What In The World Are All These Folks Doing Here?
Here at home in the melting pot that is Panama City, Lief and I have been really fortunate. We’ve developed an always-expanding and eclectic (a.k.a. nutty and random) circle of friends. Folks from all over the world, who, like us, have sought out Panama City at this point in their lives for different reasons.
As in Waterford, Ireland, when we arrived on the scene some 16 years ago, and, 7 years later, when we then moved to Paris, our first friends in Panama City were the parents of friends and classmates of our children…and tradesmen.
Lief and I do two things first anywhere we’re planning to spend an extended time—we locate schools for our children and then we find something old and interesting to restore into a place to live. In Ireland it was Newtown School for Kaitlin (Jack was but a twinkle in his father’s eye when we settled in Waterford) and the tumbledown Georgian country home called Lahardan House. In Paris it was Ecole Active Bilangue for Kaitlin and the maternelle(nursery school) down the street for Jack…and a 300-year-old apartment a couple of blocks off the river and just behind the Musee d’Orsay…
In Panama it was the Paul Gauguin French school for Jack (Kaitlin was off at university in New York by the time we made the move to Panama City). And, here, instead of something old and crumbling to renovate, we took a different, long-term approach to housing. With friends, we bought a wide-open expanse of oceanfront property, with beautiful, extended, and dramatic views of the Pacific, called Los Islotes, that we’re developing into a private community that will play an important role in eventual retirement plan.
As in Waterford and Paris, these schooling and housing decisions led to our first local friendships.
Loic and Muriel are the parents of Valerian, Jackson’s best friend at school. This French family arrived in Panama the year before we did with, like us, entrepreneurial intentions. We’ve watched over the past five years as Loic and Muriel have built an authentic French concern in the heart of downtown Panama City. Their Petit Paris is a bakery, a restaurant, and a cafe, with small tables and wicker chairs on the sidewalk out front, a bar where you can have a coffee or a glass of champagne, and an imported French chef who bakes authentic croissant and baguette fresh every morning and serves quiche and salad specialties for lunch and dinner.
Klaus and Mirty are the parents of Jackson’s other best friend in Panama, Marcus. Mirty is American, Klaus German. They met and were married in Guatemala, where Marcus and his sister later were born. Eventually this charmingly culturally confused family made their way to Panama, thanks to Klaus’ employer, Nestle.
Thanks to Jack, Loic, Muriel, Klaus, and Mirty are now regular parts of our lives.
Other of our first friends in Panama we owe to Los Islotes. Ricardo Arosemena is the Panamanian architect Lief we’ve chosen to design both the colonial town center and the houses that will be built as part of this Pacific-coast community, including the Founder’s Lodge (for which we’ll break ground by December…you can take a look at the final rendering for this here).
Ricardo came to our first meeting with him carrying a stack of books on the history of Spanish colonial architecture in the region, including a picture book of Antigua, Guatemala, maybe the finest existing example of the best the Spanish built during their adventures in this part of the world. Ricardo offered the book to me, saying that he wanted me to have it for a while…if I’d promise to take good care of it. With that, we knew Ricardo was our kind of guy.
It’s also thanks to Los Islotes that we now have Gary and Karen in our lives. Gary moved to Panama to work as Los Islotes Project Manager. The couple was ready to leave the States, but Gary wasn’t ready to retire. He wanted to put his decades of experience in the development industry to new, good, and interesting use at this stage of his life.
Who else have we found here in the Hub of the Americas?
Bruno, the Italian developer now dividing his time between Miami, where he was developing property for decades before the bottom fell out of that market, and Panama City, where he’s focused on a new project…
James, the real estate marketing pro from London…Jean-Luc, the banker from Switzerland…Hildegard, our other Panamanian architect friend…
We’ve even been surprised to rediscover a long lost friend from Paris. We worked with Jocelyn Carnegie (originally from the UK) for several years when we had an office in France, then lost touch with him when he married and moved to Nicaragua. Alas, the marriage didn’t take, but Jocelyn, now established on this side of the Atlantic, moved on from Nicaragua to Panama, where we were delighted to run into him recently standing in line at Multimax one day, waiting to buy a new laptop computer.
In addition, we’re enjoying the company of the Live and Invest Overseas team we’re building, a mixed-up bunch of Americans, Germans, Irish, Brits, Panamanians, and Colombians.
Each has his or her own story. As our newest member of our marketing team, a 40-something Irishman born and raised in Dublin, put it over lunch yesterday, “How did I find myself at this point in my life living in Panama with a Mexican wife and two Panamanian children? Who knows…but here I am,” he conclude with a smile and a quintessentially Irish twinkle in his eyes.
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