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Costa del Este
Panama City, Panama 







Donna


Tom


Tom



More News -

2016

August 2016

Making a foreign country your new home is interesting. Ten years ago Donna and I visited Panama for the first time and we spent four nights seeing the sights of the city and the canal. We were so impressed with the infrastructure and the size of the city compared to the places we had vacationed in Mexico we went home to Canada and made plans for our move to Panama. Within six months I had moved here and had found an apartment to purchase and an office for rent. Donna had sold off all of our "things" that we either didn't want or couldn't carry in our suitcases.

It was like starting over in our marriage. We had to buy everything. Furniture, cutlery, linen, pictures - the works. Thinking back we should have kept a few more things but we didn't know any better.

Vacationing in a place versus moving lock, stock and barrel is quite another. Even now 10 years later we are still running across things that just amaze you on how different the culture and lifestyle is of your new country. Some are great and you love - others, well they are a challenge. It is the reason why so many expats that move here (or anywhere new for that matter) don't survive beyond the first two years. They just can't adjust or find a way to deal with the differences. Some expats make it past the 2 years but become very cynical.

Most of the things we struggle the most with have to do with the laws or the standards. Just know anything you grew up with 'back home' is not going to be remotely similar here.

One for instance is back in Canada we all joke about lawyers, but for the most part we know that they are able to handle most things with a modicum of professionalism and knowledge. Here, the lawyers have gone to college for sure, and have passed an exam at the university that says they 'know the law' but that is it. No bar exam, no articling within a law firm - they can leave school and hang out their shingle. There is also nothing here that comes close to the understanding of "conflict of interest" lawyers and real estate people routinely work for both sides in a deal or argument.

One of the hardest things to get over is the way the laws tend to get 'interpreted' - depending on who you ask and when you ask you may get several different answers and it is a crap shoot on who you should believe.

This isn't bad if all you do is move here to retire as it means you will likely only encounter this kind of issue when you go through the immigration department, when you buy or rent a home and when you choose a car.

In our case we chose to open an office to work for our Canadian firm. This means dealing with a government office I never, ever want to have any interaction with - the Ministry of Labor. Not only is the laws so one sided toward the employee but it is like trying to pick up quick silver. No matter who you ask the answer is slightly different each time. One misstep can mean thousands of dollars paid out.

We have gone through several "lawyers" and boy I use that term loosely. Each time I think I've learnt the 'rules' only to find their understanding is somewhat different. None of the lawyers we've dealt with are willing to "fight" for our rigthts or argue the case. Their answer is 'that is the way it is'. In some instances when we run across something really odd and we question the lawyers on why we did it "that way' the answer has always been " that is what you asked us - or told us, to do". When I ask why if they knew it might end up wrong they didn't tell us = the answer is like a shrug.

This doesn't mean you can't do business in Panama. Just walk into anything here with your eyes wide open and do not assume that anything you are used to is like what you are used to in Canada. We've had to learn the hard way.

Ask lots of questions - ask them often and ask them in as many ways as you can.

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

We add to the areas of the site like people, sites, and services as our experience with each of them change so you should feel comfortable dealing with any of them.

 

July 2016

This weekend is an historic time for Panama. This weekend Panama opens the new 3rd lane of the canal. After a little more than 100 years since the first 2 lanes opened to the world. The Panama Canal was a wonder of the modern world but it was built by the Americans. These lanes have lasted for over 100 years and while they could have been larger they have served the world well with little or no major issues. The third lane was built solely by the Panamanians. Always the optimist I have high hopes for this new lane and for Panama. It was a huge undertaking, 9 years in the making, billions of dollars and lots of controversy.

Lots of our employees and friends took advantage of the free tickets to be at this historic occasion. Months ago I had the privilege to walk in the locks where the boat is traversing today. It was another historic event. We couldn't go this time as I could not get a ticket for Donna as she was away. Too bad.

We had a great time celebrating Donna's birthday. We went to Thai2112 again. This restaurant continues to give us great food, ambiance, prices and service. What more can you ask in a restaurant.

Last night we had another coupon from OfertaSimple to try out a place called Casa Jaguar in Casco Viejo. When we looked at the facebook page it sure didn't look like a place we might enjoy but we were wrong. The tapas were great - we had sliders, pork buns, and a plate of meats. I am not sure we'd enjoy it several hours later when the 20 something crowd arrived.

We wandered around Casco Viejo and I never forget how impressed we were with it 10 years ago when we first arrived. If we didn't have a business to run, and if we could have retired I am pretty sure we would have chosen to live there.

