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At Home In Panama

“You moved from Paris to… Panama?”

“Every day you make more progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.”

— Winston Churchill

 

“Why did you leave Paris? Don’t you miss it?”

“You moved from Paris to… Panama?”

Yes, we moved from Paris to Panama. And, yes, we miss Paris. But, after three weeks in Panama, we’re more confident than ever that we made the right move.

The right move for right now. We don’t intend to live the rest of our lives in Panama. And, during the few years we’re here, we’ll return to Paris regularly for visits. We’ve kept our apartment there, furnished, Internet connected, telephone and electricity on. We didn’t walk away from Paris for good.

But we came to see what life is like in Panama. So far, I can tell you that it’s hot, noisy, dirty…and gloriously alive.

Lief and I are doing a hard thing right now. We’re starting two new businesses at the same time. I’m getting Live and Invest Overseas off the ground (thank you for coming along for the ride), and Lief is beginning work to develop 500+ acres of rolling beachfront he and a friend have purchased on the Pacific coast of the Azuero Peninsula (www.LosIslotes.com).

So you could say we moved for business reasons. Obviously, it’d be a challenge for Lief to develop land in Panama from France. I could do what I’m doing any number of places…including Panama (but not including France).

The longer we’re here, the more I’m convinced that, again, this is the right place for us right now, a great place to entertain one’s entrepreneurial inclinations. While in the U.S. and other parts of the world, companies are cutting back and laying off, here in Panama, the buzz word is growth.

Everywhere you go, you see work…labor…commerce…activity. It’s infectious. You begin to feel like you’d like to do a little work yourself.

This is how I see Panama. I’m sure you could come here, especially to the highlands…to the interior…and settle in for lazy days swinging in a hammock. That’s Panama, too. But, for us, Panama right now is a frontier of opportunity.

This, then, is the response I offer daily to friends, acquaintances, readers, and, even, strangers upon introduction for why we moved last month from Paris to Panama.

I fear I begin to sound a bit defensive…but, truthfully, Panama is exceeding our expectations.

What do we do with ourselves here, friends back on the Continent ask sheepishly.

We visit the beach regularly. Lief is back and forth from Los Islotes and the Pacific coast at least weekly. Whenever we’ve a mind to, Jack and I can tag along for these sand, sun, and surf days.

We lunch on the Amador Causeway…we visit friends in Casco Viejo…we dine out at various of the 20 or so restaurants within walking distance of our apartment.

We take Jackson to the park. There are two a 10-minute walk away. “These parks aren’t the same as the Tuileries,” Jack has observed, recalling his favorite park in Paris, “but they’re fun.”

And they’re clean. Maybe the posted $5,000 fines for littering have something to do with that.

I’ve been reporting to you that Panama City is noisy and dirty. This is true, on the one hand. The ongoing construction work means constant ruckus and muddy messes at every turn.

On the other hand, Panama City is surprisingly clean (that is, litter- and garbage-free) for a city growing and changing as fast as this one is.

What else do we do here?

We walk everywhere, ignoring the fact that Panamanians don’t walk anywhere. They get in their cars to go across the street for lunch. And they look at us funny when we admit we walked over from our apartment to theirs, for example. Given the choice of walking or driving in this town right now, though, I’m happily hoofing it.

We’re taking Jack and a friend to a performance of “Alice In Wonderland” at a local theater. I’m signing up for yoga instruction (in English). Lief is working out every morning in the gym on the roof of our apartment building.

I’m buying fresh flowers twice a week (even Lief can’t complain when they cost but a few dollars an exotic bunch). Jack’s new nanny is helping him to learn Spanish. I’m meeting with our Panama architect-friend to begin plans for our beach house out at Los Islotes.

We spend Sunday afternoons at our rooftop pool with new friends and neighbors in our building. Conversation is in Spanish, French, German, Chinese, and (occasionally, thankfully) English.

We enjoyed our six years of Irish country life in Waterford…we savored our four years in Paris…now we’re embracing the adventure of a few years in Panama.

For us, this living and investing overseas stuff is a process…a journey. We don’t look at any leg of it as an end…but as a chance.

This is our chance to be at home in Panama.

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. We don’t imagine an end to our living abroad adventures, but we do have an idea of how we’d like them to organize themselves ultimately. We’re working toward being able to divide our time each year among a handful of places we most enjoy, moving with the seasons and changing circumstances. One of these places is Paris, which is why we’ve kept the apartment there, fully outfitted and awaiting our regular visits. Another of these places is Buenos Aires, where we have an apartment with friends, rented when we’re not in town. We also intend to spend time long-term in Istria, Croatia (where we bought an old stone farmhouse a couple of years ago); Panama (where we’ll begin building our family home at the beach at Los Islotes later this year); and Charlottesville, Virginia (where we’re thinking we might finally be able to afford the colonial-era home we have in mind sometime soon if U.S. property markets continue along their current path…).

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