Gary And Karen’s New Life On Panama’s Azuero Coast
Lief and I had dinner last night with Gary Mosley, Project Manager for Los Islotes, the community we’re developing on the east coast of Panama’s Azuero Peninsula, and his wife Karen. Gary and Karen live full-time out on Azuero and come to the city seldom. It was a treat, therefore, to have a chance to catch up with them.
Gary updated us on progress on-site. “We’ve had some rain,” he told us. “Boy, howdy, have we had some rain. Some of the public roads have washed out. But I’m very pleased and, I have to admit, proud to tell you that none of our roads at Los Islotes have been affected. All the roads we cut earlier this year, during the dry season, they’re all intact and holding strong. The big investment we made in drainage is paying off.
“As soon as the rains subside,” Gary continued, “we’ll begin pushing hard on the next phase of infrastructure development—laying the underground electrical cables.
“We’ll have water and electricity in place before December, Kathleen,” Gary assured me. “I know you’re planning to break ground on the Founder’s Lodge before the end of the year,” he continued, “and I want to tell you that you don’t have to worry. I’ll have all the required infrastructure ready for you in time.”
Lief and I enjoyed hearing about how well things continue to progress at Los Islotes, but I was even more interested to hear about the success that Gary and Karen are having in their efforts to build new lives for themselves.
Gary and Karen took a big leap of faith three years ago when they moved down here to Panama City from North Carolina to hook up with the Los Islotes team. Then the couple took a bigger leap last year when they moved from Panama City to the Azuero coast. That part of this country is a frontier, still very undiscovered.
This is one of the reasons we’re attracted to the region. We’re building a community from scratch, a place where like-minded folks can escape the world together. The Azuero countryside and coastline are as dramatically beautiful as these things get anywhere on earth. Beautiful, pristine, and unspoiled.
This isn’t the kind of place where you’d expect to find a couple of 60-something non-Spanish-speaking Americans like Gary and Karen, and there are only a few others of their demographic in the vicinity right now. But Gary and Karen haven’t let this bother them. In true pioneer spirit, they’ve worked to ingratiate themselves among their new neighbors and to find ways to contribute to their new community.
Karen is working with a local group that helps single mothers find ways to earn an income, and she’s gotten to know many of these women personally.
“I’m trying to help them find ways to earn money,” Karen explained, “but they’re teaching me a lot, too. One lady, for example, has the greenest thumb I’ve ever seen. She lives in a two-room house with a flat tin roof, but her yard is so impressive. It’s overflowing with fruit trees and flowering plants. It’s really beautiful. And she’s been giving me cuttings and teaching me about the best ways to cultivate all the different trees and flowers. She’s even helping me to start a nursery at Los Islotes. Right now we’re growing nearly 100 royal palm trees that we can use to line the entranceway.”
Karen has become involved with the local elementary school, too.
“They have so little to work with,” she told us last night. “The computers that you guys are donating will mean a lot to them.”
“Many of the locals see what’s coming,” Gary offered. “They recognize that opportunity is presenting itself. At Los Islotes, we’re building a crew of men we’ll retain year-round. They’ll have reliable employment all year long, even during the rainy season. We’re leading the way in this, but others will follow.
“And the road work crew we’re building is just the start. Soon, we’ll need men to help with the construction of the Founder’s Lodge. When that is up and running, we’ll need staff for it—cooks, wait staff, etc. We’ve got a half-dozen owners who are ready to begin building their own homes. They’ll need crew and household staff, too.
“The people we speak with out there, they understand all this. That’s why what they want right now more than anything,” Gary continued, “is to learn to speak English. They know that speaking English will make it much easier for them to get and keep the jobs that are coming online in this little community very soon.”
“We hold English classes for our employees every Friday morning,” Karen added. “And, I have to admit, they’re learning English faster than we’re learning Spanish. But we’re all having a lot of fun in the process.”
Gary and Karen stopped by the office this morning on their way out of town. They collected the computers for the school and a load of sand bags for Gary to use to move the sand he needs for making cement, but they didn’t stick around very long. They were eager to get back to their work, back to their friends, back to their lives.
“I have to say,” I told them over dinner last night, “I’m a little envious of you guys. The adventures you’re having! Sure beats sitting in an office in Panama City…”
Continue reading: Kathleen Peddicord And Lief Simon In Salta, Argentina