical paradise! Oh well, this is something I will just have to live with but I wont stop missing the confidence of puttting on my shoes and knowing there would never be any chance that a scorpion could be waiting to get my toes! Humph!

I, for one have enjoyed this exercise of honestly thinking about what I miss about living in the States. In my mind I think it’s pretty great that It was an effort for me to come up with things I miss. Of course , as you can see, once I really began to think about it I was able to list some aspects of living in another country that pose a bit of a challenge for me at times. But the fact that these things aren’t on the forefront of my mind is a good sign. Even though we spent a really long time planning and researching expatriating to another country, there’s just no way to know before you’ve done it, what it will be like for you once you make that move. I hear stories all the time of people moving to certain countries only to be disillusioned by all the many things that are different from their country of origin. I think for me anyways, the biggest thing to keep in mind in order to be happy living in a new country is to expect everything to be different and to be surprised when you find a spark of familiarity. But not to expect or hopefully even desire, to find a new home in a different country to resemble what you left. To actually savor the differences and be able to find pleasure in learning to live your life differently is a requirement to finding life as an expat enjoyable and enriching. I often wonder to myself why some people move to a foreign country only to be in search of all the things they had back where they came from? I’m only ten months into my adventure as an Expat so I have a lot to learn, but so far I’m enjoying learning and experiencing new things and often making silly mistakes. I think I may need to write about what I “Don’t” miss about living in the States….Hmmmmm I bet that’ll be a long, long list!

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3 responses »

  1. It sounds like you are adjusting to life in Boquete quite well, Holly. Congratulations, and keep up the good work on your Spanish lessons. A donde el corazon se inclina, el pie camina! 🙂 – Mike

  2. Haha! I still shake out my shoes before I put them on! Old habit from living in Mexico… I smile every time I read about how much you are loving your adventure!

  3. Mail – you can’t go shopping on line and have stuff show up at your door in a couple days. I went clothes shopping for the first time today and discovered I’m bigger than most Panamanian women. But generally yes, things are much more the same than they are different.

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