Wandering around our neighbourhood, Costa del Este, I was struck by how some buildings have tried to become more eco friendly and how others say they they are - like this one.

If you know LEEDS it is a registration designates a building as "LEED-certified buildings are resource efficient. They use less water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As an added bonus, they save money. Learn more about why LEED continues to be the leading benchmark in green building."

Well here is a LEEDS buidling in Costa del Este - does this look like a building that is eco friendly? I had to laugh when I saw the moisture on the windows. Our office building is so much more eco friendly with double pane windows. We never have this kind of condensation.

When we were out for our walk we noticed a new construction sign where the old car was located. Our little area has so many changes going on - this one is Krispy Kreme - who would have believed it - Krispy Kreme, IHOP, Burger King, McDonalds, and so many other North American restaurants and stores in our little area.

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

We add to the areas of the site like people, sites, and services as our experience with each of them change so you should feel comfortable dealing with any of them.

 

June 2016

Donna is off again - this time to Spain - Barcelona and others. It is going to be hot - strange to say coming from Panama but the weather is showing hot. I hope everyone is going to have a great time.

I posted a note in Facebook this morning - it was one of those "memory" photos - this one was of Cricket hanging out of the window of the car 3 years ago. It was one of here favorite things to do - a car ride and able to be out the window smelling everything. By then she was not able to see much so she loved to smell. Her second most favorite thing to do was her walk every morning and every afternoon to this area. Ten years ago she could walk all around Costa del Este, but in her last year all she could do was go for a ride to the sea wall.

During my morning walk I started thinking about how many changes we've seen and how many more we are going to see in the next 5 years. When we arrived 10 years ago litter was a huge issue, eco anything was unheard of anywhere. Today on my walk I ran across a small sign on a commercial building here in CdE. In a country of rain use of potable water is still an issue so i applaud their step to being more eco friendly.

A visitor recently to our area said she could see why we chose CdE - in 5 years there will be enough services, businesses, restaurants and shops so you would never have to leave the area if you didn't want to. We have a new mall being build in the town center of CdE - it will be something like MultiPlaza with shops, restaurants, and even theatres.

 

 

I mentioned last time that the administration of CdE had decided to take a chunk of our park and make it into a parking area and a sports area. Now that they are digging up that area it is easy to see that this whole area was originally built on an old garbage dump - check out this picture I took this morning in the new construction area.

I am happy they are at least trying to preserve some of the great old trees. Some of these trees have to be very old judging by the size. Here are a couple that have been saved so far.

I hope they choose to keep as many of the other trees, except for the eucalyptus trees maybe, they are our least favorite.

Reading the latest Visitor they were talking about the opening of the new Canal lane this month. There is a lot of speculation about how much this new lane will mean to Panama - will it be a huge boon to the economy or will it be a huge waste of money. My bet is on the former - all the post panama ships need an alternative to the suez or going around the horn. That trek adds thousands of miles to their trip.

I suspect the coming years in Panama we will see many new improvements - is it perfect - no, not by any stretch, but I am not sure Canada was either. We made our decision 10 years ago and we've not regretted it - well we've had some times when we questioned it - but then that passes and we remember all the things that make us love it here - the weather, the economy, the lack of taxes and the opportunities that we've had since we arrived. 

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

We add to the areas of the site like people, sites, and services as our experience with each of them change so you should feel comfortable dealing with any of them.

 

May 2016

Another month has flown by. Donna has started her tours. She is off to London on her Chelsea tour and will only be popping in for a couple of days when she finishes to head back on her Spain tour. I will miss her as I always do but I know she loves visiting all the gardens and meeting her friends/guests.

The past month has seen the raining season much to Donnas pleasure - she so much prefers the green season versus the brown. When everyone asks about what the rainy season is all about in Panama unless the person has been in a tropical country it is really hard to describe. The morning is perfect, lovely to walk then mid day it rains and then clears and it is warm and muggy and it could rain again at any moment. Just carry an umbrella - the rain is warm unless the wind comes up then it feels cooler. Unless I am wearing good clothes I never mind getting wet. The locals think Donna & I are crazy out for our walks in the pounding rain.

Our little neighbourhood is changing again. When we purchased our condo in Costa del Este it was virtually the only tower - there were several under construction but we were it when it came to occupied. One of the things we loved about the condo was its location. We were next to a river, a park and we had a great view of the bay. We were told the park was dedicated to the founder of the area and we never dreamt it would ever be touched. Well the unimaginable happened. We received a notice that someone made a decision to "pave paradise to put up a parking lot."

