Wow! A year has already gone by! How the heck did that happen? I have no idea, but it’s certainly been a wild ride!. It’s funny how the year ‘before’ our move seemed to drag on and on, but our first year living here in Boquete seems to have flown by like the blink of any eye. Anniversaries are usually a good time to reflect on many things about the previous year and the experiences that we had. I’ve tried to share the good, as well as the not so good or especially challenging parts of my first year of adjusting to living in another country and adapting to a totally different life. I’ve shared my story and my own personal perspective on my expat experience. We’ve accomplished a lot in the first year of our new adventure. We’ve managed to create a new life here that suits us and is making us very happy. Building a new life takes a lot of time and energy and the great news is, we have all the time in the world! We’re in no hurry and our adventure is moving along at a pace that suits us just fine.
Before making this move we spent an incredible amount of time planning and Strategizing and coming up with a long term plan as well as goals for what we hoped we could accomplish in order to create a new life in Panama. Our first year living in Panama has been a year of new beginnings and of learning and experiencing new things. The buildup to this move was a long one for both Scott and me. We spent so much time and energy researching and talking and dreaming and preparing not only ourselves but all our friends and family as well for our departure. The biggest part of preparing to move was finishing all the work that had to be done on our house in order to list it for sale. Then there was selling, giving away, donating or throwing away so much of our belongings. Deciding what we would bring with us in our four suitcases and what would sit in storage until we could ship it to Panama was also a challenging task. I remember the coordination it took that last couple of weeks when we had packed up our storage container, sold the house, the salon and our car, gotten the cats ready for the flight and I still had a week of working in the salon before it was time to get on the road. We stayed at a hotel for the last few days and had a rental car so I could get to work and Scott could do his final bit of running around done. Whew! That was a very emotional week at the salon for me as well as for all my clients and co-workers. The salon would not be ‘my’ salon anymore after I walked out that door the last day.
I packed up all my personal belongings from the salon and boxed up 30 years of a career …..wow, what a bittersweet day it was. I remember when it was finally time to get on the road on the morning that we left. All our goodbyes had been said, our bags were all packed, cats were in their travel crates, airline tickets in hand. But first, we had to stop off at the title company and at Schwab to finish signing the last few documents from the sale of our house. We had planned this date of our departure up to the very last detail and it was all coming together as planned. After finishing off our last bit of business we hit the road! Oh my gosh! It was finally time to go! Time to start off on our big adventure and a new life in Panama. My heart is beating fast just reminiscing about that morning a year ago.
We had not yet secured a permanent place to live in Boquete before we arrived a year ago. We decided to do our search for a long term rental after our arrival because we were bringing our two cats and we thought we might have a hard time finding a place that would allow us to have them with us. We decided it would be best to be on the ground in Boquete so we could actually see the places in person rather than just looking at photos. We ended up living in a small one bedroom apartment at a place called Villa Marita for the first 3 months. It was just fine for a short time while we searched for a more permanent place to live. It didn’t take us long to find the house we moved into in Septmember. We only had three months in the apartment then we moved into this lovely house in Alto Lino.
After getting settled in our new rental house, figuring out how to purchase health insurance, buying two cars, getting car insurance, shopping for property to buy, signing up for spanish classes, getting our mail service set up, buying a few necessities for the house, like sheets and towels and a few kitchen gadgets that we just could not live without….then we had to get Scott an appointment for hernia surgery! Yikes! After getting pretty well set up, his hernia was becoming a painful problem, and it was time to get it taken care of. This was something we had known about before our move but we knew it was not an emergency and we planned to wait and have it taken care of after we got somewhat settled here. He was progressively beginning to feel more and more pain and it was evident that it was time to get to the doctor and figure out how to get that taken care of. This experience was a good one, thank goodness. We were both glad to have gotten so many things out of the way before he had it done because now, finally, we could just totally relax as he recovered from his surgery. And ‘Relax’, we did! Ahhhhhhhh……
One thing that was really important to me to accomplish in our first year living here, was to make friends and connections. It’s been important to me to have not only expat friends but also Panamanian friends as well. I’ve been so lucky to have made lovely connections with so many great people here in my new home. Before making this move I had thought that I’d join groups and be active in some of the clubs that I had read about but It turns out I haven’t done that at all. I did go to a couple of Mahjong classes and really enjoyed learning how to play. I had hoped to start joining in some of the regular games that are ongoing here in town but just haven’t done it. I don’t know why…I just haven’t felt especially social. It’s a little strange for me, I’m usually the first one to join in the fun, but lately I’ve just been so content to be at home, reading or writing or driving up to the property to have lunch with Scott and see all the progress they’re making up there. I’ve also been getting an unusual sense of pleasure just keeping up on all that it takes to keep our lives in order, laundry, house cleaning (Crazy, I know! ), baking, grocery shopping, banking….this has truly been a very odd transformation for me. I’ve never been a homemaker, never even considered myself any good at it. But it’s strange how much pleasure I’ve gotten from having time to do so many things that before felt like chores and caused me nothing but stress. I’ve also really enjoyed writing my blog, which has become a new hobby and I continue to enjoy it.
