After more than 14 months away, Lief and I have returned to Los Islotes.
We arrived at Tocumen International late last Wednesday afternoon, spent two nights in Panama City reconnecting with staff to the extent current quarantine restrictions allowed, then flew to the Veraguas coast early Friday morning.
“What’s it like coming back after having been away so long?” a friend asked over drinks Sunday afternoon. “Is it strange?”
“No, in fact, it’s not,” Lief replied. “We’ve slid right back into our life here.”
Another friend reminds me often that success is the result of heroic habit.
Lief and I have taken that advice to heart as we’ve worked to organize our lives together these past two-and-a-half decades.
Back now after an unexpectedly extended absence, we’ve fallen smoothly into our Los Islotes routine.
Our Life At Los Islotes
The howler monkeys who make their home in the trees outside our bedroom wake us before dawn. We don’t mind.
We shower and dress as the sun brings first light, open the balcony doors to welcome the ocean breeze, and eat quickly. Then we load out laptops into the back of the car and drive down the hill to our office.
No matter how early we arrive, we’re never first. We greet staff already at their desks then download emails from overnight.
I’m sitting in our Los Islotes office as I write. From the window to my left, I can see Isidro, our horse wrangler, leading one of our new fouls into the new corrals.
Behind me, the sound of a table saw tells me our crew is building something in the woodshop. I’m not sure what so I’ll walk over when I’m ready for a break to find out.
Mornings are spent on these dispatches and conference calls. This is our window for connecting with teams on the ground in Paris and Ireland, as well as Marketing Director Grant who is spending a few months with his family in New Zealand.
You’ve heard of Zoom Towns? These are beautiful but formerly remote locations across our planet that are gaining recognition during this work-from-home era. Lief and I are finding that Los Islotes qualifies. Hard to imagine a more pleasant place to run a business while quarantining during a global pandemic.
Our video meetings finish about noon, in time for lunch. We have two options. Some days we drive back up the hill to our house for sandwiches or leftovers from the night before. Others we opt for the Azuero coast’s answer to take-out.
The mother of our Los Islotes Office Manager Dalys, who lives a few minutes outside our front gate, is an excellent cook and always happy to whip up a local specialty for our midday meal. With as little as a couple of hours’ notice, Daly’s mom delivers to our door. We run a tab when we’re here, which we settle monthly. Each lunch is US$3 or US$4.
After we’ve eaten, we finish our Live and Invest Overseas work for the day then turn our attention to the Los Islotes agenda du jour. What can we help with today, we wonder of Project Manager Carlos.
Yesterday, we reviewed the final plan for the stables Carlos and his team will break ground on within the next few weeks.
Pandemic restrictions required us to halt work at Los Islotes for most of 2020. Still, Carlos was able to make some progress. We’ve returned to find, in addition to new horse corrals, a new guardhouse and front gate, lots of newly planted trees, and the start of a kitchen garden.
We have some new company, too. Carlos has invited the son of a friend to take his long-distance university classes from our office. Our first morning here, the young man thanked us with elbow bumps for allowing him to use our internet for his studies.
For several years I’ve been working toward building a Los Islotes Student Center where kids from Quebro town could come for help with their schoolwork, learn English, and acquire basic computer skills. My vision includes a small library. It’ll be the first on this coast.
Carlos’ young friend is an organic first step to realizing that plan.
The first practical step is identifying the location for the structure.
“I have important news,” Carlos told us over dinner the other night. “Our friend Hector has offered a piece of land on the corner for the Student Center, across from where he’s building his new gas station and grocery store. It’s a perfect spot, central and accessible for children in the area.”
Carlos and I are meeting with Hector tomorrow.
Founding Publisher, Overseas Opportunity Letter