Don't get me wrong, the parking around Costa del Este because of the office and condos is atrocious and something needed to be done. The developers should have been forced to create enough parking for the office towers or the condos but they didn't. When I heard about the parking lot I thought, wrongly, that they would build underground to preserve the park but no, they decided to make a lot for 800 cars. The only saving grace is they are putting it down at the other end of the parkl.

In addition to condos, office towers and stores we've also watched restaurants - I took some pictures of a couple of new ones - I am really excited seeing Bario Pizza others I am sure are waiting for the IHOP.

 

The other huge change in Costa del Este in 10 years is the work being done to reduce the litter and trash. We've seen garbage bins installed along sidewalks and walk ways. We've seen doggy poop bag dispensers put in front of many apartment towers.

Along the coast of Costa del Este every few week ends there are groups setting up work bees to do beach clean up. Today was one such group.

Last weekend there was a small festival type set up in the town center area near the new mall. This is the second one we've seen and we wandered over to see what was going on. There were a number of merchants selling everything from sunglasses to homemade crafts. Donna talked me into buying a pair of bamboo sunglasses - kind of magooish but I like them.

Now if they "they" could only fix the traffic issue in our area - two entrances/exits for thousands of cars every day. I am sure they will have something in the works before they open two new malls in the next 1.5 years as they will bring thousands of more cars as will the 10 or so more towers for people and offices that will be open in another 2 years.

We've never regretted our decision to move to Panama - in spite of the challenges we still believe it was our best move and we look forward to our next 10 years.

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

We add to the areas of the site like people, sites, and services as our experience with each of them change so you should feel comfortable dealing with any of them.

 

April 2016

Here it is April already. It seems like it was December just yesterday.

Before I start talking about food and restaurants I thought I would remind you (and me) why we chose Panama over anywhere else to make our new home almost 10 years ago. In 2006 Donna & I went to Akumal in Mexico for one of the shortest visits we'd ever had in Mexico. Because it was only a week we decided for the first time in over 20 years visiting Mexico to rent a jeep and see some of the Yucatan Peninsula. We drove from Akumal to the tip that faces the Caribbean on one side and Belize on the other. What was so interesting is we started talking about "could we live here full time instead of just visiting every year?" That led us to consider some properties and think about what it would be like to move out of Canada full time. By the time the week was up and we were heading home we stopped in Vancouver, talked to our business partners and told them we were going to be moving to Mexico as soon as we could either buy or build. Their response was mixed, but mostly supportive - I am not sure they'd ever thought about moving out of Canada.

One of my partners said he agreed Akumal was a great place to visit but before we decided or purchased something we really should go home, unpack, rest a day or two and then get on a plane and fly to Panama City, Panama.

I am pretty sure that given a minute or two I could have found Panama on the map but other than the canal and Noriega, I would have known nothing and I think we just thought it would be like any other latin american city, touristy and very 3rd world.

Were we surprised when we flew in to Tocumen and saw all the towers on the waterfront of the city. We stayed downtown at the Decapolis and our room had an amazing view of Ave Balboa and the waterfront. We spent 4 days being driven around the city, meeting people and doing some touristy things like Miraflores. Unlike this April we got soaked. It rained so hard it was like someone standing over us and throwing buckets of water over our head. What an experience.

But - having said that, we spent the last night having dinner and we both looked at each other and said "I could live here - could you?"

That was April. By August I had moved to Panama, hired two employees and found a temporary office. By October we had purchased a condo in Costa del Este, Donna had sold everything we couldn't fit in suitcases and brought our little pup Cricket to Panama to live. It was 3 years before we went back to Canada to visit.

I am pretty sure all of our friends and family thought we were absolutely out of our minds - Panama for goodness sake - why Panama???  hence the name of this site :}

We still agree it was the best decision we've made and we should have done it sooner. Will Panama be our home in 10 years - who's to say - but for now, after 10 years, it is still a great place to live.

In the past couple of weeks I've finally got back out to Portobelo to dive with Rey Sanchez at GoldenFrogScuba - the visibility was great (with one short exception where we were too close to shore). I am looking forward to getting back out again. In fact we've talked about getting a group together to dive at Boca Chica near David as they have great sea life to see. The Caribbean is gorgeous and warm but the sea life is small and colourful - we all want to see some bigger fish and maybe even a whale shark.

I've updated the food page to include Solomons Deli and Caliope in Casco Viejo. Check out the notes. There is no question we will be returning to both. Solomons has great sandwiches and poutine whereas Caliope was so nice and quiet, great service and food - tucked away in the far reaches of Casco Viejo.