One thing I’ve enjoyed most has been my regular get togethers with Rosemary and Aris, two beautiful new Panamanian friends I’ve met through my friend Valarie. On Mondays and Thursdays I go to Rosemary’s house and we sit outside on her front porch and just chat and laugh and sometimes take turns reading out loud, she reads English and I read Spanish. Sometimes her sister Elisabeth joins us and we all spend time practicing speaking both English and Spanish. But I must say, I seem to get much more Spanish practice than they get English. Often times Rosemary’s husband Gustovo will come outside and they love to hear about what Scott’s doing up on our Finca (that’s what they call our property). Gustovo is funny because he speaks no English at all and whenever I don’t understand what he’s trying to say to me he begins to talk louder and louder…always with a big grin on his face and a chuckle in his voice! I’ve really enjoyed spending time with these kind people. One day I look forward to my Spanish improving and being able to have an actual conversation with the two of them. On Tuesdays I go to Aris’s house to practice with her. She is just adorable and we laugh so much! He husband, Jerry recently got her a new ipad and I had a great time teaching her all about it! For those of you who know me from California, you know how much pleasure I get from sharing what I know about my favorite gadget! Hah! Well, I gotta tell you, trying to do that in Spanish was quite a challenge! What a great way for me to get some practice in! Again….lot’s of laughter ensued! I really have a great time with Aris and I think it’s mutual.
As I’m reflecting on this past year I ponder all the changes that have taken place for me as a result of moving to Panama. Can I be honest about one change that’s really been hard for me? Of all the changes that I’ve experienced I think not having my job has been the most difficult to adapt to. It’s the social part of my job that tugs at my heart, that’s the part of my job that was really a big part of ‘who’ I am. Doing something every single day for 30 years tends to really ‘define’ who you are in many ways. I’ve had a bit of a hard time not having the interaction with so many people all day long, every day. That was one thing about my job that I never tired of in all those years of working. I found great pleasure and happiness in being around the energy of so many familiar faces and a sense of connection that I must admit, I’ve missed in this last year. I’ve tried to hold onto the connections from my life in California by texting little messages during the holidays and sending emails as well as doing some video chatting with some good friends who have made a little time to chat with me. Just before I moved I finally started a Facebook account for the first time and I do really enjoy the connectivity I get from that, but, If I can be honest, I can feel many of my close connections beginning to change, of course. I don’t mean to say that these friendships will ever necessarily go away, but the changes I’ve made in my life have naturally made me feel a little less connected to good friends whose lives have continued on in the same way. Of course I expected relationships to change, and some will naturally fade, but this aspect of my move is something that tugs at my heart, for sure.
This first year of being retired and creating a new and very different way of living as well as adapting to life in a new country has been a mix of so many feelings for me…. from absolute wonder to pure excitement, some loneliness as well as great pleasure, its also been a little nerve racking at times and of course frustrating too. There have been moments for me of mourning the things that I gave up for this new life here in Boquete. Things that I loved about my life that I chose to walk away from when we decided to move to Panama that I miss everyday. And then times of rejoicing and virtual high fives when we look around at this marvelous new life that the two of us are creating, a life that we own and are enjoying together without so much of the stress we endured in the past. Of course, there’s always a balance of good and bad in life. It really doesn’t matter ‘where’ you live, there will always be aspects of a life that bring pleasure and other things that are challenging. It’s not as though this new life has come without stress or without it’s own challenges, but they are new and different ones that we are delighted to be facing together, on our terms. We’re relishing in the changes and the opportunity we’ve given ourselves to dive into an adventure together and to work together to make something new and different! We both find great pleasure in following a path of our own making and in creating a life for ourselves that we can feel pride in. For us, facing and overcoming challenges and doing things just a little differently from the ‘norm’ draws us together in a way that both Scott & I find great reward in. Our souls are nourished by embracing the type of adventure that we’ve both dived into here in the Highlands of Boquete, Panama. Our first year of firsts has flown by so fast! Our first new year here in Panama has been full of learning so many new things, our first year of adapting and of at times pulling our hair out with frustration… and then other times feeling as though everyday is a celebration, has been so great! We congratulate ourselves everyday on our brilliant plan to start anew….to embrace an adventure…..and together to build a life that is uniquely ours! Never running away or escaping from anything so terrible, no, just living our lives on our terms and doing what feels right for us. On to the next year…where will this adventure take us next???? Stay tuned…I’ll keep you posted on this ongoing Adventure!