More Than Just A Plan B
Around the cantina lunch table this past sunny Saturday afternoon we were Americans, British, Irish, Russians, South Africans, and a Trinidadian. We were in Panama, all of us, in search of opportunity—business, investment, employment, and lifestyle.
“My wife and I have been looking for a Plan B,” the gentleman from South Africa sitting next to me explained. “We considered Australia, where many South Africans are migrating, but it’s not easy to get full-time residency in that country, especially after age 45.
“Then we read about Panama. It sounded like a place offering a lot of opportunity right now, so I decided to come have a look. I have been here for one week, and I am impressed. There is so much to be done here, so much on offer. There are many growing markets in Panama City, especially, in need of many more services, I think.
“I have been able to organize my temporary residency already. I’m going to return home, tell my wife about my experiences and my impressions, and then come back with her so she can apply for her residency, too.
“This started out as a Plan B,” the gentleman continued, “but now I’m thinking it could be much more than that for us…”
“I left Ireland two years ago to study in Madrid,” offered the young lady sitting across the table from us. “I loved living in Madrid, but there were no employment opportunities, not for the locals and especially not for nonlocals.
“Young people in Madrid stay living at home with their parents until they’re into their 30s. They don’t have any choice, really. They take what amount to internships where they’re paid small stipends. They earn 500 euros a month, which is enough for tapas and wine but not much more than that.
“When I finished the program I’d moved to Madrid for, I realized that I would need to make another move to someplace with more professional opportunity. I didn’t want just any job, and I didn’t want to work for a stipend wage. I wanted a career.
“Friends told me about Panama…so here I am. I’ve been able to get residency and a work permit, and I started work this week with a local property developer.”
Down at the end of the table, I overheard a lady from Georgia explaining that she and her husband were in Panama looking for better weather.
“It was 93 degrees in Atlanta when we left,” I heard her say. “For us, the temperatures here in Panama are a relief!”
“I’m a food person,” our new friend at the other end of the table, originally from Trinidad, explained. “Where I’m living now in the States it’s harder and harder for me to find food that hasn’t been modified somehow. I understand that, here in Panama, the cows are grass-fed and the chickens are free-range. Farmers don’t use pesticides or chemicals, and you can buy fresh-picked fruits and vegetables everywhere. That sounds like heaven to me.”
After lunch we continued on, headed west along the Pan-American Highway. Our ultimate destination was the western coast of the Azuero Peninsula. This little group was traveling out to see Lief and my current undertaking at Los Islotes firsthand.
On hand to greet us when we arrived at the Rancho, where our Project Manager Gary had arranged for a typico Panamanian barbeque, were other expats like us also in Panama in search of opportunity. Americans Peg and April retired to Panama last year and are about to begin construction of their new home at the beach on this Azuero coast. A Russian couple was seeing Panama and its Pacific coastline for the first time, trying it on for size for their own retirement…
Our meal was prepared over open fires as we all watched—ribs, chicken, pork…plus rice and beans, of course. The catering was courtesy of a local entrepreneur, Amada. This lady, whose family has lived in this part of Panama for generations, has identified a niche. All these gringos coming out to Los Islotes need to be fed, she figured, and offered up her culinary talents.
This is a land of opportunity and not only for us nonlocals.