Talking points

Ol’Jack is going to his 50th high school reunion back in the States, which obviously means that he’s old. You do the math. Not that old really, since the 60s are the new 40s, which means a lot of us are living longer and able to do crazy things like retire to Panama. It should be interesting since I haven’t seen most of the guys from my all-boys Catholic prep school since the 25th or longer. Hopefully, we’ll be provided with name tags.

I’m also hoping that being from Panama might get me the prize for the guy who came the farthest, but there are a couple of fellow alumni who made it to Hawaii. Let’s hope they don’t show. Being from Panama, however, means that I’ll have to answer some questions from my old classmates who didn’t venture as far off the beaten path. So what do I say in answer to their anticipated queries?

The standard question is why Panama? And the standard wise-guy answer is “why not?” Obviously we wanted someplace a little different and as most expats will tell you whether you’re curious or not is that our new isthmus home is indeed different.

The other reason was cost of living. While living expenses are still lower than big city/East Coast prices, residing in Panama is certainly more costly than it used to be a half dozen years ago.

So, how’s the weather? I’ll boast it never gets even close to freezing and absolutely no snow. Of course it’s hot. Up in the mountains, sometimes not so hot but usually most places pretty darn hot. The dry season can be beautiful—warm, breezy, and virtually no rain—unless it never ends.

I heard they’re widening the canal—how’s that going? They’re only a year behind on that project, which is normal. The bigger problem is that they might have to lower the canal as well so that the bigger ships can fit under the Bridge of the Americas.

How is health care? This is an important question to old guys. What I will tell them if they ask is that a couple of years ago Time Magazine listed Panama as the best value in medical tourism. I might also mention that my doctor was educated in the States, like most of them, and accepts appointments, sometimes the next day.

What are the people like? They are some of the most friendly, generous folks you’ll meet anywhere, who are almost always in a good mood. That is until they get into their cars and then they become horn-honking bullies who don’t take turns.

What’s the food like? Fried.

Is there much crime? Compared to other Latin American countries and places like Miami, Chicago or Baltimore in the States, no not really.

Are there many Americans? Nope, not that many, but plenty of Canadians and more every day. They had to build another international airport in Rio Hato just so the Canadians have easy access to Woody’s.

Have you learned to speak Spanish? Si, señor. Muy bien. ¿Usted? Ciao.

What is your least favorite thing about Panama? The trash.

What is your favorite thing about Panama? The scenery—the city skyline; the green mountains; the islands and sandy beaches—without the trash.

If you had it to do over, would you still move to Panama? I can’t imagine where else in the world I would rather live—all things considered.

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