Last week my husband and I flew out of Panama’s Tocumen International Airport for the last time. Well, maybe not the last time forever, but for at least a couple of years.
Long story short, my husband got an unexpected job offer that’s bringing us back to the US, for at least a couple years. Temporarily, we’re in South Carolina. (And, frankly, the culture shock of living in the Deep South may be greater than any we experienced in Panama!)
[UPDATE: Husband’s job melted away in a complicated story of craziness involving a religious cult — not kidding! TV-worthy mess on the part of the guy who hired him. So it’s a good thing my portable business was already pretty well established, because that’s what’s been supporting us! And we left South Carolina and are now in Orlando, FL.]
We’ve been here six days now, and I already miss Las Tablas and Panama. Here, in no particular order, are the 10 things I’m missing most.
In Las Tablas, we had sunshine almost every day of the year. In our week in the US, we’ve already had more cloudy-all-day days than we had in Panama in two-plus years.
#2. Warm temperatures
I know, I know, how cold can it be in South Carolina in August, you may be wondering. Well. . . a lot cooler than we’re used to, for sure! I’m wearing long pants today, and thinking seriously about putting on a sweater.
In Las Tablas, I never wore anything except shorts and tank tops, unless I was getting dressed up for a special occasion or had to visit a government office.
We left some really, really good friends behind. It’s hard.
#4. The beach
We had a lovely, almost always deserted beach 10 minutes away. Here the nearest beach is several hours drive.
#5. Mangoes everywhere
In Panama, the mango is just another fruit-bearing shade tree. Seriously, they’re everywhere.
#6. Food prices
We’re suffering serious grocery store sticker shock. In Las Tablas, we could get good quality beef for about $4/pound. Here it starts at twice that for the not-so-good cuts. Shrimp in Panama is about one-third the price, chicken about half price. Most vegetables there are a lot less as well.
Eating out the difference is even bigger. The two of us could have a nice lunch in Las Tablas, with beverages, for under $10. Dinner for the two of us ran between $15-20. Here, a soup and sandwich lunch with beverage approaches $25. Dinner is more than double as well.
#7. Water aerobics with my friends
Twice a week, a group of us used to get together for water aerobics. It kept me moving, got me out from behind the computer, and gave me some social time.
#8. Live and let live
Panamanians don’t seem bothered by people who have different ideas, religions and politics. Sure, their elections get heated, but there’s none of the vitriol that exists in the US between Democrats and Republicans, Tea Party and Coffee Party, Libertarian, etc.
A Panamanian might disagree with you, but generally won’t be disagreeable about it.
#9. The natural beauty
Every area has its own style of beauty. Panama features verdant, stunninng mountain vistas and absolutely gorgeous ocean views. I can see rolling mountains here, and they’re very different from Panama’s dramatic, more jagged volcanic upthrusts.
#10. The “Buenas” culture
In Panama, when you walk into a shop or restaurant or hop onto a bus, you greet people. You say hello when you pass on the sidewalk or street. You shake hands, a lot. It’s very different from our impersonal ways in the USA. You can read more about the “buenas culture” here.
Photo by Randy Hilarski