A Paris Perspective
I wrote the feature article for this month’s issue of my Panama Letter (on Casco Viejo, due in subscribers’ e-mailboxes on Friday) and I write now from Paris. Lief, Jackson, and I are here for another week, part business, part pleasure. We’re enjoying the chilly fall days and chillier evenings, wearing sweaters, jackets, and gloves, things that get little use in Panama.
I’m enjoying, as well, the added perspective that distance can bring. My current vantage point in the City of Light makes some things about life back in Panama City a little clearer.
For example, Panama City is an exciting place to be these days. As we report for you regularly, this city is reshaping itself. The Cinta Costera project, now in Phase III…the new metro, currently a series of big holes in the middle of key intersections but by 2015 meant to be an important new means of getting around this congested town…additions to shopping malls…new shopping malls…new hotels…new high-rise towers…a whole new island created offshore Punta Pacifica…new traffic patterns one day to the next…
Don’t blink, we like to say. You won’t recognize where you are when you open your eyes if you do.
Day-to-day, on the ground, all this excitement can be read as challenge. Traffic jams are epic, and our daily commute ranges from 15 minutes on a good day to an hour-and-a-half on a not-so-good one. You can’t take a walk anywhere in downtown without watching every footstep carefully lest you wind up falling in a hole (as has happened to not one, not two, but three friends). You consider long and hard whether it’s worth driving across town to see a movie on any given night but especially on a weekend night. How badly do you really want to see that flick? Is it worth the traffic hassle and the search for a place to park?
Now here in the heart of central Paris where everything is the same and nothing ever changes and that’s a big part of the appeal of the place, I find that I’m missing the chaos and confusion of Panama City. Outside the window of the apartment where we’re staying, traffic proceeds without incident. No one honks his horn. All is calm, orderly, and quiet.
Garbage trucks come by twice a day. Shopkeepers sweep their sidewalks and scrub their facades. In this part of this city, everything is pretty and tidy, historic and charming. Don’t misunderstand. I love that, and I enjoy time in Paris more than time anywhere else in the world. I could take up a position at a sidewalk table in one of the dozen or so cafes within a few minutes’ walk of where I’m sitting right now and delight in watching the pretty, orderly, pleasant world go by for a good long while. In fact, I’m hoping to have time this afternoon to do that very thing.
This part of Paris is a great open-air museum, one that I want to be able to return to more frequently starting next year (we’re looking to open a Live and Invest Overseas Euro-base here before the end of 2014) and one that Lief and I are counting on as part of our long-term retirement plan. We hope nothing changes in this small corner of the world. It’s hard to imagine improving upon this status-quo.
But we also like growth, productivity, and the unexpected. In Paris, we expect the city to be beautiful and life to be pleasant, and we’re never disappointed. In Panama, we never know what to expect. We like that, too.
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