There is innocence
among people here

I was sitting in my car waiting for someone late the other day outside one of the supermarkets in Volcan. There's a public phone there, and a young and somewhat intense man was using it. Beside him, waiting patiently, was a young woman with a two-year-old girl on her hip. A five-year-old boy was interested in the workings of the phone.

The little girl looked intently at me in the car, and I waved. She waved back, smiling, and so began a back and forth game that lasted for several minutes. I was reading something, and when I looked up again, the little boy had his sister's arm and was waving it frantically in my direction. The mother smiled.

There is innocence among people here, and there is friendliness toward each other and toward ex-pats. Later, I wondered if this scene would have been likely in the U.S. or in Canada. I imagined in those countries a little girl might have buried her face shyly in her mother's neck, and the little boy would have been warned not to speak with strangers in cars.

Friendliness topped list

There was an informal survey several weeks back on one of the bulletin boards, asking what were the four top things ex-pats liked about Panama. First on almost every list was the friendliness of the people.

Most people here go out of their way to help others, Panamanian or not. The way of life is so much more relaxed here in that sense.

Yet I often hear from people who visit here that friends have said in astonishment: "You're thinking of moving where?"

Noriega is gone

In the minds of some, apparently, Panama is still the domain of Manuel Noriega, now serving 30 years for drug trafficking and other crimes. It is a lawless country, filled with drug smugglers and where violence reins, so the thinking seems to go. That is so far from the truth it would be laughable if it were not so sad.

People were concerned a few months back about the stories that would get back to potential tourists and retirees when there were street protests and demonstrations here against radical social security legislation. This legislation would surely have created major riots in the U.S. or Canada.

Protesters home for supper

The crowds in the street in Panama City probably made good television. But here, strikes and protests are for working hours only. Five o'clock is time to go home. Same thing when it rains.

There's not nearly the disruption as when Montreal wins the Stanley Cup. Anyone not involved in the protest simply avoided the area around the parliament buildings. Life was quite normal almost anywhere else.

Overwhelmingly peaceful

The people of Panama are overwhelmingly peaceful. Yes, because of its geographical location, Panama is part of the route for drug smuggling from Colombia. (The country also has a well-trained police unit determined to stamp out the drug trade.) Yes, there are murders related to the drug trade.

But if you live here, the only evidence you may see of any of this is in local newspapers or on TV when the police celebrate a big bust. It does not affect the lives of ordinary people in this peaceful, friendly and beautiful country.

Flying out

I think of these things at this time because I am due to fly out of here on September 15, and I will miss this place. I have to return on personal business to Canada for an estimated nine months.

Smiles and greetings from strangers will not be as plentiful. Here, eye contact is not avoided; it is followed by a friendly "buenas".

In place of eternal spring will be the howling blizzards of winter, one of the things I came here to escape. It means heavy clothing and snow boots and too much government.

I have not left yet, and I can hardly wait to get back.

November 5

My sojourn in Canada should make no difference to you, with one exception: there will be no newsletter in October. The next edition will be November 5, Guy Fawkes Day in England.

And we hope to announce plenty of fireworks on that day!

My partner, David Dell, will write most of the Panama stories while I am away, and I will continue to put the website and this newsletter together.

The website will continue to expand and, I believe, become more useful to you. Particular emphasis will be given to the real estate section, our most-visited area, in coming months. Right now, we give information for your protection when buying real estate, but you have had to go to other websites if you wanted to see what real estate is available.

Real estate listings

David has responsibility for building a new real estate listings section with a target of 100 listings by the end of November. This will be no small task, but we think it is do-able if we get the cooperation we hope for from real estate professionals. If we need to add to their number to provide you with the widest possible selection, we will do that.

Expansion in the number and variety of professionals is also scheduled for the coming months. Right now, we are working to add a real estate agency in Volcan, a lawyer in Chiriqui province, and a title insurance company, but this is just the beginning.

No small job

I have to be careful not to load too many things onto David's shoulders in the next few weeks. He is doing major renovations to his house (and I'm sure he will talk about that in the near future). In fact, he may now be experiencing some of the sorts of things you might face one day.

And you can help to make the website more useful by asking questions and/or suggesting topics we should cover (or cover better). And please let us know if you spot mistakes or shortcomings. We want to make YourPanama the site to visit for accurate and full information for potential ex-pats.

Computer to be eviscerated

My definitely-not-portable computer will be stripped down on September 14. The thing is far too big to carry with me, yet I need all the programs and documents it contains. Solution: One of the hard drives, motherboard and other expensive yet light pieces will be stripped out of it. They will be packaged carefully by the best shipper in Panama (of course he's on our recommended list), and most will be placed carefully in my carry-on luggage.

A new tower case will be bought in Canada, and all the bits reassembled. How long this will take, and how long it will take to find somewhere to live and to get hooked back up to the Internet, is anyone's guess right now. It will be as fast as I can make it.

But that's why there will be no newsletter in October. I don't want to promise something I may not be able to deliver.

Meanwhile, if you write to me and I don't reply for some while, please don't think I am ignoring you. I will try to get access to the Internet from time to time, but Internet cafes are not as plentiful in Canada as they are here. There is not the same need for them there.

Until November 5 and the next newsletter, best wishes,


New this month

Property for sale in Panama is a fledgling section that will be devoted to photographs and descriptions of properties listed by our recommended agencies. Our goal is to have at least 100 listings by the end of November. Until those listings come in, we're kicking things off with properties for sale by owner. We'll make a start with some easy ones, close to home in Volcan.

Why Volcan? It seemed like an obvious question to ask my new colleague, David Dell, who settled in this small mountain community after a lifetime of travel to thousands of locations in dozens of countries around the world.

Health insurance and the quality of medical care are high on the list of things retirees need to know about. Our resident expert provides some answers.

A corporation to buy real estate in Panama? That may seem a bit extreme to some, but there could be money-saving reasons that it may be a good idea, as one of our legal experts points out.

One of our readers is getting closer to being at home in Panama. Jeannette Ryder's second installment of her search for the right place to retire does not include dining with the President of Panama. But it does include lunch with a peacock.

I hope you enjoyed this issue of Your Panama Nuggets. Watch for the next issue on Saturday, November 5, at 10 a.m. EST.

Such a lengthy break is bound to result in plenty of interesting stories.

Meanwhile, if real estate interest you, keep an eye on our property listings section.