When we first arrived in Panama in 2006 and were driven through Casco Viejo for the first time we both agreed it was an amazing place but at the time we couldn't see ourselves living there full time if we had a business somewhere else in the city. At the time the only area in Casco that you would feel comfortable wandering around was a few blocks near the Presidential Palace and the Bolivar square. The further you wandered from those areas the more uncomfortable you felt. For instance if you came out of the French square by the French embassy and turned left on Ave A toward Santa Anna you would not venture more than a couple of blocks before you headed back to the Plaza Bolivar.

Now, the area past the American Trade hotel is really starting to open up with restaurants and bars like Caliope. We wandered past the Teatro Amador and Caliopoe to the next plaza only to find someone is starting to develop apartments and shops. Ten years ago you would not have dreamt of heading that far into Santa Anna.

Donna and I had the pleasure of being asked to talk to a couple of very enthusiastic and forward thinking businessmen that see a huge potential in the area of Santa Anna and Chorrio. They wanted to pick Donna's brain on developing one of their empty parcels of land into a garden that could be enjoyed by the whole community. Amazing. But not so amazing when you think that only a couple of years ago guys that were hard core gang members are today doing walking tours and preparing food for tourists. Go figure - you have to love Panama.

Are you a pet person? If so, consider helping some of the really worthy groups trying to make a difference to thousands of homeless cats and dogs in Panama. I've mentioned them before but it is worth repeating - Hogar San Roque, the shelter Mari Pily runs with the help of volunteers, see them on Facebook as https://www.facebook.com/hogaralbergue.sanroque?fref=ts&ref=br_tf, or https://www.facebook.com/hogar.roque?fref=ts and then there is Spay Panama at http://pchan5.wix.com/spaypanama - there are many more but these two we have supported and know how dedicated they are to helping make the lives of abandoned dogs and cats more livable.

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

We add to the areas of the site like people, sites, and services as our experience with each of them change so you should feel comfortable dealing with any of them.

 

March 2016

Met a new friend from Toronto Canada looking at Panama as a place to move to when he chooses to retire. He contacted us through a good friend in Toronto. We spent some time via email answering his questions and giving him some ideas to consider. We were thrilled when he came to check out Panama just a couple of weeks ago. This was a fast trip just to see what Panama City looked like and to get a sense if it was the place he might be interested in looking at later. Even though we told him via email, I think he needed to see for himself that the city is expensive for a 3rd world country. It does offer a lot, but it asks a lot too. Long term I am not sure if Panama will be his choice but I am sure he will return another time to look at some of the other areas of Panama. With all the recent excitement about Medellin Columbia I suggested he venture there at least one time to get some comparison.

My friend John from St. Albert has come and gone for the 6th time. This trip was not the typical for John, he ended up ripping his Achilles tendon and had to leave early to head back to Canada as he was told he should be undergoing surgery immediately. His travel insurance company agreed and found him a nurse from Miami to come to Panama and accompany him home to Canada. Turns out Canada prefers therapy to surgery so he will be in a boot for sometime but he will mend. When we moved to Panama John said he wanted to visit, not knowing how much he would enjoy his annual visits. I look forward to seeing him again.

Donna left and returned from India since I wrote last. I've told you before but it is worth repeating - when Donna visited India the first time years ago she swore she would never return. She's now been there 5 times and she loves it - she loves the color, the people and the gardens. Quite a change in heart.

She is off to Scotland next month and has promised Jordan to source out some amazing rare scotch for his collection.

I finally got back to diving yesterday after a long hiatus - the visibility was excellent - we dove on Sal Madines twice and while there was some surge they were both great dives. Here are a few pictures

 

I am looking forward to more diving in the coming weeks and months - we may even try to get to Boca Chica near David. I'd also like to organize a trip to the Caymans to do some diving and in 2018 if Donna does Bali again I really want to go and dive the Truk Islands of Micronesia - apparently this is supposed to be some of the best wreck diving anywhere and that would be really cool. Bali would be great as I understand the fish live around Bali is spectacular too so it would be a "two for one" trip and I'd also get to visit Singapore again.

Our good friends Rita and Jordan lost their best friend Bobby last month - he was 15 and was so loved and will be so missed. He was their companion 24/7. Donna and I can understand the loss - it has been 17 months since Cricket passed away and there is not a day goes by we both don't think about her. I understand some people don't understand how a dog could be so much a part of a family but she was and will always be in our hearts as I know Bobby will be in Rita and Jordans heart.

