Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Things We Like Most About Panama
Panama is home to tens of thousands of North Americans, Europeans and many others who are looking to make this Central American haven home. In conversations with friends and relatives the question, ‘what do you like best about Panama?’ oftentimes comes up. People who have lived here for any length of time have different perspectives to share. So this author asked communicants on the Americans in Panama and El Valle forums, “What is the one thing you like about Panama?” This article is a compilation of their answers.
Clyde likes the fact Panama is close to Colombia. Clyde is on spot. Colombia can be accessed within a few hours either via air or on fun sailing excursions through the San Blas Islands.
Richard likes the women and I concur that we are a beautiful group of ladies.
Michael pointed to the President, Ricardo Martinelli, the U.S. and Costa Rica educated businessman who owns a chain of successful supermarkets in the country.  Under his leadership, he is attacking the criminal element inside the government and on the street. Stay tuned to find out who is winning.
Janice appreciates the beauty of diversity. Enduring a racially tense history during the building of the Panama Canal and the U.S. military presence, Panamanians, other Central American and Caribbean emigrants and North Americans now co-exist without strain. The cultural diversity lends itself to awesome friendships and appealing restaurants offering varieties of choices. For my tastes, both are essential elements.
Cherry, Dulcemama, Robert, Mary, Fred and Linda all shared heart-warming Good Samaritan stories. Their accounts pointed to the willingness of Panamanians to assist them during emergency situations. It did not matter that helping meant going far out their way, sometimes during late night hours, in order to make a difference. We all hope to meet this type of kind-hearted citizen when we need help from a stranger.

Robert mentioned the politeness of the people. Most people, upon entering an elevator or public space, are not hesitant to greet you with a "buenos días" (good morning). It's common for someone entering a restaurant to wish you "buen provecho" (loosely translated, enjoy your meal). When my husband and I board public transportation we always say “buenos días/tardes.” More often than not, we receive a cheerful response.

ND likes the weather and prefers the unpredictability of life. Every day is different and something comical and unexpected happens, good or bad, which reminds you to have a sense of humor and not be overly sensitive about life. My recommendation regarding the weather is to always carry a good umbrella, with the emphasis on ‘good.’ You will use it during the rainy season for obvious reasons and during the dry season to ward off the sun. Panamanian women can be seen carrying umbrellas rain or shine.
J is blessed to live in an area filled with multiple species of colorful birds, over 140 to be exact, with 21 of them being hummingbirds. Waking up to their melodious calls as well as observing them in their natural habitat makes bird watching a worthwhile past time.
Bob, Robert and Thomas got into very informative discussions regarding the jungles of Panama, pointing out numerous locations: Sante Fe Park, Omar Torrijos Park, Gamboa, Cocle, Darien and even a little past Chepo, Parque Natural Metropolitano. These are excellent suggestions for visitors who have never seen a jungle.
 Dulcemama couldn’t resist adding another worthwhile benefit to the survey. Doctors care about patients and take their time with them. They don't rush or fill up seven rooms of patients waiting to be seen at the same time. Doctors provide their cell phone numbers to patients on their business cards. Incredible! Consider this fact.  Even without insurance you can afford to pay your doctor bill.
Other responses included a lower cost of living, cheap taxis, no snow (thanks K), the diversity of flowers, and the simplicity of the people. You can live comfortably in Panama on a fraction of what you spend in North America. The lack of snow and the abundance of beautiful flowers are super pluses! The pleasant simplicity of the people is refreshing. Nevertheless, always ask the fare BEFORE getting into a cab or else the cabbie might not be so pleasant.
The ability to be honest about a particular shortcoming is perhaps an aspect of life one of my responders has perfected here in Panama. His emails end with this message: “Sent from my iPhone. Therefore, expect ridiculous spelling errors bordering on gibberish.” 
Thanks to everyone who responded to my informal survey. Taking a moment to reflect on our feelings about Panama reinforces the reasons why we moved here and choose to remain. It is important to remember nowhere is a complete paradise, although some places border on being closer than others. Panama ranks high on the list.
P.S. Please realize this fact; within a few fluffy clouds there are tarnished linings. Take a few minutes to watch this video depicting a comical, true-to-life scenario of navigating your way through official business in Central America.