We went with Rita and Jordan to a performance at the Balboa Theatre for a concert put on by Frank Castagnet in support of the United Nations initiative against human trafficking - we went to Solomons Deli in Paitilla first for some of their Montreal smoked meat, poutine and onion rings. Wow was it good - we will be back and will likely take a pound to Alan & Geri when we visit next as it will be like home for them.

Are you a pet person? If so, consider helping some of the really worthy groups trying to make a difference to thousands of homeless cats and dogs in Panama. I've mentioned them before but it is worth repeating - Hogar San Roque, the shelter Mari Pily runs with the help of volunteers, see them on Facebook as https://www.facebook.com/hogaralbergue.sanroque?fref=ts&ref=br_tf, or https://www.facebook.com/hogar.roque?fref=ts and then there is Spay Panama at http://pchan5.wix.com/spaypanama - there are many more but these two we have supported and know how dedicated they are to helping make the lives of abandoned dogs and cats more livable.

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

We add to the areas of the site like people, sites, and services as our experience with each of them change so you should feel comfortable dealing with any of them.

 

February 2016

After having been in Panama for more than 9 years Donna and I are both still convinced it was the best decision we made and we should have done it sooner. We still love waking up and finding that the weather is still the same and our biggest challenge is what pair of shorts and t-shirts to wear for our morning walk.

A lot of things have changed in our lives having made the decision to move to Panama.

Take this weekend for instance - we left the city Thursday afternoon to spend the weekend at a condo in Playa Blanca where we walk the beach each morning and sit in the pool in the afternoon. We use our time here on the Pacific coast or in Portobelo on the Caribbean to unwind.

Unlike so many of our expat friends here in Panama, both Donna and I still work full time in our businesses so it is really important to find some time to relax and refresh. While we love our condo in Costa del Este the area is not serene and easy to refresh and relax so our times at the beach are critical.

We've talked a lot about "what's next" - meaning what do we plan on doing when we slow down or stop working? Do we stay in Costa del Este? Do we stay in Panama? Do we sell everything and rent or do we we keep the condo? A lot of big decisions, but thankfully we don't need to do that for a number of years.

Donna starts her tour season in February and my friend John from St. Albert is coming to visit during her absence. John does this every year and it is always fun :}

Hopefully I am back to some diving soon - I miss my weekends in Portobelo. When we went to Asia, I dove in Thailand and when we went on our Caribbean cruise I dove in Belize - Thailand was a huge disappointment - no viz and cooler water, Belize, the viz was amazing but not much marine life - and both cost a fortune compared to Portobelo where the diving can be really nice if the viz is good.

Over the past 9 years we've watched Panama grow and expand - the most obvious demonstration of these changes are out our balcony window - we've taken 3 pictures every month and it is amazing to see how our little area has exploded - when we moved in to our condo there were two other apartment towers finished - since then we've watched more than 40 condo and office building go up around us. Incredible. The downside is the exploding costs too. In 2006 the prices were under 1,000 /m2 - now in Costa del Este that can hit 3,500 /m2 - 3.5 times increase in 9 years. Not that our condo in Costa del Este has jumped 3.5 times - but a recent appraisal did show it had more than doubled in 9 year so not bad considering.

Something Donna and I have always wondered about was active adult living facilities - in Canada, it was quite common to find condo like facilities with various levels of adult care - meaning everything from full live alone and care alone to full medical 24 hr facility in one place. A place where adults aging could grow old with grace. Here the norm seems to be to hire a live in or full time nurse or live at home with the family. Donna did run across one advertising but we've never checked it our nor have I heard anyone in the expat community talking about it - maybe you've heard of it - ESTANCIA DORADA

Are you a pet person? If so, consider helping some of the really worthy groups trying to make a difference to thousands of homeless cats and dogs in Panama. I've mentioned them before but it is worth repeating - Hogar San Roque, the shelter Mari Pily runs with the help of volunteers, see them on Facebook as https://www.facebook.com/hogaralbergue.sanroque?fref=ts&ref=br_tf, or https://www.facebook.com/hogar.roque?fref=ts and then there is Spay Panama at http://pchan5.wix.com/spaypanama - there are many more but these two we have supported and know how dedicated they are to helping make the lives of abandoned dogs and cats more livable.

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

We add to the areas of the site like people, sites, and services as our experience with each of them change so you should feel comfortable dealing with any of them.

 

 

 

If you want, write us if you have questions - we love to help.

Check out our site - we listed People and Services we have found we trust - we also have contacts for even a great handyman - Juan

 

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Read the comments from the other years

More News  - 2015
More News  - 2014
More News  - 2013
More News  - 2012
More News  - 2011
More News  - 2010

More News  - 2009
More News  - 2008 & earlier

 




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